Rayado, Philmont's premier backpacking program, is also a leadership development experience. A typical Rayado crew will cover about 150 miles during the three week program.
This essay, by Eagle Scout Creighton Welch, was written to accompany college applications.
Creighton, who plans to major in journalism, has earned 6 Palms, logged 248 days/nights of camping and provided 1,425 service hours. Currently, he serves as a Junior Assistant Scoutmaster with our troop. Creighton's Philmont adventures included a Cavalcade in 1998, a backpacking expedition in 1999, a Kanik adventure in 2000, attending NJLIC in 2000 and the Rayado adventure in 2001.
Calvin H. Gray
Scoutmaster, Troop 405
"Don't die. But if you're going to die, there's no better place than here at Philmont."
Oh boy, I thought, this is going to be the best three weeks of my life. There I was, at Philmont Scout Ranch, a 137,000-acre ranch in the heart of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Northern New Mexico. Along with 45 other people, I arrived at the "scouting paradise," as it is known by Scouts across the world, and was quickly introduced to my crew, eight other guys from eight different states, all of us still unsure about what exactly we were going to be doing. None of us knew anyone else, but we would be spending the next 21 days of our summer hiking what ended up being around 150 miles, rock-climbing, surviving, and just hanging out and enjoying what would be the most physically, mentally, and spiritually challenging program I had ever done.
Being a Boy Scout for all of seven years, I have done some pretty amazing things, like whitewater rafting, horseback riding, and SCUBA diving, but none of these outings could compare to the definitely life changing event in which I partook at Philmont. I had been to Philmont before, but only for ten days, which I might add was no piece of cake, but I came back, wanting to grow, wanting to be a part of something that I love so much for as long as I possibly could be there.
Not very many people really enjoy nature a whole lot like I do, and would rather spend their time at the mall, or watching television, but for me, especially since I am a quiet, shy person, I feel at peace in nature and enjoy being in what I learned was actually the real world, a world without all the hustle and worry of city life. At Philmont, probably the biggest worry is getting attacked by a bear, which is exciting itself, just thinking about other things in this world besides humans.
During our trek, we encountered many amazing obstacles such as the "mountain challenge" experience. We hiked 35 miles in two days, it was a challenge in which we overcame many tough obstacles as a crew. The most inspirational part to me, however, was the "blind" rock-climbing on the 4th of July.
That day, we hiked probably about eight miles, a fairly light day compared to some. We arrived at our camp, got settled, and then were told to grab a bandana and head to the rock-climbing area. Being from a flat part of Texas, I wasn't as experienced as my companions from more mountainous regions, so my rock climbing skills probably weren't as advanced as they should be. We arrived at the base of some impressive cliffs, and were suddenly told, "Everyone is now silent, and must keep your bandanas over your eyes except you." And he was pointing directly at me.
"Uh, are you sure you don't want me to?" I stammered. I wasn't so sure that I wanted five other guys' lives in my hands as I directed them up and through boulders to the top of a remarkably tall rock formation.
"Yep, you're it," he stated, not missing a beat, and pointing his finger right at me. Well, I thought, they aren't going to let me back out of this, so why not?
All the guys were blindfolded except me, and they lined up and placed their hands on the person in front of them. We began, slithering in and out of crevasses, ducking to avoid jagged rocks, and crawling on all fours to just barely squeak through the holes, all based on the instructions that I yelled to them. We finally arrived at the top of the rocks, and only I could see just how much we had accomplished on the way up.
The view was amazing, mountains were jutting up everywhere, seeming to climb upward forever into the majestic sky, which was painted with colors of all shades that spread out over the horizon thanks to the setting sun. God could not have given me a better July 4th. I had just led some of the coolest people I had ever met up, over, around, and through a rock maze, surprising even myself at how well we worked together, and how much we grew as a crew in that short period of time.
I sat the guys down, took off their blindfolds, and watched as the amazement of what we had just accomplished shone on their faces. They looked around in awe, and then we gave each other high fives, then belted out a loud cheer for everyone else around us to hear.
By this time, it was almost dark, so we ended our voyage by rappelling down a sheer rock face, stopping not too far from our starting point, symbolizing a completion of this exciting and somewhat nerve-racking experience.
As we headed back to camp, I could not keep from smiling, realizing what a cool thing just happened. The guys, who had known me only about two weeks, trusted me to lead them; I accomplished the task successfully despite my nervousness, and we grew together on that day more than at any other time of our trip. For me, this was one of the most inspirational experiences of my life. I learned that even if I am unsure about something, as long as I have confidence in myself, I can accomplish just about any task possible. Whether it is keeping my friends alive on a mountain, or simply walking up and talking to someone I don't know, all it takes is a little determination and reliance on myself to get it done.
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