Ranger Kathryn's Arches

June 17, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:54 pm

Comment from my boss (Juliana) when I walked in this morning, all uniformed up:

“Don’t YOU look damn adorable!”

Carry-out from Turret Arch

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:05 pm

As my first day in uniform drew to a close, a fairly uneventful day, the head honcho appeared in the Interpretive Staff room and inquired as to who was available to go immediately to Turret Arch.  A man had fallen off the backside of the arch and had a broken leg and needed to be evacuated.  This was just 30 hours after my training in litter carry-outs.  Two vehicles headed up with lights and sirens, and I was among the volunteers.

Radio info was sketchy, but we knew an ambulance from Moab was also on its way up.  There is only one road in, and it is often clogged with RVs and slow drivers who are gawking at the incredible scenery.  Today, cloud-to-cloud lightning added to the danger.  Intermittent summer storms are frequent, but lightning is extra dangerous around towering rock forms.  It took us about 20 minutes to get to the trailhead and assemble our litter which is attached to a bicycle wheel in its center.  Up the trail we bounced, as quickly as possible.  The thunderheads had missed Turret Arch.

When we arrived, we found that the man was on the back side of the arch, so we had to make our way up and through the opening, and down the back side.  By this time I was breathing heavily from the exertion, but adrenaline was fueling my trip.  The patient was lying at the base of a ten-foot drop, and the EMTs were already starting an IV.  His right femur was terribly swollen and misshapen.  He had made it part way up the wall near the arch, decided to come down, and dropped the final two feet but pitched forward and went headfirst over the edge.  Where he landed was quite rocky.  A visitor who “happened” to be a nurse saw the whole thing happen and took out her cell phone, which had never gotten reception in the park before, but her 911 call “happened” to go through immediately.  She tended to him while waiting for help.

I’ll spare you all the details of the next hour, but a combination of Law Enforcement, volunteer litter team, EMTs and ultimately the helicopter crew from Grand Junction, CO, tended to the needs of the man.  It was incredibly professional.  The med-evac copter made a tight landing in the bowl (rock on three sides) behind Turret — just like something out of the movies.  What is a 90-min drive is a 15-min flight, fortunately for the poor man.   He is in surgery now.  Another 20 minutes and we had the place cleaned up, all equipment put away, and were headed back down to the trailhead with our wheeled litter.  

Lesson to remember:  it is always easier going up than coming down.  Always.

Ranger Kathryn Gets Her Uniform

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:19 pm

Ranger Kathryn in her first ten minutes in uniform -- someone needs to pinch her.

Ranger Kathryn in her first ten minutes in uniform -- someone needs to pinch her.

The carton was bigger than a breadbox, not too heavy, and filled with what I knew would be exciting stuff.  I carried it from HQ to my apartment while mulling over other rangers’ comments to me:  “Be prepared for nothing to fit.”  How could that be?  I had taken all my measurements — twice — and submitted them to my boss, a woman just about my size, who would surely know how to order correctly.  We were about to find out.

The packing list said the contents cost $280, the most expensive item being the special hat, $58.  That was in its own protective carton on the bottom and would be the last thing I explored.  First thing out: the green shorts and green dress slacks.  Fit?  Close enough.  Next: the gray uniform shirt, which hasn’t changed in decades.  Fit perfectly!  Next, special Sequoia belt, highly coveted:  perfect, third hole!  Sweater? Who cares, I’ll never wear it, left it in the bag.  Hiking socks? Check.  Let’s get to that bottom carton.

Light as a feather as I lifted it from the larger box, my mind could only ask:  Will it fit???  I slid the insert out which held the flat part of the hat firmly in place.  Such a thing of beauty slipped into my hand!  How could something made of straw be so rigid and so… so… FLAT?!?  Placing it gently upon my head, and hoping for tighter rather than looser as they stretch with wear, I was overjoyed to discover that the 6 3/4 was flawless on my head.  I looked in a mirror and what I saw was not Trainee Kathryn, but Ranger Kathryn.

In the evening Ranger Bill asked if I had put my hatband on my hat yet.  Whoa, hatband, hmm… it was still in the bottom of the large carton.  And thus began a 15-minute adventure, with scissors and tweezers, to apply the coveted leather NPS-stamped hatband and chinstrap.  The process involved some serious stringing, looping, pulling hard, winding, snaking ends through the loops, and cutting off the excess.  It is a darn good thing I didn’t wait until the morning of my first day of work.  Ranger Matt next door walked by and saw us laboring over this hat, and came in to jaw a bit and tell stories of how he learned to fit his hatband to his hat.  This is done only once, and tightened up when it loosens, but it is quite the process.

It is now Wednesday morning, just at dawn. I am sitting behind my apartment at the base of my stone wall, in my lounge chair, typing on my laptop; a canyon wren’s song punctuates the silence.  I will go in, take my shower, and dress up as Ranger Kathryn.  Gold badge #23097 is pinned fastidiously to my shirt, and the bronze KATHRYN BURKE name plate is displayed on the opposite side, a precise 2mm above the pocket top.  I’ll drive down to the entrance sign and get someone to take my picture before I report for work this morning.  And it will be a great, great day.

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