March 20, 2016
March 20, Sunday
Today the sun rose marking the vernal equinox at Chaco. Over 80 people woke before dawn and arrived at the entrance to Chaco canyon in 27 degree weather to witness the sunrise. Though everyone could have watched the sunrise from their homes or the camp grounds, the Chaco equinox sunrise can be seen through an alignment of two doors at Casa Rinconada, one of the largest kivas in the area. All the staff were on hand to help with parking and crowd control. Initially they limited the sign ups to 100 and had 40 on a waiting list. But as it turned out everyone that showed up were admitted when the gates were opened an hour early at 6:00 am.
It was still dark out though the eastern sky was brightening as headlights in sets of six slowly made their way up the loop road. All came bundled up against the cold, some wore large blankets. Ranger GB Cornucopia gave a very moving description of the ancient Chacoans and how they existed within this environment and an explanation of the equinox phenomena. Though the actual alignment may or may not have existed when the canyon was populated, GB explained that you had to pay attention to the changing universe around you or you would die. Equinox meant warmer days and time to plant crops.
GB and the other rangers showed people the various angles they could observe and photograph the sun rays and carefully lined up everyone on the west side of the kiva asking for cooperation among the crowd. As the sun rose there was much excitement as visitors jockeyed for position to record for posterity on their smartphones or even cameras (what could the ancient Chacoans thought?). For me it seemed much more fun to record the visitors than the sun rise. The actual alignment lasted over 30 minutes but people fled from the cold as soon as they got their pictures.