Ranger Kathryn's Arches

March 20, 2010

In which I drink from a spring and suffer no ill effects

Filed under: 1 — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:54 am
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Chaco, the dachshund, ascends the trail under human power in places

Five of us took Chaco, Jacob’s wiener dog, to Hunter Canyon (BLM land) to explore. Hiking with a dachshund is a hoot, requiring plenty of assists and hand-offs. We got lost, of course — five rangers couldn’t follow cairns?!?!? — and then my skillful backcountry roommate pulled out her topo map and we realized how far off course we were.

Drinking from the spring at Hunter Canyon -- mm-m-m, good!

At the hike’s end was a conspicuous spring trickling from a rock wall. Ranger Victoria optimistically described having drunk from it three days earlier and not gotten sick. I’m a former nurse and know too much, but the thought tantalized me and Vic and I hoofed it over to the spring and lapped up palms of water. WOW, was it tasty… and I don’t think it was the element of risk. I think it was REALLY GOOD WATER.

Eye of the Whale, Part 2

Erosion art: where ceiling and floor meet at Eye of the Whale

Ninety minutes. That’s a long time to have an arch to myself in a national park that saw 997,000 visitors last year. I’m grateful for the isolation.

It is obvious that some young males (who else?!?) have butt-slid down the ‘cheek’ from the eye, but I’d rather not risk damaging myself. I go trekking down-fin to see if I can find a way to the back side. For one second I found myself wishing someone were there to show me the way. And then I heard, or sensed: “Go explore. You’ll find a path.” An ‘aha’ moment for me, who finds it easier to follow than to lead. With delight, I abandoned myself to finding a route around this humongous fin.

It wasn’t difficult, and success tasted sweet. After the requisite ‘eye’ photographs, I found a comfortable boulder and slipped my pack off. It was about 64, mostly sunny, and my shorts and t-shirt were perfect. I leaned into the warm rock and listened. Nothing. Not a single living thing. No wind, no cricket, no bird. I pulled out my book and devoured a few chapters, taking time out to watch a small lizard make his way around my feet.

Rustling leaves, or whispering, are about twenty decibels; quiet breathing is about ten. Threshold of hearing is at zero. If I held my breath, the ambient sound had to have been no more than a couple of dB. Straining to hear sound is a new experience for most people. For my daughter, who lives on a busy thoroughfare in a large city, it is absolutely foreign.

I savor the silence, drinking it in. I am thirsty for it. When the engine noise from a small plane penetrates my tranquility, I find the obtruder far more annoying than the last hundred planes I’ve heard.

O happy day! Got the knot perfect!

In the embrace of that enormous whale, I did it: I tied my first Double Fisherman’s knot, perfectly, Xs matching, knots nesting, without anybody’s help. Well, the tails could have been a smidge longer, but it was a thing of beauty, and Ed would be proud.

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