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Steep Trails

John Muir

Book Overview: 

A collection of Muir's previously unpublished essays, released shortly after his death. "This volume will meet, in every way, the high expectations of Muir's readers. The recital of his experiences during a stormy night on the summit of Mount Shasta will take rank among the most thrilling of his records of adventure. His observations on the dead towns of Nevada, and on the Indians gathering their harvest of pine nuts, recall a phase of Western life that has left few traces in American literature. ... The landscapes that Muir saw ... will live in good part only in his writings, for fire, axe, plough, and gunpowder have made away with the supposedly boundless forest wildernesses and their teeming life."

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .the dangers that would necessarily attend our efforts, and conscious of being the cause of his present peril, decided not to leave him. Our discussions ended, Jerome made a dash from the shelter of the lava-block and began forcing his way back against the wind to the "Hot Springs," wavering and struggling to resist being carried away, as if he were fording a rapid stream. After waiting and watching in vain for some flaw in the storm that might be urged as a new argument in favor of attempting the descent, I was compelled to follow. "Here," said Jerome, as we shivered in the midst of the hissing, sputtering fumaroles, "we shall be safe from frost." "Yes," said I, "we can lie in this mud and steam and sludge, warm at least on one side; but how can we protect our lungs from the acid gases, and how, after our clothing is saturated, shall we be able to reach camp without freezing, even after the storm is over? We shall have to wait for sunshine, and when will it come?" <. . . Read More

Community Reviews

This is a collection of miscellanea and some of it is robustly scientific surveys and some is narrative adventure, and some is a lively mix of both. Muir is an amazing polymath who can make prodigious lists of the flora, fauna and geology of wherever he is, but he also injects a sensuous quality...more

Muir writes a poetic guide book to the West: California, Nevada, the Grand Canyon, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. He paints a picture of each region in stunning detail that gives you a picture of what these places looked like to him, exploring flora, fauna, geology, and history. His comments about...more

This book got me into Muir. I've read every book he has written since. This is a book of short stories or recounts of some of Muir's travels. You can see the places he visited through his eyes as they were back then. An enjoyable read.

A collection of excerpts, articles and letters, this book isn't as good as the more effective works focused on a single trip or period. Nevertheless, Muir's writing remains eminently readable and the passion with which he regards his beloved wild spaces shines through even the driest of scientifi...more

Muir paints a vivid landscape with his descriptions. I am drawn to his wonderful musings such as, "Going to the mountains is going home."