Desolation safety tips
• Campfires are never allowed in Desolation Wilderness.
• Check the latest weather conditions before you hike. Rangers can inform you about potential hazards.
• Water from backcountry sources should be boiled at least five minutes at sea level. Add one minute for each additional thousand feet of elevation to prevent Giardiasis, an intestinal disorder caused by a protozoan found in human and animal feces. Waste should be buried six inches deep and 200 feet away from water sources and any water course.
• Hypothermia can strike even when temperatures are well above freezing. The drastic lowering of the inner-body temperature causes rapid, progressive mental and physical collapse. Symptoms include shivering, vague and slurred speech, memory lapses, fumbling hands, a lurching walk, drowsiness and exhaustion and apparent unconcern about physical discomfort.
To prevent hypothermia, choose clothing and equipment carefully. Rain clothes should protect against wind-driven rain and cover all body parts. Wool and some synthetic fabrics will retain heat when wet; cotton does not retain heat when wet and can contribute to body chill.
• Altitude sickness occurs at high altitudes, where the air contains less oxygen than at sea level. Victims of altitude sickness should stop and rest, breathe deeply and slowly return to lower elevations. Reduce the chance of being affected by altitude sickness by spending a day at altitude to become acclimated before performing any strenuous activity. Drink extra fluids at high elevations to avoid dehydration.
• Exhaustion may occur when a member of a group is trying too hard, but is embarrassed to ask the group to move more slowly. A good principle of back country travel is to move slowly, rest often, and drink and snack frequently to restore energy.
• If you become lost, stay calm and don’t panic. Use your head and not your legs to figure out where you are. Carry a police whistle and small mirror for emergency use. Three of anything (shouts, whistle blasts, flashes of reflected light from a mirror) are signs of distress.
• Avoid setting up camp near rodent burrows. Flea bites can transmit the bubonic plague.
• When encountering travelers with horses or pack stock, move off the trail on the uphill side and allow them to pass. Horses are easily frightened and have the right-of-way on trails.
• Regulations alone will never guarantee protection of wilderness areas. That will come only with your understanding of what not to do when visiting. Please learn more about Wilderness Ethics.
Source: U.S. Forest Service