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The Yosemite Paperback – March 1, 1988
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Mass Market Paperback
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From Publishers Weekly
Sierra Club founder Muir, pioneering conservationist who a century ago fought to establish Yosemite National Park, wrote timelessly of his travels through this High Sierra wilderness. In a new edition of Muir's classic, Rowell ( Mountain Light ) offers a complementary vision in color photographs of the monumental region. Celebrating the purity of the landscape Muir loved, he unveils bare mountain peaks, snow- and mist-filled realms and the pristine particularity of nature on a smaller scale in green and scarlet dogwood foliage and a snug cache of primroses sprouting among massive rocks. An ideal accompaniment to Muir's verbal tour, the photographs, like the prose, verify that "everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike."
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Not only is [Muir] the author to whom all men turn when they think of the Sierras and Northern glaciers . . . but he was also . . . a man able to influence contemporary thought and action on the subjects to which he had devoted his life.” —Theodore Roosevelt --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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It was published in 1912 and the style is certainly dated, but it was an enjoyable read mostly because it launched me right back to the days spent wandering in awe through the remarkable valley (though, it would seem we experienced slightly more visitors in those few days than Mr. Muir might have encountered in his life).
More of a hiking guide than a rumination, it was still highly enjoyable — featuring a breathless description of, well, everything, down to the most minute details. And in those details, he found infinity. On Yosemite Falls (which the drought had shut off when we visited): “At the top of the fall they seem to burst forth in irregular spurts from some grand, throbbing mountain heart.”
I was struck throughout by his almost lackadaisical regard for his own well being. After being flung down the canyon wall on top of an avalanche: “When the avalanche swedged and came to rest I found myself on top of the crumpled pile without a bruise or a scar. This was a fine experience.”
When he awoke in the middle of an earthquake dropping boulders around him: “I was awakened by a tremendous earthquake, and though I had never before enjoyed a storm of this sort, the strange, thrilling motion could not be mistaken, and I ran out of my cabin, both glad and frightened, shouting, “A noble earthquake…”
During a massive storm that was flooding the valley, he noted how one bird kept singing though all others were hushed in terror — the ouzel: “…who could no more help giving out sweet song than a rose a sweet fragrance. He must sing, though the heavens fall.”
It is this sense of wonder, of spirituality, that I find so appealing about Muir. When writing about the glaciers, he said this about South Dome: “It’s entire surface is still covered with glacial hieroglyphics whose interpretation is the reward of all who devoutly study them.”
Written as more of a travel guide, this book is less enjoyable than some of his more philosophic works, but it's entertaining and makes it’s clear to me we need more people like him today, “devoutly” studying the importance of wilderness unspoiled by the machinery of capitalism and available for the enjoyment and spiritual well-being of all.
These books are old, but the author's descriptions and his feelings about them are so perfect that you would swear you are standing next to him.
"Looking eastward from the summit of Pacheco Pass one shining morning, a landscape was displayed that after all my wanderings still appears as the most beautiful I have ever beheld. At my feet lay the Great Central Valley of California, level and flowery, like a lake of pure sunshine ... And from the eastern boundary of this vast golden flower-bed rose the mighty Sierra, miles in height, and so gloriously colored and so radiant, it seemed not clothed with light but wholly composed of it, like the wall of some celestial city.... Then it seemed to me that the Sierra should be called, not the Nevada or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light. And after ten years of wandering and wondering in the heart of it, rejoicing in its glorious floods of light, the white beams of the morning streaming through the passes, the noonday radiance on the crystal rocks, the flush of the alpenglow, and the irised spray of countless waterfalls, it still seems above all others the Range of Light." -- from The Yosemite
Purity of thought, so rare in a writer. I love His books.
1 The Cruise of the Corwin: Journal of the Arctic Expedition of 1881 in search of De Long and the Jeannette
2 A Thousand-mile Walk to the Gulf (Illustrated) (1916)
3 Muir & Burroughs: Literary Heroes of the Early Conservation Movement (1917)
4 A Journal of Ramblings through the High Sierras of California
5 The Alaska Trip (1897)
6 The Gospel of Nature (1908) (Illustrated)
7 Travels Through North and South Carolina (1791)
8 The Wild Sheep of the Sierrra (1881)
9 The Boyhood of a Naturalist [Illustrated] (1913)
10 Letters to a Friend Written to Mrs. Ezra S. Carr, 1866-1879
Thank you John Muir.