Desert Adventures: How To Make It Out Alive

 This is a real life entry from my journal.

“...The stories we will tell… today we drove deep into a mud bog, too deep. We were stuck. No cell service, no paved road for another several miles... and that's if I was reading the map right."

We got ourselves into this all for a half hour swim in the hot springs.

We started this journey around 10 this morning. The host of our campsite checked our tires and reminded us to drive slow - she said in 6 miles we would cross into the park. We packed lots of water, PB&Js and took off. What she didn't account for was the heavy rains a few days before, and what we didn't account for was overflowing creeks, rocks and mud bogs.

The other question we failed to ask... when we cross into the park, how much further until we hit the next paved road? The answer to that question would have been 18 miles. And 18 miles is major on primitive desert roads.

We nervously told each other surely someone will come across our path. We waited. We climbed onto the roof... nothing as far as we could see, and then the coyotes started to howl and weren't the scorpions and rattlesnakes waking from late afternoon slumbers?

Finally another human: a border patrol officer traveling quickly into view - he asks us to get out of the way - what? We can't, help! He's more concerned about attending to whatever was happening on his radio than helping us get out of this mess.

I plead. He stops. "How in the world did you guys get out here? it's only going to get worse ahead, so put it in first and crank yourselves out of here."

This is the first time my skill from being one of the only girls in a crew of off roaders when I was 16 has come in truly, very handy. (See Dad, aren't you glad you bought me that old jeep now?!) 4 hours later we were out of it. And somehow Ben and I were more appreciative of the ESP we often share with each other than we had been on just about any other day.”

The trip through the Chihuahuan Desert holds a personal nostalgia for me. Our first West Texas road trip. There’s a deep magic in this sort of wildness, even when it is a bit scary. The treks stretch on, listening to a little Willie Nelson and a lot of the sound of the silent desert is meditative. There’s golden desertscapes and hints of pink under incredulous blues. Mile after mile of barren lands broken up by mountainous formations. it’s a place to get lost - figuratively of course, in the vastness of this great big country. 

If you're planning your own desert adventure, you've got to pack accordingly. Here's what's on my list.

Navigation: Your phone map app AND a paper map. I can't stress enough how equally important both are. Mark your paper map with your actual route. It’ll keep you from getting re-directed back to the interstate when you don’t want to. It will also absolutely save you when you’re in places where there's no phone signal for hours. On our trip we found our GPS tried to route us often down roads that were super primitive. Fine if there's been no rain and you're in a 4WD. Not fine otherwise. We took a turn early in our trip in which we passed only one car...

...an old desert hippie at the wheel of a 70's caddie. Windows down, hair and dirt blowing... he could have been a mirage except we both swear we saw him.

Water & Healthy Snacks: You'll need way more water than you think, so load up with gallon jugs. Pack energy foods that travel easily in a cooler. Nightly picnic dinners on the back of an SUV tailgate will be the norm.

Car Kit: Include the usual items recommended by AAA: jumper cables, a tire patch kit, flash lights and batteries. Include a first aid kit, gallons of water (did I mention water?), washer fluid, oil and antifreeze. Trash bags, hand sanitizer, paper towels and wipes come in super handy too.

After the insanity, btw, we finally made it to the hot springs. Don't we look so calm below? Strangely that 30 minute soak took all of the craziness of the day away. We took a dip, watched wild horses graze across the river and then set off for another 6 hour drive to our next destination. Roll on you guys, roll on.

Photos above are 35mm taken by Ben. 

Start your own desert road kit with this good stuff below.

Wanderfully yours,

Andi