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Monday, March 24, 2008

From the Oven to the Freezer: Spring Travel in the Desert

Just finished another glorious trip in the desert. What a spring we are having in Arizona- perhaps the best in ten years due to the heavy precipitation this winter in both the high-country and lower desert. An amazing array of wildflowers that are a sight to see and probably won't come again until the next productive winter which seem to be few and far between.

We actually saw waterfalls cascading over canyon edges in the Superstition Mountains a few weeks back and many of the "dry" washes were flowing.

Typical of the desert, though, we were hiking in t-shirts and shorts during the day with temps in the 70's and then donning wool hats and down jackets around the evening campfire where the temp plummetted to 20 degrees, only an hour after sunset. The "Land of Little Water" is indeed a land of extremes. The city of Yuma holds the record for most drastic temperature change when it went from 120 degrees during the day to 39 degrees at night!

I remember one spring dayhike I was leading in the Western Grand Canyon on Hualapai tribal lands. We were hiking in 80+ degree weather and soaking our shirts in the nearby stream to help us cool off. My shirt would be bone-dry in 30 minutes. After finishing lunch in an a remote gorge, we headed back to the vans which were a few miles downstream. The wind kicked up and ominous clouds began rolling in. By the time we started our drive out of the Canyon, it was raining and by the time we finished atop the Rim, it was actually snowing. When I arrived home in Flagstaff a few hours later, there were white-out conditions and a storm upon us that would dump up to two feet of snow. So, in a short period of time, we went for the potential for heat-exhaustion to hypothermia and frostbite! Ah, welcome to the desert.

Along with my trusty survival kit and water, I always bring some fleece or wool layers on those balmy spring hikes in the sun. You never know what the coming night and weather will bring.

About Ancient Pathways

Tony Nester is the author of numerous books and DVDs on survival. His school Ancient Pathways is the primary provider of survival training for the Military Special Operations community and he has served as a consultant for the NTSB, Travel Channel, Backpacker Magazine, and the film Into the Wild. When not on the trail, he lives in a passive-solar, strawbale home in northern Arizona. For information on Tony’s books, gear, or bushcraft courses, visit www.apathways.com.
 

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