Saturday, April 9, 2011

Danger in the Desert

Not to sound too much like the title of a Hardy Boys novel, but there's no denying there is "Danger in the Desert."

Our first brush with the dangers of the desert on this trip came while camping at Joshua Tree when we ripped shorts, shoes and some skin on the abrasive rocks. But this was mild, and while it was slightly annoying to have to need new shoes and shorts less than a week into a 5 week adventure, it was not truly scary at all. (Of course if anyone had been behind me when my shorts tore, now that could have been scary.)

Our next brush came on a leisurely stroll with our friends near Mesa, Arizona. Since it was hot, we chose a mellow walk rather than an intense hike. I didn't really think of changing out of sandals, but I learned that sandals on a poky cactus trail are not the best idea. Boy Child was the first to get poked. Somehow, while staying on the trail, he managed to wind up with barbed cactus thorn stuck in several places in his shoe and his ankle. While he knelt down to try to pull the needles from his skin, he did not notice that there was another entire mini cactus chunk stuck to his other shoe, and he was leaning his rear end about a half an inch away from it. We all frantically tried to warn him, but he was so obsessed with the difficulty of trying to pull out the needles in his ankle that he just bounced about in a kneeling position, barely missing far worse injury than what he had on his ankle, and having no idea he was even in danger. By some miracle, he managed to escape his backside connecting with the cactus, but it was a narrow escape. Girl Child and I each wound up with quite a few needles in the toes of our shoes, and we had never left the trail either. It was like these spines had a magnet for our feet.

A few days later, we camped near Saquaro National Park. When we were rolling our tent up in the morning, a very grumpy scorpion came out from under it, and got all wiggly with his tail at me, presumably because I messed with his shady spot under my tent.

Another few nights after that, we were camped near Alamagordo, New Mexico, and heard a little rattling noise near our campstove. I shined the lantern out of the tent, expecting to run off some little squirrel like creature, and what do I see? What I saw was the back of a very large skunk who looked like he was standing up on the bench seat of the picnic table and playing with the knobs on my stove. Once I realized who, or should I say what the creature was, I decided against my original plan of yelling at it to frighten it away. Instead I stuck my head back in my tent and zipped the flap while praying for my guest to leave without making a stink. Thank goodness he did, but he hung around right next to me for quite some time.

Our final scare has been another less than pleasant hotel room. For some unknown reason, the nicely rated public campground we had planned to stay at at the Valley of Fires Recreation Area was closed off with a locked gate, and we were out in the middle of nowhere with darkness on the way. I was wide awake so we just drove on towards Albuquerque. Boy Child wanted to just sleep in the car in a parking lot, but that sounded not only uncomfortable, but embarrassing, and possibly unsafe as well. We slept in the car once, but we were in a camp site we had paid for, which is entirely different than a parking lot. Anyway, we were still about an hour or more away when I started getting tired. There were no campgrounds around, so we just pulled over and checked into a room. Why, oh why didn't I ask to see it first? To avoid being negative, I will just say that after being in here a bit, I really, really prefer my own tent and sleeping bag, even in a wind storm. I do not even want to contemplate the dangers of slacker hotel keeping, but on the bright side, I have the best wifi I have had in the whole state of New Mexico.

So, there's a number of lessons learned here about not wearing flip flops in the desert, being careful where you step or reach and above all, trying at all cost to avoid hotels in the middle of nowhere.