Ranger Kathryn's Arches

September 17, 2010

Rattlesnake 1, Frenchman -15

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 11:42 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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)

April 27, 2010

Hidden Valley, above Moab

Exploring is a favorite pastime. When I was young, I read in National Geographic about people who found ancient structures smothered under the Peruvian jungle; I fantasized about being there assisting scores of machete-wielding workers hacking the centuries of vines off of the pyramids, terraces or dwellings. How exquisite would that be?!?

OK, so my ‘reality’ version of that is going small-scale exploring. I’m privileged to have a local friend who knows all manner of obscure places to go verbing — (hiking, canyoneering, climbing, swimming, eating, etc) — and who is more than willing to share his inside knowledge. Ed asked what I wanted to do: high or low? dry or wet? sun or shade? and when I answered “high and rocky” he knew right where to take me after work.

Hidden Valley does not appear until you’ve climbed for 45 minutes or so up one of the enormous walls that hugs Moab. En route, however, there is some dynamite rock scrambling that gets you onto the top of a sketchy tower overlooking the entire Moab valley. There is no way I could/would have topped it without an experienced guide handy to explain how to scale it, and to spot me as I did it.

The handholds (nice clefts in the rock) were stout, but I kept thinking that they looked like a nice place for a Black Widow to hang out. (FYI: I’d take ten scorpion stings before a BW bite. Nasty neurotoxin.) Ed asked at several junctures how I was doing with this undertaking as I found myself challenged at a few points on the short steep ascent; some folks are fearful around heights, or when finding themselves on steep rock walls being held up only by their own body. Me? I was energized. This was really fun. Pushing myself to see if I can do it — yeah, my knees got scraped up, but we’re not deducting style points.

The reward was worth it. That’s the triumphant photo from yesterday’s 200th blog entry. Here are a few more to fill in the gaps.

Destination: highest tower in the distance directly above me. Ed's name for it is "The Nursemaid."

Ed sizes up our ascent. What route would YOU choose?!? (I couldn't see a likely one.)

Yes, it's very vertical, with a roof. Handholds and footholds are key.

Sweet view of La Sal Mountains and entire Moab valley from top. Exhilaration!

The first Scarlet Gilia is (are?) blooming!

Blog at WordPress.com.