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June events at Chimney Rock National Monument

By Nadia Werby
Special to The SUN

Enter the world of the ancients at Chimney Rock National Monument this June.

Join us on Friday, June 7, for the first Night Sky Archaeoastronomy Program of the season.

The evening begins with a talk at the Visitor Center amphitheater. Topics range from what the ancient people noticed in the night sky, to how a telescope helps us see stars and current topics in astronomy.

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 guests for this program must be through the Colo. 151 gate by 7:15 p.m. The opening program is scheduled from 7:30-8:30, with viewing from 9-10:45.

Reservations are suggested as space is limited, or tickets can be purchased at the Visitor Cabin prior to the program: $15 for adults and $7.50 for children 16 years and younger. 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.

Visions of Chimney Rock will take place on Sunday, June 16, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.This free program takes a particular topic and explores it in depth. Examples are the native foods eaten by the Ancestral Puebloans, their pottery, or their music and instruments. This is a kids-friendly, typically hands-on program limited to a small group, so reservations are required. This does not replace the regular walking tours, but rather expands on the many topics covered on a tour. The program is suitable for those with limited time and people who cannot do the walking tour, especially older adults and young children, those with physical limitations and those who work during the week. Reserve your spot by calling the site. Walk-ins will be accommodated — first-come, first-served — up to 25 people.

On Friday, June 21, observe the summer solstice 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 describes several alignments at Chimney Rock and their possible importance to ancient residents. All guests for this program must be through the Colo. 151 gate by 5:05 a.m. Sunrise is at approximately 5:48. Tickets for this program are $15 and reservations are required.

On Saturday, June 22, 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. Watch the full moon rise over the eastern mountain peaks to the music of a Native American flute. You’ll be torn between looking west to see the spectacular sunset or 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 for children under 12 years old. Tickets are $15; add $5 for an early tour of the lower area (Great Kiva Trail Loop), which starts at 4:45. All guests for this program must be through the Colo. 151 gate by 6 p.m. The program begins at 6:45. Bring flashlights, water (also for sale at the cabin), cushions, and blankets or coats. After the Full Moon Program, guests will be given the opportunity to join the Full Moon Viewing, where guests will be able to view the surface of the moon with telescopes. Cost for this program is $5.

The Life at Chimney Rock Festival will take place on June 29-30. This free, family-oriented festival is held at Chimney Rock’s Visitor Center area. Step back in time as volunteers and artisans demonstrate ancient tools and crafts. Visitors can make a pot, throw an atlatl (a type of throwing spear), pound yucca leaves to release their fibers, carve their own petroglyph, grind corn with a mano and metate, watch a volunteer spin dog hair using a drop spindle, see an expert flint knapper create hand tools, and learn how a Native American makes his own flutes. The festival is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and includes Native American arts and crafts for sale. This special event does not require reservations and does not have a limit to number of people.

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. No reservations are needed for the tours.

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.

This story was posted on May 30, 2013.