Ranger Kathryn's Arches

September 21, 2012

Sleeping in odd places

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:04 am
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Lay out your sleeping bags a few feet from a canyon edge. Wake up to this pre-dawn view, with bats and chipmunks for company.

Sometimes I get the urge to just go sleep in the wild. Doesn’t really matter where, as long as it’s somewhere “out there” where I won’t see anything man-made. Campgrounds are too civilized, too ‘safe,’ too peopled. I want to be away from it all, stretched out full-length on the earth. I want crickets to sing me to sleep; I want the breeze to kiss my face while I dream.

Here’s how it happens: I grab a sleeping pad and bag, a water bottle, a headlamp, a Clif Bar, and (optionally) a friend, and go find myself an Adventure Sleep Spot. Experiencing the Milky Way for my ceiling, with shooting stars puncturing holes in the night, is a treat that far outweighs any discomfort or inconvenience. Waking in an unusual place often elicits an involuntary chuckle at finding myself not in a bed, not in a house.

After my first season in Utah, Wildophilia gripped me. I appear to have the progressive variety of this condition; surely a normal person wouldn’t be looking at all the high rock formations in this park and wondering what it would be like to wake up on top of them. Or… would she?

 

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June 27, 2012

Keet Seel 5: a sleepless night

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 2:00 pm
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Having thoroughly explored the ruin with Ranger Bill, our awe and wonder were at a peak. The slow trudge back to the campground allowed us to compare notes; impacts on us were profound. Exhausted by what we’d done, humbled by what we’d seen, rest and food and sleep were all we wanted. I vaguely remember quinoa and yummy sauce, raw veggies, lots of water to rehydrate, and crawling into our sleeping bags just after sunset in anticipation of a pre-dawn hike out.

I couldn’t sleep. Sleep is for darkness. My mind was churning with the history of these people, the artifacts they left behind, the stories surrounding every room block and metate and pottery shard. Late that night as the moon began to rise, my body eventually came to terms with the lumpy soil beneath me and the open sky above me, and I dozed lightly on my tarp until after midnight.

Google image of Mexican Spotted Owl, same species as hooted at me in Tsegi Canyon.

Hoo-hoo, hoooo. My eyes flew open. A crow-sized bird sailed silently over me, his silhouette visible against the stars. Hoo-hoo, hoooo. Again. Strong, resonant. I knew what this was — an owl I’ve been hoping to see for three years. A threatened species, with only 2100 individuals remaining in the United States. And here, in this remote canyon in Arizona, a lone Mexican Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis lucida) woke me up to give me the delight of hearing its voice. I was beside myself with joy.

April 16, 2012

Old tent, old memories

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:16 am
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1964 VW Microbus and our 8-man tent took us to every adventure we had as children.

Thinking back over my childhood, the gifts my parents gave their children were good ones: mandatory Saturday chores, a one-hour limit on TV, eating what was put on our plates, having to apologize when we were unkind. One that is more easily overlooked, though, was Mom’s sacrifice of going on camping trips when she would have preferred comfort. She never let on that cooking for eight on a Coleman stove was not fun or easy, or that sleeping in a musty blue canvas tent on blow-up air mattresses was anything less than delightful. We children, of course, thought these were the best adventures imaginable.

Dad and Mom made a good pair. Dad created every itinerary and saw to it that all our equipment was in working order. He and my brothers always loaded the car. Mom was mistress of the kitchen and of each person’s “stuff.” She knew where the pancake griddle, raisins, or Dramamine resided. And, no matter how young, each child was responsible for his or her own sleeping bag and air mattress.

To this day, six out of six of us kids love camping. My brothers find winter camping (in Minnesota!) delightful. One sister just finished nine days camping in Oman, experiencing marvels never to be forgotten, and the other sister camps whenever she can. Me? I live and work in the wilderness and can’t imagine life without my little REI tent.

And for Beatrice, the long-suffering? All our trips laid the groundwork for Mom to see the wonders of travel — inspiring adventures which have enriched my parents’ lives through eight decades. Their passports sport over one hundred country stamps. While most were visited without a tent, I gratefully tip my flat hat to that old blue one that started it all.

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