Compiled by Ben Hope
John Muir, a noted early 20th century American conservationist and author, was the founder of the US’s Sierra Club and wrote several books as well, including The Mountains of California (1894), Our National Parks (1901), Stickeen: The Story of a Dog (1909) and My First Summer in the Sierra (1911).
His prose was delightfully penned. For instance one that struck a chord with me is “Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.”
Think solitude on a trout stream or in the hills – contrasting with today’s airports and hotels!
John Muir was not an American by birth but was born April 21, 1838, in Dunbar, Scotland. He immigrated to the United States with his family when he was 11 years old. In 1892 he founded the Sierra Club. He served as its first president, a position he held until his death in 1914. He was largely responsible for the establishment of Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks.
He wrote many ecology-oriented articles published via newspapers in the early 1870s and became known for his articles that praised the natural world, speaking in poetic, spiritual terms about his affection for the ecology and humanity’s earth connection, garnering a large and varied readership.
In the new century he continued to make history with his 1903 three-night camping trip with Theodore Roosevelt, which helped shape the U.S. president’s own conservationist policies.
Death and Legacy
John Muir died on December 24, 1914 in Los Angeles, California from pneumonia. His legacy lived on not only in the establishment of parks and his environmental activism but in the scores upon scores of articles he penned.
John Muir often walked solo.
Edwin Way Teale writing of John Muir said “John Muir, faring forth into the wilderness unarmed and lone, was the man unafraid. He was unafraid of danger, of hardship, of wilderness, of being alone of facing death. He was unafraid of public opinion. He was unafraid of work and poverty and hunger. He knew them all and he remained unafraid.”
Some John Muir words of wisdom:-
“These temple destroyers, devotees of ravaging commercialism, seem to have a perfect contempt for Nature and instead of lifting their eyes to the God of the Mountains, lift them to the Almighty Dollar.”
Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries since Christ’s time – and long before that – God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches and a thousand straining, levelling tempests and floods, but he cannot save them from fools.”
On Wilderness Therapy
“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 drop off like autumn leaves.”
”Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”
On Natural Erosion
“Standing here in the deep, brooding silence all the wilderness seems motionless —-but we know there is incessant motion and change. Ever and anon, avalanches are falling from yonder peaks. These cliff-bound glaciers, seemingly wedged and immovable, are flowing like water and grinding the rocks beneath them —-and every one of those rills and young rivers is fretting the air into music and carrying the mountains to the plains.”
© John Muir