Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will fall off like autumn leaves. — John Muir
John Muir described himself as a “poetico-trampo-geologist-botanist and ornithologist-naturalist etc. etc. !!!” He has also been called “The Father of our National Parks,” “Wilderness Prophet” and “Citizen of the Universe.” Muir was all of those things, and more.
The True Story of Our National Parks
Who deserves credit for preserving Yosemite, Sequoia, Mount Rainier, Petrified Forest, and the Grand Canyon National Parks?
If you answered Theodore Roosevelt, you’re in the majority. You’re only half right. John Muir convinced Roosevelt to camp with him near Glacier Point for three days in May, 1903. During that trip, Muir told Roosevelt to establish Mariposa Grove and Yosemite Valley as a protected area. Three years later, Roosevelt signed a bill that gave the federal government ownership of the national parks, just as Muir had suggested.
Brought up on the Bible by highly religious Scottish-born parents on eighty acres of Wisconsin wilderness land, Muir was bound to become a very spiritual man. However, the God he spoke and wrote about was not your cookie-cutter Christian deity – Muir expressed his faith in a pervasive Creator, one who permeated nature and flowed as love through all living and inanimate components of the natural world.
In the late 1860s, Muir spent several years reading Thoreau and Emerson and exploring Yosemite. He became a “fixture in the valley,” admired for his understanding of natural history, geology and botany, and his colorful storytelling.
In 1871, Muir spent a day guiding Emerson through Yosemite. By day’s end, Emerson had offered Muir a teaching gig at Harvard. Muir refused. He later wrote that he never for a moment considered giving up “God’s big show for a mere profship.”
Muir is most well-known for his environmentally-focused poetry. He published six volumes of writings describing his explorations of nature, and four more were published after his death. However, writing did not come easily to him. He labored over each and every word and was always dissatisfied with the result. He wrote on, though, fueled by his love for nature.
Rod Miller, in his book John Muir: Magnificent Tramp (Forge, 2005) writes that Muir’s words have had a “lasting effect on American culture in helping to create the desire and will to protect and preserve wild and natural environments.”
A Conservationist We Love to Love
Muir was, above all, a passionate conservationist. In 1892, he founded the Sierra Club with Professor Henry Senger, a philologist at the University of California, Berkeley. It began as a local club for mountain lovers. The Sierra Club is now one of the largest and most influential grassroots environmental organizations in the United States.
Given his achievements, it’s no surprise that dozens of places are named after John Muir, including Muir Glacier (Alaska), John Muir Wilderness (Sierra Nevada, California) and Muir Beach (Northern California). Muir’s face has appeared on two commemorative postage stamps; John Muir day is celebrated on April 21st in California. He is, arguably, the most famous American conservationist.
Today, we continue to appreciate Muir for his communicative words and his communicable appreciation for the natural world. We love Muir for loving trees, birds, and mountains, and for everything he accomplished to save these natural wonders for future generations of nature-lovers.
Explore The Ambler
Clarissa introduces you to another famous adventurer in her profile piece on Ed Stafford. Once you’re caught up on the world’s most renowned travelers, take a moment to meet a lesser-known explorer whose inspiring story will have you thinking about life-changing travel in 2012!