Happy Birthday, John Muir

John Muir, 1902. From the Library of Congress.

“In early May 1868, John Muir hiked into California’s Yosemite Valley for the first time. The area was already a state park, rimmed by the Sierra’s high, forested walls and waterfalls, and of such beauty that it brought from the young Scotsman a desire to wander ‘these love-monument mountains, glad to be a servant of servants in so holy a wilderness'...

"...Like a great musician, Muir’s genius was to project his conviction and passion. His books, which explain why wild places must be preserved, resonate with readers to this day. A founding member of the Sierra Club, he lobbied aggressively to push the national park ideal. Muir’s writings helped stimulate conservation efforts for decades following his death in 1914, and the National Wilderness System, established in 1964, is a direct outcome of his argument.”
So writes Frank Graham Jr. in "Force for Nature," his review of Donald Worster’s recent Muir biography, A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir. Today marks what would have been the renowned conservationist’s 172nd birthday. Audubon has recognized the life, contributions, and impact of Muir in various articles over the years; below are links to a few of those:

Our photo essay "Cry for Joy" features some of the plant specimens collected by Muir and compiled in Nature’s Beloved Son: Rediscovering John Muir’s Botanical Legacy (Heyday Books, 248 pages, $45). The work, written by Bonnie J. Gisel, with images by Stephen J. Joseph, “presents enhanced images of the dried remains of nearly 100 plants the inexhaustible explorer collected in Canada, the southern United States, California, and Alaska during the late 19th and early 20th centuries."

Two years ago, Alex McInturff, an Alabama native,

El Capitan (left) and Half Dome (in far background), Yosemite National Park. Photo by Alex McInturff.

was an undergraduate student at Stanford University with limited outdoor experience. But a chance introduction to the writings of John Muir steered his interests toward conservation research, culminating in a solo, month-long adventure that he took this past spring to retrace the famed naturalist’s 1868 trek from San Francisco to Yosemite. In “Following Muir’s Footsteps,” McInturff shares what the experience was like.

Written in detailed prose and accompanied by dramatic illustrations, Kathyryn Lasky’s John Muir: America’s First Environmentalist (Candlewick Press, 48 pages, $16.99, Ages 6–10) is a kid-friendly chronicle of Muir’s expeditions to the Florida coast, the California mountains, and the Alaska tundra. Borrowing quotes from Muir’s own diary, Kathryn Lasky portrays him as a passionate naturalist—one who often climbed trees during the rain, because “many of nature’s finest lessons are to be found in her storms.”

Ginger Wadsworth’s chatty, well-researched kids' book Camping With the President (Calkins Creek, 32 pages, $16.95, Ages 8 and up) tells the true story of Theodore Roosevelt’s camping trip into Yosemite Valley with renowned naturalist John Muir. For four solid days the pair rode horseback amid giant sequoia trees and granite mountains, sleeping in tents and awakening to birdsong—evading the press and the president’s Secret Service at every turn.
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