Ranger Kathryn's Arches

June 27, 2009

Dinosaur Tracks 1: Poison Spider Bike Trail

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 4:53 pm

At 0740 I pull into the gravel parking area, noticing that some biker has stashed his sleeping bag and backpack under the info kiosk.  A rock that disengaged itself from the mountain was found to have two good dino footprints in it, and a photo identified exactly where it was — within easy view.  “The easiest way to see it is to go back down to the highway and look through the view tube,” it said.  Don’t pull that trick on ME, I responded, and headed for the tabular slab up the mountain.  

In rattlesnake country, especially first thing in the morning when they may come out to sun, you place your feet carefully.  When I go over a rock I make it a point to step UPON the rock stompish-ly, to warn any reptiles of my coming.  Our Midget Faded Rattlesnakes are shy, and would rather avoid contact if they know you’re there, so I announce my presence.  Snakes don’t have ears, so they ‘hear’ vibrations.  I walk heavily.

In a few minutes I have scaled the heights.  Before me lies a pair of DEFINITE dino footprints!  A shiver goes through my body.  I secretly wish I’d find him in an alcove around the bend.

I do not know if the white discoloration is something applied by the BLM to make them stand out (and be seen from the highway through that silly view tube), or if it is residue from someone illegally making a cast.  In soft porous sandstone, the plaster will adhere to the stone and break pieces off upon removal.  They tell us to put water on the footprints to make them more visible. 


Dino tracks near Poison Spider Bike Trail, Potash Road

Dino tracks near Poison Spider Bike Trail, Potash Road

Potash Road Life Signs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 4:37 pm

Not sure I could be a geologist.  Rocks are kind of interesting and such, but I am more interested in stuff that has life.  Today, Ranger Kathryn’s day off, I am exploring signs of life in the lesser-known corners of Grand County.

By 0645 I am driving down a highway that parallels the Colorado River for 15 miles.  I have a brochure on the passenger seat identifying several panels of good rock art along this stretch, and a few minutes later I find myself in a pull-off behind a red truck whose license plate says GLYPHS.  Bingo!  This kind old gentleman with distinctly Native American features confides in me that this is the day the local Rock Art Preservation Society is photographing all the panels in order to create scale drawings.  I begin to scan the walls.  They teem with figures, images, animals, and he points out a few more to me that I would easily have missed.  I am very glad that this crew is documenting them.  Vandalism is rampant when figures are accessible, but the removal of the talus slope for the highway construction works in our favor on this panel.  I stand gazing at the walls, about 12 to 20 feet above the highway cut.  Deer, bighorns, hands, “burden basket,” spirals… all begin to move forward in my consciousness.  What a magnificent place.  There is no “dictionary” to translate the images, so we can only guess what they mean.

These are all petroglyphs, meaning the paper-thin layer of “desert varnish” (manganese oxide, iron oxide) is pecked off with a rock to create the art.


Potash Road Petroglyph

Potash Road Petroglyph


Does this look like an owl?

Does this look like an owl? or a fox?

June 26, 2009

Don’t go chasing waterfalls

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:32 pm

I look at the scabby week-old gnat bites on my legs, still the size of pencil eraser tops.  I look at my credit card statement with $108 of fraudulent iTunes charges last month.  (Closed the card, don’t worry.)  I look at pictures of my kids, whom I miss, and my girlfriends, whom I miss.  And then I look up the hill at the Antarctic Deity formation (?see previous post?) and everything comes into perspective.  I am in a VERY special place.

Today we got an email from our director saying that it has come to her attention that “monsoonal weather patterns have begun to set in.”  Normally this happens in late July for a couple of months, when all their eight inches of annual rainfall happens.  Due to the effect of La Nina (different from El Nino) (both of which need tildes, but I don’t know how to do that), things have shifted significantly.  This is a whole month early.  We had 0.22 inches in a few hours this morning, and a gully-washer at 4 pm that lasted 90 minutes and sent pour-offs hurtling off the cliffs above the Visitor Center in a manner I have never seen.  From 800 feet up, small braids of water joined others and more others, and ran pell-mell down the sandstone, until, with one exultant hurrah, they plunged over the last brink and started undercutting our sandy washes down here.  An announcement was made over the loudspeaker:  “Welcome to Arches.  If you go to our big window in the Vis Center you will see some amazing waterfalls on the cliffs.”  I was working in a back room and RAN to a window and squealed with delight.  One waterfall was deep red — all depending on how much iron-containing sediment it is cutting through.  It was gushing, splashing, somersaulting down down down, taking everything in its path with it.  Vehicles slowed in that area of road to a crawl, savoring the wild sight.

And then the visitors began coming to the front desk, asking if there were any sheltered campsites around.  “Well, sheltered?  Um, Holiday Inn?” was all we could say.  The huge RVs didn’t mind, but the tenters were at the mercy of the rains.

So.  Maybe I ought to invest in a bright yellow poncho.


June 25, 2009

Godhead, bird life, whatever

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 6:58 pm

Interesting trivia tidbits abound concerning the named formations in Arches.  For most of the 20th century, this formation directly above my apartment was called “The Trinity.”  At some point it got renamed “The Three Penguins.”  Was it the NPS’s commitment to our pluralistic society?  Was it the need to choose a more colorful name?  I have no idea.  I enjoy seeing it/them every day way up on the hill.

The Trinitarian Penguins?

The Trinitarian Penguins?

Thank you for the comments, all…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 6:52 pm

I must reiterate that it is a lot of fun to get comments from my readers, including ones that make me groan, laugh, or shake my head.  Maybe it is like the radio DJ who wonders if anyone out there is under the sound of his voice, or the newspaper columnist who opens with, “I don’t know if anyone will see this, but…”

Regardless, the two good purposes of this blog are equally legitimate:  (1) To keep friends and family in the loop concerning my adventures, and (2) To document for my own self what happens this summer.

But tonight I am tired.  The humidity and heat have sucked all my energy away for the day and it is time to put my feet up and drink some iced tea or something cold.  I am accustomed to drinking tepid (or warmish tepid) water all day from my SPAM stainless steel water bottle, which can’t be confused with anybody else’s bottle, and most days I long for a fountain of cold water.  

So, back to the theme:  Comment!  Even if it is only a sentence!  You’ll make my day.  Don’t be afraid.  Aren’t blogs supposed to be a little community of Earth travelers all passing through the same transect?


P.S.  When I go into the wilderness on weekends, don’t expect any posts!

Moab Valley, UT, at sunset

Moab Valley, UT, at sunset


Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:33 am

I find myself intrigued by the many different ways people choose to stack rocks.  Here in the desert, cairns are the only way to mark a trail, and there are plenty of rocks from which to choose; endless variations then result.  I’ve made a few myself, repaired some, moved some, and… one can almost begin to see a signature ‘style’ come forth.  There are the precise and rigid piles (“… must find flat rock… must find smaller flat rock…”), there are the thrown-together “anything will do as long as it stays up ’til I move away” piles, there are cemented-together-by-NPS piles, and then there are the absolutely artistic ones that are clear representations of, say, an arch, or a man.  Those bring a smile to my face, but I am fascinated by them all collectively.  The fourth photo is a nine-rock cairn I built to ensure that others would not be led astray at Courthouse Towers, as I was on my first hike.  Two days later I hiked it again and someone had knocked it over.

Rather representational, like a boat, or a child's stacking toy; carefully selected components

Rather representational, like a boat, or a child's stacking toy; carefully selected components


There is a skillfully-crafted arch here.  See the pale opening at the center?

There is a skillfully-crafted arch here. See the pale opening at the center?


A creative balancingtype built this one; note fewer flat surfaces

A creative balancing type built this one; note rounded rocks


I used nine rocks to build this one.  Some are only two rocks.

June 24, 2009

Need another name!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:03 am

Look who I found last night, 40 yards up the wash from Rex!  Does sandstone have certain cleavage planes?  A little smaller, facing the same direction…

Awwww!  Cute!

Awwww! Cute!

Rogue Ranger

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:51 am

Rogue Ranger Kathryn looking pleased underneath the Three Gossips

Rogue Ranger Kathryn looking pleased underneath the Three Gossips

Mid-afternoon training on selling permits and using the cash register and voiding mistakes and closing out at day’s end left my mind seriously spinning.  I just wanted to go play in the park, not take someone’s money and give them a hiking pass.  So, after work I grabbed my ranger hat, drove the switchbacks up the 800-foot rise behind my house, and parked at the trailhead of my favorite little two-mile hike.  Got out, took a deep breath, and put on my hat and game face.  It’s 94 degrees at 7 pm.  Rogue Ranger Kathryn on the loose!  I was off the clock, just living my ranger dream on my own time. 

I strode confidently to the sign identifying the overlook and the surrounding rock strata, greeting folks as I went, welcoming them to my park, reminding them to drink a lot of water, asking what they liked best.  People’s faces changed from weary to thrilled in a nanosecond after I addressed them.  Many approached me with questions or comments.  (“Please tell the park naturalist that a pair of peregrine falcons is nesting near Skyline Arch.”  “Where is a good place for us to watch the sun set?”  “Will it be this hot tomorrow?”  “Pretty cool petroglyphs you’ve got at Wolfe Ranch!”  “Where can I go to see things from the road if walking is difficult?”  “How far is it to Delicate Arch?”) Others wanted their pictures taken with me (after all, am I not the park mascot?) or asked me to take their pics with family.  It was remarkable to experience the difference that a uniform makes.  Instant authority was bestowed upon me, along with respect and the ability to approach any one, for any reason.  Happiness bubbled up inside me.  Park visitors absolutely live for personal ranger contact, and if they get their two minutes’ worth in the visitor center, and another few minutes on a trail, life is golden.  I try to give each party my undivided attention and conclude our interaction with how happy I am that they have come to visit my park.  I slip in safety advice (dehydration prevention) at every opportunity and remind them never to step on our biological soil crust that is alive and holds our sands in place.  I wish them safe travels, and move on down the trail.  Repeat.  Move on.  Repeat.  What a life, I tell you…

Oh, no! A mundane day?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:47 am

My polyester-and-wool dress pants were not the most comfortable, nor my polyester button-up shirt, so I was sweating.  It was in the high 90s today and somewhat humid for the desert. Summer is upon us at last. The usually-sweet children at the multi-cultural center in Moab (with whom I spend 70% of my time working) were cranky and whiny with the heat.  They didn’t want to do much of anything — until we came to a shallow creek and pulled out our small hand lenses and turned over a rock and explored.  Shrieks of delight!  I will not report how many moms would collect kids with wet shoes or clothes or feet today.  Then we walked them to the Moab Art Center for a project, and found a very cute bat in the kitchen so promptly caught it under a bowl and taught the kids never to touch a bat, before we took it outside and released it.

The city of Moab has a summer free lunch program for any children who wish to come to the elementary school between 11:30 and 1:00 daily. It is not your typical hot dog on white bun, either — it is HEALTHFUL food, fruits, veggies, salad, cottage cheese, tuna or turkey sandwich on wheat, etc.  We two rangers get to eat our free lunch and then do hands-on environmental education projects or games with the kids, which we have planned ahead of time.  I’m learning the names of the regulars.  It is tempting to think that I am making a difference in their education.

June 23, 2009

Help me name this

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:36 am

In the Courthouse Towers section, this boulder (the size of a Smart Car) has taken up residence.  Since it is one I pass each time I hike that favorite trail, it needs a name.

boulder under which one would not want to be trapped

boulder under which one would not want to be trapped

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