Ranger Kathryn's Arches

January 31, 2012

Entrusted with weather data collection

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:32 pm
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Part of our humble weather station at Island in the Sky District

Every morning as I reach work, I peek into the eight-inch canister behind the visitor center. If any precipitation has fallen in the preceding 24 hours, it is measured exactly. Multiple measurements are taken in winter: new snow depth (measured on a white board swept clean daily), standing depth (measured on a stick secured in the ground), and new snow in the canister melted and measured to the nearest hundredth of an inch. Our digital temperature recording device marks highs and lows of the previous day. We note the hours during which weather events happened, any related observations (e.g., “snow squall with thunder clap,” or “wind blew tents down”), and oddities like hail or fog. Part of our morning procedures includes logging on to the National Weather Service data collection site and putting all our numbers safely into their system. I hope that gives meteorologists something interesting to study when storms are utterly absent.

This post was unnervingly monochromatic, requiring the addition of a recent sunset photo from my front door.

I must say that my favorite hand-written observation in the weather book last year was on October 25: “screaming double rainbow 4:37 pm.” Take that, National Weather Service!

July 30, 2010

Double rainbows on my birthday

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:28 am
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Aaron, me, Mike T and the double birthday rainbow

Some birthdays are sweet because of thoughtful people in them. Some are sweet because of where you are. Some bring just the perfect weather. On some, you feel every blessing on earth is being heaped upon you.

Welcome to my recent birthday.

Our summer monsoons came that afternoon, lighting the sky with electric spears that ultimately started several trees on fire on the mesa. Booming thunder reverberated through the canyons. Drenching rain fell, for a good twenty minutes, which I measured at a remarkable 0.25 inches in our weather station next morning. (Remember, we get only 9 inches a year here.) A rainbow appeared between us and the La Sal Mountains.

Two hours earlier, yet another rainbow, and my un-tamable hair

The humidity took some getting used to, as typically it runs 10 to 20 percent out here. I’ve added a photo of my humidified hair, longer than it’s been in fifteen years, getting to that unmanageable “whatever am I going to do to tame this while it’s growing out?” stage.

After work, co-workers Mike and Bobby knocked on the trailer door and informed me they were grilling me a birthday chicken dinner with potatoes and gravy, but did I have any vegetables? The new bunch of asparagus came with us to their house and I watched in amazement as Mike’s heretofore-unknown chef skills became obvious to all. That was one delicious chicken dinner.

And then, in the golden-turning light that just precedes sunset, a double rainbow appeared. Rainbows are always, always a sign to me of God’s grace and mercy; a double one was a memorable birthday gift. The bronze light sealed the blessing in my soul.

And so begins another year. I don’t know what it will hold; I don’t know where I will be. I do know that I am smack in the middle of living my park ranger dream, using my skills to make others’ nature experiences rich and full. This is my deep, deep satisfaction and joy in mid-life.

June 20, 2009

Arthropod in the Night

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:41 pm
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Dawn at our campsite in Hovenweep.  Nothing scares me at dawn.

Dawn at our campsite in Hovenweep. Nothing scares me at dawn.

Having a Fri-Sat off, my friend Jess and I decided to go on a road trip.  We threw our camping stuff into Olive and headed for a little-known Nat. Monument named Hovenweep, 125 miles south.  A 180-degree rainbow greeted us on the open range, and then turned double: surely an auspicious beginning!  Site 14 afforded us an unobstructed view of the San Juan mountains,  and we couldn’t have been more delighted.  As we set up camp in this most desolate and remote place, the sunset turned purple and orange and the sky was set aflame.  We could hardly breathe, afraid to say anything that would spoil this infinite beauty.

The campground had only two other tenants, on the opposite side of the loop.  The solitude and tranquility were welcomed, most welcomed.  As the sun slid lower, some lovely bats came out and began reducing the excess gnat and mosquito populations.  Except for that quiet fluttering, the world was wrapped in silence.

We hit the sack early, both being tired from our new work schedule and the altitude.  Twenty minutes of chit-chat in the dark tent preceded our drifting off to what we hoped would be peaceful sleep.  Which it was.  For a couple of hours.  [Warning to Livja:  Do Not Read The Rest Of This!]

I sleep lightly, attuned to new sounds and smells and sensations.  In a new tent, in a new campground, in a new ecosystem, I was vividly aware that this was not ‘home.’  Therefore, when I heard a tiny slow soft skritch skritch skritch outside on the tent wall by my head, everything in me strained to figure out its source.  I knew Jess was not fond of creepy-crawlies, so I couldn’t turn on a flashlight.  I needed to just lie there and listen and learn what I could.  Okay, it sounded as if it had lots of feet.  Maybe, oh, about ten.  Okay, it was making its way carefully and slowly and methodically upward along the curve of the tent wall.  Okay, it is definitely OUTSIDE the tent, thank goodness.  Okay, its miniscule skritching sound seems to be from its feet gripping the nylon tent.  Okay, it is nearing the top…

I was doing a good job of keeping my cool when, without warning, a scorpion-ish shape suddenly plunged off the tent peak and hurtled down past my screened window.  I sat up instantly and grabbed my flashlight to see if this was INside or outside.  Naturally, this woke Jess up and freaked her out, but I quickly determined that it was OUTside and we had nothing to fear.  No creature was evident anywhere.  Although… now I had to pee, and the winding path through the loop to the outhouse seemed long and scarier than usual, with Midget Faded Rattlesnakes being nocturnal hunters and all.. we were warned to watch our steps.  So, I proceeded to do two things that aren’t typical for Ranger Kathryn:  (1) exited the door on Jess’s side of tent, not the scorpion-infested door on my side, and (2) DROVE Olive to the bathroom in order to avoid surprising any rattlesnakes.

By 11:28 pm I was back safely in my tent, zipped in snugly, scorpions or no.  There is a surprisingly relaxing sleep once the dangers have been faced and survival seems likely.  By sunrise the next morning, it all seemed silly — so, so silly.  Our fears in the night become easy to manage in the bright light of a new day.  The unknown imagined is bigger than the unknown reality.  And, in the dawn’s early light, I sat at the picnic table and oriented my back (clad in purple sweatshirt) to the rising sun to gather its heat to warm me for the new day’s marvels.

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