As Jack Frost has most of the country in his frigid winter clutches, the rest of the U.S. that is too hot for summer travel is open for exploration. The migration to this country's arid desert lands usually starts in mid-October and runs through May. Call me crazy, but I used to think some parts of the desert weren't exactly worth driving through. I guess heat was the factor that annoyed me. When I drove by Death Valley National Park, I thought people were crazy for spending any amount of time there. I never really thought about visiting during its cool season. After my first few trail runs through the park, I was hooked. Now, I find a particular sense of curiosity within myself and want to explore each and every acre.
America's deserts attract millions of visitors each year. From Wyoming to Texas and then west to California and up to Oregon's arid lands, there are hundreds of thousands of square miles to explore. Some desert regions are larger in area than two or three states combined! My attraction to the lands is the history, the desolate, challenging trails, and the open country. I am also intrigued by the strange and colorful characters who have inhabited the desert and the monuments and structures they've left behind (Google the Mojave phone booth if you're not convinced).
My point behind all this rambling is that the destructive forces of extreme environmentalism are hard at work trying to keep us off our desert lands. It's very unnerving to me that people who may never even visit these areas want to have the right to tell us to stay out. Rather than go into a long, drawn-out tirade about their actions, I would like to leave you with some advice to take with you when visiting the deserts and other wilderness areas.
Now, I'm willing to bet that the readers of this magazine are more than responsible out on the trail, so maybe you can help spread the word. First, don't litter. This includes tossing lit cigarettes out the window - an unforgiveable act. I carry a trash bag when I can to pick up the litter that jugheads have left behind.
Second, if the area you are in has a designated trail system, then follow it. Avoid unnecessary trampling or driving over any plant life if you can help it. This isn't always easy to do, but remember that what one person may call a weed, another may be planting it in a garden. I was recently given the hairy eyeball because I ran over a dead plant laying on a trail. The roots weren't even attached! I guess I won't be doing that again.
Third, keep your speed down and act respectfully when sharing the trail with hikers, bicyclists, and tourists. Our actions on the trail affect the voting habits of those we share the trails with. My points of advice might seem very basic and even second nature, but it seems that sometimes some of us forget where we are and who is watching.Happy Trails,