We got out early this morning, at least early for us, and headed to Chimney Rock National Monument. Poor signage led us astray for a few miles but we finally got on the right road and arrived at Chimney Rock Visitor’s Center around 10:00. Unfortunately, though a national monument, the America the Beautiful pass only gave one person ½ off and full price for me for a self-guided tour. $18 seemed a little steep for a self-guided tour.
Turn off of the highway was yet another dirt, graveled road as was the road up to the Entry Gate and Gift Shop Tent. After paying for our admission, we put on our designated blue bracelets and drove the 2 ½ miles up to the trailheads.
About 2000 years ago the Pueblo people began to build villages along the Piedra Rivers, the farthest north of all of the villages. The Chaco people built and lived in the two villages closest to Chimney Rock. They learned to determine when to plant crops and when to begin their festivals by studying the movement of the sun. One of the crops took 78 days of frost-free weather to grow and there typically there were only 80 days. That’s cutting it close!
There are two trails. One, the Mesa Village Trail is a paved walk of about ½ mile loop that leads to a 44-foot excavated Great Kiva as well as an excavated pit house and other structures. No one knows why the Pueblo people left the region or why they burned their homes but pottery remains indicate that some went to Mesa Verda while some went to New Mexico. Interestingly, excavation is not completed as there is hope that future excavations with newer technologies will lead to more accurate information
The second trail, The Great House Trail, is a hike up to the nearest point to the Chimney Rocks. It is not far but it is very strenuous. Oddly enough this was the hike that affected me the most. I struggled to get to the top with several rest stops along the way. It was in the bright sunshine and warm and I think that may be what bothers me the most. I don’t do well in the heat. Jerry seemed to have no problems.
The trail was steep and rocky and at times a narrow path, 200 foot gain in elevation. In fact there was a sign indicating that we were entering a “pinch point” meaning it was the narrowest section of the The Great House Trail and ran along the cliff edges with no rails.
There are several unexcavated structures at the top. There is also a sign “Made it to the top” and I made sure we got a picture there!
We noticed that that were no aspen trees here and asked about it. The volunteer told us that the area was more arid and that there seemed to be almost a line in Pagosa Springs when the climate changed. The entire landscape resembled a desert area, very unlike the other side of Pagosa Springs.
One of the most interesting features is that every 18 years the moon shines between the two rocks for 3 ½ years and it is supposed to occur again in 2021. I can’t imagine seeing such a beautiful sight. It is the only place in the world that this natural phenomenon happens. It occurs at Stonehenge but Stonehenge was built to accommodate that. Chimney Rock was not built for that. It’s all-natural.
We met a family from Dallas who said they were traveling and homeschooling this year as their district began with virtual school. Having a kindergarten student made their decision easy. It seems that we have often discussed the current educational chaos on this trip. Wonder why?
After lunch, we did something we have never done before and we loved it! We went to a hot springs spa, Overland Hot Springs Spa, and sat in the springs on the roof! The view was an added bonus. I don’t think I have ever felt so relaxed. The odd thing to me was that my arms and my legs were just floating. My body felt weightless and I thought about the astronauts and their weightlessness. What an eerie feeling. When I got out and sat for a while I felt like my body was liquid, no tension, no stress, no worries. My mind was blank. It really was a neat experience. After we left I asked Jerry what his favorite part of Pagosa Springs was and he answered by saying if we were going to be here another day he’d go back to the springs! It was that good. He also said if we had gone the first day we would have gone every day! Surely wish we had one nearby. It was our first experience but I bet it won’t be the last!
After burgers on the grill for dinner, we quickly went to the nearby Walmart for a few items and so ended our trip to Pagosa Springs. Tomorrow we will be going to Alamosa to visit the Great Sand Dune National Park and then Saturday we head to North Carolina.