Gulch Staff

Visiting Scholars In addition to our full-time instructors, visiting scholars join us each year to enhance your experience by sharing their expertise.
Visiting Scholars
In addition to our full-time instructors, visiting scholars join us each year to enhance your experience by sharing their expertise.   READ MORE 

We recruit staff nationally and positions are highly competitive: in a recent year, we drew 80 applications for three staff positions. On average, well over half of our staff are returning instructors, and we see it as a testament to the quality of our programs that staff return year after year.

As a minimum, all staff hold a Wilderness First Aid certification, and at least one member of each backpacking group holds an advanced certification: Wilderness First Responder or EMT. The minimum age for staff is 21 (there is also an internship program for 19 and 20-year-olds), and each year our staff is made up of a variety of people, from enthusiastic educators in their 20s to experienced and equally energetic educators in their 70s. We perform background checks on all staff, and we strive to create a comfortable and trustworthy environment for all Trekkers and families.

Our senior staff and group leaders are experienced outdoor educators, and many of them are classroom teachers during the school year, bringing with them a wealth of educational creativity and a passion for sharing their love of the outdoors with our Trekkers. Our staff team can be divided into two main categories:


Group Staff: These instructors are outdoor educators who are responsible for leading and educating a particular group. They live and work with that group day and night, hiking, backpacking, and exploring the Southwest alongside the Trekkers.  Each group has a group leader, a group cook, and 1-3 program staff, who bring an expertise in any variety of subjects: science, anthropology, archaeology, art, and backcountry skills, to name a few.

Specialists: These instructors are hired for their expertise in a particular field. Each summer we hire 1-3 educators in the following areas: archaeologists, artists, naturalists, farmers, and rock climbers. Specialists work with all groups, sharing their fascinating wealth of knowledge and good humor with Trekkers. Many kids discover a newfound interest by working side-by-side with our specialists.


If you are interested in applying for a staff position, please visit our Prospective Staff Page


Our Administration:

Untitled-1Kris Salisbury, Director

As our director, Kris brings over two decades of experience in outdoor education and youth development.  She loves exploring the backroads and trails, leading the way for the rest of our staff team.  Kris is committed to making the Gulch an inspirational place where young people can explore the wild places of the Southwest, while exploring the wild places in themselves.  As a climber, backpacker, and water enthusiast, Kris is an advocate for balancing adventure with an ever-present eye to safety.







Cass Landrum, Associate Director (School Groups and Outreach)

Following a passion for arid lands and an interest in desert ecology, Cass found The Gulch through a Google search. Cass was an Outdoor Educator in New York, North Carolina, Texas and California before calling New Mexico home. She spent her first year falling in love with the Gulch as program staff for the Outfit in 2012, and spend summers since in the role of Naturalist. When she’s not romping through creeks and picking up dead things, she uses her organizational skills and love of the region to connect classrooms to our programs.



Michael Wagner, Associate Director (Enrollment and Field Operations)

New to Cottonwood Gulch, Michael brings with him over 10 years of experience and 500 field days as an outdoor leader in Alaska, Utah, and Colorado. He is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in adventure education from Prescott College. Growing up in Colorado, Michael enjoys all things outdoors but focuses primarily on ultra-running and mountaineering. He is deeply passionate about environmental education, service learning, and cultural exchange and is thrilled to bring this passion to Cottonwood Gulch for 2016!






Aaron Bumgarner, Associate Director (Logistics and Facility Operations)

Aaron started at the Gulch as a cook for the Outfit Expedition in 2014. Before joining the Gulch, he was working in Indiana as a welder for the railroad. Aaron is a life-long artist, and he loves sharing that passion with the trekkers. Ask him about some of his public art projects! Cooking for kids at the Gulch has lead to Aaron learning more about the food and food systems, and he is really excited to shows kids that healthy eating can be delicious. Bringing kids into the road kitchen to help is such a treat for him. Your child might come home with some new recipes.





Lezle Williams, Office Manager

When you call the Gulch, Lezle is often the first voice you hear.  She joined us in 2008 and has been keeping us organized ever since!  With an MFA from Miami University, she is an accomplished artist and former gallery owner.  When not talking with trekkers, parents, and staff, she sometimes joins us at Base Camp to teach trekkers how to create linoleum cut prints.  When you are on the phone with her, take a moment to chat about her wood block prints and wood engravings.