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By John Gwin
Special to The PREVIEW
I believe we are all blessed to have the opportunity to live in Archuleta County, and those of us that have chosen to volunteer at Chimney Rock National Monument are constantly reminded of the sacredness of this land.
I believe that a thousand years ago, the people that lived here knew the lands of Chimney Rock were sacred and the twin spires had special spiritual significance for them. As a Chimney Rock Interpretive Association (CRIA) volunteer for the past eight years, I have taken the opportunity to also have a spiritual connection with the sacred lands of Chimney Rock National Monument (CRNM).
In addition to the spiritual aspects of the Chimney Rock Ancestral Puebloan community, I have enjoyed the interaction with CRIA volunteers and visitors to the site. I have volunteered with many organizations since retiring in 2004 and none have more dedicated, energetic volunteers than CRIA. These mostly retired 85 folks gave16,262 hours and 73,563 miles in service to CRNM and the 10,000-plus visitors that came in 2013.
Being a cabin host at the visitor’s center is great fun. Interacting with other volunteers and the visitors is special. Meeting folks from everywhere and anywhere is a treat and explaining to visitors what CRNM is about is rewarding. It’s amazing how most visitors arrive with a thirst for knowledge about the Ancestral Puebloans who were here a thousand years ago. Most visitors leave with a new understanding and appreciation for the peoples that lived there a thousand years ago and the very special place Chimney Rock was and is.
It’s also rewarding to lead interpretive tours and see the transformation that occurs when the visitors recognize the sacredness of the land they are walking on. And while their spiritual beliefs may differ, they acknowledge the spirituality of those that came before them onto the land.
As a maintenance team member, it is especially rewarding to work at the site in the early mornings before the site is open to the public. The quietness and natural beauty of the area create a special work environment. For those that have enjoyed the view from the Great Pueblo atop the questa while waiting for the full moon, you know the feelings.
CRIA members who volunteer as “monitors,” welcoming visitors to the mesa (upper parking lot area) have a special opportunity to share their love of CRNM with folks who may not be able to take the entire guided tour. As a “monitor,” I always felt a special appreciation from those visitors unable to tour the entire site to share with them information they would otherwise not have had an opportunity to see or hear.
If you enjoy the outdoors, welcoming and educating, please consider joining CRIA. It is a wonderful opportunity to give back, preserve a national treasure and educate visitors to the special place CRNM was and is.
CRNM is operated by the nonprofit CRIA in partnership with the USDA Forest Service and the San Juan National Forest. Without CRIA and the volunteers, there would not be any interpretive tours at Chimney Rock.
CRIA will be holding their volunteer training on April 25 and 26 and an open house will be held at Quality Inn on March 28. For more information, please visit our website at www.chimneyrockco.org.