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From Scotland to the Sierras

From Scotland to the Sierras
“In wildness lies the hope of the world.” John Muir

April 21, 1838: John Muir was born in Dunbar, Scotland, destined to become known as “Father of Our National Park System.” In 1849, the Muir family emigrated to the United States, where they finally settled near Portage, Wisconsin. The seeming siren song of the natural world became irresistable to John Muir, and he became a life-long, loving observer of the world around him. His horizons expanded to include many areas, and he travelled extensively, experiencing intimately all natural aspects of those areas. He began to develop an excellent ability to record the insights he gained on those trips in journals. He also became somewhat of an inventor, and won prizes at the Wisconsin State Fair at Madison in 1860. After completing three years of education at the University of Wisconsin, he began travelling expanses of the United States in 1863. He ended up in California in March of 1868. Walking across the San Joaquin Valley through waist-high wildflowers, he found himself in the high country of California for the first time, and lost his heart to it’s beauty and wildness. He thought the Sierra Nevada Range was “the most divinely beautiful of all the mountain chains…” He began to be known throughout this country for his writings about the region. Such famous men as Joseph LeConte, Asa Gray, and Ralph Waldo Emerson came to commune with Muir at his modest pine cabin in those mountains. Muir’s successful writing career had been launched in 1874 when he produced a series of articles titled “Studies in the Sierra.” Subsequent articles of his which were published in Century magazine drew attention to the devastation of mountain meadows and forests by grazing sheep and cattle. Muir worked to remedy that destruction. In a joint effort, Muir and Robert Underwood Johnson prodded the U.S. Congress to create Yosemite National Park. Muir was also deeply involved in the successful efforts to create the Sequoia, Mt. Ranier, Petrified Forest, and Grand Canyon National Parks. Those great efforts have earned him the appellation “Father of Our National Park System. In 1892, Muir helped found the Sierra Club, with the express intention “to do something for wildness and make the mountains glad.” John Muir passed from this life in 1914, but his legacy of involvement and caring goes forward to this day. From John Muir: A Brief Bio, by the Sierra Club: “John Muir was perhaps this country’s most famous and influential naturalist and conservationist. He taught the people of his time and ours the importance of experiencing and protecting our natural heritage. His words have heightened our perception of nature. His personal and determined involvement in the great conservation questions of the day was and remains an inspiration for environmental activists everwhere.”

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2 thoughts on “From Scotland to the Sierras

  1. I’ve been an admirer of John Muir for many years, since reading some of his early work, and then reading more and more about him. Thank you for posting this. He is truly deserving.

    • Thank you for reading the post. I’ve always admired John Muir’s work and his ability to keep going when the going was tough – as it was, many times, for him. We need more dedicated individuals with foresight like him.

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