Sunrise at Stonehenge on the Winter Solstice. Courtesy/wikipedia
For Ancestral Pueblo farmers, keeping track of the changing of the seasons was crucial for knowing when to plant and harvest.
In many places it appears that they made markers aligned with the sunrise and sunset on the winter and summer solstices, the shortest and longest days of the year. This year Bandelier National Monument will offer ranger-guided walks to observe possible solstice markers among the Ancestral Pueblo dwellings in Frijoles Canyon.
On Dec. 21, winter solstice, the Sunrise Walk will meet at 7:15 a.m. in front of the Visitor Center, and the Sunset Walk at 1:30 p.m. These times may sound strange, but the 400-foot canyon walls make a big difference in the first and last times of the day that the sun appears as seen from the canyon bottom. The walks will be postponed to the following day if the sky is overcast.
The shuttles have finished for this year, so participants can just drive down to the Visitor Center area, and no signups are required. Participants are encouraged to dress warmly in layers, especially for the sunrise. Both walks are about 400 yards each way on a level paved trail. The area along the trail, like most of Bandelier National Monument, is habitat for many kinds of native wildlife, so dogs and other pets are not permitted there. They can be walked in the parking area, picnic area, campground, and other places where passenger vehicles can be used.
Weather permitting, the park will be open throughout the holiday season, but the Visitor Center will be closed Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. For more information, contact the Visitor Center at 505.672.3861 x 517 or check the Bandelier website, www.nps.gov/band. There also is a Facebook page, BandelierNPS.