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  1. #1
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    Default John Muir's Wilderness Essays

    This week I re-read John Muir's Wilderness Essays, a book I've had for many years and often re-read. If you can't get on a trail, this might be the next best thing. Muir had a way with words. Here's a link to the book on amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mountaineerin.../dp/0874805449

    Muir was kind of crazy in the level of risk he took on. My favorite essay is his account of ascending Mt. Ritter in October 1872. Chilling excerpt from "A Near View of the High Sierra":

    "At length, after attaining an elevation of about 12,800 feet, I found myself at the foot of a sheer drop in the bed of the avalanche channel I was tracing, which seemed absolutely to bar further progress. It was only about forty-five or fifty feet high, and somewhat roughened by fissures and projections; but these seemed so slight and insecure, as footholds, that I tried hard to avoid the precipice altogether, by scaling the wall of the channel on either side. But, though less steep, the walls were smoother than the obstructing rock, and repeated efforts only showed that I must either go right ahead or turn back.

    The tried dangers beneath seemed even greater than that of the cliff in front; therefore, after scanning its face again and again, I began to scale it, picking my holds with intense caution. After gaining a point about halfway to the top, I was suddenly brought to a dead stop, with arms outspread, clinging close to the face of the rock, unable to move hand or foot either up or down. My doom appeared fixed. I must fall. There would be a moment of bewilderment, and then a lifeless rumble down the one general precipice to the glacier below."



  2. #2
    Registered User greenpete's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coffee View Post
    This week I re-read John Muir's Wilderness Essays...Muir had a way with words.
    Nice to meet another person who appreciates Muir. He influenced all of us hikers, even those who are clueless about him. I have the anthology The Wilderness World of John Muir, which has some of his best essays. Hard to believe he used to head out alone with only a blanket and some biscuits and tea. Compare that to today's hiking species that requires smartphones and GPS and whose daily mileage is determined by the nearest shelter or trailtown!

    My favorite essay of his is "Stickeen." One of the greatest animal stories ever written.




    Wilderness is where things work the way they're supposed to work - Walkin' Jim Stoltz

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    Registered User JPritch's Avatar
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    Muir was the man! We owe a lot to him. It was a bit bewildering to see a small group of voices attempting to cancel him last year, because he, like most of our (and their) great great grandfathers, held racist beliefs.
    While searching for that unknown edge in life, never forget to look home. For the greatest edge you can find in life is to stand in the protective shadow of those who love you.

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    A problem with 'Cancel Culture' is that it will inevitably hit something you like

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    An even bigger problem with cancel culture is that the people cancelling are not so perfect themselves.

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    Muir was a product of his times and should be judged according to his times.

    He sure didn’t practice LNT!

    But he’s surely responsible for the preservation of vast stretches of wilderness. His Yosemite trip with Roosevelt was a milestone for conservation.

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    I doubt anyone today could do what Muir was able to accomplish in his day, history rightfully holds him as the "Father of the National Park System". He was well prepared for his short camping trip with Teddy Roosevelt who, through Muir, saw the need to protect the Yosemite Valley. That 3-day camping trip is considered to be the most significant to what became modern conservation and the birthplace of the NPS.

    Many people or groups who accomplish great things have flaws in character, personality, or make errors in judgement that carry through history along with their more positive legacies. Sometimes these can be eased over time, sometimes not, making it important to discuss these things. Doing so does not lessen the contribution Muir made nor improves his image as a man. These conversations serve more as a reminder what is not recognized at certain periods of our history often are later, which speaks well of our collective desire to improve as a nation. Muir's contributions are safely ensconced in the history of American conservation, to not explore the man himself would be a disservice to us all. It would be a shame if people believed only flawless, saint-like people can achieve great things.

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    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Certainly in so many ways, John Muir was The Man, and we should all be very grateful of his magnificent efforts.

    It saddens me, however, that after his failure to stop the building of the Hetch Hetchey dam, the rest of his life was pretty miserable, at least according to the Ken Burns National Parks video series (highly recommended).

    He just never got over losing that battle, and I suppose that he was just too far into his "grumpy old man" life-phase to get over it. It's an important lesson for old farts (like myself); sometimes you just have to let it go. Fight the fight, but when it's over, get over it.

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    From all accounts I have read, the loss of Hetch Hetchy weighed on him heavily late in life. He died shortly after the battle was lost and never had to see the valley flooded. From time to time, there are campaigns to restore Hetch Hetchy valley but sadly the California water situation might never allow for it.

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