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Standing atop the highest peak in the continental United States, the thin, crisp air and spectacular beauty of Mt. Whitney’s crest energized and humbled me. I could hear my heart beating, the individual rocks crunching beneath my feet, and the smooth whistle of wind blowing across my face. The expanding view of jagged mountains cascading toward the horizon left me awestruck. I was in California to seek out new adventure and bond with my father; little did I know that this journey would change my life immensely.
It was a cool summer morning when my father and I began our journey. Ahead of us was a seemingly endless twenty-two mile round-trip hike. Slowly and steadily, our expedition began with full spirits and excitement. I tend to try and find meaning in everything, so I quickly began thinking about what could be gained from this experience. With towering pine trees and rushing creek beds surrounding us, it led me to think about nature’s beauty and how easily we can take the special place we all live in for granted. Moving forward, I took in the rays sunlight and pure bliss of disconnection from society. We had no cell service, no screens, and no communication with the rest of the world. It was simply me, my dad, and my thoughts. This taught me a certain respect for the world and the importance of living in the moment and truly experiencing whatever you are doing.
Over the course of the trip, we spent two nights camping on the mountainside. As darkness cloaked the sierra, millions of stars filled the open sky. I sat on a log, awestruck by the sheer beauty of the night. I observed the cosmos, the Milky Way, and other celestial bodies. This experience made me feel trivial, yet at the same time it gave me a sense of purpose. Like an astronomer seeking out the meaning of the stars, I have learned to seek out a deeper understanding in my work and in my passions. I want to pursue everything that I care for with persistence and commitment.
The greatest challenge of this hike was the final two miles to the summit. Traveling on an uneven, three foot wide pathway, with about a one thousand foot cliff on our side, it is understandable that my nerves were slightly on edge. It was a two hour trek filled with both stress and excitement. This moment was my final test of determination and perseverance. I had made it this far, and like other trials in life, I wanted to finish what I sought out to conquer. Putting fear aside, my father and I carefully traversed the jagged, narrow pathway. What I have drawn from this difficult task is that one’s resilience is greatest when it is challenged the most.
Two days and eleven strenuous miles later, we reached our goal. I felt like I was on top of the world. Seeing the earth from this grand perspective gave me an entirely new outlook on life. Although I was proud of accomplishing this task, I believe what I gained the most from this experience was humility. It took me having to stand on top of a mountain to realize just how small I really was. Who knew that rising to the top of the earth could be so humbling?
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