John Muir is a legendary pioneer in the environmental movement. You might say that he was one of the original tree-huggers. He is known for extraordinary feats like taking a 1,000 mile trip across half the United States – on foot!. As a young man, he left home in Wisconsin and spent years traveling to all kinds of places, including Alaska. Everywhere he went, he spent time exploring the natural world. He eventually settled in California.
His friends encouraged him to write about nature but he found it difficult. In time, Muir wrote articles and books which helped people appreciate the wilderness. Muir’s writings also led to a remarkable meeting with US President Theodore Roosevelt, who, like Muir, was a great nature lover – and writer (see North Dakota). This epic meeting of writers eventually resulted in a huge expansion of public land designated for national parks.
Throughout the state of California there are at least six significant natural areas which have been named for John Muir. The John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, California, is set apart from these spots because it offers visitors a chance to visit an actual house where Muir and his family lived for about ten years. He was married to Louisa Strentzel Muir and they had two daughters, Helen and Wanda.
At this historic home you can go inside and climb up to the top floor and see the view. You can also see original photos and Muir’s collection of plant specimens. Outside, there is a large Sequoia tree which Muir hand-carried as a seedling from Yosemite and planted himself. This article describes the amazing efforts which tree experts are making to preserve and continue the legacy of this particular Sequoia and other historic trees.
Before you visit, try to read My First Summer in the Sierra at gutenberg.org and learn why John Muir loved the California Sierra Nevada mountains so much.
The John Muir National Historic Site is the ninth stop on our Northern California Trail!
Rebecca Blake Beech