JOHN MUIR / 1838-1914

Posted: Oct 17 2014

Past

John Muir is a household name to outdoorsy Californians. The Scotland native was co-founder of the Sierra Club and a prolific author and advocate of the natural world. We have Muir to thank for Yosemite and Sequoia. He lobbied for the protection of these pristine landscapes and for the establishment of National Parks. Muir influenced the very ideas of environmentalism and conservatism -- common in our vocabulary now, but unheard of during his time.

Muir followed his feet. Throughout the U.S. and finally to California, he walked constantly with no set destination. From the steep, savage escarpments of the San Gabriel Mountains outside Los Angeles to the glacial geology of the Hetch Hetchy Valley north of Yosemite, he walked because he loved to. Because he had to.

In his forties John Muir married and bore two daughters in whom he instilled his love of nature. But the family man was something of an eccentric. He was a great storyteller, but he was also a great story subject. Our favorite anecdote comes from Chapter 10 of the Mountains of California. Muir describes traipsing through the forest by the Yuba River, not far from Lake Tahoe. It was a wintry December day and he decided that the best vantage from which to enjoy the gale-force winds was atop a 100-ft. Douglas Spruce. He scaled the tree and rode out the storm. And there you would have seen him, should you have been wandering in the woods that day, perched atop an evergreen bucking wildly in the current so that he could best experience the sounds and motion of the whirling tempest.

Present

In the 1870s Muir wrote in a letter to his sister, “The mountains are calling and I must go.” What a perfect sentiment to describe that nagging feeling that compels us to throw the camping bin in the back of the car and journey to the woods. If you consider the many distractions of modern life then Muir’s impulse is even more astute. Every time we are about to defenestrate ourselves and our computers, we take a deep breath and set out to the wilderness for a technology detox.

The natural world, especially the Sierra Nevadas -- “The Range of Light” as he called it -- was where John Muir felt closest to God. Away from civilization he could seek divinity. Call it God, call it truth, beauty, enlightenment, or the sublime -- whatever you find in the wilderness is your own business. We just hope you continue to look for it.

Each of John Muir’s wilderness treks were fueled by the simplest provisions: a handful of tea, a loaf of bread, a copy of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays. He was there to delight in nature and required little sustenance. We can say, with confidence, that Muir would have loved Angelo Garro's Omnivore Salt for its simplicity and for the foraged spices he knew well. The same, aromatic wild fennel that inspired this product, is ubiquitous to the botanical California landscape and would have been a recurring feature of Muir’s daily sensory experience.

In three words, John Muir was...

Rugged, tireless, enlightened

Further reading:

The Story of My Boyhood and Youth (1913)

My First Summer in the Sierra (1911)

From The Mountains of California (1894)

"I kept my lofty perch for hours, frequently closing my eyes to enjoy the music by itself, or to feast quietly on the delicious fragrance that was streaming past. The fragrance of the woods was less marked than that produced during warm rain, when so many balsamic buds and leaves are steeped like tea; but, from the chafing of resiny branches against each other, and the incessant attrition of myriads of needles, the gale was spiced to a very tonic degree. And besides the fragrance from these local sources there were traces of scents brought from afar. For this wind came first from the sea, rubbing against its fresh, briny waves, then distilled through the redwoods, threading rich ferny gulches, and spreading itself in broad undulating currents over many a flower-enameled ridge of the coast mountains, then across the golden plains, up the purple foot-hills, and into these piny woods with the varied incense gathered by the way."

 

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