'How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains! To behold this alone is worth the pains of any excursion a thousand times over.'
John Muir is known internationally for his dedication to protecting the environment and for founding The Sierra Club in 1892. His first book, as Muir authority Terry Gifford writes in the foreword, 'became the bible of the fledgling Sierra Club, which is now a major national environmental activists' organisation with branches in every corner of America'.
The Mountains of California not only details Muir's visits to the magnificent mountains along the Sierra Nevada Range, which he affectionately calls 'The Range of Light', but also the stunning glaciers, forests and landscapes that he encounters: 'Climbing higher, I saw for the first time the gradual dwarfing of the pines in compliance with climate ... patches of the dwarf vaccinium with its round flowers sprinkled in the grass like purple hail; while in every direction the landscape stretched sublimely away in fresh wildness: a manuscript written by the hand of nature alone.'
Throughout the book, Muir's philosophy of nature's ability to soothe and amaze is evident. He heart-warmingly discusses at length how his encounters with animals, such as the Douglas squirrel, cheered him so. This is a truly beautiful read; Muir's writing, embedded with emotion, wit, and at times, humour, will never fail to speak to his reader.
The enthusiasm contained within these pages is infectious, and as well as making a powerful read, Muir will inspire you, too, to 'come and see' the innumerable delights that nature can offer:
'The best words only hint at [California's] charms. Come to the mountains and see.'
Born in 1838, John Muir was a Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher and ahead-of-his-time advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States.
Muir's works tell of his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada of California. His activism helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and other exquisite wilderness areas.
He founded The Sierra Club, and petitioned the US Congress for the National Park bill that was passed in 1890, establishing Yosemite National Park. The 211-mile John Muir Trail - a hiking trail in the Sierra Nevada - was named in his honour, as was the John Muir Way in Scotland, and many other places including a beach, college and glacier.
Muir married Louisa Strentzel and they had two daughters together, living on a fruit orchard in California. Today he is referred to as the 'Father of the National Parks' and has a legacy as one of the most influential naturalists in America.