Desert Rat

Over the next few weeks you will see a shift on the Facebook page, the trip reports on the blog, and maybe a video of two on youtube with a concentrated effort on the desert. Honestly this is nothing new. We live in and on the border of some of the most facsinating deserts, I grew up in Arizona and then Texas- both famous for its deserts, I am drawn to notional parks like Big Bend, Zion, Canyon Lands, and other places where water is scarce, navigation can be difficult, and help is out of cell phone reach. Early on in my military careerI focused on desert survival and warfare when the trend was Soviet invasion in Europe. I love the desert for its beauty,its harshness, and its complexity.

For me, of all the environments, the desert is the most unforgiving. Here you better know your stuff and keep your head together. You may go out for a day, but should be ready to spend three. I have dirt biked and ATV’d in remote locations on hot days, only to have a sudden thunderstorm come in and make the trails home impossible. Blown radiator hoses, flat tires, and sink holes can extend your stay. Its difficult to navigate and at times possible to communicate. If you go out on Sunday, make sure your boss knows that if you don’t show up for work on Monday, you are in a jam somewhere. On the kitchen pass from your spouse, be sure to list where you are going and stick to the plan.

This last weekend we had the opportunity to visit Winter Camp. Thijs was a small homestead in the Bruneau Desert. After a 30-mile trip down a gravel road and then a few miles in on a not likely to ever be improved road, we were met by the land owners.

Many of the pristine homesteads still sit on working ranches and are only available through the cooperation of land owners. We went out with the Owyhee County Historical Society and the trip was led by Steve Silva. Steve has written a few books on the Owyhee area and is not only an expert in the history, but is an avid biker and knows every little trail from Eastern Oregon to Western Idaho, and for kicks, throw in Nevada as well.

I will do a more indepth trip report on Winter Camp after I have a chance to double check and verify my notes. I mainly wanted to point out the availability of these adventures as an opportunity to get out and explore….safety in numbers. I also wanted to provide some guidance before you venture out on what to take along.

Water. Those little bottles you picked up at the store are not enough. Don’t think in terms of ounces, think in terms of gallons.

Fuel. Even with a group going to a known destination I carry two 5 gallons cans of fuel plus I top off at the last known stop.

Small tool kit with extra parts. I worked with Carl from the local ATV club who has extensive experience on extended range travel in this area. Last month when we changed belts and hoses, I kept the old parts as spares. I also have two gallons of coolant and two quarts of oil with me. Jumper cables and tow lines are also their weight in gold.

Communication. Cell phones rarely work. I have a ham radio, cb radio, and aircraft radio. Be properly registered and qualified. In fact I highly recommend a ham certification.

Keep survival pack in the rig. As a rule I look at how many people (and pups) you rig will hold. Since I know I will max out at 3 people and two dogs, my kit will work for all of us for three days. I also carry my own personal survival bag in case I need to start walking and others have to stay put. Know how to use the stuff and train with it. In the next few weeks I will include this in one of my postings.

GPS is great but know how to read a map.

I keep two first aid kits, well three if you count the small one in my personal survival kit. Let’s focus on the two in the rig. The first sits behind the passenger seat. Its small and made for those little cuts and abrasions. Easy to get to and doesn’t require a medical degree beyond what mom’s do to take care off boo-boos. The second is a full blown EMT bag. Everything short of a heart by-pass is included in it. In addition, we are trained to use everything in the bag. I highly recommend the NOLS Wilderness Medic Course. This will train you to keep someone stabalized until either help arrives or you have to transport. I sent a few of us through both the NOLS course and the Red Cross course a few years ago. The Red Cross version was pathetic at best. Go with NOLS, theyare used to sending people into the back country on a regular basis….including third world countries where you just might be the best medic. Stay current on CPR and other courses, and check your kits. I do mine everytime we bounce between daylight savings and standard time.

That is probably just the start of it. As I set here in the desert, one of those storms is moving in and its starting to pour on me. I left this morning with a 20% chance of rain, and most of the day it has been in the 90s.

The last thing is join and participate in forums such as Expo Portal

There is so much to see out there. Remember to tread lightly which keeps the outdoors in good condition for all of us. If you get opportunities to visit private lands, be sure to thank the owners, respect their property, leave stuff alone. Never venture on to land you are not sure of.





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