Volunteering at Chimney Rock: A gem of Archuleta County

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    By Laura Lunsford
    Special to The SUN
    Some people have asked me what I like about volunteering as a tour guide at Chimney Rock. I like sharing all the various facets of this little-known gem nestled next to the Piedra River Valley of Archuleta County.
    The first facet is the sandstone pillar from which the monument gets its name. Frequently, visitors have never heard of Chimney Rock until they see the twin sandstone pillars (Chimney Rock and Companion Rock) and then they see the sign on U.S. 160. Many people are fascinated by the fact that the sandstone was formed when this whole area was an inland sea and that there are fossils in the sandstone left behind by primordial sea life.
    The second facet is the architectural structures and archaeological information about the Ancient Pueblo people and their connection to the Chaco Canyon trading network. This aspect frequently leads to questions about the modern-day Pueblo culture and their connection to the Chimney Rock location. I highly recommend coming for a visit during Life at Chimney Rock, when kids of all ages can learn from hands-on activities about the daily lives of the Ancient Pueblo people.
    Then there is the facet of the astronomy and the alignment of the moon to the twin pillars during the northern lunar standstill. Not many people have ever heard of the northern lunar standstill prior to their visit.
    It is also wonderful to watch visitors as they drink in the scenery from the top of the Great House trail. There are questions about how far you can see, and about the plants and animals — including our resident peregrine falcons.
    All of these facets combine to create a truly memorable visit. Many people comment about how they like the small group tours and about how much they have learned. I hope that my tour guests leave Chimney Rock with an appreciation for how people across the centuries have been attracted to the twin pillars and have stopped for a shorter or longer time to appreciate their beauty. I’ll be looking for you this summer.
    To help community members learn about the exciting volunteer opportunities at Chimney Rock National Monument, the Chimney Rock Interpretive Association (CRIA) will host two open houses. The first will take place on Friday, Feb. 22, from 6 to 7 p.m. at the EcoLuxe building at The Springs Resort and Spa located at 165 Hot Springs Blvd.
    The second will take place at the Ruby M. Sisson Memorial Library on March 22 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. There will be a host of CRIA volunteers on hand who are eager to introduce guests to the variety of roles that support this unique program and the flexibility in level of commitment. Some of the volunteer positions include: visitor cabin host, mesa host, tour guide and maintenance crew.
    CRIA offers a great, in-depth training program in a fun environment to anyone interested in joining our amazing team of volunteers. This year volunteer training will take place on April 26 at the PLPOA Vista Clubhouse at 230 Port Ave.
    For more information about the monument, calendar of events and volunteer opportunities, please stop by the Chimney Rock open house and enjoy desserts with our enthusiastic volunteers. Beverages will be available for purchase at The Phoenix Lounge. We are very excited for the upcoming season starting May 15 and want to encourage the community to join us.
    CRIA is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that runs the daily operations and interpretive program at Chimney Rock National Monument in partnership with the USDA Forest Service and the San Juan National Forest. For more information, see the CRIA website at www.chimneyrockco.org or call 731-7133.