Ranger Kathryn's Arches

May 29, 2016

Secret fear from a rainy tent

Filed under: protecting wilderness — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 6:41 am
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Not cougar, not rattlesnake, not venomous spider. Nothing physical.

In this social-media-saturated age, the fear that keeps me awake at night is that we have lost the ability to protect fragile places.

I have seen the carnage that comes from over-sharing. I have seen places of beauty advertised so heavily that they are loved to death, exceeding their carrying capacity and creating problems that have no answer.

And in this blog I face a similar dilemma. I go to stunning places and want to share them with you, but… I have seen irresponsible people posting GPS coordinates of classified locations [i.e., too fragile for public visitation; in need of highest protection] such as pristine archaeological sites. To what end, I don’t know. “I went here, and you can, too” may be their Facebook legacy.

I recently hiked to a remote Class 3 (i.e., classified) pictograph panel that was painted several thousand years ago. For 99.996% of its existence, only a small group of people knew its location, and those who did respected and revered it. Then someone posted directions and waypoints on a website, and in short order this formerly-perfect Barrier Canyon Style panel received its first graffiti. This is heartbreaking. It isn’t possible to reverse the impacts of human visitation.  You can’t put the genie back in the lamp.

I love the Maze. I can’t get enough of its beauty/ruggedness/wildness/un-impactedness. But if I write about secrets of this place, or wax eloquent about its magic, or even simply post lovely photos that light a spark… I fear that I am contributing to the problems that are inevitable in our over-crowded, harried, adventure-seeking, post-it-on-the-interwebs-or-it-didn’t-happen society.

I can’t think of a solution. What are we to do??? The Comments section below awaits your input.

 

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January 9, 2012

Early exploration of southeast Utah

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 11:40 pm
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Rainstorm, Needles District, Canyonlands NP, Utah. May 20, 2011. "Worthless and impracticable region."

It was 1859 — two years before the Civil War. The official maps of the United States were utterly blank in much of Utah, with the word ‘UNKNOWN’ penned largely across these latitudes. An expedition led by Captain John Macomb was scouting the region for a wagon route from New Mexico, looking earnestly for the supposed confluence of two great rivers. “I cannot conceive of a more worthless and impracticable region than the one we now found ourselves in,” he noted, thwarted in his attempt to find that critical map point.

Oh, John.

This “worthless and impracticable region” is now Canyonlands National Park. It holds me prisoner with its myriad delights.

I suspect Captain Macomb was discouraged, and morale among his men at a new low. Trying to imagine the 19th-century challenges of exploring this unforgiving land is difficult for me. In the 21st century, we have everything to make such journeys safer and easier: accurate maps, down sleeping bags, coolers, Vibram-soled boots, 4WD vehicles, satellite radios, freeze-dried foods, synthetic fibers, sunscreen, GPS, water filtration, helicopters for rescues.

I bet that expedition 153 years ago would have given anything for cold beer at the end of the day. The desert has a way of sucking the life out of everything that breathes; it is merciless and pitiless in its opposition to comfort and complacency. My highest respect and admiration go to its early explorers.

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