Category for Muiriana

The John Muir Way — now in Scotland too

Mark Grossi, a California reporter of long standing, recently retired, and his paper republished some of his best work, notably this recounting of a stretch on the John Muir Trail, walked in memory of Gross’s late father.

Speaking of John Muir, recently a wonderful story in the Wall Street Journal described a new trail through Scotland in honor of this great immigrant American hero.

Here in his homeland, however, Mr. Muir remains surprisingly little-known. Until recently there was not much to mark his memory apart from this statue and the small, white, pebble-dashed house across the road, where he was born in 1838 and which today houses the John Muir’s Birthplace museum.

Last year, Scotland inaugurated the John Muir Way, a new walking route that traverses the country west-to-east for 134 miles between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde. It was conceived both to resurrect Mr. Muir in the Scottish consciousness and, as environmentalist Keith Geddes, one of the Way’s architects, explained, to “help today’s young Scots develop a relationship with the countryside around them.”

The trail takes a few days, and has industrial and architectural parts as well as wild parts. But walking on past Loch Lomond, the first and most famous of Scottish national parks, Henry Wismayer finds a certain peace.

Throughout the afternoon we rarely saw another walker. And if we looked in the right direction at the right moment even here, 30 miles from Glasgow, we could glimpse the pre-human innocence Mr. Muir coveted, away from what he called the “tyranny of man.”

Perhaps, I thought, as we rolled down toward the Way’s end in coastal Helensburgh, the intrepid nature-lover, who described himself as “hopelessly and forever a mountaineer,” might have selected a trickier route through these hills.

But accessibility is what the Way is all about: coaxing people to dust off their boots, pack a bag and set out to explore the many colors of Scotland’s coastline and countryside. And that is no doubt a mission that Mr. Muir would have commended.

From the story, here’s a new statue of Muir stood up in his hometown, ancient Dunbar.


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People of the PCT: Honeybun and Miner

Caught me lunching by the trail at about mile 1028, climbing out of the canyon of the east fork of the Carson River. They came up the trail grinning. Honeybun had a speaker pumping a Jamaican tune out of his pack.

Honeybun, aka Griffin, and Miner

Honeybun, aka Griffin, and Miner

He gave me a fist-bump as he came up the trail. Miner said something nice about my spot under a tree. They were moving fast.

“It’s a reggae version of “Tom’s Diner!” said Honeybun, as they moved out of sight up the trail.

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People of the PCT: Honeybun [in section I]

On day four of my section hike from Tuolumne Meadows to South Lake Tahoe, I was taking a break and swatting flies in spectacular but hot Jack Main Canyon, about forty miles from town, when a fellow in a straw hat with an enormous staff dashed by, flashing me a smile.

I caught up to him and his friend from New Zealand a couple of miles down the trail. Honeybun (aka Griffin Barry) was on his sixth-third day on the trail and looked it — but also looked to be loving it. I didn’t get a great picture, but maybe you’ll get the idea:




He with his friend Miner, from New Zealand, blog at and I recommend you take a look — one of the better pictures of what it’s like to hike the trail from what I’ve seen.

But I also recommend you take a look at some of the pictures to follow from this part of Section I, miles 986 to 996 or so (Dorothy Lake). The Yosemite Wilderness.  Sets a high bar: Read More →

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PCT Section I: Kerrick Canyon (mile 972-986)

Miles 972 to 986 on the PCT offer gorgeous views at the price of real effort. This was one time on the trail that yours truly, age sixty, was passed by folks, both younger and older, from twenty-somethings coming south from Truckee to family groups passing heading north, in both directions. Didn’t manage to capture portraits this day.  Spectacular to see though. Let me feature this image of the lake at the top of the first pass, a sizeable jewel, which had an excellent campsite that appears rarely used — perhaps because it’s at the top of a pass. I wanted to make it here on day three,  but ran out of steam at the end of day two of this part of the trail, section I.

This is what it looks like as you crest the top of the ridge at 9002 feet, headed northbound, at mile 975:


Not too shabby, no? I wished I had camped there. For more of this section, featuring yet another paradise called Kerrick Canyon, please see below the fold. Read More →

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PCT Section I: From Tuolumne Meadows to Sonora Pass (mile 960-972)

In the last couple of weeks had the opportunity and the great joy to complete two more sections of the PCT, from Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite NP to the south Lake Tahoe area. Almost exactly 150 miles. In writing up this I’m going to try and follow the advice of a friend who saw a previous trail post and said it was “pretty good, but needed more people!”

So here’s Frog Wild and Laura (Baby Sister) Wild, encountered at about mile 975, roughly ten miles north on the trail at Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp.

Frog Wild and Laura (aka Baby Sister) Wild

Laura (aka Baby Sister) and Frog Wild 

I told them what I was doing, and found out that they were doing something similar — but lengthier — in the other direction, heading south.

“There’s a word for people like us,” Baby Sister said. “We’re LASH — which stands for Long-Assed Section Hiker.”

Read More →

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Between every two tall cacti is a door to a new way of life

On the PCT, in the Anza-Borrego desert, seeing two ocotillo beside the trail like gate posts reminded me of a famous quote of John Muir's. (Okay, I'm a nerd, I admit it.) 

The quote, from a note Muir made in a margin, goes something like this: 

Between every two pine trees is a door leading to a new way of life. 

Could the same be said of two ocotillo on the PCT?


Hope so. 

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Muirtweets: Like a wind full of thistledown

A year or two ago I launched a Twitter stream devoted to the thoughts of a hero of mine, John Muir, believing that no one better inspires a person to explore nature. 

To be honest, found myself overwhelmed by life and dropped that thread for a while, only to pick up my current edition of Sierra magazine and find that the executive director of the Sierra Club writing a column about how if Muir were alive today, he'd be tweeting. In a piece headlined "Muir tweets." 

Muir's newspaper and magazine articles described and exalted wilderness and opened the eyes of the American people to its value. Those short pieces, together with the detailed journals he kept during his travels, formed the basis for the books he wrote later in his life (he didn't publish his first one until he was 56). Muir had a gift for distilling profound thoughts into short sound bites. Sample "tweet": "None of Nature's landscapes are ugly so long as they are wild."

Well, in an Emersonian sense, Muir still is alive, and here's a tweet to prove it:

Those of you who like Twitter and/or nature, please check out Muirtweets. Thank you.

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The richness of the light of these days: John Muir

Warm and bright, the valley was spanned by fibrous bows of white cloud, heated masses of air from currentless ovens of chambered and bushy rocks lifted by newborn winds and bourne whole or in fragments about the open gulf of the valley…the richness of the light of these days recalls our best mellow autumns and springs. 

John Muir, January 24-26, 1869    

(via my new Twitter stream, Muirtweets)

(image from an astounding HD video posted today on YosemiteBlog)                                                                                        

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Winter sunset: Yosemite high country 2012

From YosemiteRanger:


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Science never saw a ghost: John Muir

After a few years in the Sierra, encouraged by friends, in the 1870's John Muir quit his job running a sawmill in Yosemite Valley and began to explore the Sierra mountains in earnest. At the same time he began to take scraps of paper along with him on his forays into the higher elevations, and writing down his thoughts by the campfire.

In one observation, still unpublished* Muir wrote:

Science never saw a ghost, nor does it ever look for any, but it sees everywhere the traces of a universal intelligence.

It's the "nor does it ever look for any" in that quote that echoes in my mind.

Is this scientific idealism he speaks of, or scientific blindness?


*John Muir's Transcendental Imagery, by Richard Fleck, in "John Muir: Life and Work," ed. by Sally Miller, University of New Mexico Press, l990, Albuquerque

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