Ranger Kathryn's Arches

August 16, 2011

A Day in the Gravelly Range

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:37 pm
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Steam escapes distant fumaroles as we pedal toward Old Faithful.

Never been on a nice bike tour? I hadn’t, either. But I will again. Here’s a glimpse of a day on a Western Spirit Cycling tour. (Keep in mind that this somewhat easier trip was rated for those “fit but new to biking.” Many other difficulty levels are available.)

We started in the Gravelly Range of Montana and pedaled our way southward, pushing, pushing, destination Old Faithful. Bird songs and coffee smells awakened us at every wilderness campsite. Within the hour a multi-course breakfast magically appeared, different every day, and we gladly fueled our bodies for the miles of pedaling ahead. Another hour and we had our tents down and packed, and soon our bikes carried us away. A few hours of hard work through breathtaking scenery — while carrying bear spray just in case — earned us lunch.

Andy's iPad played "Here Comes the Sun" at just the right moment each morning. Yes, it's cold...

Every day the noon meal (make-your-own deli sandwich bar) was a welcome break from pedaling; only a few more hours’ exertion got us to the afternoon’s campsite where assorted beverages quenched our thirst. I would then earnestly tend to my self-appointed task of collecting a large quantity of dry firewood. Evening fires were what I/we always looked forward to, and good wood fueled our lively conversation times.

The only other woman and I daily relished the experience of a couple of solicitous men looking after every detail of our comfort. They made morning coffee or tea before we were up. They assembled afternoon appetizers while we rested our legs. They chopped and diced veggies while we told stories over our beer or sparkling water. They washed dishes while we ate chocolates or dessert. Heck, I had Suzi pinch me once to see if I was dreaming, but the attentive/witty/accommodating men were reality. Somehow we never grew tired of watching “Guide TV.”

Chef Ed's blueberry buttermilk pancakes

When the light began waning, we took to our tents; often rainclouds chased us into bed. Life takes on a different rhythm when it is dictated by nature’s whims instead of by a clock. A couple of mornings we woke with ice on our tents and tablecloths. My ten-degree sleeping bag was just right for the high elevations and brisk temps. I relished not coming indoors for five days, avoiding a shower for 107 hours. If you’re grossed out by that, we may need to re-evaluate our friendship…

Would I recommend such an adventure? HIGHLY. Anything that moves you out of your comfort zone will stretch you in a good way. You say you are not daring, not a risk-taker, and like your familiar surroundings? All the more reason to step toward something completely different! I am glad, very very glad, that I tried something I’ve never done before. Maybe it will be a jumping-off point for future bike adventures for me.


August 7, 2011

While I wait for my clearance…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:18 am
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In the Park Service, you can’t begin work or even move into housing until a crucial piece of paperwork comes through; it stalls more start dates than everything else put together. It is not unusual for an employee to be delayed a number of weeks past their hoped-for EOD (Enter On Duty); one is left high and dry with no knowledge of where the hang-up is or how many more weeks it might take. Meanwhile, one’s supervisor is furiously re-working the staff schedule for the nth time while the co-workers heave frustrated sighs at the heavy workload that shows no sign of abating.

I’ve missed two EODs already, through no fault of my own, and am desperately hoping it will clear this week. I have time to kill. Should I do something adventurous? Should I go see breath-stealing sights? Should I push myself physically? Should I go someplace I’ve never been? Should I refuse to come indoors? Should I do it in a way I’ve never done before???

Okay then.


Ennis, Montana, to Old Faithful in Yellowstone. Five days on a bike. In the mountains. At pretty darn high elevation. With foxes and grizzly bears and moose and wolves and pronghorn. And, because there were only three people on the tour and it is last-minute and the guide is a good friend of mine, the company gave me a great price. All I have to do is drive to Bozeman, 630 miles.

I guess this will take my mind off the clearance glitch. Do I have trepidation? You bet. I’ve been sedentary the past month and this will be a huge push in many ways. What I lack in muscle strength, I plan on making up in attitude and heart. I’ll take lots of pics and be back online next weekend. With a sore butt.

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