Ranger Kathryn's Arches

September 7, 2011

Fiery Furnace… the saga continues

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:00 pm
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The Fiery Furnace. Rock formations are nearly 100 feet tall.

The 60-ish man with utter lack of balance and zero stamina was worrying me. Our hike goes along edges of precipices, up sandstone faces, down the same, across one gap three feet wide, over irregular rocks, through cracks. It is not for the faint of heart nor faint of balance. He was breathing hard at every stop and sitting down wherever possible. Several times I watched him nearly tip over just from the moves we had to make as we scrambled through the obstacles of the Fiery Furnace — a maze in Arches National Park that requires a permit or a ranger-led tour for exploration.

As we rounded a bend on a very exposed and somewhat slanty ledge, he stumbled and I gasped. The drop was 40 feet down onto rock and we might be doing a body recovery if a fall ever happened right there. Catching himself, he continued on; I, however, made a beeline toward him and quietly asked him to come up and hike right behind me. “No, no, I’m staying with my party,” was his ego-preserving answer. I shrugged and let it go, knowing that the worst dangers were finally behind us.

After some thought, I’ve decided that ‘no’ will not be an acceptable answer in the future. Yesterday one of my fellow rangers had a middle-aged woman trip and fall into a crack (30 feet deep, 2 feet wide) — but she got wedged at the top by one leg (think ‘the splits’) and was able to be retrieved with some pulling and yanking. Other than being scraped up and scared, she wasn’t hurt. It would have been disastrous had she fallen to the bottom.

So… this is the hike I lead three times weekly. With 25 people of all different ages and abilities, a complicated route, six or seven interpretive stops, a steady stream of questions, weather that regularly brings oncoming storms, all while keeping my eyes peeled for the rattlesnake that sometimes makes an appearance on the trail.


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