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Rockhounding the Northern Deserts
The Northern Desert regions of Southern
and South Eastern
hold a wealth of rock and gem material. Hunting in these areas can be
a bit different from other rockhounding terrain, however, and the
hunter needs to be aware of these differences when planning a desert
The first things you need to prepare for
when hunting in the desert are the roads and 4 wheel paths. It is not
uncommon to be driving along very nicely and suddenly finding yourself
in a "sink holeĒ. These are a lot of fun, trust me, Iíve spent some
time in them. Some otherwise solid roads will have some soft sandy
spots. Others have clay or other type of mud areas that canít be seen
as the surface will dry in the sun, but underneath the mud remains
soft. These are "sink holesĒ. You may look straight at a sink and not
So when planning your trip make sure to
include boards to either use as tracks for stuck vehicles or to place
your jack on so it wonít sink as you jack your vehicle up so you can
push it over toward solid ground. All in all, if you drive slow and
carefully so you donít sink your whole vehicle, you can get out of
most sinks, but it will take a lot of work to do so.
Roads in these regions can also quickly
become unsurpassable during rain, turning soupy and boggy almost
immediately when wet. It is very easy to go down a hill that you can't
get back up if it begins to rain due to clay dirt becoming slick. If
you have a steep hill to get back up in the rain, you might as well
park and rest for a bit. A good rule of thumb is that if it has been
raining, there are no roads. Fortunately, it usually only rains in
early spring and late fall.
The next thing
you want to prepare for is heat. The weather forecaster in your area may
tell you it is eighty degrees out, but when you get to areas of sand with
sun beating off it and no vegetation other than brush, you can plan on
temperatures being much higher than reported. Always carry an umbrella
with you for shade when going into desert terrain, and carry a lot of
water. I have been in desert canyons early in the morning to beat the heat
of the day, and when it starts to warm up, heat literally rolls in like a
wave. When it does, you will be miserable without your umbrella and plenty
of drinking water to get you back to your vehicle. For this reason it is
best to hunt in the spring after the roads dry or in the fall before rains
start. If you are going to hunt in the hot seasons, plan to get there at
daybreak and be out by eleven oíclock a.m. at the very latest. Weather in
the mid sixty to mid seventy degrees is great weather for desert rock
Animal life is a bit different in the desert,
too. You are bound to see plenty of wildlife while out there. There are
rabbits, horned toads, brush and kangaroo mice, lizards, and voles to name
some of the harmless species. They can much fun to stop and observe. There
are also a few species to watch out for. Rattlesnakes are not uncommon,
nor scorpions, badgers, or coyotes.
It is important watch where you are
walking and hunting. Do not put your hands into any area you canít
see, and be careful when moving rocks. You may just end up getting
stung by a scorpion or bitten by a snake if you are careless. A snake
wonít always tell you that itís there. I have come very close to
stepping on coiled snakes that never once shook their rattles. Snakes
donít always strike just because you are near them. If it is molting
season, however, they can become blinded and will strike at anything
that moves. Your best policy is to watch very carefully where you are
going. Keep in mind that a snake can travel two thirds of itís body
length when it strikes.
Some people carry walking sticks so they can toss a snake if they need
to. Your best defense is just to watch out for snakes and scorpions
and simply stay away from them. Given enough distance, they can make
for some very interesting observation.
with your dog, you will want to keep careful track of your pet. Most dogs
have an instinct for keeping away from snakes, but some will actively
agitate a snake if allowed to. Also, I have not heard any stories of
people being attacked by coyotes and have never been attacked myself, but
they are well known to lure dogs back to their packs to attack and kill
them. If you need to keep a leash on your dog to keep him from chasing a
coyote, then it is wise to do so. Unless you are out early in the morning
or in the evening hours, you most likely will not see any coyotes. If you
are camping, make sure your dog canít sneak off while you are sleeping.
After dark you will want to take special care of smaller pets to make sure
owls donít carry them off. Every now and then you may get fortunate and
see a bobcat, too.
These animals are unlikely to attack a
human but dogs will find them formidable if provoked. Badgers are more
aggressive and will rip a dog to shreds, and the owner as well if they can
catch you. If you do not get too close to these little guys they usually
donít seem to pay much attention to you. If you do surprise and upset one
it may chase you but they are easy to out run without having to go too far
or fast. Terrain can vary wildly in these desert regions. You may stroll
through gently rolling hills or climb through deep canyons with steep or
even vertical walls. Live streams and lake areas are rare but provide
excellent camping and material hunting areas as well as excellent wildlife
observation points. From time to time fortunate hunters may also run
across hot springs to soak in. Some of these are charted. Finding others
is just pure luck.
When you plan your trip, allow for time to
explore rock formations and hills on the way to and from your chosen site.
Many types of minerals are scattered throughout these areas and while one
hill or rock formation may be barren of collectible specimens, the one
right next to it may be covered with exciting material. While you will
find some major hunting grounds on your maps or in guides, there are many
that have not been listed but are just as productive.
Northern desert areas may look quite barren and seem inhospitable, but
with some exploration you can find some incredible canyons and scenery.
You are sure to take home a grand cache of breathtaking photographs,
exotic mineral specimens, and great memories and stories. A trip to any of
these Northern desert regions is a worthy adventure for any rock hunter.
Taylor, updated October, 2012.
About the Author:
Sally Taylor is an
avid gem and treasure hunter, explorer, writer, and is the owner of
Station 1, a global rockhound community website that provides
forums, articles, newsletters, and more.
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