28 April 2011

John Muir

Who exactly is John Muir? And why does he interest me so? He was a Scottish man that fell in love with the beauty of America. He was instrumental in getting the president and congress to create the National Park system…hence his nickname “Father of the National Parks”.

He was also very interested in botany, which I admit is the part about him I care nothing about. He could glance at any plant and tell you exactly what it was…a neat talent, but that is not what thrills me.

His journey (after an injury he was convinced God had given him) began in Yosemite Valley and here is where he changed how America viewed its lands. He referred to Yosemite as a “temple” and even wrote a book while there….he was here many years.

That part was interesting because Yosemite is on my list of things to do, but I read his book about the visit to Wrangel Island, his climb up Mt Rainier and his great visits to Glacier Bay. George Vancouver discovered the bay, but it was closed with gigantic glacier…by the time Muir sailed to the bay in a canoe, the glacier had retreated creating Tarr Inlet. A place I have been blessed to see and without a doubt the most beautiful place that I have ever been blessed enough to see.

I first read Muir’s book “Travels in Alaska” as I was approaching my first visit to the bay and then began it again right after I left. At first read, I could not envision the ice, the fjord, the blues, the moraine….they were just words. After visiting it all made sense, and it hit me hard. I sat in a chair for almost 12 hours admiring with shock the beauty, the moaning and the loveliness of the fjord. I have read the book about 6 times since 2008. There is another book that describes the trips Muir made to Glacier Bay, “Alaska Days with John Muir”. It is written by Samuel H Young, who happened to be a minister that traveled to Wrangel Island to minister to the natives and traveled to the glaciers with Muir. This book is just as good as Muir’s book and is enjoyable reading.

Both books are available all over the place as both are out of copyright. Here is a link to Travels in Alaska… www.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/writings/travels_in_alaska/ It has the photos from the book, the very book I bought at Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center...a glacier that is briefly mentioned in the book.

Oh one thing I forgot, in case you collect the statehood quarters, John Muir is the man depicted on the California state quarter...so even if you never heard of him, I am sure you have held his name in your hands.