John Muir; not just a conservationist

Muir Woods, the John Muir Trail, and the Sierra Club all come to mind when this dynamic figure is spoken about; and rightly so for those are incredible legacies! We all picture the contemplative nature-mystic devoted to saving wild lands for future generations.

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We know from his many books, how much he loved being in the Sierras of Eastern California. He would escape for a couple of days at a time in between leading sheep to fresh pastures (he really despised their low intellect), spending his time sketching, journalling and logging the flora and fauna. You know, the usual naturalist sort of stuff.

In my estimation, however, he was a total badass! He would ride out wild storms, not hunkered under the overhang of a giant boulder (or in a properly guyed nylon tent like me), but from the highest gangly treetops! I can just hear him whooping and hollering as the rain sheets down. And all this rationed with only some crusty bread and tea bags in his woolen trousers! He would travel miles and miles cross country, then, presumably, build a fire and pull some recently fallen cedar bows over his exhausted, but exhilarated, body under a late 19th century sky.

What most people don’t know about my man JM, is that he just as well could have ended up CEO of The Great Northern Railway or something had he chosen to ascend the corporate ladder. He was a brilliant inventor for starters. See this super short article about only some of his highlights.

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Did you catch that part? “At university, John invented a ‘study desk’. This could open books in the correct order and turn the pages. A thread connected to a lens, burnt through by sunbeams, ensured that it began at sunrise.”


But wait, there’s more. Many of these clockwork machines could have provided nearly endless income, but he “refused to have them patented because he wanted everyone to benefit.” link Instead he went on to protect how many thousands of square miles of ancient forest, hanging valleys, and pristine mountain meadows?

JM said, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…” Perhaps this wisdom is more poignant now than ever with all the myriad ills and ailments that seem to just appear. How many DSM volumes are there now anyway?

So, you can thank Mr. Muir for the towering Sequoias that did not meet a lumbering death. (Pun intended). Maybe you can also curse him a bit when your alarm goes off tomorrow morning!

His water clock:

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2 thoughts on “John Muir; not just a conservationist

  1. Interesting post- I learned quite a few new things about JM! I visited his house in Martinez CA last year, it was really cool!!!

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