Ranger Kathryn's Arches

July 20, 2012

Long Canyon, near Moab

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 6:53 am
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Monsoon clouds over Long Canyon, 5 pm

En route to a few hours of rock climbing near Moab, Ranger Bobby agreed to take us down a 4WD road the back way. The views in Long Canyon were stunning, and reminded me why off-the-beaten-path is nearly always my first choice. Robert Frost’s poem welled up from cob-webby memory. Today, try a new route to work or home, okay?

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

 

June 10, 2012

Mt Peale: 12,721

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:16 am
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Mt Peale: TALL. Ranger Kathryn: SMALL.
All I could think was, “I’m headed up THERE?!?!”

The highest peak in any range beckons to be summited, and Mt Peale in the La Sal Mountains is no exception. Standing watch over Moab, currently 99 degrees hot, it holds the promise of adventure — and pleasant temperatures. Ranger Chris and I head up the winding Forest Service road to camp at 10,000 feet, where my Prius seems out of place as we pass nothing but ATVs and 4WD vehicles. The eyes on the aspens watch the hybrid car, puzzled, as she demurely navigates a shallow stream crossing.

“Medicine Lakes,” the trailhead area, is a complete misnomer to this Minnesotan. Shallow puddles of water teeming with invertebrates are not lakes. That said, it IS scenic, and the alpine-y feeling of the place envelops us. We’re in a different ecosystem, a place of fresh wonder. Every flower is new.

Chris has climbed a number of fourteeners, but I already know from summiting South Mountain (11,798’) that high altitudes are tough on my lungs. Finding myself energized by the thought of pushing myself to try something I’ve not yet done, I thoughtfully ponder the worst that could happen. It can’t be that bad. Yes, I think I can do this.

Crackling campfire and deep conversation give way to restless sleep in which I dream of not being able to catch my breath. Was it the altitude, or could it have had anything to do with someone so dashingly handsome sleeping respectfully a foot away from me?

~ to be continued ~

February 22, 2012

A scarce commodity indeed

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:02 am
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Every time I turn on a faucet, I thank the driver of this truck

What is one thing, even more important than the absent Starbucks and gas stations about which visitors ask, that is missing from our mesa top? One thing that, by its lack, explains almost everything about our habitat? One thing that is singularly responsible for this national park looking the way it does?

Hint: it arrives from the sky, but more conveniently in 6,000-gallon trucks. It is stored in two 30,000-gallon buried fiberglass tanks up on the hill behind our housing. It is also currently going missing, to the tune of 900 gallons a day unexplainably disappearing, leaving our maintenance crew checking every valve and meter on the premises. We don’t see any obvious leaks, but our water is not where it should be.

I appreciate the man who delivers this life-giving elixir. Seven times in two days, this water truck has made the 35-mile gradual climb from Moab (4000 ft) to Island in the Sky (6000 ft). That’s some expensive water we drink, flush, wash with, bathe in.

The raven I saw yesterday, drinking from a pothole puddle of melted snow, doesn’t know about our scarcity.

February 13, 2012

Non-conforming artists

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:00 am
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Throughout time, artists who flaunt traditional approaches have been both reviled and praised. I wonder if that has always been the case? Would a millennium have changed human behavior?

On a recent hike in search of petroglyphs in the Moab area, my findings led me to ask such questions. The first panel shows a classic rendering of an abundant animal in Utah rock art, the bighorn sheep. Notice their short thick necks, graceful parenthesis-shaped horns, solid pecked bodies and characteristic single-file arrangement. I especially like the cloven-hoof detail, which can be seen better if you click to enlarge.

 Utah petroglyphs showing bighorns

Only a few feet away, on another part of the boulder, stood this artwork. Based on its deeply curved horns, it’s obviously a bighorn ram, but how many differences can you pick out from the previous glyphs? Whose neck is that? What is the shape inside its torso? Is it supposed to have feet? Was this artist having fun, expressing his uniqueness, or faithfully recording his observations?

Please leave your comments. Have fun with this. It’s okay to speculate…

Does this artist march to the beat of a different drummer?

January 14, 2012

What we refuse to destroy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 11:50 pm
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January sunset, Sand Flats Recreation Area, Moab, UT

“In the end, our society will be defined not only by what we create, but what we refuse to destroy.”   — John Sawhill

I’ve been thinking about this quote for a couple of days. Every time we cut down forest for development, drain marshland for a new neighborhood, or pave a parking lot instead of leaving green space, we are destroying something that is difficult or impossible to reclaim. When I found Canyonlands National Park on Lonely Planet’s list, “The World’s Most Surreal Landscapes,” my heart jumped for joy. Others realize what a unique and stunning location this is. By managing wilderness as responsibly as we can, we are preserving it unimpaired for generations to come. Thank you for lifting your voice, or your pen, or your checkbook, in support of wilderness. It is my hope that you will visit a wild place at the soonest opportunity. Your soul will benefit.

September 23, 2010

Capitol Reef National Park

A huge piece of Navajo sandstone

It’s not often that a polygamists’ enclave morphs into a national park, but somewhere between the historic Mormon fruit orchards and the thousand feet of Navajo sandstone and the geologically famous Waterpocket Fold, legislators found Capitol Reef worthy of protection. I am so glad they did, as I went on an Explore on my days off with two co-workers. Risking life and limb on a rainy afternoon in a flash-flood-prone canyon, roasting marshmallows over a camp stove, and facing off against a marauding raccoon in the campsite made it all the more memorable.

Climbed about 1700 feet to Rim Overlook; orchards below

Always when I go to a place new to me, I am struck by the differences-that-are-similar. Most of the rock layers in Capitol Reef are also present in either Arches or Canyonlands or both, but they are of different colors and thicknesses farther west. The green oasis that is Moab is watered by the Colorado River, and fruit trees of many types thrive in the Moab Valley; the Fremont River runs right through Capitol Reef, prompting the ancestral people to dig irrigation ditches for their gardens. The early Mormon settlers found these ditches and planted numerous fruit orchards in this oasis.

This is the only national park I know of in which visitors can walk through the orchards and pick any fruit that is in season and eat it on the spot. (If you remove fruit from the orchard, you weigh and pay for it on the honor system.) Apples, peaches, pears, plums… whatever your heart desires is yours for the picking, if you can get it before the mule deer do.

"The Castle." Wingate sandstone is far more pink-and-salmon in Capitol Reef than in Canyonlands.

Majestic sandstone monoliths are indescribably beautiful, especially when thunderclouds frame them. Our 1.5 days in the park were woefully inadequate to explore much; the National Weather Service phoned the park to notify them of the high risk of flash floods, which kept us out of some of the exceptionally scenic low areas.

We’ll save those for next time. There will be a next time. Those Mormons sure know how to make hot-from-the-oven pies worth driving hours to get.

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