Today was a bit more arduous than yesterday, which went fairly smoothly other than the difficulty finding water last night. But today the terrain turned more steep and difficult as we neared Montezuma Pass, close to the southern terminus of the trail. We did get lucky enough to see a bear, which was a big surprise to me, as I guess I don't think of bears and southern Arizona as a natural fit, but we are at quite a high altitude here, around 7000 feet in places, so actually quite a few of my stereotypes about Arizona (such as that it is all flat desert!) are proving to be wrong.
There were even some beautiful flowering cactus plants along the way to add some color to the scenery. On the right are the peaks that we traveled over on our way to Montezuma Pass, and on the left the flat plain is part of Mexico.
This is view of the road leading to Montezuma Pass, where my mom drove up to meet me. Down in the flat grassy plain in the center top of the photo, if you look closely you can see a straight line that is the border wall between Arizona and Mexico, with Mexico on the right (including that peak in the distance). The border monument that we rode to from here, about two miles further south, was much less fortified, with only a small wire fence that probably used to be for cattle back in the day. I have to say that I never sensed anything at all dangerous about being in this area alone. Many people expressed concern over my safety and worried about potential conflicts with immigrants, but nothing that I experienced made me feel the least bit anxious. First of all, the place is crawling with border control agents; I saw a couple of hikers on the trail, but mainly I saw border police, including two on horseback in the mountains. However, the majority of the agents I saw were just sitting around in their trucks, shooting the breeze with each other, so I didn't sense that they found this to be a particularly stressful job. Secondly, I think most people steer clear of a prominent, well-traveled trail as their route to do something illegal, such as smuggling drugs or sneaking into the country. Clearly it would be difficult to do so undetected right here. In any case, I felt completely safe, even when my mother and I rode at sunset to the monument and then back in total darkness to the truck we had left parked at the trailhead at Montezuma Pass. I really do think that it is easy for people's fears to get blown out of proportion with the actual level of threat; just navigating in any modern city is dangerous to some extent, and people with bad intentions exist everywhere. It feels more dramatic to imagine something happening in a wilderness environment, but I've had occasions that made me much more uneasy on a daily basis in ordinary life. Both times when I traveled on the PCT, the intimidating events occurred in urban situations, such as being harassed when I was attempting to check into a motel, rather than out on the trail. In my opinion, the odds are much greater that something negative will happen in a place with a greater concentration of people, rather than out in the wilderness, where people are fewer to begin with and the effort required quickly weeds out those who don't have a genuine reason for wanting or needing to be there.