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'How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains! To behold this alone is worth the pains of any excursion a thousand times over.'
John Muir is known internationally for his dedication to protecting the environment and for founding The Sierra Club in 1892. His first book, as Muir authority Terry Gifford writes in the foreword, 'became the bible of the fledgling Sierra Club, which is now a major national environmental activists' organisation with branches in every corner of America'.
The Mountains of California not only details Muir's visits to the magnificent mountains along the Sierra Nevada Range, which he affectionately calls 'The Range of Light', but also the stunning glaciers, forests and landscapes that he encounters: 'Climbing higher, I saw for the first time the gradual dwarfing of the pines in compliance with climate ... patches of the dwarf vaccinium with its round flowers sprinkled in the grass like purple hail; while in every direction the landscape stretched sublimely away in fresh wildness: a manuscript written by the hand of nature alone.'
Throughout the book, Muir's philosophy of nature's ability to soothe and amaze is evident. He heart-warmingly discusses at length how his encounters with animals, such as the Douglas squirrel, cheered him so. This is a truly beautiful read; Muir's writing, embedded with emotion, wit, and at times, humour, will never fail to speak to his reader.
The enthusiasm contained within these pages is infectious, and as well as making a powerful read, Muir will inspire you, too, to 'come and see' the innumerable delights that nature can offer:
'The best words only hint at [California's] charms. Come to the mountains and see.'
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'To the lover of pure wildness Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world.'
First published in 1915, Travels in Alaska is the last book that Muir wrote, detailing the adventures and experiences that were arguably most dear to him. Alaska's picturesque forests, grand mountains, and unique glacier range impacted Muir from the moment he first visited:
'Never before this had I been embosomed in scenery so hopelessly beyond description... we must surely have reached the very paradise of the poets, the abode of the blessed.'
As Muir expert Terry Gifford observes in the foreword, 'From the first trip, Muir set out to learn as much about the people as the glaciers'; and this willingness to surround himself in all aspects of the atmosphere is evident throughout, with beautifully detailed descriptions of everything from the tribes that he meets, to the canyons, rivers and animals he encounters.
Muir's unwavering adventurous spirit shines through in Travels in Alaska; no challenge is too great and even when faced with the unimaginable - being caught near death between two icebergs while canoeing, or saving an inexperienced mountaineer from slipping and falling - he does not lose his faithful 'get up and go' attitude.
Travels in Alaska details three of Muir's trips to Alaska: 1879, 1880 and 1890. Each one a refreshing account of the joys of exploring and the rewards of the outdoors: 'Never before had rocks and ice and trees seemed so beautiful and wonderful, even the cold, biting rainstorm that was blowing seemed full of loving kindness, wonderful compensation for all that we had endured, and we sailed down the bay through the grey, driving rain rejoicing.'
Embedded with stunning metaphors, a dedicated love of Mother Nature and a desire to protect and preserve wildness, this book is an insight not only into Alaska, but Muir himself. The enthusiasm contained within these pages is infectious, and as well as making a powerful read, Muir will inspire you, too, to go out and experience the paradise that is natural wildness.
'When a man plants a tree, he plants himself. Every root is an anchor, over which he rests with grateful interest, and becomes sufficiently calm to feel the joy of living.'
Steep Trails encompasses a delightful mix of John Muir's essays and adventure narratives, spanning a period of twenty-nine years. The selections included in this book are varied: ranging from geological studies to stories of the people and towns he encounters throughout his exploits. As Muir expert Terry Gifford observes in the foreword, 'Most of Steep Trails' chapters are dispatches from Muir as travelling correspondent with a mixture of insights into local cultures, criticism of pollution and enthusiasm for everything wild.'
Muir's refreshing philosophy of being 'at one' with nature shines through every account he details, as does his agenda for environmental activism - to treat wildness lovingly, rather than selfishly for material greed. Covering mostly the western regions of the states, California, Washington, Nevada, The Grand Canyon, Oregon and Utah; Steep Trails showcases Muir's passion continuously as he climbs mountains, bathes in lakes, and sketches his findings. Muir's classic extended metaphors and knowledgeable tone are present throughout, making for both an enjoyable and educational read.
The enthusiasm contained within these pages is infectious, and as well as simply describing the beauty he sees, Muir will inspire you too, to 'go and see for yourselves' the rewards of studying the endless gift of nature:
'Surely faithful and loving skill can go no farther in putting the multitudinous decorated forms on paper. But the colours, the living, rejoicing colours, chanting morning and evening in chorus to heaven! Whose brush or pencil, however lovingly inspired, can give us these? And if paint is of no effect, what hope lies in pen-work? Only this: some may be incited by it to go and see for themselves.'
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