John Muir High Country and Wild Wool (Part One)

I so admire the man who found personal transformation and a sense of home deep in the wilderness of the High Sierra Nevada mountains, and fought to bring his experience of the territory into the lives of the general masses with his writing and activism. The masses who from a distance were readily destroying virgin wilderness with logging, mining, dam-building, and all manners of disregard in the turn of the last century. That man is John Muir, said to be the Father of Modern Environmentalism. That man is the man who made his home along the very lakes in the Sierra Nevada which I have camped, and who divided himself limb to limb to bring the High Sierra to the world, in attempt to protect it, its wildlife, the giant old-growth sequoias, and perfect beauty of the high mountain wilderness.

john-muir carleton watkins

John Muir , born April 21, 1838 – died December 24, 1914,  was a Scottish-American naturalist & author, environmental philosopher and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada of California, have been read by millions. His activism helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park, and other wilderness areas. The Sierra Club, which he founded, is a prominent American conservation organization. The 211-mile (340 km) John Muir Trail, a hiking trail in the Sierra Nevada was named in his honor. read more ….

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Yosemite Valley,  by Carleton Watkins, John Muir’s friend and photographer.

In case you didn’t know, I am an experienced hiker of John Muir territory, although it’s been a time since I’ve returned there.  As a bit of proof, take photos below backpacking eight days along John Muir’s High Route, culminating on the peak of Mount Whitney in August of 2001.

Mt Whitney 2001

Above photo is of  our group, Jeff directly behind me, all of us tired but totally and completely gratified.

On Top of Mt Whitney, John Muir High Sierra, Aug. 2001

And that’s me at the  Mount Whitney plaque , quite exhausted and glacier-burnt in the face,  from the epic trip but also from the push up from Guitar Lake that morning.   Mount Whitney was for that eight-day trek the end of the line,  and of the John Muir High Country Route.  I nearly am dumb-struck just to take in the scope of the majestic granite mountain, and to realize that I actually was at the top of it!

Mount_Whitney_2003-03-25

I could go on indefinitely about John Muir’s High Country, but let me not ramble too much on side-trails and back-story, and let me bring attention to this noble creature…

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Wild mountain sheep!  In fact, the very wild sheep ( subspecies of ovis montana ) which inhabit the High Sierra and who’s tufts of downy wool Muir found and mused him to write a pithy chapter entitled “Wild Wool” from his publication Steep Trails.

“…pure wildness is the one great want, both of men and of sheep.”

” Give to Nature every cultured apple — codling, pippin, russet — and every sheep so laboriously compounded — muffled Southdowns, hairy Cotswolds, wrinkled Merinos — and she would throw the one to her caterpillars, the other to her wolves.”

“…and our wild sheep, wading in snow, roaming through bushes, and leaping among jagged storm-beaten cliffs, wears a dress so exquisitely adapted to its mountain life that it is always found as unruffled and stainless as a bird.”

excerpts from “Wild Wool” by John Muir

Visit Sierra Club archives to read “ Wild Wool “ from John Muir’s “Steep Trails”, 1918

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This is part one of a two-part post about John Muir, the High Sierra, and a new design which has come out of it. ( Stay tuned for Part Two forthcoming !) In the meantime, I hope you really do read Wild Wool  and acquaint yourself with some of John Muir’s writing of High Sierra Wilderness, and of the wild sheep.

BigHorn Sheep_yosemite

Now you can read Part Two: “Wild Wool” Trail Socks

7 thoughts on “John Muir High Country and Wild Wool (Part One)

  1. Such an incredible man was John Muir, and I feel so grateful about his accomplishments having just read the text from the links to Wild Wool on Sierra Club archives, and Wikipedia pages. I would have never guessed you to have a past of such mountaineering Jen, waiting for part 2!

    • Oh Thank you so much for letting me know, I had a very difficult time figuring out the species. Could you tell me what subspecies these Sierra wild sheep are?

    • Dale, thanks again, I just edited the text to “subspecies of Ova Montana” . Now hopefully it is correct enough until I am informed for the exact subspecies. 🙂

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