A Warm Tribute to John Muir

by Patrick on August 13, 2013

                                 The mountains are calling and I must go — John Muir

We don’t use last names much on the blogosphere but my given name is Patrick James Muir and I’d like to share more about John Muir (1838-1914). At age 11 in 1849, his family emigrated from Scotland to Wisconsin where his family started a farm which is now a National Historic Landmark. My grandfather emigrated from Scotland to Australia to avoid the effects of the Great Depression. The Muir clan name is derived from the moors of Scotland. With my keen love of nature since I was a toddler, I’d be a happy man if there was any relationship. But when I became aware of his remarkable life, I have chosen to pursue a role in life as if was an heir.

At age 18, he moved to California and soon took up living inYosemite for three years making a living as a saw mill worker. He was a  naturalist who studied nature by wandering hundreds of miles on foot during excursions through the United States and Canada.

He was a devotee of the writings of  Ralph Waldo Emerson and in his early years living in Yosemite was known to go deep into the valley on excursions “with nothing but a tin cup, a hand full of tea, a loaf of bread and a copy of Emerson.” They met in 1871 when Emerson toured Yosemite and although he had only completed two years of university in Wisconsin, he offered him a teaching position at Harvard which he respectfully declined. Muir later wrote “I never for a moment thought of giving up God’s big show for a mere professorship.”

Muir himself wrote twenty books and his initial reports of Yosemite  were carried by influential publication in the East such as The Atlantic Monthly and Harper’s Bazaar . Whenever there was a park to create or defend, Muir would return to his desk using his talents to further his objectives. He was the first to introduce to the public both Glacier Bay and Mount Rainier. His gift for prose and descriptive writing is showcased in the first two episodes of Ken Burn’s Our National Parks: America’s Best Idea which is available for live streaming on Netflix.

Muir wrote Our National Parks that got the attention of our 26th Commander-In-Chief, President Theodore Roosevelt. TR made arrangements to have Muir personally show him the real Yosemite in 1903. In Ken Burn’s Our National Parks: America’s Best Idea it was characterized as “the most important camping trip in conservation history.” The tour would last three days and they slept with heavy blankets in open air  of places like Glacier Point  where the awoke covered by a dusting of light snowfall. Roosevelt declared to the press eagerly waiting back at camp that day “was the greatest day of my life.” (Wonder how his wife felt about that?)


Muir convinced TR to return Yosemite to the federal government from the state for its long term protection. Muir had been an early promoter of the national park system. There were four or five national parks at the time and although guarded by the army for protection, there were no budgets or management provisions. Muir heavily lobbied for both and eventually they both came into being. For all his efforts, he was dubbed “the patron saint of the American wilderness.”

He married and settled in Martinez, CA and managed his in-laws 2,600 acre fruit ranch for ten years. (Can you imagine managing such a large endeavor  in the 1800’s?)  His wife insisted he take significant time away from the ranch to pursue his devotion to his causes. After ten years, the wealth he amassed from the fruit ranch gave him the means to travel to trips to Alaska, Australia, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Japan.

In order to create additional national parks and act as a leading force in the environmental movement, Muir founded The Sierra Club in 1892. It currently has a membership base of an impressive 1.4 million.

California honored Muir by naming Muir Woods, Muir Beach and the 210 mile Muir Trial after him. I had the privilege of seeing both the Muir Woods with its famed redwoods and Muir Beach as a teenager. The State has declared April 21 as John Muir Day. Only Ronald Reagan and Harvey Milk have ever been afforded the same honor.


So as you can see, there’s many reasons why I’d like to believe I might be related to Mr John Muir.

Patrick's Garden

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