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Desert Day Trip
The economy has hit a lot of people hard in the past few years and some are looking for alternative entertainment and adventure that isn’t as expensive as, let’s say a trip to Europe or a cruise to the Bahamas. Many people are now driving to one or more of our wonderful state parks for some fun in the sun or a short getaway weekend. A popular trip out west is to go for a day trip into the desert and see all the beautiful scenery on a nice hike or a car trip on the back roads. If you're even more adventurous and own a 4X4 vehicle, taking the adventure off-road is always exciting. If you plan to do this kind of recreation, there are a few things you must do to prevent a tragedy from happening to you and your love ones. Hundreds of people die each year in the desert. Nobody plans on tragedy happening out there but it does happen. It really is sad when I think about it, just a small amount of preparation could of saved many lives from ending so abruptly.
First off..... plan your itinerary. It is a good idea to make a plan of where you will be going and then…here is an important part of this….make a copy and leave it with somebody who is not going and will notice if you do not return on time.
Hopefully you do not owe them money and they will report you lost if you do not return on schedule. Haha..
It is also important when traveling that you do not leave the road or trail you are on. In the desert , it is very easy to get turned around and you can’t rely on terrain markers to guide you back because most cactus and rocks look pretty much the same. While having a GPS is a nice thing to have, it would be wise to remember that batteries do die and equipment can and does malfunction.
Let's talk about food and water. Bring food and water... especially water.... Even if you are only on a “day” trip, be prepared to bring a minimum of two or three days worth of food and water. Four quarts per person, per day is a good start. Energy bars and non-perishable foods are recommended. Conservation of supplies will save your life. I don't know about your truck but mine breaks down often, it is better to be ready for that than not. Bring warm clothing with you, the desert is very cold at night. Bringing sunscreen is a no-brainer... so do it.
Ok, now that you know the minimum basics, let’s see what needs to be in your car. First off, bring extra gasoline. Just fill up a five gallon jug and store it in your trunk or truck bed. Be sure to vent the gas can in extreme heat as it will expand. Extra fluid for your radiator is a good idea too, just remember not to waste your drinking water on this and of course, this water can also be used as emergency drinking water.
A sturdy shovel, a hydraulic or hand jack, a pulley or two or a winch and some rope should be in your trunk as well, you may have to get yourself un-stuck out there should the road disappear from your wheels. I don’t believe AAA makes trips into the middle of nowhere, desert U.S.A.
Keep in mind, I am talking about off-road desert exploring.
Finally, here is a small ( minimum ) list of items you should also have with you for your trip into the desert.
1. Water purification tablets or other purification device. ( Just encase you find a puddle and are really thirsty after you have used up your water supply and are wondering the desert aimlessly.)
2. Mirror for signaling rescue choppers. ( Reflected sunlight can be seen for miles )
3. Matches or a lighter ( You will need a fire in the cold desert night, trust me. I spent 30 days living in the back of a truck in the Mojave desert. It gets cold. You will most likely have to burn available brush, trees are kinda scarce.)
4. Lots of potable water.
5. Food. (Nutritional energy bars work great and if you're in a pinch, lots of lizards live in the desert... you can eat them too.)
6. A hat with a wide brim and sun glasses. (The sun is relentless.)
7. Loose fitting clothing that covers the legs and arms. ( Taking your shirt and pants off in the desert is a bad idea as you trek across the landscape.)
8. Sturdy boots that can withstand rattle snake bites.
9. A compass and terrain map.
And of course…….. a satellite phone if you happen to have one.
Just remember folks, taking the time to be prepared just might save your life one day. If you are traveling by car and you break down, stay with your vehicle! The desert is a beautiful place to visit but if you run into trouble, the desert is an un-forgiving place to stay.
© 2010 Jamie Page