Ranger Kathryn's Arches

August 17, 2014

Paddle in hand, joy in heart

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 2:20 pm
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Yes, readers, I’ve been away from Utah’s red rock, back in the Land of Green. Seven weeks at home in Minnesota were brought to a pleasing conclusion with a trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, where loons and bald eagles were always within sight or hearing, where the pace of life slows to just the cadence of your paddle: slip it in the water, pull back, lift, repeat. This is how people have lived for thousands of years, and it just feels right.

What did I learn about myself in those four days on Seagull Lake? (1) All food tastes good when camping. (2) Glacial lakes dotted with small islands confuse me on a map. (3) Thunderstorms are unusually exciting on an exposed dome of granite in a lake. (You can almost feel the rock tingle with electricity.) (4) I do best in a place where man-made intrusions are absent. (5) Discovering wild blueberries in abundance is a giddy experience; harvesting them is a treasure. (6) A freshly-molted eagle feather is incredibly photogenic.

IMG_0997I’m ready to embrace the desert grandeur once again, but here’s why I went home: to celebrate the marriage of a daughter and the acquisition of a wonderful son-in-law. Life’s singular moments are precious, and I savor them, turning them over and over, grateful for every day because tomorrow is never guaranteed.

Readers, what is one thing you have learned about YOURSELF lately? I want to know.

April 16, 2012

Old tent, old memories

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:16 am
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1964 VW Microbus and our 8-man tent took us to every adventure we had as children.

Thinking back over my childhood, the gifts my parents gave their children were good ones: mandatory Saturday chores, a one-hour limit on TV, eating what was put on our plates, having to apologize when we were unkind. One that is more easily overlooked, though, was Mom’s sacrifice of going on camping trips when she would have preferred comfort. She never let on that cooking for eight on a Coleman stove was not fun or easy, or that sleeping in a musty blue canvas tent on blow-up air mattresses was anything less than delightful. We children, of course, thought these were the best adventures imaginable.

Dad and Mom made a good pair. Dad created every itinerary and saw to it that all our equipment was in working order. He and my brothers always loaded the car. Mom was mistress of the kitchen and of each person’s “stuff.” She knew where the pancake griddle, raisins, or Dramamine resided. And, no matter how young, each child was responsible for his or her own sleeping bag and air mattress.

To this day, six out of six of us kids love camping. My brothers find winter camping (in Minnesota!) delightful. One sister just finished nine days camping in Oman, experiencing marvels never to be forgotten, and the other sister camps whenever she can. Me? I live and work in the wilderness and can’t imagine life without my little REI tent.

And for Beatrice, the long-suffering? All our trips laid the groundwork for Mom to see the wonders of travel — inspiring adventures which have enriched my parents’ lives through eight decades. Their passports sport over one hundred country stamps. While most were visited without a tent, I gratefully tip my flat hat to that old blue one that started it all.

December 15, 2011

1,241 miles later

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 11:28 pm
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The Colorado River north of Moab, Utah, in December's pale light. Note teal instead of brown water.

A powdered-sugar dusting coats the rocks; thick vanilla icing smothers the mountains. Utah welcomes me with fresh snow, heightening the contrasts: reddest sandstone, bluest sky, sere brown remnants of this season’s grasses. I smile. Returning to the Colorado Plateau — where I feel deeply attached, fully belonging — is joy, great joy. My Minnesota address seems like another universe rather than two days’ drive.

Winter’s light is thin, transparent. Is it anemic and wan, or is it merely saving itself for an April assault on the senses? Landscapes change as the weak rays attenuate visual distractions, focus my eye on texture and composition. I seem to see better when the days are short and angles are low.

As I round a bend on Highway 128, the Colorado River startles me with atypical clarity and color. It’s normally carrying tons of sand and silt, brown and muddy; I’ve never seen the bottom. In December it almost resembles a mountain stream. I blink twice and take off my sunglasses to double-check the hue, so surprising is the difference.

I’ve much to explore in this new light of my third season, but first winter, in Canyonlands National Park.

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