Find your spiritual connection to Chimney Rock National Monument

By Tozi Rubin
Special to The PREVIEW

My name is Tozi Rubin and I am extremely proud to be a volunteer for the Chimney Rock Interpretative Association (CRIA). CRIA is responsible for managing the interpretative program at Chimney Rock National Monument, in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service.

I first visited Chimney Rock National Monument in 2007 while on vacation with three girlfriends. We decided to visit what was then an archaeological area because one of the women couldn’t hike the trails at Mesa Verde National Park. Chimney Rock was a “second choice,” and yet that day turned out to be a life-changing event for me.

We walked the lower Kiva Trail together, seeing and learning about the Great Kiva and pit house on a self-guided tour. The others chose not to hike the upper trail to the Great House, but I couldn’t resist. I was so moved by what I saw that I decided if I ever moved to Pagosa Springs, I wanted to be a Chimney Rock tour guide.

Three years later, my husband and I moved here. I am now a Chimney Rock tour guide and mesa host and my husband is on the maintenance team.

I’ve completed two years volunteering for CRIA, during which I’ve learned about the Ancestral Puebloans who farmed there, utilizing everything on the mesa for their food, housing, clothing and medicines. I’ve also learned about their incredible knowledge of astronomy, even using it as a unifying principle in the construction of their structures.

Why volunteer? For me, it’s the awe and admiration that I feel at what these Ancestral Puebloans built on top of an incredibly steep mesa almost 1,000 years ago. They were Stone Age people who had no beasts of burden, no wheel and no metal. And yet they carried 6 million pecked stones, plus the water needed for mortar, up a steep and narrow trail to the mesa top, where they built a beautiful Great House with at least 35 rooms and two large, ceremonial kivas. The beauty and architectural integrity of their Chacoan style masonry has to be seen to be believed.

What motivated them? Most of us believe that they chose this location for spiritual reasons because they worshipped the sun and the moon. Every 18.6 years, a major lunar standstill occurs there with the moon rising between Chimney Rock’s two pinnacles. The Great House faces the pinnacles — the perfect viewing station.

I can’t wait to witness this amazing natural occurrence for myself in 2021. In the meantime, we can all enjoy some sense of the awe the Ancestral Puebloans felt when CRIA hosts its monthly full moon program.

I feel a spiritual connection to this place. It is “in my bones.” That is why I lead our visitors on tours. I want to share what these amazing people accomplished, as well as the beauty of this very special monument. This site is an important part of America’s heritage, but I never learned about it when I was in school. I want to be a part of the movement to change that. That’s also why all school tours visit Chimney Rock National Monument at no charge.

My husband and I have formed amazing friendships with other CRIA volunteers. We share a love of nature, of history, and of education. What’s more, CRIA recognizes that we are volunteers and allows us to participate as much or as little as we like. Volunteers receive a great deal of training before the national monument opens each spring.

I would encourage those of you who were drawn to this article to investigate what it means to be a CRIA volunteer. Please consider coming to our open house at the Quality Resort on March 28 from 6 to 8 pm. We welcome you and hope you will join us as an excited CRIA volunteer in May when our 2014 season begins.

Available on the CRIA website are notices of upcoming CRIA activities, including monthly potluck dinners that are open to the public. These events offer an opportunity to learn more about the association and related volunteer opportunities. Following this month’s potluck on March 13, Dr. Susan C. Ryan, director of archaeology at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, will be giving a presentation titled, “Ancestral Pueblo Kiva Production during the Chaco and Post-Chaco Periods in the Northern Southwest.”

The public is invited to join CRIA for its monthly potluck preceding the lecture at 6 p.m. Please bring your favorite dish to share and join our volunteers to learn more about this nonprofit organization which operates the interpretive program at Chimney Rock National Monument. For more information, visit the CRIA website at or call 731-7133.

This story was posted on March 6, 2014.