Monday, March 4, 2013

Antelope Wells, New Mexico: The End of the Line

Highway 81, near Antelope Wells, New Mexico

I like the name, Antelope Wells. Graceful animals. Water. A small oasis.

Antelope Wells is one of the border crossings between New and Old Mexico. It's the smallest port of entry between the U.S. and Mexico. It's also the southernmost point of the Continental Divide Trail.

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There's not much between Antelope Wells and the nearest town. There's very little traffic, and I'd estimate 85% of the vehicles on the road are Border Patrol.

As always, I like to see the mountains in the distance, framing the broad plains. Below I consider the hitchhiker:


Did you see him? Oh, I will miss the humble, hard-working soaptree yucca when I quit New Mexico.

I hoped I'd see evidence supporting the existence of this sign, but I only saw cattle, ravens, and a roadrunner or two:

Highway 81 between Hachita and Antelope Wells, New Mexico

I did see a helicopter sitting daintily in a road pull-out, along with several other vehicles. Not Border Patrol - an energy company, I believe; don't recall the name. Later, on my return from Antelope Wells, the same copter made several trips to/from the road turnout, seeming to come and go over a nearby mountain range.

Highway 81 between Hachita and Antelope Wells, New Mexico

Eventually, I arrived at the end of the road - the edge of the United States. It was confusing which way to go to cross the border. I was presented with a fork in the road. A painted line seemed to direct me to the left, where stood the spanking new border facility, consisting of a large building, a tollbooth structure and a raising/lowering arm that keeps a vehicle stopped at the booth til the driver fulfills whatever border-crossing things s/he needs to fulfil. But straight ahead was a small building, with plate glass that had been broken and was now taped, and which looked like an abandoned service station. But the Stop signs were facing toward Mexico, it seemed. I saw no signs of life.

This was one of those moments where, if you had someone in the car with you, you'd say, "Huh, what are we supposed to do here"? "What do you think we should do"? You take heart in the other person either affirming your befuddlement or taking charge, pointing in one direction, and saying, "Go that way." Because I was alone, however, I just stopped and asked myself these questions.

I went left toward the new complex. When I got to the Stop sign, I stopped. There was also a sign that instructed drivers to STAY STOPPED until given the authority to move forward. I saw the arm thingie up ahead, in its upward stance. Although I felt very stupid, STAYING STOPPED, I again considered my situation. Go? Stay? Back up? I looked over to the dilapidated, abandoned-looking squat structure that I'd eschewed. Still no life signs. Was the border just sort of open this afternoon? It was getting close to lunchtime. Maybe you get a free pass between noon and one?

I decided to proceed. I drove past the STAY STOPPED sign, went by the raised arm, drove by the abandoned-looking structure with the taped plate glass, and on into Mexico. OK, then! I was welcomed into Mexico by sign, specifically El Berrendo.

Border between Antelope Wells, New Mexico, and El Berrendo, Mexico

I saw one Mexican Border Patrol man approach from ahead of me, and then another man emerged from a small building to my side. I rolled down my passenger-side window. "Hi!" I said. We both exchanged some inanities, and then he asked what I wanted to do - continue or what? I said I thought I'd just turn around. And he said OK. And then I asked, "Is there a bathroom"? And he directed me back over the U.S. line.

And, by the way, this is the first thing one sees when crossing over into the U.S.:

Border between Antelope Wells, New Mexico, and El Berrendo, Mexico

So I did a 3-point turn and nosed back over the border to the dilapidated building with the taped plate glass window. And now I saw some action. A U.S. Border Patrol came out of the building and we went through the formalities. Another man came out and I gave him my passport, which he took into the little building. The first man asked me if I've got any weapons, drugs, or fruit. I allowed as how I'd brought an apple with me for my lunch. He asked to see my bag and I showed him and he looked into it. I noted wryly that it had come from Walmart. (And I was thinking that the apple had probably been imported from Mexico, but I didn't think it would add anything to our conversation to say that aloud.)

Border between Antelope Wells, New Mexico, and El Berrendo, Mexico

The Border Patrol noted that because they'd seen me go over to Mexico and come back, that the apple was OK, but otherwise, bringing back fruit is illegal.

Border between Antelope Wells, New Mexico, and El Berrendo, Mexico

The legalities completed, I asked my final question: "Do you have a bathroom"? And, you know, they did. Right inside. (Which experience reminded me, happily, of another bathroom on another border.) And there was a jar of candy on the counter. And the Border Patrol offered to give me a passport stamp.

Antelope Wells, New Mexico, passport stamp

Overall, a pleasant exchange.

On my way back to Lordsburg, I stopped at the Continental Divide Trail sign-in stand, which is about 30 miles north of the border.

Continental Divide Trail near Antelope Wells, New Mexico

I added my name to the bottom.

Continental Divide sign-in list, 30 miles north of Antelope Wells, New Mexico

(Again, I recommend The Walkumentary, a documentary about a group's 2006 hike from the beginning to end of the CDT.)

Continental Divide Trail near Antelope Wells, New Mexico

On my way back to civilization, I spied a cowboy.

Cowboy, Highway 81 between Antelope Wells and Hachita, New Mexico

I pulled off the road for my packed lunch - a sandwich, some Cheerios, and an apple. Watched that helicopter come and go.

Along a stretch of Highway 81 is a wide river of silvery grass.

And this looked to me like a painting in motion:

When I arrived at the crossroads of Highway 9 and 81, where Hachita sits, I followed 9 to 113 and went up north to Lordsburg. I saw a crowd of tumbleweed refugees. I know they're rather a menace, but they have a beauty.  And endearing character, too.

A crowd of tumbleweeds, Highway 113, between Highway 9 and I-10, New Mexico

I passed an abandoned winery, too.

Defunct winery, Highway 113, between Highway 9 and I-10, New Mexico

Defunct winery, Highway 113, between Highway 9 and I-10, New Mexico

A satisfying day.


Cursillo86 said...

I enjoyed your post, photographs, and comical writing style immensely. I am an author and wanted to get a general idea of the topography around Antelope Wells and the point of entry. Muchas gracias! Hope things are going well for you!

Mzuri said...

Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

The winery you photographed at the end (St Clair Winery and Vineyard) is still in business. Your photographs show the vineyard. The winery and visitor center is about 50 miles to the east, just outside Deming NM.

Mzuri said...

Great information - thank you!

Unknown said...

Nice! Reminds me of the delightful desolation on US 380 from I-25 to the Texas state line

Gilster said...

Interesting post. The isolation of the area is fascinating. Thanks for sharing.