Gulch Community

Community and Service: What it means to be part of the Cottonwood Gulch community


The Turquoise Trail making Fry Bread with Irene Notah on the Navajo Reservation
The Turquoise Trail making Fry Bread with Irene Notah on the Navajo Reservation

A common question: Do your Treks do community service projects? We do, but to us it’s more than service. Over the past nine decades we have built strong ties with neighbors, friends and families throughout the Four Corners states. We consider this entire network across the Southwest our community and we place a high value on contributing time and hard work to make it a better one.

When expeditions visit our friends on the Navajo Reservation or in the Zuni, Acoma or Zia pueblos, a portion of the visit is usually spent helping to construct a new hogan, repair a fence-line, or prepare for a kinaalda ceremony. These same families often visit us at base camp to share their skills and stories. Similarly, expeditions may work with the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service or Park Service to improve and maintain trails and campsites, gaining access to restricted or otherwise hard to find areas. Our goal is to show kids how to work with their hands in order to give back to the community.

Since we work closely with a large community of scientists, park rangers, and restorationists, we usually consider ourselves to be partners in a larger endeavor rather than volunteers.



Trail work at El Malpais National Monument
Trail work at El Malpais National Monument



Nonetheless, we know that many schools ask their students to perform volunteer work, a laudable requirement. Each summer we work with trekkers to document the volunteer work they complete during their expedition. Depending on the group and the year, this may be anywhere from 3-30 service hours. We’ve also worked with individual trekkers who need a certain minimum number of hours to do extra service independent of the rest of the group.

Read about Cottonwood Gulch, Volunteer Work, and Preparing for College

Sign up for one of our Summer Treks






spiral“Perhaps the most defining feature of the Gulch is the sense of community that develops, not just between various groups as they tackle the Southwest, but a whole network of people that’s slowly growing. People seem to find reassurance in the Gulch, and this results in a group of individuals so unique that in one summer you could find yourself in the presence of cob-makers, pottery specialists, cheese-makers, Navajo weavers, park rangers, and of course many enthusiastic staff willing to be just crazy enough to make a real difference in a group of teenagers’ lives.”

Marina, St. Louis, MO