Adventure tips in the dessert wilderness
Experience the sights, sounds, and feel of nature in drama by visiting the desert. See for yourself, as barren conditions give up its bounty to the prepared beginning camper. Know there will be hot, dry summers and mild winter days with cold nights.
Enjoy expanding views in all directions. Rocks etched into unusual forms and painted on picture postcard sunsets. Wake up each morning, finding changed colours with a brand new view on the world. It is no wonder that photographers seek out these ever-changing nature views.
Desert camping is packed with activities. People come for the photography, hiking, and rock climbing. People study wildlife, geology, and plant life. Others enjoy four wheeling. Some travel to treasured spots combining lake swimming and boating with the solitude of the desert. Prepared beginning campers come away with cherished memories and already planning their next camping adventure.
You find summer daytime temperatures slightly above 100 oF. Evenings will not drop much below 70 oF in most North American deserts. Popular are both free-range and National Park was camping. During summer months, it is best to make park reservations. Canada National Park Service reservations can be made at http://www.pccamping.ca/parkscanada/.
U.S. National Park Service reservations are at http://reservations.nps.gov.
It may surprise you to learn many regions of North America have deserted. They exist from Northern Canada to the tip of Mexico. There is probably one near you. The southwestern states of California, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Utah, New Mexico and Nevada claim some of the most famous desert camping areas.
What to Expect
Warmth and the sunshine during the day. Cooler temperatures bring out nightlife animals searching for food and water. Free-range campers can expect plenty of silence and seclusion. A new appreciation for nature is common.
You need to bring everything you will require for the trip. It is far from one desert town to the next. Don’t plan on last minute shopping. This is an opportunity to get away from everything and everyone.
On the way back out, try to leave the area as if no one had ever been there. Plan to take all of your trash back to a garbage can in town. Future campers will appreciate it, and hopefully, they do the same for you.
It is necessary but not difficult getting prepared. Here are a few starter tips.
Begin preparing ahead of time
Make a list of what you need and check it twice
All basic camping gear is needed, camp stove, gas lantern, sleeping bags, etc.
Check the weather forecast
Bring light weight clothes that cover and protect skin from the sun
Campfire wood is a good idea; you won’t find much in the desert
You will quickly appreciate having your shade umbrella
Nonperishable foods work best, ice for ice chests may be hard to find
High UV numbered sunscreen, sunglasses, and head cover
Of course, water is a concern in the desert. A general rule of thumb is a minimum of one gallon of drinking water per person each day. Don’t forget about your other water needs. Cleaning sand from your face and hands is a small desert luxury. Dishes need washing as well. Bring plenty of water.
Things to Watch for and Avoid
A big part of the beauty of the desert is the harshness. As barren as it seems, many animals carry on life in the wilderness. They will not likely come looking for you. Still, keep a watchful eye open for coyotes, rattlesnakes, black widow spiders, and scorpions. Make a habit of shaking shoes out before putting them on to be sure nothing moved in.
Sandstorms and flash floods can break out in the desert. Both happen mostly during spring and fall weather changes. Summer thundershowers bring flash floods. Stay away from ravines and other paths water apparently gushes through after a thunderstorm. Dramatic views of distant storms come with the sweeping desert vistas. Be alert for water travelling long distances at fast speeds.
The need for water in the desert needs emphasis. Water is heavy to transport and haul but bring plenty. Make camp close to where you can park. Drink more water than normal to prevent dehydration. Also, think about the salt loss if you sweat in the heat. Eat more salt than normal. People on strict diets might find camping a good reason to treat themselves. The extra activity can justify extra eating. Enjoy.
Come for the sun but respect it. Besides wearing a good sunscreen, know the symptoms for sun illnesses. Sunburn and heat exhaustion are sun illnesses just like heat stroke. Occasionally go into the shade to cool off.
With the basics taken care of, it is time to go exploring.
Hiking and Horseback Riding as Popular Desert Activities
The scenery captures your attention as you scout for the perfect campsite. You will be itching to explore by the time the tent is setup. Some National Parks have nearby horseback rentals. Either on horseback or foot the beginner gets a gratifying close-up look at desert wonders. Look far and look near, the drama fully surrounds you.
Tips on Desert Hiking
Travel light but bring essentials with you. Again, with the sunscreen and plenty of water. Even if only planning to go a short distant for a short time. Carry water, sunscreen, and head cover. Beginners should start with short hikes of less than an hour. Soon you will learn how you handle the conditions and your endurance.
In no time, you will be venturing beyond sight of your camp. When you do, be prepared.
Tell someone exactly where you are going
Go with hiking partners and don’t get separated
Start with popular trails if available
Wear lightweight boots that breath
Carry a compass, know the direction you are going and which you came from
Wear a wristwatch so you don’t unexpectedly find the sun going down
Leave plenty of time to get back to camp
Notice landmarks, this will be easy
Rock formations make good landmarks that can be seen in the distance
Carry energy bars or other lightweight food – even for short hikes
Carry a whistle or other device to make a loud noise
If You Get Lost
First – don’t get lost. If you do, here are a few easy tips the beginner should keep in mind. Look for nearby shade. Sit down, rest, and take stock of the situation. If you happen to get lost in a vehicle, don’t leave it. The car is easier to spot by rescuers.
Look around for the landmarks you observed along the way. If you are sure, you can retrace your steps, mark the spot before leaving. Try to leave a message describing when you were there when you left. Include your physical condition and exactly where you are going.
Look for a nearby high spot. Climb and see if the surroundings look familiar. Use the whistle even if you don’t see anyone.
An Enjoyable Beginning
The desert may sound risky for the beginner, but a little preparation goes a long way. Spending a few minutes learning this information helps assure it will be a safe and delightful first desert trip. You will enjoy panorama vistas and marvel at creatures eking out a living in the sand. You will come away with memorable moments of new experiences.