Ranger Kathryn's Arches

July 15, 2009

See what it means

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 6:17 pm

The NPS arrowhead deserves a closer look.  Examine the photo in the last post, “Accessorize.”  You will see four things the NPS protects and preserves.  It’s easy to identify the bison (animals), sequoia (plants), and mountain (land).  Did you know, however, that the overall shape of the arrowhead represents our cultural heritage?  Places like Mesa Verde, Little Bighorn, Gettysburg, Hovenweep would not have endured without the NPS protection.

I am pretty sure that the NPS was one of the government’s Truly Great Ideas.

Accessorize

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 6:09 pm

I intentionally left my make-up and favorite perfume in MN. National park rangers just aren’t the make-up and perfume types, somehow. Accessories, however, are totally what it is all about, so let me show you my favorites.

proudly worn on left sleeve

proudly worn on left sleeve

proudly worn over right shirt pocket, exactly a nickel's width above the flap

proudly worn over right shirt pocket, exactly a nickel's width above the flap

VERY proudly worn!  (left shirt pocket, centered)

VERY proudly worn! (left shirt pocket, centered)

July 14, 2009

Such a great day…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:22 pm

Being “in the zone” is a satisfying, but rare, experience.  Today I was in the zone.  Everything I did or said was either fun, successful, encouraging, or entertaining — in addition to having meaning and substance.  The visitors with whom I interacted were sharp and thoughtful, whether out at Delicate Arch Viewpoint (geology talk) or in the Vis Ctr.  Hazel, age 3, was my all-time favorite visitor as she animatedly told me about Sealy, her pet seal.  The heat did not bother me today, as it was two hours earlier and a few degrees cooler.  I had energy and enthusiasm that entertained even my co-workers at the desk.  I had visitors come in late in the day and find me in the VC just so they could tell me how thrilled they were with my geology talk earlier in the field.  That MUST mean that I am settling in and finding my sea legs and becoming comfortable enough and familiar enough with the tasks at hand that it is flowing more naturally, without stumbling or straining.

I am keenly aware that it is the grace of God which enables me, empowers me, strengthens me, equips me.  I give him the pieces — he creates a pleasing whole.  That is just such a God thing, isn’t it?

Window Kleener vs. Ants

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:48 am
secret weapon

secret weapon

A long, single-file trail of tiny sugar ants marched up the front of my kitchen cabinets to the countertop.  Six tiny footsteps at a time, they made their way to the piece of taco shell that lay there.  It was a crazy sight.  More ant bodies than taco shell.  I could see that some previous occupant had tried to stuff some old sponge into the opening under the cabinets from whence they came, to no avail.  I looked around for what to do, knowing that ants lay down a pheromone trail and will use and reuse and reuse it once a food supply is made known.

Wet paper towels were my first weapon.  I wiped up the ants, the taco bit, and the pheromone trails.  An hour later they were back at full strength.

Living in rental housing, my options were very limited.  Under the bathroom sink lay some Comet cleanser, and a squirt bottle of Windex-type stuff.  Its ingredients said, Purified Water, Vinegar, Ethanol, and Coconut-Oil-Based Surfactant.  I shrugged.  Surely ONE of those things could stop ants.

I will leave the details to your imagination, but suffice to say that I have no more ants in my kitchen.  After just one application.

July 13, 2009

Heat’ll do you in

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 10:03 pm

I drove the 25 minutes up to Delicate Arch viewpoint, glad to be in the field again.  The Vis. Ctr. is pleasant, and air-conditioned, but nothing beats being out there in my ranger togs, answering Qs for the visitors, teaching them about our park.  I purposely use “our” to let them know that it belongs to all Americans.

The only thing I dislike is how much STUFF must be hauled to these field locations.  To refresh your memory:  small table, sandwich board, radio, extra battery for radio, first aid kit, lots of water, bin of props for various presentations, etc.  In other words, two trips to car, two trips from car.

Today I am in a new place.  As usual, it is not far from the trailhead or viewpoint, where we can snag more than a few visitors to fill their ears with our stories.  I set up my table at 2:15 pm, heat of the day.  Talking takes energy in this heat, as it is over 100 again.  I keep drinking from my water bottle every few moments.  More visitors, more questions, more interest.  I show them photos I brought of Wall Arch; everyone wants to see the one that fell last summer.  I teach them about my particular passion, the cryptobiotic soil crust made of cyanobacteria and moss and lichens and algae.  It holds our desert together.  Without it this place would be utterly barren.  I love the crypto.

About 3:00 I start to lose energy.  Come on, I reasoned with myself, you just started this.  Your shift is only half over.  Press on.  These are fun people who want to learn.

About 3:10 I had to sit down on the lower fence rail nearby.  I drank and drank more water.  More visitors.  Must greet.  Must teach.

About 3:20 my brain was getting foggy and I felt as if I were atop Pike’s Peak.  I had to pause after each sentence to catch my breath.  This was not right.

At 3:25 I reviewed the very important lesson given in training my first week:  YOU are responsible for taking care of YOURSELF.  Nobody else is.  Don’t be a fool in the desert.  The last 20 minutes in the field was not as important as my safety.

I packed up my bin, made the first trip to the car, and decided to drive the car nearer my other belongings for the second batch.  Of course, three people stopped me along the way because my flat hat invites all comers.  I tried to stay upbeat and positive for them all while I was battling this heat.  The heat would have won, had I not jumped into my air-conditioned car and started the 25-min drive back. 

I was feeling like a wrung-out dishrag.  The AC helped considerably, though.  My colleagues asked me if I had entered the day on the low side of hydration, calories, or sleep — a good reminder that YESTERDAY’S self-care impacts TODAY’S well-being.  While I thought I was on a pretty even keel, it is clear that something was amiss.  Maybe the something was simply the heat and the long green pants.  

I will bring my ranger shorts to change into in the future.

Walked home to discover that the swamp cooler was broken and it’s 86 in our apartment.  Oh, well!

July 12, 2009

My giant playground

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 10:54 pm

Victoria, 25, approached me as I typed in the ranger room at the Visitor Center (VC) on my off hours.  “Do you want to go play in the Fiery Furnace?” she queried.  It was sweet, kind of like when your puppy yips at the door to go for a walk, and you really do want to walk, so it is a win-win.

The Fiery Furnace is one of Arches’ mysterious places.  Only two 25-person tours go in daily, both ranger-led, because its maze of sandstone fins has no map, no trails, and most GPS units don’t work in there.  We do sell permits to individuals who watch an intro film, know they are going to get lost, and still insist on going in on their own.  Today Victoria and I would be those people. 

Ranger Victoria leads groups through there multiple times weekly.  It is different, however, to traipse in there without a route, and just go exploring.  Lots of the canyons end in dead ends. Others are impassable from rock falls or too-steep approaches.  You just have to go with the flow.

 It was 4 pm when we headed in, and there was plenty of shade from the huge walls.  The first thing we did was find a secluded comfortable canyon and lie down on a warm rock fin and just vegg.  We had three hours until we had to be out to catch a ride back to the VC with Ranger Patrick, who would be leading his 25 people through.

I lay there looking up at five tongues of rock hanging over the edge of the 100-foot cliff above me.  I realized that I had the privilege of being in a huge rock playground that very few others could access.  We decided that a combination of walking, exploring, resting, drinking water, and talking would be ideal for a hot July afternoon.  Never once did we encounter another individual.  We did get lost a few times, requiring back-tracking to get out of tight spots or precipices.  Enjoy a few pics from our Explore!

Fiery Furnace, 7 pm

Fiery Furnace, 7 pm

 

me in my playground

me in my playground

 

Intrepid rangers Victoria and Kathryn

Intrepid rangers Victoria and Kathryn

La Sal Mountains & Oowah Lake

rainstorm in the La Sals
rainstorm in the La Sals

Triple digits — time to get out of Dodge and beat the heat.  The La Sal Mountains (Spanish for ‘salt’) are only 45 min east of Arches, and the highest peaks reach 12,000 feet.  There are a couple of National Forest campgrounds nestled in there so Jess (a Wisconsin girl) and I throw our gear into her car and exit Moab. We have both been in the desert for a month now.  We are about to find out some interesting things about that.

The La Sals are a type of mountain called laccoliths, which simply means they were formed from igneous goo pushing up from underneath that never cracked the crust.  Kind of like a pimple on the earth’s surface.  We have three ranges of laccoliths that I can see simulataneously, so there is definitely something about the geology here that is different.

aspens high in the mountains

aspens high in the mountains

As we head south and east of town, we begin our ascent.  These pimples are fairly abrupt at their edges, and the flora becomes noticeably different as we rise.  It’s raining up there (makes its own clouds), and the air is cooler.  It smells really fresh.  We turn off the AC and roll all windows down.  Climb, climb.  Larger trees!  Trees with real leaves!  Deciduous trees!  Climb, climb.  Wildflowers in bloom!  Lupines!  Indian paintbrush!  Higher over the switchbacks, onto a dirt road.  Aspens!!  Huge aspens!!  Oh, my — a robin!  Listen!!  Northern birdsong!!  Wood thrush!  Warblers!  Tweets and chirps I can recognize!!  Conifers, sweet conifers, everywhere!

We looked at each other and simultaneously chimed, “We’re home!” and then laughed out loud. Neither of us had realized how “other” this desert home has been to us, until we found ourselves back on Terra Familiaris.

chicken on a stick, slathered with BBQ

chicken on a stick with BBQ

As we built our supper fire to cook our chicken breasts (which we had to saw up and spear onto sticks, so it looked like calamari), we talked about the missings we had for the north woods.  When we put the tent up, we could push the tent stakes right into the earth without pounding with a rock.  When we walked around, our feet felt padded by the earth instead of landing on hard stone with each step.  A babbling brook coursed down-mountain behind our site — so very north-woods-like.

cave woman cooking

cave woman cooking

Anything is better with BBQ sauce on it, so we took our best-we-could-do chicken breasts and slathered them with red stuff and ate them right off the sticks.  We felt like cave women.

And then we walked up to Oowah Lake.  I stifled a laugh.  It wouldn’t even pass for a small pond in MN, but someone got the bright idea to make an earthen dike along the creek, back it up, stock it with small rainbow hatchlings, call it a lake, and charge $5 to camp there.  It is, well, nice, unless you’re comparing it with northern MN lakes.

Warner "Lake" in the

Warner, a second "lake" in the La Sals (ahem... I could walk around it in eight minutes)

I will now admit to the tiniest twinge of homesickness when I experienced the La Sal Mountain ecosystem.  As long as MN was a distant memory, the desert’s mysterious beauty captivated me.  When the familiar birdsong and earthy smells struck my ears and nose, however, I realized that there is plenty to miss back home.

Still, my home is here right now, and I am very pleased to be here.  I find contentment and joy in each day.  The desert is a harsh taskmaster and I am learning tons from dwelling in it.  I marvel at the survivalist abilities of local flora and fauna.  I marvel that I can go out in the 100-degree day and drink lots and lots of water and walk and work and still survive.  Appetites are rather suppressed in the heat, so I drink a lot but don’t eat as much as I do in MN.  I am probably losing a few pounds, and my skin is browner than it has been in a while, but this is the Way of the Desert.

I really AM a tree-hugger

I really AM a tree-hugger

flora with fauna

flora with fauna

July 11, 2009

Golf Course Road Petroglyphs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 4:19 pm

Gotta look at petroglyphs.  Mysterious, perplexing.  No good ‘code’ exists to translate them, although ideas abound.  I find them wonderful indeed.

this animal makes me happy

this animal makes me happy

ungulates R us

ungulates R us

man & animal

man & animal

Santa??!?!

Santa??!?!

Mill Canyon’s Dinosaurs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 4:07 pm
Dino tail bones in rock (what's left after vandalism)

Dino tail bones in rock (what's left after vandalism)

In the dusty recesses of my brain I remembered “Mile Marker 141” and “cross the railroad tracks.”  As Olive and I head off the main road, I see several hand-lettered signs detailing parking.  This was (or would become) a 4WD road, but for now it is passable.  I am headed for a cool place where dino bones stick out of the Morrison Formation.

Everything here screams JEEPS as I pick my way down the smoothest part of the graded dirt road.  Plenty of off-road tracks confirm that these BLM lands are heavily used by vehicles quite different from Olive.  Two miles.  That’s all I have to do.

Sauropod scapula (dino shoulder blade)

Sauropod scapula (dino shoulder blade)

A distinctly Badlands-ish look characterizes the Morrison Formation.  Its sediments were deposited when the climate was tropical; dinos roamed the area around here.  Sadly, artifact hunters have illegally removed plenty of specimens from these public lands.  I shall see what remains.

Fine red sands cover the road in places, but Olive plunges ahead.  Two miles in I am happy to discover a parking area and signage that teaches me about what lies just across the wash.  Bones!  In situ!  With interpretive signs teaching me what to look for so I can find my own!  Sauropods ruled here.  This is waaaaay cool.

View to the south: Big Mesa, Determination Towers

View to the south: Big Mesa, Determination Towers

Negro Bill Canyon

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 3:43 pm
Near trailhead of Negro Bill Canyon; sunrise

Near trailhead of Negro Bill Canyon; sunrise

Saturday morning sun is at the horizon, and I am loading my Camelbak (reservoir refrigerated overnight — nice and cold!) and camera.  83 degrees.  Out to an unusual local canyon for a sunrise hike today.  William Granstaff was the first non-native American in this region, and his half-African-American blood earned him quite the moniker.  Old maps call the area “Nigger Bill Canyon,” but someone along the line tidied it up a little bit.  While the canyon still bears his nickname, the BLM campground was changed to his last name only.  Sad.  Nobody will know that name.

I pull into the trailhead parking area at 0622.  Now 77 degrees, six cooler than when I began — remarkable what a lot of cold water flowing through a canyon does.  A compact car with a couple European budget travelers is at the other end, its doors open wide, its sleeping occupants oblivious to my arrival.  Sleeping in one’s car is cheaper than camping.

Grabbing my gear, I head up.  My internet preparations told me that two miles up the second canyon I would find Morning Glory Natural Bridge, the sixth longest span in the U.S. at 234 feet.  The only downside:  plenty o’ poison ivy between me and it.  I travel today along a very rare feature, a perrenial stream that never stops flowing.  The p.ivy loves that.

It is quiet.  I am the first one upcanyon this day, and I won’t see another human for 2 hrs 20 minutes… just the way I like it.  The birds are up, and I have learned the Canyon Wren’s downward whistle that I first encountered in Zion whilst on my one and only Angel’s Landing hike.  It keeps me company in the morning stillness.  Nothing is moving except me and the stream.

IMG_1510Glad I wore my Keens today.  Sport sandals make it so easy to traverse this shallow stream — about half a dozen times before I reach my destination.  I hike in deep shadow, wondering why I chose sunglasses.  It will be a couple of hours before the sun is high enough to reach into this canyon.

Two hours in, nearing the end of the canyon, I am rewarded with the sight I was looking for:  Morning Glory Bridge.  It is massive, and high — but only 18 feet from the rock wall behind it, which requires one to be nearly underneath it before actually identifying it as a free-standing bridge.  I press on, avoiding the poison ivy which grows in veritable thickets here.  I want to find the water source that created this geologic marvel.

Canyon ends at Morning Glory Bridge

Canyon ends at Morning Glory Bridge

Negro Bill Canyon ends abruptly at the bridge.  I hear splashes, and follow the small stream up to a seep in the rocks.  Out of literally nowhere, a large trickle of water — maybe about as much as a bathtub faucet on high — emerges from a crack and tumbles down the rock to start the stream.  This must be joined by other seeps further down, or else I do not know how a 6- to 10-foot wide stream could form.

genus Rhus -- stay away!

genus Rhus -- stay away!

I choose not to do too much exploring around the pool beneath the bridge, due to the forest of P.I. living there.  It is a quiet and magnificent place to see, but I will go halfway back to a high vantage point to do my reflecting, praying, and thinking this morning.

Nothing but the ricegrass is even moving.  A White-Throated Swift  darts about, confidently owning the region.  A wren sings from a distant perch.  For just a moment, I try to imagine next month’s return to Mower County, MN.  I gulp.  A day without a hike of three to five miles feels empty to me.  These red sandstone walls have become my friends, my constant companions.

Looking straight up at M.G. Bridge

Looking straight up at M.G. Bridge

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