Ranger Kathryn's Arches

May 15, 2013

Stirred

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 12:54 pm
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Sandstone monolith, Courthouse Towers, Arches National Park

Sandstone monolith at dawn, Courthouse Towers, Arches National Park

“There are some places so beautiful they can make a grown man break down and weep.”    – Ed Abbey

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April 1, 2012

Upper Antelope Canyon: Beauty

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:29 am
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Layers, colors, textures, light, shadow --
it all comes together in Antelope Canyon, near Page, Arizona. (11:46 am)

Hidden in a crack of the earth, deep in Navajo country, lies a slot canyon like no other. Millennia of floods and windblown sands have scoured a passageway 1/4 mile long, and up to 135 feet deep, that is in places barely wide enough for two people to pass. Light penetrates its depths at midday but leaves the sinuous chasm in shadows at all other times.

Navajos call this area "The Heart of the Canyon"

As far as the eye can see, sand defines this landscape. Antelope Canyon itself is made of lithified sand, sand with all the air pockets pressed out, sand cemented with calcium carbonate and pigmented with iron oxide, sand become rock after all these years. Its floor is deposited both by gentle floods that carry tons of sand into the slot, and by windstorms blowing it in from above.

Flash floods are common in canyon country, and are singularly responsible for shaping Antelope Canyon. Countless gallons of rushing sandy water enter the slot after a downpour anywhere in its watershed, impacting the walls at high velocity and dislodging new grains one by one. Every flash flood changes the canyon’s depth, taking out many feet of sand. In a never-ending cycle, new fill is restored with the next storm.

Humans are inexorably drawn to slot canyons. Their space is unlike any other I know, evoking  awe, dismantling hubris; one cannot enter without feeling small and vulnerable. I find them irresistible — except when there is recent or imminent rain. Antelope Canyon’s interior curves shout the power of erosion; its muted palette of desert colors whispers visual tranquility. Go visit this site.

A beam of light penetrates the narrow crack on the earth's surface at midday. Sand in the air defines its outline.

January 2, 2012

There is reason to hope

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:36 am
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"Birthday Cake." Island in the Sky district, Canyonlands NP, Utah.

“If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning.”    — Lyndon Banes Johnson

I heave a sigh, wondering what legacy is being left to my children. As I hike, and read, and experience a life away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and find my soul nourished by solitude, I fear for the generations to come. I see children unaccustomed to the wilderness, needing to bring their soccer ball into the visitor center to kick around while their parents get a map. I beg visitors to turn off their cell phones while hiking. I talk with vast numbers of folks who see nothing wrong with feeding wildlife. I shrug apologetically and say, “That’s a lot to expect from a wilderness park!” when they ask why there isn’t a coffee shop on site.

And then… then my hope is re-ignited. Children come in sporting a collection of Junior Ranger badges from all over the country. Visitors stamp their park passport books with delight, proud of having traveled to so many places. Backpackers brave the elements, carrying a pared-down version of their earthly necessities to a place where they can be surrounded by loveliness. Older folks endure a bit of chilly weather and an extra mile or two on their feet in order to see startling beauty.

All in a day in the life of a ranger in an obscure desert park somewhere in southeastern Utah.

Hope springs eternal.

June 11, 2010

Pricklypear and ‘pillar

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 4:39 pm
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The zenith, the ultimate, the pinnacle, the apogee of cactus blossoms

Helping out the guides at Desert Highlights, who had 29 teenaged boys on a rappel adventure this morning, I came across a pricklypear patch that outdid all others. The prickles were huge, the pads were oversized, and the blossoms were utterly magnificent. I gasped. There is nothing quite like it in the plant world. Negro Bill Canyon is full of great specimens, and it would have been just plain wrong to walk by such an ephemeral display without pausing to admire its beauty and thank its Creator.

If you know what kind it is, please comment!

In the parking lot upon returning, this green monster caterpillar surprised me. He was 4-5″ long and as thick as my baby finger. When I got close enough with my camera for a macro shot, he began flailing and writhing into C’s and reverse C’s, as if he were having a seizure. The locals told me that horn-lik e thing on his posterior end can inflict hurt, so I kept my distance was reasonable about not touching him, but I suspect that he was trying to repel me.

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