Occassionally, my dad and I like to pack up his 4x4 and explore the desert. Usually we're looking for ghost towns, mine shafts, etc. Last weekend was one of our first times out in the autumn months and we were caught in the middle of nowhere after dark. During the day we could see the dirt road we were driving on cross the desert for miles... easy to navigate with nothing but a map book. After the sun went down though, totally different story. With the vehicle's stock headlights (it's a 2004 4Runner) the desert absolutely swallowed the light and our speed limit was like 25 mph due to limited visibility. Good thing we had a GPS; it actually lists many of the desert dirt roads and we were practically "driving by instrument" with that thing.
This time out we only found a couple of abandoned miner's shacks so it was a pretty slow day. The road on the GPS had a recognizable "C" shaped curve in it, which was listed in my gazeteer, and according to the gazeteer there were various open mineshafts very close to the curve in the road. When we arrived there I took out my Thor and pointed the beam into the inky blackness... and actually saw an ore hopper waaaay off in the distance!
I tell ya, mines are EXTREMELY hard to find in the desert. You can see them from far away, but as you approach, the desert features seem to change and you lose the mine. And here we were in the desert darkness and found a mine opening just out of luck!!
We both grabbed our packs and I grabbed my Microfire K2000R... her first time out in the field hahaha... wow, what a great light!! I was not feeling one bit guilty about spending $350 on it that night... such a comfort to have such powerful lighting in such a DARK area. And lightweight too; in most of my mine adventures I've lugged the Thor along. K2000R was much easier to carry and use. (During the day when hiking it's in a MOLLE pouch on my pack.)
Oh, and once we left the mine shaft it would have been VERY difficult to find the 4Runner without the throw-power of the Microfire. A true asset in extremely dark/rural areas!
Once back on tarmac we drove past a VW bus that was stuck in the sand alongside the highway. We circled back to render aid... it was such a laugh. A young Canadian couple that were just looking for a place to sleep. Their VW was buried to the floorpan in soft beach-like sand and all they had was a Petzl LED headlight in THAT darkness. I used my Surefire M4 as a worklight when hooking their VW to our tow strap. With all the lights and gear my dad and I were carrying, we must have looked like "lights" in shining armor hahaha...