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I am a Denver-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

My First Summer in the Sierra

I wanted to learn more about John Muir, so while I was at the Muir Woods National Monument north of San Francisco, I picked up a copy of My First Summer in the Sierra. It seemed reasonable to think that I would learn the most about Muir from his own words, particularly those he wrote in the mountains to which I would soon be driving. So, shortly after purchasing my new book, I kicked back in my hotel after a day spent exploring the streets of San Francisco, cracked the binding and began devouring his first words.

John Muir tended sheep in the Sierra mountains near present day Yosemite National Park in 1869. He had plenty of time to explore the mountains around him, though, and to keep a journal of his days. This diary, complete with Muir’s original illustrations, is now called My First Summer in the Sierra. And I believe it is best summed up by a line on page 254: “One day in the midst of these divine glories is well worth living and toiling and starving for.”
John Muir’s words are so meticulous that he leaves no stone unturned or tree unclimbed in My First Summer in the Sierra. He decribes the mountains, valleys, streams and trees perfectly, all the way down to the smallest pebble in the creek bed. But, it is his noted inner observations and feelings that I feel truly described just how beautiful the scenery is which he travels through: “I’m glad I’m not great enough to be missed in the busy world.” (page 250)
If there is one thing I do not care for in My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir, it is that I did not read it before traveling to the mountains. As I lounged in a bar in Yosemite Village in the national park at dusk, I looked out upon the landscape, high up to the Yosemite Falls, and wished I had read Muir’s complete collection about the mountains before traveling there myself. Then, without any interruption, I could gaze out upon the mountains and valleys myself and more easily appreciate that which Muir loved.
Regardless, I loved My First Summer in the Sierra and would recommend it to anyone. John Muir was an inspiration in his time, influencing many people to travel to the mountains and the Yosemite Valley by his words, and is no less important today when it comes to describing the glories of the landscape. Thanks to him, many people plan vacations to Yosemite National Park and the surrounding mountains, only to wake up to say, “How deathlike is sleep in this mountain air and quick the awakening into the newness of life! A calm dawn, yellow and purple, then floods of sun-gold, making everything tingle and glow.” (page 144)
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