(Join Our Team!
Compassionate Dedicated Curious Experienced
Our team of outdoor educators come from a wide range of backgrounds with expertise in an array of fields including adventure, wilderness travel, art, culture, science and nature. We are committed to opening eyes, minds and hearts to a lifelong relationship and love of the outdoors and the Southwest. If you are a playful, hardworking and adventurous person interested in living close to nature in the American Southwest we are interested in getting to know you.
Application deadlines are as follows. Interviews will be scheduled for those with complete applications prior to the date listed unless otherwise noted on the job description linked below.
Where is Cottonwood Gulch located?
We have a 540 acre base camp in Thoreau, NM, about 2 hours west of Albuquerque. We are based at basecamp June through mid-August and spend the rest of the year working from our office in the North Valley of Albuquerque.
Where do staff live?
During our summer season, staff reside at basecamp in rustic, open air cabins or some choose to sleep in tents. The cabins do not have any electricity and are typically shared with at least one other person. When in Albuquerque, we have a bunkhouse available for staff to live in if they choose. The bunkhouse is very much a communal living situation and the staff living there must work together to keep the space clean and tidy. The bunkhouse is able to sleep 8 people in 2 bedrooms with a bathroom, kitchen, living space, and outdoor space. Limited storage space is available in the bunkhouse. Some staff elect to find their own housing in Albuquerque.
What are the different jobs that might be available?
Each summer we hire 3-4 staff to lead each one of our summer treks. These staff are with and responsible for a trek of 7 to 20 trekkers for anywhere from one to six weeks.
Expedition Group Leader–directs the program and is accountable for how that group spends its time. Before the Expedition begins, Group Leaders build a cohesive staff team, set activities and projects for the Expedition, and communicate directly with the Director, Trekkers and their parents. During the Expedition, the responsibilities break down into these general priorities: safety, morale, logistics, learning, budgeting
Expedition Group Cook–plans, orders, and cooks all the meals for the group; manages trek’s food budget in close collaboration with Group Leader
Expedition Program Staff–directs the management of gear, equipment, and vehicles, plans appropriate programming based on the needs and location of the group,
We have a number of positions that are summer basecamp positions (see below for list). The staff in these positions reside at basecamp all summer, run 2 and half hour long activities for small groups of trekkers (typically fewer than 10) twice a day, and participate in the group life of basecamp.
Adventure and Rock Climbing Specialist
Mountain Bike Specialist
Farm to Table Assistant
Base Camp Operations Lead
Base Camp Cook
Field Educator-Field Educator is what we call our spring and fall team. They will often serve as a program staff one week, a cook the next, and facilitate an art activity the following week. Successful field educators will be flexible, enthusiastic outdoor educators who are willing to jump into different roles. Field educators with more experience may be asked to serve as Group Leaders for our spring and fall programs as well.
Intern-We can accommodate an internship in any of our positions and will talk with each person to match an internship to their interests. Some interns may also be interested in shadowing a variety of positions.
When full time positions are available, complete job descriptions will be posted.
What are some of the challenges and rewards of the job?
It can be challenging to live in community 24/7. Since we are an unplugged program, communication with friends and family back home can be challenging. We do have an office at our basecamp, but both internet and phone service are very limited. Letter writing remains the best method of communication. Additionally, our basecamp is a very rustic setting with open air cabins, no electricity, and pull string showers, which can be challenging for some.
It is also a very rewarding job which allows for an outdoor lifestyle with a like-minded group of people. Our staff have the opportunity to explore the Southwest, spending nights out under the stars, and making meaningful connections with people of all different backgrounds.
What qualifications do I need?
All staff must maintain a CPR certification and obtain Wilderness First Aid, at a minimum, within the first year of employment. Higher levels of wilderness medicine certification are a plus. Some staff positions require specific certifications i.e. Bike Instructor Certification Program for the Mountain Bike Specialist. We can support staff in finding local courses to obtain certification.
What is the application process?
Any interested applicant should start by completing our staff application, which can be found here. An interview will follow for anyone who completes an application.
What is a typical schedule?
Schedules vary based on position. For example, a staff person on Mountain Desert Trek is with a group for 6 weeks in the summer with limited time off, while a basecamp staff can expect to have a day off every 7-10 days and a spring/fall Field Educator can expect to have 2 days off about every week.
What is staff training like?
At the beginning of the summer season, we provide at no cost a three week staff training which includes a WFA certification, training in risk management, behavioral challenges in youth, technical skills, and outdoor leadership.
If staff are starting in either the spring or fall, there is an intensive 3 day training, followed by several treks where they will be shadowing before moving into full staff roles.
Additional professional development is available for staff involved in long-term roles (multiple years/6+ months) at Cottonwood Gulch. This may be a free spot in a WFR course, an SPI certification, a marketing photography workshop, or attendance to a local or national conference. Staff who receive this higher level of training are asked to bring their experience back to our larger team.
What kind of gear do I need?
Every staff is expected to carry a daypack with them all the time. Your pack is essential to being able to care for yourself as well as your trekkers. Everyone’s needs vary slightly, though we encourage all staff to carry ~2 liter sized water bottles, rainlayer, warm layer, sunscreen, hat, headlamp, notebook and pen, and tools/props for programming (balls, rope, activity book etc.). Additionally, all staff should have a sleeping bag rated to at least 0 degrees for spring/fall staff and 20 degrees for summer staff, a sleeping pad (inflatable or foam), sturdy shoes, clothing suitable for outdoor living, work gloves. Staff who work with backpacking programs are expected to have a 60+ liter pack and be comfortable carrying 50+ lbs as a backpacking instructor. Staff will receive a complete gear list upon hire.
How long does seasonal employment last?
Staff contracts can last anywhere from ten weeks to twelve months.
When do I get paid?
We run payroll once a month and staff get paychecks on the last business day of the month.
What do days off look like?
Typically during our spring and fall seasons, staff can expect to have weekends off. Occasionally we have programs that span a weekend, in which case, we schedule 2 days off for those staff as soon as possible after the trek is complete. If staff have particular days they are wanting to have off, it may not always be possible, but with at least a month of notice, we will try our best to accommodate. During our summer season, basecamp staff can expect 24 hours off approximately every 7-10 days. During time off, staff are responsible for coordinating their own transportation should they wish to leave the property. If staff wish to stay, they are welcome to join in for meals provided they help with community clean up.
Do you have any books that you would suggest reading?
There are a number of authors and books that have been staff favorites recently. Craig Childs, Terry Tempest Williams, Leslie Marmon Silko, Edward Abbey, Aldo Leopold, and Roadside Geology are a few suggestions. Staff and trekkers have access to a wide variety of books written about relevant topics in the library at basecamp. If you are hired, we suggest a more extensive reading list.
What are the top 10 challenges that staff face in the job?
- Living in community 24/7.
- Being away from family, friends, air conditioning, traditional showers, etc. for the summer and having limited connectivity with those who are not at basecamp.
- Not taking it personally when a trekker is having a hard time and taking it out on staff.
- No matter how prepared you are, something (weather, people, etc.) can always surprise you.
- This job requires pushing your comfort zone most days.
- There is always more to do.
- This organization requires initiative to “see a job and do it.”
- Allowing someone else to be in charge of feeding you.
- Working collaboratively with a small team constantly.
- There are aspects of the job that aren’t so glamorous (ie blister care for trekkers, turning compost, cleaning out portable toilets, etc.).
What are the top 10 reasons that staff love working at the Gulch?
- Group of coworkers who are interesting, fun to work with, and are part of a passionate community.
- Making meaningful connections with people from many different places and backgrounds.
- Getting to go to some “hidden gems” of the Southwest and doing cool stuff in amazing places.
- Part of your job is facilitating mandatory fun times.
- Learning skills applicable in your own life and gaining resilience.
- Sharing your knowledge and passion with others.
- Being part of a staff team that is committed to sustainable, outdoor living.
- Getting to make a difference in the lives of young people.
- Countless number of desert sunsets, nights spent under the stars, and that smell of rain in the desert.
- Cottonwood Gulch is a different kind of outdoor education organization that isn’t just focused on wilderness adventure and personal development, but instead includes science, nature, art, and culture.