Our Spring Trip 2015 – the hazards of the desert

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Desert Sunset

 

We have arrived at our boon docking destination in the Arizona desert. Our goal is to try to stay for a month. If the heat or snakes don’t drive us out sooner.

There’s an RV park 5 miles down the road where we can dump our tanks and replenish our fresh water, the Wayside Inn. Their water comes from a well, you can actually drink it which is usually not the case in Arizona. We were here last year for a couple of weeks so we know the lay of the land. Well maybe just familiar.

By The Way
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The Wayside Inn Restaurant/bar

 

The Wayside Inn is an actual oasis in the desert. Situated 40+ miles from the closest one horse town it’s a mainstay for Rvers and desert explorers, with it’s own electrical generating plant that runs the RV park as well as the restaurant/bar/store. There is a small laundry mat, 1 gas pump, propane, RV dump, and get this, free water. The burgers are the best in these parts, I know I’ve had one. The new management have noticeably improved things.

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Belly up to the Bar

 

The Wayside Inn is truly an outback experience. It’s a meeting place for ATVers before heading out on desert tours. Rvers stop to dump and refill. Several small planes will often be neatly parked while their pilots engage in chitchat inside the restaurant. There is always a colorful story being told by an equally colorful personality.

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Entering the Wayside Inn

 

Boondockinng….roughing it???

When you think of the desert the first thing that comes to mind is the lack of water. While this is definitely a concern, in this day and age it’s not the first concern that comes to mind. It’s not like 100 years ago when some hearty souls like bearded prospectors with there pack mules, would head out into the desert seeking the golden holy grail. These days you would have to be a bit deranged to travel like they did.

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Our Trailer in the Desert

 

RVing in the desert is not even close to roughing it. Modern RVs have all the comforts of home, maybe substantial less room but with the weather perfect most of the time our living space includes the great outdoors. We enjoy all the comforts of home even satellite tv and internet. Some mornings are cool this time of the year but by mid morning the jackets are gone.

We have been here for a week, with sunshine every day.

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Charging the batteries with the sun (solar panels)

 

Our solar panels are working well, and Lynda has been using her sewing machine for a quilt project.

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2 6 volt deep cycle batteries, 25 amp. charge controller, and 1000 watt inverter. I
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this is what I use to haul our fresh water. A small submersible pump works well, to transfer the water to the fresh water tank.

I have not had to run the generator yet. The fresh water is holding up only 1/3 down after 6 days even with a shower each. I did buy 9 gallons of drinking water so that helps.

Even though staying in the desert in your RV can be fun and carefree there are still some hazards that must be considered. The beautiful sunshine of course, you can burn very quickly even during the dead of winter, seems funny to call it winter when the temperature can hit 80 F – 25 C., and of course the king of the desert.

The Rattle Snake
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Arizona Diamondback Rattler

 

I am writing about this because these slithery creatures have been the subject of conversations with other RVers since we arrived. The fact is once the warm weather arrives so do the snakes. The other day there was a report of a dog being bit. The dog survived after a run to town for a shot, he must have been a big dog or maybe it was a non venomous snake. I have heard that a small dog will die in an hour or so once bit. The veterans of this area say there is an anti-venom shot that lasts a year and can be obtained from a Veterinarian, probably a good idea if your are planning on spending time in the outback. I wonder if they have one for humans?.

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So with the snake situation at the forefront of my thoughts, I headed down to the lake on my ATV, as I passed an older prospector looking gent sitting in front of his older tiny trailer, I stopped to chat.

Small talk quickly developed into snake talk. I soon got an education on the Arizona Diamondback rattler as well as the Mojave rattler, and several other species. The man scared the crap out of me. He told me how the snakes will hide under your RV and jump out at your legs as you step out. They like to hide behind the tires were, his words. The Diamondback the most deadly and extremely aggressive will actually chase you, then as if to drive the point home he draws his pistol out of its holster and proclaims, “ that’s why I carry this.”
He proceed to explain in great detail how he uses his pride and joy to defend his family against the hordes of venomous pit vipers covering the country side. I do believe he would still be talking if I hadn’t started my ATV and driven off.

I made a quick run to the lake and then a detour route back to our RV. As I passed several RVs I couldn’t help but think that these poor people have no idea what dangers lay in wait. The snakes are coming!!
I arrived back at our RV and the safety of my wife. I fell into her arms sobbing, NOT LOL.

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I quickly gave Lynda a brief run down of my conversation with the professor, as I was powering up the jet pack internet modem. Lynda promptly states, “ if I see one we are outta here!!” I was actually feeling the same, although I didn’t let on.
I needed to confirm his story quickly before we are attacked.

Truth or Dare

I skimmed several articles on rattle snakes and soon realized there may have been a bit of exaggeration by my talkative friend. To confirm my findings I decided to do some first hand research. I meandered around the area on my ATV to engage everyone I saw. I nonchalantly touch on the subject and even out right asked if any snakes had been sighted. One person said they saw a dead one once, another couple said they saw a large specimen on the road. While most had not see a rattle snake but had heard about someone seeing one. All of the people I had talked to have been coming to this area for over 5 years.

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The only person who actually sees them often is the cook at the Wayside Inn.
He hunts them while heading to town in the summer when the temperature sours to 115 degrees Fahrenheit “They are all over the road,” were his words. I’m not sure if that is technically hunting.
Of course asked him his thought on snakes, he basically confirmed what I was thinking. Don’t bother them and they won’t bother you. The only problem you will have is if you step on or near one, then they will strike. Even then the bite may not be venomous, from what I have read a snake needs to actually load the venom to strike, which may not happen if it surprised.

My Own Experiences

On one occasion we were camped near the Colorado River a snake was spotted in the middle of the RV park. A young fellow took it upon himself to corral the rattler against a tree hollow, put a stick on his head, pick it up and walk it into the brush. All the bystanders including myself were totally stunned.

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I still don’t know for sure whether he was the bravest man I had ever met or the dumbest, but he sure seemed to know what he was doing.
Snakes are reptiles and hibernate until the weather warms to the eighties or twenty five C, before they venture from their dens, not to say that on a warm winters day you may see one sunning itself on a warm rock.

Scorpions
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Arizona Bark Scorpion

 

Another concern, although these small creatures are not often seen, but may be present in hidden places, wood piles, rock piles, or under anything. Our friends found one in her shoe in the garage, so don’t leave your shoes outside.
They can be found anywhere in the southern desert even a dogs house as I discovered when talking to a pet owner about the nasty looking area on her dogs hind leg. She figured a scorpion was in his dog house. Benadryl was the treatment, it obviously worked.

Tarantula – large hairy spider, usually docile but have a nasty venomous bite.

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Gila Monster Lizard – poisonous but are slow and sluggish.

Toads – some are toxic and should be avoided.

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Black Widow Spider – the female can grow quite large and has a poisonous bite not usually fatal….. Comforting?

An Ass you Say

So we have covered most of the things that may get you in the desert, but there is one obvious desert inhabitant that is very dangerous and unpredictable. I read somewhere that more people are killed by donkeys in a year than in plane crashes. I don’t think this statement is true, I have never heard of anyone being killed by a donkey, have you?

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Desert Donkeys near where we were camped

 

While camping at Senator’s Wash, north of Yuma, we did hear of a dog being stomped to death by a donkey. I was told this after taking our dog Buddy for a walk when we came upon some donkeys, they immediately become agitated to the point that I retreated in a hurry. They probably mistook our precious for a vicious coyote.

The Fever

I guess the strangest of the desert hazards is the desert or valley fever. It comes from inhaling desert dust. A micro-organism that becomes air born by disturbing the soil (sand). It resembles lung cancer in ex-rays. I have actually talked to a man who had it and had part of his lung removed, they thought it was cancer at first.
My theory about desert fever is you get it from breathing dust from old undisturbed areas, like dust you may inhale on an off the trail ATV ride. A good reason to stick to the trails and use a dust mask.
Dogs are also prone to this ailment.

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Lynda and our friends Wayne and Susie on a quad ride

 

My Take

Lynda and I have been Rving, hiking, ATVing, living in the desert for a month or more for the last 8 winters. We have heard of many snakes but have only seen 2. We’ve seen a couple of scorpions, many donkeys, and no poisonous spiders.
My conclusion is that all wild animals are to be respected and avoided.

I captured a squirrel near our home one time to show my kids. You would not want to get near the cage. That small animal looked like it would tear you to pieces given half a chance. I was amazed how such a cute cuddly looking animal could be so vicious.

As you now may realize there are many hazards that may crop up during Rving in the desert but I don’t think you need to be as scared as I was.

Just be careful and aware.

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I hope you have enjoyed this article and it fills in some blanks about the critters of the southern desert. If you have any questions or comments please put them in the comment section I would love the feed back.

Gord B.

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