Ranger Kathryn's Arches

December 26, 2011

Community Christmas Meal

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:54 am
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Hundreds of plates stand ready

2 pm Christmas Day: the lined ambled forward at a steady pace as savory aromas wafted out the door into the hallway. People from every walk of life, all ages and socioeconomic strata, mingled and chatted amiably. It was yet another event showcasing the generous and compassionate hearts of Utahans.

Eight times a year the town rallies to put on a free feast. For Christmas, the wonderful folks at Red Cliffs Lodge donate and prepare all the food (last year 375 meals) for a meal for anybody who cares to come. Turkey, ham, roast beef, salmon, mashed potatoes, stuffing, yams, cranberry sauce, rolls, pie, cake, ice cream — I got a full feeling just looking at the abundance before me. An army of volunteers in Santa hats dished up the plates, bussed the tables, and washed dishes. This is Moab at its finest, in my estimation.

"Yam lady" made me smile

After partaking of the sumptuous feast, it was my turn to help out. They needed drivers to take meals to the homebound elderly who had requested this, and I knew that would be just the ticket to keep me from sinking into the morass of self-pity on a traditional family-oriented day. Off I went with my Google map of Moab  and take-out boxes which I’d filled.

If you’ve not had a chance to spend a few minutes with old folks lately, drop what you’re doing and arrange this. In my park ranger job, the elderly are under-represented among our visitors. I miss them. Their sweet smiles and heartfelt gratitude for the simple meals I carried chased away the Loneliness Blues. I drove back to my home on the mesa top with a lighter heart and a deeper resolve to find more ways to serve others.

July 21, 2010

Lumpy Ridge #2: “Melvin’s Wheel”

Summit of Melvin's Wheel. You can almost hear Wagner (Overture to Tannhauser) playing.

Twelve stories up a granite wall is no place to lose one’s composure, but mine was fleeing fast. There was no place I could see to put my hurting feet, and the smallest hand and finger holds seemed equally elusive. To make matters worse, a summer thunderstorm was rolling in from the west and ominous clouds were gathering for an attack. I looked up to see how much farther I had to climb, and saw nothing but lots more of the same difficult nothingness.

Good job, Ed — you make it look so easy!   [fully zoomed in]

Except... there aren't many holds between here and there.

And it's a long, long, long stretch.

I did what any utterly-inadequate-feeling human being might do. I burst into tears.

It wasn’t that I was afraid of heights. Simply speaking, I was in over my head, had not a clue how I would pull out of it, and I let my emotions get the best of me. I HAD to get up to the top of this climb, as descending was no longer an option after that first pitch was completed. That is a lot of pressure.

The photo says it all.

To be fair, I knew at the start of the day that we were undertaking a route more difficult than yesterday’s pleasant White Whale. My climbing buddy assured me that something rated 5.8+ (plus meaning “more than”) would challenge me, but he was confident I could do it. Ed is a professional climbing and canyoneering guide, and I trust his judgment. Right now, however, it was all I could do to keep from yelling some colorful epithets in his general direction. I was not pleased to be stuck on a crag feeling a sense of desperation and doom, with lightning approaching from behind.

I had already made it through one “crux” (the hardest part of a climb), but everything conspired to make this one feel worse. We had worked on hand techniques before starting, but in the face of meteorological vagaries that could be life-threatening, the ‘jamming’ wasn’t exactly working for me. I was inexperienced enough that I couldn’t punt very well.

Lump in throat. Not smiling.

Panic was rising in my throat as I struggled to focus on even one single thing I could do to propel myself upward. It was then that I heard words come out of my mouth that I rarely allow myself to say: “I can’t do this.” Up there on the wall, halfway between ground and summit, I said it again: “ED, I CAN’T DO THIS.” I meant it, more than I have meant many things. I was convinced that this was an impossible task.

Ed’s voice had a reassuring steady cadence as he calmly directed me blindly from above. “Use your feet. Don’t get tunnel vision. You can do this, Kathryn. Just one small move at a time.” I took a few deep cleansing breaths, more to stop the tears than to fill my lungs, and found the first move I could make. It was only a few inches up, but as I put that slack into the rope and Ed tightened it up immediately from above, he commended me and re-introduced a tiny ray of hope.

Well. I’ll spare you the gruesome details, which included shameless whimpering, more tears, scraped knees and elbows and back, self-pity, thirst beyond describing, and a desperate longing for three magical wishes. I’m rarely a wimp, but on parts of that climb I was a total wuss. It was not pretty, working my way inch by inch out of the slot of doom.

Package says "Snacks for the Bold." I guess I forgot to eat some jerky before climbing.

Ed’s considerable experience guiding all types of people has contributed to his being patient, compassionate, always encouraging. He knows how to empower others to muster the strength to get up and do what needs to be done, even when it looks impossible at the moment. I hope you enjoy the summit photo he took of me as much as I do. It is a reminder of what comes when you push hard at the edges of your ability and refuse to succumb to the “I can’ts” that impinge on your thinking and being. I’d call it a watershed day on the rock.

Our ascent took us up the left face of this crag.

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