Ranger Kathryn's Arches

June 15, 2009

Yucca

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:07 pm

Almost every part of this lovely plant is useful to native cultures.  The roots contain saponin, which makes up soap, so you can clean yourself with it.  The leaves are ultra-fibrous, so you can weave them into sandals, bowls, mats, etc.  The spine on each leaf tip is sharp enough to use as a needle.  Today I made my own twine.  Scrape off the tough outside of the long leaf, using a chert scraper.  Separate the fibers into individual strands; stagger them along the picnic table; pick up the whole long thing and start rolling one end on your thigh to twist and twist and twist it.  When it gets tight enough, it will double over on itself and form a very strong twine.  Voila!

Uranium

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:00 pm

Eleven million tons.  That is the quantity of uranium mill tailings that I drive past two to four times daily, just a mile outside park HQ.  If you were to look at a map of every uranium mine (even if it is just a petrified log harvested for the uranium around it) in the U.S., the area around Moab is an incredible pack of solid X’s.  This is a land that saw a huge boom when one Charlie Steen discovered a high grade ore in them thar hills in the 1950s, right when the U.S. government needed a steady supply for the Cold War.  

There is one small detail, however, that makes these tailings more problematic than just their uranium leftovers.  The Colorado River now runs within 300 yards of this huge man-made mountain, so the tailings sit in its flood plain!!  One good flood… everything downstream will glow for a very, very long time.  SOOOO… since the original owner of the tailings went bankrupt in the 1980s (after Three Mile Island and Chernobyl), the DOE has assumed ownership and now is constructing an elaborate transfer plan to move all eleven million tons by rail to a shale site 30 miles north.  “Impermeable” shale, they say.  This relocation plan will take anywhere from ten to fifty years.

Let us not think that our actions do not have consequences.

Nine minutes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:55 am

After exploring the Windows, my eye caught a sign pointing around the back of two large openings:  “Primitive Loop Trail to parking area.”  YESSSSS!  If I have learned anything in my six days here, it is that visitors assiduously avoid trails marked “primitive” or “strenuous.”  These areas become mine… ALL mine.  Tour bus after tour bus of American or Japanese or (fill in blank with any nationality)… they stop at the viewpoints, hop out, run around, re-board, and miss all the good stuff.  

I ambled behind South Window — it and North Window are gigantic openings in one heck of a fin — and picked my way down a pleasant gravelly path.  The quietness greeted me like an old friend, and I welcomed the embrace.  Nobody was back here. They are engaged in an odd personal contest:  they see the arches from the front, check it off their To Do list, and beat a hasty retreat.  Ahhhh… joy for me.  One bird singing heartily off to the east; a slight breeze blowing now and again; and off I walk. 

Finding a perfect slickrock perch, I climb upon it and sit down to survey my tranquil kingdom. The land drops off in front of me to a rockless undulating scoop, perhaps a half mile across.  Blackbrush and Mormon Tea fill the view.  It is 5:40 pm and I determine to sit motionless until 6 to see what happens inside me.

I begin noticing small things.  That bird?  Its song is repeated, over and over, although I do not recognize it.  A cricket chimes in every once in a while.  The breeze is welcomed, since teeny gnats have found my sitting place and begin to pester me.  My pulse is slowing.  The sunlight from behind me is bright, but not nearly as harsh as a few hours earlier.  

5:49 pm:  my peacefulness is invaded.  Visitors, darn visitors!  Why can’t they stay out in front of the arch?!?  Ruined my 20-minute experiment!  Oh, well… they need their version of solitude, too, even though it is a family group of eight or ten, who are thrilled when I offer to take their picture.  

I bet they don’t notice my bird, my cricket, or my breeze.

Dr Seuss landforms

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:26 am

Last night I hiked at the “Windows Section” to take a look around.  It is quite different from “Park Avenue” which is only 7 or 8 miles away, which adds to the mystery of this place.  The Windows remind me of a Dr Seuss drawing, with blobby shaped hills and slumped globs of rock, punctuated by arches, cracks, and giant alcoves large enough to store a spare church building.  The scale is so overwhelming that photos can not do it justice.  If I stand underneath Turret Arch, for example, and give my camera to a passerby who zooms it to get the arch… I am an invisible speck!  I have taken several pics of just arches themselves and then realized it looks the size of a garage instead of the size of a football field.  So… I soak in the enormity of it all and marvel at God’s creative genius.  If I were God, a Dr Seuss neighborhood would be a lot of fun to shape.

Kill Bill

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:11 am

I came home from my sunrise internet session this morning to find that Ranger Bill (a Nevada native) had turned on the heat.  It was 65 degrees outside, with a predicted high of 90.  My window is open…

On a strictly observational note, temps change quickly in the desert.  The sun is our Radiant Heat Source, and when it comes up, things heat up quickly.  When it sets, temps cool quickly.  There are no bodies of water here that would hold the heat and release it slowly.  Five degrees an hour is not unusual on both ends, in my limited experience.

P.S.  I am not really going to kill Bill.  He lived in AZ for quite a time and has little cold tolerance.

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