Ranger Kathryn's Arches

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.

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May 25, 2012

Last moments of eclipse

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 5:00 pm
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The basins of Canyonlands National Park from the Green River Overlook. Sunset.

Evening’s magical light had waned once, returned to normal, and was now fading fast. Shadows crept into the canyons, stealthily chasing remaining light from them; White Rim Sandstone steadfastly held its glow. My heart was overwhelmed at the grandeur. I pinched myself, again, at the unspeakable privilege of working in this national park. My joy is complete.

January 31, 2012

Entrusted with weather data collection

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:32 pm
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Part of our humble weather station at Island in the Sky District

Every morning as I reach work, I peek into the eight-inch canister behind the visitor center. If any precipitation has fallen in the preceding 24 hours, it is measured exactly. Multiple measurements are taken in winter: new snow depth (measured on a white board swept clean daily), standing depth (measured on a stick secured in the ground), and new snow in the canister melted and measured to the nearest hundredth of an inch. Our digital temperature recording device marks highs and lows of the previous day. We note the hours during which weather events happened, any related observations (e.g., “snow squall with thunder clap,” or “wind blew tents down”), and oddities like hail or fog. Part of our morning procedures includes logging on to the National Weather Service data collection site and putting all our numbers safely into their system. I hope that gives meteorologists something interesting to study when storms are utterly absent.

This post was unnervingly monochromatic, requiring the addition of a recent sunset photo from my front door.

I must say that my favorite hand-written observation in the weather book last year was on October 25: “screaming double rainbow 4:37 pm.” Take that, National Weather Service!

July 14, 2010

Snippets from family fun days

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 6:54 pm
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Evan finds a perch high up in the Fiery Furnace

Slot canyons, sandstone ledges, swimming holes only the locals know — we’re making a good deal of fun for ourselves while my five Minnesota visitors are here. We’re not paying attention to the fact that Moab’s high temps all this week are hovering around 102 degrees. It’s a dry heat, right?

It's okay; I promise they're safe.

Niece Kailey and a friend, at the local swimming hole

Sister Becky at Little Wild Horse (slot canyon)

Evan & Marta atop a Navajo sandstone knoll at sunset

At age 19, I guess your knees can take this impact...

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

May 1, 2010

Last sunset of April

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:12 am
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8:06 pm

Evening’s last sunlight struck the red-orange rocks above Moab. A threatening sky behind them provided the needed complementary color. I sprinted to my house to grab the camera in the nick of time.

March 1, 2010

Red sun, red rocks

Filed under: 1 — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 11:50 pm
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March 1, 2010, Park Avenue

Took my two new housemates up to Park Avenue, a favorite canyon, for an introductory hike. It was half hour ’til sunset and the red rocks glowed from within.

Tower of Babel, minutes before sunset

Spring's first waterfall, 3/1/10

Because it has been in the 40s yesterday and today, we now have running water in the park. This is a feature I saw only once last summer, after a rare rain. It makes everything much more interesting, audibly as well as visually.

February 26, 2010

Ranger Victoria’s welcome invitation

Filed under: 1 — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 11:03 am
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After two bear hugs in the Vis Center, Ranger Victoria asked me if I had brought my skis. My ‘no’ did not deter her, as she had snowshoes in her trunk that I could borrow. “As soon as I’m off work, let’s go up to Salt Valley road and work our muscles a bit in that time between sunset and total darkness!” Ooooooh! I’m never one to turn down an adventure, and I was itching to get into the park and see my precious formations again. (“My” formations. Of course.)

As Vic drove the 18 miles, she commented that it has been overcast here for a very long time and that the sun came out upon my arrival. I grabbed my camera out of my waist pack and began shooting out the window at 45 mph. The alpenglow lit the sandstone afire… and my heart afire.

Sandstone at sunset

Can rock get any more beautiful?

Balanced Rock, one of my favorite subjects

Such detail at 45 mph!

That is one happy ranger.

I dare you to click on this one!!

Ranger Vic

Who'd have thought I'd be snowshoeing on my first day back?

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