hikingMany people are anxiously anticipating those picnics, camping and hikes with their families and friends since the temperatures in Mohave County are rapidly approaching triple digits.

The great outdoors is “calling their names” and people are in the process of making plans to ensure their outings are hopefully safe and a fun-filled time.

Even if they are only driving for a short distance or planning a short hike, the two optimal words are “be prepared.” Before heading out on their treks and/or an adventures, it would behoove people to make a list of everything needed in addition to those essentials normally not thought of.

An example of being ill-prepared and not thinking about the worst case scenario was two 80-year-old seniors who were out in their jeep exploring the Mohave County desert outback. They decided to take what they believed to be a leisurely drive to a location in the Black Mountains on the northwest side of Golden Valley they had heard about.

As the seniors headed down a fairly step and rugged-rocky road toward Mormon Springs nestled in a deep canyon, their jeep high centered and they could not drive forward or back up. They immediately tried to call for help using a cell phone, but the deep canyon where they were didn’t have cellular coverage. Besides that, the area was much too far from civilization for them to attempt to hike out, so they decided to stay and hoped someone would happen upon them. That in itself was the best decision they made that day -remain near their jeep because if they hadn’t, it could have been extremely disastrous for them. Having not brought adequate amounts of food or water with them, they could have suffered from dehydration and possibly died if they had attempted to hike to safety. Lucky for them, they survived on water from a stream that runs year round through the canyon and from pomegranates on trees growing there. Help didn’t come immediately; they waited for almost a week prior to being discovered and rescued by hikers.

The problem is the vast majority of people believe they will be safe without taking needed essentials/items with them. There are numerous other examples of motorists, campers and hikers not being prepared, who got lost or stranded and needed help from rescuers. Those numbers of rescue incidents could be lessened or alleviated if only people took time to think and prepare for their trailblazing adventures.

When getting everything ready for an outing, the first and foremost thing is to ensure your vehicle is good operating order, has a full tank of fuel, a bag of various tools for minor repairs, a roll of duck tape and five gallons of water for the radiator. People probably wonder why duck tape.  It can be used for emergency repair if a small leak occurs in the radiator hose.

Even if people are only planning a short trip, they must always prepare for the worst. Take supplies for at least a 24-hour period even if they plan on only being gone for a few hours. A good rule of thumb is always have at least a gallon of water for each individual, snacks and a blanket to keep warm at night. One never knows if their vehicle will break down in the middle of nowhere.

Not everyone takes everything needed to ensure a safe time. There are few items people normally don’t think about taking with them, but are essential. They include: toilet paper and a lightweight collapsible shovel to dig a hole for those bathroom breaks in the middle of nowhere; a walking stick to help maneuver those uneven trails; a GPS or compass to plot their trek; a comfortable wide-brimmed hat and protective clothing to protect them from the harsh sun; snacks and adequate amount of water (in their pack) in unbreakable containers to sustain a person for 24 hours is a must. There isn’t anything worse than having water in one of those pre-packaged-lightweight bottles purchased from a store and a fall crushing it and losing all of their water.

“Day packs” should only weigh between 15 to 20 pounds at the most and should contain items needed in case of an emergency. The items are: cellular telephone (hopefully there is cellular service available); a whistle and a signal mirror to attract the attention of possible rescuers; first aid kit; hand sanitizer to kill the germs after a bathroom break or prior to eating; waterproof matches and a container just in case there is a need to make a fire to keep warm at night if stranded (remember the days during the summer may be extremely hot, but the nights can get very cold); flashlight with extra batteries; a poncho to keep dry if the monsoon rains happen to occur; mosquito netting just in case of a bee attack; and an extra pair of prescription glasses just in case the ones they are wearing are broken during a fall.

The one thing hikers must never do is hike alone or drive into the outback with just one vehicle – two are better than one. Always bring a friend along on hikes because if injured, the other hiker can either administer first aid or go for help. Another important tidbit to follow is always tell someone when they are heading out, where they are going, what route they are taking and when they plan on returning. That way, if they’re over do on their return trip, authorities can be notified so a possible organized search can be initiated.

Eighty-six year-old “snowbird” Jack Bower, from Auburn, Calif., who has a winter home in Golden Valley, knows the need to be prepared. Bower has been exploring and treasure hunting in various areas of the western United States and throughout the world since he was about 17 years old. He recently ventured to Alaska in search for gold. “Besides food and emergency equipment, I always have a couple bottles of water and granola bars with me in addition to my GPS. If the area has mosquitoes or bees, I bring mosquito netting with me to protect my face from getting bit,” Bower said.

When Bower first started exploring the great outdoors, GPS devices had not been invented.  He had to rely on the “old school” method – maps and a compass. According to Bower, the GPS devices are great because if you find a location you want to return to at a later date, all you have to do is mark a waypoint on your device. He says when you decide to revisit the area; your GPS will give the exact direction to travel and distance when you want to get back to the same spot.

Bower, who is an avid hiker, treasure hunter and prospector, always tries to limit the weight of his equipment he takes with him. He said that if your equipment weighs too much, you will get tired more easily and you’ll have to take a lot of rest breaks. His walking stick he uses is actually a garden tool with a wooden handle that has a small hoe and two-pronged rake on it. “Not only can I use it to steady myself on an uneven trail, I can use it to dig rocks up and to turn things over,” he said. Bower has always stressed he doesn’t like turning something over by hand and finding a rattle snake under it. He says it is much safer not turning something over by hand and possibly getting bit.

One of the biggest suggestions and recommendations Bower stresses are preparedness. “Always take all of the necessary equipment and supplies, including a compass and GPS with you when heading out on an adventurer or

hiking,” he said. “You never know if a short hike might turn into a 24-hour or more outing especially if an emergency occurs. I never have been lost, but even though I ended up at my destination, I may have traveled a few extra miles to get there because I got misdirected prior to purchasing a GPS.”

There is nothing better than spending time in the desert, mountains and great outdoors that is beckoning to be explored. People must ensure their adventure plans and outings include all of the essential items and supplies needed for a safe and a fun time. And last but not least, they need to be prepared for the worst case scenario in case of an emergency.

(Editor’s Note: Butch Meriwether is a member of the Mohave County Sheriff Office’s Search and Rescue (SAR) Kingman Unit and has seen firsthand that some people head out into the desert and mountains who did not prepare for the worst case scenario. Members of the MCSO Search and Rescue Unit have on, more than one occasion, had to search for missing hikers and motorists. For information about the MCSO SAR Unit and the eligibility requirements to become a member, visit http://www.mohavecounty.us/ContentPage.aspx?id=131&cid=364)

by Butch Meriweather

Butch Meriwether