Photographed by Gabe Jackson.
When crew 620-RM1 came to Philmont, they were strangers. In just 24 hours they would embark on the journey of a lifetime together— a 20-day Rayado trek.
During Rayado crews know they’ll be hiking, but that’s all they know. The details of the trek are kept secret and participants are told simply to ‘expect the unexpected.’ So far, the motto has served crew 620-RM1 well.
“It’s been a lot more unexpected than I expected,” crew member Samuel Flusche said.
Flusche and the other Scouts had spent four days adjusting to Rayado’s unpredictability by June 24. They were starting to recognize each other’s strengths and knew to depend on each other in challenging situations.
That morning the crew woke to find a difficult hike ahead of them. They needed to hike ten miles and summit two peaks before 3 p.m.
Slowly, the Scouts crawled out from inside their sleeping bags into the frigid cold and packed up their belongings: tents, food, sleeping bags and lightsabers. They started their hike in a meadow of wildflowers and ascended into deep green pines, gradually rising above the valley below.
By mid-afternoon, the sun was starting to beat down on the backs of the Scouts and reflect off the rocky trail. As they reached 11,000 feet in elevation, the air became thin and each breath more labored.
When one Scout started to feel tired, the others instinctively stopped, no longer individuals but a team.
“We’re all pushed to our limits with each other,” crew member Matthew Moore said. “You can really only lean on your friends.”
Photographed by Gabe Jackson.
Moore said he was drawn to Rayado because he wanted to push himself and the trek has a reputation for being one of the most challenging at Philmont.
In order to be selected, participants must provide a letter of recommendation and be able to carry a 40 to 50-pound pack more than 10 miles. On the trail, they may encounter steep grades, loose rock, rain and even snow.
The challenge of Rayado is part of what influenced Peter Dreifuss to become a Philmont Ranger.
Dreifuss went on a Rayado trek in 2015 and said it taught him that he could accomplish anything if he believed in himself. Now, Dreifuss and fellow Ranger Cal Blubaugh ensure that the crew members of 620-RM1 achieve everything they are capable of.
Over the course of only a few days, Dreifuss has watched the crew grow closer as they overcame multiple obstacles.
“They want to take weight off each other’s packs and be patient,” he said. “Anything to make the crew run like a well-oiled machine.”
The members of crew 620-RM1 will need to depend on each other more than ever during the remainder of their trek. Together they’ve laughed, crossed streams and climbed mountains, but they still have no way of knowing what’s in store.
What they do have, however, is solid advice from a Ranger.
“You guys have to believe in yourself,” Dreifuss said. “There’s literally nothing you can’t do.”