How To Travel Safely And Responsibly In The Desert

By CHERYL JENSEN

The Progress

Ten things to remember when traveling in the desert were discussed in a presentation by Brenda Slocumb of Friends of Gold Butte organization. The lecture was given at a Founders Day series event on Wednesday, April 16 at Mesquite City Hall.

The Friends of Gold Butte (FOGB) organization promotes the responsible enjoyment of Gold Butte. The group organizes hikes and tours through the national monument and also sponsors volunteer projects including trash and graffiti cleanups, re-planting burned areas and more.

Slocumb said that the Mojave Desert is a wild, beautiful place. “But it can also be dangerous if a person does not follow some safety rules,” she said. “Being prepared for the sun and heat will help you have a great adventure.”

Slocumb said that when hiking or traveling in the desert it is best to travel in a group as there is safety in numbers “It is good to travel with a 2nd vehicle along, have plenty of fuel, and check the tire air pressure on the ATV before leaving, ”Slocumb said.

Travelers in the desert should learn to read a map, use a compass or have a GPS device. The FOGB have a class on map reading and use of compass, she said.

Slocumb also advised desert travelers to tell someone where they are going and when they are expected to be back. “You can check in with our visitor center if needed,” Slocumb said. “Then you just call back when you are out of the area and safe.”
Travelers in the desert should plan their trip carefully, and then stick to the plan.

Suggested items to take include trail food, a blanket, fire starter, pocket knife, flashlight, matches, a whistle, sun protection, and a first aid kit.
“Of course, take plenty of water and hydrate before you leave home,” Slocumb said. “One gallon of water per person per day even in winter is suggested.”

“One gallon of water weighs eight lbs.,” Slocumb said. Therefore – Drink It! Do not save it. Carry it in your body not on your body .. ”

Slocumb said that desert travelers should wear light colored clothing with long sleeves, long pants and a broad-brimmed hat to shield from the sun. People should also be prepared to add layers such as a jacket in case the weather turns cooler. Sturdy hiking shoes are also advisable and having an extra pair along was also a suggestion.

Slocumb emphasized the importance of being protected from the sun. “You can receive a sunburn through some types of clothing,” she said. “So apply sunscreen and then reapply.”

Timing is also important, Slocumb said. “April through October are the best months for traveling in the desert and the light is better if you enjoy taking photographs,” Slocumb said.
FOGB sponsors a hike on New Year’s Day and they arrive in the desert to watch the sunrise for some spectacular photographic opportunities, she said.
Slocumb also talked about being sensitive to the desert environment.

There are lots of residents in the desert and you as a hiker are the guest, ”she said. There are snakes, scorpions, spiders, lizards (some venomous), bighorn sheep, coyotes, mountain lions, wild cattle, feral horses, tortoises, burros, rabbits and rodents. Some of these blend in with the desert landscape and may take you by surprise or be curled up under a rock or ledge. Look before you put your hand on a ledge and receive a bite. When camping beware of animal’s homes and burrows. ”

Slocumb advised to follow the rule of good campers – “Leave no Trace”.
“Take your trash with you and the food scraps,” Slocumb said. “It takes a long time for orange peels and banana peels to decompose and tossing them near your campsite invites unwanted critters to invade your camp.”

During Friends of Gold Butte clean up events, volunteers have hauled off as much as 1,700 lbs. of trash in a single day, Slocumb said. But she also admitted that the amount of trash has seemed to decrease as people seem to be more responsible travelers.

Another danger during storm or flood season is the possibility of flash floods. “Avoid dry washes and slot canyons at those times and stay on higher ground,” Slocumb said. “In fact, it is best to choose another day to travel if stormy weather is predicted.”

Slocumb said that people should always travel on designated trails only. “The desert has crypto-biotic soil that takes years to establish and holds the moisture in the soil,” Slocumb said. “If there is damage then the sand blows away and erosion will occur.”

Slocumb advised that people take photographs and not treasures. The area is rich with petroglyphs, artifacts of ancient peoples, mining and pioneer-era relics and more, she said.
“Write your own story by taking a photo or sending a text,” Slocumb said.

The lecture series will continue on Wednesday night, April 20, at 6:00 pm at City Hall. Steven Dudrow, a certified interpreter guide and photographer, will present a lecture on photography in the desert.

Then on Wednesday, April 27, at 6:00 pm. David Leavitt, a longtime resident and retired teacher, will tell stories of the area. This lecture will be held at the outdoor seating area behind the Mesquite Art Gallery on Mesquite Blvd.

FOGB has an office located at 12 West Mesquite Blvd. across from Mesquite City Hall. Information and maps of the area are available there. The office is open from 10:00 – 3:00 Tuesday thru Friday. The Friends of Gold Butte volunteers also staff the Mesquite Welcome Center near the freeway entrance on Mondays from 10-2 and it is open with other volunteers Friday from 10-2.

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