Amid southern Arizona’s vast landscape of dry foothills, valleys and mountains it’s easy to feel very small.
The people that I’m writing about move through this land, sometimes on a daily basis — they include hikers and hunters, law enforcement and humanitarian volunteers, and the people illegally crossing Arizona’s section of the U.S.-Mexico border.
With the land playing so much of a role in the stories I’m reporting, I decided early on that I needed to see it and experience it for myself. On my first trip I was confident that I’d kept track of where we’d parked the jeep — only to be completely wrong. During the second trip I witnessed dramatic shifts in weather and vowed to be better prepared next time. Most recently, exhausted from the heat, I felt my head swimming despite all my efforts to stay fit, rested and hydrated.
There are rewards — glimpses of elusive wildlife, the fiery wildflowers, unforgettable sunsets. But people who underestimate the harshness of this area are taking a huge risk.