Yesterday (16 July 2002) four Mexicans died in the desert after illegally crossing
over the border into California. (Rather than seeking the tenuous luster of gold,
they were seeking something far more mundane: a job and a better life.) The desert
kills people every summer; if the gold seeker is not prepared, she or he (or YOU)
could be another victim.
WATER. A person should drink at least 1.5 gallons (5.5 liters) of water a day when in the desert. This 1.5 gallons is usually sufficient for one person who is not performing strenuous tasks such as hiking or digging for gold. The harder a person works in the desert, and the hotter it is, the more water a person requires. I once hiked 11 miles through a corner of Death Valley with two liters of water, and ran out around two miles short of my goal. The last two miles to water, in 112 degree sunlight, was very uncomfortable. I now carry twice what I will probably need. Put your water in bottles that are hard to break, and which have tight-fitting caps. Plastic bottles with plastic caps often will not tighten enough to prevent leaking. (I also carry a 1/4-inch copper tube about seven inches long, to drink from seeps, springs, and natural tanks in the desert.)
HAT. The only thing worse than the smell of fried human brains is *HAVING* one's brains fried. Without a hat, one's head can be assaulted by the sun to the point where one becomes disoriented, confused, and irrational. Your hat can save your life--- please, never spend time in a desert without one. Since it often gets very cold at night in the deserts (even in the summer!), a hat is also necessary to retain body heat. In the desert, the only thing more friendly to a human being besides water is shade: one's hat is often the only shade one can find! This means you will want a hat with a wide brim. I carry two hats--- one is my desert attire, which I use for every day: it can be folded, bunched up, and carried easily (an image of it is on the right of this page). My other hat is a fancy Renegade Rider hat, which is worn for town shindigs.
LONG PANTS. Desert brush can rip a person's legs open very easily. What doesn't bite in the desert usually jabs, stings, slashes, pokes, and / or perforates. It is far better to have one's jeans take the damage than one's legs, knees, ankles, and thighs.
BOOTS. Do not wear cowboy boots when digging in the desert for gold. Cowboy boots also must not be worn for hiking. (Cowboy boots are made only for horseback riding and line dancing.) If one does not plan on hiking, stout tennis shoes could be worn while digging up gold. If one needs to walk any distance, hearty hiking boots should be worn.
TWO PAIRS OF SOCKS. One's boots should fit snugly so that they do not rub against one's feet; too much movement might cause debilitating blisters. If one is hiking, one may wish to wear two pairs of socks: cotton socks against the skin, and nylon socks over them.
Wear a bandana on the back of your neck, and you might also want a face mask to breathe through if you are working a dry washer.