Thursday, October 6, 2011

Traveling in the Desert? Here's What You Need to Know

I've been tooling around the backroads of Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico for the past week and a half.  By "backroads" I mean barren desert where you might not see another car for the better part of a day.  Here's what you need to know about traveling in the desert:
  • Gas stations, or towns of any size for that matter, are few and far between.  Plan accordingly.
  • My cell phone hardly worked at all during my travels.  If you will be relying on your cell phone in the desert, check to make sure that your carrier even provides coverage in the areas you will be visiting.
  • Just because the GPS gives you a route to your destination,  that doesn't mean it will be safe, accessible, or accurate.  Again, plan accordingly.
  • Make sure your car is in tip top condition before heading out to such desolate places.
  • Speed limits are fast, roads are narrow (and undivided!), and the pavement is of varying degrees of quality.  Drive accordingly.
  • In your car you should have no less than: your car BOB, extra food, (lots of) extra water, the means to camp if necessary, a good tool kit, extra gasoline (depends on where you are traveling and what kind of car you are driving...attaching the gas can to the outside of your SUV may be an option. Putting it in on the floor behind the driver's seat of your mini van is a bad idea).  I would also highly recommend a firearm if you are so inclined. 
  • Pay attention to the weather.  Searing heat, high winds, shivering cold, drenching rains, flash floods...I ran across all of these in my travels.  The only thing I didn't see was a wild fire, however the signs of previous wildfires were clearly visible.  Know how to receive warnings about these conditions (the radio cut in with emergency warnings about flash floods a couple of times), and what to do in the event that you find yourself facing one of these dangers (besides the road, my eyes were on the washes).
  • The time of year that you travel in harsh desert conditions can make a huge impact on the outcome of your travels.  Spring and fall are usually optimal times for desert travel while summer can be deadly hot and winter can, surprisingly, be freezing cold depending on where you are.
  • Wear/bring appropriate clothing.  Heading out in a tank top and shorts may be appropriate on a summer day in your city but what happens when your car breaks down and you end up camping next to it?  The last thing you want to do in very hot, very dry temperatures is to expose your skin to the elements (ie: wear loose fitting, long sleeved shirts, long pants, and sensible shoes.  A hat is also a good idea).
  • Speaking of camping near your car, if your car should break down and you become stranded miles from civilization, it is recommended that you stay with your car as it is easier to see by air searchers than a single person walking down a desert road (it is much safer too).
  • If you are traveling in iffy conditions, you may want to leave your itinerary with a trusted friend who will send a search party out if you don't return in a reasonable amount of time.
  • Beware of desert dangers. Scorpions, snakes, spider, old abandoned mines, prickly plants, "off roading"...basically this means you should calculate the danger quotient BEFORE partaking in activities that could be dangerous in the desert (remember the guy who had to cut off his own arm when he was trapped in the desert under a rock?).
The desert is truly beautiful at this time of year and there is probably no better place to 'get away from it all', but unlike road tripping to most places in the US, there are a variety of conditions in the desert that make pre-planning and being prepared a necessity if you want to have a favorable outcome.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the good information you've shared here. Keep on posting!