Ranger Kathryn's Arches

May 7, 2011

In which Kathryn ends up in the wrong valley

I took a girlfriend hiking, someone who hadn’t been up to Hidden Valley before. We had heard through some informal sources that there were some ancestral ruins there, but knew only very approximately where they might allegedly be hiding. Julia’s an anthropology major, and we’re both crazy about ancient cultural things, so we elected adventure over predictability. We were going to try to find some “old stuff,” and following established trails wasn’t going to cut it.

Did kangaroos ever live in Utah?!? (Hidden Valley petroglyph)

Exiting the main path at what looked like an appropriate sandy wash, we began to head upward for a bird’s-eye view. Surely a granary or a kiva would be more visible from a higher vantage point. We crested the rocky ridge and followed it along, as I told her that “that huge wall of Entrada sandstone over there is covered with petroglyphs for us to study.” Yes. It was. Only there are multiple huge walls of Entrada sandstone that look similar, and I was pointing to the wrong one. Off we went.

Thus commenced an off-trail adventure following game trails and gut instincts until we found a way to scramble over one cliff wall and into the correct valley. Please don’t laugh; this is my life. After successfully accessing Hidden Valley at last, we celebrated with Clif bars under a juniper tree, a good chuckle, and a most thorough exploration of every detail of the marvelous petroglyphs. Never did find a structure, but isn’t the joy in the journey instead of at the destination?

April 11, 2011

Lead-filled dummies

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 10:51 pm
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Rescue Randy allowed me to sit on his lap while practicing my knots.

I don’t like Randy. He’s our 200-pound lead-filled dummy that we can practice lifting onto a litter and securing with webbing or tie-downs before transporting him to a waiting ambulance or helicopter. It’s an important simulation for our team, as conditions in real rescues are never neat and tidy, never easy, never quite textbook. Besides patient size, other variables such as desert weather, type of injury and ruggedness of terrain combine to make each one different and challenging. Search & Rescue is really just major problem-solving, often with a life at stake.

Our practice Friday was in getting a littered patient up a rocky ravine to the “ambulance.” It required ropes and pulleys (anchored to whatever juniper tree was handy) for safety back-up in the steepest parts, and constant communication with one another on the litter team as we’re trying to move a patient along while avoiding tripping and falling over the rocks and boulders strewn in our path. We all, including the patient, wore helmets; what does that tell you about the inherent danger of doing this?

Randy waits for lunch to be over before the 'rescue' can be finished.

Our practice Sunday took it to another level. We hauled Randy hundreds of feet up a 40-degree rock slope and then practiced getting him down to a waiting ambulance without anybody getting hurt. It required a complex arrangement of mainline rope and belay line, both with multiple pulleys and foolproof back-up systems in place, anchored to large boulders on the cliffside. All of us litter carriers were attached to the litter directly by our climbing harnesses, which carried the weight of the load while the haul team up top let us down in a controlled and careful way.

I’m beat. Three solid days of outdoor training, with wind constantly in your face and new skills stretching your mind, use a lot of physical and mental and emotional energy. It’s a good weariness, however, and I feel more prepared to help a rescue team if needed.



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