2023 Fall Appeal

Give Today

Dear Cottonwood Gulch Community,

In 2023, we took more than 1,500 people on Cottonwood Gulch treks, many of them for a second, third, tenth, or (in Chet Kubit’s case) 58th year of trekking with us. With all those trekkers, and so many familiar faces, we have been asking: Why do we keep coming back to the Gulch? What is it about this community and this place that inspires us year after year?

Some of your answers have blown us away:

  • “Cottonwood Gulch is a place where I feel happy, somewhere I feel brave, and where I feel I belong and can connect with the nature and people around me.” (2023 Trekker)
  • “The whole experience for me on the Turquoise Trail enabled me to be a better person for the rest of my life.” (1960s Trekker)
  • “It enriched my life immeasurably. I believe the science-based programs of the Trek are more critical than ever.” (1980s Trekker)
  • “I was not confident in my body as an adolescent, but became much more so through the backpacking and under the mentorship of my staff.” (1990s Trekker)

We are asking for your financial support so our 2024 Treks can inspire yet another generation of Trekkers. Your donation will support our top-quality staff and facilities – and more importantly, you will make the Trek experience possible for hundreds of deserving youth. Would you consider a donation to support our programs to get kids outdoors?

When young people are sitting on a couch or at a rigid school desk, the challenges in front of them can seem impossible. I want to see more kids put their phones down, step outside, sweat a little bit, and work through those challenges alongside our community of thoughtful, engaged, lifelong learners. You are part of that community, and your donation will help us grow even stronger in 2024.

Jordan Stone
Executive Director

P.S. Don’t just take my word for it, see the stories below about Ophelia and John, two Gulch alumni who keep coming back to be an active part of our community. To make a donation, please use the Give Today button at the top of this post. Thank you!

Ophelia Lott

Turquoise Trail, Valley of the Gods, summer 2023.

Ophelia Lott

Gulch history: Trekker for Outfit Expedition Groups 1 and 2, 2021; Wild Country Trek 1 and Get Outdoors 2, 2022, and Turquoise Trail, 2023.

What are some of your favorite memories with the Gulch?
One day on Outfit – I was feeling stressed, missing home, having a bad day, and needed some time on my own. I took a walk to the Cha’oh during golden hour, laid down and it started raining. I loved taking alone time with a beautiful sky in the Southwest and rain on the metal roof. It felt really special, happy and peaceful.

How has your time with the Gulch impacted your life today and back at home?
It’s changed everything a lot. I know sometimes during school and at home, things can feel superficial and the things that are important to people don’t feel as important to me – meanness, obsession with money – it’s easy to get wrapped up in and sucked into.

When I think about my time with the Gulch and what it has taught me; being with people, spending time in Wilderness, skills I’ve built, time with myself and the group and in nature, it feels grounding and that it’s what it’s like to actually live.

What keeps you coming back to the Gulch again and again?
There’s something about Basecamp that feels super special. It brings me home and it is really incredible. On the road, we built our little routine and got to connect so well as a group and it made me realize how much I can interact with people and connect with them, especially doing things in nature that aren’t easy. Some of the friends I have made at the Gulch I am still in contact with and connected with, it’s nice to be able to have a way to build community and friends.

John Bloch at Death Valley

John with Betsy in Death Valley, CA

John Bloch, Ph.D.

Gulch history: Silver Buckle Award Recipient, 2023; Member of the Red Rocks and El Morro Societies, 2023; Group Leader, Flocks and Rocks, 2017-2019; Board of Trustees, 2000-2004; Attendee of the 80th, 85th and 90th Reunion and Rendezvous; Visiting Scholar, Family Trek, Session 2, 2009; and Trekker for Reunion Trek, 2011, Prairie Trek Expedition Group 1, 1964, 1965, and Little Outfit Session 2, 1963.

How did you find out about Cottonwood Gulch?
My cousins were from Indianapolis, and my Aunt was a founding board member of the
Indianapolis Children’s Museum. Howie approached her because he wanted
credentials for the Gulch’s archeology expeditions, or what they called back then “pot
hunting.” Later on as a board member and board chair, we spent a lot of effort bringing
the Gulch into the 21st century.

What are some of your favorite memories with the Gulch?
As a trekker, we used to do a hike from Ophir, across Red Mountain pass, and down into Silverton. It was an incredible, 3-day backpacking trip – I’m not even sure you can go to some of those places anymore. Part of the trail is now a reservoir. We also did an overnight in Grand Canyon – we hiked down to Phantom Ranch, camped there, and hiked out the next morning. The trek was eye-opening for me, being from the east coast. What a landscape, and what a lot of fun! Being on the board was an experience too. We were glad to keep the Gulch going through tough times.

John Bloch cleaning out a refrigerator

Cleaning out refrigerators during the Calf Canyon/ Hermits Peak Fire evacuation

Describe a time that you learned a valuable lesson on trek.
As a cook’s assistant, the first outing we used to do was what was called “the Navajo picnic.” We would go out to the Henio family’s ranch and tend to the sheep, then cook a whole bunch of food. Of course, we only brought half of the scullery, including cooking pots, forks and knives! There was always some kind of gear missing. So cooks and other staff out there, take note – make sure you’ve done your homework before going out on the road! Keep your eyes on everything from the moment you pack it at Basecamp until you hit the road, because there’s almost always something that’s gone missing.

How did your time with the Gulch impact your life today?
As a teenager, the Gulch was a great experience for me. It really helped me grow up, in a way. For 30 years, I stepped away. Then, I moved to New Mexico and joined the board. The Gulch was having a hard time back then. That experience put me in touch with how the Gulch makes the treks so successful and unique. We had to re-invent some things, too, and bring the organization into the 21st century. Making that work was very gratifying. It was a huge investment from many people at that time who had to be there in order to make it happen, including staff, board, and donors.

What is your recent experience with the Gulch?
I finally became a staff member teaching geology during Flocks and Rocks with Arch McCallum, and that was a lot of fun. I was on Family Trek a few years ago. I try to stay in the loop. We had a few treks come out to our property to visit before the Calf Canyon/Hermit’s Peak Fire in 2022, which made a mess of the road. Funding from FEMA will help restore forests and the road in the near future.

What keeps you coming back to the Gulch again and again?
The Gulch is like Hotel California man, you can never leave! It’s easier to stay in touch now that I’m living here in New Mexico, but that’s probably one of the reasons I’m here! Plus, it’s fun! I like meeting groups out on the road, and having them come out to our property. It gets harder and harder to sleep on the ground though! There aren’t many organizations that have survived like we do. See, I just said “we” – that’s how personal it is.

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