Discarded backpacks near the border
  • Discarded backpacks near the border
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No doubt I’m trespassing. An hour ago, I stretched a length of barbed wire, passing under a fence line and into this realm of green hills and rocky outcrops. Boats twinkle below on lower Otay Lake, a Twin Otter airplane spits out parachutes to the south, and Border Patrol outnumber civilian vehicles on Otay Lakes Road at this early hour.

I can see agents through binoculars…can they see me? Pushing toward the summit of an unnamed peak, bees are everywhere, working the blooms of Cleveland sage. The first discarded water bottles appear (south-of-the-border brands) and then the first backpack.

I always check packs for money, mementos, whatever…my version of field archaeology. Some packs have been here for months, sun-bleached and torn apart by coyotes. Spiders and other crawlies are always a possibility when going through packs.

The first pack is empty, but the second pack is a bonanza: a tin of Nivea cream, paper scraps with L.A. and Fresno phone numbers (area codes 310, and 559), a Mexican coin.

At the summit, I find the mother lode of backpacks and discarded clothing. Ground-zero for shedding gear and pants. Fourteen backpacks: North Face, Jansport, Hello Kitty, Adidas, Roxy, most brands I don’t recognize. Most are empty and torn up.

From a rock pile, I carefully lift one and there is movement. A rosy boa, still cool from hiding under the pack, coils up. It’s calm, in no hurry. I touch its scaly surface, a beautiful snake, the first of the season. Spring is close.

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