Ranger Kathryn's Arches

July 8, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:35 pm

Oh my goodness.  I have nothing to say today.  Laptop having conniptions so can’t get into Safari… had to use Firefox… I have taken no photos in last few days… it is a “business as usual” week (LOL!) here among the Moabites… I think I shall go for a quiet walk along Park Avenue.  Tomorrow is my halfway-done day and I find it alarming that it is going so fast.  Perhaps I can slow down the inexorable march of the summer calendar by wishful thinking.  Perhaps not.


Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:18 am


Glancing at the daily schedule, I see that I am to drive up to Devil’s Garden Trailhead and take props along for a talk on birds. Anything I want to say, anything I want to take, is fine. I just need to rope ’em in so I can count ’em… the visitors, that is.

Into my bin go three laminated photographs, a raven skull and talon, a golden eagle skull, a raven puppet, raven cast of footprint, and my trusty SPAM water bottle. Oh, and the radio and extra battery, and brochures on rock art, sandwich board, small table, and extra map of park. I drive 30 minutes to the north end of the park and discover gleefully that a huge sandstone fin is casting shade on the trailhead where I will set up my table. Shade! A rare commodity at Aches NP!

The trail next to which I stand leads directly to Landscape Arch, the one on the header of my blog page. Longest in park, probably longest in world, and very thin in places — so won’t be here forever. Every hiker is on a mission and, unless they have children along (who are easily lured in with a raven puppet), few want to stop. The beauty of this is that those who DO stop actually want to learn a thing or two about ravens. The international tourists arriving by coach bus did not stop; they are always on a tight schedule and want to get to The Place and snap photos and leave.

A Swiss family stops by, whom I had seen the previous day in the Visitor Center. They were so sweet. The children are just learning English, so the parents had to translate everything I said about ravens, and then I got to see the delayed-reaction smiles on their faces. Holding up the two skulls and asking which one belongs to the raven is always the best guessing game, no matter what your language.

Ravens are THE most intelligent bird we know of. Visitors ALWAYS smile when I tell them about our resident con-artist raven up at Delicate. He fakes a limp in order to get sympathy food from tourists… who, even though we tell them NOT to, still feed them… and then as soon as he gets his cookie or whatever, his limp is magically gone! How did he learn this??

Mr Faker Raven at Delicate Arch

Mr Faker Raven at Delicate Arch

The funny things visitors say

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

People will ask a ranger anything.  Yesterday’s winner, asked on the trail:  “Can I make sunscreen out of dirt and water?”  Pause while thinking.  “Yes, I believe you can.  You would have to smear it on quite thickly, however.”  Official Ranger Answer, conjuring up images of elephants caking their skin to keep off flies.

Another good one was a visitor who came up to a staff person working the desk and asked, “Do you keep track of all the rocks that fall in this park, and when, and where?”  The staff member was somehow able to keep a straight face while answering — she is a better woman than I.

The third one happened while we were up on top of Teardrop rappeling, at least 1000 feet above the inhabited part of the park.  Ed had pointed out a depression in the rock, oh, larger than a couch, into which sand had blown and plants had sprung up.  There was a small juniper tree, a blackbrush, a small cactus, and several other plant species — plus a wonderful undisturbed layer of the cryptobiotic soil crust that glues the whole surface of the desert together.  The woman looked at the adorable little ‘garden,’ looked at me, and asked in utter seriouslness, “Did someone plant this?”  Again, I had to pause to collect myself.  “Ummm… God did.”  That was sufficient for her.

The fourth one is repeated fairly often.  Apparently MSN circulated some time ago a news flash on Wall Arch’s demise of last August.  People regularly come in and ask, “Which arch just fell?”  Usually it will suffice when we explain that one fell eleven months ago, and show them before and after pictures.  But one adamant woman would NOT take that as an answer.  She was 100% sure that Delicate Arch, our icon, was DOWN; no amount of discussing or reasoning with her would change her mind.  She wasn’t going to hike up there for proof, but she repeatedly said that Delicate Arch had fallen.  At some point, one is tempted to shake one’s head and say, “OK, it fell,” and move on to the next visitor.  But that is against the Code of the Ranger. 

Often international visitors have the various arch names close, but not quite right.  Delicate Arch has been called ‘Fragile Arch” by several, and “Delicious Arch’ by one.  I kind of like those.

Time to get ready for my day… another day in paradise, if only it would stay out of the triple digits…

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