Ranger Kathryn's Arches

August 24, 2011

If only it would write itself

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 11:16 pm
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I wander, notebook in hand, stopping at logical gathering places along this wilderness route. The physical space has a story to tell at each one, and it is my job to listen, look, turn things over in my heart, and discover what is compelling about that very spot. Scribbling ideas and thoughts, jotting down observations of organisms and landforms, the words begin to coalesce into phrases and then into sentences. An interpretive talk assumes a rudimentary shape in my mind.

The Fiery Furnace formations dwarf brother John. Best not to try to find your way through this labyrinth without a guide.

I am in the throes of preparing for my very first ranger-led tour through the “Fiery Furnace” of Arches NP. This rocky labyrinth has neither maps nor trails, and GPS signals do not penetrate the depth of its sandstone fins. Dead-end canyons abound; it is a maze. Every Park Guide must memorize the twisty two-mile route and write an engaging and educational talk to deliver to the 25 tourists who will accompany him/her on this three-hour walk. In just a matter of days, I will step up to my first group of eager visitors, bravely putting on my “I’ve been doing this forever” face, looking confident and polished.

I really won’t be. It will take a while before I catch the rhythm of the tour, adopting the speed of the least-able of my group, asking the cocky ones to please be less awesome, carefully choosing words for international visitors whose grasp of English is tenuous, finding emergency bathroom sites for embarrassed folk, assisting the acrophobic along exposed ledges, urging photographers not to be left behind… all while delivering an impassioned program about the exquisite resource through which we’re hiking.

I’ve got a lot of creative work to do. I’ll be back in a few days.

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