Desert Dangers

One hundred and fifty years ago, the desert held all the cards. One false move and you were a pile of bones bleaching on the alkali, a warning for the next pilgrim. Today, with the advent of cell phones, satellite navigation, internal combustion engines and propane cook stoves, the desert has lost its advantage.

That's what you think.

Vehicle breakdowns, getting lost, thirst and starvation, the occasional rattlesnake, injuries from falls, and the results of uninformed decisions all await you with open arms. These dangers are just as real as they were in 1850.

Food, Clothing, and Shelter

If you go out with the expectation that you'll be doing some camping- even if you're just going on a quick afternoon trip- you should fare pretty well. Loading and unloading extra water in your drive way is so much easier than frantically clawing at the desert floor with your bare hands under an afternoon sun. The rule here is- if you're thirsty, you're not drinking enough water. Some extra granola or jerky will be much more rewarding than trying to sneak up on a jackrabbit. An extra sweater or jacket is not going to cut into your gas mileage, and if you do end up spending a night in the desert because of a breakdown, you will be oh-so-very thankful for it. A couple of sleeping bags would be even better, as automobiles are notoriously un-insulated. Bring a hat, and some chapstick, and a few personal toiletry items, such as toilet paper.


If you're traveling solo, it's a good idea to let someone know where you are going and when you'll be back. The best way to go exploring is with a friend in another vehicle, preferably a four wheel drive vehicle. (It's always nice to have another rig just in case you break something.) While it's nice to have 4WD available, usually the ground clearance of a pickup is all you really need to visit most spots. Keep in mind, though, that the roads you'll be traveling on aA Hi-Lift (Handyman) jack is very usefulre not exactly what we refer to as "maintained," and what is a good road this year could become no road next year. Nature is like that.

Bring some chain and/or rope to get unstuck, even if you're by yourself. A Hi-Lift jack. Shovels come in very handy for digging your vehicle free (or, in the worst of situations, laying that careless friend to his final rest.) Winches are swell- if you know how to use one. A length of chain and a few pieces of sharpened rebar hammered into it will give your winch something to grab onto when you're in a place with no trees.

While you're not going to be doing any major repairs out there, it's always nice to have a few gallons of radiator water/antifreeze mix, a can or two of oil, a can of fix-a-flat, and a few tools like screwdrivers, pliers, and a few strategically-sized wrenches. When was the last time you checked your spare? Does your jack work? Does your lug wrench fit? Don't forget duct tape. Spare fan belt.

Most places can be reached on a tank of gas, but if you're going to be crawling around the countryside for a weekend it might behoove you to bring a bit of spare gasoline. Ooooh, is the gas too expensive in Barking Spider, Nevada for you to fill up? It's a lot cheaper now than it will be when you're marooned well out of the AAA service area.


Common Sense

Good Lord, just use the common sense God gave a jackrabbit, willya?

For instance, we've all seen the commercials with fancy cars racing across the alkali flats, trailing the spectacular clouds of white dust as they speed across the desert. I have news for you. Auto manufacturers do not pay for these ads. Tow truck companies pay for these ads. During much of the year, the thin, dry, top crust of the flat can hide its true nature- a bottomless quagmire of fine mud in which your vehicle will sink up to Jack-In-The-Box antenna ball. Best to stay on the road.

Trespass The rule of thumb is, if you pass through a closed gate, close it. If you pass through an open gate, leave it open. If there is a NO TRESPASSING sign, though, that can only mean one thing- the owner of the property doesn't want you there. If there isn't a sign, that doesn't mean you're not trespassing. Exercise caution, and treat the property better than if it was your own. Don't litter. Don't steal. Figure who ever owns the place is watching you through a rifle scope.

Mineral exploration played- and still plays- an important part in Nevada history. Thousands of mines still dot the landscape since mining began in earnest in the 19th century. Many mines have been abandoned, and therein lies the danger. As enticing as it seems to explore an old mine, there is no getting around the fact that going near one can kill you, or or your friends, or your pet. Think about this. Mining is a dangerous occupation. Miners know this, are prepared with training and equipment, and it's still dangerous.

You're just a goofball with a flashlight going into a mine that hasn't been maintained in 20, 50, or maybe even 100 years. Not exactly a stellar idea, Jackson.
We're not going to go into all the entertaining ways you can lose your life in a mine. Unless you're a professional, just don't do it.

Follow these simple rules, and you may survive long enough to have your own cheesy web site like ours.




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