In sorting through the debris of the past year, I want to belatedly note the passing of Barbara Thomas, a 69-year-old woman swallowed by the Mojave desert in July 2019 while hiking with her husband. Her mortal remains were found last November.
The sheriff’s office released no information on cause of death, but given that she was lying exposed in the desert for more than a year it’s likely that only a bullet wound or the most brutal blunt force trauma could be forensically identified at this point. The desert’s scavengers quickly recycle the dead.
However she passed, it’s worth reiterating for back country adventurers that the Mojave is dangerous country, especially in high summer. Heat exhaustion can cause one to faint or become dizzy, sweat excessively, have cool, pale, clammy skin and muscle cramps. Heat stroke victims do not perspire but experience a throbbing headache with a body temperature above 103 degrees, red hot skin and loss of consciousness. Both heat illnesses can cause nausea or vomiting and rapid pulse. However, heat exhaustion comes with a weak pulse while heat stroke causes one’s pulse to be strong. Untreated, heat exhaustion is debilitating while heat stroke can lead to death within hours.