Ranger Kathryn's Arches

August 9, 2010

The Case of the Capricious Keys

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:29 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

View of Buck Canyon from the staging area

Rangers Kevin and Sharon looking for just the right rappel route

A family of five showed up at the Visitor Center desk with their video camera and proceeded to play a clip for Ranger Julia and me. In it, their two 13-year-old sons were sitting happily on top of Mesa Arch, smiling for Dad behind the camera, when the one with the car keys dangling off his finger (no — do NOT ask why) suddenly looks down as the set of keys drops 200 feet into the canyon. The facial expressions are priceless.

Ranger Sharon starts her rappel

Another family gave them a ride six miles back to the Visitor Center, where Ranger Sharon (an expert climber with the law enforcement division) assembled equipment to rappel down and look for the car keys. It was a slow afternoon and we had enough help, so the law enforcement supervisor allowed me to come along and watch, and help carry heavy gear, as they built anchors and set up a belay station to lower Sharon down the cliff. It was, she said with a twinkle in her eye, “a cruel case of Ranger fetch.”

Sharon follows the canyon wall to the site of the dropped keys

The entire operation was completed in about two hours’ time. Getting her back UP the sheer cliff was the trickiest part, as specialized ascending equipment and techniques needed to be utilized, but it all went without a hitch and the keys were fortunately found within minutes of her bushwhacking to the cliff base and looking in the greenery.

The grateful family dropped a 50-euro note into the donation box in the Visitor Center on their way out of the park. We’ll keep it there to encourage others to donate, but we hope for no more key-recovery operations anytime soon. And Fabian won’t be entrusted with car keys for quite some time, I suspect.


  1. Fabian certainly acquired a great story to carry through life. Let’s hope the lesson continues to accompany it.

    Comment by leroque — August 10, 2010 @ 5:23 am | Reply

  2. isn’t climing the arched a “not allowed” practice in the park? were they admonished for that?

    Comment by john — August 10, 2010 @ 6:21 am | Reply

    • Arch-climbing is only disallowed in Arches National Park. We don’t have many at Canyonlands, nor do we have the personnel to monitor visitor activities, so they may climb it if they want to!

      Just north of the park (BLM land) there is a pair of natural bridges, parallel but six feet apart. Last month a boy scout fell 100 feet to his death trying to leap from one to another. The government can not protect people from their own foolishness.

      Comment by kath56ryn — August 10, 2010 @ 6:49 am | Reply

  3. For some reason, that boy scout was NOT ‘prepared’.

    Comment by leroque — August 11, 2010 @ 7:59 am | Reply

  4. I wonder where you find the energy to write your blogs. You sure must find a hidden core in order to sit down and write such thoughtful insights after the hours you spend “doing it”.

    Comment by Mom — August 11, 2010 @ 9:13 pm | Reply

  5. When ever we go anywhere…camping or just away for the weekend we always take an extra set of car keys with us just in case. For example this past weekend we went camping up in Duluth with the kids.

    Greg for some reason could not find teh car keys and yes the car was locked. His wife, Kasey looked everywhere for them in the tent. Let it be known that it was raining and storming out Saturday night..up to 4.5 inches of rain was falling and the whole time they were out looking yes in the rain. Finally they called Triple AAA at 9:30 pm and they came out to the campground at 10:00. Got the car unlocked..but again no keys. Finally they looked in this one box in the tent and yep, there they were.

    Bring an extra set of keys no matter where you go. Lesson learned!


    Comment by chris — August 12, 2010 @ 3:46 pm | Reply

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