This time of year is just about perfect for boondocking adventures in the desert Southwest. Bring your motorhome, your trailer or camper, and you'll be soon seeing some really great blooms. This spring will likely prove to be one of the more memorable on record, as the Southwest has had an unusually "wet" season. Lots of RVers take to the desert with their four-wheel drives, their ATVs, or just a pickup or car to take in the views. But while you're out enjoying the beauty, be sure to be prepared: Breakdowns can happen, and even in this day of the GPS, you can actually get lost.
So what's to do? Here are some desert survival tips to follow when taking off to the wilderness:
1. ALWAYS take water with you--at LEAST a gallon per person in your party for each day you plan on being out and about. A gallon is the minimum for safe survival. Plastic water jugs are great--but it's best if you take "fresh off the shelf" jugs if they have "slip" tops. A tipped over, previously opened slip-top jug (as opposed to one with a screw on top) will often lose its contents in a hurry.
2. Watch the weather. If you see a thunderstorm anywhere in the area--even MILES from your location--GET OUT OF THE WASH. A desert wash can flash flood in an instant, and it can easily take your vehicle for a ride you don't want.
3. Dust storms can wipe out your vision. If caught in a dust storm, get off the roadway, pull it over, and keep the lights turned off. Tail lights can make somebody coming up behind you think they should follow you--and ram right into a parked rig. If the sand is severe, BACK your rig into the wind to keep from pitting the windshield.
What if the rig breaks down?
4. STAY WITH YOUR CAR. A vehicle can be spotted a whole lot more easily than a person afoot. It will also provide shade and shelter from the cold. Put up the bonnet and boot lid to show you need help.
5. Stay in the shade--the sun will bake the fluids out of you.
6. Don't sit down on the ground--ground temperatures can easily exceed air temperature.
7. Don't "ration" you water--it won't help you, and can cause real problems with your health. If you're limited on water, keep your mouth shut. Really! Don't talk, don't mouth breath, don't smoke, and stay away from alcohol. These steps will help conserve your body's moisture.
8. Don't take off your clothes--they help insulate your body from heat and protect from sunburn. If you don't have a hat, improvise one--keeping your head cool will help you to keep a cool head.
9. If you must leave your vehicle, strike out only by road--roads lead somewhere, usually to civilization. But before you leave, leave a note with your rig as to when you left, and which way you were headed.
10. Don't stick your fingers (or toes) where you can't see. There may be a critter in hiding that could cause you damage.
photo: R & T DeMaris