By Lace Stevens
Special to The SUN
Several years ago, when my husband and I lived in Grand Junction, we made a jaunt of discovery through southwest Colorado. Driving east on U.S. 160 from Durango, we rounded a turn and were struck by a sudden sight — two tall rock monoliths, standing stately and majestic above the surrounding mesa. Wow.
What a marvel of nature. What are those twin towers? Is there a special significance to them? We were now on high alert — to spot them whenever the landscape allowed. Soon, we had a name for at least one of them — Chimney Rock — from the ubiquitous brown sign pointing the way to Chimney Rock National Monument. The towers came and went as our journey took us farther east. They would have made for a most interesting stop, but we had another destination calling us — though I cannot tell you what it was. Taos? The San Luis Valley? Great Sand Dunes? Bent’s Old Fort? We’ve been to all of these places. Chimney Rock and its unnamed companion went on a long “to-do” list, waiting for another trip to this area. And then it was pretty much forgotten.
Fast forward to 2016 — we moved to Pagosa Springs. And there was Chimney Rock National Monument, calling me once again. Now, it went to the top of my “to-do” list for that first summer. Yet, the summer came and went, as did various visitors and family members to see our new home, intermingled with trips down south to see other kin. Chimney Rock remained an enigma, still calling to be explored.
However, I did learn more about Chimney Rock from the San Juan National Forest Ranger Station, where I managed to put in a few volunteer hours that first fall. And I had seen callings for volunteers to help with various operations at “The Monument.” Volunteer the spring and summer of 2018 I most assuredly did.
A bit surprising that my first experience with Chimney Rock was as a volunteer, not a tourist. But that’s how it went. And, I fell in love.
Chimney Rock National Monument is a special place for so many people: the Native Americans whose ancestors so very carefully designed and built remarkable dwellings and places of worship. The visitors who come to learn about this astro-archaeological site. The volunteers who meet and greet and tell the story of this significant place for the ancestral Puebloans and how it remains important to all of us today. It is a place of learning and connections to a different time and culture in our wonderful Colorado landscape.
I look forward to this upcoming 2019 season at Chimney Rock, my second year. I still have much to learn. It’s time to get at it and enjoy this most majestic and noble, mysterious place. I hope that you, too, will be called to it. It never fails.
To help community members learn about the exciting volunteer opportunities at Chimney Rock National Monument, the Chimney Rock Interpretive Association (CRIA) will host an open house 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. in Pagosa Springs. 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. 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.
By Lace Stevens