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Sierra Trails

Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine, John Muir Collection, Ansel Adams, 1944

John Muir Day

Apr 21

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

"The mountains are calling and I must go."

~ John Muir (1838-1914)

If the mountains are beckoning but you find yourself on the dance floor, enjoy this trail-blazing square set strathspey which may temporarily satisfy the call with its Schiehallion Reel and meandering meanwhiles! John Muir, born in Scotland in 1838, moved to the United States at the age of eleven, carrying with him a profound passion for the natural world that flourished with his love for the Sierra Nevada mountains. Known as the "Father of National Parks," Muir's writings and activism were pivotal in the establishment of Yosemite National Park and numerous other protected areas. His deep connection with the Sierras, which he often referred to as the "Range of Light," was reflected in his vivid and poetic descriptions of their majestic landscapes. This Scottish-American naturalist saw the mountains as sacred, a sanctuary not just of natural beauty but of spiritual renewal. Through his relentless advocacy and eloquent nature essays, Muir inspired an enduring legacy of conservation and a widespread reverence for America’s wild spaces. Muir is also honored with his own tartan! ⛰️ 🌲 🌲 🌲

Sierra Trails

Early Life

John Muir was born on April 21, 1838, in Dunbar, Scotland. At the age of eleven, he moved with his family to the United States, settling in Wisconsin. From a young age, Muir showed a profound interest in the natural world, a passion that was often overshadowed by his father's strict religious beliefs and insistence on hard labor. Despite the rigorous farm work, Muir found solace in the wilderness, exploring the fields and forests around his home.

Education and Inventive Skills

Muir attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, although he never graduated. He possessed a natural ability in mechanics and inventions; this talent earned him jobs in industrial settings, such as a wagon wheel factory and a broom factory. After an accident that temporarily blinded him in 1867, Muir decided to abandon industrial work and devote himself to nature.

Explorer and Naturalist

Following his recovery, Muir walked 1,000 miles from Indiana to the Gulf of Mexico. He then sailed to Cuba, Panama, and eventually to California, where he first visited Yosemite Valley, a place that would become central to his life and work. Captivated by its beauty and the Sierra Nevada, he became a fervent advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States.

Conservation Efforts

Muir’s writings about the beauty of the High Sierra, particularly in publications like 'Overland Monthly' and his books, such as The Mountains of California (1894), were influential in the formation of national park policy in the United States. He famously convinced President Theodore Roosevelt to protect Yosemite, which became a National Park in 1890 largely due to Muir's influence.

Sierra Club

In 1892, Muir co-founded the Sierra Club, an organization devoted to the conservation of America’s wilderness, particularly the Sierra Nevada, which he referred to as the "Range of Light." Under his leadership as its first president, the Sierra Club made significant conservation achievements.

Later Years and Legacy

John Muir's later years were dedicated to writing and advocating for national parks and against the domestication of wild land through grazing and deforestation. He fought unsuccessfully to prevent the damming of the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite. Muir died on December 24, 1914, in Los Angeles, California.

John Muir’s advocacy for nature and his writings contributed to a profound and lasting impact on American conservation. His work inspired future generations of environmentalists and helped establish a conservation ethic that has shaped the National Park Service and wilderness preservation in the United States. The Muir Woods National Monument in California and numerous schools and trails named after him pay homage to his legacy, reminding us of his enduring influence on environmental conservation.

For more on the natural wonders of the Sierra Nevada, click the vintage travel poster.

Sierra Trails

Click the dance cribs or description below to link to a printable version of the dance!

Sierra Trails

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