Ranger Kathryn's Arches

June 14, 2009

Safety first

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:09 am

Who is responsible for my safety?  Of course, the only acceptable answer is: I am.  Our trainers drill that into us from day one, tossing in useful morsels like “remember that it is always easier to get UP than to get DOWN.”  Well, rangers are inquisitive and always want to see or know or do something different.  

As I was sitting at Delicate Arch, waiting a good hour for the cool sunset shots (which would come all at once), I watched a man with a tripod go somewhere that I really wanted to go.  Let me help you picture this.  Imagine a slanted soup bowl with a wide rim.  On that rim sits Delicate, between two major drops.  Well, he found a way to scoot right past the huge foot of Delicate and walk down the rim in order to photograph it from the side.  Neat!  Oh, if he can do it, lithely and without slowing his steps, while carrying photographic equipment, SURELY Ranger Kathryn could!   So I traipsed over to the hulking base of the giant arch, and began to make my way gingerly past it.  Jiminy, this was getting steep, with no flat places to set my feet.  But I had just seen Jack do it, so I convinced myself that I could do it, because OF COURSE my beloved brothers would be nimbly skipping down there, and what the heck?  I placed my feet as carefully as I could, testing the grip before moving the next one.  The three or four story tumble into the bowl suddenly became an unpleasant probability instead of an abstract concept.  The scores of camera folk across the bowl were watching me with too-great interest, probably placing bets with each other to pass the time.  

My mind battled with my gut; my gut won.  I would retreat and leave the cool side-on photo to the nimble risk-taker guy.  And then reality set in… in order to turn around, I would need to turn feet 180 degrees opposite from where they were.  Sandstone is slippery, from all the easily-eroded grains constantly being rubbed off.  There was no good purchase.  My gut was in full “Aaiieee!” mode, but I composed myself and thought, “Nobody can help me.  There is not room for a helper.  I must get myself out of my own predicament.”   A little thought, a little adrenaline, a little careful foot turning, a little pause to breathe… and I picked my way out.  

I am not afraid of heights, but the drop into the soup bowl was a prospect I did not relish.  Hey, I am here at my sunrise writing spot, so you know that this ended safely.  It is a trade-off, as is everything in life:  give up the photo to keep myself intact.  I’ll take it.  And, when you go to Google images and type in Delicate Arch, and see that unique side-on photo?  It isn’t mine.  But I’ll treasure it as a lesson learned.

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