The Art of Desert Travel

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Four years ago my husband and I broke down one afternoon in a remote Nevada desert canyon where the temperatures hovered around 100 degrees.  We covered the car with towels for shade, prayed, made a plan and, by the grace of God, were rescued within a matter of hours by strangers arriving in the canyon to camp.  Despite the speedy rescue, the breakdown became a defining moment for us because one of the big “what if’s” that confront every wilderness traveler was from then on a “remember when.”

My husband and I routinely but reticently break one of the fundamental rules of desert wilderness travel–always travel with another party.  We are eremitic travelers–meaning that solitary travel is for us a means of deepening our intimate relationship with God.  The decision to travel alone comes with added risk and responsibility so we work hard to be prepared.  A triage is a useful model for establishing a hierarchy of preparedness.  Although triage refers to rapid assessment and prioritization of injuries, I like to use the concept in reverse to prioritize prevention of predictable medical threats.

The preeminent consideration in a survival situation is core body temperature.  You can live three weeks without food and three days without water.  But within three hours a fluctuation in core body temperature of merely a few degrees is potentially fatal.  Therefore the largest allocation of space in and on our Land Rover–after the tools and equipment required to maintain (and, if necessary, liberate) the vehicle–is for clothing, bedding and shelter.  Water occupies the second-largest apportionment of our space.  And a moderate but sufficient amount of space is allotted for food.

Being prepared requires a lot of hard work and constant management of our gear, our vehicle and our supplies.  It’s all worth it, though, when we roll out onto the road and enjoy the ride.