Volunteer Blog

Landis on duty in Visitor Center
Landis on duty in the Visitor Center

NPS Photo, Adrian Jones

Landis Ehler, Interpretation and Cultural Resources Volunteer

February 13, 2011

As of this day I have been "in canyon" for exactly one month now! While this is just a coincidence of dates rather than a set goal on my part, this is a great opportunity to write down some thoughts and experiences from my time here at Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

Risking the cliché, the desert is home to such emotion-filled stretches of stark beauty! The sun, especially at either extremity of the day, dances across the canyon walls in ever changing golden hues, punctuated by the inherent shadow and crimson of the sandstone walls. This riot of living color is balanced by the night sky, a glorious profusion of infinite stars streaking across the heavens. Within the passage of night and day the various desert dwellers make their presence known, from the opportunistic soaring of the ravens to the chorus songs of the fickle coyotes.

Here in Navajo Land, the barren steppes and harsh hills are teeming with life in its cycles. The quiet box canyons shelter the stately herds of Elk, while the seasonal rains brings out the croaking of frogs long dormant. Water is everything here, and its mastery at Chaco brought forth a florescence of culture, human culture!

For thousands of years people have called this remote canyon home, farming the wash at its center and seeking shelter in the ever present sandstone. Starting in A.D 850 though, the pattern of life shifted, as the inhabitants began to build massive buildings, larger than anything seen before in what is now the US! As a volunteer I have the privilege to explore these masonry monuments with the tours I guide, wandering through the empty halls and plazas of ancient villages. The largest buildings encompass hundreds upon hundreds of rooms in of themselves, now filled by the awed shuffle of feet and the voiced inquiries of tourist and ranger alike. I don't think that I am exaggerating when I claim that Chaco Canyon is the premier archaeological site in the United States!

In addition to guiding tours, as a volunteer I also help staff the park visitor center, answering what questions I can and helping to collect fees for the site's continued upkeep. With my background in archaeology, I have also been blessed with the chance to assist the park Cultural Resources division. It is powerful to tenderly care for a pot that witnessed the same sun that the last emperors in Rome did!

There are many opportunities for volunteers at Chaco Culture or at other National Park units. It can be a very rewarding experience, as you help steward the national treasures of this country, alongside the very talented and motivated park staff! Beyond the professional reward, the American Southwest is home to many diverse and vibrant cultures, many descended from the original inhabitants of Chaco. Whether one encounters Chaco as a visitor or volunteer, the experience is definitely worth the visit!


Welcome to the Chaco Volunteer Blog

Kathy Donoho-Munro, Volunteer Coordinator

February 9, 2011

The volunteer season is about to begin here in Chaco Culture. Most of our park visitation occurs between March and October when we have lots of long, sunny days. Although we have fewer visitors in the winter months, a winter visit to Chaco is a unique and worthwhile experience. This time of year we start gearing up for our early volunteers, dreaming of visitors and the warmer weather to come.

As the new volunteer coordinator, I'm looking forward to meeting our new volunteers and getting reacquainted with our returning volunteers. This year I'm hoping to put together a few activities for our volunteers to express our appreciation of all their dedicated time and energy.

I've started, with the invaluable help of Ranger Lauren Blacik, a volunteer blog. It's for volunteers only, a place where our volunteers can submit writings to share with the public about their experiences while here in Chaco. If you are interested, please check with me about how to submit your work.

The season is just beginning…come join the fun! I look forward to seeing you here!

Finally, I would like to say an enormous "Thank You" to our incredible volunteers already on the schedule for the year 2011. You help meet our many needs, and the park simply could not succeed without you. Your energy and enthusiasm remind us all what a special place Chaco is.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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Nageezi, NM 87037


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