Ranger Kathryn's Arches

May 3, 2016

Contrast: it makes life richer

Filed under: wilderness life — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 11:18 am
Tags: , , ,

The seventh wave of storms approaches our campsite at Doll House in the Maze

I lead a double life, of sorts. In Minnesota where home and family are, I live comfortably. That adverb did not apply on our five-day Jeep patrol, battered by Pacific storms that left us wet and shivering, with ice caking our tent several mornings. Contrast is a good thing. Contrast makes us grateful.

Today I might have eaten smoked salmon on non-GMO crackers. Instead, the can of Bush’s Best Baked Beans heated on the cookstove paired nicely with the can of Spam.

Today I might have slept in my 2000-square-foot home. Instead, my 35 square feet of tent kept me dry and snug despite the wind, rain, and just-above-freezing temperatures.

Today I might have stayed dry by foregoing hiking. Instead, I got repeatedly pelted by rain and ice pellets — and got to see a full rainbow spanning the Colorado River, miles from anyone, after taking refuge in a shallow alcove near ancient ruins.

Today, I might have encountered angry short-tempered people stressed by perceived inconveniences of life. Instead, we met tired backpackers carrying all that they needed, humbly grateful for a current weather forecast and a fill of their water bottles.

Today, I might have heard cars, barking dogs, radio. Instead, a peregrine falcon’s unsettled cry alerted us to its presence, our only neighbor for miles and miles.

Today, I might have been looking in my (too-large) closet and wondering what to wear. Instead, I took off the rain-soaked work pants and laid them in the Jeep hoping they’d be dry in the morning. Woolen long johns, a tad damp, kept me warm as I slept. You can have the rest of the closet.

Today, in my other life, I might have used a flush toilet like most Americans. Instead, I dug a 6” cathole under a juniper, left a little organic fertilizer, and packed out the toilet paper to ‘leave no trace.’ Easy.

Today, I might have used a thermostat to regulate ambient temperature. Instead, I took off and put on four different layers to ensure my comfort in rapidly-changing conditions.

Today, I might have been connecting with my friends via email and Facebook. Instead, I hiked nine glorious miles with my beloved, through places that expand our souls.

Tonight, I might be falling asleep on my custom-made queen-sized mattress with Egyptian cotton sheets. Instead, I’m floating an inch above the earth on my Therma-rest, tucked into a down sleeping bag, listening to a canyon wren bidding mortals goodnight.

And life is very, very good.


Doll House — in a window of good weather


  1. Beautiful pictures and wonderful contrasts in your “double life” description. Thank you ,Kathryn; I love your posts! Ann

    Comment by Ann Rabie — May 3, 2016 @ 1:32 pm | Reply

  2. I love it! Well said Kathryn. I feel like the more time I spend in the wilderness in any given year the longer I am able to hang on to the appreciation of the simple comforts I can easily take for granted in my everyday life. I have been back in the comforts of the indoors for over a month now and still the feeling of a warm bed and a hot shower make me so ecstatic I can hardly contain myself. I found myself in the shower this morning with the biggest smile on my face for no other reason then comfort. Blissful comfort. I hope my gratefulness never subsides because I live such a blessed life. Contrast has shown me that.

    Comment by Jess — May 3, 2016 @ 2:37 pm | Reply

    • You, of all people, can speak with authority about this. Thanks for weighing in, Jess! Practicing gratitude is a discipline of joy. When the simplest things make you happy, you *know* you are blessed. Carry on loving those showers! (Mine are 2 min long due to water rationing but they are such a fabulous two minutes…)

      Comment by Kathryn Colestock-Burke — May 3, 2016 @ 5:29 pm | Reply

  3. Hi Kathryn, this is Greg, one of those backpackers who appreciated the water, weather forecast and conversation. I want you to see the website I made from our most excellent adventure in the Maze. You and Chris have cameos!

    Comment by Greg — May 9, 2016 @ 11:15 pm | Reply

    • I love your pictures! They capture your epic adventure quite well, including the weather challenges that you slogged through. Thanks for putting them up so I could see all the fun you had. Be well!

      Comment by Kathryn Colestock-Burke — May 29, 2016 @ 5:22 pm | Reply

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