The Mountains Are Calling, and I Must Go.

The following is a journal entry I wrote June 15 in an attempt to express the feeling of living in the Western mountains.  At this point I had lived in or within sight of the Sierra, Bitterroot, San Gorgonio, and Tehachapi mountains.  There is so much history there and I learned a lot during my time in the mountains.  I have connected with non-living nature in a way I did not know was possible and the only way I know how to convey that connection is through sharing my own words in the form of a journal entry and the words of John Muir.  “The mountains are calling, and I must go.”

Journal 6/15/2014

‘I just wrote the date on this page.  June 15, 2014.  I don’t know when it became June because I don’t remember it ever being March, April, or May.  In fact now that I think of it I am not sure my mind has truly known the month since January.  Why is this?  Maybe because I have been removed from the world, or that is how some would put it since I have been without television or internet for most of that time.  If it came to the words of John Muir he would probably say not that I had been removed from the world, but that I had, for the first time, entered it.

For the last 8 months I have been living near or in the mountains.

February-March just outside the Sierras, less than 2 hours from where John Muir himself was inspired by the Yosemite Vally.  April-May in Northern Idaho in the Bitterroot Range which Lewis and Clark traveled through.  June in the San Bernardino Mountains close to the tallest peak in Southern California: San Gorgonio. And finally, July in the Tehachapi Mountains.  They were all very different in climate and appearance but in the end they had very much the same effect on me.

Tehachapi Mountains

Tehachapi Mountains June 26, 2014

IMG_2528

San Bernardino Mountains June 11, 2014

They called me.

John Muir said, “The mountains are calling, and I must go,” and now I understand why.

Nowhere have I experienced peace like I have standing by myself among the mountains.  You don’t feel alone because the mountains feel like they have souls.  They feel ominous and sometimes conscious.  AND IT IS SCARY, because you feel a little crazy that you feel like a huge chunk of rock is conscious.  But it is also comforting.  They feel like a big brother who only wants to keep a sideways eye on you while you play, just to make sure you are safe. I would never have understood John Muir if I had not entered some of the very mountains he spent his life in.  The mountains do feel alive, and therefore they can call.  They call like a siren, unavoidable and beautiful, and take you away from the hustle and bustle of the civilized world to live with the land.  It makes you want to stay forever and takes you from time.

Time moves slowly during the days and it feels like you have time to do all the things you desire, but since there are no dramatic stresses or events you can easily lose track of what day of the week it is, or even what month.  Even though I work here (I wish I didn’t have to) I am still captivated by the mountains.  It is nearly impossible to understand if you haven’t experienced it but I am glad now that I can say first hand that I understand John Muir.  The mountains are calling, and I must go.’

 

I don’t know if this will mean anything to anyone or make you feel any of what it feels like to be at the base of a 10,000 foot mountain but or stand on its peak but its the best I can do!  And someday if you get the chance you should experience it yourself!

 

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Famous Fanatics: John Muir

I haven’t written anything since my first post because BLOGGING IS HARD. That is all.
Just kidding. Seriously I have been on a 10 month journey with AmeriCorps traveling all over the west coast living in all kinds of different places with very little time in the day after work and generally no internet. So you could say I am a bit behind.

However, this experience has been very difficult in many ways, but has also been a phenomenal learning experience for me. I have spent every single waking hour with the same group of people, lived without many comforts I am used to, and gotten to see so many things I never would have seen.  My love for nature became greater during my 10 months in the west than it has ever been, not only because of its beauty but because of its history.

Because of all the knowledge I gained I want to use my first returning post to discuss someone who is very underrated and generally unknown and glossed over in the classroom where I am from.

John Muir.

John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt at Glacier Point, Yosemite

John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt at Glacier Point, Yosemite

John Muir’s Influences

 

In its very short summary version, the story of John Muir began with a of a love of nature in a time where technology and modernization sought to take over.  Specifically, this time was the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and the place was Yosemite National Park in California.

Muir lived in the Yosemite Valley in a time before it was a national park and he fell in love. He was a naturalist from the beginning but this park is the main reason he is famous today as an advocate for preserving nature. He was struck by its beauty and saddened by what people were doing to it. The Hetch-Hetchy Valley that he loved was flooded and made into a reservoir, giant sequoia trees that were hundreds of years old were being chopped down for sport (Paul Bunyan style), and he needed to do something about it.  He began to lobby for the area to be federally protected and showed people the beauty that they were destroying.

He camped in Yosemite with Theodore Roosevelt for three days in 1903, the entire time showing him parts of the Valley he knew would strike at the love the president had for the beauty of the natural world.  Muir had the ear of the president largely to himself for three full days, something that even the first lady would rarely get, and he spent it convincing Roosevelt why this beauty needed to be protected.  Roosevelt was so struck by the beauty and serenity he felt in Yosemite that he decided to take action.  He joined all the lands of Yosemite into one National Park in 1906, only 3 years after his life changing camping trip with John Muir.

Muir-Roosevelt Campsite Photo taken Feb

Muir-Roosevelt Campsite
Photo taken Feb. 16, 2014

 

There are many groups, organizations, and places now named after John Muir (example John Muir trail in Yosemite shown below) but all of these seem to be in the Western part of the U.S.  Obviously this is because of the fact that John Muir lived and became famous in the West, but it means that the other half of the country rarely hears about him and some do not know who he is.  Hopefully with recent publicity on John Muir including the Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan documentary on Yosemite (watch a great clip from their documentary about Roosevelt’s visit to Yosemite here), and with discussions like this, people will come to know the “Father of our National Parks” and the beginning of generations of naturalists, John Muir.

Top of John Muir Trail

View from the top of John Muir Trail, Yosemite    Feb. 16, 2014

 

John Muir was a world traveler and did many other extraordinary things in his life, but there is just not time in the day to talk about it so if you want to learn more you will find everything you ever wanted to know about him here:

National Parks Service

Sierra Club: John Muir Exhibit