Wilderness survival 101: how not to die in the desert

Ruins near Kanab, UT

Before we had kids, Steve and I did some really stupid things. We’d go for drives out in the middle of nowhere without telling anyone where we were headed, without a shovel, through deep sand and precarious steep narrow “roads” meant only for ATVs. We didn’t check the weather. We drove on clay roads when storms were looming overhead. We didn’t take nearly enough water on many occasions. Thankfully we lived to tell people how completely stupid we were.

Every week in our local paper we read stories about people (mostly tourists) who die. They die because they did all of the above things and weren’t as lucky.

Now that we are parents we are MUCH more well prepared all the time. But every so often we forget how unrelenting Mother Nature can be, and how easy it is to get lost out there (even in Kanab!!). That’s kind of what happened on Saturday.

Our awesome friends took the kiddos for they entire day (and night!) so we were on a mission to find these seldom seen ruins in Kanab. We tried (unsuccessfully) two other times. Third time’s the charm!

amazing architecture

Seeing these ruins up close is such a tremendous experience. Hard to describe.

Resting in the shade after a crazy, sandy trek

These are truly magnificent examples of ancient dwellings. They are not easy to get to. There are no “directions” to get here. Sadly, most arch sites are destroyed by vandals. I really hope that this one remains untouched. I hope you will all understand why I cannot post gps coords or directions on my blog.

Here are a few more pics of the site

After resting a bit, it was time to head back. The storm clouds were rolling in fast, and thunder was rumbling in the distance. We were a good 6 miles in from our car and we knew we had a solid 2 hours or so of hiking through sandy, unmarked terrain.

Looking out over the vast Kanab wilderness.

We were making some good time… but after a while nothing was looking all too familiar. And now the skies were REALLY dark. And the thunder was REALLY loud. I started to feel a little panicky.

Steve thought we were heading in the wrong direction (admittedly I had no clue at this point. Everything looked exactly the same). We were surrounded by fields of sage brush, gnarly looking juniper trees, and cacti.

We came to the edge of a gigantic canyon and it wasn’t the canyon we were lookin’ for. We were totally lost. By now the rain was starting to drop. The thunder was crazy loud and I was (for lack of better words) freaking out. How could this happen? We hike these parts ALL the TIME! The thunder kept booming. We were wandering aimlessly in the high desert, down to one small water bottle, and it was lightning. No bueno. Then I remembered I had my phone stashed in my backpack. And we were just close enough to town to get a signal!!

Here are some pretty flowers before the dramatic conclusion…

Before moving to the desert, I had no idea there was so much beauty

I first called my friend, Lisa, to let her know we were lost. And if we didn’t call again w/in 5 hours, to send for help. Then we pulled up the maps on my phone and we got a satellite view! We were able to drop pins and slowly, but confidently, hike in the right direction. Man, I had never, EVER been so happy to see the well-worn trail just outside Kanab city. I knew we were going to be OK.

I think maybe this tree wasn’t so lucky in a lightening storm

Steve ready to hike down off the plateau

Lovely blooms sprouting from rocks

About a mile from the car. The storm is not done. In fact, as soon as we got to the car, it down poured!

Survival tips: 1.) Always tell somewhere where you are going. 2.) Carry a phone!! 3.) Take a map 4.) Take enough water!!  5.) Check the weather before you leave and be prepared.

Never underestimate Mother Nature! And one final thing — respect ancient ruins and rock art. Do not touch. Do not take. Enjoy and learn. Get out and discover. This world is pretty awesome!

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