Wilderness Adventure

We believe that no experience equals the immensely positive benefits of living, working, and playing in the outdoors with friends and family.

Every Trek at Cottonwood Gulch will immerse you in the wilderness, the science, and the culture of the Southwest

    Backpacking and Hiking Cottonwood Gulch is a place where adventure–backpacking, rock climbing, exploring ghost towns, spelunking through dried lava tubes, waking up before sunrise to hike to the top of a mountain–is the foundation for learning.  We know that in order to understand the Southwest you can’t just sit in a classroom thumbing through a textbook about mountains.  You have to climb that mountain yourself. The experience will challenge you physically. A chilly frost wakes you from your sleeping bag early in the morning but by noon it’s hot and dry enough you don’t even feel your sweat. Hiking into a remote wilderness, whether though a winding canyon or over a mountain pass, is only the beginning. Once there you will take time to cook your own dinner and then investigate the local wildlife: spectacular wildflowers, barking marmots, and distant bighorn sheep.  Living every day in this wilderness is a thrilling challenge by itself. It is no wonder that daily life on an expedition toughens most group members, whether it is your first outdoor experience or not. You face these challenges with the help of your group, who are beside you at all times. Anyone of average physical health can do these expeditions, it just takes the will to do it. Every group will have the chance to explore the Southwest wilderness in a beautifully simple way: hiking.  Some groups will hike nearly every day, while others will use their outdoor experiences to inspire their creative and scientific sides.   The adventure component is different for each group, but generally speaking the older groups take on greater physical challenges.  A brief breakdown by group: iconOutfit Expedition (ages 10-12): Introduction to wilderness hiking, several day hikes, summit Mount Taylor to watch the sunrise. Wild Country Trek (ages 13-15): Introduction to Backpacking—one 3-4 night backpack, day hikes Turquoise Trail and Prairie Trek (ages 14-16): Two backpacks, 3-5 nights each, several days of hiking, building up to more challenging experiences as the summer progresses Paleontology Trek (ages 15-18): No backpacks, but sometimes challenging physical conditions in the field Art and Music Trek (ages 15-18): Focused on art and music, several hikes to supplement your creative faculties Adventure Conservation Trek (ages 15-18): Focused on climbing and preservation in the Southwest. Mountain Desert Trek (ages 16-18): Most challenging group, Three backpacks, longest backpack is 8-10 days   Rock Climbing, Tree Climbing, and Rappelling Climbing a canyon face is far more difficult than a climbing wall in the gym. The Southwest can be as demanding as it is enchanting. The wind is strong, the sun is hot, and the rain is cold.  But the feeling of exhilaration when you reach the top of a climb is hard to match anywhere else. Every year we hire an adventure specialist who works with each group to teach them all about rock climbing—knots, equipment, climbing technique (use your legs!), and safety.  Some Trekkers decide once is enough, but those who catch the climbing bug will have the chance to climb multiple times on rocks, trees, walls—anything we can attach a rope to!  In fact, using a climbing rope to scale some of the monstrous Ponderosa Pines at Base Camp has become one of our favorite daily activities. It is important to note that safety is of the utmost priority in everything we do, but especially rock climbing.  When done properly (and we always do it properly), rock climbing is a very safe sport.  As with any physical activity, there is still risk involved, but rock climbing is more “perceived” risk than “actual” risk.  It can be frightening, but remember that you are attached to a rope that is strong enough to hold a small car. We never force you to climb, but we have found that it is a great way to push your limits and leave you more confident in yourself when the day is done.

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