Ancient Pathways

Connect with the Spirit of the Southwest

Grades 9-11 (ages 15-17) | June 30 – July 20 | 21 days | 32 Service Hours | $4,390*

Follow in the footsteps of the ancient peoples of the Four Corners area; from the canyons, to the mesas, to the mountains. Touch a way of life that is 1000 years old.

  • Learn the prehistoric secrets of a river canyon
  • Learn to captain a canoe
  • Work side by side with a traditional native family in a rural settlement in Dinétah (Navajo Nation)
  • Make a pilgrimage to Dibé-Nitsaa, one of the four sacred mountains of the Navajo

AP2011-Ruins-smallCanoe through one of the Richest Archaeological Areas in the U.S.

The program begins with a canoe expedition through the redrock canyon of the San Juan River. Discover the hidden ruins of River House and the prehistoric artwork of the Kachina Panel. The river is mellow and great for swimming, but some of the rapids deserve you and your partner’s full attention. Hike to the rim of Comb Ridge. Set up a ‘Leave No Trace’ camp beneath a giant cottonwood, the Navajo tree of life. Cook up a Mexican feast with your new friends. Gather for Circle in the shadow of a towering sandstone cliff streaked with ‘desert varnish’. Then fall asleep under stars like you have never seen before.

Cross-cultural Service with a Navajo Family in ArizonaAP2011-twoBoys-small

Leave the lush canyon floor for the otherworldly lands of the Navajo people. We travel to an isolated settlement deep in the heart of the Navajo Nation. Many of the Diné live a simple life in a remote but beautiful environment. Here, a Navajo family lives a life that reconciles centuries old traditional ways with the modern world. Learn the ways of sheep herding and weaving from these women. During your service project, take a break from work to visit Navajo National Monument, or attend a fair, rodeo, or other community event. In the evening, you prepare meals together; hearing stories, learning some Navajo language, and getting closer to your hosts.

Backcountry Camping and Peak Ascents in the La Plata Mountains, Colorado

After a stop at Basecamp to relax, refuel and gear up, hike into our backcountry camp. Our site is in the shadow of Hesperus Peak, or Dibe’ Nitsaa, the northernmost of the four sacred peaks of the Navajo and a place of pilgrimage. At over 13,000 feet, the peaks in the La Plata range offer an awesome 360-degree view of the Rocky Mountains when we reach a summit on a clear day. Photograph a majestic elk herd. Hike to a mountain waterfall and reflect on everything you have seen. Feel the spirit of this elemental land as you savor the alpenglow for the last time, then return to Deer Hill Basecamp for our traditional sweat lodge ceremony and barbecue banquet.

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*Our Special Recreation permit with the US Forest Service requires us to state that $870 are the gross receipts for the mountain section of this program.

“I was able to get to know one Navajo family on a personal level. I began to understand how people could live and enjoy a simpler and more relaxed life. We worked with Navajo children. We got to know them, learn from them, and love them. The relationship was two-way, and we felt appreciated for our work. The small group experience also gave us the time to get to know the people in our group on a deeper level.” Daniel, New York, NY

“The towering canyon walls on the river and the maze-like paths in our campsites where bats flitted in and out; those first couple of circles under the starts; the smell of a fire just started by a bow drill on Navajo; sharing a set of headphones with Ryan, a Navajo teen. I’ll never forget hiking up to those rocks, stumbling over sagebrush. I’ll never forget the kindness of our host, Rolanda, or the rainbows that seemed to appear out of the cracked earth and embrace the reservation.” Jonathan, Baton Rouge, LA