Tuesday 18 October 2022

But We Didn't Go To Yosemite...

Apologies to all my dear friends in the USA, but my knowledge of the geography of your country is rather limited. Mention "Yosemite", and I just think of the film Capricorn One. Elliot Gould is interviewing the astronaut's wife after she has spoken with her husband who has [supposedly] just been to the moon. He talks about going to Yosemite like last year...and she says to EG "But we didn't go to Yosemite, we went to a film studios" [Great film, check it out if you haven't seen it]
Following my trip to Dunbar at the weekend, I now know much more about Yosemite, and that it is located in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. [Have you visited, Bless?]
In the middle of Dunbar High Street is a delightful statue of a young boy reaching up, to the birds flying above him. It is John Muir. "Who's John Muir?" I asked Bob [who didn't know either]. "Our B&B is in John Muir Gardens, he  must be significant round here" I declared. It was a cold, dark Friday night - we went back to the B&B and I researched JM. As we had a couple of hours to fill on Saturday morning, I suggested we should go back to the town centre, and visit JM's birthplace. 
There we learned that he was an altogether good bloke. Born in 1838, the third of eight children. His father was very strict - the only book needed was the Bible, and any free time should be spent on studying Scripture. John was a typical energetic lad, and he and his brothers climbed out of those high bedroom windows to go out and play in the evenings! He was a very bright lad.

His grandfather took him for long walks in the countryside and along the beautiful coastline, instilling in him a great love of nature, and wildlife. But when was 11, father announced the whole family [but not grandad, sadly] were going to make a new start in Canada. They travelled across the Atlantic, and on the voyage, plans changed and they went to Wisconsin instead and settled on a farm. John was expected to work in the fields after school. His father said he could only read books during the night hours - not waste daylight on frivolities. So the boy read at 1am - and invented an early-rising machine to make sure he didn't oversleep in the mornings. 
He built clocks, thermometers and many other gadgets. His grandfather had given him a precious gold sovereign when they left Scotland - and in 1860, he used it to pay for a trip to the Madison State Fair to show off his inventions. His intelligence was recognised, and this won him a place at Wisconsin University, where he studied chemistry, botany and geology. He became obsessed with the beauty of the natural world, and when his brother went to Canada to avoid being conscripted to fight in the Civil War, John joined him, and spent a year or so hiking, collecting plants, and studying the landscape.
Returning to the States, he got a job in a factory, where is skill as an engineer repairing and improving machines made him very popular. But a terrible industrial accident robbed him of the sight of one eye, and almost destroyed the other. After weeks of convalescence, in a darkened room, he wrote to his mother that his right eye was gone 'forever closed on all God's beauty" He declared he would waste no more time on mechanical inventions, but instead devote his life to "the study of the inventions of God"
He hiked 1000 miles from Kentucky to Florida, then visited Cuba to see the wildlife there. He travelled simply, and was very resourceful when things went awry. He finally settled in California.
It was here he found Yosemite, and fell in love with its wild mountain grandeur, the wildlife, the plants, the rocks...

When he found farmers destroying the landscape, to raise herds and grow crops, he was devastated. He petitioned the President, he founded the Sierra Club [the first ever environmental pressure group] and finally Yosemite was named as a National Park.
Muir was instrumental in founding the National Parks Service.John is regarded as the patron Saint of the American Wilderness. California celebrates John Muir Day on April 21st each year. In 1969, David Brower, who was then president of the Sierra Club, founded the Friends Of The Earth Movement. John's Dunbar home is now an 'interpretive centre' telling his story, and the work of the John Muir Trust

The birthplace is free to enter, the staff are friendly and very knowledgeable. The statue put up in 1997, is by Ukrainian Sculptor Valentin Znoba [and David Simpson, the son of the family which sponsored it, posed as the model for young John. Both Scotland and the USA are rightly proud of all this man achieved. 
I was glad to learn more about him [and Yosemite]  - and wholeheartedly endorse his statement


  1. That's a lovely, informative post about John Muir, Angela. Yes, I have been to Yosemite and my daughter and her classmates spent a week camping there, in her senior year in high school. :)

    1. I suspected you would know it, Bless. And what a beautiful place to camp out.

  2. Ah, that's a wonderful quote and so true. I wish town planners and a Government who constantly build new houses on all green would realise that. I truly believe that the great rise in anti-social behaviour in Urban and Suburban areas has a lot to do with our inner need for space, green, trees and open skies. I feel people are crying out for that inwardly (as well as deprivation etc)
    He sounds a wonderful man!
    Kezzie x

    1. You are right Kezzie. Steph's just joined a "Walking Mums Club" - lots of them, all pushing their buggies round the lake in the park. I've been very impressed with the way the Manchester planners have incorporated green space into their city. So many good initiatives nationally at the moment - many led by the people rather than the authorities. People need to enjoy nature 'on their doorstep' - with money to pay for it, or motors to drive there.πŸŒ³πŸŒΌπŸŒ²πŸŒΈπŸ¦…πŸŒ·πŸŒΉπŸ¦†πŸŒ»

  3. That is brilliant research, I do love finding out about new things and people that I have never heard of before. He sounds like a remarkable man and well worthy of his statue.

    1. With all the miserable news about, it's lovely to learn about a generous man who did good things, which have impact more than a century later

  4. Excellent summary of John Muir's life! Wisconsin "claims" him as one of our own! I've been to Yosemite, many years ago. It is truly a very lovely park. I've read how sometimes the traffic there is so snarled that the air pollution can be almost as bad as in a city. Such a shame.

  5. Quite a few places in California named after John Muir - Muir Woods National Monument , John Muir Historic Park--his California home, and Muir Beach (all under National Parks management). I've been to the first when I drove up from San Francisco to Point Reyes National Park--another a glorious place to visit with a reputation as the windiest place on the Pacific coast--I concur! My hair turned into a rat's nest within seconds of stepping out from behind a tall rock outcrop overlooking the Pacific and the lighthouse that sits some 300+ steps below.

  6. I knew of John Muir as a famous environmentalist but I never knew that he was born in Dunbar. I've visited the Muir Woods and Yosemite and enjoyed them both. There is a famous landmark called El Capitain in Yosemite that is popular with climbers and I saw a movie about Alex Honnold who free-climbed it. (No rope to protect him.)


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