Have you visited a national park? Do you ever walk around and enjoy nature? You can thank a man named John Muir. John Muir was a naturalist who can be known as “The Father of Our National Parks”. He helped preserve many of our national parks that we see today. John Muir and his love for the wilderness helped the American people learn that they need to preserve the natural beauty around them. To understand how he helped the people learn to preserve the environment, we need to know about his childhood. First of all, John Muir was born in Dunbar, Scotland in 1838. He was the third child of eight and his parents were Daniel and Ann Muir.
While in Scotland his grandpa took him on walks around nature, which sparked his interest and love of the wilderness. In 1849 John Muir moved to Wisconsin. John Muir was fascinated by Wisconsin and it’s wilderness. He would later write how he felt about Wisconsin’s wilderness in his autobiographical, The Story of My Boyhood and Youth, “This sudden splash into pure wilderness–baptism in Nature’s warm heart–how utterly happy it made us! Nature streaming into us, wooingly teaching her wonderful glowing lessons, so unlike the dismal grammar ashes and cinders so long thrashed into us.
Here without knowing it we were still at school; every wild lesson a love lesson, not whipped but charmed into us. Oh, that glorious Wisconsin wilderness! ” Although Wisconsin was a fascination to him he had a tough life growing up in Wisconsin. His father, Daniel Muir, was a strict disciplinarian and expected John to work from sunrise to sunset on the farm. With his father making him work all day and not allowing him to go to school he had to teach himself math, literature and philosophy. As John Muir grew up to be a teenager and a young adult he started to become a brilliant inventor.
He invented many unique items and even one of his inventions went to Wisconsin’s state fair. During this time though, while working on something for an industry, John Muir had an accident in the industry building and became blind. He was blind for a few weeks, but soon he miraculously regained his vision. According to Corinne J. Naden and Rose Blue, authors of John Muir: Saving the Wilderness, “The accident changed his life. It made him think about what he really wanted to do” (19). This accident did change his life because he decided that nature was his calling and that was what he cared the most about.
In September of 1874, seven years after John Muir became blind and turned his life around, he met his soon to be wife, Louie Strentzel. In April of 1880, John Muir married Louie. Together they had two daughters. John Muir died in December 1914 of pneumonia. John Muir had many interactions with nature and these interactions helped him teach the people how to preserve the wilderness. In a letter to his wife John Muir stated “Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness.
All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter. He truly loved being in nature and felt at peace within the wilderness. One of the biggest interactions John Muir had with nature is with the Yosemite and Sierra Nevada area. In 1868 he would visit the Sierra Nevada area. He would describe the Sierra Nevada as “Then it seemed to me the Sierra should be called no the Nevada, or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light… the most divinely beautiful of all the mountain chains I have ever seen. ” John Muir fell in love with this area and decided to build a cabin so he could fall asleep to the sound of the water and trees.
In 1890 Yosemite became a park with the help of John Muir. Alaska is another place John Muir traveled and explored. He explored Alaska many times and when he surveyed Glacier Bay he noticed that the glacier had moved more than 30 miles. Another place John Muir has been to is Hetch-Hetchy Valley. HetchHetchy Valley to John was “… a grand landscape garden, one of nature’s rarest and most precious mountain temples. ” John Muir and the American people have had many interactions about nature. These interactions helped John Muir teach the people to preserve the wilderness.
Most of the interactions were through John Muir’s writings. He wrote many things from articles, essays and novels, all to talk about the beauty of nature. An example of a novel he wrote is Stickeen: The Story of Dog, here is an excerpt “In the summer of 1880 I set out from Fort Wrangell in a canoe to continue the exploration of the icy region of southeastern Alaska… the Rev. S. H. Young, for whom we were waiting, at last came aboard, followed by a little black dog, that immediately made himself at home by curling up in a hollow among the baggage. (1).
Another novel of his is My First Summer in the Sierra. In this novel John Muir explains the beauty of his first summer in the sierra in vivid detail and with great love of the sierra. In addition to his writings John Muir also met some important and historic people of his time that he had influenced to protect the wilderness. Some of these people include Theodore Roosevelt and Ralph Waldo Emerson. John Muir met Roosevelt in 1903 and Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1871.
He thought of Emerson as “… the most serene, majestic, sequoia-like soull ever met. John Muir influenced many people, but some of the most well known influences is with Roosevelt. He showed Roosevelt the Yosemite park and this helped convinced the president to sign into existence five national parks, 18 national monuments, 55 national bird sanctuaries and wildlife refuges, and 150 national forests during his presidency. During John Muir’s life he also founded a club called the Sierra Club in 1892 This club, which he was the president of, is still around today and still fights and protects the wilderness.
With all these people who he has influenced to protect and preserve the wilderness, it is easy to see how he taught these people on how to preserve the wilderness. William O. Douglas, author of Muir of the Mountains, wrote “John Muir never held public office, but his public service was of a high order. As early as 1870 he realized that preservation of the American wilderness was necessary for all the people. ” John Muir knew he had to preserve the wilderness and to do that he needed the people to help and learn from him.
Majority of the public sided with John Muir on matters of environmental protection, of course not everyone did. For example the battle over Hetch-Hetchy Valley. The city of San Francisco wanted to dam the Valley, but John Muir and his club held them off. The Valley was safe until Congress decided to approve San Francisco’s plan to dam the Valley. After the dam was built the people outside of San Francisco was outraged. Most were opposed of the dam being built in the first place. This battle made the people more aware and protective of their wilderness.
As a result of this fight and many other of John Muir’s fights and writings the National Park Service was started in 1916. In conclusion, John Muir’s childhood and adult life lead him on the path to be the hero for our National Parks. His writings about nature and his battles against industries showed the American people that we must preserve our wilderness. Even though he died more than a hundred years ago John Muir’s club, the Sierra Club, still shows and helps us protect our wilderness today. John Muir and his love for the wilderness helped the American people learn that they need to preserve the natural beauty around them.