Ranger Kathryn's Arches

September 14, 2010

Scorpion 1, Karen 0

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:25 am
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It was on her Chaco sandal when she slipped her foot into it to leave her house. Yes, my boss got stung by a scorpion last night; when I encountered her an hour later she had tingling in her face, arms and hands and was not feeling well at all. We have several kinds of scorpions here and only the Bark Scorpion is dangerous, but based on her “more-than-bee-sting” symptoms it could have been one of those. All my superhero powers failed to help her feel better, although I did make an ice bag for her foot with my mere mortal powers and stayed with her to see if the symptoms were getting better or worse. I was poised to take her to the hospital 45 minutes away if need be.

an unknown scorpion from Google images, just to remind you what they look like

Scorpions are not anybody’s favorite part of desert living. Karen had removed one from her house a few days prior, tossing it out the front door, and she surmises it found its way back in under the weatherstripping. Regarding “Live and Let Live:” despite its respectful rangerly approach, when it comes to these arachnids sharing my house, I have mixed feelings. A good solution is catch-in-Tupperware-and-take-to-work-to-show-visitors. They think a live scorpion is Very Cool.

But park rangers ARE superheroes!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:57 am
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Cereal Man and Purple Rain (two of my fellow rangers). Good superheroes craft their own costumes from paperboard, fabric, ice-climbing shoes and thrift-shop unitards.

Living up at the Island in the Sky (Canyonlands NP), isolated from the Real World, park rangers must create their own entertainment. Birthdays are often used as an excuse to invent a good party theme. For Ranger Bobby’s 29th, various and sundry superheroes showed up at his apartment to celebrate.

Lara Croft, Tomb Raider (aka Sharon, law enforcement)

You can see why I thoroughly enjoyed living here for ten weeks, and delight in going back to work twice a week this fall. It’s a fun-loving, creative, wacky bunch of intelligent and interesting people that keep this park going — for visitors and for each other.

Green Lantern and his faithful sidekick (aka Mike and Maile Dog)

September 12, 2010

An arch, or a beer?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 3:28 pm

Kind of looks like a mummy's dessicated left deltoid

The monstrous leg of Corona Arch holds up a gazillion tons of sandstone

If you say the word “Corona” around Moab, some listeners will think you’re talking about Mexican beer. Others will immediately know that it’s a splendid arch ten miles south of here, outside of the famous national park. Bootlegger Canyon holds this massive (140 ft high) sandstone formation, to which a co-worker and I hiked the other evening at sunset. It was everything I hoped for — a chance to get away from people, noises, RVs, and To-Do lists..

Bowtie Arch -- a pothole bigger than any in my Minnesota homeland

Bonus arch: “Bowtie Arch” is the most massive pothole arch I’ve ever seen. Another visitor described it colorfully:

“Bowtie is a bonus sight. It appears that a haywire missile from a passing spacecraft blasted through the back wall of its deep alcove. If so, perhaps one of the alien pilot’s many appendages accidentally bumped the ship’s controls while all of his eyes were ogling Corona Arch.” [http://www.hikingcamping.com/corona-arch.php]

Hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I enjoyed the walk!

Corona Arch sinks into the shade

September 10, 2010

The Confluence

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:35 am
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Looking north, into Island in the Sky District. Green River on L., Colorado River on R.

It’s been known for hundreds of years that two great rivers meet in southeastern Utah. The precise location, however, was not mapped until 1859 (Macomb expedition) after previous maps left the area quite blank. All that was rather immaterial as two fun coworkers and I drove to the Needles District of Canyonlands NP yesterday to undertake The Hike. Temperature: 70 degrees for this September day, with a few puffy cumulus clouds dotting the sky. Perfect.

It’s eleven miles round trip. While the mesa-top journey is pleasant and quite pretty (as opposed to knock-your-socks-off breathtaking), the reward comes at the end when you top the rise and THERE IT IS: the meeting of the Two Great Rivers.

The Green River, coming from the northwest (left branch in photo), passes through lots of Mancos shale on its way here. It is the Colorado’s main tributary, has a higher flow volume and generally more silt. Its characteristic color comes from the sediments it erodes away en route. The Colorado River, coming from the northeast (headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park), used to have a characteristic reddish-brown color. The damming of the river has changed the flows and silt load considerably. South of the confluence their unmixed waters flow side by side for a considerable distance.

One of the many handsome formations along the trail

I find the Confluence to be a beautiful location, filled with history, excellent for sitting and contemplating while eating Ye Ol’ Geezer’s homemade beef jerky, a Clif bar, and a handful of peanut M&Ms. Lest that sound too bucolic, I stumbled on a blackbrush plant and almost fell backward over the cliff edge while posing for a confluence photo. The collective gasp that went up from gathered onlookers told me it was a very near miss. I am glad to be writing today…

September 8, 2010

Clothes make the (wo)man

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 10:07 am
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I’ve been thinking about our apparel and how it affects perceptions. How many of us have judged others, even subconsciously, based on external accoutrements? It’s less of an issue if you know someone well; your ideas about them are already formed. First impressions, however, are hard to undo.

My National Park Service ranger uniform is fun to wear. So is my dancing dress. Both project messages on different levels. The former is quite androgynous, intended to make all wearers of the clothing appear the same, present the same image, stand for the same values, and above all be recognizable in many different settings. We can’t have keys hanging from our belt loops, visible tattoos or piercings, or even pens poking out of our shirt pockets. Uniformity is of the utmost importance.

The volunteer photographer cut off my red shoes!

On the other hand, off-duty clothing is an expression of personal taste — a statement of individuality, an assertion of original selfhood. It says, loudly and clearly, “This is me!” I’ve noticed that the clothing I’ve bought this summer has been more feminine, which is probably my own Declaration of Independence from the very mannish uniform.

Here are some photos from the last two days. Whether you know me well, a little, or not at all, answer the following questions about the women pictured here — Ranger Uniform Woman, or Flowered Dress Woman:

Which woman would you…

  • trust more to give you a scientific answer to a question?
  • loan your car to?
  • find more huggable?
  • expect to take charge in an emergency?
  • find more believable?
  • want to get to know first?
  • see at a contra dance, and ask to be your partner?
  • rather hike with?
  • hire for an outdoor job?
  • expect to be more flirtatious?
  • see as more responsible?
  • go on a wilderness trip with?
  • perceive as more warm and cuddly?
  • find more suitable for jury duty?
  • rather have as your boss?

Pay attention today to how your perceptions may be affected by others’ wardrobe choices. Leave a comment if you have ever been mortified by, or taught by, an assumption you made about someone based on first impressions.

September 6, 2010

Farmers’ Market, Moab

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:00 am

Yes. I put the apostrophe there because the market belongs to all of the farmers. Grammar aside, however, I must say that this time of year is pretty spectacular in a locale known for its fruit trees, melons, and master gardeners.

The National Park Service rents a booth each Saturday morning for Farmers’ Market at Swanny Park, and when I staff it I get to watch the entire cross-section of humanity milling about — buying, selling, schmoozing and busking.

I studied the Native Americans making their fry bread one piece at a time across the way, and the large bearded man sweating profusely as he superintended his cache of watermelons, cantaloupes, and variety melons.

The Youth Garden Project has the loveliest booth, hands down, with all the last couple of days’ produce artfully arranged and displayed at reasonable prices. The Castle Valley Creamery has a photo album of its goats, complete with names and personalities, that helps you want to buy their yogurt and cheese.

Why would anyone buy these goods from the supermarket?!?!

September 4, 2010

Beware the Sacred Datura

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 6:02 pm
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About-to-open Datura blossom, few minutes before popping

At dusk one July night, Karen and I stood alongside a spreading Datura plant (also called “jimsonweed” — Nightshade family) with sixteen tubular blossoms. Its lay name is Moonflower, as white blooms open at night for pollination by sphinx moths (a.k.a. hawk moths) and bees. Here’s a unique evolutionary strategy to assure pollination:

Spiked narcotic nectar keeps the pollinator inside a blossom longer, thereby enhancing the opportunity for collecting pollen from the anthers and depositing pollen on the stigma. The hawk moth becomes “addicted” to the nectar and thus almost exclusively visits only sacred Datura during its flowering season. These species of hawk moths have been observed arriving early and hovering about the sacred datura flowers at dusk waiting for the blossom to open so that they may get their “fix.”

Curiously, one can predict which flowers will open soon because each one will begin to tremble perceptibly for a few moments before it abruptly widens its trumpet-shaped bloom for the first and only time. With sixteen to watch, we often caught them opening only through our peripheral vision. What a rush of sight and scent. A blast of strong aroma attracts insects the very moment the flower opens. I intended not to smell the bee-occupied blooms, but the insects were drunk on the nectar of these remarkable flowers and cared nothing about me. Even I, a non-bug, couldn’t help putting my face in each new blossom and inhaling deeply.

Note to risk-takers: DO NOT INGEST ANY PART OF THIS PLANT. Its alkyloids are highly toxic and this species has accrued the highest number of “Train Wrecks” — horrible outcomes from people thinking it could be used as a recreational hallucinogen. There aren’t many worse ways to be poisoned than by this plant.

September 3, 2010

A climb, a view, a ram

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 11:38 am

I sit. I ponder. (No, I am not sitting on the archeological structure.)

We drove. Hiked. Followed cairns. Scrambled. Arrived. Marveled. Sat in silence. Heard hooves on rock. Found a bighorn ram below us. Read guestbook entries. Wrote our own. Sat more. Hiked out. Were deeply grateful.

Getting there is half the fun.

Please remember Ranger Kathryn's safety tip: When scrambling, going UP is easier than going DOWN.

This photo of me is full of motion and meaning. It's just plain good. (Photo: E Oak)

September 1, 2010

Mineral Bottom Switchbacks: MIA

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:53 pm
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Complete wash-out of many bends of the full-size road at Mineral Bottom

Summer monsoons are much-anticipated in the desert. Often we’ll get an afternoon thunderstorm, lightning bolts for excitement, some rain (usually in the tenths or hundredths of an inch) to freshen the trails and release some sage smells, and then things blow off and clear up. On August 19, 2010, however, the monsoon storm clouds parked themselves right over Canyonlands National Park and unleashed complete havoc. Wind, hail (many inches of which remained in a ditch next morning), and 1.1 inch of rain in twenty minutes proved far too much for our roads and trails.

Sign warning road users of what lies ahead

The Mineral Bottom Switchbacks got the worst of it. Because of their location 1000 feet above the Green River boat ramp, they are a main thoroughfare for all kinds of traffic: boat, bike, jeep. The county installed some diversion system to move run-off away from them; it was utterly overwhelmed by the quantity of rain in the short period of time. This full-size road looks for all the world as if Godzilla slid right down the thousand feet of cliff, taking out the entire center section while leaving the turns at the edges. The county engineers suspect it will be some time next year before they can rebuild it, from the bedrock up.

This will change a LOT about how Island in the Sky handles its fall visitorship, which revolves heavily around getting traffic (bike, jeep, boat) onto and off of the White Rim Road. Now there remains only one functional access for a 108-mile loop. The Park Service will rally, however. We are known for our resourcefulness, and will find a way to help our visitors enjoy the backcountry — Mineral Bottom or no. Let the failed switchbacks stand as a sobering reminder, however, of the power of running water. After all, it is what sculpted the entirety of Canyonlands National Park.

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