Ranger Kathryn's Arches

April 24, 2011

Up side / Down side

Find our yellow tent hiding in this photo.

Just for fun I’ve tried to summarize my backpacking trip into two lists. Here they are:

UP SIDE: Being in the fresh air 24/7. Stunning scenery. The smell of sage. Finding artifacts everywhere. Sleeping on the ground. Pushing my body nearer to its limits. Climbing down a ladder into an ancient kiva. Sound slumber. Relying on maps because there are no trail signs anywhere. The fine taste of camping food, no matter how humble it is. Learning about ancestral people from a millennium ago, solely via what they left behind. Silence. Getting along fine without a toilet or outhouse. A Mountain Bluebird that made us do a double-take, it was so blue.  Lavender-scented sunscreen. No cell service. Drinking our tea out of the pot because we had no mugs. Seeing few humans. Watching what the sun does to the rocks at day’s beginning and end. Being okay with physical discomfort. Claret Cup Cactus with many scarlet buds. Finding out how strong women really are. Stumbling upon a Peregrine Falcon pair. Training my eye to see likely places where we’d locate ruins. The fine taste of filtered spring water. Lizards. Studying a strand of black hair mortared into an ancient granary. Never having to go inside. Holding pottery shards. Attending to the sun and the sky. A cozy sleeping bag. Rock scrambling. Feeling a strong sense of connection with everything around me. Hiking twenty miles.

Does tree-climbing increase happiness? Or do happy people climb trees?

DOWN SIDE: None. Except possibly the pricklypear glochids that lodged in my left thumb when I reached out to stabilize myself. But I got ‘em out. Mostly.

Put those two lists on your scales and weigh them. And then borrow a backpack and go into the wild! Take a child, a parent or grandparent, a sibling or a friend with you. If you have limitations that prevent you from going, rent a wonderful documentary about backpacking a major trail, pop some popcorn, and enjoy it vicariously.

May 17, 2010

Penury and profusion

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 10:30 am
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Claret Cup Cactus -- my all-time favorite bloom in the desert

May is a splendid month in southeast Utah. Temperatures are usually moderate, spring winds are beginning to abate, and new life abounds. For the plant world, this brief season utilizes the remaining moisture from the winter’s snowmelt, adds the intermittent spring rains, and astounds us mortals with a blast of color and creativity. Changes happen day by day, hour by hour, and even minute by minute. Each species does whatever it must to ensure its continuity.

Lomatium species

I saw my first blooms in late March; the inconspicuous Lomatium species didn’t seem to mind the lingering snowdrifts, but caught me off guard when I stumbled upon them in my off-trail hikes. April brought small bits of color, like the diminutive yellow Newberry’s Twinpod tucked into a protected crack in the rock, or the purple milkvetch along the roadside. One had to be looking, or it was easy to miss.

And then May. The botanical universe decides this is its one and only chance, and it pulls out all the stops. You name a color; it’s here. Flora I’ve never seen become my companions on daily hikes.

Indian Paintbrush

Olfactory delights surround. Aromas of cliff-rose and evening primrose fill the air currents, and if I put my nose in their blooms I breathe and breathe and don’t want to return to normal air ever again. I miss my Minnesota lilacs greatly, but realize that cliff-rose and primrose are fragrant and exquisite trade-offs.

Dwarf Lupine (full grown -- 3"-4")

Visual feasts assail — although that verb is far too strong.  “Ambush” might be more accurate. An overflowing English garden might assail, or the rose gardens by the lakes in Minneapolis, or the conservatory in Como Park. Here, one small vibrant mound of Indian Paintbrush carries incredible visual weight. A single bloom stalk of handsome yucca or purple lupine gratifies. In the vastness and remoteness of an arid desert, little is much. This penuriousness adds layers of delight as one walks among the rock and dirt and sand, and encounters one perfect plant with only three blooms. Survival is the theme.

Exquisite designs need designers, and it is not possible for me to view what I do each day — flora, fauna, scoured canyons, flaming sunsets — without acknowledging the Designer/Creator whose mind conceived it all and whose word spoke it into being. I am grateful, so grateful, to experience the generosity of heaven through all my senses.

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