Now that mobility is not an issue in the desert, I have been able to get to places I would not have access to previously. Broadening my horizons also broadened what I might encounter as well. Recreational shooting is big in the Lake Havasu desert and I am now witnessing this firsthand. On a normal day in the desert, a prospector hears shooting all around him more often than not and usually it is not a big issue. You do get used to the sound of guns going off, even the big “thud” of someone shooting an exploding target. But…when I hear the sound of a ricochet, seemingly echoing off a nearby canyon wall, I stop what I’m doing and take notice. This has happened more than once. To investigate this requires a tactical approach, so I don’t walk into the line of fire! Believe it or not, more often than not, once I get the shooter’s attention and have a chat with them, rather than move to another part of the desert, sparing me from potential disaster, they just re-focus their target’s location, so there is allegedly no chance of any more ricochet action near where I am digging! Damn obstinate kids! Adults are the ones who have moved out of harm’s way, it’s been the younger kids who have refused to move!
Speaking of harm’s way: I have seen bleeched out coyote skulls, mysterious mounds of dirt with a Mexican blanket in close proximity, near old, historic prospected areas,
a femur bone of what I can only hope was classic prospector’s burro, various clothing remnants and burned out vehicles. None of these posed a threat to me, but when the weather is warm, bees are out in force, seeking hydration and that can always be found very near to where I am panning. I carry a 5 gallon bucket of water with me and a plastic bin to pour it into, which makes panning possible. If bees are out and about, it’s only a matter of time until one finds my bin filled with water, then only a matter of minutes until the news spreads to their friends. This has happend so many times, I’ve lost count. They never get aggressive and I’ve never been stung and, almost as a consolation, they emit a fragrant, sweet smell! However, rather than tempt fate, I began to carry a spray bottle of insecticide with me.
A couple squirts to the rim of the plastic bin and in the direction of any incoming bees, does the trick. I’ve seen my share of scorpions, a tarantula and even a rattlesnake coiled up an a bush next to a hole I was digging, but have never had an incident. On the other hand, there have been a few instances where desert critters have been in harm’s way. For example, it’s very common to see numerous little holes (about the size of a quarter or smaller), dug by one critter or another and sometimes these holes go undetected. There have been a couple occasions where I have just missed severing a poor little lizard in two, because I was digging in a spot where they were covertly hanging out. This once happened to a cute little gecko and despite them being able to shed their tail to avert being eaten, I was happy to have spotted him in time!
In addition to lots of back-breaking digging and usually coming home with only tenths of a gram of gold, desert prospecting has its share of inherent hazards. ALWAYS carry a charged cellphone!