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?


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.

Blog at WordPress.com.