Ranger Kathryn's Arches

November 8, 2011

Cataract Canyon 1: We begin

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:51 am
Tags: , , , , ,

The NPS "Black George" at sunrise anchor. Waterhole Beach, Cataract Canyon, Utah. The shiny band along the water's edge is quicksand.

Having just spent four astonishing days on the Colorado River, I’ve been struggling with how to write about it. I’ve a page of hastily-scribbled daily notes — strong evocative words and phrases. However, the woman who finished on Lake Powell isn’t the same one who put in 100 miles upriver, and I am at a complete loss to describe it. I’ve sat down three times to blog, and am stumped. Which isn’t a good feeling to a writer.

Try to imagine getting on a small vessel with two travel companions who are the only humans you’ll see until you’re retrieved on the last morning. Your new home is the J-rig Black George — 22 feet long by 8.5 feet wide, two tough inflatable pontoons topped by aluminum decking. We’re powered by a pair of 60 hp Mercury outboards and loaded with a radio, water and fuel containers, two coolers, mess kit and cook table, emergency medical supplies, stove and propane cylinder, tool box, portable toilet, firepan and who knows what else. All our personal effects are sealed in “dry bags,” rubber sacks that protect our belongings from spray and sand and rain and every known assault. I would become quite familiar with every inch of the boat, and with my boat people.

Ranger Bill, Ranger Kathryn, Ranger Kyler put in at the Potash boat launch. Water samples are being collected for ongoing analysis.

Kyler, a river ranger, captained us safely to each day’s assignments and each night’s campsite. I learned a lot from Kyler. He is a consummate professional who loves his job and does it with intelligence, integrity, passion, and a sense of humor undampened by circumstance.

Bill, our wildlife biologist, is studying bighorn sheep and needed to collect pellets in Cataract Canyon for DNA analysis. His tracking skills are legendary (here’s the post where he tracked me last year) and absolutely nothing in nature escapes his keen eyes. He’s wandered this wilderness for a few decades, knows it like the back of his hand, humbly shares his considerable knowledge.

And then there’s me. Passionately in love with the Colorado Plateau, but with little experience on its main artery, the Colorado River. Which is about to change, since “Want to come along?” has only one correct answer in my book. Stay tuned for serial installments of my adventures on one of the wildest stretches of this river.

— Continued at this link

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3 Comments »

  1. Can’t wait for the WOWs . . .
    d

    Comment by Leroque — November 8, 2011 @ 12:16 pm | Reply

  2. Black George…. I worked with him at Grand Teton National Park. He would keep a tally of the # of mice caught in his cabin and make root beer floats for ranger and visitor alike. If you ever go to the Tetons, head to the White Grass Ranger Station at the foot of Death Canyon!

    Comment by Elsa — November 13, 2011 @ 4:27 pm | Reply

    • I want to meet this legend. I read his journal entries from a 1956 expedition through Cataract and found them fascinating. To have a boat named after him is an honor few have earned. Thanks for the heads-up!

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — November 13, 2011 @ 6:52 pm | Reply


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