Ranger Kathryn's Arches

June 3, 2012

Down the switchbacks

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 6:59 am
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Green River. Red Duckie. Dawn.

“It’s safest if you drive switchbacks without a seatbelt on.” Bill’s instruction was so counter-intuitive that I shot him a glance that must have said, “Do you think I’m crazy?!?” We were perched at the top of a thousand vertical feet of winding dirt road taking us down to Mineral Bottom, where we’d leave a shuttle vehicle. I am not overly fond of driving on sandy gashes cut into a cliffside, but I’m willing to push my comfort zone in order to improve my 4WD skills have an adventure. The reasoning behind Bill’s statement was that if one had to exit one’s vehicle quickly (read: truck going over edge) it’s best to not be belted in. I sighed and unbuckled myself, shifted into 4 High, and followed the wildlife biologist’s truck down to the Green River boat launch.

Green River. Yellow Duckie. Moments after sunrise. Yes, it is as beautiful as it looks…

My long-awaited weekend was here; we’d be on the river for two days, surveying critical habitat for the endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatcher. I was beyond excited. If there is one thing this Minnesotan misses in the desert, it’s being on water.

After unloading our gear down in Spring Canyon and inflating our two duckies for a dawn start, we crawled into the back of the pick-up to sleep. Nobody EVER uses this old track along the Green River and we knew we wouldn’t be in anybody’s way parked on the ‘road’ — boats, cooler, life jackets, dry bags, backpacks, water jugs, and truck.

Five minutes into my sleeping bag, I hear a new sound: CLIP CLOP CLIP CLOP “WHOA.” “Easy.” Two of the grimiest cowboys I’ve ever seen were riding by the light of the quarter moon, their path now blocked.

~ To be continued ~

May 13, 2012

Mother’s Day sun-up

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:05 am
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Sun’s first rays strike the formations west of Green River Overlook.

When you want to see the sun rise in all its glory, you seek out a high place. Baby Half Dome, a knob of Navajo sandstone in the middle of the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park, seemed perfect. I’d been up there for a sunset a couple of years ago and knew I could find my way to the top again. Once you know the combination to the service road gate, all it takes is perseverance, the ability to follow others’ footprints, and some scrambling moves on a couple of sketchy places.

The reward? Three hundred sixty degrees of stunning beauty. Complete and utter silence. Chiaroscuro lighting falling on the basins and river canyons below. A fresher, deeper realization of why I do what I do.

We moms think about our kids on Mother’s Day. I sent this photo via text to my four children as my friend and I stood way up there on top of my little spot. And, in celebration of my own mom, may I say: Mother, all that you have poured into me over the years has paid off in spades. You are beautiful, intelligent, wonderfully supportive, funny, a deeply-motivated lifelong learner, and a very classy lady. Happy Mother’s Day; I love you.

December 23, 2011

Other-worldly

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 4:39 pm
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Unretouched image of me at Mesa Arch at sunrise today. It glows copper-colored for only a few moments. Supreme joy.

In my last post I identified that I am in search of, driven by, and yearning for, three things. Not riches, not fame, not comfort; not accomplishment or acquisition; not greatness, not honor. Here’s what moves me:

1) I can sit on the edge of a canyon in mute wonder for a great long time, with no need to budge. I can stare at a single flower blossom in admiration, or stand transfixed and breathless in an art museum. Beauty undoes me.

2) I’m wired for connection. When I am 1:1 with a friend — over a cup of tea, on the phone, Skyping across an ocean, or (in the old days) writing a l-o-n-g letter — my heart is full and satisfied. It’s all about relationship.

3) Always, always, I am digging up something fresh and intriguing. How does the evening primrose spring open so quickly? Where will that canyoneering route take me? What is the etymology of this curious word? How many civil war deaths resulted from field amputations? And… did I bug my parents by asking questions incessantly? This insatiable curiosity is a manifestation of my longing to be fascinated.

These stirrings provide strong evidence that there’s something more, something higher, something I can’t yet see. C. S. Lewis got it:

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

Aaaaahhhhh. That’s it. My lifelong search for beauty, connection, and fascination is not of this earth. Makes perfect sense to me.

So, in this Advent season, when we remember the gentle and unassuming commingling of earth and heaven, the contemplative in me finds rest. My deepest longings will one day be satisfied, beyond my ability to imagine. This I know.

All is well.

Merry Christmas to my readers.

June 29, 2010

We have to pretend

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 1:22 pm
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last ray of sunlight kisses a butte at Island in the Sky

Rangers are good at pretending. We are told that we have to address every single question as if it is the first time we’ve heard it; after all, it is probably the first time our visitor is asking it. By the twenty-seventh time you hear “I have only two hours, what can I see?,” it’s all you can do to smile and point at the road and say “Go forth.” Somehow we DO do a good job at presenting each visitor with our very best, kindest, most helpful assistance.

Yesterday at noon a particularly loquacious and self-referential photographer usurped an inordinate amount of my time. Not only did he demand to know the best places to shoot at precisely 6:00, 6:45, and 8:15 pm, but he then ‘enlightened’ me about the wasted midday hours that photographers must endure with nothing to do. I smiled warmly and nodded, [wondering how his wife endured him] — (no, that won’t do) — [hoping he would see fit to exit the visitor center soon] — (no, that’s not quite right, either) — (wait, I’ve got it!) — trying not to be judgmental. The concept of a vast wasteland of midday hours is not in my experience. I ought not judge him for not knowing what to do with those in-between times.

So, without further ado, here are my end-of-yesterday and beginning-of-today shots.

6:05 a.m., shortly after sunrise: Moon setting over promontory above Matheson Wetlands Preserve, Moab

Matheson Wetlands Preserve

early morning shadows up Kane Creek Canyon

Kane Creek Canyon

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