My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I definitely want to read the rest of John Muir’s short stories throughout this book. Muir was an absolute legend in the earliest days of Yosemite valley around the turn of the 20th century. He is ultimately responsible for saving many national park areas in the U.S. as well as starting the Seirra Club, a totally epic conservation organization that still exists today. The story “A Near View of The High Sierras” starts with him meeting a couple of painters in Yosemite Valley who wished to be taken to a beautiful landscape deserving of a painting. He had just been in an amazing area just above the Tuolumne Meadows so he took them there. After he got them set up he took off for an attempt to summit nearby Mt. Ritter, likely his last chance before winter set in. It was a day’s walk to the base so he took a blanket and a loaf of bread and set out. Muir is incredibly descriptive in his writing, at times it was hard for me to follow because he took two pages to describe a meadow. I often read a few pages twice just because I felt myself zoning out while riding the train to work. Coming from a time without GoPro cameras to capture 60 frames per second for an upload to YouTube, he had to be incredibly descriptive to even get the gist of what he was seeing, thus the need for complex and lengthy descriptions, at least by our standards today. He commented a few times throughout the story that he should teach himself how to paint so that he could show the world this amazing place that he lived in for most of the year. His attempt at summiting Mt Ritter was thwarted by poor weather and even poorer climbing conditions. He had to down-climb several sections because the rock was covered in a thin layer of ice and without crampons or ice axes it became impossible, so he bivied out two days with just a blanket and a loaf of bread and made back for painters’ camp. I wish I were half as badass as the mountaineers in that time. With all of our high-tech gear I feel like we’ve become increasingly soft, attaining a pathetic state relying more on our gear than our skill and ability to learn from nature, something I’m sure that our mountaineering ancestors would laugh at.
About the Author John Muir:
John Muir (21 April 1838 – 24 December 1914) was a Scottish-born American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, have been read by millions. His activism helped to save theYosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and other wilderness areas. The Sierra Club, which he founded, is now one of the most important conservation organizations in the United States. Read the rest on Wikipedia…