THOUGH little evidence of the
fact appears in extant letters, the year 1897 was one of great importance in
Muir's career. So significant, indeed, was his work in defending [This
service was specially recognized in 1897 by the University of Wisconsin, his
alma mater, in the bestowal of an LL.D. degree.] the recommendations of the
National Forest Commission of 1896 that we must reserve fuller discussion of
it for a chapter on Muir's service to the nation. With the exception of his
story of the dog Stickeen and a vivid description of an Alaska trip,
appearing respectively in the August and September numbers of the "Century,"
nearly the entire output of his pen that year was devoted to the saving of
the thirteen forest reservations proclaimed by President Cleveland on the
basis of the Forest Commission's Report.
During the month of August he
joined Professor C. S. Sargent and Mr. William M. Canby on an expedition to
study forest trees in the Rocky Mountains and in Alaska. To this and other
matters allusion is made in the following excerpt from a November letter to
Professor Henry Fairfield Osborn.
I spent a short time [he
writes] in the Rocky Mountain forests between Banff and Glacier with
Professor Sargent and Mr. Canby, and then we went to Alaska, mostly by the
same route you traveled. We were on the Queen and had your staterooms. The
weather was not so fine as during your trip. The glorious color we so
enjoyed on the upper deck was wanting, but the views of the noble peaks of
the Fairweather Range were sublime. They were perfectly clear, and loomed in
the azure, ice-laden and white, like very gods. Canby and Sargent were lost
in admiration as if they had got into a perfectly new world, and so they
had, old travelers though they are.
I've been writing about the
forests, mostly, doing what little I can to save them. "Harper's Weekly"
["Forest Reservations and National Parks," June 5, 1897.] and the "Atlantic
Monthly" have published something; the latter published an article
["American Forests."] last August. I sent another two weeks ago and am
pegging away on three others for the same magazine on the national parks -
Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Sequoia - and I want this winter to try some more
Alaska. But I make slow, hard work of it - slow and hard as glaciers. . . .
When are you coming again to our wild side of the continent and how goes
your big book? I suppose it will be about as huge as Sargent's "Silva." One
of the pleasant by-products of Muir's spirited defense of the reservations
was the beginning of a warm friendship with the late Walter Hines Page, then
editor of the "Atlantic." The latter, like Robert Underwood Johnson,
stimulated his literary productiveness and was largely responsible for his
final choice of Houghton, Muffin & Company as his publishers. Some years
later, in 1905, Mr. and Mrs. Page paid a visit to Muir at his home in the
Alhambra Valley. The articles contributed to the "Atlantic" during the
nineties were in 1901 brought out in book form under the title of "Our
Apropos of Muir's apologetic
references to the fact that he found writing a slow, hard task, Page
remarked: "I thank God that you do not write in glib, acrobatic fashion:
anybody can do that. Half the people in the world are doing it all the time,
to my infinite regret and confusion.... The two books on the Parks and on
Alaska will not need any special season's sales, nor other accidental
circumstances: they'll be Literature!" On another occasion, in October,
1897, Page writes: "Mr. John Burroughs has been spending a little while with
me, and he talks about nothing else so earnestly as about you and your work.
He declares in the most emphatic fashion that it will be a misfortune too
great to estimate if you do not write up all those bags of notes which you
have gathered. He encourages me, to put it in his own words, to 'keep firing
at him, keep firing at him."
In February, 1898, Professor
Sargent wrote Muir that he was in urgent need of the flowers of the red fir
to be used for an illustrative plate in his "Silva." The following letter is
in part a report on Muir's first futile effort to secure them. Ten days
later, above Deer Park in the Tahoe region, he succeeded in finding and
collecting specimens of both pistillate and staminate flowers, which up to
that time, according to Sargent, "did not exist in any herbarium in this
country or in Europe."
To Charles Sprague Sargent
MARTINEZ, June 7, 1898
MY DEAR PROFESSOR SARGENT:
Yesterday I returned from a
week's trip to Shasta and the Scott Mountains for [Abies] magnifica flowers,
but am again in bad luck. I searched the woods, wallowing through the snow
nearly to the upper limit of the fir belt, but saw no flowers or buds that
promised anything except on a few trees. I cut down six on Shasta and two on
Scott Mountains west of Sissons. On one of the Shasta trees I found the
staminate flowers just emerging from the scales, but not a single pistillate
flower. I send the staminate, though hardly worth while. Last year's crop of
cones was nearly all frost- killed and most of the leaf buds also, so there
is little chance for flowers thereabouts this year.
Sonne writes that the Truckee
Lumber Company is to begin cutting Magnifica in the Washoe Range ten miles
east of Truckee on the 8th or 10th of this month, and he promises to be
promptly on hand among the fresh-felled trees to get the flowers, while Miss
Eastwood starts this evening for the Sierra summit above Truckee, and I have
a friend in Yosemite watching the trees around the rim of the Valley, so we
can hardly fail to get good flowers even in so bad a year as this is.
I have got through the first
reading of your Pine volume. [Volume xi of Sargent's Silva, devoted to the
Conifer. The author's dedication reads, "To John Muir, lover and interpreter
of nature, who best has told the story of the Sierra forests, this eleventh
volume of THE SILVA OF NORTH AMERICA is gratefully dedicated."] It is
bravely, sturdily, handsomely done. Grand old Ponderosa you have set forth
in magnificent style, describing its many forms and allowing species-makers
to name as many as they like, while showing their inseparable characters.
But you should have mentioned the thick, scaly, uninIlarnmable bark with
which, like a wandering warrior of King Arthur's time, it is clad, as
accounting in great part for its wide distribution and endurance of extremes
of climate. You seem to rank it above the sugar pine. But in youth and age,
clothed with beauty and majesty, Lambertiana is easily King of all the
world-wide realm of pines, while Ponderosa is the noble, unconquerable
mailed knight without fear and without reproach.
By brave and mighty Proteus-Muggins
[Probably Pinus contorta of the Silva, one of its variants being the Murray
or Tamarac Pine of the High Sierra.] you have also done well, though you
might have praised him a little more loudly for hearty endurance under
manifold hardships, defying the salt blasts of the sea from Alaska to the
California Golden Gate, and the frosts and fires of the Rocky Mountains -
growing patiently in mossy bogs and on craggy mountain-tops - crouching low
on glacier granite pavements, holding on by narrow cleavage joints, or
waving tall and slender and graceful in flowery garden spots sheltered from
every wind among columbines and lilies, etc. A line or two of sound sturdy
Mother Earth poetry such as you ventured to give Ponderosa in no wise
weakens or blurs the necessarily dry, stubbed, scientific description, and
I'm sure Muggins deserves it. However, I'm not going fault-finding. It's a
grand volume - a kingly Lambertiana job; and on many a mountain trees now
seedlings will be giants and will wave their shining tassels two hundred
feet in the sky ere another pine book will be made. So you may well sing
your nunc dimittis, and so, in sooth, may I, since you have engraved my name
on the head of it.
That Alleghany trip you so
kindly offer is mighty tempting. It has stirred up wild lover's longings to
renew my acquaintance with old forest friends and gain new ones under such
incomparable auspices. I'm just dying to see basswood and shell-bark and
liriodendron once more. When could you start, and when would you have me
meet you? I think I might get away from here about the middle of July and go
around by the Great Northern and lakes, stopping a few days on old familiar
ground about the shores of Georgian Bay. I want to avoid cities and dinners
as much as possible and travel light and free. If tree-lovers could only
grow bark and bread on their bodies, how fine it would be, making even
While trying to avoid people
as much as possible and seeing only you and trees, I should, if I make this
Eastern trip, want to call on Mrs. Asa Gray, for I heartily love and admire
Gray, and in my mind his memory fades not at all.
The projected trip into the
Alleghanies with Sargent and Canby was undertaken during September and
October when the Southern forests were in their autumn glory. Muir had
entered into the plan with great eagerness. "I don't want to die," he wrote
to Sargent in June, "without once more saluting the grand, godly,
round-headed trees of the east side of America that I first learned to love
and beneath which I used to weep for joy when nobody knew me." The task of
mapping a route was assigned by Sargent to Mr. Canby on account of his
special acquaintance with the region. "Dear old streak o' lightning on ice,"
the latter wrote to Muir in July, "I was delighted to hear from the glacial
period once more and to know that you were going to make your escape from
Purgatory and emerge into the heavenly forests of the Alleghanies. . . .
Have you seen the Luray Caverns or the Natural Bridge? If not, do you care
to? I should like to have you look from the summit of Salt Pond Mountain in
Virginia and the Roan in North Carolina."
For a month or more the three
of them roamed through the Southern forests, Muir being especially charmed
by the regions about Cranberry, Cloudland, and Grandfather Mountain, in
North Carolina. From Roan Mountain to Lenoir, about seventy-five miles, they
drove in a carriage - in Muir's judgment "the finest drive of its kind in
America." In Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama be crossed at various times his
old trail of 1867.
On his return to Boston, he
"spent a night at Page's home and visited Mrs. Gray and talked over old
botanic times." On the first of November he is at "Four Brook Farm," R. W.
Gilder's country-place at Tyringh.am in the Berkshire Hills, whence he
writes to his daughter Wanda: "Tell mamma that I have enjoyed Mr. and Mrs.
Gilder ever so much. On the way here, on the car, I was introduced to Joseph
Choate, the great lawyer, and on Sunday Mr. Gilder and I drove over to his
fine residence at Stockbridge to dinner, and I had a long talk with him
about forests as well as glaciers. Today we all go back to New York. This
evening I dine with Johnson, and to-morrow I go up the Hudson to the Osborns'."
To Helen Muir
November 4, 1898
MY DARLING HELEN:
This is a fine calm
thoughtful morning, bracing and sparkling, just the least touch of
hoarfrost, quickly melting where the sunbeams, streaming through between the
trees, fall in yellow plashes and lances on the lawns. Every now and then a
red or yellow leaf comes swirling down, though there is not the slightest
breeze. Most of the hickories are leafless now, but the big buds on the ends
of the twigs are full of baby leaves and flowers that are already planning
and thinking about next summer. Many of the maples, too, and the dogwoods
are showing leafless branches; but many along the sheltered ravines are
still rejoicing in all their glory of color, and look like gigantic
goldenrods. God's forests, my dear, are among the grandest of terrestrial
things that you may look forward to. I have not heard from Professor Sargent
since he left New York a week ago, and so I don't know whether he is ready
to go to Florida, but I'll hear soon, and then I'll know nearly the time
I'll get home. Anyhow, it won't be long.
I am enjoying a fine rest. I
have "the blue room" in this charming home, and it has the daintiest linen
and embroidery I ever saw. The bed is so soft and fine I like to lie awake
to enjoy it, instead of sleeping. A servant brings in a cup of coffee before
I rise. This morning when I was sipping coffee in bed, a red squirrel looked
in the window at me from a branch of a big tulip-tree, and seemed to be
saying as he watched me, "Oh, John Muir! camping, tramping, tree-climbing
scrambler! Churr, churr! why have you left us? Chip churr, who would have
Five days after the date of
the above letter he writes to his wife:
"DEAR LASSIE, it is settled
that I go on a short visit to Florida with Sargent. . . . I leave here
[Wing-and-Wing] to-morrow for New York, dine with Tesla and others, and then
meet Sargent at Wilmington, Wednesday. I've had a fine rest in this charming
home and feel ready for Florida, which is now cool and healthy. I'm glad to
see the South again and may write about it."
The trip to Florida, replete
with color and incident, is too full of particularity for recital here. A
halt in Savannah, Georgia, stirred up old memories, for "here," he writes in
a letter to his wife, "is where I spent a hungry, weary, yet happy week
camping in Bonaventure graveyard thirty-one years ago. Many changes, I'm
told, have been made in its groves and avenues of late, and how many in my
A dramatic occurrence was the
finding at Archer of Mrs. Hodgson, who had nursed him back to health on his
thousand-mile walk to the Gulf. The incident is told in the following
excerpt from a letter to his wife under date of November 21, 1898:
The day before yesterday we
stopped at Palatka on the famous St. Johns River, where I saw the most
magnificent magnolias, some four feet in diameter and one hundred feet high,
also the largest and most beautiful hickories and oaks. From there we went
to Cedar Keys. Of course I inquired for the Hodgsons, at whose house I lay
sick so long. Mr. Hodgson died long ago, also the eldest son, with whom I
used to go boating, but Mrs. Hodgson and the rest of the family, two boys
and three girls, are alive and well, and I saw them all to-day, except one
of the boys. I found them at Archer, where I stopped four hours on my way
from Cedar Keys. Mrs. Hodgson and the two eldest girls remembered me well.
The house was pointed out to me, and I found the good old lady who nursed me
in the garden. I asked her if she knew me. She answered no, and asked my
name. I said Muir. "John Muir?" she almost screamed. "My California John
Muir? My California John?" I said, "Why, yes, I promised to come back and
visit you in about twenty-five years, and though a little late I've come." I
stopped to dinner and we talked over old times in grand style, you may be
The following letter, full of
good-natured badinage and new plans for travel, was written soon after his
return home in December:
To Charles Sprague Sargent
MARTINEZ, December 28, 1898
MY DEAR PROFESSOR SARGENT:
I'm glad you're miserable
about not going to Mexico, for it shows that your heartwood is still honest
and loving towards the grand trees down there, though football games and
Connecticut turkey momentarily got the better of you. The grand Taxodiums
were object enough for the trip, and I came pretty near making it alone -
would certainly have done it had I not felt childishly lonesome and woe-begone
after you left me. No wonder I looked like an inland coot to friend
Meilichamp. But what would that sharp observer have said to the Canby
huckleberry party gyrating lost in the Delaware woods, and splashing along
the edge of the marshy bay "froggin' and crabbin" with devout scientific
Mellichamp I liked ever so
much, and blessed old Mohr more than ever. For these good men and many, many
trees I have to thank you, and I do over and over again as the main
blessings of the passing year. And I have to thank you also for Gray's
writings - Essays, etc. - which I have read with great interest. More than
ever I want to see Japan and eastern Asia. I wonder if Canby could be
converted to sufficient sanity to go with us on that glorious dendrological
trip. . . . Confound his Yankee savings bank! He has done more than enough
in that line. It will soon be dark. Soon our good botanical pegs will be
straightened in a box and planted, and it behooves us as reasonable
naturalists to keep them tramping and twinkling in the woods as long as
Wishing you and family and
"Silva" happy New Year, I am,
There were not a few among
Muir's literary friends, men like Walter Hines Page and Richard Watson
Gilder, who as early as 1898 began to urge him to write his autobiography.
"I thank you for your kind suggestions about 'Recollections of a
Naturalist,'" he replies to Gilder in March, 1899. "Possibly I may try
something of the sort some of these days, though my life on the whole has
been level and uneventful, and therefore hard to make a book of that many
would read. I am not anxious to tell what I have done, but what Nature has
done - an infinitely more important story."
In April, 1899, he accepted
an invitation to join the Harriman Alaska Expedition. During the cruise a
warm friendship sprang up between him and Mr. Harriman, who came to value
highly not only his personal qualities, but also his sturdy independence. It
was some years afterward, while he was the guest of Mr. Harriman at Pelican
Lodge on Klamath Lake, that Muir was persuaded to dictate his memoirs to Mr.
Harriman's private secretary. We owe it to the use of this expedient that
Muir was enabled to complete at least a part of his autobiography before he
passed on. The little book [Edward Henry Harriman, by John Muir. 1916.]
written by Muir in appreciation of Mr. Harriman after his death sprang from
memories of many kindnesses, and unheralded occasions too, when Mr.
Harriman's influence turned the scales in favor of some important
conservation measure dear to Muir's heart. Both held in warm regard Captain
P. A. Doran, of the Elder, which in 1899 carried the expeditionary party. "I
am deeply touched at your letter of the second just received," wrote Mr.
Harriman to Muir on August 8, 1907, shortly after a tragedy of the sea in
which Captain Doran perished. "We all grieved much over poor Doran. I had
grown to look upon him as a real friend and knew him to be a true man. I am
glad to have shared his friendship with you. I am fortunate in having many
friends and am indeed proud to count you among the best. My troubles are not
to be considered with yours and some others, for they are only passing and
will be eventually cleared up and understood even by the 'some' to whom you
refer. The responsibilities weigh most when such misfortunes occur as the
loss of the poor passenger who passed on with brave Doran."
To Charles Sprague Sargent
MARTINEZ, April 30, 1899
MY DEAR PROFESSOR SARGENT:
You are no doubt right about
the little Tahoe reservation -a scheme full of special personalities, pushed
through by a lot of lawyers, etc., but the more we get the better anyhow. It
is a natural park, and because of its beauty and accessibility is visited
more than any other part of the Sierra except Yosemite.
All I know of the Rainier and
Olympic reservations has come through the newspapers. The Olympic will
surely be attacked again and again for its timber, but the interests of
Seattle and Tacoma will probably save Rainier. I expect to find out
something about them soon, as I am going north from Seattle to Cook Inlet
and Kodiak for a couple of months with a "scientific party." .. . This
section of the coast is the only one I have not seen, and I'm glad of the
Good luck to you. I wish I
were going to those leafy woods instead of icy Alaska. Be good to the trees,
you tough, sturdy pair. Don't frighten the much-enduring Cratguses and make
them drop their spurs, and don't tell them quite eternally that you are from
Boston and the Delaware Huckleberry Peninsula.
My love to Canby - keep his
frisks within bounds. Remember me to the Biltmore friends and blessed Mohr
and Mellichamp. And remember me also to the Messrs. Hickory and Oak, and,
oh, the magnolias in bloom! Heavens, how they glow and shine and invite a
fellow! Good-bye. I'll hope to see you in August.
To Walter Hines Page
MARTINEZ, CALIFORNIA, May,
MY DEAR PAGE:
I send the article on
Yosemite Park to-day by registered mail. It is short, but perhaps long
enough for this sort of stuff. I have three other articles on camping in the
park, and on the trees and shrubs, gardens, etc., and on Sequoia Park,
blocked out and more than half written. I wanted to complete these and get
the book put together and off my hands this summer, and, now that I have all
the material well in hand and on the move, I hate to leave it.
I start to-morrow on a two
months' trip with Harriman's Alaska Expedition. John Burroughs and Professor
[\V. H.] Brewer and a whole lot of good naturalists are going. But I would
not have gone, however tempting, were it not to visit the only part of the
coast I have not seen and one of the scenes that I would have to visit
sometime anyhow. This has been a barren year, and I am all the less willing
to go, though the auspices are so good. I lost half the winter in a
confounded fight with sheep and cattlemen and politicians on behalf of the
forests. During the other half I was benumbed and interrupted by sickness in
the family, while in word works, even at the best, as you know, I'm slow as
a glacier. You'll get these papers, however, sometime, and they will be
hammered into a book - if I live long enough.
I was very glad to get your
letter, as it showed you were well enough to be at work again. With best
wishes, I am,
Faithfully yours J. M.
To Mrs. Muir
VICTORIA, June 1, 1899
We sail from here in about
two hours, and I have just time to say another good-bye. The ship is
furnished in fine style, and I find we are going just where I want to go -
Yakutat, Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet, etc. I am on the Executive
Committee, and of course have something to say as to routes, time to be
spent at each point, etc. The company is very harmonious for scientists.
Yesterday I tramped over Seattle with John Burroughs. At Portland the
Mazamas were very demonstrative and kind. I hope you are all busy with the
hay. Helen will keep it well tumbled and tramped with Keenie's help. I am
making pleasant acquaintances. Give my love to Maggie. Good-bye. Ever your
To Wanda and Helen Muir
FORT WRANGELL, June 5, [1899,]
How are you all? We arrived
here last evening. This is a lovely morning -water like glass. Looks like
home. The flowers are in bloom, so are the forests. We leave in an hour for
Juneau. The mountains are pure white. Went to church at Metlakatla, heard
Duncan preach, and the Indians sing. Had fine ramble in the woods with
Burroughs. He is ashore looking and listening for birds. The song sparrow, a
little dun, speckledy muggins, sings best. Most of the passengers are
looking at totem poles.
Have letters for me at
Seattle. No use trying to forward them up here, as we don't know where we
will touch on the way down home.
I hope you are all well and
not too lonesome. Take good care of Stickeen and Tom. We landed at four
places on the way up here. I was glad to see the woods in those new places.
Love to all. Ever your loving
To Louie, Wanda, and Helen
JUNEAU, June 6,  9 A.M.
Cold rainy day. We stop here
only a few minutes, and I have only time to scribble love to my darlings.
The green mountains rise into the gray cloudy sky four thousand feet, rich
in trees and grass and flowers and wild goats.
We are all well and happy.
Yesterday was bright and the mountains all the way up from Wrangell were
passed in review, opening their snowy, icy recesses, and closing them, like
turning over the leaves of a grand picture book. Everybody gazed at the
grand glaciers and peaks, and we saw icebergs floating past for the first
time on the trip.
We landed on two points on
the way up and had rambles in the woods, and the naturalists set traps and
caught five white-footed mice. We were in the woods I wandered in twenty
years ago, and I had many questions to answer. Heaven bless you. We go next
to Douglas Mine, then to Skagway, then to Glacier Bay.
To Mrs. Muir and daughters
SITKA, ALASKA, June 10, 1899
DEAR LOUIE, WANDA, AND HELEN:
I wrote two days ago, and I
suppose you will get this at the same time as the other. We had the Governor
at dinner and a society affair afterward that looked queer in the
wilderness. This eve we are to have a reception at the Governor's, and
to-morrow we sail for Yakutat Bay, thence to Prince William Sound, Cook
Inlet, etc. We were at the Hot Springs yesterday, fifteen miles from here
amid lovely scenery.
The Topeka arrived last eve,
and sails in an hour or so. I met Professor Moses and his wife on the wharf
and then some Berkeley people besides; then the Raymond agent, who
introduced a lot of people, to whom I lectured in the street. The thing was
like a revival meeting. The weather is wondrous fine, and all goes well. I
regret not having [had] a letter forwarded here, as I long for a word of
your welfare. Heaven keep you, darlings. Ever yours
To Mrs. Muir
SITKA, June 14, 1899
DEAR LOUlE AND BAIRNS:
We are just entering Sitka
Harbor after a delightful sail down Peril Straits, and a perfectly glorious
time in Glacier Bay - five days of the most splendid weather I ever saw in
Alaska. I was out three days with Gilbert and Palache revisiting the
glaciers of the upper end of the Bay. Great changes have taken place. The
Pacific Glacier has melted back four miles and changed into three separate
glaciers, each discharging bergs in grand style. One of them, unnamed and
unexplored, I named last evening, in a lecture they made me give in the
social hail, the Harriman Glacier, which was received with hearty cheers.
After the lecture Mr. Harriman came to me and thanked me for the great honor
I had done him. It is a very beautiful glacier, the front discharging bergs
like the Muir - about three quarters of a mile wide on the sea wall.
Everybody was delighted with
Glacier Bay and the grand Muir Glacier, watching the beautiful bergs born in
thunder, parties scattered out in every direction in rowboats and steam and
naphtha launches on every sort of quest. John Burroughs and Charlie Reeler
climbed the mountain on the east side of Muir Glacier, three thousand feet,
and obtained a grand view far back over the mountain to the glorious
Fairweather Range. I tried hard to get out of lecturing, but was compelled
to do it. All seemed pleased. Lectures every night. The company all
good-natured and harmonious. Our next stop will be Yakutat.
I'm all sunburned by three
bright days among the bergs. I often wish you could have been with us. You
will see it all some day. Heaven bless you. Remember me to Maggie.
To Mrs. Muir
OFF PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND
June 24, 1899
DEAR LOUIE AND DARLINGS:
We are just approaching
Prince William Sound - the place above all others I have long wished to see.
The snow and ice-laden mountains loom grandly in crowded ranks above the
dark, heaving sea, and I can already trace the courses of some of the
largest of the glaciers. It is 2 P.M., and in three or four hours we shall
be at Urea, near the mouth of the bay, where I will mail this note.
We had a glorious view of the
mountains and glaciers in sailing up the coast along the Fairweather Range
from Sitka to Yakutat Bay. In Yakutat and Disenchantment Bays we spent four
days, and I saw their three great glaciers discharging bergs and hundreds of
others to best advantage. Also the loveliest flower gardens. Here are a few
of the most beautiful of the rubuses. This charming plant covers acres like
a carpet. One of the islands we landed on, in front of the largest
thundering glacier, was so flower-covered that I could smell the fragrance
from the boat among the bergs half a mile away.
I'm getting strong fast, and
can walk and climb about as well as ever, and eat everything with prodigious
I hope to have a good view of
the grand glaciers here, though some of the party are eager to push on to
Cook Inlet. I think I'll have a chance to mail another letter ere we leave
Love to all
To Wanda Muir
UNALASKA, July 8, 1899
MY DEAR WANDA AND HELEN AND
We arrived here this cloudy,
rainy, foggy morning after a glorious sail from Sand Harbor on Unga Island,
one of the Shumagin group, all the way along the volcano-dotted coast of the
Alaska Peninsula and Unimak Island. The volcanoes are about as thick as
haycocks on our alfalfa field in a wet year, and the highest of them are
smoking and steaming in grand style. Shishaldin is the handsomest volcanic
cone I ever saw and it looked like this last evening. [Drawing.] I'll show
you a better sketch in my
notebook when I get home.
About nine thousand feet high, snow and ice on its slopes, hot and bare at
the top. A few miles from Shishaldin there is a wild rugged old giant of a
volcano that blew or burst its own head off a few years ago, and covered the
sea with ashes and cinders and killed fish and raised a tidal wave that
lashed the shores of San Francisco and even Martinez.
There is a ship, the Loredo,
that is to sail in an hour, so I'm in a hurry, as usual. We are going to the
Seal Islands and St. Lawrence Island from here, and a point or two on the
Siberian coast - then home. We are taking on coal, and will leave in three
or four hours. I hope fondly that you are all well. . . - I'll soon be back,
my darlings. God bless you.
"To the 'Big Four': the
Misses Mary and Cornelia Harriman, and the Misses Elizabeth Averell and
Dorothea Draper, who with Carol and Roland [Harriman], the 'Little Two,'
kept us all young on the never-to-be-forgotten H.A.E." [Harriman Alaska
[MARTINEZ] August 30, 1899
I received your kind compound
letter from the railroad washout with great pleasure, for it showed, as I
fondly thought, that no wreck, washout, or crevasse of any sort will be
likely to break or wash out the memories of our grand trip, or abate the
friendliness that sprung up on the Elder among the wild scenery of Alaska
during these last two memorable months. No doubt every one of the favored
happy band feels, as I do, that this was the grandest trip of his life. To
me it was peculiarly grateful and interesting because nearly all my life I
have wandered and studied alone. On the Elder, I found not only the fields I
liked best to study, but a hotel, a club, and a home, together with a
floating University in which I enjoyed the instruction and companionship of
a lot of the best fellows imaginable, culled and arranged like a
well-balanced bouquet, or like a band of glaciers flowing smoothly together,
each in its own channel, or perhaps at times like a lot of round boulders
merrily swirling and chafing against each other in a glacier pothole.
And what a glorious trip it
was for you girls, flying like birds from wilderness to wilderness, the
wildest and brightest of America, tasting almost every science under the
sun, with fine breezy exercise, scrambles over mossy logs and rocks in the
spruce forests, walks on the crystal prairies of the glaciers, on the
flowery boggy tundras, in the luxuriant wild gardens of Kodiak and the
islands of Bering Sea, and plashing boat rides in the piping bracing winds,
all the while your eyes filled with magnificent scenery - the Alexander
Archipelago with its thousand forested islands and calm mirror waters,
Glacier Bay, Fairweather Mountains, Yakutat and Enchantment Bays, the St.
Elias Alps and glaciers and the glorious Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet,
and the Aleutian Peninsula with its flowery, icy, smoky volcanoes, the
blooming banks and braes and mountains of Unalaska, and Bering Sea with its
seals and Innuits, whales and whalers, etc., etc., etc.
It is not easy to stop
writing under the exhilaration of such an excursion, so much pure wildness
with so much fine company. It is a pity so rare a company should have to be
broken, never to be assembled again. But many, no doubt, will meet again. On
your side of the continent perhaps half the number may be got together.
Already I have had two trips with Merriam to the Sierra Sequoias and Coast
Redwoods, during which you may be sure the H.A.E. was enjoyed over again. A
few days after I got home, Captain Doran paid me a visit, most of which was
spent in a hearty review of the trip. And last week Gannett came up and
spent a couple of days, during which we went over all our enjoyments,
science and fun, mountain ranges, glaciers, etc., discussing everything from
earth sculpture to Cassiope and rhododendron gardens - from Welsh rarebit
and jam and cracker feasts to Nunatak. I hope to have visits from Professor
Gilbert and poet Charlie ere long, and lEarlybird Ritter, and possibly I may
see a whole lot more in the East this coming winter or next. Anyhow,
remember me to all the Harrimans and Averells and every one of the party you
chance to meet. Just to think of them!! Ridgway with wonderful bird eyes,
all the birds of America in them; Funny Fisher ever flashing out wit;
Perpendicular E., erect and majestic as a Thlinket totem pole; Old-sea-beach
G., hunting upheavals, downheavals, sideheavals, and hanging valleys; the
Artists reveling in color beauty like bees in flower-beds; Ama-a-merst
tripping along shore like a sprightly sandpiper, pecking kelp- bearded
boulders for a meal of fossil molluscs; Genius Kincaid among his beetles and
butterflies and "red-tailed bumble-bees that sting awful hard"; Innuit Dall
smoking and musing; flowery Trelease and Covifie; and Seaweed Saunders; our
grand big-game Doctor, and how many more! Blessed Brewer of a thousand
speeches and stories and merry ha-has, and Genial John Burroughs, who
growled at and scowled at good Bering Sea and me, but never at thee. I feel
pretty sure that he is now all right at his beloved Slabsides and I have a
good mind to tell his whole Bering story in his own sort of good-natured,
gnarly, snarly, jungle, jangle rhyme.
There! But how unconscionably
long the thing is! I must stop short. Remember your penitential promises.
Kill as few of your fellow beings as possible and pursue some branch of
natural history at least far enough to see Nature's harmony. Don't forget
me. God bless you. Good-bye.
Ever your friend
To Julia Merrill Moores
July 25, 1900
MY DEAR FRIENDS:
I scarce need say that I have
been with you and mourned with you every day since your blessed sister was
called away, and wished I could do something to help and comfort you. Before
your letter came, I had already commenced to write the memorial words you
ask for, and I'll send them soon.
Her beautiful, noble, helpful
life on earth was complete, and had she lived a thousand years she would
still have been mourned, the more the longer she stayed. Death is as natural
as life, sorrow as joy. Through pain and death come all our blessings, life
However clear our faith and
hope and love, we must suffer - but with glorious compensation. While death
separates, it unites, and the sense of loneliness grows less and less as we
become accustomed to the new light, communing with those who have gone on
ahead in spirit, and feeling their influence as if again present in the
flesh. Your own experience tells you this, however. The Source of all Good
turns even sorrow and seeming separation to our advantage, makes us better,
drawing us closer together in love, enlarging, strengthening, brightening
our views of the spirit world and our hopes of immortal union. Blessed it is
to know and feel, even at this cost, that neither distance nor death can
truly separate those who love.
My friends, whether living or
dead, have always been with me in my so-called lonely wanderings, so kind
and wonderful are God's compensations. Few, dear friends, have greater cause
for sorrow, or greater cause for joy, than you have. Your sister lives in a
thousand hearts, and her influence, pure as sunshine and dew, can never be
Read again and again those
blessed words, ever old, ever new: "Who redeemeth thy life from destruction;
who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercy," who pities you
"like as a father pitieth his children, for He knoweth our frame, He knoweth
that we are dust. Man's days are as grass, as a flower of the field the wind
passeth over it and it is gone, but the mercy of the Lord is from
everlasting to everlasting."
In His strength we must live
on, work on, doing the good that comes to heart and hand, looking forward to
meeting in that City which the streams of the River of Life make glad.
Ever your loving friend
To Walter Hines Page
Martinez, June 12, 1900
MY DEAR Mr. PAGE:
I sent by mail to-day
manuscript of ice article for the Harriman book, the receipt of which please
acknowledge, and as it is short I hope you will read it, not for wandering
words and sentences out of plumb, but for the ice of it. Coming as you do
from the unglacial South, it may "fill a long-felt want." And before you
settle down too hopelessly far in book business take a trip to our western
Iceland. Go to Glacier Bay and Yakutat and Prince William Sound and get some
pure wildness into your inky life. Neglect not this glacial advice and
glacial salvation this hot weather, and believe me
Very many letters of
appreciation were written to Muir by persons who were strangers to him,
except in spirit. One such came during the autumn of 1900 from an American
woman resident in Yokohama. "More than twenty years ago," said the writer,
"when I was at my mountain home in Siskiyou County, California, I read a
short sketch of your own, in which you pictured your sense of delight in
listening to the wind, with its many voices, sweeping through the pines.
That article made a lifelong impression on me, and shaped an inner
perception for the wonders of Nature which has gladdened my entire life
since. . . . It has always seemed that I must some time thank you."
To Mrs. Richard Swain
October 21, 1900
Mrs. RICHARD SWAIN:
That you have so long
remembered that sketch of the wind-storm in the forest of the Yuba gives me
pleasure and encouragement in the midst of this hard life work, for to me it
is hard, far harder than tree or mountain climbing. When I began my
wanderings in God's wilds, I never dreamed of writing a word for
publication, and since beginning literary work it has never seemed possible
that much good to others could come of it. Written descriptions of fire or
bread are of but little use to the cold or starving. Descriptive writing
amounts to little more than "Hurrah, here's something! Come!" When my
friends urged me to begin, saying, "We cannot all go to the woods and
mountains; you are free and love wildness; go and bring it to us," I used to
reply that it was not possible to see and enjoy for others any more than to
eat for them or warm for them. Nature's tables are spread and fires burning.
You must go warm yourselves and eat. But letters like yours which
occasionally come to me show that even nature writing is not altogether
Some time I hope to see
Japan's mountains and forests. The flora of Japan and Manchuria is among the
richest and most interesting on the globe. With best wishes, I am
Very truly yours
To Katherine Merrill Graydon
MARTINEZ, October 22, 1900
My DEAR Miss GRAYDON:
Of course you know you have
my sympathy in your loneliness - loneliness not of miles, but of loss - the
departure from earth of your great-aunt Kate, the pole-star and lodestone of
your life and of how many other lives. What she was to me and what I thought
of her I have written and sent to your Aunt Julia for a memorial book [The
Man Shakespeare, and Other Essays. By Catharine Merrill. The Bowen-Merrill
Company, 1902.] her many friends are preparing. A rare beloved soul sent of
God, all her long life a pure blessing. Her work is done; and she has gone
to the Better Land, and now you must get used to seeing her there and hold
on to her as your guide as before.
Wanda, as you know, is going
to school, and expects soon to enter the University. She is a faithful,
steady scholar, not in the least odd or brilliant, but earnest and
unstoppable as an avalanche. She comes home every Friday or Saturday by the
new railway that crosses the vineyards near the house. Muir Station is just
above the Reid house. What sort of a scholar Helen will be I don't know. She
is very happy and strong. My sister Sarah is now with us, making four Muirs
here, just half the family.
Ever your friend
To Dr. C. Hart Merriam
October 23, 1900
MY DEAR DR. MERRIAM:
I am very glad to get your
kind letter bringing back our big little Sierra trip through the midst of so
many blessed chipmunks and trees. Many thanks for your care and kindness
about the photographs and for the pile of interesting bird and beast
Bulletins. No. 3 [North American Fauna, No. 3 - Results of a Biological
Survey of San Francisco Mountains and the Desert of the Little Colorado,
Arizona, by C. Hart Merriam, September, 1900.] contains lots of masterly
work and might be expanded into a grand book. This you should do, adding and
modifying in accordance with the knowledge you have gathered during the last
ten years. But alas! Here you are pegging and puttering with the concerns of
others as if in length of life you expect to rival Sequoia. That stream and
fountain article, ["Fountains and Streams of the Yosemite National Park,"
Atlantic, April, 1901.] which like Tennyson's brook threatened to "go on
forever," is at last done, and I am now among the Big Tree parks. Not the
man with the hoe, but the poor toiler with the pen, deserves mile-long
commiseration in prose and rhyme.
Give my kindest regards to
Mrs. and Mr. Bailey, and tell them I'll go guide with them to Yosemite
whenever they like unless I should happen to be hopelessly tied up in some
With pleasant recollections
from Mrs. Muir and the girls, I am
Very truly yours
To Mrs. Henry Fairfield Osborn
November 18, 1900
MY DEAR MRS. OSBORN:
Nothing could be kinder than
your invitation to Wing-and-Wing, and how gladly we would accept, you know.
But grim Duty, like Bunyan's Apollyon, is now "straddling across the whole
breadth of the way," crying "No."
I am at work on the last of a
series of park and forest articles to be collected and published in book
form by Houghton, Muffin & Company and which I hope to get off my hands
soon. But there is endless work in sight ahead - Sierra and Alaska things to
follow as fast as my slow, sadly interrupted pen can be spurred to go.
Yes, I know it is two years
since I enjoyed the dainty chickaree room you so kindly call mine. Last
summer as you know I was in Alaska. This year I was in the Sierra, going up
by way of Lake Tahoe and down by Yosemite Valley, crossing the range four
times along the headwaters of the Truckee, Carson, Mokelunme, Stanislaus,
Calaveras, Walker, Tuolumne and Merced Rivers, revisiting old haunts,
examining forests, and learning what I could about birds and mammals with
Dr. Merriam and his sister and Mr. Bailey - keen naturalists with infinite
appetite for voles, marmots, squirrels, chipmunks, etc. We had a delightful
time, of course, and in Yosemite I remembered your hoped-for visit to the
grand Valley and wished you were with us. I'm sorry I missed Sir Michael
Foster. Though prevented now, I hope ere long to see Wing-and-Wing in autumn
glory. In the mean time and always
I am ever your friend
To Walter Hines Page
January 10, 1902
Big thanks, my dear Page, for
your great letter. The strength and shove and hearty ringing inspiration of
it is enough to make the very trees and rocks write. The Park book, the
publishers tell me, is successful. To you and Sargent it owes its existence;
for before I got your urgent and encouraging letters I never dreamed of
writing such a book. As to plans for others, I am now at work on -
1. A small one, "Yosemite and
Other Yosemites," which Johnson has been trying to get me to write a long
time and which I hope to get off my hands this year. I'll first offer it to
the Century Company, hoping they will bring it out in good shape, give it a
good push toward readers and offer fair compensation.
2. The California tree and
shrub book was suggested by Merriam last summer, but I have already written
so fully on forest trees and their underbrush I'm not sure that I can make
another useful book about them. Possibly a handy volume, with short telling
descriptions and illustrations of each species, enabling the ordinary
observer to know them at sight, might be welcomed. This if undertaken will
probably be done season after next, and you shall have the first sight of
3. Next should come a
mountaineering book - all about walking, climbing, and camping, with a lot
of illustrative excursions.
4. Alaska - glaciers,
forests, mountains, travels, etc.
5. A book of studies - the
action of landscape-making forces, earth sculpture, distribution of plants
and animals, etc. My main real book in which I'll have to ask my readers to
cerebrate. Still I hope it may be made readable to a good many.
6. Possibly my autobiography
which for ten years or more all sorts of people have been begging me to
write. My life, however, has been so smooth and regular and reasonable, so
free from blundering exciting adventures, the story seems hardly worth while
in the midst of so much that is infinitely more important. Still, if 1
should live long enough I may be tempted to try it. For I begin to see that
such a book would offer fair opportunities here and there to say a good word
The Harriman Alaska book is
superb and I gladly congratulate you on the job. In none of the reviews I
have seen does Dr. Merriam get half the credit due him as editor.
Hearty thanks for the two
Mowbray volumes. I've read them every word. The more of such nature books
the better. Good luck to you. May your shop grow like a sequoia and may I
meet you with all your family on this side the continent amid its best
Ever faithfully yours
To Dr. C. Hart Merriam
MY DEAR Dr. MERRIAM:
I send these clippings to
give a few hints as to the sheep and forests. Please return them. If you
have a file of "The Forester" handy, you might turn to the February and July
numbers of 1898, and the one of June, 1900, for solemn discussions of the
"proper regulation" of sheep grazing.
With the patronage of the
business in the hands of the Western politician, the so-called proper
regulation of sheep grazing by the Forestry Department is as hopelessly vain
as would be laws and regulations for the proper management of ocean currents
The politicians, in the
interest of wealthy mine, mill, sheep, and cattle owners, of course nominate
superintendents and supervisors of reservations supposed to be harmlessly
blind to their stealings. Only from the Military Department, free from
political spoils poison, has any real good worth mention been gained for
forests, and so, as far as I can see, it will be, no matter how well the
Forestry Department may be organized, until the supervisors,
superintendents, and rangers are brought under Civil Service Reform. Ever
To Charles Sprague Sargent
MARTINEZ, September 10, 1902
MY DEAR SARGENT:
What are you so wildly
"quitting" about? I've faithfully answered all your letters, and as far as I
know you are yourself the supreme quitter - Quitter gigantea - quitting
Mexico, quitting a too trusting companion in swamps and sand dunes of
Florida, etc., etc. Better quit quitting, though since giving the world so
noble a book you must, I suppose, be allowed to do as you like until time
and Siberia effect a cure.
I am and have been up to the
eyes in work, insignificant though it be. Last spring had to describe the
Colorado Grand Caņon - the toughest job I ever tackled, strenuous enough to
disturb the equanimity of even a Boston man. Then I had to rush off to the
Sierra with [the Sierra] Club outing. Then had to explore Kern River Caņon,
etc. Now I'm at work on a little Yosemite book. Most of the material for it
has been published already, but a new chapter or two will have to be
written. Then there is the "Silva" review, the most formidable job of all,
which all along I've been hoping some abler, better equipped fellow would
take off my hands. Can't you at least give me some helpful suggestions as to
the right size, shape, and composition of this review?
Of course I want to take that
big tree trip with you next season, and yet I should hate mortally to leave
either of these tasks unfinished. Glorious congratulations on the ending of
your noble book!
Ever faithfully yours
To Mrs. Anna R. Dickey
MARTINEZ, October 12, 1902
DEAR MRS. DICKEY:
I was glad to get your
letter. It so vividly recalled our memorable ramble, merry and nobly
elevating, and solemn in the solemn aboriginal woods and gardens of the
great mountains - commonplace, sublime, and divine. I seemed to hear your
voice in your letter, and see you gliding, drifting, scrambling along the
trails with all the gay good company, or seated around our many camp-fires
in the great IIlurninated groves, etc., etc. altogether a good trip in which
everybody was a happy scholar at the feet of Nature, and all learned
something direct from earth and sky, bird and beast, trees, flowers, and
chanting winds and waters; hints, suggestions, little-great lessons of God's
infinite power and glory and goodness. No wonder your youth is renewed and
Donald goes to his studies right heartily.
To talk plants to those who
love them must ever be easy and delightful. By the way, that little fairy,
airy, white-flowered plant which covers sandy dry ground on the mountains
like a mist, which I told you was a near relative to Eriogonum, but whose
name I could never recall, is Oxytheca spergulina. There is another rather
common species in the region we traveled, but this is the finest and most
I'm glad you found the
mountain hemlock, the loveliest of conifers. You will find it described in
both my books. It is abundant in Kings River Caņon, but not beside the
trails. The "heather" you mention is no doubt Bryan- thus or Cassiope. Next
year you and Donald should make collections of at least the most interesting
plants. A plant press, tell Donald, is lighter and better than a gun. So is
a camera, and good photographs of trees and shrubs are much to be desired.
I have heard from all the
girls. Their enthusiasm is still fresh, and they are already planning and
plotting for next year's outing in the Yosemite, Tuolumne, and Mono
regions.... Gannett stayed two days with us, and is now, I suppose at home.
I was hoping you might have a day or two for a visit to our little valley.
Next time you come to the city try to stop off at "Nluir Station" on the
Santa Fe. We are only an hour and a half from the city. I should greatly
enjoy a visit at your Ojai home, as you well know, but when fate and work
will let me I dinna ken. .. . Give my sincere regard to Donald.
Ever faithfully yours
To Robert Underwood Johnson
MARTINEZ, September 15, 1902
DEAR Mr. JOHNSON:
On my return from the Kern
region I heard loud but vague rumors of the discovery of a giant sequoia in
Converse Basin on Kings River, one hundred and fifty-three feet in
circumference and fifty feet in diameter, to which I paid no attention,
having heard hundreds of such "biggest-tree-in-the-world" rumors before. But
at Fresno I met a surveyor who assured me that he had himself measured the
tree and found it to be one hundred and fifty-three feet in circumference
six feet above ground. So of course I went back up the mountains to see and
measure for myself, carrying a steel tape- line.
One of the largest and finest
every way of living sequoias that have been measured. But none can say it is
certainly the largest. The immensely larger dead one that I discovered
twenty-seven years ago stands within a few miles of this new wonder, and I
think I have in my notebooks measurements of living specimens as large as
the new tree, or larger. I have a photo of the tree and can get others, I
think, from a photographer who has a studio in Converse Basin. I'll write a
few pages on Big Trees in general if you like; also touching on the horrible
destruction of the Kings River groves now going on fiercely about the mills.
As to the discovery of a
region grander than Yosemite by the Kelly brothers in the Kings Caņon, it is
nearly all pure bosh. I explored the Caņon long ago. It is very deep, but
has no El Capitan or anything like it.
Ever yours faithfully
To Henry Fairfield Osborn
July 16, 1904
DEAR MR. OSB0RN:
In the big talus of letters,
books, pamphlets, etc., accumulated on my desk during more than a year's
absence, I found your Boone and Crockett address ["Preservation of the Wild
Animals of North America," Forest and Stream, April 16, 1904, pp. 312-13.]
and have heartily enjoyed it. It is an admirable plea for our poor
horizontal fellow-mortals, so fast passing away in ruthless starvation and
slaughter. Never before has the need for places of refuge and protection
been greater. Fortunately, at the last hour, with utter extinction in sight,
the Government has begun to act under pressure of public opinion, however
slight. Therefore your address is timely and should be widely published. I
have often written on the subject, but mostly with non-effect. The murder
business and sport by saint and sinner alike has been pushed ruthlessly,
merrily on, until at last protective measures are being called for, partly,
I suppose, because the pleasure of killing is in danger of being lost from
there being little or nothing left to kill, and partly, let us hope, from a
dim glimmering recognition of the rights of animals and their kinship to
How long it seems since my
last visit to Wing-and-Wing! and how far we have been! I got home a few
weeks ago from a trip more than a year long. I went with Professor Sargent
and his son Robeson through Europe visiting the principal parks, gardens,
art galleries, etc. From Berlin we went to St. Petersburg, thence to the
Crimea, by Moscow, the Caucasus, across by Dariel Pass from Tiflis, and back
to Moscow. Thence across Siberia, Manchuria, etc., to Japan and Shanghai.
At Shanghai left the Sargents
and set out on a grand trip alone and free to India, Egypt, Ceylon,
Australia, New Zealand. Thence by way of Port Darwin, Timor, through the
Malay Archipelago to Manila. Thence to Hong Kong again and Japan and home by
Honolulu. Had perfectly glorious times in India, Australia, and New Zealand.
The flora of Australia and New Zealand is so novel and exciting I had to
begin botanical studies over again, working night and day with endless
enthusiasm. And what wondrous beasts and birds, too, are there!
Do write and let me know how
you all are. Remember me with kindest regards to Mrs. Osborn and the
children and believe me ever
The closing period of Muir's
life began with a great triumph and a bitter sorrow - both in the same year.
His hour of triumph came with the successful issue of a seventeen-year
campaign to rescue his beloved Yosemite Valley from the hands of spoilers.
His chief helpers were Mr. Johnson in the East and Mr. William E. Colby in
the West. The latter had, under the auspices of the Sierra Club, organized
and conducted for many years summer outings of large parties of Club members
into the High Sierra. These outings, by their simple and healthful camping
methods, by their easy mobility amid hundreds of miles of superb mountain
scenery, and by the deep love of unspoiled nature which they awakened in
thousands of hearts, not only achieved a national reputation, but trained
battalions of eager defenders of our national playgrounds. No one was more
rejoiced by the growing success of the outings than John Muir, and the
evenings when he spoke at the High Sierra camp-fires are treasured memories
in many hearts.
When the battle for the
recession of the Yosemite Valley grew keen during January and February,
1905, Mr. Muir and Mr. Colby went to Sacramento in order to counteract by
their personal presence the propaganda of falsehoods which an interested
opposition was industriously spreading. The bill passed by a safe majority
and the first of the two following letters celebrates the event; the second
relates to the later acceptance of the Valley by Congress, to be
administered thereafter as an integral part of the Yosemite National Park.
On the heels of this
achievement came a devastating bereavement - the death of his wife. Earlier
in the year his daughter Helen had been taken seriously ill, and when she
became convalescent she had to be removed to the dry air of Arizona. While
there with her, a telegram called him back to the bedside of his wife, in
whose case a long-standing illness had suddenly become serious. She died on
the sixth of August, 1905, and thereafter the old house on the hill was a
shelter and a place of work from time to time, but never a home again. "Get
out among the mountains and the trees, friend, as soon as you can," wrote
Theodore Roosevelt. "They will do more for you than either man or woman
could." But anxiety over the health of his daughter Helen bound him to the
Arizona desert for varying periods of time. There he discovered remnants of
a wonderful petrified forest, which he studied with great eagerness. He
urged that it be preserved as a national monument, and it was set aside by
Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 under the name of the Petrified Forest National
These years of grief and
anxiety proved comparatively barren in literary work. But part of the time
he probably was engaged upon a revised and enlarged edition of his
"Mountains of California," which appeared in 1911 with an affectionate
dedication to the memory of his wife. In some notes, written during 1908,
for his autobiography, Muir alludes to this period of stress with a pathetic
foreboding that he might not live long enough to gather a matured literary
harvest from his numerous notebooks.
The letters of the closing
years of his life show an increasing sense of urgency regarding the
unwritten books mentioned in his letter to Walter Hines Page, and he applied
himself to literary work too unremittingly for the requirements of his
health. Much of his writing during this period was done at the home of Mr.
and Mrs. J. D. Hooker in Los Angeles and at the summer home of Mr. and Mrs.
Henry Fairfield Osborn at Garrison's-on-the-Hudson. The last long journey,
in which he realized the dreams of a lifetime, was undertaken during the
summer of 1911. It was the trip to South America, to the Amazon - the goal
which he had in view when he set out on his thousand-mile walk to the Gulf
in 1867. His chief object was to see the araucaria forests of Brazil. This
accomplished, he went from South America to South Africa in order to see the
Baobab tree in its native habitat.
During these few later years
of domestic troubles and anxieties [he wrote in 1911] but little writing or
studying of any sort has been possible. But these, fortunately, are now
beginning to abate, and I hope that something worth while may still be
accomplished before the coming of life's night. I have written but three
[Mountains of California, Our National Parks, and My First Summer in the
Sierra.] books as yet, and a number of scientific and popular articles in
magazines, newspapers, etc. In the beginning of my studies I never intended
to write a word for the press. In my life of lonely wanderings I was pushed
and Pulled on and on through everything by unwavering never-ending love of
God's earth plans and works, and eternal, immortal, all-embracing Beauty;
and when importuned to "write, write, write, and give your treasures to the
world," I have always said that I could not stop field work until too old to
climb mountains; but now, at the age of seventy, I begin to see that if any
of the material collected in notebooks, already sufficient for a dozen
volumes, is to be arranged and published by me, I must make haste.
To Robert Underwood Johnson
MARTINEZ, February 24, 
DEAR MR. JOHNSON:
I wish I could have seen you
last night when you received my news of the Yosemite victory, which for so
many years, as commanding general, you have bravely and incessantly fought
About two years ago public
opinion, which had long been on our side, began to rise into effective
action. On the way to Yosemite [in 1903] both the President' and our
Governor [President Theodore Roosevelt and Governor George C. Pardee.] were
won to our side, and since then the movement was like Yosemite avalanches.
But though almost everybody was with us, so active was the opposition of
those pecuniarily and politically interested, we might have failed to get
the bill through the Senate but for the help of Mr. H----, though, of
course, his name or his company were never in sight through all the fight.
About the beginning of January I wrote to Mr. H----. He promptly telegraphed
a favorable reply.
Wish you could have heard the
oratory of the opposition - fluffy, nebulous, shrieking, howling,
threatening like sand-storms and dust whirlwinds in the desert. Sometime I
hope to tell you all about it.
I am now an experienced lobbyist; my political education is complete. Have
attended Legislature, made speeches, explained, exhorted, persuaded every
mother's son of the legislators, newspaper reporters, and everybody else who
would listen to me. And now that the fight is finished and my education as a
politician and lobbyist is finished, I am almost finished myself.
Now, ho! for righteous
management. . . . Of course you'll have a long editorial in the "Century."
To Robert Underwood Johnson
July 16, 1906
Yes, my dear Johnson, sound
the loud timbrel and let every Yosemite tree and stream rejoice!
You may be sure I knew when
the big bill passed. Getting Congress to accept the Valley brought on,
strange to say, a desperate fight both in the house and Senate. Sometime
I'll tell you all the story. You don't know how accomplished a lobbyist I've
become under your guidance. The fight you planned by that famous Tuolumne
camp-fire seventeen years ago is at last fairly, gloriously won, every enemy
down derry down.
Write a good, long, strong,
heart-warming letter to Colby. He is the only one of all the Club who stood
by me in downright effective fighting.
I congratulate you on your
successful management of Vesuvius, as Gilder says, and safe return with
yourself and family in all its far- spreading branches in good health. Helen
is now much better. Wanda was married last month, and I am absorbed in these
enchanted carboniferous forests. Come and let me guide you through them and
the great Caņon.
To Francis Fisher Browne
[Editor of The Dial from 1880 to his death in 1913. A tribute by Muir under
the title "Browne the Beloved" appeared in The Dial during June, 1913.]
325 WEST ADAMS STREET Los
June 1, 1910
MY DEAR MR. BROWNE:
Good luck and congratulations
on the "Dial's" thirtieth anniversary, and so Scottishly and well I learned
to know you two summers ago, with blessed John Burroughs & Co., that I seem
to have known you always.
I was surprised to get a long
letter from Miss Barrus written at Seattle, and in writing to Mr. Burroughs
later I proposed to him that he follow to this side of the continent and
build a new Slabsides "where rolls the Oregon," and write more bird and bee
books instead of his new-f angled Catskill Silurian and Devonian geology on
which he at present seems to have gane gite, clean gite, having apparently
forgotten that there is a single bird or bee in the sky. I also proposed
that in his ripe, mellow, autumnal age he go with me to the basin of the
Amazon for new ideas, and also to South Africa and Madagascar, where he
might see something that would bring his early bird and bee days to mind.
I have been hidden down here
in Los Angeles for a month or two and have managed to get off a little book
to Houghton Muffin, which they propose to bring out as soon as possible. It
is entitled "My First Summer in the Sierra." I also have another book nearly
ready, made up of a lot of animal stories for boys, drawn from my
experiences as a boy in Scotland and in the wild oak openings of Wisconsin.
I have also rewritten the autobiographical notes dictated at Harriman's
Pelican Lodge on Klamath Lake two years ago, but that seems to be an endless
job, and, if completed at all, will require many a year. Next month I mean
to try to bring together a lot of Yosemite material into a handbook for
travelers, which ought to have been written long ago.
So you see I am fairly busy,
and precious few trips will I be able to make this summer, although I took
Professor Osborn and family into the Yosemite for a few days, and Mr. Hooker
and his party on a short trip to the Grand Caņon.
Are you coming West this
year? It would be delightful to see you once more.
I often think of the misery
of Mr. Burroughs and his physician, caused by our revels in Burns' poems,
reciting verse about in the resonant board chamber whose walls transmitted
every one of the blessed words to the sleepy and unwilling ears of John....
Fun to us, but death and broken slumbers to Oom John!
With all best wishes, my dear
Browne, and many warmly cherished memories, I am Ever faithfully your friend
To Henry Fairfield Osborn
325 WEST ADAMS STREET Los
June 1, 1910
MY DEAR MR. OSBORN:
Many thanks for the copy you
sent me of your long good manly letter to Mr. Robert J. Collier on the
Hetch-Hetchy Yosemite Park. As I suppose you have seen by the newspapers,
San Francisco will have until May 1, 1911, to show cause why Hetch-Hetchy
Valley should not be eliminated from the permit which the Government has
given the city to develop a water supply in Yosemite Park. Meantime the
municipality is to have detailed surveys made of the Lake Eleanor watershed,
of the Hetch-Hetchy, and other available sources, and furnish such data and
information as may be directed by the board of army engineers appointed by
the President to act in an advisory capacity with Secretary Ballinger. Mr.
Ballinger said to the San Francisco proponents of the damming scheme, "I
want to know what is necessary so far as the Hetch-Hetchy is concerned." He
also said, "What this Government wants to know and the American people want
to know is whether it is a matter of absolute necessity for the people of
San Francisco to have this water supply. Otherwise it belongs to the people
for the purpose of a national park for which it has been set aside."
Ballinger suggested that the Lake Eleanor plans should be submitted to the
engineers at once so that they could have them as a basis for ascertaining
if the full development of that watershed is contemplated, and to make a
report of its data to the engineers as its preparation proceeded so that
they may be kept in immediate touch with what is being done. Of the outcome
of this thorough examination of the scheme there can be no doubt, and it
must surely put the question at rest for all time, at least as far as our
great park is concerned, and perhaps all the other national parks.
I have been hidden down here
in Los Angeles a month or two working hard on books. Two or three weeks ago
I sent the manuscript of a small book to Houghton Muffin Company, who expect
to bring it out as soon as possible. It is entitled "My First Summer in the
Sierra," written from notes made forty-one years ago. I have also nearly
ready a lot of animal stories for a boys' book, drawn chiefly from my
experiences as a boy in Scotland and in the wild oak openings of Wisconsin.
I have also rewritten a lot of autobiographical notes dictated at Mr.
Harriman's Pelican Lodge on Klamath Lake two years ago. Next month I hope to
bring together a lot of Yosemite sketches for a sort of travelers'
guidebook, which ought to have been written many years ago.
So you see, what with
furnishing illustrations, reading proof, and getting this Yosemite guidebook
off my hands, it will not be likely that I can find time for even a short
visit to New York this summer. Possibly, however, I may be able to get away
a few weeks in the autumn. Nothing, as you well know, would be more
delightful than a visit to your blessed Garrison's-on-the-Hudson, and I am
sure to make it some time ere long, unless my usual good luck should fail me
With warmest regards to Mrs.
Osborn and Josephine and all the family, I am, my dear Mr. Osborn,
Ever faithfully your friend
To Mrs. J. D. Hooker
MARTINEZ, September 15, 1910
DEAR Mrs. Hooker:
Be of good cheer, make the
best of whatever befalls; keep as near to headquarters as you may, and you
will surely triumph over the ills of life, its frets and cares, with all
other vermin of either earth or sky.
I'm ashamed to have enjoyed my visit so much. A lone good soul can still
work miracles, charm an outlandish, crooked, zigzag flat into a lofty
Do you know these fine verses
"I will not doubt for
Nor falter from a steadfast faith,
For though the system be turned o'er,
God takes not back the word which once he saith.
"I will, then, trust the love
Which not my worth nor want has bought,
Which wooed me young and wooes me old,
And to this evening hath me brought."
Ever your friend
To Mrs. J. D. Hooker
MARTINEZ, December 17, 1910
DEAR MRS. HOOKER:
I'm glad you're at work on a
book, for as far as I know, however high or low Fortune's winds may blow
o'er life's solemn main, there is nothing so saving as good hearty work.
From a letter just received from the Lark I learn the good news that Mr.
Hooker is also hard at work with his pen.
As for myself, I've been
reading old musty dusty Yosemite notes until I'm tired and blinky blind,
trying to arrange them in something like lateral, medial, and terminal
moraines on my den floor. I never imagined I had accumulated so vast a
number. The long trains and embankments and heaped-up piles are truly
appalling. I thought that in a quiet day or two I might select all that
would be required for a guidebook; but the stuff seems enough for a score of
big jungle books, and it's very hard, I find, to steer through it on
anything like a steady course in reasonable time. Therefore, I'm beginning
to see that I'll have to pick out only a moderate-sized bagful for the book
and abandon the bulk of it to waste away like a snowbank or grow into other
forms as time and chance may determine.
So, after all, I may be able
to fly south in a few days and alight in your fine can-on garret. Anyhow,
with good will and good wishes, to you all, I am
To Mrs. J. D. Hooker
[June 26, 1911]
. . I went to New Haven
Tuesday morning, the 20th, was warmly welcomed and entertained by Professor
Phelps and taken to the ball game in the afternoon. Though at first a little
nervous, especially about the approaching honorary degree ceremony, I
quickly caught the glow of the Yale enthusiasm. Never before have I seen or
heard anything just like it. The alumni, assembled in classes from all the
country, were arrayed in wildly colored uniforms, and the way they rejoiced
and made merry, capered and danced, sang and yelled, marched and ran,
doubled, quadrupled, octupled is utterly indescribable; autumn leaves in
whirlwinds are staid and dignified in comparison.
Then came memorable Wednesday
when we donned our radiant academic robes and marched to the great hall
where the degrees were conferred, shining like crow blackbirds. I was given
perhaps the best seat on the platform, and when my name was called I arose
with a grand air, shook my massive academic plumes into finest fluting
folds, as became the occasion, stepped forward in awful majesty and stood
rigid and solemn like an ancient sequoia while the orator poured praise on
the honored wanderer's head - and in this heroic attitude I think I had
better leave him. Here is what the orator said. Pass it on to Helen at
Daggett. My love to all who love you.
To John Burroughs
GARRISON, N.Y. July 14, 1911
DEAR JOHN BURROUGHS:
When I was on the train
passing your place I threw you a hearty salute across the river, but I don't
suppose that you heard or felt it. I would have been with you long ago if I
had not been loaded down with odds and ends of duties, book-making,
book-selling at Boston, Yosemite and Park affairs at Washington, and making
arrangements for getting off to South America, etc., etc. I have never
worked harder in my life, although I have not very much to show for it. I
have got a volume of my autobiography finished. Houghton Muffin are to bring
it out. They want to bring it out immediately, but I would like to have at
least part of it run through some suitable magazine, and thus gain ten or
twenty times more readers than would be likely to see it in a book.
I have been working for the
last month or more on the Yosemite book, trying to finish it before leaving
for the Amazon, but I am not suffering in a monstrous city. I am on the top
of as green a hill as I have seen in all the State, with hermit thrushes,
woodchucks, and warm hearts, something like those about yourself.
I am at a place that I
suppose you know well, Professor Osborn's summer residence at Garrison's,
opposite West Point. After Mrs. Harriman left for Arden I went down to the
"Century" Editorial Rooms, where I was offered every facility for writing in
Gilder's room, and tried to secure a boarding-place near Union Square, but
the first day was so hot that it made my head swim, and I hastily made
preparations for this comfortable home up on the hill here, where I will
remain until perhaps the 15th of August, when I expect to sail.
Nothing would be more
delightful than to go from one beautiful place to another and from one
friend to another, but it is utterly impossible to visit a hundredth part of
the friends who are begging me to go and see them and at the same time get
any work done. I am now shut up in a magnificent room pegging away at that
book, and working as hard as I ever did in my life. I do not know what has
got into me, making so many books all at once. It is not natural....
With all good wishes to your
big and happy family, I am ever
Faithfully your friend
To Mrs. Henry Fairfield Osborn
PARA, BRAZIL, August 29, 1911
DEAR MRS. OSBORN:
Here at last is The River and
thanks to your and Mrs. Harriman's loving care I'm well and strong for all
South American work in sight that looks like mine.
Arrived here last eve - after
a pleasant voyage - a long charming slide all the way to the equator between
beautiful water and beautiful sky.
Approaching Para, had a
glorious view of fifty miles or so of forest on the right bank of the river.
This alone is noble compensation for my long desired and waited-for Amazon
journey, even should I see no more.
And it's delightful to
contemplate your cool restful mountain trip which is really a part of this
equator trip. The more I see of our goodly Godly star, the more plainly
comes to sight and mind the truth that it is all one like a face, every
feature radiating beauty on the others.
I expect to start up the
river to Manaos in a day or two on the Dennis. Will write again on my return
before going south - and will hope to get a letter from you and Mr. Osborn,
who must be enjoying his well-earned rest. How often I've wished him with
me. I often think of you and Josephine among the Avalanche Lake clintonias
and linrneas. And that lovely boy at Castle Rock. Virginia played benevolent
mother delightfully and sent me off rejoicing.
My love to each and all;
ever, dear friend and friends,
To Mrs. J. D. Hooker
September 19, 1911
Of course you need absolute
rest. Lie down among the pines for a while, then get to plain, pure, white
love-work with Marian, to help humanity and other mortals and the Lord -
heal the sick, cheer the sorrowful, break the jaws of the wicked, etc. But
this Amazon delta sermon is growing too long. How glad I am that Marian was
not with me, on account of yellow fever and the most rapidly deadly of the
malarial kinds so prevalent up the river.
Nevertheless, I've had a most
glorious time on this trip, dreamed of nearly half a century - have seen
more than a thousand miles of the noblest of Earth's streams, and gained far
more telling views of the wonderful forests than I ever hoped for. The
Amazon, as you know, is immensely broad, but for hundreds of miles the
steamer ran so close to the bossy leafy banks I could almost touch the
out-reaching branches - fancy how I stared and sketched.
I was a week at Manaos on the
Rio Negro tributary, wandered in the wonderful woods, got acquainted with
the best of the citizens through Mr. Sanford, a graduate of Yale, was dined
and guided and guarded and befriended in the most wonderful way, and had a
grand telling time in general. I have no end of fine things for you in the
way of new beauty. The only fevers I have had so far are burning
enthusiasms, but there's no space for them in letters.
Here, however, is something
that I must tell right now. Away up in that wild Manaos region in the very
heart of the vast Amazon basin I found a little case of books in a lonely
house. Glancing over the titles, none attracted me except a soiled volume at
the end of one of the shelves, the blurred title of which I was unable to
read, so I opened the glass door, opened the book, and out of it like magic
jumped Katharme and Marian Hooker, apparently in the very flesh. The book,
needless to say, was "Wayfarers in Italy." The joy-shock I must not try to
tell in detail, for medical Marian might call the whole story an equatorial
Dear, dear friend, again
good-bye. Rest in God's peace.
To Mrs. J. D. Hooker
PYRAMIDES HOTEL, MONTEVIDEO
December 6, 1911
MY DEAR FRIEND:
Your letter of October 4th
from San Francisco was forwarded from Para to Buenos Aires and received
there at the American Consulate. Your and Marian's letter, dated August 7th,
were received at Para, not having been quite in time to reach me before I
sailed, but forwarded by Mrs. Osborn. I can't think how I could have failed
to acknowledge them. I have them and others with me, and they have been read
times numberless when I was feeling lonely on my strange wanderings in all
sorts of places.
But I'm now done with this
glorious continent, at least for the present, as far as hard journeys along
rivers, across mountains and tablelands, and through strange forests are
concerned. I've seen all I sought for, and far, far, far more. From Para I
sailed to Rio de Janeiro and at the first eager gaze into its wonderful
harbor saw that it was a glacier bay, as unchanged by weathering as any in
Alaska, every rock in it and about it a glacial monument, though within 23°
of the equator, and feathered with palms instead of spruces, while every
mountain and bay all the way down the coast to the Rio Grande do Sul
corroborates the strange icy story. From Rio I sailed to Santos, and thence
struck inland and wandered most joyfully a thousand miles or so, mostly in
the State of Parana, through millions of acres of the ancient tree I was so
anxious to find, Arau Caria Brasillensis. Just think of the glow of my joy
in these noble aboriginal forests - the face of every tree marked with the
inherited experiences of millions of years. From Paranagua I sailed for
Buenos Aires; crossed the Andes to Santiago, Chile; thence south four or
five hundred miles; thence straight to the snow-line, and found a glorious
forest of Araucaria imbricata, the strangest of the strange genus.
The day after to-morrow,
December 8th, I intend to sail for Teneriffe on way to South Africa; then
home some way or other. But I can give no address until I reach New York.
I'm so glad your health is restored, and, now that you are free to obey your
heart and have your brother's help and Marian's cosmic energy, your
good-doing can have no end. I'm glad you are not going to sell the Los
Angeles garret and garden. Why, I hardly know. Perhaps because I'm weary and
lonesome, with a long hot journey ahead, and I feel as if I were again
bidding you all good-bye. I think you may send me a word or two to Cape
Town, care the American Consul. It would not be lost, for it would follow
It's perfectly marvelous how
kind hundreds of people have been to this wanderer, and the new beauty
stored up is far beyond telling. Give my love to Marian, Maude, and Ellie
and all who love you. I wish you would write a line now and then to darling
Helen. She has a little bungalow of her own now at 233 Formosa Avenue,
It's growing late, and I've
miserable packing to do. Good-night. And once more, dear, dear friend,
To Mr. and Mrs. Henry
January 31, 1912
What a lot of wild water has
been roaring between us since those blessed Castle Rock days! But, roll and
roar as it might, you have never been out of heart-sight.
How often I've wished you
with me on the best of my wanderings so full of good things guided by
wonderful luck, or shall I reverently, thankfully say Providence? Anyhow, it
seems that I've had the most fruitful time of my life on this pair of hot
continents. But I must not try to write my gains, for they are utterly
unletterable both in size and kind. I'll tell what I can when I see you,
probably in three months or less. From Cape Town I went north to the Zambesi
baobab forests and Victoria Falls, and thence down through a glacial
wonderland to Beira, where I caught this steamer, and am on my way to
Mombasa and the Nyanza Lake region. From Mombasa I intend starting homeward
via Suez and Naples and New York, fondly hoping to find you well. In the
meantime I'm sending lots of wireless, tireless love messages to each and
every Osborn, for I am
Ever faithfully yours
To Mrs. Anna R. Dickey
May 1, 1912
DEAR CHEERY, EXHILARATING
Your fine lost letter has
reached me at last. I found it in the big talus-heap awaiting me here.
The bright, shining,
faithful, hopeful way you bear your crushing burdens is purely divine, out
of darkness cheering everybody else with noble godlike sympathy. I'm so glad
you have a home with the birds in the evergreen oaks - the feathered folk
singing for you and every leaf shining, reflecting God's love. Donald, too,
is so brave and happy. With youth on his side and joyful work, he is sure to
grow stronger and under every disadvantage do more as a naturalist than
thousands of others with every resource of health and wealth and special
I'm in my old library den,
the house desolate, nobody living in it save a hungry mouse or two.... [I
hold] dearly cherished memories about it and the fine garden grounds full of
trees and bushes and flowers that my wife and father-in-law and I planted-
fine things from every land.
But there's no good bread
hereabouts and no housekeeper, so I may never be able to make it a home,
fated, perhaps, to wander until sundown. Anyhow, I've had a glorious life,
and I'll never have the heart to complain. The roses now are overrunning all
bounds in glory of full bloom, and the Lebanon and Himalaya cedars, and the
palms and Australian trees and shrubs, and the oaks on the valley hills seem
happier and more exuberant than ever.
The Chelan trip would be
according to my own heart, but whether or no I can go I dinna ken. Only lots
of hard pen work seems certain. Anywhere, anyhow, with love to Donald, I am,
To William E. Colby
Mr. and Mrs. Edward T. Parsons
1525 FORMOSA AVENUE HOLLYWOOD,
June 24, 1912
DEAR MR. COLBY AND MR. AND
I thank you very much for
your kind wishes to give me a pleasant Kern River trip, and am very sorry
that work has been so unmercifully piled upon me that I find it impossible
to escape from it, so I must just stay and work.
I heartily congratulate you
and all your merry mountaineers on the magnificent trip that lies before
you. As you know, I have seen something of nearly all the mountain-chains of
the world, and have experienced their varied climates and attractions of
forests and rivers, lakes and meadows, etc. In fact, I have seen a little of
all the high places and low places of the continents, but no mountain-range
seems to me so kind, so beautiful, or so fine in its sculpture as the Sierra
Nevada. If you were as free as the winds are and the light to choose a
campground in any part of the globe, I could not direct you to a single
place for your outing that, all things considered, is so attractive, so
exhilarating and uplifting in every way as just the trip that you are now
making. You are far happier than you know. Good luck to you all, and I shall
hope to see you all on your return -boys and girls, with the sparkle and
exhilaration of the mountains still in your eyes. With love and countless
fondly cherished memories,
Ever faithfully yours
Of course, in all your
camp-fire preaching and praying you will never forget Hetch-Hetchy.
To Howard Palmer
December 12, 1912
MR. HOWARD PALMER
Secretary American Alpine Club
New London, Conn.
At the National Parks
conference in Yosemite Valley last October, called by the Honorable
Secretary of the Interior, comparatively little of importance was
considered. The great question was, "Shall automobiles be allowed to enter
Yosemite?" It overshadowed all others, and a prodigious lot of gaseous
commercial eloquence was spent upon it by auto-club delegates from near and
The principal objection urged
against the puffing machines was that on the steep Yosemite grades they
would cause serious accidents. The machine men roared in reply that far
fewer park-going people would be killed or wounded by the auto-way than by
the old prehistoric wagon-way. All signs indicate automobile victory, and
doubtless, under certain precautionary restrictions, these useful,
progressive, blunt-nosed mechanical beetles will hereafter be allowed to
puff their way into all the parks and mingle their gas-breath with the
breath of the pines and waterfalls, and, from the mountaineer's standpoint,
with but little harm or good.
In getting ready for the
Canal-celebration visitors the need of opening the Valley gates as wide as
possible was duly considered, and the repair of roads and trails, hotel and
camp building, the supply of cars and stages and arrangements in general for
getting the hoped-for crowds safely into the Valley and out again. But the
Yosemite Park was lost sight of, as if its thousand square miles of
wonderful mountains, canons, glaciers, forests, and songful falling rivers
had no existence.
In the development of the
Park a road is needed from the Valley along the upper caņon of the Merced,
across to the head of Tuolumne Meadows, down the great Tuolumne Caņon to
Hetch-Hetchy valley, and thence back to Yosemite by the Big Oak Flat road.
Good walkers can go anywhere in these hospitable mountains without
artificial ways. But most visitors have to be rolled on wheels with blankets
and kitchen arrangements.
Of course the few
mountaineers present got in a word now and then on the need of park
protection from commercial invasion like that now threatening Hetch-Hetchy.
In particular the Secretary of the American Civic Association and the Sierra
Club spoke on the highest value of wild parks as places of recreation,
Nature's cathedrals, where all may gain inspiration and strength and get
nearer to God.
The great need of a landscape
gardener to lay out the roads and direct the work of thinning out the heavy
undergrowth was also urged.
With all good New Year
wishes, I am
To Asa K. Mcllhaney
January 10, 1913
Mu. ASA K. MCILHANEY
I thank you for your fine
letter, but in reply I can't tell which of all God's trees I like best,
though I should write a big book trying to. Sight-seers often ask me which
is best, the Grand Caņon of Arizona or Yosemite. I always reply that I know
a show better than either of them - both of them.
Anglo-Saxon folk have
inherited love for oaks and heathers. Of all I know of the world's two
hundred and fifty oaks perhaps I like best the macrocarpa, chrysolepis,
lobata, Virginiana, agrifolia, and Michauxii. Of the little heather folk my
favorite is Cassiope; of the trees of the family, the Menzies arbutus, one
of the world's great trees. The hickory is a favorite genus - I like them
all, the pecan the best. Of flower trees, magnolia and liriodendron and the
wonderful baobab; of conifers, Sequoia gigantea, the noblest of the whole
noble race, and sugar pine, king of pines, and silver firs, especially
magnifica. The grand larch forests of the upper Missouri and of Manchuria
and the glorious deodars of the Himalaya, araucarias of Brazil and Chile and
Australia. The wonderful eucalyptus, two hundred species, the New Zealand
metrosideros and agathis. The magnificent eriodendron of the Amazon and the
palm and tree fern and tree grass forests, and in our own country the
delightful linden and oxydendron and maples and so on, without end. I may as
well stop here as anywhere.
Wishing you a happy New Year
and good times in God's woods,
To Miss M. Merrill
May 31, 1913
DEAR MINA MERRILL:
I am more delighted with your
letter than I can tell - to see your handwriting once more and know that you
still love me. For through all life's wanderings you have held a warm place
in my heart, and I have never ceased to thank God for giving me the blessed
Merrill family as lifelong friends. As to the Scotch way of bringing up
children, to which you refer, I think it is often too severe or even cruel.
And as I hate cruelty, I called attention to it in the boyhood book while at
the same time pointing out the value of sound religious training with steady
work and restraint.
I'm now at work on an Alaska
book, and as soon as it is off my hands I mean to continue the autobiography
from leaving the University to botanical excursions in the northern woods,
around Indianapolis, and thence to Florida, Cuba, and California. This. will
be volume number two.
It is now seven years since
my beloved wife vanished in the land of the leal. Both of my girls are
happily married and have homes and children of their own. Wanda has three
lively boys, Helen has two and is living at Daggett, California. Wanda is
living on the ranch in the old adobe, while I am alone in my library den in
the big house on the hill where you and sister Kate found me on your
memorable visit long ago.
As the shadows lengthen in
life's afternoon, we cling all the more fondly to the friends of our youth.
And it is with the warmest gratitude that I recall the kindness of all your
family when I was lying in darkness. That Heaven may ever bless you, dear
Mina, is the heart prayer of your
To Mrs. Henry Fairfield Osborn
July 3, 1913
DEAR MRS. OSBORN:
Warm thanks, thanks, thanks
for your July invitation to blessed Castle Rock. How it goes to my heart all
of you must know, but wae's me! I see no way of escape from the work piled
on me here - the gatherings of half a century of wilderness wanderings to be
sorted and sifted into something like clear, useful form. Never mind-for,
anywhere, everywhere in immortal soul sympathy, I'm always with my friends,
let time and the seas and continents spread their years and miles as they
Ever gratefully, faithfully
To Henry Fairfield Osborn
July 15, 1913
DEAR FRIEND OSBORN
I had no thought of your
leaving your own great work and many-fold duties to go before the House
Committee on the everlasting Hetch-Hetchy fight, but only to write to
members of Congress you might know, especially to President Wilson, a
Princeton man. This is the twenty-third year of almost continual battle for
preservation of Yosemite National Park, sadly interrupting my natural work.
Our enemies now seem to be having most everything their own wicked way,
working beneath obscuring tariff and bank clouds, spending millions of the
people's money for selfish ends. Think of three or four ambitious, shifty
traders and politicians calling themselves "The City of San Francisco,"
bargaining with the United States for half of the Yosemite Park like Yankee
horse-traders, as if the grandest of all our mountain playgrounds, full of
God's best gifts, the joy and admiration of the world, were of no more
account than any of the long list of tinker tariff articles.
Where are you going this
summer? Wish I could go with you. The pleasure of my long lovely
Garrison-Hudson Castle Rock days grows only the clearer and dearer as the
years flow by.
My love to you, dear friend,
and to all who love you.
To Mr. and Mrs. Henry
January 4, 1914
DEAR FRIENDS OSBORN:
With all my heart I wish you
a happy New Year. How hard you have fought in the good fight to save the
Tuolumne Yosemite I well know. The battle has lasted twelve years, from
Pinchot and Company to President Wilson, and the wrong has prevailed over
the best aroused sentiment of the whole country.
That a lane lined with lies
could be forced through the middle of the U.S. Congress is truly wonderful
even in these confused political days - a devil's masterpiece of log-rolling
road-making. But the approval of such a job by scholarly, virtuous,
Princeton Wilson is the greatest wonder of all! Fortunately wrong cannot
last; soon or late it must fall back home to Hades, while some compensating
good must surely follow.
With the new year to new work
right gladly we will go - you to your studies of God's langsync people in
their magnificent Wyoming- Idaho mausoleums, I to crystal ice.
So devoutly prays your
grateful admiring friend
To Andrew Carnegie
January 22, 1914
Many thanks, dear Mr.
Carnegie, for your admirable "Apprenticeship." To how many fine godly men
and women has our stormy, craggy, glacier-sculptured little Scotland given
birth, influencing for good every country under the sun! Our immortal poet
while yet a boy wished that for poor auld Scotland's sake he might "sing a
sang at least." And what a song you have sung with your ringing, clanging
hammers and furnace fires, blowing and flaming like volcanoes - a truly
wonderful Caledonian performance. But far more wonderful is your coming
forth out of that tremendous titanic iron and dollar work with a heart in
sympathy with all humanity.
Like John Wesley, who took
the world for his parish, you are teaching and preaching over all the world
in your own Scotch way, with heroic benevolence putting to use the mine and
mill wealth won from the iron hills. What wonderful burdens you have carried
all your long life, and seemingly so easily and naturally, going right ahead
on your course, steady as a star! How strong you must be and happy in doing
so much good, in being able to illustrate so nobly the national character
founded on God's immutable righteousness that makes Scotland loved at home,
revered abroad! Everybody blessed with a drop of Scotch blood must be proud
of you and bid you godspeed.
Your devoted admirer
To Dr. C. Hart Merriam
February 11, 1914
DEAR Dr. MERRIAM:
I was very glad to hear from
you once more last month, for, as you say, I haven't heard from you for an
age. I fully intended to grope my way to Lagunitas in the fall before last,
but it is such ancient history that I have only very dim recollections of
the difficulty that hindered me from making the trip. I hope, however, to
have better luck next spring for I am really anxious to see you all once
I congratulate Dorothy on her
engagement to marry Henry Abbot. If he is at all like his blessed old
grandfather he must prove a glorious prize in life's lottery. I have been
intimately acquainted with General Abbot ever since we camped together for
months on the Forestry Commission, towards the end of President Cleveland's
Wanda, her husband, and three
boys are quite well, living on the ranch here, in the old adobe, while I am
living alone in the big house on the hill.
After living a year or two in
Los Angeles, Helen with her two fine boys and her husband returned to the
alfalfa ranch on the edge of the Mojave Desert near Daggett, on the Santa Fe
Railway. They are all in fine health and will be glad to get word from you.
Our winter here has been one
of the stormiest and foggiest I have ever experienced, and unfortunately I
caught the grippe. The last two weeks, however, the weather has been quite
bright and sunny and I hope soon to be as well as ever and get to work
That a few ruthless ambitious
politicians should have been able to run a tunnel lined with all sorts of
untruthful bewildering statements through both houses of Congress for
Hetch-Hetchy is wonderful, but that the President should have signed the
Raker Bill is most wonderful of all. As you say, it is a monumental mistake,
but it is more, it is a monumental crime.
I have not heard a word yet
from the Baileys. Hoping that they are well and looking forward with
pleasure to seeing you all soon in California, I am as ever
Despite his hopeful allusion
to the grippe which he had caught early in the winter of 1914, the disease
made farther and farther inroads upon his vitality. Yet he worked away
steadily at the task of completing his Alaska book. During the closing
months he had the aid of Mrs. Marion Randall Parsons, at whose home the
transcription of his Alaska journals had been begun in November, 1912.
Unfortunately the Hetch-Hetchy conspiracy became acute again, and the book,
barely begun, had to be laid aside that he might save, if possible, his
beloved "Tuolumne Yosemite." "We may lose this particular fight," he wrote
to William E. Colby, "but truth and right must prevail at last. Anyhow we
must be true to ourselves and the Lord."
This particular battle,
indeed, was lost because the park invaders had finally got into office a
Secretary of the Interior who had previously been on San Francisco's payroll
as an attorney to promote the desired Hetch-Hetchy legislation; also,
because various other politicians of easy convictions on such fundamental
questions of public policy as this had been won over to a concerted drive to
accomplish the "grab" during a special summer session when no effective
representation of opposing organizations could be secured. So flagrant was
the performance in every aspect of it that Senator John D. Works of
California afterwards introduced in the Senate a bill to repeal the
Hetch-Hetchy legislation and in his vigorous remarks accompanying the same
set forth the points on which he justified his action. But the fate of the
Valley was sealed.
John Muir turned sadly but
courageously to his note-books and memories of the great glacier-ploughed
wilderness of Alaska. Shortly before Christmas, 1914, he set his house in
order as if he had a presentiment that he was leaving it for the last time,
and went to pay a holiday visit to the home of his younger daughter at
Daggett. Upon his arrival there he was smitten with pneumonia and was rushed
to a hospital in Los Angeles, where all his wanderings ended on Christmas
Eve. Spread about him on the bed, when the end came, were manuscript sheets
of his last book "Travels in Alaska" - to which he was bravely struggling to
give the last touches before the coming of "the long sleep."