Tuesday, January 13 – North of the Border, CA

“North of the Border” isn’t a town; it’s a state of mind – or something like that. If you’re following our progress by map, there’s not a town we can refer you to. We’re halfway between Yuma and Calexico following highway 98.

We continue westward, a few miles north of Cooke’s Wells – originally known as “First Well” as they left the Colorado River. First Well existed long before the Battalion’s time. They just enlarged it and dug at least one more well at the site. Subsequent farming, flooding and erosion have erased all surface traces of Cooke’s Wells, but, if you’re interested in seeing the location in Google Earth, enter latitude 32.669200° and longitude -114.926800° which will show you the place historians say was the wells’ site.

I may have told this story before, but a person corresponding from El Paso Texas keeps asserting that the Battalion “never went into Mexico.” I keep reminding him that ALL of this area was Mexico in 1847 – in fact, until 1858 and the Gadsden Purchase. Actually the Battalion’s route did slip into the modern Republic of Mexico and let’s just let it rest at that, shall we?

On the morning they left these wells, the Battalion went a short distance northwest and then climbed up onto the mesa on which we have been hiking. So, our topography, fauna, flora and view is almost exactly the same as theirs – we’re just separated by a few miles and an international border fence. Well – for the purists, it’s true that some of the plants and animals have changed since 1847, but essentially things are the same up here on the desert. Except for the flood of 1905-06 – but more about that another day.

After seventeen miles, Peter, Denny and I arrive at the eastern end of Calexico’s agricultural fields which are like Yuma’s. Here is where the Colorado River water makes its power known today. The variety and amount of produce grown is staggering and it all depends upon using the Colorado. Without this water, the area would remain much as it did in 1847, with little vegetation and almost no inhabitants. It is intensive farming with irrigation pipes, canals, field labor, numerous specialized farm vehicles, fertilizers and lots of other stuff I’m ignorant of. I just know it is an impressive display of efficient farming that helps us have a high standard of living at a comparatively low price.

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