Ranger Kathryn's Arches

July 20, 2012

Long Canyon, near Moab

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 6:53 am
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Monsoon clouds over Long Canyon, 5 pm

En route to a few hours of rock climbing near Moab, Ranger Bobby agreed to take us down a 4WD road the back way. The views in Long Canyon were stunning, and reminded me why off-the-beaten-path is nearly always my first choice. Robert Frost’s poem welled up from cob-webby memory. Today, try a new route to work or home, okay?

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost


May 26, 2011

The ‘wild’ in ‘wilderness’

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:53 pm
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After hiking quite a few miles Wednesday in remote Lost Spring Canyon, we three were hot and tired. Our truck was a welcome sight, with soft seats, air conditioning, and the ability to finally be off our feet. Working our way out of the wilderness on the 4WD road was our final obstacle before getting onto paved highways to home. Both of my co-workers had been on a long strenuous rescue the night before, and we were all feeling bushed. And then the magic began.

And then we came upon hundreds of these Large-Valve Dock in bloom

Just to the left of our truck a pronghorn bounded. We oohed and ahhhed at its beauty; not many large mammals get seen in Arches, so this was fun. Two minutes later we topped a rise and three (3) golden eagles flushed up from what must have been a communal feast near the road. Huge, majestic, glorious birds — we nearly fell over each other getting out of the truck fast enough to get binocs focused on them and study them for a few minutes. One eagle is great; two is “wow.” Three is awfully rare.

And then, two minutes later, the largest badger I’ve ever seen scurried for its life away from the truck as we passed. Our collective response? We hooted for joy at the plethora of wildlife. And this was after seeing Cooper’s Hawks and juvenile Red-tailed Hawks down in the canyon.

What a sweet, sweet job I have. Did I mention that I love it?

June 23, 2010

Adventures on the White Rim Road

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 3:04 pm
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We get out to assess our next obstacle.

Recipe for current adventure:

  • 1 permit
  • 1  government Jeep
  • 4 trainees
  • 1 boss ranger
  • 3 days and 2 nights
  • gear, food, water
  • one 100-mile loop road in Canyonlands National Park

Instructions:  Add humor, crazy music, a slot canyon, remote Ancestral Puebloan ruins, lots of sunscreen, homemade muffins and oatmeal cookies, interpretive moments, acrophobia, old cowboy camps, gnats/mosquitos, chasms that threaten to swallow you, inexperienced 4WD drivers, a tent that got snatched by a gust of wind, nights of uncountable stars, and no end to astonishing views. Shake well over bumpy rock-strewn one-lane “road” that lies on a huge shelf halfway between the Island-in-the-Sky mesa top and the Green and Colorado Rivers.

The Monster & Washer Woman Arch -- from below

Welcome to my world. My Facebook status today says “KB finds it hard to stop smiling. Her gratitude list keeps growing and growing.” I am incredulous at the up-close-and-personal aspect of exploring a region of my park that was heretofore just a lovely photo from the overlooks a thousand feet above it. What appears to be a pleasant jaunt from those high viewpoints becomes a moment-by-moment intimate interaction with desert rock.

Large powerful machines have honestly never interested me; I’d rather enjoy quiet self-powered activities. This trip has changed my mind, however, and I now understand the allure. Jeeping can get one to places that would otherwise be inaccessible, across inhospitable terrain that would make long-distance hiking prohibitive. Used wisely, 4WD vehicles can enhance exploration without ruining a wilderness experience.

My favorite lizard of the southwest - Collared Lizard

“4 Low” is a gear to befriend on the White Rim. With 600 pounds of people, plus all the gear and water and provisions, our clearance was nowhere near the recommended 8 inches for this route. The first time I scraped bottom (due to inexperience) everyone piled out and the car magically lifted off the boulder I had straddled. We all learned from each other’s mistakes and became more accomplished drivers by the end. Going up and down steep rocky stretches was a piece of cake (albeit scary cake) in 4 Low. For me, it was those large rock ledges I disliked… and the rock piles previous drivers had stacked up in an effort to minimize the droppage. Ugh! Others disliked the steepness of the drop-off should one wander off the road bed. It was vertigo-inducing in places.

One can't describe the delight of ice-cold canteloupe cubes after a hot hike.

As our goal was to learn the route, the road, and the 20 campsites for which we issue permits, each day involved plenty of stopping and exploring along the way. In the evenings we’d roll into camp, set up our chairs in a circle, pull out the appetizers and relax while the assigned cooks prepared supper. Pretty sweet — AND we were on the clock. This is paid training.

As night fell we’d set up our individual tents. There was no way I was going to sequester myself inside a fabric cocoon in this vast wilderness, so I’d put my sleeping pad on the rock, snuggle into my sleeping bag, give Venus a nod and peer into the Milky Way. I looked around at the other four tents and their happy occupants and asked myself how far off the deep end I’ve gone, but I couldn’t come up with an answer except that Wildophilia obviously has me in its tight grip. Next thing you know, I might be applying for back-country ranger jobs…

This is how I sleep in the desert

March 19, 2010

Eye of the Whale Arch, Part 1

Filed under: 1 — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 10:25 am
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Eye of the Whale, as seen approaching from the NE

It’s spring break. I don’t care for the crowds, so I’m trekking to an arch that is a bit harder to get to unless you have a 4WD vehicle. Into my pack I throw the usual accoutrements: a liter of water, chapstick, hat, granola bar, tupperware of peanut M&Ms/cookies, an apple, my camera, a good book, a light jacket, and my purple practice rope.

Cetaceans (my favorite order of mammals) are found in this desert, frozen in sandstone. Ahab-like, I will hunt down the biggest and most well-known of them all.

I drive past Balanced Rock to a remote parking area, smiling amusedly at the 3500 tons of slickrock teetering gracefully on the eroded neck below.

A rutted, rocky 4WD track scars the desert. It saddens me to see what these tens of thousands of tires have done to the landscape, but I remind myself that these are multiple-use areas and I must share them with the jeepers. This is a difficult but useful exercise. I see large four-toenailed footprints in the sand — tracks of a coyote, I think, loping off into the blackbrush.

Not a sound exists out here except the rub rub rub of my pack against my back. Not a bird, not a car, not a voice. This is the way I like it.

From the back side: Eye of the Whale

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