Lost and Out of Luck

Because I have made so many solo trips into the deserts and mountains of the Southwest over the years, I’m a collector of “Lost” stories — people stranded, injured, drunk, disoriented or simply fuddled and far from help in adverse environments. My favorites, of course, are the survival stories, but there’s generally something to be learned from these tales one way or the other. Latest I’ve seen is of two unfortunates whose minivan got stuck on a sandy road near Lake Mead, out of cell phone range and soon out of both water and luck.

Lesson 1: Never go out into the desert without at least two days’ worth of water (a gal a day may be enough for Groucho, but  in the Nevada desert in August, you’ll crave more than that). Lesson 2: Always tell someone you trust where you’re going and when you expect to return (and be sure to let them know when you get back to civilization; few things are more embarrassing than turning on the TV in your motel room to find you’re the subject of a multi-agency search & rescue effort). Lesson 3: Don’t overestimate your fitness level, or your vehicle’s; a minivan is no ride to take off pavement. Finally, in Lesson 4, a friend of mine with considerable experience in S&R suggests these two might have saved themselves by taking off the vehicle’s spare tire, soaking it with gas siphoned out of the fuel tank, and setting it on fire. A burning tire will send up a column of thick, black smoke visible for miles. Plus you can make s’mores while you’re waiting for rescue (you did bring e-rats, didn’t you?)

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