Ranger Kathryn's Arches

August 17, 2014

Paddle in hand, joy in heart

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 2:20 pm
Tags: , , , ,


Yes, readers, I’ve been away from Utah’s red rock, back in the Land of Green. Seven weeks at home in Minnesota were brought to a pleasing conclusion with a trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, where loons and bald eagles were always within sight or hearing, where the pace of life slows to just the cadence of your paddle: slip it in the water, pull back, lift, repeat. This is how people have lived for thousands of years, and it just feels right.

What did I learn about myself in those four days on Seagull Lake? (1) All food tastes good when camping. (2) Glacial lakes dotted with small islands confuse me on a map. (3) Thunderstorms are unusually exciting on an exposed dome of granite in a lake. (You can almost feel the rock tingle with electricity.) (4) I do best in a place where man-made intrusions are absent. (5) Discovering wild blueberries in abundance is a giddy experience; harvesting them is a treasure. (6) A freshly-molted eagle feather is incredibly photogenic.

IMG_0997I’m ready to embrace the desert grandeur once again, but here’s why I went home: to celebrate the marriage of a daughter and the acquisition of a wonderful son-in-law. Life’s singular moments are precious, and I savor them, turning them over and over, grateful for every day because tomorrow is never guaranteed.

Readers, what is one thing you have learned about YOURSELF lately? I want to know.

May 22, 2014

Just another 1440 minutes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:45 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

MUST. GET. INTO. WILDERNESS.

Come along with me for a recent 24-hour period, and see how I “do” a day off of work… and, as always, click on any photo to enlarge it.

=============

Having found our BLM camp spot on the canyon rim away from it all, Chris builds a fire to chase away the evening chill. In spite of the calendar page saying May, evening temps often dip into the 40s or 30s here in the high desert. Our humble spaghetti supper warms us, and we forgive a mouse intruder who runs across the stove seeking leftovers.

IMG_3271

At precisely the time indicated by NOAA, the Full Flower Moon rises just south of the snow-capped La Sal Mountains. I wordlessly press my hand into Chris’s as I am again overcome by a sense of my own smallness in this crushingly beautiful universe.

IMG_3277

 

We roll out our sleeping bags on the sandstone and burrow deeply into them; the Flower Moon will shine on us all night long as it arcs from east to west. A single cricket is the only sound in all the bright darkness.

Pre-dawn brings first birdsong, and we settle for oatmeal with cranberries and walnuts since I forgot the tea and coffee. Shafer Canyon glows with low-angle spears of light; White-throated Swifts take to the skies. A beautiful spring day is in store.

IMG_3278

We follow directions in an 18-year-old guidebook to a remote location north of Arches NP and bushwhack into a deep wash, finally dropping into a narrow canyon where we’re mesmerized by the abundant wildflowers — Silvery Lupine, Indian Paintbrush, Penstemmon, Pale Evening Primrose.

IMG_3309

IMG_3308

Biological Soil Crust (aka “Cryptobiotic Soil”), its top 3 mm filled with living organisms, has stabilized and nourished this area for centuries. (Please do not walk on it. Ever.)

IMG_3313

Further upcanyon, big rains five days earlier have created the inevitable patch of jiggly quicksand. My guy’s foot is swallowed up to his ankle. We make a run for firmer sand, laughing.

As the towering canyon walls close in, allowing just a body’s width to pass through, Chris freezes and motions me to halt. To our left, on a boulder in a side crack, a downy youngster rests in the noon sun. Her ear tufts are a species give-away: Great Horned Owl, probably around eight weeks old, probably told by her parents to stay put while they nap. She is surprisingly non-plussed by our presence. We shoot pics and sneak away, not wanting to encounter the talons of a watchful adult.

IMG_3286

The canyon dead-ends in a dramatic slot.

IMG_3296

When we pass Miss Owlet (I surmise female due to her large size) on our return trip, she is napping. The fifteen feet between us seems immaterial; a very wild animal is sharing the same spot as I am, and the moment is powerful.

IMG_3298

Extricating ourselves from the wash, we’re led by the map to Boca Arch a few miles away…

IMG_3316

…and then on to Caves Spring, where ancestral Puebloans sheltered nine centuries ago.

IMG_3319

To close our day in the backcountry, we come upon a century-old miner’s cabin made of railroad ties still standing in the desert.

IMG_3325

I LOVE EXPLORING. My heart is utterly joyful when I’m discovering new things, savoring each revelation, as present as I can possibly be, using every sense to learn more about this soul-stretching world in which we live.

Now I want to know: where is an exhilarating place YOU have explored?

 

April 16, 2012

Old tent, old memories

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:16 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

1964 VW Microbus and our 8-man tent took us to every adventure we had as children.

Thinking back over my childhood, the gifts my parents gave their children were good ones: mandatory Saturday chores, a one-hour limit on TV, eating what was put on our plates, having to apologize when we were unkind. One that is more easily overlooked, though, was Mom’s sacrifice of going on camping trips when she would have preferred comfort. She never let on that cooking for eight on a Coleman stove was not fun or easy, or that sleeping in a musty blue canvas tent on blow-up air mattresses was anything less than delightful. We children, of course, thought these were the best adventures imaginable.

Dad and Mom made a good pair. Dad created every itinerary and saw to it that all our equipment was in working order. He and my brothers always loaded the car. Mom was mistress of the kitchen and of each person’s “stuff.” She knew where the pancake griddle, raisins, or Dramamine resided. And, no matter how young, each child was responsible for his or her own sleeping bag and air mattress.

To this day, six out of six of us kids love camping. My brothers find winter camping (in Minnesota!) delightful. One sister just finished nine days camping in Oman, experiencing marvels never to be forgotten, and the other sister camps whenever she can. Me? I live and work in the wilderness and can’t imagine life without my little REI tent.

And for Beatrice, the long-suffering? All our trips laid the groundwork for Mom to see the wonders of travel — inspiring adventures which have enriched my parents’ lives through eight decades. Their passports sport over one hundred country stamps. While most were visited without a tent, I gratefully tip my flat hat to that old blue one that started it all.

March 15, 2010

How many of you are (k)not experts?

The length of purple rope lay in my hands expectantly. “Tie me,” it seemed to taunt. I didn’t know where to start.

In my life, I’ve learned how to tie shoes, scarves, and sutures. That is three (3) kinds of knots. Any time I’ve been camping, lashing something onto a car top, or securing something for a move, I either let someone else do it or I end up with the ugliest jumble of untrustworthy ropes and loose ends that you’ve ever seen. Knots have been my nemesis.

It is now time for me to look at them differently.

Ed models the first one, a water knot called a Ring Bend. “This one secures two ropes to each other.” With a few flips of his hands he has a handsome figure of rope that I am to copy, and I enjoy success with this very easy knot. After a number of repetitions, I think I have it, and we move on to something else that should be vaguely familiar — a Figure Eight Follow Through, one I’ve used in the past for rock-climbing. That one boosts my confidence as well, which I think is Ed’s strategy.

Knots can be fun???

We work through the list. Watching someone who’s tied them thousands of times is one thing; I, however, have no muscle memory, nor any concept of what each one is used for. It’s pure mechanics for me: grab bight, twist twice, insert short end through loop, etc, etc, etc.  After each one I review the ones I learned earlier, and am pleased to discover that I have a modicum of retention.

That’s good. My life, and the lives of others, will depend on having strong and correct knots.

===================

[Permission granted by Ed to use opening line of his Knots Class as this post’s title.]

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.