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Climbing the Mountain -
My alarm went off at 5:30 on Saturday morning. I reluctantly climbed out of bed, pulled on my boots, and asked myself how Andy talked me into this. Nonetheless, I met with the group of strangers, climbed into the van, and settled in to nap through the two-hour ride to Mount Adams . When we reached the trailhead, we got out, stretched, and went along our way. Soon our early awakening and zealous hiking were rewarded. As I rounded a bend in the trail, I encountered an enchanted scene: shafts of sunlight filtered down through the dark canopy, illuminating the white wisps of mist that rose gently from behind a small grey boulder in the middle of the path. Higher up, we passed a picturesque stream and a beautiful waterfall. Then, nearly halfway up the mountain, we came upon a huge boulder that jutted out above the trees. I clambered atop the boulder, strode to the edge, and surveyed the valley below: the trees spread out forever in brilliant shades of red, yellow, and orange; above, puffy white clouds drifted through the intensely blue sky, casting a random cluster of shadows upon the valley below. It was spectacular.
Continuing up the mountain, we scrambled over and slithered under rock formations, leapt crevasses, and circumambulated boulders. As we climbed, the people who had been strangers that morning quickly became friends. When the summit came into sight, we pushed each other ever faster through the last steep scramble to the peak. And then we were there, atop the mountain, looking out at the surrounding peaks, the valley below, and the trail we had just traversed. I felt secluded from the rest of the world; impossibly far from books and classrooms, the mundane details of day-to-day existence. We were on another, brighter, purer level of existence. The experience left me refreshed and invigorated, ready to return to campus and re-double my commitment to my studies.
After that adventure, how could I not go on the next week's trip? And the next? And the next? I ended up hiking almost every weekend, and before long, instead of just participating in trips, I was planning, organizing, and leading them. This is how I became a council member for Cabin and Trail, Dartmouth 's hiking and trail maintenance club. With the club, I've climbed the highest peak in New England during a raging blizzard, snowshoed in the middle of winter nights so cold that the world was frozen still. I've learned to repair trails and build cabins, learned wilderness first aid, leadership, and group dynamics skills, and led every kind of trip from a simple walk in the woods, to the complicated, silly, and fabulously fun trip in which we carried a canoe to the top of Mount Washington .
But what is the relevance of my experience with Cabin and Trail? What do hiking and mountains have to do with law? Certainly there is little direct connection between the two. The type of law that I want to practice takes place in the urban locales of Washington , D.C. , New York , and Chicago , not the peaks of New England . And knowing the fastest way to build a fire won't improve my ability to write briefs. No, my experience with Cabin and Trail is not what will make me a great lawyer. Rather it is my academic and intellectual qualities, combined with the tenacity and leadership that I have learned from Cabin and Trail, that will make me a great lawyer.
I have learned to develop strong and persuasive arguments by thinking analytically for philosophy papers and debate rounds. I have honed my research and writing skills by writing a thesis about the constitutionality of the detention of U.S. citizens as "enemy combatants." I have learned to adapt quickly to new people, new places and new practices by studying and traveling throughout the United States and abroad. I have learned to thrive in a professional environment by working in professional, government, and non-profit organizations. And I have fanned the flames of my passion for law through my study of political theory and constitutional law.
While the skills that I developed with Cabin and Trail are not the skills that will make me a great lawyer, they have fostered traits that will make me a unique lawyer. My experiences in the woods and atop the peaks give me a different perspective than [that of] those students who rarely venture into the wilderness. The confidence and persistence that led me to the tops of the mountains will lead me to accept and succeed at challenges that others shy away from. My experience with unexpected, difficult, and even dangerous situations on the trail will help me keep my cool when unforeseen challenges arise in the courtroom. Guiding groups of strangers through the woods has strengthened my inter-personal skills. The connection with nature has refined my perspective on man's place in the universe. And the love of adventure and sense of humor that Cabin and Trail nurtures give me an indomitable and optimistic attitude that I believe sets me apart from many others. My experience with Cabin and Trail is not what will make me a great lawyer. Rather it is what will set me apart from other great lawyers that I encounter.