John Muir: founder of the Sierra Club and natural wanderer

You could call John Muir a wanderer: He was wild about the wilderness and made extended journeys, often on foot. But as he roamed, there was in Muir a writer, a geologist, an explorer, a sheepherder, a fruit grower, and a naturalist. All of which eventually made him the world's most-renowned conservationist.

Through his impassioned writings, he influenced Congress to establish the National Park System. In 1892, he founded the Sierra Club, a nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental issues.

Muir had a keen eye and tender vision. Yet, what really set him apart was the spiritual quality in his expressions. "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike," he wrote.

Muir was born 1938 in Dunbar, Scotland. His family moved to Fountain Lake, Wis., when he was 11. His father was a strict disciplinarian and instilled in young Muir the virtues of learning. By age 13, Muir had memorized the New Testament.

Muir's years of wanderlust began in 1868 when he walked from Indianapolis, to the Gulf of Mexico, and recorded the flora and fauna in a journal later published as "A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf."

That year, Muir moved to California, and for the next 40 years his life was intertwined with nature. From the towering redwoods around San Francisco to the frozen glaciers of Alaska, and all along the San Joaquin Valley -where he waded through in waist-high wildflowers -Muir has left a legacy of conservationism.

But dearest to his heart were California's Yosemite and Sierra Nevada. At his urging, the Yosemite National Park bill was passed in 1890, making Yosemite one of many sites he succeeded in setting aside as forest reserves.

Muir also earned a reputation as a writer. On the strength of works such as "The Mountains of California," "Our National Parks," and "The Yosemite," he ranks as one of America's best nature writers.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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