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John Muir, “Prophet of the Wilderness”

By John Halstead

[Snip] John Muir is one of the patron saints of the environmental movement. He was an early conservationist and the founder of the Sierra Club. He wrote extensively about his exploration of the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, merging his inspiring personal experience of the sublimity of the natural world with a call for direct action to preserve wild nature. His activism helped to preserve Yosemite Valley and other wilderness areas as national parks.

Muir was raised by a Presbyterian minister and by the age of 11 he was able to recite most of the Bible by heart. He cut short a career in industry following an accident that left him temporarily blinded. He then walked 1000 miles from Indiana to Florida, and then sailed to San Francisco in 1869. From there, he walked to the Sierra Nevada mountains where what he saw changed his life. From the summit of the Pacheco Pass, Muir looked down into the Central Valley.

“A landscape was displayed that after all my wanderings still appears as the most divinely beautiful and sublime I have ever beheld. … the mighty Sierra, miles in height, in massive, tranquil grandeur, so gloriously colored and so radiant that it seemed not clothed with light, but wholly composed of it, like the wall of some celestial city.”

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