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Nature's Writers Trail: Muir

Library Guide for the Nature Writer's Trail.

John Muir
April 21, 1838 - December 24, 1914

John Muir also known as "John of the Mountains" and "Father of the National Parks", was an influential Scottish-American naturalist, farmer, inventor, author, environmental philosopher, conservationist, glaciologist, explorer, and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States of America. A free spirit - it was California's Sierra Nevada and Yosemite that truly claimed him. In 1868, he walked across the San Joaquin Valley through waist-high wildflowers and into the high country for the first time. He founded and served as the Sierra Club's president until his death.

In 1901, Muir published Our National Parks, the book that brought him to the attention of President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1903, Roosevelt visited Muir in Yosemite. There, together, beneath the trees, they laid the foundation of Roosevelt's innovative and notable conservation programs. John Muir was perhaps this country's most famous and influential naturalist and conservationist. His personal and determined involvement in the great conservation questions of the day was and remains an inspiration for environmental activists everywhere.

  • "The mountains are calling and I must go."

  • "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."

  • "When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world."

  • John Muir was born in Dunbar in East Lothian, Scotland.
  • He emigrated with his family to America in 1849.
  • He founded the Sierra Club in 1892.
  • He is known as "John of the Mountains" and the "Father of America's National Parks", as well as the "Patron Saint of the American Wilderness."
  • His activism helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and other wilderness areas in America.
  • In September 1867, John walked 1000 miles from Indiana to Florida, which he recounted in his book, A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf.
    • He had no specific route chosen, except to go by the "wildest, leafiest, and least trodden way I could find”.

  • My First Summer in the Sierra (1911)
  • The Yosemite (1912)
  • The Story of My Boyhood and Youth (1913)
  • A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf  (1916)
  • The Cruise of the Corwin (1917)

  • His activism has helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and many other wilderness areas. The Sierra Club, which he co-founded, is a prominent American conservation organization. In his later life, Muir devoted most of his time to the preservation of the Western forests.
  • He designed locks, water wheels, barometers, clocks and an automatic feeding machine for the horses. In 1860 he took some of his inventions at the Madison State Fair. He took one of his clocks and his famous 'early rising machine'. This was also a timekeeping machine.

The Cruise of the Corwin

"He was instrumental in the creation and passage of the National Parks Act, and founder of the Sierra Club, acting as its president until his death. Muir was a spirit so free that all he did to prepare for an expedition was to "throw some tea and bread into an old sack and jump the back fence."

The Story of My Boyhood and Youth (Franklin County Public Library)

In The Story of My Boyhood and Youth, Muir recounts in vivid detail the three worlds of his early life: his first eleven years in Scotland; the years 1849–1860 in the central Wisconsin wilderness; and two-and-a-half most inventive years at the University of Wisconsin during that institution's infancy.

My First Summer in the Sierra (Franklin County Public Library)

"My First Summer in the Sierra" is a naturalist's diary detailing an 1869 hike in Sierra Nevada Mountains. John Muir accompanied shepherds for four months, observing and taking notes about the nature of the Yosemite region and the High Sierra.

The Wilderness World of John Muir (Franklin County Public Library)

Edwin Way Teale has collected here the best of Muir's writing, selected from all of his major works, including My First Summer in the Sierra and Travels in Alaska . The Wilderness World of John Muir provides "reading that is often magnificent, thrilling, exciting, breathtaking, and awe-inspiring".

A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf (Franklin County Public Library)

"A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf" is a classic naturalist text set against the backdrop of the post civil war south. Scottish-born naturalist and writer John Muir undertook a daring adventure in 1867, just a few years after the Civil War.