The third and final day on the Mojave Road trail was an idyllic morning. I had woken up around 6AM and could feel the presence of peaceful air from inside by ground tent. Not a breath of wind was to be heard and the brightness on the outside of the tent meant that there must not have been many clouds either. I unzipped by door shade and revealed the cloudless, crystal clear blue sky that I was hoping for.
I unzipped the door and let the cool air flow into my tent. It was so quiet and perfect that I curled back up into my sleeping bag and dozed off for a bit longer.
It was brisk, 50 degrees or slightly better. But experience told me that a few hours later we would be up to the mid 70’s. Today being our last day on the trail meant a small breakfast, a few hour drive to the end of the road near Zzyzx. To this point on the trail, I had been wearing jeans/pants and boots for the uncertainty of the trail. What if something went wrong? I can’t be recovering a truck in sandals!
This morning had all the signs that it was time to relax. I put on the one pair of shorts I had packed and pulled out the Sanuk flip flops and pretended today was a beach day. The morning was uneventful. I broke camp and took down my tent, sleeping pad and cot in a slow pace as to make sure everything was packed correctly for the ride home. I then took the portable toilet setup and headed off a few hundred steps to have a relaxing view of the landscape. I parked the seat up near some black volcanic rocks that had some old coyote holes burrowed into them. We had scouted them before, and they appeared empty.
Everything was right with the world… Until it walked into camp… A Tarantula
The day before when we arrived at camp, one of the other campers, Mike, had been out looking for the hairy spider lairs. We found holes in the ground that might have been the home to giant arachnids. Don, our resident desert expert said with some authority that the Tarantulas were not going to be active during our visit. This was enough affirmation for me… Nothing to worry about here.
Well… Our new friend with 8 legs wasn’t listening to Don. This 4″ or 5” spider was gingerly walking into the middle of camp. He appeared out of nowhere under a truck and then started heading towards our fire-ring. We took a few pictures of the guy as he was moving along. He did seem to be at a slow pace because of the temps. As he was halfway across camp… Orin, another of our campers, used a small stick to interfere with his route. The spider didn’t care for this one bit. I swear that he jumped 2 feet and started hustling his pace.
I don’t know what happened to our spider from that point forward… I stopped caring about him and started thinking about self preservation. Immediately, I looked down and my flip-flopped feet and bare legs and realized that I might be unprepared for more spiders. I turned back to the open field behind the campsite in fear that I be looking upon view from the film “Kingdom of the Spiders” or “Arachnophobia”. Wave upon wave a newly awoken Tarantulas crawling out of their beds to visit our band of squatters set up in their territory. Nothing yet… But they could be preparing a calculated raid.
I then started thinking back over the morning… I had slept with an open door to the desert… I had been on my knees in the sand rolling up my tent and bedding materials… My open air bathroom visit earlier was also fraught with peril as I had not been looking over my shoulder at any point during the day. There were countless opportunities for a hundred spiders to have murdered me in the Mojave.
As it turned out… We only had one tarantula visit our camp (that we know of). But this was enough for me to realize that jeans, boots and some form of Kevlar are your best protection out in the desert. Also, I don’t know if we have a snake bite or spider bit kit… But it might be something to pack for future trips!