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…

June 4, 2012

Adrift on the Green River

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 10:07 am
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Utah’s Green River. Today: windless. Tomorrow: watch out.

(Continued from “Down the Switchbacks“)

The bow of my inflatable duckie circumscribed lazy spirals like a leaf in a creek; the panorama before me was new every few breaths. On my lap the paddle sat listlessly, waiting to be dipped into the river on rare occasion. I was on the water with our wildlife biologist looking for the endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatcher (SWFL). Last night’s cowboys — who had dismounted, walked their weary horses through the obstacle course of our belongings, and disappeared into the moonlit night — were a gauzy memory.

Milkweed in full bloom. Photo by W Sloan.

The river’s rhythms now become my rhythms. My only task is to observe. At less than three miles per hour, everything is more visible: a pair of Blue Grosbeaks, new rockfall, a Great Blue Heron fishing stealthily, muskrat slicing the water, peregrine falcon circling overhead, old cottonwoods staking their claim on a bank, beaver chewing on willow. Huge cliffs of Wingate sandstone tower, guardians of the canyon: 600 feet of ancient sand, now lithified, silent, stunning. Breathing slows.

Lathered in sunscreen, senses heightened in the wilderness, I reclined in my boat to watch the world go by. When we approached appropriate habitat Bill played a recording of the SWFL song; males would respond to a perceived territorial threat by singing back. Seven times in two mornings on the river we heard it: fitz-bew! It was one of those simple pleasures in life that inserts itself into the heart, an unexpected gift, giving me hope for this species.

~ To Be Continued ~

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[Ecology note: According to the USGS, Empidonax traillii extimus populations declined during the 20th century, primarily because of habitat loss and modification from activities, such as dam construction and operation, groundwater pumping, water diversions, and flood control. It was placed on the endangered species list in 1995 and has only 280 known breeding sites. Critical habitat continues to shrink.]

Sunset from our campsite at the mouth of Horseshoe Canyon.
Green River meets Barrier Creek. Ranger Kathryn basks in joyful color.

November 10, 2011

Cataract Canyon 3: Doll House

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:12 am
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The Doll House before an oncoming storm. Maze District, Canyonlands NP, Utah.

(Continued from Cataract Canyon 2: Flatwater Beauty)

After a productive day tracking radio-collared bighorn sheep and successfully collecting pellets for DNA study, the clouds began assembling to the west and a chill wind picked up. My boat-mates conferred about the most protected campsite downriver and we motored to Spanish Bottom, a couple of miles south of the Confluence. As we rounded a bend in the river, a jagged row of delicate rock pillars high on a cliff poked into the graying sky. I looked questioningly at Bill. “The Doll House,” he informed. Indeed, one could imagine a young giant in the Maze District of Canyonlands playing with these dolls of stone. I was entranced.

My appetite is whetted for tomorrow's adventures.

Our campsite was thick with invasive tamarisk trees which I don’t ordinarily enjoy; at this hour the pesky plants took on the benevolent appearance of a protective shield against the oncoming weather. Anchoring and putting up tents as quickly as possible, we got our rain gear on and suppers heated just in the nick of time. Miso soup never tasted so good. A cup of blueberry tea doubled the inner warmth. Dark — and sleep — came quickly, with only intermittent spurts of rain through the night. The peculiar squeak of branch rubbing against branch, rare in a desert, intruded on my dreams.

— Continued at this link

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