Grandfather of the National Parks, co-founder of the Sierra Club and original preservationist, John Muir was never more content that when he was simply walking in the mountains.
Portrait by Adam Cruft
Where to start with John Muir?
There are many standalone reasons to doff your cap to this crazy ol’ whitebeard. Activist. Naturalist. Conservationist. His commitment to wild places, to understand them, to live among them, to preserve them was unerring. His legacy, in the shape of America’s National Parks, in the Sierra Club he co-founded, in the numerous trails, peaks, and preserved spaces that today bear his name, is permanent.
But while Muir continues to represent an ideal, he ultimately lost the battle. The wilderness that he hoped would sustain the soul of all peoples proved not to be quite enough. Mass consumption instead helped to fill the void, and when we realised it did so only fleetingly, instead of retreating back to nature, we consumed some more.
So lets celebrate Muir the rambler, the hiker and the climber. Because, perhaps, his greatest impact, and that which makes him continually relevant, was his pure, unfiltered love of being outdoors: of being in the thick of it in his beloved Sierra Nevadas, climbing the sequoias, leaning over the waterfalls and walking on the glaciers. He sought a religious experience in the mountains and he found it. Read any of Muir’s books and you are left with a genuine belief that whoever or whatever your god maybe, you’ll find it there too.
“We are now in the mountains and they are in us,” he once wrote. Sounds like an acid rambler to me.