I wanted to see and photograph dunes inside Death Valley that were not often visited or photographed. Studying a map; Panamint dunes was a possibility. It was only a few miles off the beaten path. Heading out with a 4x4 vehicle, map, food, water, Garmin inReach device and extra clothing, I was ready for an adventure.
Finding the obscure two track road took a few driveby's because calling it a road was a stretch, but fortunately found it. I made a mental note of the surrounding landmarks and headed out on the 4 mile trek to the dunes. As the dunes grew closer the light lowered in the sky casting magical shadows on the dunes and was oblivious to anything but taking photos and "in the zone." I was satisfied with a few images and decided it was time to head back as the sun set behind the mountain.
I couldn't see the truck, but had my landmarks in sight and started hiking back. Halfway down the dune I thought, "wow, it's getting dark... really fast!" I stepped up my pace and donned a headlamp when I could no longer see the ground. I reached my landmark and thought I was near my truck and pressed the key fab hoping it would light up.... No luck. I searched in circles for a while and texted my family on the Delorme device hoping they could direct me to my truck via the breadcrumb trail. Imagine my family; Mom, Dad, husband, brother, sister in law and two newborn nephews sitting in the living room freaking out because I couldn't find my truck... they demanded I press the SOS button. I decided to try and find my truck, took a few steps and tripped and fell two inches from a hitting my head on a rock. I regrettably pressed the button.
The device worked as advertised. Two rangers came to my rescue and as their headlights lit up the road I realized I was about a mile from my truck. So much for landmarks. I felt ridiculous, but they were gracious and told me I was right where the operator told them I was located and that I should keep exploring. I had an hour to actually enjoy the night sky while I waited and was amazed at the sea of stars that surrounded me and took a few night shots.
What would I do different? First, I would mark my spot on my GPS and use it to return later in the dark. Second, I'd sync my Garmin device to my iPhone so it was easier to text. And third, maybe leave a small lamp or flashlight on in the truck to make it easier to locate or bring a bigger flashlight.
What are the essentials when going out in the wilderness alone?
1. Navigation: map, compass, GPS device and personal locator beacon.
2. Give a trip itinerary to friends/family
3. Learn how to read a map/compass and GPS units. Take a class at REI
4. Headlamp: and extra batteries
5. Sun protection including lip balm
6.. First aid kit
8. Fire: matches, lighter, tinder and stove
9. Shelter; space blanket is always in my pack
10. Extra food, & water
11. Extra clothes including hat & gloves
*Tune in for other articles on staying safe on your adventures!