John Muir: Steep Trails (Librivox)

July 24, 2015

John Muir was a Scotsman who moved to the United States and spent the rest of his life there; he was a naturalist and an explorer, when there were still unexplored parts of the US, particularly in the west. Here he writes about California, Washington state, Nevada, Oregon and Utah (with the apparently obligatory disquisition, for a ninteenth-century writer, on the Mormons and their habits – and he is quite balanced and fair), about their wildernesses and their landscapes and their astonishing natural beauty.

He was often a solitary traveller and explorer, and to us appears to take some astonishing risks, setting off into unexplored mountainous areas with little food or equipment, and often in wintry seasons. However, it’s clear he possessed a great deal of commonsense, as well as the ability to read the signs wherever he was, and so managed not to come to any mischief, although there were clearly some tricky moments…

It’s always evident how much he loved the natural world, and to be surrounded by it, alone in its beauty; he was one of the prime movers in the setting up of the US National Parks system, so that so much that is spectacular was preserved for the nation’s posterity. He wrote a number of books about different parts of the US, all of which are worth a read.

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