Ranger Kathryn's Arches

August 7, 2010

“In wildness is the preservation of the world.”

[Continued from yesterday]

Collared Lizard! Gorgeous! Click to see reptilian skin texture up close.

The rest of our day, in pursuit of a third sheep which we never find, is filled with ancillary discoveries that make up for the missed animal. A Black Widow web (one of many) catches my eye, messy-looking with stiff sticky threads. The widow is not in sight. A Collared Lizard, my favorite reptile ever, runs in front of us and strikes an extraordinary pose. Its yellowness assaults my eyes and we inch nearer to study it in detail. I pull out my camera and Bill suggests I approach it from the side so it can see me and not be startled. He seems to know everything about every creature out here, not to mention the local geology, botany, and meteorology. I wonder what it must be like to be so attuned to your small corner of the world that you know it inside and out, backward and forward. Actually, I marvel. I want to be wilderness-wise like that.

Similar to these granaries, which are in Canyonlands at Aztec Butte. (file photo)

At another stop, we pause on the high cliffs to view the mouth of Indian Creek where it meets the Colorado. Bill points out three ancestral Puebloan dwellings built into the side of the wall below us, and I study them through binoculars and marvel again. There are hundreds of archeological sites in Canyonlands; I’ve seen only a few. This must be remedied.

With an hour of daylight left, neither of us is in a mood to leave this place and find ourselves indoors. We strike out to the far end of an outcropping where we can sit and watch the day wind down. Not a sound reaches our ears but a distant hiss of a small waterfall, 1200 feet below and around a bend, and later one languorous canyon bird. Sitting in silence, gratitude wells up in both of us for the unexplainable gift of another day in a spectacular wilderness.

Alpenglow on the Wingate sandstone, three minutes before sunset

We’d better get back to the truck. I see a twinkle in Bill’s eyes as he asks, “Old route, or new route?” “What?!? You have routes you’ve not yet walked?” “Well, I may have, but I’ve forgotten. Old route, or new route?” “NEW!” We head off toward some white rock biscuits, way bigger than ourselves, wondering with the waning light if we’ll be stuck in the dark because of my choice. Gotta take risks. Gotta take chances. Gotta live on the edge.

It’s fully dark when the truck meets up with the stream bank that had the quicksand. We motor across the shallows without incident. Venus is in the western sky, and Bill stops the vehicle to mount the spotting telescope on his window. Mars, Saturn, and Mercury are all in close proximity to Venus tonight, and we study them in turn. The Milky Way arcs across the heavens, beckoning me to sleep beneath it. Thoreau’s words — the title of this post — reverberate in my jubilant soul.

May 30, 2010

Pioneering a route

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 2:21 pm
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Bagging the rope after a rappel. This handsome canyon provided much-needed shade for the task. We rappelled down the black-and-tan wall.

“To boldlly go where no man has gone before” — (cue dramatic music) —  that line from the opening to Star Trek always made my spine tingle. That’s what I get for a lifetime of reading National Geographic. To this day, going on an ‘Explore’ to a new place ranks right up there with the finest of adventures. It’s great if I have never been there before, but even greater if NOBODY has been there before. Or at least the illusion of nobody.

Ed and I assembled two heavy packs, with ropes and extra equipment because we didn’t know what we might need to get down or up. The day was hot, and we got a late start, but we hiked up a canyon near Moab and then began our ascent up the walls. Ed picked his way like a mountain goat, and I lagged behind a little as I was unaccustomed to carrying that much extra weight. I would later be grateful, however, for every ounce of water I was toting.

Up a steep wash, around several exposed sketchy ledges, up a fairly vertical crack (I tied a bowline around my waist and Ed belayed me for that ascent), over a buttocks-shaped mesa top (I thought Kiester Corners was a nice name for it), and to the edge — and we were standing hundreds of feet above the Colorado. Getting down was to be the more adventurous element. When you rappel into unknown territory, you always have to leave some means of return in case for some reason you can’t get down further. Maybe your rope is too short, or you have to rappel into a cage of tigers, I don’t know. But you always need an escape route. That’s the dicey part. You leave the previous rope in place while assessing the next descent.

Steep climb up the canyon walls -- I look like a grasshopper

Pictures are worth many thousands of words, so enjoy the photo collection of our as-yet-unnamed trip to a new destination. Click on any photo to enlarge it.

Rope fixed in place (bolted into rock) permanently by base jumpers. This is scary exposed stuff.

Ed free-climbed up this vertical section and will throw me a rope. It's pretty straight up.

Sometimes you need hands on one wall, feet on the other. Opposition is your friend.

First rappel -- you just don't know what's down there.

Maybe it's giant ground sloths waiting for me.

Second rappel: 60 ft?

The prickly pear are finally in bloom!

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