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The Mountains of California

John Muir

Book Overview: 

John Muir was one of the first modern preservationists. His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in nature, and wildlife, especially in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, were read by millions and are still popular today. His direct activism helped to save the Yosemite Valley and other wilderness areas. The Sierra Club, which he founded, is now one of the most important conservation organizations in the United States. His writings and philosophy strongly influenced the formation of the modern environmental movement.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . . melting surface with a smooth, oily appearance, in channels of pure ice—their quick, compliant movements contrasting most impressively with the rigid, invisible flow of the glacier itself, on whose back they all were riding.

Night drew near before I reached the eastern base of the mountain, and my camp lay many a rugged mile to the north; but ultimate success was assured. It was now only a matter of endurance and ordinary mountain-craft. The sunset was, if possible, yet more beautiful than that of the day before. The Mono landscape seemed to be fairly saturated with warm, purple light. The peaks marshaled along the summit were in shadow, but through every notch and pass streamed vivid sun-fire, soothing and irradiating their rough, black angles, while companies of small, luminous clouds hovered above them like very angels of light.

Darkness came on, but I found my way by the trends of the cañons and the peaks proje. . . Read More

Community Reviews

I’d read a later edition of this collection of John Muir’s nature essays once before, while visiting the Sierras for some skiing and snowshoeing. This text is the original 1894 edition, although Goodreads states incorrectly that it’s reprinted from the 1911 edition. The 1911 edition was expanded...more

The world of the mountains is a glorious, rough-hewn, life-infusing one; far removed from the simple, boring plains and the concrete-covered city. The joy and beauty of this world is one I have not seen expressed in words before now. Certainly, many authors do a grand job of telling the tales of...more

The Mountains of California by John Muir was published in 1894 and was undoubtedly written as a travel log for people that wouldn’t or couldn’t visit the area. John Muir saves no adjectives in painting a wordy picture of the west coast of the United States. No one would ever confuse this author w...more

I just ended a seven year affair with this book. No yelling, and I got to keep all my stuff. It was a gift from a friend in 2001, the year of Yosemite, my own life-altering event. The chapter on the various pine trees hung me up-I'm a leafy kind of guy. Rustling decidui are so much more satisfyin...more

This was a hard slog. While amazing in pretty much every other way, Muir was not a great writer. I stuck with it -- and plan to read more of his books -- because he saw our greatest natural wonders when they were still untouched. Loved his curiosity and appreciation for the smallest details.

On th...more

Well, hey, John Muir, if you love nature so much, WHY DON'T YOU MARRY IT?!

Muir's prose is spare and lovely, and will make you want to visit Yosemite posthaste. His natural theology shines through here, and the world he describes is one I want to live in.

Introduction, by Edward Hoagland
Suggestions for Further Reading
A Note on the Text
List of Illustrations

--The Mountains of California

John Muir's first book on the Serria Mountains of California. In it he the flora, fauna, and geographic features of the region and the dangers to them. This is an excellent nature read. I got my copy at Sequoia National Park and used it as a guide to some of the majestic features.

I had to be patient while reading this. Muir's descriptions go on and on. But they are enthusiastic, and beautifully done. If you are careful, and steady, Muir's passion will become contagious and you will find yourself in a slower and more observant state, ready to soak in all that the outdoors...more

Not currently on the NY Times bestseller list, but I enjoyed it. I love the mountains and, like Muir, have a penchant for the Sierras. Its not a Dan Brown page turner but Muir writes with some smartly unique turns of phrase that keep you going. And he's talking about the Sierras! and that's enoug...more

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