If you have spent any time in the amazing natural areas of California, you won’t go very far without experiencing the presence of John Muir — a man who did more for the conservation of our beautiful wild places during his 76 years than many before and after him have accomplished. This month we celebrate John Muir, his life and his accomplishments as we come upon the 100-year anniversary of his passing. Let’s highlight a few of the wonderful things he did and the beautiful places named after him.
First and foremost, John Muir was a naturalist and explorer. He often spent months on end hiking in the Sierra Nevada, detailing his observations in journals and through books, letters, and poems.
In 1868, Muir visited Yosemite for the first time and was overwhelmed and enthralled by the beauty he saw before him. “We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us,” he wrote.
After spending many years in Yosemite and the Pacific Northwest, he believed the greatest threat to the Yosemite area was domesticated livestock. In 1889, he introduced a bill to Congress to make Yosemite into a national park (it had been a state park since 1864). Congress passed that bill in 1890 and the protection of Yosemite National Park began.
Muir co-founded the Sierra Club in 1892. This group, which was originally an alpine club for mountain lovers, has turned into one of the largest environmental organizations in the United States. It has helped establish numerous national parks and protected endless areas of nature.
Not only was John Muir an explorer and activist, but he had the unique ability to translate the beauty and magic of the wilderness into words. He published over 300 articles and 12 books about his “home” in nature.
There are many places named after John Muir, including Muir Woods National Monument, Mount Muir, Muir’s Peak, the John Muir Trail, Muir Beach, Muir Pass, the John Muir National Historic Site, and the John Muir Wilderness.
I have been fortunate enough to hike part of the John Muir trail, visit Muir Woods on a regular basis, and explore the John Muir Wilderness. Each location is unique in its geography and biology but the same in its inspiration and feeling of being home!