Every day people venture into Arizona’s wilderness ill-equipped to contend with its dangers. So we asked two “survivormen” to school us in the art of staying alive in mettle-testing scenarios, from wandering alone in the desert without water to fending off hypothermia to encountering the venomous fangs of a rattler. It’s everything you always wanted to know about edible twigs and dung-befouled water, but were afraid to ask.
Peter Bigfoot’s mouth was as leathery as his home-cobbled cowhide shoes. The mercury on his thermometer surpassed the maximum 135 degrees and strained to break through its glass ceiling. With no water, he’d walked all day in the desert north of Phoenix from New River toward Four Peaks, carefully navigating with compass and topographical map to find a waterhole the size of a kitchen table. “Can you find it?” he asks rhetorically. “If you can, you’ll live. If you can’t, you’ll die.”
He found it.
He wasn’t the first. A bloated, dead cow lay in the slurry, secreting a tar-black slick of decomposing matter that smeared the surface like an oil spill. So Bigfoot decided it would be “a really nice thing” if he spruced it up. He scooped the sludge off the top with a flat stone, then piled rocks around the hole so other thirsty animals wouldn’t meet a similar demise. This was a bad idea. In a dehydration situation, the saying goes, “Ration