Ranger Kathryn's Arches

June 16, 2013

Poison Spring Canyon: ‘Constrychnine’

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 6:13 am
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When friends invite you to join them on a trip through slot canyons on a 9-mm rope, there is only one answer. Our resounding “Yes!” brought us to a remote area south of Hanksville, UT, where we set up camp in the desert, all alone but for lizards and ravens. The best adventures start with lizards and ravens.

Next morning at canyon’s edge, as we were gearing up for the first rappel, a loud long WHOOOOSH jerked our attention to the chasm. A pair of Peregrine Falcons was hunting for their next songbird meal, and one was in full stoop. The sound of that tucked-wing vertical dive (up to 200 mph) went to my core. This was a most auspicious start.

Hours of revelry ensued. Rappels of up to 190 feet, down-climbs through contorted squeezy slots, and obstacles like a huge pothole of water at the bottom of 120 feet of rope make Constrychnine a canyoneering delight.

Lest you think it is ALL fun and games, take note that every foot of descent must be re-gained in your exit from the canyon. When you’re tired. And it’s hot. And you are glad you did NOT know it was two hours and twenty minutes’ walk to get back to your camp and some cold drinks.

More pictures are coming, eventually, but with my molasses-like internet connection this is all I could upload for now. Enjoy!

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P.S. Blog will be on hiatus for several weeks whilst I travel in the Canadian Rockies.

 

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April 2, 2012

Upper Antelope Canyon: don’t expect tranquility

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:24 pm
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The only time there was a gap between groups was twice when a light beam intervened.
Our guide drew a line in the sand and we didn't cross it until all photos were made.

Oh, my aching soul!

In my previous post, I shared my favorite photos of the slot canyon near Page, Arizona. In the interest of journalistic honesty, I would adjure you when you visit to forego any expectation of tranquility, and be prepared for lots and lots of people vying for the same shots you are.

Camera aimed toward the sky...

There was constant noise in the canyon, tour guides trying to keep their groups moving, giving instructions about where to snap the best pictures, or relating bits of information about flash floods. I was never jostled or pushed, but definitely felt herded along. Multiple groups from several tour companies occupy the same space; eight trucks (14 tourists each) shuttled customers for our 1130 tour.

And here is my dilemma: while this bustle and noise would not annoy 82% of the human race, it sucks the life out of me. I’m wired to need more quiet, less stimulation. I love to hike where I’m the only one on the trail, camp where nobody’s near me, live in a place away from noise and lights. Leaving Antelope Canyon, I felt drained instead of replenished.

What was missing was any sense of being in a location the Navajos consider sacred. I was looking for a modicum of reverence; I found myself desperately wishing for someone, anyone, to acknowledge this aspect. Perhaps commercial activity does not desecrate the canyon. Or perhaps offerings are made, or cleansing ceremonies performed, after hours.

Was it worth it? You bet. I crossed off another Bucket List item and experienced a very magical place. Sometimes you can’t do things on your own terms. When (not if) you go to Antelope Canyon, go with no expectations; you’ll enjoy it immensely and avoid disappointment. The stunning, incomparable, unique beauty deserves your visit.

(Note: if you’re wired at all like me, you might enjoy reading about the trait of Sensory Processing Sensitivity.)

The visual texture sends chills along my spine.

March 2, 2012

Looks suspiciously like a grave

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:45 am
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A piece of fire-cracked rock (repeatedly heated, as for cooking fires) grabs my attention. I will call the Bureau of Land Management and inquire about this earthen mound.

Our eyes were sharpened by hours of looking at — and for — everything and anything. Clues of past occupation present themselves to the vigilant observer, and we had been hiking in canyons, scouring alcoves, poking around springs — anywhere where people would have hung out. The only down side was the heavily-used ATV trail nearby, and the tens of thousands of hoofprints and cowpies. Ranchers love canyons that have perennial water sources in them.

I was following a cliff wall, looking for lithic scatter on the ground to indicate a place where ancestral Puebloans would have knapped their points, when I came upon a curious mound of earth looking very different from its environs. About my size, it was covered with hand-picked and hand-placed stones of three types: smooth river cobbles, sharp angular chert, and tabular sandstone slabs. A glance over my shoulder revealed a clue.

In cursive hand on the sandstone wall was etched “Press” followed by a last name I couldn’t make out. Underneath, “3/4/33.”

Time for a little archival digging. Might Press have been an early 20th-century cowboy who met his end in this canyon?

February 3, 2012

Jay Canyon 1: Approach

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:46 am
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Sinuous canyons lead to exciting discoveries. Grand County, Utah.

The snow was stopping, so we layered up and drove south of town along the Colorado River. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse: Tara was taking me to a ruin site she had visited, promising me a granary photo op as my reward.

Feathered spies — pinyon jays — laughed overhead, flashes of bright blue enlivening the otherwise muted desert palette. They are the town criers, alerting the world to our presence. We don’t mind. Nobody else is out here today.

We made our way up ledges, around cliffs, across the mesa bench and up sandy washes until we arrived at an alcove whose neighborhood was graced with an abundance of large trees and huge dead trunks. In our habitat, this is an indicator of reliable water supply; two major pour-offs and a seep/hanging garden corroborated this hunch. One majestic cottonwood, a species found only where its feet can be perennially wet, stood as undeniable confirmation.

Up, up we climbed. My heart beats faster, and my senses get sharper, approaching a ruin site; it is always more than meets the eye. A small thickly-mortared granary was perched prominently on a van-sized boulder.  Letting my imagination go where it would, it went, predictably, to the people who had built this structure perhaps 800 years ago.

I drew near with awe and curiosity and delight.

~~ To be continued ~~ at this post

January 26, 2012

2.3″ new snow alters the landscape

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:05 pm
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Pinyon atop Shafer Canyon

The local landscape was transformed from desert red to crystalline white while I dreamed. Several hours of snow the preceding evening blanketed the junipers, the sandstone, the pricklypear; alabaster paths beckoned me, trackless, unmarred, as I walked to work. Clouds — a novelty in our annual 300 days of sun — hung low, scraping the buttes, dangling wispy hems into the canyons. Casting a magical spell on visitors and staff alike, light played on opposing cliffs as the sun’s shafts punched openings in the glowering sky. What a day; what a glorious day.

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