Last week, as I’ve been stating in Facebook status messages, I took a trip to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Originally, my intent was merely to visit the Academy and see the sites that I saw back in 2007, and hopefully get a chance to see the Protestant section of the Chapel. Then I remembered Falcon Circle – the stone circle that had been in the news during the previous year. I decided to add that to my “must see” list during my trip to the Academy.
A few days after adding it to my list, I thought things through a little more. I had no idea exactly where it was located. So, I sent an Email to the USAF Academy Chapel, through their website where I was placed in contact with Stephen “Pete” Peterson, the Director of Public Relations for the Chapel. Pete was extremely helpful, and very understanding of my wide-open schedule. Since I was only sure of the date that I would be there, but not the time – I provided him with a six hour time frame with the promise to narrow it down even more once the rest of my schedule firmed up. The weekend prior to my being out there, I was able to give him a one-hour time frame in which I would arrive. With everything firmed up, I was confident that the visit to Falcon Circle would be easy, and event free.
And I was right. I arrived at the Chapel at 10am. Pete was apologetic about a slight snag in scheduling as a set of tour buses had pulled in and touring looked to be heavy during that time frame. This wasn’t a problem for me, so we agreed to meet in front of the Chapel fifty minutes later. In the meantime, I wandered around and took pictures of the grounds, the cadets walking, the Chapel itself. At the appointed time, Pete was right there and ready to head up the hill to the Circle.
The hill is located right near the Chapel – in fact its the hill between the Visitors Center and the Chapel. And it is STEEP. While I’m used to walking nearly five miles a day, we needed to stop twice to catch our collective breath on the way to the summit. On the way up, we passed a sign that stated that the trail we were on was for “Cadet Use Only”. Furthermore, Pete told me that there are surveillance cameras all throughout the hill and that the site is monitored. As a Security guy, I can tell you that these systems are well placed. If I had not know that these systems were there, I would never have noticed them prior to climbing the hill. Another reason that I am glad that I setup an appointment with someone to escort me to Falcon Circle: coming into the Visitor’s Gate on the north side of the Academy grounds, my vehicle was searched, and a sign stating that the base was in “Threatcon Alpha” for a security exercise were the first things I saw. I can only imagine the amount of Security Police attention I would have attracted by attempting to visit Falcon Circle on my own. This may be the Air Force Academy, but in the end it is still a military installation.
The trail is surrounding by trees nearly the whole way up. However, when you reach the summit, the trees clear away and the wide area where Falcon Circle stands opens up before you. At the top of the hill is a small, blue sign denoting that this is “Falcon Circle”, but if you aren’t looking directly at it (which your attention is nearly centered on the clearing) its very easy to miss in passing – despite the fact its out in the open. The rocks are placed in two circles – one smaller circle in the middle completely surrounds a square fire-pit – and the outer circle completely encompasses the smaller circle, except for a singular opening, as you can see in the photo.
|From August 2011 – Colorado Trip|
The view on all sides of Falcon Circle is simply astounding and magickal. Your attention is drawn to the mountains directly to the west – and while I visited in the morning, I’m sure that the time of sunset is absolutely pure Awen. Maybe one day I’ll get a chance to see it.
Once Pete and I came down from Falcon Circle, he provided a quick tour to the Protestant Chapel, where we spent some time talking about the differences between Pagans working with Chapel Services in the Air Force now versus back in 1992-1993. I am proud to say, that the Chapel Services are still open and accepting of military members of all faiths. I know there are still exceptions to that statement — but those are few and far between and probably represent less than a half-percent of the military population. Falcon Circle is a testament to that degree of acceptance – and I am proud to say I was one of many Pagans who helped lay some of the foundation stones that brought this about. We might not have had a direct hand in Falcon Circle, but in 1993, the Kaiserslautern Military Pagans successfully petitioned Ramstein Air Base Chapel for allocated Chapel space for Pagan worship services. Since then, many other Pagan groups in the military services have successfully petitioned their Chapel services for similar allocation and assistance. Everything that the folks at the Academy have done with Falcon Circle, coupled with the efforts of many Pagans in the military before them, will pave the way for further acceptance of Pagans within the ranks of the US Armed Forces – as well as the acceptance of any and every service-member’s faith. I can only hope that the civilian world sees this and follows the example. But that’s a whole other battle.
Finally, let me point out that you too can do as I have done here. If you happen to take a trip into Colorado Springs, you can also visit Falcon Circle. Just be sure to contact the USAF Academy Chapel Services at: firstname.lastname@example.org and SCHEDULE your visit time. Again, remember this is a military installation. You can easily find yourself in a place you shouldn’t be, attracting attention you don’t really want. An escort to Falcon Circle is not only appropriate, but you will also have an opportunity to talk with some of the friendliest and most knowledgeable folks in the Chapel Services. Do your due diligence and be sure you make your appointment for a time frame in advance of your arrival. Also, if you decide to make the visit — remember, this hill is STEEP. It is one heck of a climb to the top. Make your plans accordingly.