John Muir and his remarkable legacy

A forum dedicated to the John Muir Trail in the High Sierra of California.
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Post by TreeFrog » Thu Sep 01, 2011 8:03 am

John Muir and his remarkable legacy

If you hike in the United States then you'll probably have heard of John Muir. And if you know his name or even his photo - long white beard and suit - but be less familiar with his story. Here we will give you a short introduction to the life and accomplishments of John Muir, author, naturalist, and woodsman extraordinaire.

John Muir certainly lived a fascinating and full life, but then he was born in a time when extraordinary lives seemed to be so much more frequent. There were no cars to make things easier, no games of PartyPoker or movies to keep him inside on a rainy day and, while we're at it, not even any breathable water proof fabric to keep him comfortable as he covered those huge distances he walked.

Muir was born in Dunbar in East Lothian in Scotland, where his father was an extremely religious shop owner. Muir Senior, Daniel, became disillusioned with the moral turpitude of his fellow Scots and the lax attitude of the Church of Scotland in particular and took his family off to Wisconsin to start a farm and join the Disciples of Christ, a Presbyterian church that stayed truer to the Restoration Movement.

After studying at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and spending some time in Canada during the Civil War to avoid the draft, he worked in a saw mill in Indianapolis where his life took the direction it was to follow for the rest of his life. An accident with a saw wheel almost blinded him and confined him to a darkened room for six weeks, when he recovered he realised he must study botany and explore the country.

Muir's first journey was 1000 mile walk from Indiana to the Gulf of Florida, recorded in A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf. After heading to New York City he then took a boat to San Francisco, and it was in the West that he would really make his name. Muir set off to Yosemite where he would live for the next three years, writing and reading the works of Emerson.

It was not merely the (somewhat mystical) appreciation of nature that spurred Muir on, he was also a committed scientist and studied the geology, fauna and ecology of Yosemite, the Sierra Nevada and the Pacific North West.

As well as his studies, Muir worked to have Yosemite turned into a national park, founded the Sierra Club along with Professor Henry Senger and Warren Olney, and generally working for conservation of US wildernesses. Alongside these practical achievements, we should also remember that Muir insisted that nature is our home, a notion that is still revolutionary today.

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