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By Nadia Werby
Special to The SUN
Chimney Rock Interpretive Association invites you and your family to enjoy the night sky in a truly dark environment at the Chimney Rock Night Sky Archaeoastronomy Program on Friday, Sept. 6.
This program includes a one-hour astronomy talk at the Visitor Center amphitheater and provides an excellent opportunity to learn about the visible celestial objects. As darkness descends, guests drive to the High Mesa parking lot where volunteer astronomers await with telescopes to provide a closer look at the wonders of the night sky. Each telescope will focus on a different feature and the volunteer will change that focus periodically during the two-hour viewing time. This program is perfect for young families and those with limited mobility. All participants must be through the Colo. 151 gate by 6:15 p.m.; the opening program is scheduled from 6:30-7:30 with viewing from 8-9:30. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children 16 years and younger (plus a booking fee) and are non-refundable. Participants in the Night Sky Program are advised to come prepared with binoculars, water (which is also for sale at the cabin), flashlights, blankets and coats. Visit www.chimneyrockco.org for reservations or call (877) 444-6777. Reservations can be made online up until two hours before the event. Walk-ins will be accommodated when space is available.
On Thursday, Sept. 19, watch the full moon rise over the mountain peaks as you listen to the music of a Native American flute at the top of Chimney Rock Mesa. The full moon program occurs against the backdrop of the Great House Pueblo at the top of Chimney Rock Mesa. The nearly 360 degree view of the mountain-studded horizon provides the dramatic celestial observatory valued so highly by the Ancient Puebloans. A speaker tells the story of the people and their likely relationship with the moon, sun, and stars. You’ll be torn between looking west to see the spectacular sunset and focusing on the eastern mountain range to see the first sliver of moon. Volunteers light the trail down from the mesa top after the program. The program lasts approximately four hours including check-in, driving to the mesa top, and walking to the site. The hike to the Great House Pueblo is short but moderately strenuous and not appropriate for those with mobility impairment or children under 12 years old. Tickets are $15 plus a booking fee and are non-refundable. Add $5 for an early tour of the lower area (Great Kiva Trail Loop), which starts at 4:15 p.m. All participants must be through the Colo.151 gate by 5:30 and the program begins at 6:15. Bring flashlights, water (also for sale at the cabin), cushions, and blankets or coats. For reservations, visit www.chimneyrockco.org or call (877) 444-6777. Reservations can be made online up until two hours before the event. Walk-ins will be accommodated when space is available.
On Sunday, Sept. 22, observe the autumnal equinox amid the ancient ruins of Chimney Rock mesa. Attendees enter the National Monument in pre-dawn darkness and meet a volunteer program leader who will escort them to two special places on Chimney Rock mesa. First, an unexcavated ruin, now called the Sun Tower, offers a dramatic vantage point to watch the sun rise over a notch in the San Juan Mountains. A Stone Circle carved into the bedrock below the Great House Pueblo offers a second opportunity to see the sun rise again over the Great House Pueblo’s north wall. The volunteer program leader will describe several alignments at Chimney Rock and their possible importance to ancient residents. Guests must be through the Colo. 151 gate by 6:05 a.m. Sunrise is at approximately 6:56. Tickets are $15 plus a booking fee and non-refundable. For reservations, visit www.chimneyrockco.org or call (877) 444-6777. Reservations can be made online up until two hours before the event. Walk-ins will be accommodated when space is available.
Chimney Rock National Monument is located 17 miles west of Pagosa Springs on U.S. 160 and three miles south on Colo. 151. Turn right at the gate and follow the road one half mile to the cabin registration area where the tours begin.
All programs are sponsored by Chimney Rock Interpretive Assn., Inc., in partnership with the USDA Forest Service and the San Juan National Forest. Visit the website at www.chimneyrockco.org.