Rainier as Touchstone
Like so many times in the past, I’ve come to Rainier for a reawakening of the senses, to feel the stark exertion of a 45 pound pack on a steep switchback, to eat crushed gorp with physical hunger born out of exertion, to drink water clear and cold on a hot throat and splashed on a sweating face, to feel the campfire coals on sunburned cheeks as the evening chill draws a tight cloak.
When I was younger, Rainier was a unique challenge and wonderful promise. It captured my soul on its steep glaciers and rewarded me with newfound strength in body and spirit. I have walked hundreds of miles through the Park with lifelong friends, drawing strength from the Mountain’s beauty and from within.
Rainier has been the focal point through many changes in my life. When I was 18, it was on Rainier’s slopes that I crystallized my purpose to attend college. While cramming for finals or writing term papers, the thought of each step on the Muir Snowfield made me strive harder to succeed with an all-night paper. When cast by doubts about finalizing my college degree, Rainier was a place to reduce the causal foresight into clear objectives. The preparation of a 14 day trip to Rainier and the daily planning for each successive hike around the Mountain provided valuable lessons in planning, purpose, and the reward of sharing and attaining a goal with a good friend.
While studying in Austria, and later, in Australia, Rainier was a source of strong memories of my homeland in countries that were geographically and culturally alien. And in that unique strangeness of living overseas, Rainier was an enduring and physical symbol of last campfires that never died, to paraphrase Schurman’s inspiring words,* as Ken once shared with me. And so throughout the years Rainier has been the rock…
*Last campfires never die,
And you and I on separate ways to Life’s December,
Will dream by this last fire,
and have This Mountain to rememberClark Schurman, 1882 – 1955