John Muir was born in Dunbar, Scotland on April 21, 1838. Eight years later his family moved to Wisconsin where they started a farm. After attending (but not graduating from) the University of Wisconsin, Muir left the Midwest to explore the hemisphere before settling in California.
John Muir’s first summer in California (1868) was spent in what would become Yosemite National Park. Yosemite Valley and the High Sierra enraptured Muir and he spent much of the rest of his life visiting - and fighting to protect - the area.
Sierra Nevada - Yosemite Valley From Top of North Dome, July, 1869
John Muir loved the Sierra Nevada above all other mountain ranges. It was where he spent his first summer in California and lost the battle over Hetch Hetchy right before he died. He loved the Sierra for many reasons, including its radiance.
Range of Light
Sierra Nevada - Mount Emerson, Glacier Fountain of South Fork San Joaquin Between 13,000 and 14,000 Feet High
Although Yosemite and the High Sierra received much of Muir’s attention, he also visited, loved and tried to protect other areas in California. In fact, Muir’s experience stuck in a snowstorm on Mount Shasta’s slopes made a lasting impression on him, and was one of his most often told tales.
California, Northern - Mountains - Mount Shasta - Shasta with Cloud Banner in Winter from Sissons
While Muir is generally associated with California, he also traveled throughout the United States and around the world. Wild Alaska, in particular, held a special place in his heart, but he also took notable trips to Australia, South America and the deserts of Arizona.
John Muir is perhaps best known as a preservationist and defender of wilderness. His efforts, disseminated largely through his thoughtful and prolific pen, helped preserve millions of acres of forestland for future generations. In 1892 John Muir founded the Sierra Club, which continues to be a leading environmental advocacy group more than a hundred years later.
Sierra Nevada - Lakes - Red Lake in Bloody Canyon
After the 1906 earthquake, the City of San Francisco gained approval from the Dept. of Interior to dam the Tuolumne River in Hetch Hetchy Valley . Preservationists, led by John Muir, fought to protect the Valley but eventually lost when Congress passed the Raker Act in 1913. Muir was devastated.
Yosemite National Park - Valleys - Hetch Hetchy - From Near Wa-pa-ma Falls 1895
When he wasn’t wondering in the wilderness, Muir lived with his wife Louisa on their ranch in Martinez. He died in 1914, shortly after losing the battle to save Hetch Hetchy.
Beauty of Death
Sierra Nevada - Trees - White Oak of Sierra Foothills 20 ft high, Near Rock River Ranch
See separate document for complete references.
For a unique look at John Muir’s life and his writing, I recommend Edwin Way Teale’s collection of Muir’s work titled The Wilderness World of John Muir .
Two web sources that were invaluable in this project were the Sierra Club’s John Muir Exhibit ( http://www.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/index.html )
and the University of the Pacific’s Holt-Atherton Digital Collections ( http://library.pacific.edu/ha/digital/index.asp ).
“ I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in .”
~John Muir in John of the Mountains
Sierra Nevada - Canyons - In Canyon of South Fork San Joaquin, Head of First Yosemite