Ranger Kathryn's Arches

May 4, 2011

Terrible, horrible, no good…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 10:20 pm
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It was a perfect day. Tricia and I were hiking through Eagle Park, the remote corner of Arches, looking for raptor nests. Everything about this spring day was exceptional, even though we couldn’t find eagles. We found petroglyphs, an ancient archeological site, exceptional wildflowers blooming, bobcat tracks, a prairie falcon, a red-tailed hawk, a kestrel. Just being out on the search made the day a complete joy.

La Sal Mountains framed by the Marching Men

And then I lost the park’s GPS.

It is an old and well-used one, loaded with waypoints for every single raptor nest in the park, as well as the 45 flags for the breeding bird census, numerous archeological sites, parking areas, and routes. It is the brains of the whole bird operation. And it fell out of my pocket today.

We spent an hour using Tricia’s newly-learned tracking skills (to search for lost people) retracing our every step. If it had dropped into a sandy wash we would have found it. If it slipped into the morass of tumbleweed, we certainly gave it our best college try, but no glint of plastic could be seen anywhere.

My boss couldn’t have been more kind. She did not utter one negative word to me, nor scold, nor even imply that I should have been more careful. I was the one beating myself up, knowing exactly what I ought to have done differently, wishing I could turn back the clock to our lunch stop when I last had it in my hand.

I’m ready to buy the park a new one, and spend my own free time entering a few hundred latitude and longitude numbers by hand. But still… it hurts to know that my carelessness is behind it all.

Leave a comment: Have you ever lost anything of great importance?

September 20, 2010

Lost Spring Canyon, Part 2

Entrada sandstone erodes into handsome formations in Lost Spring Canyon

The lizard that made these tracks was either hyper or happy or chasing something

Can’t remember the last time I hiked for ten hours — maybe my thirteenth summer, into or out of the Grand Canyon. Seven hours now describes a long day on foot for me, but after Wednesday’s eight-hour warm-up I was ready to push myself on Thursday. We were heading back into the far northeastern reaches of Arches NP backcountry, accessible only by 4WD or backpacking. [Note to self in future: main drainage system south of Fish Seep Draw.]

8 a.m. — The morning light and refreshing temps around 60 made the early parts of the day easy. We’d find a tributary to this drainage system we were exploring, follow the sandy wash up as far as it would let us, and find ourselves constantly surprised by what we found. Over and under and through willows, downed junipers or cottonwoods, spider webs, rabbitbrush, flash flood debris — we walked until we were stopped by an obstacle. Perhaps it would be a massive boulder fall that blocked our path, although a few beckoned us to scramble over. A patch of quicksand with my curiosity-led footprints in it stopped us once. A vertical pour-off can halt your forward progress in a hurry if it’s not climb-able. Thickets of poison ivy, thriving in the moist wash bottom, can spell the end.

This slot canyon has very textural walls. Gorgeous.

My favorite impasse, however, was the small slot canyons we found. Sandstone does fascinating things under the pressure of running water, which is possibly the most powerful force on the planet. The water will find any area of weakness and begin scouring, and grain-on-grain erosion relentlessly wears away the exposed layers. Arid regions such as Utah have little soil to absorb the rainfall, so run-off is violent and rapid. The canyons that result can be breathtaking, narrow, and dark.

6 p.m. — I was starting to get tired. All told, we roved 18 hours in two days through Lost Spring Canyon. Found several arches we didn’t know were there, and two majestic alcoves eroded over a hundred millennia. I was hoping to spy some pictographs or petroglyphs, but instead found other fascinations. Bobcat tracks. Spring flowers re-blooming. Lizard trails. Hanging gardens. Patches of green grass, which, since I haven’t seen green grass since leaving Minnesota, compelled me to throw myself down upon it and lie there gazing upward through the cottonwood leaves tinged with yellow.

No other human beings; this was a gift. I accepted it with gratitude, painfully aware of how few weeks I have remaining here.

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