By Bob Difley
If you are planning to head to the deserts in the Southwest this winter for the first time, here are a few tips to help make your winter escape comfortable, safe and stress-free.
- Add a few desert guidebooks to your library, such as “Southwest Camping Destinations” by Mike and Terri Church, an excellent guide to the RV resorts, campgrounds, and boondocking locations in the southwestern deserts, and includes places to to and things to see. Another is “Audubon’s Deserts,” a classic on desert geology, climate, wildlife, plants and trees, and wildflowers, with color plates to help identify them. And don’t forget (shameless plug) my “Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts.”
- Be prepared for desert winds — dry but not necessarily hot in the winter. But they do blow sand and if you do not familiarize yourself with where the wind comes from in relationship to your campsite (close windows facing the wind), the weather report (which will predict wind direction and velocity), and what time of day the winds will come up, you could leave for just a short shopping or sightseeing trip and come back to find the windows you left open to provide ventilation have welcomed the dust and sand layer that now covers everything inside.
- Arizona is the skin cancer capital. Apply sunblock to all exposed skin whenever you go out. It doesn’t have to be hot to have UV rays do their damage. Desert air is thin, humidity low, not much to filter out those rays. Also wear a broad-brimmed sun hat.
- Drink plenty of water. Carry a water bottle with you. The dry air evaporates the moisture right out of you and you need to replace it continuously.
- When hiking stay on trails as much as possible. There are all sorts of cacti out there just waiting to thrust their barbs into you if you brush by them too closely (no, “jumping chollas” do not jump on you — but their easily detachable segments will stick to your clothes or skin if brushed).
- If you plan to spend some time in a fancy amenity-filled RV resort for at least some part of the winter, be sure to make reservations. Many of the more popular resorts are booked out for the entire winter.
- Plan to arrive at state parks midweek when they are not as busy. Many have overflow lots where you can stay a night or two until a campsite opens up. So ask — even if signs or personnel say they are full.
And finally, make an effort to learn about the desert — when and where the spring wildflower bloom begin; the unique native birds and wildlife (you won’t see any snakes, desert tortoises or scorpions — they’re hibernating); the mining and ranching history and historic sites; the untamed, raucous Wild West towns that exploded into being when gold or silver was discovered, then as suddenly turned into ghost towns when the veins ran out; and all the other unique characteristics of this fascinating environment.
You can find Bob Difley’s RVing e-books on Amazon Kindle.