Ranger Kathryn's Arches

January 5, 2012

Gooseberry Trail

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:26 am
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

White Rim, canyon edge at far left, is our destination on this steep hike. It's a glorious and unseasonable 45 degrees.

Glancing back at the cliff top from which I had just descended, I shook my head. 1400 feet of elevation loss in 2.7 miles of trail is, well, steep. The perpetual steps and switchbacks that had brought us through five rock layers would feel more like a perpetual StairMaster on our way out of the canyon. This, however, was no ordinary jaunt; my boss and I needed something by which to remember the first day of 2012.

Not to be done in icy conditions.

I had never done this treacherous trail before; summer heat makes it more of a cruel slog than a breathtaking hike. Winter provides sweet respite if you don’t mind a little snow and ice underfoot. In one section the trail narrows to just over a boot-width along a few feet of ledgy slickrock, talus slope on the right, comforting wall on the left. Although I don’t send a lot of visitors this way, I personally like the challenge. I like edges.

As with many of our trails, the rewards come at the end. Having passed through the Kayenta, Wingate, Chinle, and Moenkopi, we find ourselves standing at the edge of yet another abyss. Beneath our boots are massive chunks of bright sandstone — the White Rim layer.

Silence, in one large gulp, swallows all distractions. What is left but to look outward, and inward?

I am 5-1/2 feet tall, for scale. The White Rim blocks are massive.


  1. breathtaking photo. you are right—silence does swallow all distractions.

    Comment by Kate Kresse — January 5, 2012 @ 12:34 pm | Reply

  2. I envy the way you spend so many of your days. I feel like I am living vicariously through your hikes and other adventures. What a place! Thank you for allowing us who follow your posts to enjoy all of this through your excellent writing.

    Comment by Davis Middlemas — January 5, 2012 @ 7:33 pm | Reply

    • If it helps you feel any better, I’m spending 40 hrs/week this winter in the visitor center — NOT enjoying the hiking trails and wildlife, but enjoying the visitors and making sure they have a positive experience. In the spirit of honest self-disclosure, I write mostly about my days-off adventures. I’m glad to take you along!

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — January 5, 2012 @ 10:18 pm | Reply

  3. The White Rim blocks are massive: you are self-reflecting. They cannot choose: you can. That is everything.

    Comment by leroque — January 5, 2012 @ 8:13 pm | Reply

    • I like that they make me feel infinitesimally small.

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — January 5, 2012 @ 10:19 pm | Reply

  4. I recall my attempt at this hike, I think in the month of May. I turned back probably 1.5 miles in, just about at the narrowest steepest spot, not because I didn’t relish the challenge, but because I was by myself & slightly concerned for my personal safety…

    Comment by modapolis — January 11, 2012 @ 1:11 pm | Reply

    • Let’s do it together some day, Ilsa. I’d love that.

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — January 29, 2012 @ 10:44 pm | Reply

  5. Stairmaster– reminds me of the Grabens hike down to the river in the Needles— sheeeeeesh (I did it with the heat, whew)

    Comment by Beth — January 29, 2012 @ 10:31 pm | Reply

    • Is this one you’d recommend?? I will be looking for a bunch of springtime backcountry hikes for my weekends, and I’ve done many of the main ones on the hiking trail map. I think it’s time I learn to backpack properly. BEFORE it gets hot.

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — January 29, 2012 @ 10:43 pm | Reply

  6. PS you are looking great, Kathryn! Happy New Year 😀

    Comment by Beth — January 29, 2012 @ 10:33 pm | Reply

    • To you as well, my friend! Thanks!

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — January 29, 2012 @ 10:43 pm | Reply

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