Ranger Kathryn's Arches

July 2, 2009

Into the Field I Go

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:17 pm


Sunset at Devil's Garden Campground

Sunset at Devil's Garden Campground. There must be a myth about a breast being turned into stone, or some such explanation.

I don’t write as much about my work days as I might, but there is a certain banality to daily work that doesn’t lend itself to blogging.  How many ways can you answer (with a sincere smile) the same question in one morning?  Yes, you can see the whole park from your car, of course.  No, why would anyone want to get out and walk? etc etc.  I have a good answer for the next dude who says, “What can I see in one hour?”  I will take him to the park map, patiently explain that he must drive up the mountain exactly two miles to the Park Avenue viewpoint, get out of his car, walk fifty steps to the sign, and then have a good cry at all the things he is NOT going to see.


But tomorrow there is a change-up in the schedule for me.  After a morning customizing tourists’ too-short visits from the Big Desk in the Visitor Center, I have my first afternoon in the field.  I carry some props with me for teaching arch formation, cryptobiotic soil crust, and other cool things, a small folding table, and a portable sandwich board that says “Ask me about…”  Then I head to a popular viewpoint or trailhead and rope people in, like a circus barker, with my sparkling personality and undying enthusiasm and cool props.  I have a clicker counter device in my pocket, since the NPS always wants to know how many people we are reaching.  So, my job is to put on a show — and since I will wear my ranger hat and badge, it is easy to get customers.  

People treat me totally differently when I am out of uniform.  Coming out of the park this evening, I encountered a pick-up truck illegally parked at the entrance.  It’s owner was photographing the sign.  There are six empty parking spots right past the official sign, but he decided he could just pull over on the shoulder and get out and snap a shot.  I was driving by in Olive (in play clothes) and stopped and said, “Sir, I am a park ranger.  Would you mind moving your vehicle to a parking spot?  You are in a dangerous place.”  He looked at me, pondering what to say, and then gave a half-hearted “…oka-a-a-ay…” so I drove on.  Looking in my rear view mirror, the man had simply angled the truck nose-in, about eight feet further up!  Six empty parking spots!  Had I been wearing my uniform, he would have jumped up and re-parked his truck.  Maybe.

Lee (“He Who Knows All & Tells Most”) gave me a crash course in field expectations.  Take a radio.  Know how to use said radio.  (Crash course duly given in eight minutes.)  Take spare battery.  Make sure it is charged.  Take aforementioned props, folding table, sandwich board, enough water for several hours, and take the right car from the six-car fleet.  If its gas tank is 1/4 or less, go to the Shell station in town afterward and fill it.  (Magic payment instructions duly noted.  Receipts go here.)  Never mind that the Shell is the most expensive gas station in Moab, the government says you must go to the nearest gas station to fill.

Can’t wait.  It is a trade-off, tomorrow; I am missing taking my little multi-cultural center children on a field trip to Canyonlands N.P., which would have been a blast.  But I don’t make the schedule; I just follow it.  And, as far out as I can see, every day looks like fun.

Old Hippies

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:45 pm

I am pretty sure that Moab is the secret Mecca for old hippies.  Never in my life have I seen such a concentration.  I mean, hippie clothes, hippie hair (always very long regardless of gender), hippie lifestyle, hippie “I’m-old-with-no-IRA” mindset, hippie alternative health care and spirituality, hippie tree huggers and earth lovers and recyclers (all of which I endorse), and the list goes on and on. Even the city itself feels hippie-ish somehow.  It’s rather amusing.  I pass no judgment on hippies or on hippie-ism.  It’s an observation.  I guess I’m not one because I don’t ride my bicycle or have long flowing locks.

Thirteen Miles of River

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


Jug Handle Arch

Jug Handle Arch

Adventures often wait for my off hours.  After work Tuesday, a couple women were headed out to paddle down a stretch of Colorado on a fellow-ranger’s inflatable raft, class 1-2+ rapids. They know I am adventurous and invited me along.  My answer took less than one second. 

By the time we all three went home, got swimsuits on and water bottles loaded, picked up the deflated raft, rented three paddles downtown, left one car at take-out point and then drove to the put-in point, it was already nearing 6 pm.  Assemble raft (noticing many patches), pump raft with giant bicycle pump (taking turns because it is exhausting), strap everything lose-able to the craft (because, well, just because).  We were three excited people.  The only niggling doubt in my mind was the clock, as sunset would put a large damper on the trip if we didn’t reach take-out by then.  I gave a little shiver and a big “Woot!” and off we went.  It was in the 90s and the temp in the river corridor would be considerably less, with all that cool water.

Captain Jess was very experienced in rafting, and could read the river well.  She gave Kim and me a crash course in paddling, and we perched ourselves on the inflated raft sides, one leg each dangling in the river, paddling happily.  The Fisher Towers, a beautiful sandstone landmark, presided over the left bank as we urged each other to look at this and look at that and can you believe we’re doing this and why don’t more people go on adventures (nobody else was on the river) and what a way to conclude our day.

The first mile was pretty smooth.  We took turns jumping in to cool off, using all our might to climb back onto the raft.  The Colorado is flowing at about 17,000 cubic feet per second, a moderate flow, and it carried us along pleasantly even if we did not paddle.  The descending sun, however, prompted us to paddle.  In the course of the next few miles, we experienced a variety of rapids that delighted and splashed us.  We had to all drink the water from Jess’s wide-mouthed Nalgene in order to use the bottle to bail, and we twice had to add more air to our vessel, but she was river-worthy and we knew we were golden.

Sight-seeing is easy from the river.  We could see a couple of million-dollar luxury homes blending in with the environment; passed a vineyard (!!) and luxury resort; saw locals splashing in the river to cool off; passed one other float-boat that was pulled up on a beach while the couple ate; and quizzed ourselves about the rock layers we were seeing.  We paddled when we felt like it.  I felt like it more than the others, as I watched the sun setting.  

Six named rapids adorn this stretch called the “Colorado River Daily.”  Each of them were very fun, various degrees of wet, and brought much joy to our vessel’s passengers.  Only AFTER we successfully navigated them would Jess tell us what could have happened had we not had enough momentum, etc., or had we bumped the rock wall and punctured our raft.  I truly preferred to know afterward what didn’t happen.

The 2/3 moon was already high, the light becoming more filtered.  None of us had a waterproof watch, and I was not stopping my paddling.  The sun dipped below the high cliffs on the right bank as we floated southward.  Tra-la-la.  Kathryn does not stop paddling.  She also does not ask, “How much farther?” as she would rather just keep paddling.  The scenery looks like something out of a movie, in all honesty, but the shadows are getting long.

Just in the nick of time, Jess reports that Take-Out Beach is around the next butte.  Whew!  We all put our paddles down and decide that floating is a nice way to end our trip.  Some car driving by on the highway is taking photographs.  We know we make the view more scenic.

Around the bend, Jess stands up and surveys the river.  We hear a concerned “Hmmmm…”  — no Take-Out Beach.  “Well, it must be just downriver.  I think there is one more easy rapids and then we’ll find it.”  She sounded confident, but… was she?  Or was this the game face?

In the quickly-fading light I was beginning to shiver.  Soon my teeth were chattering uncontrollably.  And here is where I give you the good news that, only another twenty minutes down the river, Take-Out Beach magically appeared.  The bad news:  Jess’s car keys were up-river in Kim’s car.

We hauled out, and Jess and Kim (early 20s, won’t tell their moms about this) went up to the highway to try to hitch a ride 13 miles north.  The short version of the long story is that ultimately a nice couple picked them up and took them all the way to Kim’s car at Hittle Bottom, while I unloaded the raft, deflated it, and sat on a bench to wait patiently for their return.  The Western Pipistrelle bats came out to feed in the deepening darkness.  It was very, very quiet on the river, on the highway, and in my joyful heart.

Taco Party at Kathryn’s

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:35 am

Spontaneous parties are the best.  Yesterday I put up a couple signs in the Interpretation office announcing a taco party at my place at 6:44 pm tonight.  I had no clue how many might come, but many of these workers are poverty-stricken volunteers and free food would be a draw.  Long story short:  eleven hungry Arches staff trickled in, bringing plenty of beer, and it is 11 pm and the card games and guitar-playing are STILL going on. I think I’d best excuse myself before I fall asleep!  There appears to be consensus that this should become a weekly event.  I like that.

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