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Muir in southeast Alaska.
on September 24, 2002
I confess up front, it's been a few years since I read Muir's Travels in Alaska. Yet significant aspects I remember well. Given Muir's exuberance for life and almost everything he encounters in his travels, one almost looses view of Muir the botanist and geologist. But not quite. Here we find the author contemplating the activity of glaciers and documenting the flora of southeast Alaska. Muir (who tended strongly toward vegetarianism) gleefully entertaining himself by foiling duck hunters. Baffling the locals by happily wandering out into major storms.
The book is a journal of Muir's 1879, 1880, and 1890 trips (he wouldn't mind if we called them adventures) to SE Alaska's glaciers, rivers, and temperate rain forests. He died while preparing this volume for publication.
I remind myself, and anyone reading this, that Muir isn't for every reader. And, as other reviewers have stated, this may not be the volume in which to introduce oneself to the one-of-a-kind John Muir. One reviewer doesn't think that Muir is entirely credible in these accounts. I won't say whether or not this is wrong, but I tend to a different view. For some of us -- and certainly for Muir -- wilderness is a medicine, a spiritual tonic, so to speak. For the individual effected in this way, physical impediments and frailties rather dissolve away when he is alone in wildness. I once heard Graham Mackintosh (author of Into a Desert Place) speak of this. In all of his travels alone in the desert, he doesn't recall having ever been sick. This may not sound credible to some, but I strongly suspect it is true.
If you like Muir's writings, read this book. If you like the stuff of Best Sellers, perhaps you should look elsewhere.