The difficult uphill climbs were behind us. It was literally all downhill from there as we hiked out of Kesugi Ridge to our vans. For the last week we rummaged through dense brush, collecting water and soil samples from different areas of the park to be tested as part of our science experiment. The last day of the trip was the easiest, a gradual descent on relatively wide path. After spending much of the time leading the group from the front, I switched places and moved to the back of the pack. Because of the ease of the hike and the lack of any technical maneuvers, the group marched quickly and took few breaks. After a week in the woods everyone was tired, smelly, mauled by the infamous Alaskan mosquitos, and simply ready to get back to civilization. From the back, I walked and told stories with a fellow hiker, but after what felt like no time at all, we realized everyone else was out of sight. Somewhat concerned, we made an effort to pick up the pace and join the rest. Unbeknownst to us, the rest of the group was behind us, as they took a turn that we missed somewhere along the way.
My first response was to blow the whistle we each were carrying. In the best case scenario the rest of the group was close, would hear our whistle, return favor, and lead us to them. No such luck. We put our packs down and took out our supplies. Using my contour map I was able to figure out our current position and the general area where we parked the vans. Because it was the last day of the hike and we planned on eating in town, we had little reserve food and needed a resolution before nightfall. We had a few options, but before we could act we had to decide whether the rest of the group was more likely to search for us or stay where they were and let us find them. I decided we should go back and find which turn we missed. We strapped on our packs and starting running. Finally we heard some noise in the distance. As we approached, we heard collective whistles and calls. Somehow we had found our way back to the rest of our very hungry and agitated group, one of the most relieving moments of my life. Although I certainly contributed to the near disaster, my ability to stay collected and think clearly helped us turn a potentially dangerous situation into simply an embarrassing mistake.
I never considered myself to be a natural leader who rallied others behind me. I typically led by example, and helped out others passively by not contributing to the problems. This instance was the first time I remember that I actively took control of a situation with positive results. In doing so, I gained the confidence needed to become someone who people looked to in times of trouble, rather than the one looking to others. In the years that followed I was named a peer leader, rose to editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, and captained two varsity sports teams my senior year. Being confidant and collected under pressure has helped me overcome academic, athletic, and social stress that used to inhibit me. Instead of reacting with emotion, I have learned to respond with a broader and more calculated understanding of the issues at hand.
The most important thing I learned during that trip wasn’t the types of soil and the insects that inhabited southern Alaska, but how to interact actively with other people in a time of need. This experience contributes to my desire to be a lawyer. I now thrive off of thinking through problems and responding to these needs. I believe this attribute will help me to succeed in dealing with the challenges of law school and in the practice of law.
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