'To the lover of pure wildness Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world.'
First published in 1915, Travels in Alaska is the last book that Muir wrote, detailing the adventures and experiences that were arguably most dear to him. Alaska's picturesque forests, grand mountains, and unique glacier range impacted Muir from the moment he first visited:
'Never before this had I been embosomed in scenery so hopelessly beyond description... we must surely have reached the very paradise of the poets, the abode of the blessed.'
As Muir expert Terry Gifford observes in the foreword, 'From the first trip, Muir set out to learn as much about the people as the glaciers'; and this willingness to surround himself in all aspects of the atmosphere is evident throughout, with beautifully detailed descriptions of everything from the tribes that he meets, to the canyons, rivers and animals he encounters.
Muir's unwavering adventurous spirit shines through in Travels in Alaska; no challenge is too great and even when faced with the unimaginable - being caught near death between two icebergs while canoeing, or saving an inexperienced mountaineer from slipping and falling - he does not lose his faithful 'get up and go' attitude.
Travels in Alaska details three of Muir's trips to Alaska: 1879, 1880 and 1890. Each one a refreshing account of the joys of exploring and the rewards of the outdoors: 'Never before had rocks and ice and trees seemed so beautiful and wonderful, even the cold, biting rainstorm that was blowing seemed full of loving kindness, wonderful compensation for all that we had endured, and we sailed down the bay through the grey, driving rain rejoicing.'
Embedded with stunning metaphors, a dedicated love of Mother Nature and a desire to protect and preserve wildness, this book is an insight not only into Alaska, but Muir himself. The enthusiasm contained within these pages is infectious, and as well as making a powerful read, Muir will inspire you, too, to go out and experience the paradise that is natural wildness.
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.