Venomous Creatures On Our Guided Backpacking Trips, Part 2

In the previous post, I mentioned that so far, poisonous spiders, centipedes and scorpions are  found on most of our routes in the desert Southwest. New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness is included, though most of the miles on our Gila Wilderness trips  are too high in elevation for much worry about “creepy crawlies”. Nonetheless, on our guided wilderness hikes where these creatures do exist, a few simple precautions will keep you safe.

First though, realize that on any given trip, you are unlikely to encounter venomous creatures unless you look for them. Which I sometimes do. Just for fun.  Over the years, though, we’ve seen them all, except for the brown recluse, which I don’t recall ever having encountered. Also, although a bite or sting could certainly ruin your day or even your trip (black widow bites are cause for evacuation), except in unusual circumstances these bites and stings are rarely, if ever, fatal.

And again, a bit of caution goes a long way. For example, don’t put your hands where you can’t see, either in rocky areas or in and around dead wood. Black widows and scorpions tend to inhabit cracks in the rock walls, underneath bark on dead trees and piles of dead wood. Be aware. Back in the ’80’s, a park ranger in Canyonlands took his shirt off and set it on a rock on a hot day. When he put it back on, the black widow that had taken shelter in the shirt bit him. Day ruined. Check your clothing, always! Also, sleeping out under the stars in the desert is one of life’s great pleasures; but check your shoes before you put them on the the morning. Turn them upside down and shake them! Although I’ve followed this ritual hundreds of times, never once has a scorpion or centipede fallen out of my shaken hiking shoes. Otherwise, I might have been quite shaken. By the way, this also pertains to that 2 AM answering of nature’s call: shake those shoes. And this, too: If you lay your sleeping bag out on the ground before bed-time, shake it out before you climb in. Otherwise, you sleeping situation will be a bit shaky. Of course, sleeping in a tent reduces the likelihood of unwanted creatures in your shoes, sleeping bag or clothing, but as I said, sleeping under the stars in the desert is one of life’s great experiences. I’ve been doing it for decades, and am no worse for the wear!

By the way, it is worth mentioning that our Yellowstone backpacking trips as well as our other Wyoming backpacking and Montana backpacking treks are all pretty much lacking in the venomous critter department! So are our treks in the biggest wild, Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

So there you have it. Don’t worry about creepy crawlies; just take a few precautions and your desert trek in the wild and colorful Utah backcountry will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life!

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