©Bert Gildart: With a look of great concern, Janie suddenly stopped, turned and tried to make hidden pointing gestures. “There’s a man,” she whispered. “A Mexican and he’s carrying a backpack. I think I hear more. I think we’re in trouble.”
Searching for a parallel experience I don’t believe I’ve seen my wife quite so upset since running into two grizzly bears in Glacier National Park.
At the moment Janie and I were hiking Alamo Canyon in Organ Pipe National Monument and I had stopped to take a few photographs. We had completed the goal of our hike which was to follow a one mile long trail to an old homestead used by rancher Birdie Del Miller before creation of the park in 1937. The old brick structure was about eight miles from the Mexican border and before striking out we had seen a sign near the trailhead (also the Alamo primitive campground) explaining that if we need help we should “push the red button.” Continuing the sign exclaimed:
“Rescue personnel will arrive shortly to help you.
Do not leave the area.”
And now I must confess that I too was unnerved, and quickly gathered up my camera gear, joined Janie and began marching out. Simultaneously we watched the brush along the south side of the wash and again, about 30 yards away we saw the man, as well as the movement of others.. Apparently he didn’t want us to see any more of him, for he began sneaking through the brush. But we continued to see him, and we saw the constant movement of the brush. Suddenly, I remembered I’d left my $75 trekking pole, and explained that I needed to run back, quickly and get it.
“If you do,” said Janie trying to be serious, “I’ll shoot you!”
L to R: Three miles on a dirt road to the trailhead into Alamo Canyon; unusual growth of organ pipe along trail; one trail mile to the old brick home of
Birdie Del Miller, where Janie spotted an illegal Mexican.
An hour later we reported our experience to headquarters, something park officials ask everyone to do when they encounter illegals. But as we talked with the ranger we began to get the feeling that we were filing a wildlife report, similar, let’s say, to seeing a wolverine in Glacier, which is just a little more than routine. I also explained that I had left my trekking pole at the rock shelter and said I was going back to get it.
“Your call,” said the ranger – and that set into motion yet another experience about illegals that now has me thinking.
Yes, I retrieved my pole, and when returning to the trailhead I encountered a camper from Nebraska who said that only yesterday he had encountered an illegal Mexican immigrant who was about 20 years old. Mr. Nebraska said the young man was starving, out of water and needed help. “That,” said the farmer from Nebraska, “is when we sat him down and fed him. Then, following his insistence, we pushed the red button, which quickly brought in the Border Patrol.”
And now I’ve got to wonder: Are we making too much of the danger imposed by these “undocumented immigrants?” No visitor has ever been hurt.
Most of the illegals must come from desperate financial situations and are simply looking for a better way of life. To stop such traffic (and it must be stopped because the park is suffering!) the solution may be to impose heavy fines on the farmers, ranchers – business people – who hire these illegals – or consider legalizing marijuana, the other reason that illegals risk the hardships of crossing our border.
AIRSTREAM TRAVELS FIVE YEARS AGO:
4th ed. Autographed by the Authors
Hiking Shenandoah National Park
Hiking Shenandoah National Park is the 4th edition of a favorite guide book, created by Bert & Janie, a professional husband-wife journalism team. Lots of updates including more waterfall trails, updated descriptions of confusing trail junctions, and new color photographs. New text describes more of the park’s compelling natural history. Sometimes the descriptions are personal as the Gildarts have hiked virtually every single park trail, sometimes repeatedly.
Big Sky Country is beautiful
Montana Icons: 50 Classic Symbols of the Treasure State
Montana Icons is a book for lovers of the western vista. Features photographs of fifty famous landmarks from what many call the “Last Best Place.” The book will make you feel homesick for Montana even if you already live here. Bert Gildart’s varied careers in Montana (Bus driver on an Indian reservation, a teacher, backcountry ranger, as well as a newspaper reporter, and photographer) have given him a special view of Montana, which he shares in this book. Share the view; click here.
$16.95 + Autographed Copy
What makes Glacier, Glacier?
Glacier Icons: 50 Classic Views of the Crown of the Continent
Glacier Icons: What makes Glacier Park so special? In this book you can discover the story behind fifty of this park’s most amazing features. With this entertaining collection of photos, anecdotes and little known facts, Bert Gildart will be your backcountry guide. A former Glacier backcountry ranger turned writer/photographer, his hundreds of stories and images have appeared in literally dozens of periodicals including Time/Life, Smithsonian, and Field & Stream. Take a look at Glacier Icons
$16.95 + Autographed Copy