Ranger Kathryn's Arches

September 21, 2012

Sleeping in odd places

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:04 am
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Lay out your sleeping bags a few feet from a canyon edge. Wake up to this pre-dawn view, with bats and chipmunks for company.

Sometimes I get the urge to just go sleep in the wild. Doesn’t really matter where, as long as it’s somewhere “out there” where I won’t see anything man-made. Campgrounds are too civilized, too ‘safe,’ too peopled. I want to be away from it all, stretched out full-length on the earth. I want crickets to sing me to sleep; I want the breeze to kiss my face while I dream.

Here’s how it happens: I grab a sleeping pad and bag, a water bottle, a headlamp, a Clif Bar, and (optionally) a friend, and go find myself an Adventure Sleep Spot. Experiencing the Milky Way for my ceiling, with shooting stars puncturing holes in the night, is a treat that far outweighs any discomfort or inconvenience. Waking in an unusual place often elicits an involuntary chuckle at finding myself not in a bed, not in a house.

After my first season in Utah, Wildophilia gripped me. I appear to have the progressive variety of this condition; surely a normal person wouldn’t be looking at all the high rock formations in this park and wondering what it would be like to wake up on top of them. Or… would she?

 

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September 11, 2011

Beauty moments

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 10:06 am
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Monolith at Courthouse Towers

My life in Utah’s national parks is marked by frequent moments when the beauty around me is so palpable, so physical, it nearly overwhelms. It can be biological, meteorological or astronomical: a collared lizard’s magical appearance, a sudden squall with subsequent rainbow, rocks set afire by the horizontal rays at day’s end, or the Milky Way dispersing my thoughts in its million billion stars. These fleeting glimpses are so powerful that they often stop me in my tracks. Being “in the moment” and giving myself to the experiencing of every nuance enlivens my soul and spirit and mind; it replenishes the deep well of passion that fuels my interpretation of this park for visitors. Everybody benefits.

Three Gossips & Sheep Rock glistening after a rain

A recent post-monsoon drive left me with these photos. (Click to enlarge.) The beauty moments were strung together one after the other after the other, and I was almost gasping for air…

What a rainbow!!!

July 8, 2010

Protecting the night skies

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:00 pm
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Ranger Elsa & Ranger Kathryn tackle light pollution at its source

It’s just a water vending machine. It happens, however, to have two six-foot fluorescent bulbs behind its front panel, and one can see it glowing on the front porch of the visitor center from nearly a mile away. Ranger Elsa and I set out to do something about this. She inquired of the ‘powers that be’ whether we could remove the light bulbs and leave the machine otherwise perfectly functional. Receiving an affirmative answer, we used our project time today to get a little help from maintenance to unseat one end of each bulb. They shrugged their shoulders after a couple of deft twists, and said, “A tremor. It was a tremor. Nobody saw us do anything.”

Here’s something fascinating I found about dark skies on Yosemite’s website:

A “natural lightscape,” such as a dark night sky, is an environment that is undisturbed by light and air pollution. Dark night skies have natural, cultural, and scenic importance. Wildlife is impacted by light pollution because animals often depend on darkness in order to hunt, conceal their location, navigate, or reproduce. For nocturnal animals, light pollution also means habitat disruption. Additionally, many species have far more sensitive vision than humans. Plants are affected by artificial light because it disrupts their natural cycles. Dark night skies are also culturally important because they are a resource common to all cultures on Earth, and are a metaphor for countless myths and religions. They have inspired innumerable works of art, literature, and connections to the cosmos. Natural lightscapes, including dark night skies, are a scenic resource integral to many people’s wilderness experience. Currently, two-thirds of Americans cannot see the Milky Way from their backyard, and if current light pollution trends continue, there will be almost no dark skies left in the contiguous United States by 2025. Many people seek national parks to experience this vanishing resource.

As I slept out on the basketball court again last night, staring at the shooting stars and lying wordlessly awestruck by the Milky Way, I resolved to do what I could to promote night sky stewardship so that others might also be able to gaze and marvel. The prediction about our night skies fifteen years hence disturbs me greatly. Would you check your driveway lights, porch lights, yard lights? Would you consider changing to a fixture that is covered on top and directs the light downward? Any light that escapes upward without being blocked will scatter throughout the atmosphere and brighten the night sky, thereby diminishing the view of it. Light pollution is reversible.

June 23, 2010

Adventures on the White Rim Road

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 3:04 pm
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We get out to assess our next obstacle.

Recipe for current adventure:

  • 1 permit
  • 1  government Jeep
  • 4 trainees
  • 1 boss ranger
  • 3 days and 2 nights
  • gear, food, water
  • one 100-mile loop road in Canyonlands National Park

Instructions:  Add humor, crazy music, a slot canyon, remote Ancestral Puebloan ruins, lots of sunscreen, homemade muffins and oatmeal cookies, interpretive moments, acrophobia, old cowboy camps, gnats/mosquitos, chasms that threaten to swallow you, inexperienced 4WD drivers, a tent that got snatched by a gust of wind, nights of uncountable stars, and no end to astonishing views. Shake well over bumpy rock-strewn one-lane “road” that lies on a huge shelf halfway between the Island-in-the-Sky mesa top and the Green and Colorado Rivers.

The Monster & Washer Woman Arch -- from below

Welcome to my world. My Facebook status today says “KB finds it hard to stop smiling. Her gratitude list keeps growing and growing.” I am incredulous at the up-close-and-personal aspect of exploring a region of my park that was heretofore just a lovely photo from the overlooks a thousand feet above it. What appears to be a pleasant jaunt from those high viewpoints becomes a moment-by-moment intimate interaction with desert rock.

Large powerful machines have honestly never interested me; I’d rather enjoy quiet self-powered activities. This trip has changed my mind, however, and I now understand the allure. Jeeping can get one to places that would otherwise be inaccessible, across inhospitable terrain that would make long-distance hiking prohibitive. Used wisely, 4WD vehicles can enhance exploration without ruining a wilderness experience.

My favorite lizard of the southwest - Collared Lizard

“4 Low” is a gear to befriend on the White Rim. With 600 pounds of people, plus all the gear and water and provisions, our clearance was nowhere near the recommended 8 inches for this route. The first time I scraped bottom (due to inexperience) everyone piled out and the car magically lifted off the boulder I had straddled. We all learned from each other’s mistakes and became more accomplished drivers by the end. Going up and down steep rocky stretches was a piece of cake (albeit scary cake) in 4 Low. For me, it was those large rock ledges I disliked… and the rock piles previous drivers had stacked up in an effort to minimize the droppage. Ugh! Others disliked the steepness of the drop-off should one wander off the road bed. It was vertigo-inducing in places.

One can't describe the delight of ice-cold canteloupe cubes after a hot hike.

As our goal was to learn the route, the road, and the 20 campsites for which we issue permits, each day involved plenty of stopping and exploring along the way. In the evenings we’d roll into camp, set up our chairs in a circle, pull out the appetizers and relax while the assigned cooks prepared supper. Pretty sweet — AND we were on the clock. This is paid training.

As night fell we’d set up our individual tents. There was no way I was going to sequester myself inside a fabric cocoon in this vast wilderness, so I’d put my sleeping pad on the rock, snuggle into my sleeping bag, give Venus a nod and peer into the Milky Way. I looked around at the other four tents and their happy occupants and asked myself how far off the deep end I’ve gone, but I couldn’t come up with an answer except that Wildophilia obviously has me in its tight grip. Next thing you know, I might be applying for back-country ranger jobs…

This is how I sleep in the desert

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