Saturday, December 18, 2010

Book Review - The Wilderness World of John Muir

Rating: 5 out of 5 - Highly Recommended

You will not learn anything about ultralight backpacking by reading this book. So why am I writing about it? One word - Inspiration. Muir had a style of writing like no other. Some said he abused adjectives, but I couldn't disagree more. See for yourself...

An exerpt from the chapter First Glimpse of the Sierra
...Looking eastward from the summit of the Pacheco Pass one shining morning, a landscape was displayed that after all my wanderings still appears as the most beautiful I have ever beheld. At my feet lay the Great Central Valley of California, level and flowery, like a lake of pure sunshine, forty or fifty miles wide, five hundred miles long, one rich furred garden of yellow compositae. And from the eastern boundary of this vast golden flowerbed rose the mighty Sierra, miles in height, and so gloriously colored and so radiant, it seemed not clothed with light, but wholly composed of it, like the wall of some celestial city. Along the top and extending a good way down, was a rich pearl-gray belt of snow; below it a belt of blue and dark purple, marking the extension of the forests; and stretching along the base of the range a broad belt of rose-purple; all these colors, from the blue sky to the yellow valley smoothly blending as they do in a rainbow, making a wall of light ineffably fine. Then it seemed to me that the Sierra should be called, not the Nevada or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light...

Can you picture the scene in your mind? His words pull me in, and I can imagine standing there experiencing it for myself. When I finished reading this book the first time, I immediately started reading it again, more slowly this time. I often read just a few pages, sometimes the same section a few days in a row, but I don't think a week has gone by that I haven't picked it up and read some part. For me it's inspirational, and that is one of the things that draw me to the wilderness.

Next summer I'm planning to thru-hike the 212 mile John Muir Trail. I'm sure this book had something to do with my decision for this being the "big one" next summer. I wish I had the time to wander through this magnificent wilderness like Muir did a century ago, but I can only afford two weeks so I will average 20 miles per day, taking a couple of down days to fly fish or just wander in the Sierras.

This is my first rating of 5 out of 5, and I don't take it lightly. Teale did a great job of putting this series of Muir's collected works together. Read it and you will learn what drove a man to a life of environmentalism, and why he chose a lifestyle of being both poor and rich at the same time.