Ranger Kathryn's Arches

November 18, 2011

Bridge and winch

Find the thing that doesn’t belong.    [Extra credit for “Oh, and the anthropogenic atmospheric haze doesn’t belong.”]

(Continued from Cataract Canyon 10: Final miles)

After days in the wild, abruptly seeing a bridge ahead is brain-jarring, about as expected as spying a snowman on a beach. The sight sent me into mental contortions: “What IS that thing, and what is it doing way out here? If that’s a bridge, that’s not wilderness. If we’re not in wilderness, we’re approaching civilization. If we’re approaching civilization, that means we have to go home. If we have to go home, that’s depressing. If that’s depressing, I’ll figure out a way to do another river trip.” This all in the span of two seconds.

Mud at the Hite boat ramp sucked up the trailer and truck tires, defying every effort to remove the Black George from Lake Powell. I had the privilege of watching two professionals winch the whole thing out. I should have taken notes; one never knows when one might need such skills.

Winching 101: Rangers at work.

Muck. Stuck. Not good.

Thus ended my first Cataract Canyon adventure. Three and a half hours’ drive back to Moab delivered me, with resignation, into the arms of civilization. I chafed at its vapid embrace.

November 17, 2011

Cataract Canyon 10: Final miles

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:54 am
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Leaving. (Cue heart-rending departure music at end of "Lord of the Rings" trilogy... the score that makes even the most stalwart get all choked up)

(Continued from Cataract Canyon 9: Tracking games)

As we motored the final thirty miles toward our take-out at Hite — two shade-drenched hours during which I shivered in every layer I owned — I reviewed our memorable trip. By the numbers:

0 other humans encountered

1 supper mishap involving sand and brown rice

2 meteors

4 days wearing same red shirt

13 hours between sunsets and sunrises

15 bighorn sheep located

25 rapids run

29 degrees Fahrenheit average low temp

50 degrees Fahrenheit average high temp

73 hours from drop-off to pick-up

100 miles of Colorado River traveled

289,000 beats of my heart while falling crazily in love with this wilderness

"KB + CC"

The Black George cut the water, heading ever southward. I inhaled the canyon shadows, etched the sights in my memory, and gave silent thanks for the privilege of experiencing it. Stopping at one last beach for reconnaissance, my hand reached for a long stick; I scraped my solid feelings into the shifting sand. Cataract Canyon has my heart, forever.

10:30 a.m. -- Mirrored surface of Lake Powell captures sandstone reflection.

November 8, 2011

Cataract Canyon 1: We begin

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:51 am
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The NPS "Black George" at sunrise anchor. Waterhole Beach, Cataract Canyon, Utah. The shiny band along the water's edge is quicksand.

Having just spent four astonishing days on the Colorado River, I’ve been struggling with how to write about it. I’ve a page of hastily-scribbled daily notes — strong evocative words and phrases. However, the woman who finished on Lake Powell isn’t the same one who put in 100 miles upriver, and I am at a complete loss to describe it. I’ve sat down three times to blog, and am stumped. Which isn’t a good feeling to a writer.

Try to imagine getting on a small vessel with two travel companions who are the only humans you’ll see until you’re retrieved on the last morning. Your new home is the J-rig Black George — 22 feet long by 8.5 feet wide, two tough inflatable pontoons topped by aluminum decking. We’re powered by a pair of 60 hp Mercury outboards and loaded with a radio, water and fuel containers, two coolers, mess kit and cook table, emergency medical supplies, stove and propane cylinder, tool box, portable toilet, firepan and who knows what else. All our personal effects are sealed in “dry bags,” rubber sacks that protect our belongings from spray and sand and rain and every known assault. I would become quite familiar with every inch of the boat, and with my boat people.

Ranger Bill, Ranger Kathryn, Ranger Kyler put in at the Potash boat launch. Water samples are being collected for ongoing analysis.

Kyler, a river ranger, captained us safely to each day’s assignments and each night’s campsite. I learned a lot from Kyler. He is a consummate professional who loves his job and does it with intelligence, integrity, passion, and a sense of humor undampened by circumstance.

Bill, our wildlife biologist, is studying bighorn sheep and needed to collect pellets in Cataract Canyon for DNA analysis. His tracking skills are legendary (here’s the post where he tracked me last year) and absolutely nothing in nature escapes his keen eyes. He’s wandered this wilderness for a few decades, knows it like the back of his hand, humbly shares his considerable knowledge.

And then there’s me. Passionately in love with the Colorado Plateau, but with little experience on its main artery, the Colorado River. Which is about to change, since “Want to come along?” has only one correct answer in my book. Stay tuned for serial installments of my adventures on one of the wildest stretches of this river.

— Continued at this link

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