John Muir

Author, Athlete, Engineer, Inventor, Scientist

John Muir (21 April 1838 – 24 December 1914) was a Scottish-born American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, have been read by millions. His activism helped to save the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and other wilderness areas.

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Mentioned In 83 Books

  • The Quiet World

    2011
    Douglas Brinkley

  • American Canopy

    2012
    Eric Rutkow

  • My First Summer in the Sierra

    2003
    John Muir

  • Finding Everett Ruess

    2011
    David Roberts

  • The Great Work

    2000
    Thomas Berry

  • 1898

    1999
    David Traxel

  • Epitaph For A Desert Anarchist

    2010
    James Bishop

  • A Version of the Truth

    2009
    Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack

  • The Backbone of the World

    2003
    Clifford, Frank

  • Bound by Shadow

    2008
    Anna Windsor

  • The Dorothy Dunnett Companion

    2001
    Elspeth Morrison

  • Where I Was From

    2003
    Joan Didion

  • The Wall

    2006
    Jeff Long

  • The Shadow Catcher

    2007
    Marianne Wiggins

  • Travels in Alaska

    2002
    John Muir

  • A Conservative History of the American Left

    2008
    Daniel J. Flynn

  • Big Trouble

    2012
    J. Anthony Lukas

  • A Fierce Discontent

    2010
    Michael McGerr

  • LBJ

    2006
    Randall Woods

  • Not Buying It

    2006
    Judith Levine

  • My Sister from the Black Lagoon

    2010
    Laurie Fox

  • Rowallan

    1976
    Lord K.T. Rowallan

  • Delicate

    2007
    Mary Sojourner

  • The Islands of Divine Music

    2008
    John Addiego

  • The Other

    2009
    David Guterson

  • Selling Your Father's Bones

    2009
    Brian Schofield

  • Song for My Father

    2004
    Stephanie, Stokes Oliver

  • Our Lady of the Forest

    2004
    David Guterson

  • The Story of B

    1995
    Daniel Quinn

  • Colossus

    2010
    Michael Hiltzik

  • Crusader Nation

    2007
    David Traxel

  • Chasing the Sea

    2004
    Tom Bissell

  • Sixty Days and Counting

    2007
    Kim Stanley Robinson

  • Ramona

    1884
    Helen Hunt Jackson

  • And on the Surface Die

    2008
    Lou Allin

  • Careless at Work

    1996
    J.M.S. Careless

  • 1491

    2006
    Charles C. Mann

  • The Nature of Generosity

    2001
    William Kittredge

  • Steve Jobs

    2012
    Walter Isaacson

  • Running as a Woman

    1995
    Linda Witt, Glenna Matthews and Karen M. Paget

  • To Catch the Lightning

    2009
    Alan Cheuse

  • The Idea of Decline in Western History

    1997
    Arthur Herman

  • Imperial Immigrants

    2012
    Michael E. Vance

  • To America

    2002
    Stephen E. Ambrose

  • A Schoolteacher In Old Alaska

    2011
    Jane Jacobs

  • Baby Catcher

    2002
    Peggy Vincent

  • Transcendent

    2004
    Stephen Baxter

  • The Wise Men

    2012
    Evan Thomas and Walter Isaacson

  • The Chosen Peoples

    2010
    Todd Gitlin and Liel Leibovitz

  • America, 1908

    2007
    Jim Rasenberger

  • No Cheating, No Dying

    2012
    Elizabeth Weil

  • Tesla

    2011
    Margaret Cheney

  • Two Billion Trees and Counting

    2011
    John Bacher

  • Room for Improvement

    2011
    John Casey

  • Quetico

    2009
    Jon Nelson

  • From This Day Forward

    2009
    Steven V. Roberts and Cokie Roberts

  • Genius of Place

    2011
    Justin Martin

  • Opening Day

    2007
    Jonathan Eig

  • The Final Frontiersman

    2007
    James Campbell

  • American Dreamers

    2011
    Michael Kazin

  • Lake of the Old Uncles

    2008
    Gerard Kenney

  • A Regular Guy

    1997
    Mona Simpson

  • Shadow Knights

    2010
    Gary Kamiya and Jeffrey Smith

  • The New Dealers

    1994
    Jordan A. Schwarz

  • Abandon

    2004
    Pico Iyer

  • Stand Up That Mountain

    2012
    Jay Erskine Leutze

  • Orange County

    2008
    Gustavo Arellano

  • Jackie Robinson

    1998
    Arnold Rampersad

  • The Notebook

    1996
    Nicholas Sparks

  • Crime and Clutter

    2007
    Cyndy Salzmann

  • The Education of Arnold Hitler

    2005
    Marc Estrin

  • Bound for the Promised Land

    2004
    Kate Clifford Larson

  • Coast of Dreams

    2006
    Kevin Starr

  • Time Present, Time Past

    1997
    Bill Bradley

  • Land of Desire

    1994
    William R. Leach

  • Wallace Stegner and the American West

    2008
    Philip L. Fradkin

  • Fergus

    2008
    Pat Mattaini Mestern

  • Brave Companions

    2007
    David W. McCullough

  • Tripmaster Monkey

    1990
    Maxine Hong Kingston

  • The Quick and the Dead

    2002
    Joy Williams

  • What a combination! Mardy wrote prose poetry about Arctic Alaska. Olaus, sticking to empirical evidence, recorded all the facts about the fauna. Photographs were also taken and Olaus’s wildlife drawings continued. Once they had conquered the Old Crow, anything was possible. They felt empowered. Much like John Muir, the Muries had a childlike passion for the wonders of nature. “I think we should go beyond proving the rights of animals to live in utilitarian terms,” Olaus wrote. “Why don’t we just admit we like having them around? Isn’t that answer enough!”26

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    17. Terry Gifford, John Muir: His Life and Letters and Other Writings (Seattle: Mountaineers, 1996), p. 804.

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    Throughout 1907–1908 Sheldon, like a new John Muir, had shared campouts with the Chilkat (in southeastern Alaska). His journals also indicate encounters with the Minchumina, Nenana, and Tanana.41 The Ivy Leaguer looked as if he had been born and raised amid Alaska’s varied habitats—glaciers, mountains, tundra, grasslands, wetlands, lakes, woodlands, and rivers. He wore rawhide moose snowshoes and traveled in forty-foot-long bark canoes. In his log cabin, whose roof was scarcely higher than his head, he scribbled furiously about the great round moon, silvery waterfalls, icy fjords, and torrential rains. Despite all the precipitation, Sheldon worried constantly about brushfires. Ever since the U.S. Forest Service was created in 1905, men had been paid decent wages as fire lookouts. Sheldon hoped to raise funds in New York for hiring more lookouts for Alaska. “Alone in an unknown wilderness hundreds of miles from civilization and high on one of the world’s most imposing mountains, I was deeply moved by the stupendous mass of the great upheaval, the vast exterior of the wild areas below,” Sheldon wrote, “the chaos of the unfinished surfaces still in process of molding, and by the crash and roar of the mighty avalanches.”42

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    Much like John Muir, his hero, Adams started wandering in the Sierra Nevada looking for picture-perfect vistas. Anxious to help save the Yosemite wilderness, he joined the Sierra Club. Occasionally he wrote articles for the Sierra Club Bulletin. His art introduced Yosemite to the general public, increasing consciousness about the old-growth redwoods of Mariposa Grove and the priceless vistas from Glacier Point. Yosemite, it seems, had aroused all his subtle creative strains. In 1934 Adams, determined to protect Yosemite for perpetuity, joined the Sierra Club’s board of directors; he remained active there until 1971. Following the lead of Alfred Stieglitz, who believed photography should be as high an art as painting, Adams adopted a variety of new lenses, determined to reveal Yosemite profoundly. Mountain landscapes, captured by the wide-angle lens, enraptured him.4 Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, taken in 1927, was his first visualization—that is, he visualized the photo before it was shot, determining its essence in a quasi-scientific yet romantic way.5 “My photographs have now reached a stage when they are worthy of the world’s critical examination,” Adams declared in 1927. “I have suddenly come upon a new style which I believe will place my work equal to anything of its kind.”6

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    40. John Muir, “An Adventure with a Dog and a Glacier,” Century, Vol. 54 (August 1897), p. 771.

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    17. Theodore Roosevelt, “John Muir: An Appreciation,” Outlook (January 6, 1915), p. 27.

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    5. John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1911), p. 205. Also Tom Melham, John Muir’s Wild America (Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 1976), p. 9.

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    4. Michael P. Cohen, The Pathless Way: John Muir and American Wilderness (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984), p. 42.

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    Feeling the pressure from being constantly in the public eye during the feud with Ballinger, Pinchot headed to Santa Catalina Island, California, in the blue Pacific, to clear his head. Armed with a fishing pole, transported by a skiff, Pinchot perhaps thought about the role of dissenters from Thomas Paine to William Lloyd Garrison to John Muir. As he was riding Pacific swells, drifting eight miles from shore, hoping to catch a few good yellowtail or albacore tuna for supper, Pinchot’s rod nearly split in half from a titanic tug. Suddenly a blue marlin as large as William Howard Taft leaped from the water. “High out of the water sprang this splendid creature,” Pinchot wrote, “his big eye staring as he rose, till the impression of beauty and lithe power was enough to make a man’s heart sing with him. It was a moment to be remembered for a lifetime.”51

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    22. Stephen Fox, The American Conservation Movement: John Muir and His Legacy (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1981), p. 244.

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    In The Dharma Bums, the poet Gary Snyder (Japhy Ryder) represented the open road: a lineage that could be traced through American literature from Thoreau to Whitman to Muir. Despite all the commentary about the novel’s overt sexuality (“yabyum”—two men with one woman—adds spice to the story), The Dharma Bums was, in truth, an intersection of Christianity and Buddhism. Kerouac’s overriding message was, “Charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” His mountaintop exhortations represented a great original American artist at his absolute prime; the descriptive writing equals the best of Thomas Wolfe and John Muir. “I’ll tramp with a rucksack,” Kerouac wrote, “and make it the pure way.”28

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    The late John Muir was still, through his published works, beckoning naturalists to explore and preserve underreported areas of Alaska. Muir’s literary executor, William F. Bade, skillfully put together the great naturalist’s scientific articles and unpublished journals about the Arctic as The Cruise of the Corwin; it was published in 1917. Presented as a seafaring adventure story, Muir’s book described the Arctic Ocean as a boundless nursery for bird flocks and marine mammals. The farther north the Corwin went, the less heat the sun provided, and the richer Muir’s prose became. “This is the region,” Muir declared on his 1881 trip, “of greatest glacial abundance on the continent.”40

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    Instead of emphasizing the fact that the Kings Canyon region was home to Sierra black bears, Ickes stressed the 200 Native American archaeological sites. On March 4, 1940, President Roosevelt signed legislation creating Kings Canyon National Park.9 “Because it was a roadless park, and because of his disability, Roosevelt would never be able to see Kings Canyon in person,” the historians Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns write in The National Parks. “Instead, he contented himself with following John Muir’s trail through the photographs of Ansel Adams.”10

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    How sad John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, would be to learn that in the first decades of the twenty-first century many of the great glaciers of Alaska were melting away at an astonishing rate. Like the Creator himself, glaciers were architects of Earth, sculpturing vast ridges, changing bays, digging out troughs, making concavities in bedrock, and creating fast-flowing rivers.1 Global warming—the alarming increase of the Earth’s near-surface air temperature exacerbated by carbon dioxide emissions from gasoline-powered vehicles and by the burning of coal—was stealing away the glacial ice fields of Alaska. Nevertheless, big oil companies such as Shell, Exxon-Mobil, and BP still put climate change and greenhouse gases in scare quotes, as if the hard science were a myth conceived by tree huggers. Fossil fuel merchants were determined to keep Americans hooked on petroleum-based products until they choked. The Swedish physical chemist Svante Arrhenius was worried, in 1896, as the automobile revolution was just taking hold, that widespread fossil fuel combustion could someday cause enhanced global warming. Arrhenius, now considered the “father” of climate change, understood that the doubling of carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration would lead to a temperature rise of five degrees Celsius; glaciers would melt, seas would rise, and the Arctic would slowly vanish.2

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    But because of the Arctic NWR Douglas felt a strong current of optimism in the air. With Kennedy coming into the White House, the stage seemed to be set for a new environmental movement. Ecological consciousness was becoming mainstream. Rachel Carson was near finishing Silent Spring, and Stewart Udall was tapping talents like the novelist Wallace Stegner to help him write the classic ecological manifesto The Quiet Crisis. The new “green” movement was spreading worldwide. The legacy of John Muir was still strong; his name was becoming almost as well known as that of Paul Revere or Betsy Ross in schoolrooms. “Knowing of people’s love of beauty and their great need for it, Muir gave his life to help them discover beauty in the earth around them, and to arouse their desire to protect,” Douglas wrote in Muir of the Mountains. “The Machine, Muir knew, could easily level the woods and make the land desolate. Humankind’s mission on earth is not to destroy: it is to protect and conserve all living things. There is a place for trees and flowers and birds, as well as for people. Never should we try to crowd them out of the universe.”40

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    Roosevelt’s concern for Alaskan wildlife—particularly marine species—was sincere. On April 18, 1939, the president had more than doubled the size of Glacier Bay National Monument, a tribute to John Muir. Professor William Skinner Cooper, one of the nation’s most eminent ecologists, was teaching at the University of Minnesota when he heard this news. Marine areas teeming with Dungeness, king, and Tanner crabs were finally made off-limits to fishermen. Whole subtidal benthic communities, along with schools of Pacific halibut, rockfish, lingcod, Pacific cod, sablefish, and pollock now had protected Alaskan nurseries (although a limited amount of fishing was allowed until the 1970s).38 Muir’s glaciers may have been receding, but federal protection was intensifying.

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    Getting up at dawn, Marshall would camp around the Brooks Range with feelings of awe, disbelief, and tense excitement. He didn’t even mind the weather locals called “freeze-up.” Just as John Burroughs had the Catskills and John Muir the Sierra Nevada, Marshall now had the Brooks Range. With great preciseness he recorded every craggy ridge and glacier-carved valley in the notebook he always kept handy. Because so few outdoorsmen had actually lived in the Brooks Range, Marshall felt that he was discovering summits virgin to Euroamerican footprints. Being alone in the Brooks Range created a sense of total removal, a supernatural out-of-body experience, stripping his spirit from the body as in a Chagall painting. The Arctic terrain made him feel cosmically alone.19

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    3. Linnie M. Wolfe, John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1979), p. 400.

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    Muir’s first landfall aboard the Dakota was Fort Wrangell, Alaska. Here he joined thirty-year-old S. Hall Young, a Presbyterian missionary hoping to Christianize the Chilkat Tlingit. Together Muir and Young would travel all over the Inside Passage, constantly in ice range, to Sitka, the Stikine River, Fairweather Range, and, last but not least, Glacier Bay. Young later wrote a memoir—Alaska Days with John Muir—about their fine times together. But Fort Wrangell, crude and vulgar, devoid of even an iota of charm, was an end-of-the-line outpost where lawlessness reigned supreme. A grumbling Muir didn’t cotton to the devil-may-care attitude of the Euro-Americans looking for quick mining profits in such a picturesque setting. Fort Wrangell was an ugly row of low wooden buildings (not too far as the crow flies from today’s Misty Fiords National Monument Wilderness). Some of Muir’s “Go . . . go . . . go to Alaska” evangelism tapered off in Fort Wrangell, where he slept on the dusty floor of a carpenter’s shop. Muir described his quarters as “a rough place, the roughest I ever saw . . . oozy, angling, wrangling Wrangell.”17 Locals didn’t know what to make of Muir. “What can the fellow be up to?” one resident inquired. “I saw him the other day on his knees looking at a stump as if he expected to find gold in it. He seems to have no serious object whatever.”18 A few years earlier, Young had tried breaking colts but had ended up with both shoulders seriously dislocated. Carrying a backpack up glaciers was understandably challenging for him. “Muir climbed so fast that his movements were almost like flying, legs and arms moving with perfect precision and unfailing judgment,” Young wrote. “I must keep close behind him or I would fail to see his points of advantage.”19

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    Sitting at his desk in his U.S. Supreme Court office, William O. Douglas was swamped with legal work, including writing decisions on such issues as why trees had standing and why wildlife deserved legal rights to protected habitats. During his tenure as an associate justice of the Court—which began on April 15, 1939, and extended until November 12, 1975—the great civil libertarian would also become the most historically significant pro-wilderness American political force since Theodore Roosevelt. From the Great Depression to Watergate, Douglas composed vivid prose sketches about the American valleys and mountain ranges that had stolen his heart. The Olympics, Wallowas, and Brooks Range consumed his imagination even when the Court was in session. A glint in his eye indicated to his colleagues that he was thinking about fly-fishing in the Middle Fork of the Salmon or on the Quillayute River. Douglas, who had climbed in the high Himalayas, encouraged groups like the Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society—he was an active member of both nonprofit societies—to bring class-action suits against despoilers of the American landscape. When Douglas received the John Muir Award from the Sierra Club in June 1975, he noted that his “view” of “policy in environmental matters” came from the “powerful influences” of Buddhism, Gifford Pinchot, Clarence Darrow, and John Muir. “I thought so well of Muir and his works that in 1961 I wrote a book about him,” Douglas boasted, “Muir of the Mountains.”1

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    Muir, America’s legendary naturalist, first traveled to southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage from June 1879 to January 1880.8 Throughout his seven months in the district he wrote “wilderness journalism” for the San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin; one expanded article actually became a tourist booklet for the Northern Pacific Railroad.9 In April 1879 Scribner’s Monthly had published Witt Ball’s article on Alaska, “The Stickeen River and Its Glaciers.”10 A creatively competitive Muir probably figured he could top the pedantic Ball. Seeing the live glaciers of Alaska, and writing about them factually but with gusto, would allow Muir to verify his long-held hunches on glacial action and tectonic activity. Known for his abiding love of Yosemite Valley. Muir promoted the somewhat controversial notion that the gorgeous California Valley had been carved out by glaciers (not rivers). Muir’s first published work, for what was then a handsome fee of $200, was an article for the New York Tribune, “Yosemite Glaciers”; it appeared on December 5, 1871.11

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    19. S. Hall Young, Alaska Days with John Muir (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1915), pp. 29–30.

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    6. John Muir, The Cruise of the Corwin (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1917), pp. 6–7.

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    “I cannot think of John Muir as dead, or as much changed from the man with whom I canoed and camped,” Young wrote. “He was too much a part of nature—too natural—to be separated from the mountains, trees, and glaciers. Somewhere I am sure, he is making other explorations, solving other natural problems, using that brilliant, inventive genius to good effect; and sometime again I shall hear him unfold anew, with still clearer insight and more eloquent words, fresh secrets of his Mountains of God.”22

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    16. John Muir, The Writings of John Muir: The Cruise of the Corwin (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1917), p. 91.

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    With the deaths of Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and John Burroughs, the popular actors in the early environmental movement, the first thrust of the U.S. conservation crusade had come to an impasse. The stalwarts, however, forged forward with commitment and verve. Dr. E. W. Nelson, chief of the Biological Survey, for example, traveled to Alaska to establish an experimental laboratory in Unalakleet (at the head of Norton Sound just north of the Unalakleet River) to study parasites and diseases in reindeer. A veterinarian, a pathologist, and two grazing analysts were assigned to Unalakleet to investigate whether the reindeer browsing over huge spreads were killing native grasses. Two years later, the survey moved the domestic reindeer-caribou experimental station to Nome.24 A major concern of Nelson’s was the inherent genetic problems of native caribou breeding with imported reindeer from Norway and Russia.

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    61. Linnie Marsh Wolfe (ed.), John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1979), p. 399.

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    From 1910 to 1913 the fight over Hetch Hetchy, which many scholars believe was the birth of the modern environmental movement, reached epic proportions.89 The newspapers built the drama into a feud between two types of conservationists: Gifford Pinchot, a utilitarian conservationist, who was in favor of damming Hetch Hetchy; and John Muir, the wilderness prophet of the Sierra Club, who resembled Saint Francis of Assisi and was vehemently opposed to the dam. The fracas made for good theater. Uncharacteristically, Roosevelt—who on December 8, 1908, had declared Yosemite a “great national playground” where “all wild things should be protected and the scenery kept totally unmarred”—sat on the sidelines of the controversy.90 Defending his Alaskan forest reserves was an easy decision for Roosevelt. They were largely remote and isolated from large population settlements. But San Franciscans, still recovering from the earthquake of 1906 and needing a water reservoir, were a different matter to him. It was Muir, working on Travels in Alaska, who held the moral high ground; his righteous fury on behalf of Yosemite echoed all the way from the snowcapped Sierra Nevada peaks to Alaska’s Brooks Range up to the coastal plain of the Beaufort Sea.

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    “Dam Hetch Hetchy!” a furious Muir declared. “As well dam for water-tanks the people’s cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man.”91

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    Sheldon’s backwoods style enthralled Roosevelt, who saw him as a spiritual heir. Roosevelt, in fact, reviewed The Wilderness of the Upper Yukon in the Outlook, declaring his young protégé the new TR. “Mr. Charles Sheldon is a . . . wilderness wanderer, who to the hardihood and prowess of the old-time hunter adds the capacity of a first-class field naturalist, and, also, what is just as important, the power of literary expression,” Roosevelt wrote. “Such a man can do for the lives of the wild creatures of the wooded and mountainous wilderness what John Muir had done for the physical features of the wilderness. . . . His experiences of Alaska, and indeed the entire Northwest, are such as no other man has had; and no other writer on the subject has ever possessed both his power of observation and his power of recording vividly and accurately what he has seen.”12

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    In 1946 that other great hiker and forest lover, Gifford Pinchot, died at age eighty-one at Grey Towers, his home in Pennsylvania. If Douglas had his way, Pinchot’s face (along with John Muir’s) would have been carved on Mount Rushmore, but others in Washington, D.C., had long considered Pinchot an irrelevant relic. At the funeral, Douglas reassured Cornelia Pinchot, the widow, that he would continue fighting for America’s forestlands. She uttered the truest line ever about her husband: “Conservation to Gifford Pinchot was never a vague, fuzzy aspiration; it was concrete, exact, dynamic.”52

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    That Christmas season, while other insiders in Washington, D.C., were attending parties, Douglas sat quietly at his desk composing Muir of the Mountains (to be published in June 1961 by the Sierra Club). Working with the children’s illustrator Daniel San Souci, Douglas reviewed Muir’s life from the Scottish Highlands to his death from pneumonia in Los Angeles on Christmas eve 1914 (around the time Hetch Hetchy was turned into a reservoir). He gave great attention to Muir’s memoir Travels in Alaska. Douglas, in fact, had broadened his own knowledge of glaciation with Muir as his teacher. Writing a chapter about Muir’s “short-legged, rather houndish, and shaggy” dog, Stickeen, Douglas was comforted that his own best friend—Sandy, the border collie—was curled up by his side. “Muir learned much about glaciers on this trip with Stickeen,” Douglas wrote. “What he saw of the workings of these gigantic Alaskan icefields confirmed many of his theories about glaciation in the Sierra. Yet he learned more than this. He now knew how warm and joyous the friendship between a man and a dog can be. He learned that dogs as well as men can rise to heroic heights when danger threatens. He learned that a man and his dog, working as a team, can sometimes make a contribution to human knowledge.”37

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    Alaska belonged to the Native tribes and wildlife while Roosevelt was growing up in New York City following the Civil War. Muir in The Cruise of the Corwin had deemed the Indians “the wildest animals of all.”16 Alaska was far removed even from the slow crop-growing pulse of rural American life. Farmers had yet to settle there. A few rogue gold miners made their way from British Columbia hoping to strike a vein. But wandering fur hunters from the Rockies and whalers from Russia, Great Britain, and Canada were the most prevalent new arrivals. During the summer months, whales swam the coastal waters in pods; their sheer numbers would have baffled and delighted a New Englander. Musk oxen (Ovibos moschatus) roamed wild, shaggy relics of the ice age. But Danish, Norwegian, and American hunters were quickly driving them toward extinction. Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus)—evolved from eared seals more than 20 million years ago—lived in and bred on remote Alaskan islands in the Bering and Chukchi seas; these pinnipeds would hook their two tusks on ice floes to help haul themselves out of the water. Dall sheep (Ovis dalli), native to Alaska-Yukon, climbed snowcapped peaks; their curled keratin horns were coveted by trophy hunters. There were more brown bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) on Alaska’s Admiralty Island alone than in all other U.S. states and territories combined. John Muir, as perspicacious as ever, wrote that in Alaska grizzlies wandered “as if the country had belonged to them always.”17 Today there are 31,000 brown bears in Alaska, while their populations have been drastically reduced in the Lower Forty-Eight.18

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    John Muir—the naturalist whom Ralph Waldo Emerson called “more wonderful than Thoreau”—had erected a tiny observation cabin near a thirty-mile-long glacier that was one of Alaska’s stunning heirlooms.3 Born in Dunbar, Scotland, in 1838, Muir had immigrated to America in 1849, just after Mr. James K. Polk won the Mexican-American War. When Muir turned twenty-nine, following an industrial accident in Indianapolis that had caused temporary blindness, he made a far-reaching personal decision to dedicate his life to the natural world and to enduring wilderness. Although he was a talented machinist, nature was his muse. Solitary and on foot he roamed through America’s wide valleys, towering mountains, pristine woodlands, sublime deserts, and flower-filled meadows, filling his voluminous notebooks with vivid descriptions of plants, animals, and trees. Recording his scientific observations along the way, the peripatetic Muir tramped through the primordial forests and smoky ridges of the Appalachian Mountains, then headed south to survey the humid swamplands of Georgia’s Okefenokee and the golden beaches of Florida’s Gulf Coast. Shedding the dictates of his strict Presbyterian upbringing (his father was a fundamentalist minister), in 1867 Muir scrawled his home address on a weathered journal cover as “John Muir, Earth-Planet-Universe.”4 Eventually making wild California his North Star, Muir, a pioneer ecologist, began climbing the peaks of his beloved Sierra Nevada, camping under the stars, memorizing botanical details through the timeless art of sitting still. “The more savage and chilly and storm-chafed the mountains,” Muir wrote, “the finer the glow of their faces.”5

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    But Roosevelt, Pinchot, and Leopold’s style of “wise use” conservationism was on the firing line in California. John Muir had expended all his vitality, futilely, in trying to save Hetch Hetchy, at Yosemite National Park, from being destroyed by a dam. It perplexed Muir why the people who espoused the “Roosevelt doctrine” couldn’t see that Hetch Hetchy was one of the priceless Rembrandts or Raphaels the ex-president had written about in Outlook—a national treasure to be protected and preserved. Throughout 1913, congressional hearings had considered the pros and cons of building O’Shaughnessy Dam and thereby flooding the Hetch Hetchy Valley to create a reservoir. Because Hetch Hetchy was part of Yosemite National Park, an act of Congress would be required to build a dam. Unfortunately, President Wilson had selected a former San Francisco city attorney, Franklin Lane—an advocate of the dam—as secretary of the interior. Lane was actually a conservationist-minded lover of national parks. But he was no good on Hetch Hetchy. Muir used eloquent language about Hetch Hetchy: he said it was a “mountain temple” under attack by “despoiling gainseekers” and “mischief-makers of every degree from Satan to supervisors, lumbermen, cattlemen, farmers, etc., eagerly trying to make everything dollarable.” This was powerful stuff. Also, U.S. senators received bags of mail, echoing Muir, urging them not to destroy the lovely Hetch Hetchy.12

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    69. “The Philosophy of John Muir,” in John Muir, Edwin Way Teale, and Henry Bugbee Kane, The Wilderness World of John Muir (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2001), p. 315.

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    When Marshall visited California’s Sierra Nevada on a listening tour in 1937, he was appalled by what he saw: campgrounds filled with too many people and too much garbage. Many of the gorgeous places where John Muir had tramped were damaged by roads, commercialization, and pack stock. Brainstorming with the Sierra Club’s president, Joel Hildebrand, Marshall wondered whether certain parts of California couldn’t be preserved in “super-wilderness condition,”61 particularly the area around Kings Canyon.

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    25. Michael F. Turek, “John Muir, Glacier Bay, and the Tlingit Indians: Rapid Landscape Change and Human Response in the Arctic and Sub-Arctic,” June 15–18, 2005. (ICSU Dark Nature Project, Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada.)

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    6. Stephen Fox, The American Conservation Movement: John Muir and His Legacy (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1981), pp. 157–158.

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    When Justice Douglas heard about the Arctic NWR, he was elated. His dream of a National Wilderness Preservation System was coming to fruition. Nobody knows what he thought that December day as rain turned to snow.* After performing his duties at the Supreme Court, he retreated to his low-ceilinged study on Hutchins Place to work on his new book for young readers, Muir of the Mountains. If My Wilderness could help save the Brooks Range, imagine how the wilderness movement could flourish with John Kennedy in the White House and old John Muir reintroduced to a new generation of readers. Also, receiving bigger headlines than the Arctic NWR that December 7 was the news that Douglas’s friend Stewart Udall had been officially chosen to replace Seaton as secretary of the interior. “Stewart and Bill were extremely close,” Cathy Stone, Douglas’s fourth wife, recalled. “They hiked the C&O Canal together. They’d wear old clothes and just take off down the towpath. Once they got soaked in the rain and were mistaken for hoboes.”36

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    The 1907–1908 year on the upper Toklat River (in an area that became part of Mount McKinley National Park) was brilliantly described in Sheldon’s memoir The Wilderness of Denali. Nowhere in the world, Sheldon proclaimed, were there mountains as majestic in winter as the Alaska Range. He felt privileged to have walked among such towering manifestations of the ice age. The Alaska Range, filled with swollen rivers in springtime, divided the Alaska territory not only into districts but also into distinctive climates. For an experienced mountaineer like Sheldon, tramping around the crags, clefts, waterfalls, and marshlands of interior Alaska was far better than climbing the comparatively dull Matterhorn in Switzerland. Besides the Alaska Range, there was the Rocky Mountains extension that slashed across northern Alaska as the Endicott Range (about 200 miles from the Arctic Ocean). The Coast Range, which John Muir also loved, consisted of the Fairweather and Saint Elias mountains, with peaks over 10,000 feet high (here were the blankets of glacial fields). The Wrangell Mountains were a string of unsymmetrical lava cones with peaks—Blackburn, Castle, Drum, Jarvis, Regal, Sanford, Wrangell, and Zanetti—all over 10,000 feet high.

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    31. John Muir, Our National Parks (Boston, MA, and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1901), p. 11.

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    32. Muir, Travels in Alaska, p. 156. Also John Muir, “Fort Wrangell, October 16, 1879,” San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin, November 8, 1879, p. 1.

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    14. Linnie Marsh Wolfe (ed.), John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1979), p. 245. (Reprint of the original, Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1938.)

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    15. Robert Engberg and Bruce Merrell, John Muir: Letters from Alaska (Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press, 2009).

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    Some fifty scientists compiled the Harriman Alaska Series; editorial work was done in New York; Washington, D.C.; and Berkeley, California. Harriman, as always, was generous with pay. The team modeled the scientific volumes on the old U.S. Geological Survey reports once famously issued by Clarence King and John Wesley Powell. Never before had coastal Alaska been analyzed from so many scientific perspectives. Every contributor revealed in detail what he had learned on the Elder. Grove Karl Gilbert wrote on glaciers; John Burroughs provided the definitive summary text; John Muir also wrote about glaciers and the harmony of nature; George Bird Grinnell wrote on the Tlingit, Aleuts, and other Native Alaskan peoples; Charles Keeler wrote on birds (with Louis Agassiz Fuertes brilliantly illustrating the descriptions of tufted puffins, harlequin ducks, and cormorants); B. E. Fernow wrote on forests. Unlike the expedition’s other intellectuals, Muir wrote his reports in a lyrical tone. Upon seeing College Fjord’s Western Wall in the Chugach, he wrote of the glacier group that “they came bounding down a smooth mountainside through the midst of lush flowery gardens and goat pastures, like tremendous leaping, dancing cataracts in prime of flood.”63

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    For Cooper, the doubling of Glacier Bay National Monument meant that the complexes of plant life thriving around the terminal of receding glaciers could be properly analyzed by biologists. Because Glacier Bay had more than 220 bird species—half of all American birds—the National Audubon Society considered Executive Proclamation 2330 Roosevelt’s grandest conservation effort yet. For the Sierra Club, it was the fulfillment of John Muir’s vision. The Alaskan communities of Haines and Gustavus now prospered as gateways to glaciers and wildlife. (People in Haines started boasting that their town—the Chilkat Indian community Muir wrote about in Travels to Alaska—was founded by the great naturalist.) All of Glacier Bay’s geographic provinces would remain protected, owing to Muir’s early advocacy and Cooper’s dogged lobbying.39 (But there was no guarantee that the glaciers wouldn’t melt.)

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    Ickes wanted to make his mark at the Department of the Interior by creating a new kind of national park in the era of dust bowls, soil erosion, and wildlife depletion. Building on Bob Marshall’s ideas about wilderness and relishing Adams’s photos, he envisioned a vast John Muir–Kings Canyon Wilderness Park. When he went to Capitol Hill to take up the matter, he soon discovered that nothing had changed much since Hetch Hetchy Valley was dammed in the 1920s. Developers in California still wanted concrete water reservoirs, open grazing, timber clear-cuts, and ski resorts. Ickes showed Adams’s book Sierra Nevada to congressmen and insisted that a roadless park was the “new way,” but he faced strenuous opposition from the Republican Party. The lengthy process of compromise that followed included a great to-do over the park’s name. Ickes was eventually forced to drop the name John Muir (California’s businessmen still considered Muir a rabble-rouser), and Republicans didn’t want the word wilderness on any piece of legislation.

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    20. John Muir, Travels in Alaska (Boston, MA, and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1915), p. 56.

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    52. John Muir, The Writings of John Muir: The Cruise of the Corwin (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1917), p. xxvi.

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    15. Thomas Locker, John Muir: America’s Naturalist (Golden, CO: Fulcrum, 2003), p. 12.

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    Charles Sheldon had initially been considered the next Rooseveltian leader, but it was Aldo Leopold who eventually led the conservationist movement—in his low-key, deeply honest, visionary, academic way—after John Muir died. In 1917 Leopold was thirty and good to look at, with a deep wrinkle between his eyes and a high forehead. He was in good trim and balding. Every day Leopold’s conservationist convictions grew stronger and his controlled writing style more lyrical. Leopold never wrote a florid line in his life. Energized by Hornaday’s book and by Roosevelt’s dispatches to the Outlook from the Southwest, Leopold spearheaded the New Mexico Game Protection Association (NMGPA)—an unusual step, considering that he was an employee of the U.S. Forest Service. Sick of politicians’ blather, Leopold demanded that New Mexico’s game law always be enforced the same way. If you poached a white-tail in the Carson National Forest, for example, jail time should be imposed, no matter who was governor in Santa Fe. Inspired by Roosevelt’s effort as governor of New York in 1899–1900, Leopold now claimed that a head game warden should be appointed in New Mexico, an overseer independent of political parties. Using The Pine Cone, a newsletter, as his megaphone, Leopold also called for new federal wildlife refuges, known as the Hornaday plan. However, unlike Hornaday, who saw refuges as places where hunting was illegal, Leopold hoped these federal reserves would be places that produced wild game for sportsmen. Regardless of this difference, the two men were brothers in arms for the cause: wildlife protection.23 The Hornaday plan failed to pass Congress, but a step had been taken toward the Wilderness Act of 1964.

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    At one time, many youngsters wanted to be Daniel Boone or Kit Carson—outdoorsmen who could track a whitetail deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and survive in a blizzard. Snyder’s boyhood idols were John Muir and Ernest Thompson Seton. The Sierra Club had done a marvelous job of presenting Muir as a lovable long-bearded prophet of the wild kingdom. “Muir inspired me, as a lad, on the practical level of boldly going out and staying longer in the woods with less gear, and having the nerve to do solo trips,” Snyder recalled. “So I did (for example) some lengthy trips in the summer of 1948 in the mountains north of Mt. St. Helens in the Washington Cascades, including some third-class rock scrambles.”12

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    40. John Muir, The Writings of John Muir: The Cruise of the Corwin (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1917), p. 258.

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    17. John Muir, “Notes of a Naturalist: John Muir in Alaska—Wrangell Island and Its Picturesque Attractions,” San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin (September 6, 1879), p. 1.

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    Ginsberg was unlike John Muir in that Alaska didn’t inspire his creative muse very much; although on August 10 he wrote the poem “Many Loves” from the Arctic. The primary intellectual lesson he squeezed out of his job with the merchant marine was how viciously the Chukchi Sea current attacked ships. Whalers considered the waters between Icy Cape and Point Barrow the most treacherous north of New Zealand. The Arctic sea-lanes were in the field of a strong northward magnetic pull that made timepieces run backward. Frequent fog could turn dangerously heavy within seconds in an unexpected rain shower. Nobody was really ever prepared for the strange turbulence that could suddenly appear with no meteorological rhyme or reason.

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    Clearly, Alaska wasn’t a worthless icebox, even though its nicknames, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, were “Walrussia,” “Icebergia,” and “Frigidia.”30 It was the next West Virginia: a source of coal, a storehouse of limitless rock fuel ready to be extracted for an economic bonanza. (And probably at the cost of human lives. In 1907 alone 3,242 West Virginian miners perished in mining accidents.) The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle had promoted this notion about coal in the “Great Land” to more than 3.5 million visitors in 1909–1910. Conservationists circa 1910, by contrast, saw Alaska as John Muir had seen it—as “nature’s own reservation”31 where “nothing dollarable is safe.”32 Huge dams or copper and coal mines, these wilderness advocates believed, would kill rivers and destroy the breeding areas of migratory birds. “Conservationists and boosters were united in admiration for the frontier and in agreement on its importance as an ingredient in American culture and history,” the historian Peter A. Coates wrote. “However, they differed, often diametrically, in the ways they expressed affection and how they formulated the best means to ensure the survival of their revered frontier.”33

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    But Muir, a true believer, never touched by pessimism or despondency, was fearless about passing from the Earth. All over California, friends of Muir wept because they would never again see him picking berries or leaning on a walking stick. The following year the John Muir Trail was established to honor the Sage of the Sierras, running 200 miles at high altitude from Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney.16 “Ordinarily,” Roosevelt wrote in Outlook, “the man who loves the woods and the mountains, the trees, the flowers, and the wild things, has in him some indefinable quality of charm which appeals even to those sons of civilization who care for little outside of paved streets and brick walls. John Muir was a fine illustration of this rule. He was by birth a Scotchman—a tall and spare man, with the poise and ease natural to him who has lived much alone under conditions of labor and hazard. He was a dauntless soul, and also one brimming over with friendliness and kindliness.”17

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    14. John Muir, John Muir: The Eight Wilderness Discovery Books (Seattle, WA: Mountaineers, 1992), p. 714.

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    24. John Muir, Travels in Alaska (Boston, MA, and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1915), p. 13.

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    For Young, keeping up with Muir’s glacier terminology could be frustrating. Absolute verity was essential to everything Muir did. When the professor espoused the gospel of glaciers, Young was reduced to listening. There was a glossary of Muir’s terms to understand: hanging glacier (above a cliff or mountainside); kettle pond (created when a massive iceberg melted, leaving behind a water-filled hollow); firn (grainy ice, which is formed from snow about to become glacial ice). Before traipsing around Glacier Bay with Muir, Young hadn’t realized that in 1794 the British explorer George Vancouver (British Columbia’s fantastic city is named after him) had demarcated the entire Glacier Bay area as a single ice mountain, which then separated into the twelve smaller ones. For Young every moment with the great Muir was like being taught by Charles Darwin or Thomas Huxley. Naturally inquisitive about the Glacier Bay, Young asked his naturalist friend a lot of questions. The world’s authority on glaciers—John Muir—was canoeing with him for hours at a time in Alaska, espousing the glacial gospel like a preacher at a revival meeting.30

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    War against anything associated with Mickey Mouse had become a sport for Douglas. With typical brio, he called the “Disneyfication” of America a deleterious trend aimed at turning children into slaves of television. There was more magic in one’s backyard woods or fields, Douglas believed, than in all the rides at Frontierland, part of the Disney theme park in Anaheim, California. The thought that Disney might build a $35 million resort in the Sierra Nevada, the heart of John Muir country, next to Sequoia National Park, repulsed Douglas; he considered the very notion grotesque. And the fact that the resort was to be called Mineral King—in the land where redwoods ruled—added insult to injury. The Wilderness Society naturally concurred, deeming Douglas’s opinion as “important judicial history.”9

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    To members of the Sierra Club, CFCA, New York Zoological Society, and National Audubon Society, Roosevelt’s critique of American indifference toward wild animals was a heady wine. John Muir—who had escorted William Howard Taft around Yosemite in October 1909—might have danced a jig when he read Roosevelt’s words in the Outlook, telling citizens to “wake up” to the “damage done by the migratory sheep bands” that were permitted to “pasture on, and to destroy the public domain.” (Muir, even though he had once been a shepherd, famously called domesticated sheep “hoofed locusts.”) Pinchot was pleased that the Colonel was still going after thugs. Hornaday’s prescient book, in fact, had given Roosevelt an array of devastating statistics for making his conservationist case. But to the Republican regulars, still bitter that Roosevelt had wreaked havoc on the party in 1912, the review was another indication that TR had become a wild man. “Crazy Teddy” was more interested in the ability of sea otters to raid oyster beds in the Alexander Archipelago than in the ability of hardworking Cordova coal miners to earn a living for their families.16 Roosevelt shot back defiantly that at least he wasn’t “guilty of a crime against our children,” the handing down of a “wasted heritage.”17

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    7. John Muir, Travels in Alaska (Boston, MA, and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1915), p. 215.

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    The notion of creating an Alexander Archipelago National Forest first came to George T. Emmons, a former naval lieutenant. Emmons gloried in Alaska’s wilderness; he supervised Alaska’s display at Chicago’s World Columbian Exposition.28 At the time, Emmons was considered America’s reigning authority on Tlingit and Haida totem poles, and major museums worldwide collected Native pieces acquired by him. Nobody in the East, in fact, knew more about the islands, glaciers, and waterways of southeastern Alaska than Emmons (with the possible exception of John Muir). At a glance Emmons could distinguish edible plants like nagoonberry, fiddlehead fern, and wild celery from poisonous ones. Although he was based in Princeton, New Jersey, Emmons spent long summers in Sitka, studying everything from orcas (Orcinus orca) to short-tailed weasels (Mustela erminea). A true Renaissance man, he also considered himself a novice cetacean (whale) biologist, polar authority, and climatologist.29 When the Harriman Expedition’s ship anchored in Sitka, he brought the members to a hunter who had brown bear skulls for Merriam to study properly. Emmons was a disciple of Robert Barnwell Roosevelt and considered the Gulf of Alaska one of the finest marine biological zones in the world. Serving as Roosevelt’s eyes and ears concerning fishing regulation, he was determined to make sure the Alaskan coastal waters weren’t overfished or degraded.

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    After two years of intensive study Snyder needed a break. Wanting to connect with the spirit of John Muir, Snyder worked on a trail crew in Yosemite National Park in June–August 1955, writing his fine poem “Riprap” (first published in 1959 as the title poem of Riprap). Snyder later explained that riprap meant a “cobble of stone” that was “laid on steep slick rock to make a trail.” He had learned it from master trail builders in the Sierra. To construct these stone trails took the skill of a mason and the precision of a surgeon. Snyder was paid $1.73 an hour working around Pate Valley and Pleasant Valley. Always frugal with money, he planned to spend a couple of months in San Francisco and then take a steamer to Japan to study with Zen Buddhist masters. And he started thinking a lot about Alaska: “My sense of the West Coast,” Snyder said, “is that it runs from somewhere about the Big Sur River—the southernmost river that salmon run in—from there north to the Strait of Georgia and beyond, to Glacier Bay in southern Alaska. It is one territory in my mind. People all relate to each other across it; we share a lot of the same concerns and text and a lot of the same trees and birds.”39

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World

    But by the end of 1913 Congress, after intense debate and deliberation, passed the Raker Bill, which approved the flooding of the Hetch Hetchy Valley. President Wilson signed the bill on December 19. Disappointed by the death warrant for his beloved Tuolumne Yosemite, an exhausted Muir hoped that “some sort of compensation must surely come out of this dark damn-dam-damnation.”13 The following year Muir hiked in the Hetch Hetchy Valley for the last time before the huge, groaning construction vehicles entered the national park. On Christmas Eve 1914, Muir died. Many of his loyal supporters claimed that his tireless work to protect Hetch Hetchy had impaired his immune system and thus lowered his resistance to disease. The Sierra Club, his lasting institutional legacy, attempted to obtain legal injunctions, but construction of the O’Shaughnessy Dam nevertheless commenced. In 1923, at the cost of billions of dollars and the loss of sixty-eight lives, the dam was completed. Muir, before his death, had felt defeated by the “despoiling gainseekers” intent on taking “pocket-filling plunder” from his beloved Sierra Nevada.14

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    32. John Muir, quoted in Alfred Runte, National Parks: The American Experience (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997), p. 48.

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    11. Linnie Marsh Wolfe, John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1979), p. 67.

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    Alaska . . . the three syllables had a magic radiance in 1899. And its primeval tundra north of the Brooks Range had yet to be explored by a single Darwinian biologist. Serious dry-fly anglers of the Izaak Walton League sort had yet to feel the weight of the clear, cold, fast streams against their legs. Few sportsmen had ventured anywhere near Lake Clark–Lake Iliamna to hunt the free-ranging moose. (But Native Alaskan hunters were part of these ecological systems for more than 10,000 years.) Most adventurers, however, weren’t interested in the glories of Mother Nature—they were after a quick fortune in mining, promised to them by recurrent come-ons: “There’s gold in them thar hills.” With the gold rushes of 1897 to 1899, more than 30,000 people stampeded to the Alaska and Yukon territory, most with the sole intention of extracting riches from the suddenly valuable land. Alaska, once derided as “Seward’s folly,” the most foolish real estate deal in American history, was suddenly a glittering boom land where gold nuggets could be panned out of any swift-moving stream. For every John Muir who came to see the grandeur of huge glaciers spilling over the rough-hewn landscape, a hundred others stood by, ready to harvest the glacier ice and sell it for a profit.

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    22. Samuel Hall Young, Alaska Days with John Muir (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 1915), pp. 224–226.

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    The Presbyterian minister S. Hall Young was among those who couldn’t accept the fact Muir had died. To Young, the gray-bearded naturalist was eternal, a sequoia tree destined never to topple. At age sixty Muir was still climbing mountains, undertaking dangerous journeys through the wild lands of California. Instead of slowing down at seventy, Muir took extended voyages to South America and Africa. All his books—Mountains in California, Our National Parks, and The Yosemite among them—radiated youthfulness. Wanting to eulogize Muir, as ministers are apt to do, Young published his reminiscences about their days together going up the Inside Passage, titled Alaska Days with John Muir, later that year.

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    There was about Vreeland a touch of the naturalist Muir. Vreeland had written a number of excellent articles in Field and Stream about the preservation of nature in New England. His “Passing of the Maine Wilderness,” in the April 1912 issue, was credited with saving Mount Katahdin (the favorite peak of Thoreau and, later, Roosevelt) from clear-cutting. Although Vreeland failed to get the North Woods of Maine designated as a national park, his indefatigable advocacy led to the creation of Baxter State Park (the fourth largest in America).62 The sacred Appalachian wilderness where Thoreau had written The Maine Woods, published posthumously in 1909, was secured.

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    48. John Muir, Alaska Glacier Drawings, University of the Pacific, Stockton, CA. (Unpublished inventory.)

    Douglas BrinkleyThe Quiet World
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