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About John Muir
In his later life, Muir devoted most of his time to the preservation of the Western forests. He petitioned the U.S. Congress for the National Park bill that was passed in 1890, establishing Yosemite National Park. The spiritual quality and enthusiasm toward nature expressed in his writings inspired readers, including presidents and congressmen, to take action to help preserve large nature areas. He is today referred to as the "Father of the National Parks" and the National Park Service has produced a short documentary about his life.
Muir has been considered 'an inspiration to both Scots and Americans'. Muir's biographer, Steven J. Holmes, believes that Muir has become "one of the patron saints of twentieth-century American environmental activity," both political and recreational. As a result, his writings are commonly discussed in books and journals, and he is often quoted by nature photographers such as Ansel Adams. "Muir has profoundly shaped the very categories through which Americans understand and envision their relationships with the natural world," writes Holmes. Muir was noted for being an ecological thinker, political spokesman, and religious prophet, whose writings became a personal guide into nature for countless individuals, making his name "almost ubiquitous" in the modern environmental consciousness. According to author William Anderson, Muir exemplified "the archetype of our oneness with the earth", while biographer Donald Worster says he believed his mission was "...saving the American soul from total surrender to materialism.":403 On April 21, 2013, the first ever John Muir Day was celebrated in Scotland, which marked the 175th anniversary of his birth, paying homage to the conservationist.
Bio from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Photo by Unknown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
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Part of John Muir's appeal to modern readers is that he not only explored the American West and wrote about its beauties but also fought for their preservation. His successes dot the landscape and are evident in all the natural features that bear his name: forests, lakes, trails, and glaciers. Here collected are some of Muir's finest wilderness essays, ranging in subject matter from Alaska to Yellowstone, from Oregon to the High Sierra.
This book is part of a series that celebrates the tradition of literary naturalists—writers who embrace the natural world as the setting for some of our most euphoric and serious experiences. These books map the intimate connections between the human and the natural world. Literary naturalists transcend political boundaries, social concerns, and historical milieus; they speak for what Henry Beston called the “other nations” of the planet. Their message acquires more weight and urgency as wild places become increasingly scarce.
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” - John Muir
John Muir, one of America’s great environmentalists, has inspired nature lovers for generations with his writings.
A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf by John Muir is the adventure that started it all.
Walk with John from Indiana through Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. A story that is sure to inspire your own adventures and love for nature and the off beaten path.
“The mountains are calling and I must go.” - John Muir
In a lifetime of exploration, writing, and passionate political activism, John Muir became America's most eloquent spokesman for the mystery and majesty of the wilderness. A crucial figure in the creation of our national parks system and a far-seeing prophet of environmental awareness who founded the Sierra Club in 1892, he was also a master of natural description who evoked with unique power and intimacy the untrammeled landscapes of the American West.
Nature Writings collects Muir's most significant and best-loved works in a single volume, including: The Story of My Boyhood and Youth (1913), My First Summer in the Sierra (1911), The Mountains of California (1894) and Stickeen (1909). Rounding out the volume is a rich selection of essays—including "Yosemite Glaciers," "God's First Temples," "Snow-Storm on Mount Shasta," "The American Forests," and "Save the Redwoods"—that highlight various aspects of his career: his exploration of the Grand Canyon and of what became Yosemite and Yellowstone national parks, his successful crusades to preserve the wilderness, his early walking tour to Florida, and the Alaska journey of 1879.
LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.
The Story of my Boyhood and Youth is the affecting memoir of the now internationally renowned John Muir, a Scottish-American boy subject to a most unusual upbringing, his transition into adulthood, and the path that led him to petition for the concept of protected national parks.
Born in East Lothian, Scotland in 1838, Muir was raised by a fanatically strict, religious father with his numerous brothers and sisters and loving mother. From an early age, a shy Muir showed fascination with the natural world, and at aged eleven, his father announced the family were to move to an American wilderness in Wisconsin – Muir had a new playground.
His adolescence is spent labouring on the family’s grassroots farm. Working seventeen-hour days, an exhausted yet inquisitive Muir desperately snatches moments to himself, yearning to explore the environment around him, secretly studying books on topics other than religion, and rising at 1 a.m. to pursue his hobby of inventing intricate time and energy-saving devices – much to his father’s disapproval and everyone else’s admiration.
At age twenty-two, Muir takes it upon himself to apply to university, and does so without financial or moral support from his father. He makes his way to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to study chemistry and botany, and though never graduating with a degree, he is satisfied that he had learned all he wanted to there, before completing the rest of his nature education in ‘the university of the wilderness’.
The Story of my Boyhood and Youth includes a new foreword by Terry Gifford, and offers insight into the development of Muir’s spiritual connection with the natural world, and suggests an explanation for his passion for freedom in the wilderness, a stark contrast to the forced rigidity of his early years.
‘Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away ... God has cared for these trees ... but he cannot save them from fools – only Uncle Sam can do that.’
First published in 1901, Our National Parks is possibly the bestselling book of Muir’s wilderness-discovery titles and was certainly the most influential published in his lifetime, with a strong focus on the preservation of forest reserves.
With a strong political tone and shrewd, subtle manoeuvring, Muir uses Our National Parks to persuade his readership of the necessity of nature and national parks for human recreation and more importantly for health and wellbeing, as well as the – in his mind – obvious need for preservation of wild ecosystems.
Cannily he counterbalances this with the acknowledgement of the need for timber and irrigation systems, in order that his message is taken seriously; Muir’s passion is portrayed so vividly and flamboyantly that without his learned political and scientific reinforcement, he could be misconstrued as purely a radical and eccentric nonconformist. However, the two combined result in an engaging and convincing argument that these landscapes are our ‘natural home’, and ‘fountains of life’.
As Muir expert Terry Gifford observes in the foreword, ‘Muir’s tone can shift in this book from seductive persuasion, to charming details of creatures, flora and landscapes, to scientific information, to trail guide, to religious uplift, to a final political speech of startling ferocity.’
John Muir’s strategic yet genuine and beautiful conservationist essays were a first at the time of publication, and are still highly applicable to our attitudes and lifestyles today in the twenty-first century.
With a natural historian's keen eye for flora, geography, and geology, Muir describes glaciers, lakes, trees, and the daily lives of the region's inhabitants. His lyrical narrative, imbued with the deepest understanding and respect for nature, examines the ways in which natural forces shape the landscape and the effects of the changing seasons. The zesty travelogue is accompanied by splendid illustrations of maps, plants, and animals. Originally published in 1894, The Mountains of California continues to delight and inform readers.
‘Many a beautiful plant cultivated to deformity, and arranged in strict geometrical beds, the whole pretty affair a laborious failure side by side with divine beauty.’
A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf is the second book in John Muir’s Wilderness-Discovery series. It is within this work that we are really given strong clues toward Muir’s future trailblazing movement for environmental conservation, in such comments as ‘The universe would be incomplete without man; but it would also be incomplete without the smallest transmicroscopic creature that dwells beyond our conceitful eyes and knowledge.’
Muir’s walk from Indiana to Florida was conceived in order to explore and study further the flora and fauna across states. He undertakes this alone, a dangerous choice perhaps so soon after the civil war, as many characters along the way forewarn. Indeed, Muir is threatened by a robber, and we see a new side to the quiet, lowly gentleman we know as he springs into self-defence mode with lightning initiative and remarkable courage.
This is not the only facet of Muir’s personality that is uncovered throughout this journey. He makes reference to feeling ‘dreadfully lonesome and poor’, which is intriguing as his circumstances are self-sought: ‘Stayed with lots of different people but preferred sleeping outside alone where possible’. He spends a substantial period of time struck down with malaria, which does not come as a surprise; he was covering many miles on an unsustainably meagre diet with thirst often quenched with swamp water or not at all.
Join Muir in Kentucky forests, Cumberland mountains, Florida swamps and all the elegantly described trees, plants, creatures and rocks in-between. A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf teaches us as much about Muir himself as it does the ecosystems in the wilderness across those 1,000 miles.