John Muir Day – a few thoughts.

When I was at school many years ago I was never taught about John Muir and the effect he had on the environment. Why ? I have no clue. Things are better now and John Muir is celebrated in the USA and his birthplace in Dunbar Scotland.

I was so lucky to visit the USA on a lecture tour just after I retired in 2008 for 3 months. Six weeks was spent in Yosemite with the local YOSAR search team and some nights I went to the little theatre and listened to the tales of John Muir in a series of various plays. To here the stories in this incredible place with its wild life, huge trees and waterfalls was something I will never forget.

It was surreal and gave me a great insight into this great man. John Muir was played by Lee Stetson we became friends and chatted after each event.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine into trees.” John Muir

With Lee who plays John Muir.

It took me many years to understand that the mountains and wild places need looking after. Many years before I stopped racing round the hills and looking at where I was. I wrote this:

“As I stopped the wind was wisping across the loch and the spray was soaking me at times. It was surreal with the changing light at times surreal yet magical as well. The tree roots are amazing down by the loch worn,bent, open to the elements and yet the trees were huge towering above and swaying in the wind. Trees the things we take for granted and for years I never appreciated them.

I only discovered John Muir about 20 years ago and on a trip to Yosemite I was amazed how much the Americans hold him in respect. Seeing the great trees in the park was humbling and you can see why he fought so hard to save them from being cut down.”

In the Yosemite theatre I watched a few plays on John Muir and his work and it was incredible being in the park where he walked and got so much inspiration. Lee Stetson who plays John Muir was wonderful and I watched every show he did in my 6 weeks visit.

John Muir all these years ago took on the establishment and the industrialisation of many special places in the USA. I love these tales and when I watch my grand kids climbing trees I think of him. What would he make of the Wind – Farms all over Scotland, the rubbish in the seas and wild places and the Freedom of Access we have in Scotland nowadays? This freedom of access is under pressure daily we need to ensure that this right to roam is never lost?

John Muir is now respected in his own land and the young folk are taught about his great work at school. His views and writing through education and work of the John Muir Trust.

The John Muir Trust is a conservation charity dedicated to protecting and enhancing wild places in the UK John Muir

John Muir (1838 – 1914) was a Scottish-American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, have been read by millions. His activism helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and other wilderness areas. The Sierra Club, which he founded, is now one of the most important conservation organizations in the United States. One of the best-known hiking trails in the U.S., the 211-mile (340 km) John Muir Trail, was named in his honor. Other such places include Muir Woods National Monument, Muir Beach, John Muir College, Mount Muir, Camp Muir and Muir Glacier.

A true Renaissance man, Muir was: inventor, mountaineer, explorer, botanist, geologist, nature-writer and environmental campaigner; many would add: Christian-mystic, visionary and wilderness-sage. His writings are the fountain-head from which the American conservation movement erupted, setting the agenda, the ethos and the argument for the creation of a vast National Park system. Muir did more than simply describe the grizzly bears, the giant redwoods and luminous landscapes of California’s High Sierra; as the founder of the Sierra Club, his endless campaigns saved them for all posterity. This new selection includes Muir’s finest autobiographical books: The Story of My Boyhood and Youth and My First Summer in the Sierra along with the best of his climbing and conservation essays from: The Mountains of California, Our National Parks, The Yosemite and Steep Trails. It offers a rounded portrait of Muir as a giant of American letters; of a visionary, whose passionate defence of ‘everything that is Wild’, still reverberates through today’s environmental movement, inspiring new generations of activists and all who love the natural world. 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 and Sequoia National Parks. 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’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”. Muir was extremely fond of Henry David Thoreau and was probably influenced more by him than even Ralph Waldo Emerson. Muir often referred to himself as a “disciple” of Thoreau. He was also heavily influenced by fellow naturalist John Burroughs. During his lifetime John Muir published over 300 articles and 12 books. He co-founded the Sierra Club, which helped establish a number of national parks after he died and today has over 1.3 million members. Author Gretel Ehrlich states that as a “dreamer and activist, his eloquent words changed the way Americans saw their mountains, forests, seashores, and deserts.” He not only led the efforts to protect forest areas and have some designated as national parks, but his writings gave readers a conception of the relationship between “human culture and wild nature as one of humility and respect for all life,” writes author Thurman Wilkins. His philosophy exalted wild nature over human culture and civilization. Turner describes him as “a man who in his singular way rediscovered America. . . . an American pioneer, an American hero.” Wilkins adds that a primary aim of Muir’s nature philosophy was to challenge mankind’s “enormous conceit,” and in so doing, he moved beyond the Transcendentalism of Emerson and Thoreau to a “biocentric perspective on the world.” John Muir what a man please spread the word! He was a man who loved nature and fought for it taking on politicians and Industry we need men and women like John Muir nowadays. Never take what we have for granted there are many who will sadly take it all away bit by bit.

John Muir Trust
  • The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” …
  • “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” …
  • “The mountains are calling and I must go.” …
  • “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.

So when my grandkids climb trees I tell them of John Muir climbing to the top of one to feel the effects of the wind in a storm. What a man what a legacy to leave

Comments welcome.

Wild places are special and need protecting. In becoming a member of the John Muir Trust, you’ll be part of an organisation with a UK-wide reach that is educating people about nature, taking care of wild land, and influencing decision makers.

Whichever type of membership you pick, your support will help protect the wild places in our care, campaign on the urgent issues facing wild land and connect more people with nature.

So every time you see kids climbing trees tell them about John Muir climbing that tree in a Gale to feel the force of nature.

They love that tale ! Look after our Freedom to roam it was hard fought for and should never be taken for granted.

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Articles, Books, Enviroment, Friends, Lectures, Mountaineering, People, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Well being, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to John Muir Day – a few thoughts.

  1. Nice words, but some of them have gotten tarnished by some Americans who want to tear down what he had written, change names on schools bearing his name, and alter what some people consider racist, written over 100 years ago, in a different time. It breaks my heart to read such things.

    Liked by 1 person

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