Ranger Kathryn's Arches

August 9, 2010

The Case of the Capricious Keys

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:29 pm
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View of Buck Canyon from the staging area

Rangers Kevin and Sharon looking for just the right rappel route

A family of five showed up at the Visitor Center desk with their video camera and proceeded to play a clip for Ranger Julia and me. In it, their two 13-year-old sons were sitting happily on top of Mesa Arch, smiling for Dad behind the camera, when the one with the car keys dangling off his finger (no — do NOT ask why) suddenly looks down as the set of keys drops 200 feet into the canyon. The facial expressions are priceless.

Ranger Sharon starts her rappel

Another family gave them a ride six miles back to the Visitor Center, where Ranger Sharon (an expert climber with the law enforcement division) assembled equipment to rappel down and look for the car keys. It was a slow afternoon and we had enough help, so the law enforcement supervisor allowed me to come along and watch, and help carry heavy gear, as they built anchors and set up a belay station to lower Sharon down the cliff. It was, she said with a twinkle in her eye, “a cruel case of Ranger fetch.”

Sharon follows the canyon wall to the site of the dropped keys

The entire operation was completed in about two hours’ time. Getting her back UP the sheer cliff was the trickiest part, as specialized ascending equipment and techniques needed to be utilized, but it all went without a hitch and the keys were fortunately found within minutes of her bushwhacking to the cliff base and looking in the greenery.

The grateful family dropped a 50-euro note into the donation box in the Visitor Center on their way out of the park. We’ll keep it there to encourage others to donate, but we hope for no more key-recovery operations anytime soon. And Fabian won’t be entrusted with car keys for quite some time, I suspect.

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