One of the most magnificent places I have ever visited is Yosemite National Park in California. Ancient glacier activity in this region of the High Sierra left behind enormous rock formations that created a natural cathedral unsurpassed by anything ever designed by human minds or hands. One of the early Europeans to explore the valley described it in these same terms. John Muir visited Yosemite several times in the 19th and early 20th centuries, spending several years there in spite of the fact that he had a wife and children in San Francisco. His appreciation for the beauty and wildness of Yosemite drove him to fight for its long-term preservation. Some battles he lost, but by and large, his petitions to government officials are responsible for the establishment of the national park there.
Lately I have been reading Muir’s descriptions of the land forms, his detailed identification of the flora and fauna, and his natural history of Yosemite in selections from the e-book, The Collected Works of John Muir. I am amazed at how much ground he was able to cover and the extent to which he cataloged so many of the species in the area. Without the aid of modern equipment or the assistance of the infrastructure later installed for hikers, Muir explored parts of the valley and surrounding region that only the most experienced hikers and climbers would attempt today. He craved the wilderness almost like a lover. In the mountains and forests he found adventure, inspiration, stimulation, and peace. For those who have visited Yosemite and were left speechless by its wonders, I highly recommend John Muir’s works — he manages to articulate what I could not put into words when I first saw this marvelous spectacle.