Ranger Kathryn's Arches

April 13, 2016

Not for the faint of heart

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:59 pm
Tags: , , ,


Piñon, Rain, Sandstone




Looking north from my back porch, canyon vistas gouge the landscape for a hundred miles. From a nearby point, five mountain ranges can be spied. In my wilderness hamlet at this moment, exactly six neighbors are within hollering distance.

The Maze District is not for wimps. Tomorrow, four of us head into the backcountry (where no fires are allowed) for a five-day Jeep patrol…just as a storm system rolls in and brings rain and near-freezing temperatures.

A memo in the Ranger Station states unequivocally that Canyonlands National Park was created with the intention “to manage the Maze District as a rugged, wild area with remoteness and self-reliance the principal elements of the visitor experience.”  Which means: unlike other parks, in which geysers or 19th-century forts or mangrove swamps are the centerpiece of the visitor’s stay, the raison d’etre of the Maze is to allow intrepid travelers to experience isolation and to rely on their own resourcefulness to get in, recreate, and get out in one piece. There is no Ahwahnee Hotel here.

Some national park visitors relish the chance to get far away from everyone and everything, and the Maze was established for that small subset. Let’s make sure we’re clear: unless you plan well in advance, obtain a camping permit, own or rent a 4-wheel drive vehicle, carry extra gallons of gas, at least one spare tire (if not two), a high lift jack, topographic maps/GPS, and water and food to last you days beyond when you think you’ll exit… you should find a different park to visit.

Does the prospect of self-reliance and self-rescue invigorate you, or trouble you? Leave a comment, please ~


  1. Sounds like nirvana. Enjoy~

    Comment by cindy knoke — April 13, 2016 @ 10:30 pm | Reply

    • It is, so far, my favorite place on earth. And I don’t engage in hyperbole. The enjoyment grows and grows!

      Comment by Kathryn Colestock-Burke — April 18, 2016 @ 4:39 pm | Reply

  2. It invigorates me beyond words! Unfortunately, I do not feel confident enough in my own survival skills to attempt it. My orientation skills are not what they should be but the prospect still thrills me. The Needles is my absolute favorite area of Canyonlands because of how relatively remote it is. I thrive on solitude and so it fits me well. I have been on so many hikes where I didn’t see another person for hours or even days. I absolutely love it.

    Comment by Jodi Rushton — April 13, 2016 @ 11:39 pm | Reply

  3. Have a great time and take extra warm socks.

    Comment by Bruni Mason — April 13, 2016 @ 11:58 pm | Reply

  4. Cluck, cluck, cluck. That’s me chickening out. I prefer to read your adventures, thanks.

    Comment by Colleen — April 14, 2016 @ 12:18 am | Reply

  5. In a time long ago and far away I would have thought this to be the cat’s meow and been there in two shakes of a lamb’s tail . . .

    Comment by leroque — April 14, 2016 @ 6:25 am | Reply

    • I hope you can experience it through my eyes! Watch for some Really Cool Photos when I next get to civilization.

      Comment by Kathryn Colestock-Burke — April 18, 2016 @ 4:40 pm | Reply

  6. Not for me.

    Comment by Kathy — April 14, 2016 @ 7:52 am | Reply

  7. I live for it! I hope to make it to the Needles district in the fall. Until then it’s the swell for weekend getaways. Nice to see your blog active again.

    Comment by Andrew McAllister — April 14, 2016 @ 7:56 am | Reply

    • ANY of these places you visit are special places, Andrew. I’m glad you can get away to the wilderness. I’m delighted to be blogging again, with all-new inspiration in an all-new place. Just what I needed ~ glad you’re along.

      Comment by Kathryn Colestock-Burke — April 18, 2016 @ 4:43 pm | Reply

  8. I am considering a visit. Will ease into it. Have never forgotten what I heard on the news 18 yrs ago on my first trip to Utah: technical rescues are difficult and expensive. So far self extraction has been successful.

    Comment by Clint — April 14, 2016 @ 10:54 am | Reply

    • It’s so interesting that a news blurb caught your attention and made quite an impact. The Search & Rescue numbers are skyrocketing with the increasing visitation to these areas; many who need rescuing are not familiar with the climate, weather, or terrain and get themselves into trouble. Applause for self-extraction!

      Comment by Kathryn Colestock-Burke — May 3, 2016 @ 5:37 pm | Reply

  9. I love the times I’ve been on the North Shore and gone into the interior. One of the most memorable was when we had the “last ride” on a cross country ski trail during the spring melt. Halfway through we realized somehow that there was no one else around for miles,You could just feel your soul expand. Returning to the trail head on melting, crumbling snow, we found that the parking lot (in the woods off a rough dirt road) was indeed empty. That said, I also love returning to hot coffee and comfortable beds!

    Comment by Chris Youngman — April 19, 2016 @ 3:55 pm | Reply

    • So do I, Chris, so do I. But your intuitive “you could just feel your soul expand” truly hits the mark, summing up why I’m here. Thanks for putting it into words!

      Comment by Kathryn Colestock-Burke — April 20, 2016 @ 7:56 am | Reply

  10. Nice to read your blogs again this year. I have been to Canyonlands several times, but not to the Needles or Maze districts. Very interested to hear your accounts and experiences.

    Comment by Tom — April 21, 2016 @ 3:10 pm | Reply

    • You’ve been to the most-visited district of Canyonlands, Tom, so perhaps it’s time to venture deeper in — if that appeals to you. Far fewer visitors in Needles, and far far far fewer in the Maze. All you need for here is a 4WD vehicle and a sense of adventure and a good bit of preparation!

      Comment by Kathryn Colestock-Burke — May 3, 2016 @ 5:34 pm | Reply

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