Life & Legacy of John Muir

On September 19, Sunday, 4pm, my wife Trina and I will give a 90 minute presentation titled, The Life and Legacy of John Muir & Hiking the John Muir Trail. My wife, Trina and I hiked the John Muir Trail this past summer, 200 miles in 23 days. The presentation on Sept. 19th will be live at Cannon Beach Community Church, but will also be live-streamed at our Cannon Beach Community Church Youtube Channel:

Life of John Muir

John Muir (1838-1914), was a deep man of faith in God, and one of America’s finest Naturalists and Conservationist. Muir has helped millions and millions of people rediscover and preserve God’s Creation.

John Muir (1838-1914)

He was born in 1838, in Dunbar, Scotland, on April 21st. Muir grew up in a Christian home, where he was trained to memorize the entire New Testament, and much of the Old Testament. His father was a stern, strict, and overly severe man who regularly whipped his children for making any mistakes as they recited whole books of the Bible. In 1849, when John was 11, his family immigrated to Wisconsin. At age 23, in 1861, Muir attended University of Wisconsin for a few years, studying Botany and Geology. In 1867, at age 29, he was nearly blinded in an accident at work. Muir was an inventor, and a mechanical genuis. After his eye healed, he decided to make a 1000 mile walk by “the leafiest and least-trodden way,” walking from Indiana to Florida. In 1868, when he was 30, John Muir arrived by ship into San Francisco, and walked to Yosemite Valley, falling in love with the Sierra mountains of California, a mountain range he called “the Range of Light.” From 1868 to 1873, he lived for six years in Yosemite, built a cabin on Merced River at the base of Yosemite Falls, working in a sawmill and as a shepherd in Yosemite. There, he began to write on nature. In 1880, at age 42, he married Louise Strentzel and lived on her family farm near San Francisco. They had two daughters, Wanda and Helen. In 1890, with Muir’s encouragement and publications of articles on the importance of preserving wild places, U.S. Congress established Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. In 1892, at age 54, Muir co-founded the Sierra Club, America’s oldest conservation group. Muir was the Sierra Club’s 1st President, a club first devoted to protecting the wild places of California Sierra Mountains. Muir traveled back to his hometown in Scotland to meet with childhood friends in 1893. In 1906, Muir’s wife Louise died. That same year, Yosemite Valley was added to Yosemite National Park. John Muir died on December 24, 1914, at age 76. During his lifetime, Muir traveled widely, including trips to Alaska, travels to South America, Africa, and to Europe. Muir climbed Mount Rainier, Mount Shasta, Mount Ritter, and many of the highest mountains in the west. As a writer, John Muir has been read by millions of readers. John Muir regularly wrote in a journal, one of the wise spiritual disciplines for growing in our life with God.

Legacy of John Muir

John Muir also wrote thousands of articles on Nature, Conservation, preservation of wilderness. Muir also wrote numerous books including: 1894, The Mountains of Califirnia; 1901, Our National Parks; 1911, My First Summer in the Sierra; and 1912, The Yosemite. For further reading about John Muir, check out Tim Flinders 2013, John Muir: Spiritual Writings; or Stephen K. Hatch’s 2012, The Contemplative John Muir: Spiritual Quotations from the Great American Naturalist.

After Muir’s death in 1914, as a memorial to Muir and his legacy, a trail that was already being constructed, running through the California Sierras from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney, was named after John Muir. This trail is the longest wilderness trail unbroken by any road in continental USA. About 15,000 people hike the JMT each year. The John Muir Trail was completed in 1938, 46 years after it was begun.

Muir Hut on Muir Pass (elevation 11,955), on the John Muir Trail

In July/August 2021, my wife and I hiked 200 miles along the John Muir Trail (JMT). Here are a few fun facts about our hike on the JMT. We hiked NOBO (northbound), our Trailhead Entrance on July 24, 2021 in Horseshoe Meadow, at the Cottonwood Pass Trailhead, at 10,000′ elevation. We exited the trail on August 15, 2021, at Reds Meadow Resort, 7,600’ elevation. Our total miles hiked: 203. We hiked these two hundred miles in 23 days. Our total elevation gain was 35,420’; and our total elevation loss was 38,430’. We crossed 12 mountain passes, shown in order here: Cottonwood Pass: 11,160; Guyot Pass: 10,900; Forester Pass: 13,200; Kearsarge Pass: 11,835 (twice); Glen Pass: 11,978; Pinchot Pass: 12,130; Mather Pass: 12,100; Muir Pass: 11,955; Seldon Pass: 10,898; Bear Ridge Pass: 8,300; Goodale Pass: 10,997. Of these passes, Kearsarge, Bear Ridge, and Goodale Passes are not on the JMT, but were on our trail hiked this summer, on trails to get to our resupply locations. We had intended to hike 260 miles to Yosemite in 30 days. We stepped off the JMT on Day 23, after 203 miles, knowing we had hiked as far as we needed to hike, our bodies tired, our souls filled with God’s glory revealed through Nature. As John Muir promised, “In every walk with Nature, one receives far more than he seeks.”

John Muir Sayings

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” 

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” 

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine into trees.” 

“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

“Keep close to Nature’s heart and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”  

“The rivers flow not past, but through us, thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing.”

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, you find it attached to the rest of the world.” 

“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” 

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”

“Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods.”

“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.”

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”