Ranger Kathryn's Arches

June 6, 2012

Paddling to Mineral Bottom

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:50 am
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We’ve been paddling for half hour. Wind is rising.
This stretch is so beautiful, it should be added to Canyonlands NP.

(Continued from Adrift on the Green River)

Well before dawn, Bill and I awoke to the earliest light; must’ve been just after five. High winds were expected and we wished to get as far as possible before they arrived with sustained 35-mph force and gusts to 50. That meant hopping into the duckies half hour before sunrise and heading downriver.

Eerily, in that canyon I could hear the swooshing of the air currents before I could feel them. It sounded like moving water, without rapids there; all I could infer was that the front was moving in and would be pushing us around. A large bend in the Green River carried me into the plucky up-river breezes that soon became far bigger than I’d hoped. The current barely moved fast enough to carry me downstream without my having to paddle forcefully. This is a far better workout than going to the gym; you know you won’t see your truck again if you don’t push hard and make headway. Motivation is not a problem.

A stop at the mouth of Hell Roaring Canyon revealed an exciting 19th-century inscription from the earliest fur trapper to pass this way. Denis Julien left his name on a number of rocks in the southwest; we know little about him. Still, I stood in the same spot he did, in the same month he did, 172 years later; all the wonders he saw, and the obstacles he overcame, filled my willing thoughts. No inflatable duckie, Clif bars, or Camelbak water carrier for him; Denis did it the hard way. Check out his boat to the right of his name.

Our bittersweet arrival at the Mineral Bottom boat launch signaled the end of a too-short river adventure. I can’t wait for the next one. In my dreams, 21 days floating the Grand Canyon…

January 31, 2012

Entrusted with weather data collection

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:32 pm
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Part of our humble weather station at Island in the Sky District

Every morning as I reach work, I peek into the eight-inch canister behind the visitor center. If any precipitation has fallen in the preceding 24 hours, it is measured exactly. Multiple measurements are taken in winter: new snow depth (measured on a white board swept clean daily), standing depth (measured on a stick secured in the ground), and new snow in the canister melted and measured to the nearest hundredth of an inch. Our digital temperature recording device marks highs and lows of the previous day. We note the hours during which weather events happened, any related observations (e.g., “snow squall with thunder clap,” or “wind blew tents down”), and oddities like hail or fog. Part of our morning procedures includes logging on to the National Weather Service data collection site and putting all our numbers safely into their system. I hope that gives meteorologists something interesting to study when storms are utterly absent.

This post was unnervingly monochromatic, requiring the addition of a recent sunset photo from my front door.

I must say that my favorite hand-written observation in the weather book last year was on October 25: “screaming double rainbow 4:37 pm.” Take that, National Weather Service!

December 18, 2011

The winter NPS uniform

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 2:12 am
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I pulled the gray felt hat out of its protective Stratton box, admiring the familiar dimpled shape and outrageously flat brim. Pushing it onto my head, breathing “please please fit, please,” I was relieved to find that it almost did. Tight, but workable if one doesn’t mind a sunken red impression striped across one’s forehead. Perhaps I’ll locate a colleague with a hat stretcher.

Sliding the embossed ‘USNPS’ hat band from my summer straw hat onto the winter hat, the ensemble was complete and I could walk to work for my first day ever in the winter park ranger uniform. Dripping with professionalism, it’s a much smarter look than the breezy summer uniform. The heavier pants drape beautifully. The tapered winter-weight shirt is finished off with mandatory green tie and arrowhead tie tack — a novelty for this woman whose off-duty wardrobe choices favor femininity over androgyny.

Mt Tukuhnikivatz, bedecked in a fresh garment of shimmering white, greeted me above the morning fog as I approached the Visitor Center and took a deep breath of chilly mesa air. The day brimmed with promise.

September 17, 2010

Rattlesnake 1, Frenchman -15

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 11:42 pm
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I had not been back from the wilderness for even an hour this morning when the radio started to crackle. Soon I heard an ambulance racing up into the park, lights and sirens ablaze. A tour bus full of French visitors had stopped at Balanced Rock, one of our least dangerous and most innocuous locations. One unfortunate 63-year-old had stepped off the sidewalk by about fifteen feet to click a photo, and was bitten in the ankle by a rattlesnake. He was already having difficulty talking and had a pulse of 150. The local hospital couldn’t help him much, as antivenin is available only if one knows exactly which species inflicted the bite*, so he was helicoptered to Grand Junction, Colorado. I expect he’ll be in the hospital for a week or ten days and then have a long, slow convalescence. Kind of ruins his American vacation.

Was it one of our shy Midget Faded Rattlesnakes? They are nocturnal, except that sometimes the males are out scouting for new territory this time of year and perhaps one was just there to get stepped on. Or, perhaps it was an atypical species of rattler (not our small shy one) that was just passing through. It makes treating the victim difficult.

You don’t want to mess with our Midget Faded. Shy, yes; benign, no. Their neurotoxin is one of the most potent of rattlesnake venoms. The typical effect of a bite from a Crotalus species is similar to most viper bites with massive edema (swelling) and tissue destruction. I hope the man from France recovers fully and quickly.

This is only the second known venomous snakebite in our national park, but the maps around here are filled with place names like “Rattlesnake Canyon.” I guess if you come to Utah, you’re taking a risk…

*(see comment #3 below)

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