For us outdoor folks, the most wonderous images come to mind when the name John Muir is mentioned. 100 years ago John Muir was ecstatically writing about the mountains. He was also writing about how we lose our feeling for being alive by working too much, focusing on making money instead of the things that bring us joy. This could have been easily written today, bit of a visionary, that guy. We can thank him for Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park, as well as numerous inspirational thoughts about the outdoors.
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”
As a young man, Muir felt he was a student in what he called the “University of the Wilderness.” Yosemite was his graduate course. This is where he decided who he was, what he wanted to say and how he was going to say it.
Although Muir only truly lived in Yosemite for a few years, from 1868 to 1874, his short time in the Sierra changed him forever more. Muir has inspired us to protect natural areas not for their beauty alone but also for their ecological importance. In The Yosemite, published in 1912, he wrote: “But no temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite. Every rock in its wall seems to glow with life.”
Yosemite becomes an even more incredible place through the eyes and words of John Muir:
“Sauntering up the Valley through meadow and grove, in the company of these majestic rocks, which seem to follow us as we advance, gazing, admiring, looking for new wonders ahead where all about us is so wonderful, the thunder of the Yosemite Fall is heard, and when we arrive in front of the Sentinel Rock it is revealed in all its glory from base to summit, half a mile in height, and seeming to spring out into the Valley sunshine direct from the sky. But even this fall, perhaps the most wonderful of its kind in the world, cannot at first hold our attention, for now the wide upper portion of the Valley is displayed to view, with the finely modeled North Dome, the Royal Arches and Washington Column on our left; Glacier Point, with its massive, magnificent sculpture on the right;
and in the middle, directly in front, looms Tissiack or Half Dome, the most beautiful and most sublime of all the wonderful Yosemite rocks, rising in serene majesty from flowery groves and meadows to a height of 4750 feet.” John Muir The Yosemite 1912
You can find the complete text of John Muir’s books click here compliments of the Sierra Club, recommended reading before visiting Yosemite!
I had the opportunity this past week to visit Yosemite twice with friends that were visiting while I am in Mariposa. The first part of the week Pam came up and we headed to the park to meet up with Victoria who was spending the week in the park. It was a beautiful day with sunshine filtering through the snow-covered trees in the Valley.
As it was the week between Christmas and New Years the park was overflowing with visitors enjoying the grandeur of the park between storms.
Later in the week Jerry was up to visit as he had not made the trip to Yosemite in many years.
Every time I visit Yosemite I find something new to love about it. Even with the crowds the beauty is awesome. This time of year the falls are full, the air is crisp (read that as cold) and the Valley takes on an entirely different appearance from the other seasons. There are a number of areas in the park (Tioga Pass for one) that are inaccessible in the winter but much to see and do in Yosemite Valley keeps us busy for a day trip. Unfortunately following John Muir’s advice for a day trip would be pretty difficult this time of year!
“If I were so time-poor as to have only one day to spend in Yosemite I should start at daybreak, say at three o’clock in midsummer, with a pocketful of any sort of dry breakfast stuff, for Glacier Point, Sentinel Dome, the head of Illilouette Fall, Nevada Fall, the top of Liberty Cap, Vernal Fall and the wild boulder-choked River Cañon.” John Muir – The Yosemite
Muir’s words and deeds helped inspire President Theodore Roosevelt’s innovative conservation programs, including establishing the first National Monuments by Presidential Proclamation, and Yosemite National Park by congressional action. In 1892, John Muir and other supporters formed the Sierra Club in his words: “to make the mountains glad.”
There has been fear recently that with the new administration the future of our parks and open space could be in jeopardy, but if you think about all the gains our society has made, from independence to now, it wasn’t government. It was activism. People think, “Teddy Roosevelt established Yosemite National Park, what a great president.” But don’t forget that it was John Muir who invited Roosevelt out and then convinced him to ditch his security and go camping. It was Muir, an activist, a single person who influenced the political forces of that time to establish Yosemite.
One of my favorite quotes and one that was hanging in my office when I retired was in the words of Apple Founder Steve Jobs:
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes, the ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things – they push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
Here’s hoping many of you resolve to make 2017 the year you join the “crazy ones”, I know I will.