I (heart) Mount Hood
I see Mount Hood every time I approach Portland on the BONVL4 arrival, and it's gorgeous, but you're still about 10 miles away. On clear days, I've been known to get VFR-on-top and treat my passengers to a close up scenic tour of Mount Hood, and it is always spectacular. Still, the closest I can legally get is 4 miles from the nearest terrain 2000' below me. At that distance and at the speeds I'm flying, you don't get a true sense of the immensity of the mountain.
Yesterday I took my cousin Amanda and her friend Eli on a Mount Hood tour in a rented Cessna 172. It was the first time I've seen it up close from a light plane. I was absolutely amazed by the details I missed from just a few more miles away, such as the massive crevasses in the glaciers on the north side. At one mile away and 120 knots, you are acutely aware of just how tiny your aircraft is compared to the mountain. It's all quite breathtakingly majestic.
Flights like this remind me of what I miss about flying light planes. To be sure, the scenery from FL250 can be wonderful, but it's like looking at a master's painting from across a large room. Flying low and slow over the same landscape is like inspecting the artist's individual brushstrokes. Neither vantage point provides the complete picture; only through both do you gain a complete appreciation for the masterpiece. Seeing Mount Hood by light plane makes me want to see more of the Northwest that way. Pity it's so expensive. Perhaps once I upgrade I can look into getting a little Taylorcraft or Aeronca...