Guest Post By Adam Virts:
Unlike many Pacific Northwesterners, I didn’t grow up with fantastic views of the Cascades, Mount Rainier or the Puget Sound. Instead, I enjoyed the rolling plains of rural Nebraska where rows of corn and beans provided the scenery for as far as the eye could see and the closest mountains were 4+ hours away in Colorado.
When I was 19, I left the rolling plains of Nebraska and had my first encounter with the great Pacific Northwest when the Army stationed me at Fort Lewis. Before this, I had only seen pictures of Mount Rainier and various other places of the Pacific Northwest. As many of you may know, when you fly into SEA-TAC from Denver, you fly right by Mount Rainier and if you’re lucky, you’ll get the type of view that was bestowed upon me that flight. As we passed by Mount Rainier, the captain told us to look out the left side of the aircraft and this is where my obsession with this mountain began. The clouds were very low, which exposed the very top of the mountain and to me, it was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. The moon illuminated the mountain and exposed every detail in perfect from. I knew from that point forward I was going to love my time in the Pacific Northwest.
As the years wore on, Mount Rainier became a staple in almost everything I did. As some of you may know, the majority of the day is spent outdoors when you’re in the Army and Fort Lewis has some of the best views of her. Whether we were on the range, conducting land navigation or conducting any other type of training, she was always there in all her splendor (except when it was raining, of course). Returning from deployments made this obsession grow even more. My first deployment was to Iraq and on our flight back to Fort Lewis has us fly in from the east just like I had my first trip up to the PNW. This time it was midday and there wasn’t a cloud in sight, and from 30,000 feet there isn’t a better sight in the world. Evergreens as far as the eye can see with Mount Rainier, Mount Baker and Mount Saint Helens sticking out of the forest will make anyone’s jaws drop. Needless to say, after a year of desert, desert, bushes, more desert, and even more sand, this is a marvelous sight. This return from deployment brought me another amazing feeling, and that is the stunningly clean air. As I previously mentioned, my location in Iraq didn’t provide the biggest array of views as well as air quality. The instant the plane door was cracked, my lungs filled with the cleanest air I had breathed in what felt like forever. It was like when you haven’t had water all day and you get that ice-cold glass of water and when you begin to drink it seems like you could drink 10 gallons of it right there; only with air.
Leading up to my deployment to Afghanistan, we continued training and gearing up, but no matter how difficult things went, I could always look to Mount Rainier to give me strength and push through anything. After acquiring injuries while I was deployed, I was sent home to get seen by doctors at Madigan Army Medical Center. Now, I spent a lot of time there and Madigan offers many fantastic views from almost every part of the hospital, but personally, I think the best view is on the 8th floor! Seeing these views on a daily basis gave me a sense of motivation and strength. I would always look at the peak and tell myself that one day I was going to be up there after I get better.
Fast forward many years now and that dream of reaching the peak will never happen. It has been a struggle to realize that I will never reach the peak, but instead of letting this have a negative effect on me, I choose to let this drive me to do the next best thing. I am now focused on seeing every bit of her from the heights I am able to reach and capturing her beauty through photography. Despite not being able to reach the peak, I can still slowly push myself to go further and higher than before.
I have always seemed to look at Mount Rainier as a person; we all have our bad days that are filled with clouds and rain, but we should never let those days define us.
Instead, we should know that those bright sunny days are going to come, and everyone will see just how beautiful we are. Just like when the clouds disappear, and we can all wonder in amazement at the sleeping giant that is Mount Rainier!