Ranger Kathryn's Arches

June 29, 2009

Campfires & Lost Boys

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:06 pm

Three of us summer employees perch on the park benches at the amphitheater, having driven from the other end of the park (half hour) to support our colleague, Ranger Patrick.  Patrick is unveiling his new Evening Program tonight, a campfire program about campfire programs, and we want to be there for him.  Moral support, and all that.  The sun is setting, the first bats are out, and Patrick has started a nice crackling campfire in the ring.

Once all the campers have taken their seats we have the requisite “where are you from?” introductions all around.  Folks from coast to coast, plus Germans and French, have come tonight.  Patrick warms up the crowd with ancient Kodachrome slides from the 1970s of adorable baby animals, and one realizes that a little “interpretainment” goes a long way.  He picks up his guitar and plucks/sings a lovely tune about camping.  I think to myself, I could never compete with Ranger Patrick.  And then I think, It’s not about competition.  Be yourself.  Take a chance.  Volunteer to put together an evening program.

The next 40 minutes go by delightfully, with Patrick presenting a Full Meal Deal to the visitors — song, story, anecdote, sharing, reflection. We all sing a bunch of choruses of “Good Night, Irene” in harmony, as Patrick makes up verses about camping.  Abruptly, there is a commotion from the sidewalk.  “Excuse me, I am sorry to interrupt, but a man asked me to go quickly and find a ranger as his son has been missing for two hours.”  It was pitch black out, 77 degrees, with less than a half moon.  I slip out of my seat and head over to see if I can help, even though I am not in uniform.  It is the code of a Ranger.

Teen-aged son went off on own, never returned.  Dad frantic.  The campground hosts radio to HQ to send Law Enforcement, and take the boy’s description.  Part of me wonders if “angst-ridden” is an adjective, or whether the guy has fallen from a rock.  Neither way is good.

Patrick wraps up his program and by the time we get down to the campground entrance (host’s house) to the rendezvous point, we find that the boy has appeared.  We radio Law Enf. to turn around.  These are the preferred endings — happy ones.  We hope that Dad and Son are having an important conversation at this time, and both are learning lessons they are to learn through it.

In which I am the recipient of unexpected favor

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:19 pm

Olive’s thermometer kept bouncing between 99 and 100 degrees on my drive to town; hot day, little breeze.  I strode into the storefront that housed the highly-rated canyoneering guide company that I had found via internet in February.  I was still in uniform, and the three guys who were sitting around chewing the fat suddenly grew quiet and sat up a little taller.  “Can I help you?  A woman in uniform always gets our attention.  Just don’t shoot…”  I laughed at being mistaken for a Law Enforcement officer, whose duty belt must easily add 20 pounds fully loaded.  And I realized once again how much weight the park service uniform and badge carry.

“I’d like to sign up right here, right now, for every canyoneering trip you guys take,” I said earnestly and with a straight face.  Pause.  “Uhh, okay, we can arrange that,” the owner managed to reply.  “We’ve got trips going out almost every day.”  Amid the banter of the next ten minutes, we found out all that we needed to know about each other, and got me signed up for a Saturday and a Sunday trip this coming weekend.  “I’d like to strike a deal with you guys,” I offered —  “Do you have any type of punch card?  If I buy X number of trips, I get the next one free?”  Matt, the owner, looked at me and said, “You know, I believe our rangers should be familiar with the Park from all sides.  I’m not trying to butter you up or anything, but you could just come along with us kind of as an apprentice or helper.”  His eyes twinkled.  “We’ll give you the heaviest ropes to carry, and all the water, and not charge you anything.”  I couldn’t believe my ears.  These trips go for at least $75 each.  They scale them back a bit in the summer, due to intense heat, so the routes are shorter but still magical.  And here is a guy who wants to GIVE me his trips.  Sure, he would appreciate my “ranger” recommendation to visitors; I know that.  But this company is the only one permitted to do technical climbs in Arches N. Park, because they are conscientious stewards of the environment and the resources.  

Is there an ethical dilemma here?  I don’t know.  When I told him that my children would be coming out in August to visit me, and I planned to BUY trips for them then, he was happy enough.  It sounds like a win/win, honestly.  The guides need the extra “mules” to carry the load.  And don’t you take good care of your pack animals?

FOUND!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 6:43 pm

I was swearing in my umpteenth Junior Ranger this morning at the Visitor Center desk when my colleague took a phone call.  It was the library, calling to say that my green purse had been found over the weekend.   No further explanation.  They found it sitting on their counter.  Answered prayer!!  All its contents were present.  My day became profoundly happy.

The only way they were able to track it to me was through the couple behind me in church yesterday.  The husband is a Visitor Center worker, and the wife volunteers at the library, and I mentioned to them that I had lost my green purse outside the library.  When she came in today at 9 a.m., it was mysteriously there.  She knew exactly where to call to find me.

I can not tell you how relieved, how immensely relieved, I am.  I am going to celebrate at the Moab Brewery with their home-made Black Cherry Soda.

Birthing scene in stone

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 6:41 am

It is not good to feel flummoxed for too long, nor to let flummoxed-ness decide your fate, so I decided to just keep doing what I would have done had not my purse been pinched.  Hot day, mid-90s, so I chose something with minimal hiking:  continue the Rock Art Tour.  I hadn’t been down Kane Creek Road but once, on the first day here, and it deserves a closer look.

As soon as that stretch of pavement leaves Moab proper, you KNOW it’s going to be different.  The wide, slow, and silt-laden Colorado stays alongside the road for a few miles, while sheer sandstone cliffs rise at steep angles on both sides.  I envision being in a kayak or raft, floating effortlessly.  Might do that next month.

Driving a few miles, I pass a rock art panel that I visited my first day.  It is one of the more vandalized ones; I do not stop again.  The second one is only a few feet long and a few figures, which I admire before moving on.  No new shapes or images or themes to photograph in that one.  

Apparently a stretch of privately-owned property abuts the BLM lands here, as I begin seeing the most sad-looking collection of trailer homes and travel trailers with tarps shading the roofs.  This continues for about a half mile or so — squeezed between the paved road and the jutting cliffs.  I photographed one person’s ingenious solution to not having a front porch:  a personal alcove with lawn chair, ladder-accessible.  Very cute.

 

private high patio (folding lawn chair in shade)

private high patio (folding lawn chair in shade)

 

 

 

footling breech birth, and superimposed sandal tracks (unrelated)

footling breech birth, and superimposed sandal tracks (unrelated)

 

 

 I pass what appears to be a deserted private campground, and again I am confused as it is a summer weekend and one would think it should have plenty of occupants.  The road turns to gravel.  Another mile and I realize that I am working my way into a canyon — Kane Creek Canyon, to be exact.  The road hugs the cliffside and has no guard rails on the drop side.  Some places are suitable for two vehicles to pass, others are definitely not; I would not want to be driving this at night!

My destination is a four-faced boulder with petroglyphs and pictographs on all sides.  I am relying on the tenths column on my odometer to get me there, as this one is not on the road as the others have been.  The description of how to find it is quite good, though, and soon I am at the wide spot in the road described as a locater.  A quick 75-foot descent to my right, and I am face to face with a nearly life-sized 2-dimensional native american woman giving birth to a breech baby!  (Wanting to yell to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, HEY LOOK NO C-SECTION!)  Was that what made that birth worthy of chronicling on rock forever?  Was it an important family in the band?  It is highly unusual subject matter.  And it is no ordinary breech, butt-first, but a footling breech, both feet first.  How odd to see it preserved forever out in the middle of nowhere.

Again, my sense as I looked around that canyon (with no other people anywhere to be seen) was:  You are your own keeper.  The desert would rather cook you and eat you, so be vigilant and proactive.  And then I slurped the last swallow of my FIRST water bottle before heading back.  Today I have a cold spare on board.

June 28, 2009

The Moab police guys are so nice

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:34 am

 

I am in bed, flummoxed and trying to determine what to do next

I am in bed, flummoxed and trying to determine what to do next

My purse went missing last night.  It was my own fault, as I was distracted by my marathon blog-writing session and wanted to finish it up after the library closed.  I sat on the curb with my purse and laptop, using the Wi-Fi outside the library.  When that got too warm, I moved to a shaded location — and forgot to bring my purse.  Going back for it an hour later, of course it was gone. 

 

Contents:  $15, my CELL PHONE, an already-closed credit card, checkbook full of checks, MN driver’s license, library card, health insurance card and my Morning Grind coffee card.  The only things I worry about are the checks and license.  I can drive somewhere and get another phone if I need to.

The police guys were so nice.  They were out on a domestic when I first called in, so it took another hour to file a report.  Meanwhile, I searched the bushes and trash cans all around the outside of the library, to no avail.  I fantasized about having a sniffer dog who could smell me and then find my purse, but that was not reality.

I’m praying for the purse to be found.

June 27, 2009

Ancient Aliens

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:42 pm

A pronghorn group — thin mother, twin fawns, and a tiny-horned male — look up warily as I drive past their grazing spot in the middle of the deserted town.  Oh, it’s only Olive, I hear them tell each other as they return to nibbling what meager portions of grass they can find.  I snap their photos and head north.

 

Pronghorn family in the ghost town

Pronghorn family in the ghost town

 

twins

twins

pronghorn fawn

pronghorn fawn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two large black SUVs are tailing me, and I would rather not have to deal with them, so I pull over to let them pass.  Which they do gladly.  I will mosey at my own leisurely pace.

Three miles up the canyon a primitive parking area sits unmarked; two black SUVs occupy it.  I pull in and remind Olive how beautiful she is next to those beasts.  An extended family group of four adults and six children are noisily tramping about, with one obnoxious teen-aged boy yelling harshly, “I said, Everybody come HERE!”  “Here” was a rock art panel (one of four in the immediate area) dating back 2000 years.  I look around for anyplace else I could go to avoid this peace-disturbing entourage, but there is no escape.  I find a gully and pick my way down into the wash to put a little space between myself and Rude Teenager With iPod in Ear.  This is my last quest of the day, and I would rather it not be ruined. 

 

Fremont Style, A.D. 600 -- trapezoids for head and body; collars

Fremont Style, A.D. 600 -- trapezoids for head and body; collars. Petroglyph (pecked).

 

 

Let us, for the sake of brevity, assume that I successfully ignored all further unpleasantries that transpired in said family.  Let us instead focus on the wonders of ancient rock art mysteries.  Some of the Archaic period art is 7000 yrs old!  Due to vandals having scratched out the information signs in front of each panel, I can not tell you if I saw some that old.  But I did see Fremont art, old Barrier Canyon style art, and … sadly… TONS of vandalism.  People used the anthropomorphic forms as targets for rifle practice, so bullet holes abound.  On every panel, without exception, idiots have scratched their own initials or name or year.  One dumbo put his first and last name (an unusual name) and “son of Andy O,” and I hoped against hope that some intrepid detective could nail him and fine him fifty thousand dollars.

 

can you see the bullet holes?

can you see the bullet holes?

But let’s try to see past all that.  The fascination with this art is in the vastly differing styles present.  Some figures are trapezoids.  Some lack eyes or limbs.  Some have head horns.  Some wear collars.  And some, to me the most intriguing of all, resemble aliens.  I know their shamans had self-induced other-worldly experiences, but Crikey!  This is crazy stuff.

 

 

pictographs (painted, not pecked)

Barrier Canyon pictographs (painted, not pecked) -- 500 BC to 500 AD

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The town formerly known as Thompson Spgs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:42 pm

The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad was constructed through Thompson Springs, UT, in 1883, opening the area to commerce.  As railroad towns are wont to experience ups and downs, so did Thompson; today it is largely uninhabited, except for a few roosters I heard, three houses which looked to be occupied, and about eight trailer homes that are nowhere near new.  I saw no people.  The dilapidated Thompson Motel must have been a hotspot a half century ago, but now its painted wooden doors swing open in the noonday sun, and broken windows add to the sad air.  A toilet sits dustily in the bathroom of Unit 6, visible from my car.  Nearby, one of the few residents’ yards is fenced in chain link, from which neatly hang nearly a dozen bony pelvises of, I’m guessing, cattle.  Eerie.  Silent.  Absent.  Empty.  But, it is the portal to some very significant rock art, and the one road into and out of town (with the four-way stop sign utterly ignored) carries rock art fans from all over.  This is what they pass through.

native art in Thompson Springs

native art in Thompson Springs

 

free accommodations -- BYO bed

free accommodations -- BYO bed

 

I truly wonder what's inside

I truly wonder what's inside

Dinosaur Tracks 2: Copper Ridge

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 6:27 pm

The day is glorious, filled with shiny pennies of delightful discoveries.  After a hearty ‘second breakfast’ at Denny’s (filled Olive’s tank — why not fill mine?), I headed north to another known dinosaur trackway.  I stop at a historical marker identifying an oddly barren area as a CCC camp in the 30s, and a Japanese relocation “camp” in the 40s. I pause to reflect on those hard times.

Passing the Moab airport, I smile at the faded sign that says SKYDIVE, wondering whether or not to consider that more deeply at this time.  At mile marker 148 I spot the microwave tower that indicates I will soon turn east.  Nothing is labeled out here, but one soon learns the feel of a place and I recognized the cattle guard and spotted the dirt road and headed in.  Olive is not exactly a high-clearance vehicle, but she navigates the bumpy and rocky dirt road for two miles, and we arrive at Copper Ridge Trackway.

Ascending the gravel path, I realize that I need more cardio exercise.  I’m breathing hard by the time I almost fall into a huge round footprint about two feet across.  The previous visitors had watered all the footprints, making them easier to see.  Here a huge herbivorous dino (wrongly called Brontosaurus, but that gives you the longneck image) stepped along an old sandbar and took an abrupt right turn.  Very few trackways show turning footprints, so this was special.  I tried to imagine if the smaller carnivorous guys (whose footprints were nearby) were ganging up on him, and he was trying to get away, or defend himself, or what?  I put my sandal next to his footprint and marvel. [Second photo.]  It is no wonder that small children become fascinated with these creatures and memorize their names, sizes, food web and next of kin.

Just as I am examining the last of the second dino’s tracks, sprinkling a few tablespoons of my precious drinking water on them for photographic purposes, a mom/dad/kid come by.  The boy, aged five at the most, is patiently explaining to his parents the dino details they needed to know; he has everything correct.  Long live dino-mania!

 

Plodding footsteps of big dino

Plodding footsteps of big dino

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3-toed carnivorous dino's print

3-toed carnivorous dino's print

Corona Arch: 90 minutes of bliss

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 5:56 pm

I’m not one to pass up an arch hike.  Ten miles down the highway I pulled into a parking area marked “Corona Arch,” read that it was a strenuous 1.5 miles up the canyon, and grabbed my water bottle and camera.  65 degrees — perfect.  Ten minutes after eight.  The sages were releasing their heady perfumes after yesterday’s rain as I began my ascent.  In the distance someone, somewhere, was playing a doleful melody on a flute or recorder, and the notes reverberated off the sandstone walls with rich resonance.  All was well with the world.

I crossed the railroad tracks and zig-zagged through an anti-cattle and anti-ATV guard fence, happy to be adventuring on BLM land.  After the trail hit the rocky areas, it wasn’t too difficult to follow the cairns, but I noticed that this was different from trails the NPS would construct.  A little sketchier, a bit less defined, and definitely no maps available.  Oh, well!  What’s an adventure without a few added variables??

I met only two parties on my walk.  THIS is the way I like it; entire canyons to myself!  Forty minutes later, after ascending a ladder and pulling myself up some guy-wire cables on a steep part, I found myself staring across a huge bowl at magnificent Corona Arch.  Onward!  Must go through the arch!  Must conquer!

No sound except the twittering of the White-Throated Swifts accompanied me.  A small seep in the sandstone to my left drew me to explore the flora capitalizing on the constant moisture.  A cottonwood tree appeared to be growing out of sheer rock, again reminding me of my lessons on resilience.  Onward I stepped, now almost in the shadow of the giant span.  Must go through.  Must go under.

I stood beneath the organic shape and pondered the forces that wrought it.  Taking a seat on the far side in the shade of the canyon wall, I sat in utter silence.  I gazed.  I blinked.  I spotted future arches across the way.  And then I sang the Doxology: 

Praise God from whom all blessings flow, Praise Him all creatures here below, Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts, Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  

And I added the Great Amen.

The way back down, I thought, would be easy.  The cairns, however, were not as carefully placed, nor as plentiful, as I would have liked.  Because the sun was an hour higher in the sky, shadows were different; this threw me off.  When I could not find the next cairns, I made a mental note:  2/3 of water bottle left, no food, no sense of direction, hmm, this will not get me far.  A few seconds of general panic wanted to play out, but I told myself I could ALWAYS go back and find previous cairns.  “But nobody will find me!” I allowed myself to argue, and then… the cairns returned.  I had gotten off a bit to the side, and obviously so had others, as cairns began to appear on both trails.  Geez.  Scary.

There is nothing further I can say about the beautiful Corona Arch, except that you must explore it for yourself.  The crowds in Arches interfere with exquisite back-country sensations, so get off the beaten path, and take a risk (or two), and walk.  

approaching Corona Arch, 9 a.m.

approaching Corona Arch, 9 a.m.

 

Conquered it!

Conquered it!

 

A good ascent route

A good ascent route

ladder is going nowhere

ladder is going nowhere

Datura

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 5:17 pm

Deadly nightshade.  Henbane.  Mandrake.  The stuff of which love potions and witches’ brews were made of… and its cousin, Datura, is represented in gorgeous mounds of plants favoring the shady nooks at the bases of the cliffs.

All Datura plants contain tropane alkaloids such as scopolamine and atropine, primarily in their seeds and flowers. There can be a 5:1 toxin variation across plants, and a given plant’s toxicity depends on its age, where it is growing, and the local weather conditions.  

Most parts of the plants contain toxic hallucinogens, and Datura has a long history of use for causing delirious states and death.  According to the drug information site Erowid, no other substance has received as many “Train Wreck” (i.e., severely negative experience) reports as has Datura, noting that “the overwhelming majority of those who describe to us their use of Datura find their experiences extremely mentally and physically unpleasant and not infrequently physically dangerous.”  In some parts of Europe and India, this plant has been used for suicide and murder.

So.  Enjoy its beauty.  Look, but don’t eat.  And, thank you, Wikipedia, for cool info on Datura.

 

Datura plant

Datura plant

Datura blossom

Datura blossom

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