~John Muir, "The Story of My Boyhood and Youth"
Long considered the "father of the U.S. National Park System," and the founder of the Sierra Club, John Muir's influence and footprint stretch to all corners of this continent and beyond. But his humble beginnings in the New World were on a farm about an hour from my home.
I learned about John Muir in grade school. But lately, I've realized I want to learn more. If everything goes as planned, this year I'll visit three geographical locations significant to Muir:
1. Fountain Lake Farm, just 57 miles north of Madison, Wis., and mere minutes from our summer cottage. Now designated John Muir Memorial Park, it's a state natural area and a national historic landmark. We drive by the park several times each summer, and have hiked there in the past.
2. The Gulf Coast of Florida. In 1867, John Muir spent seven weeks on a "thousand-mile walk" from Indianapolis to Cedar Key, Fla. In March, we plan to vacation near Cedar Key. Hopefully we'll find time for a roadtrip to Muir's historical marker.
3. San Francisco, Calif., home of the John Muir National Historic Site. After traveling to California in 1868, Muir resided in that state for most of the remainder of his life, until he died in 1914 at the age of 76. The Garden Bloggers' Fling is set for June 28-30, in San Francisco. If I can scrounge up the funds, I'll be there.
This confluence of opportunities, plus my own interest, are steering me toward a John Muir theme in the months ahead. It's not difficult to find information about this beloved U.S. naturalist. Muir, himself, wrote 12 books and numerous essays, magazine articles, and published letters. And hundreds (thousands?) of books have been written about Muir.
Living in the state where the young Muir, his siblings, and his parents first settled after emigrating from Scotland, I feel a little pride and connectedness to Muir, as do many Wisconsinites.The land where the Muir family first settled hasn't changed much. The wildlife is similar, with the exception of passenger pigeons, now extinct, and several other species--including wolves and cougars--which, although on the increase, aren't as prevalent as they were in Muir's day.
I hope to include at least one post per month about Muir during 2013. And during these cold months, Muir's words about his first winters in Wisconsin ring true:
“It seemed very wonderful to us that the wild animals could keep themselves warm and strong in winter when the temperature was far below zero.” And regarding the “paradise of birds”: “Comparatively few species remained all winter—the nuthatch, chickadee, owl, prairie chicken, quail, and a few stragglers from the main flocks of ducks, jays, hawks, and bluebirds. Only after the country was settled did either jays or bluebirds winter with us...The brave, frost-defying chickadees and nuthatches stayed all the year, wholly independent of farms and man’s food and affairs.”
*Facts listed here courtesy the Sierra Club