I was already a bit of a hiker, backpacker, and camper when, as a teenager, I first encountered John Muir through the pages of Edwin Way Teale’s The Wilderness World of John Muir. I received this 332 page hard back as a Christmas present from my sister and brother-in-law when I was sixteen years old, over forty years ago! I think I read it soon after and have come back to its worn pages time and again. Like an old friend whose stories remind me of younger days, whenever I read Muir, whether from the pages of The Wilderness World of John Muir or from The Mountains of California or Muir’s Mountaineering Essays edited by Richard Fleck, I find that Muir’s words can usually transport me back into the wilderness, even wilderness I have never personally experienced.
Muir’s compulsion to experience nature and the wilderness, and his ability to write about what he experienced, captivated me and motivated me to go and do likewise. Reading about his 1,000 mile walk has convinced me that had they existed at the time, Muir would have hiked both the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, and would have probably blogged about his adventures if the technology had existed. His descriptions of the High Sierra, especially the area around Yosemite, invited me to not only explore nature and experience my own wilderness adventures but to also, like him, write about them. Maybe there is just a little Muir in me when I blog about a hiking or backpacking trip on Summit to Shore.
While not directly backpacking related, my favorite Muir story is, without a doubt, “Stickeen,” a touching story about a brave little black dog that accompanied Muir on a glacier while Muir was exploring in Alaska. I have returned to that story many times, and almost every reading brings tears to my eyes. If you have ever experienced K-9 companionship on the trail and have not read this short story, a mere nineteen pages in Teale’s The Wilderness World of John Muir, do so at your earliest opportunity, but make sure you have a box of tissues handy.