The reality of this tale may never be fully known. Personally, I view what I’m about to relate with a healthy dose of skepticism. After becoming lost in the desert for two days, it all seemed very real at the time. I know that a mind deprived of basic nutrients can play very powerful tricks on itself. Most likely it was just a hallucinatory episode but even if so, it makes for a very interesting story. Here goes…
It all started a month ago when I wandered too far from the main road. I was looking for Native American relics along a lonely southwest highway. With the early morning temperature in the upper nineties and climbing, I knew it would be a scorcher of a day. Because of the merciless desert heat, I only planned on being in the sun for an hour but luckily, I brought along a small canteen of water. Looking back now, I realize that safety precaution probably saved my life.
Hunting Indian artifacts requires absolute concentration. You have to scan the ground for relics that are often still partially buried beneath the sand. For an indeterminate amount of time, I walked in a crouched position to focus on the dusty surface. Only occasionally did I glance up, if at all.
When I finally did raise up to stretch my aching back, I was completely and hopelessly lost! My truck, the highway and all signs of familiar things were gone. Worse still, the wind had blown away all evidence of my preceding footprints. Intellectually I knew I was probably only a few miles from the road but I had lost all sense of direction. It might as well have been a thousand.
When the first pangs of panic attempted to undermine my reason, I elected to walk away from the sun. My heat-addled logic surmising that any plan was better then none. After a few more hours of stumbling over endless dunes and scrub brush, the mistake in judgment was evident. I stopped and unloaded some unnecessary heavy things from my backpack. Only then did I dare to quench my thirst with some much needed water from the half-empty canteen.
In reflex, I heading back In what I assumed was the other direction. An hour or so later, I came upon the items I had discarded from my pack! I was overwhelmed with disappointment when I realized I had been going in circles. The temperature had soared up well over a hundred degrees. I was sunburnt, dehydrated and hungry. My parched lips demanded more water but I had to ration what remained in the canteen. Logic and rationality were quickly evaporating as the sun’s fiery rays beat down on me. To my relief, I realized it would soon be dusk and with sunset would come plummeting temperatures.
After an eternity of seeking refuge, I spotted a stone mesa and headed for it. It occurred to me that it might just be a mirage. Thankfully it was quite real. I collapsed under a rock overhang that granted me precious shade and awaited the cool desert night.