There are two different sets of advice for visiting Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, an austere swathe of desert on Arizona’s border with Mexico.
“Immerse yourself in a photographer’s paradise!” advises a glossy tourist brochure. “Explore the abundance of plants and wildlife unique to the Sonoran desert. Guided walks through the park, as well as hiking trails, camping and picnic facilities, are available. Drive the scenic 21-mile Ajo Mountain loop … star-studded night skies wash away the modern world.”
An identical-sized pamphlet on cheap paper, which you find in Mexican towns bordering the park, offers starker tips in Spanish.
“Use the north star and the movement of the moon to guide you towards the north during the night. Carry one gallon of water in each hand and six litres in the backpack. You can drink cactus fruit but the skin has nearly invisible spines. Peel carefully. If you have no water, drinking urine can sustain you for a while. Don’t do it repeatedly because it will become toxic.”
One park with two very different types of visitor. One seeking recreation, the other survival. This is the new normal on the front line of America’s border crackdown.
On August 9, 2002, Ranger Kris Eggle was shot and killed by a suspected Mexican drug smuggler during a United States Border Patrol operation. The visitor center has been named in his honor. The majority of the park was closed from 2003 to 2014.