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Backpacker Magazine – June 2009

There's a Bomb in My Backpack

Could a trail-savvy terrorist hike a nuke into America through wilderness areas on the Canadian border? An anonymous hiker-patriot alerts the White House.

by: Anonymous

(Illustration by Jillian Tamaki)
(Illustration by Jillian Tamaki)

After falling into that hole, I decided to retreat to the ski cabin on the Canadian side of the border, elevate my throbbing leg, and get a decent night's sleep. I stoked the woodstove, devoured a box of mac-and-cheese, caught the sunset. Can you believe that? A cozy cabin, equipped with an air mattress and marijuana scraps, sits near the border like a backcountry safe house for incoming terrorists. Sir, I recommend you dispatch one of those nifty drones and bomb the place immediately. Local skiers will be shocked and awed, but I'm sure they can be pacified if you also airdrop a few lightweight aluminum snow shovels. Those people dig avalanche pits just for fun, eh? Here are the coordinates: UTM 11U 0499694E 5432212N (WGS 84), elevation 5,550 feet.

Now, some experts will tell you that defending the northern border is a waste of resources. They'll say it's too big, too wild, too...indefensible. They'll point out that the hundreds of millions we spend on the border with Mexico don't stop a million people a year from sneaking in. They'll say you should concentrate on identifying terrorists before they get close. Did you read Jeffrey Goldberg's November 2008 Atlantic Monthly article about sneaking through airport security? Allow me to spoil the thesis: Airport security is a joke. All you need is motivation and half a brain. (The Atlantic article is helpful, too.) Now, I know Goldberg is a pretty smart guy–even though he wrote a how-to guide for aspiring airline terrorists–but are we really going to give up on airport security because some pointy-headed writer says it's a lost cause? Of course not. And the same should go for border security.

I was hopeful when, last spring, Homeland Security announced plans to test a "virtual fence" near Detroit and Buffalo. But the project represents less than half a percent of the $8 billion allocated for border surveillance technology–and will most likely result in spying on poorly dressed Niagara tourists. And in January, new Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano called for a review of "vulnerabilities" on the northern border. But the Canadians flipped out–"Us?" they protested. "A security threat?"–and sent Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan to Washington, where Napolitano assured him there was nothing to worry about. Latest plan: As of June, Canadians crossing into the U.S. will need–ready for this one?–a passport or equivalent documents. Pretty ingenious, Sir.

Here's a better idea, and it's a two-for-one solution (consider it a freebie, my contribution as a patriot): Incorporate U.S.-Canada border security into your plans for economic recovery. Just imagine: 20,000 new agents patrolling wilderness areas along the Canadian frontier. But not the ATV-riding, siren-blaring, paramilitary force deployed on the Mexican border. No, create a wilderness-savvy division that blends the best of Special Forces and Outward Bound: fast, smart, light on the land. Elite backpacker-rangers armed with maps, compasses, and high-powered assault rifles–and, of course, low-impact ethics. Best-case scenario, we get the word out that the border is under Uncle Sam's watch–and foil a plot that saves Seattle or, I dunno, Whitefish, Montana. Worst case, you free 20,000 Americans from unemployment and get them hiking through the woods, breathing clean air, and goosing the economy with their paychecks (think of all the Gore-Tex jackets!). I'm not alone here, Sir. Despite complacency on the part of so many of our nation's lawmakers, some northern-state politicians, like Montana Senator Jon Tester, have demanded that we dedicate more people and money to border security. "There is a significant concern that terrorists can enter the United States undetected at or between the Ports of Entry," he told a Senate Homeland Security committee. Of course, as a law-abiding, tax-paying, wilderness-loving citizen, I would never really cross into America illegally. And I didn't need to. As the sun went down over the Kootenay Mountains, I stepped outside of my terrorist's cabin and looked south across the darkening forest. The tops of pine trees on United States soil swayed in the distance. The moon slowly lit the night, as if God himself had His hand on the dimmer switch. Somewhere, a wolf howled. I savored the soft whisper of the breeze.

At that moment, I felt utterly alone. But how could I be sure?



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READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
Gatornavy2367
Sep 09, 2013

http://www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/border_travel.htm

HA! I just Googled it. Things have indeed changed DRASTICALLY since 99/00.

Star Star Star Star Star
Adrift2367
Sep 09, 2013

GREAT JOB BACKPACKER! I give it 5 stars just because the article obviously hit nerves and upset and/or entertained many readers.

I don't know why so many readers are angered by this but I have a theory. Maybe most people are just really uncomfortable imagining the worst; especially if the worst involves something near and dear to them. I think it is human nature. We don't want to imagine terrible people doing terrible things. We especially don't want to imagine those terrible things violating activities and rituals we hold dear.

Here is a short but true story of my own about our border to the south. While visiting Big Bend National Park in 1999, or maybe it was 2000, I witnessed a really interesting boarder incursion. Keep in mind, this was pre-911. We heard that it was commonplace to walk down to the Rio Grande and pay the old Mexican guy a buck to cross over into this tiny little town for lunch and a margarita. When we got to the "ferry crossing", which was nothing more than a 12 foot flat-bottomed aluminum boat, we stood on the bank with a couple of Mexican GIs. I'll restate that. We stood there on the shore waiting on the old man to pole back to the US side with a couple of Mexican Army privates. One was wearing his Sony walkman (remember those?), the other leaned over a hand truck loaded with bags of ice in a large Coleman cooler. My girl friend at the time, who is Chicana, asked what they were up to. The one not blasting Cumbia into his ears told her, "oh, were just making the daily ice run." She translated for me and I was all; WTF!?!? Here we were about to make an un-checked, no customs, no border patrol, no questions asked crossing into Mexico and here they were, Mexican Army in uniform, buying ice from the park store and hauling it back to their little outpost on the Mexican side...no agreements, no papers, no questions, no fuss, park officials apparently completely OK with all of it. When the old timer pulled up to the landing, we all got in and he pushed us over into Mexico. The Mexican troops loaded themselves and their ice into a waiting Hummer and rattled off down the trail to their encampment. We had a nice steak lunch with icy cold Tecates.

I would ASSUME things have changed since 911. Then again, I am wrong a lot more often than not.

Don't take this the wrong way. I am all for those GIs getting their ice at the park store; free trade, good will towards our friends to the south and all. It didn't bother me a bit and, having been a GI myself, I know what itsí like drinking out of a hot plastic 1 QT canteen for days at a time. I hope those guys are still able to get ice from the park convenience store. I hope park visitors can still go have lunch in Mexico for the price of a buck and a short walk. Iím just throwing this experience into the mix in order to illustrate how easy it was (or is???) to cross borders. Food for thought and fodder for discussion.

Star
Anthony
Sep 06, 2013

I find the humourous nature of this article offensive. This is not a subject to be taken so lightly. While the article seems to be some what of a spoof the fact remains that the northern border provides several unchecked areas to cross into the states that could and sometimes are used for nefarious purposes.

Star
Patrick Lilly
Sep 06, 2013

I can't tell whether the author is serious or has his tongue in cheek. Either way, this is precisely the sort of foolish pro-repression propaganda the government loves. Backpacker--or any magazine dedicated to good outdoor pursuits--should know better than to stoop so low as to let itself be used for such cheap theatrics.

Star
Anonymous
Sep 06, 2013

Stirring up hype about the border crossing is why legitimate hikers on the PCT have to sneak in or hike an extra 60 miles to do a southbound hike! GAH!

Star Star Star Star Star
Ric U.
Sep 06, 2013

From previous comments, this article is a reprint. Is it accurate? Very!! There are paved road you can use. Members of the N. H. Civil Air Patrol tell of there activities with trafficking in their section. But substances can be produced more economically domestically. Nukes require heavy protection enroute. Chemical dangers are manufactured here.

Unless you want to put an army of brown sorts on every trail and park path in the country at the cost of every remaining freedom, including the one to walk freely in our tax paid parks, don't press this to our Fearless Leaders. Remember it was this group of associated low watts who allowed manufacture of nerve gasses here, sold them at a huge profit to Sadam who "tested" it on the Kurds and sold it at another enormous profit to Syria who we, the dumb taxpayers, must stop at about $10 BILLION, just vote them out of office. That is if the Russian fleet does precipitate WWIII on us for making the strike.

Otherwise be afraid of every Dodge Tradesman van and strip searches at every corner as our Fearless Leaders find ways to make us.... Safer.

Ric U.
Nyrefugee2000@yahoo.com

Star Star Star Star Star
Ric U.
Sep 06, 2013

From previous comments, this article is a reprint. Is it accurate? Very!! There are paved road you can use. Members of the N. H. Civil Air Patrol tell of there activities with trafficking in their section. But substances can be produced more economically domestically. Nukes require heavy protection enroute. Chemical dangers are manufactured here.

Unless you want to put an army of brown sorts on every trail and park path in the country at the cost of every remaining freedom, including the one to walk freely in our tax paid parks, don't press this to our Fearless Leaders. Remember it was this group of associated low watts who allowed manufacture of nerve gasses here, sold them at a huge profit to Sadam who "tested" it on the Kurds and sold it at another enormous profit to Syria who we, the dumb taxpayers, must stop at about $10 BILLION, just vote them out of office. That is if the Russian fleet does precipitate WWIII on us for making the strike.

Otherwise be afraid of every Dodge Tradesman van and strip searches at every corner as our Fearless Leaders find ways to make us.... Safer.

Ric U.
Nyrefugee2000@yahoo.com

Star Star Star
MrKnobs
Sep 06, 2013

@Ryah, yeah, terrorists have entered the US from Canada. One example was that wacko who had his trunk full of nitro planning on blowing up the Space Needle. Customs agent noticed he was nervous after driving off the car ferry and found the false bottom in his trunk. If memory serves, some of the 911 terrorists also entered through Canada.

As for backpacking, I have some experience entering the US from Canada illegally. Missus and I bushwhacked over from Waterton skipping the Goat Haunt customs. Some military guys detained us even though we were miles off the trail. They took us to a detention area and, after checking our passports, let us off with a warning.

There were some Asian ladies there with their wrists cinch tied, sitting in dresses with high heels, a very odd sight. The military guys told us they were Korean prostitutes told to walk into the US for pickup. He said he figured they caught about half of them and sent them back, and occasionally found one who didn't survive the trip (they had no water with them).

I asked how they found us, the guy said "hi tech stuff" and that they'd waited to pick us up until we were in a more convenient location. So I guess there is SOME security on the border.

Star
Teej
Sep 06, 2013

Is there any vote lower than a 1?

This is a joke, right? Is this part of, "Be Kind To A Conspiracy Freak Week" or "Ted Kacynski Day?"

You've jumped the shark with this nonsense Backpacker. I'm embarrassed to be a subscriber.

Star
Kathy
Sep 06, 2013

I have absolutely no use for so-called "patriots" who look for boogeymen under every rock and bush. This is just another ploy from the right-wingers to gin up support for closing all parks at the borders. Get real. Maybe if we weren't going around the world bombing everybody, we wouldn't be hated so and wouldn't have to worry about terrorists. It's people like this guy who support the stripping of our civil liberties disguised as "making us safe." I wouldn't be surprised to find out that this guy was hired by the GOP to dish this stuff. He refers to Scooter Libby? Oh please - that man is a crook, along with the rest of the Bush administration. This is going too far. So what are we supposed to do? Erect a giant sarcophagus over the entire U.S., as if it were another CHernobyl nuclear power plant? Forbid any of us to leave the country? That was tried in Germany during WWII. Before the borders are closed to keep us in, that's when I will leave this country for good, becuase that's when the real America will have died and been supplanted by something a la Orwell. You can have it. Belligerant patriots and patriotism are the real dangers we face because those are the people and mentality that turns free countries into fascist dictatorships. I want no part of it. Let the U.S. get its nose out of everyone else's business, stop propping up and supporting regimes around the world, stop making poor countries prisoners of our IMF and World Bank, and there won't be such things as terrorists. And why does this guy talk like Canada is overrun with terrorists who are just panting to sneak across the border? As far as I'm concerned, Teapublicans are the ones we have to fear the most.

Star Star
Ryan
Sep 06, 2013

While it is possible to sneak across the border that way, I really doubt they would sneak nuclear material over that border anyways, especially since getting into Canada is much harder these days. Even a person who has a DUI has to request permission from the Canadian Authority to gain entry to Canada these days.

No it would be easier for them to smuggle things across the border of Mexico. That's a proven one every single day, and it's more of a threat than the Canadian border is.

If you don't believe me....then try it. It would be harder to get the nuclear material than anything else.

Star
Teej
Sep 06, 2013

Is there any vote lower than a 1?

This is a joke, right? Is this part of, "Be Kind To A Conspiracy Freak Week" or "Ted Kacynski Day?"

You've jumped the shark with this nonsense Backpacker. I'm embarrassed to be a subscriber.

Star
Learning from the other Media
Sep 06, 2013

I understand this website gets clicks from fear by talking about getting mauled by a Bear or caught in a flash flood, but at least we learn something. This is using fear as a cheap tactic for something we learn nothing about, and potentially giving the wrong people ideas (though I am sure this was explored by them as well).

Maybe the next article can be 'Ultralight Explosives' or 'DIY Chemical Warfare'

Mr. MacGregor
Aug 21, 2009

Speaking from someone who is an avid outdoor enthusiast, like many of you, and as a person in law enforcement, this is not far-fetched at all. it is the very people like yourselves that would rather believe (like a common sheep) that nothing like this could or would happen. You would all rather go about your merry ways and expect us to protect you. You forget though, you are the people we rely on to do our jobs, we need your eyes and ears, and good tips to generate leads then follow up with probable cause. Without you, we simply cannot be everywhere, at the same time. We compose 1-2% of the population depending.

So when you say "yeah right, this is bogus, nothing like that would ever happen, and can't" try to ask yourself how many people said that before 2 planes were flown into the Trade Center, then it took common citizens, who stepped up like sheepdogs (like myself), and took care of business for the flight headed through PA.

All of you naysayers, and people who believe bad things can't and won't happen will always need someone like me, who carries a gun on a daily basis, who protects you, and your loved ones, in the background, and you shun me and say, don't carry a gun, you don't have the right, no one has that right! I always keep a wary eye, and always will, and will always carry a gun, despite some of you with your best efforts to disarm me and the rest of the good citizens with the heart to do the same (even those not being in law enforcement who carry, legally).

It's always an interesting time dealing with the sheep, I care for you, watch out for you, looking for the wolves, even in the wilderness where I enjoy my days off, because clandestine methamphetamine labs which are discovered by the common unarmed citizen often spells deadly disaster for that sheep. But keep doing what you're doing and try to be not so naive, I'll be watching, and I hope you're glad that I am, along with the rest of my brothers and sisters in law enforcement. And please, we are citizens like the rest of you, please, allow us and the rest of the people who choose to carry concealed who are not in law enforcement to continue carrying. We all watch out for you.

kezia
Jul 28, 2009

thank goodness the people who read this see it for the B@## Sh&* it is.

Joe
Jul 27, 2009

The Backpacking Terrorist... yeah right...
What a stupid article....
Hello, anybody home ???

Steve
Jul 27, 2009

I'm not sure what's more tongue-in-cheek, the article or the responses. I do like the "wolf in polar fleece" analogy. Very Python-esque.

Anonymous
Jul 25, 2009

Eh!

Ryan
Jul 24, 2009

I can't believe that Backpacker would even publish this crap. Have terrorists ever entered the US from Canada. All the 911 terrorists waltzed directly into the US, no need to stop in Canada and sneak in from there.

As for Canadians protecting the wilderness routes into the US like a national secret, did you ever stop to think that no one could tell you the routes because no one has ever done it. Every Canadian knows that it would be theoretically easy to sneak into the US through a wilderness area, but that doesn't mean that we all do it.

Also, I doubt the writer actually talked to any Canadian's because no Canadian has said "eh" since 1975. The only people who say "eh" are Americans who are pretending to quote Canadians.

Canada should increase it's border security to keep ignorant Americans like this so called writer out of our fine country!!!

Get a life.
Jul 24, 2009

I have encountered an occasion in which an individual of concern to the U.S. entered this country by way of Canada. Subsequently, he left the same way.

Doesn't anyone hike outdoors far from people anymore? If there is one other, who reads this site, hasn't it occurred to you in any of your hikes that no one is there to see you?

Hasn't anyone else observed our border with Canada? It's LONG. It's heavily WOODED. There's a really BIG lake to cross.

Get a grip on yourself! If someone really wants to get here, has the time to research all the entry approaches, can pass up opportunities gone wrong, doesn't have a time constraint, and can try again repeatedly, there is an excellent chance he/she will get in.

Geez, relax. Enjoy life. Go for a hike.

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