John Muir is one of the most influential people in American history, yet he is still not a household name. He was a true mountain man, a protector of the earth, an unsung hero of the wilderness. The acclaimed naturalist did not have the easiest life but took advantage of every opportunity that came his way, especially if it would help preserve our wilderness.
Throughout his life, Muir embarked on many adventures around the world, but nothing held a place in his heart like the picturesque Sierra Nevada and Yosemite of California, where he spent the majority of his adult life. You see, John Muir simply loved the woods. He loved everything about them, their smell, their sounds, their colors, their feeling. It was this love that inspired him to dedicate his life to the conservation and preservation of his most beloved wilderness. Through his exemplary writing he was able to not only appeal to the general public on a personal level, but also to politicians and policymakers. He was even able to attract the attention of the similarly famed, conservation-oriented president of the time, Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy had read John’s recently published book Our National Parks and being a fellow wilderness-lover, he was hooked. He was so captivated in fact, that he set out for 3 day camping trip with Muir through Yosemite. No Secret Service agents or thoughts of foreign affairs, simply Roosevelt, 5 mules, a cook, and John Muir. This escapade, no doubt, had a big impact on Roosevelt. While he already was an avid conservationist, this encounter with Muir did not hurt his desire to protect our wildlands as he went on to establish 148 million acres of national forest, 5 national parks, and 23 national monuments.
Over the course of his life, Muir was involved in the creation of multiple national parks, wrote over 300 magazine articles, published 12 books, and was the founder of the Sierra Club (which still lives on today). Through his writing, John Muir was able to capture the country’s attention and bring to light the importance of protecting the wilderness he so loved. His influence sparked lights of environmentalism in many Americans and continues to do so around the world today.