It was this week in 1938 that John Muir, the Scottish-American conservationist, was born in Dunbar, East Lothian. His life has been most recently celebrated in Scotland with the launch, last year, of the John Muir Way, a coast-to-coast path of 134 miles. And this week is John Muir Week. One of the main reasons for the new path was to highlight to people in Scotland – and also visitors to this country – who Muir was and why his life and work was so important. Perhaps you might think that the choice of Muir, whose name is mostly associated with wild places in Scotland and dramatic landscapes in America, is a strange choice for a walk across the central area of Scotland. But the thoughts of those that drove forward the JMW was that because Muir was born in Scotland and the central area of Scotland is the country’s most populated area, a walk here would highlight to many people the achievements and philosophies of the great conservationist. [caption id="attachment_15899" align="aligncenter" width="286"] John Muir. Pic credit: Wiki Creative Commons[/caption]
More about John Muir
When Muir died in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve, 1814, he was still busy writing and it’s reported that his hospital bed was covered with manuscript pages from a new book that he was researching. The New York Times described him as "one of the greatest thinkers of America", and added: "Some inkling of the man's greatness and versatility can be gleaned from a glance at the names of the lasting friends he made among the great men of the country. The most intimate of these included several presidents, among them Taft, Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson." Muir was noted for being an ecological thinker, political spokesperson and religious prophet. Did you know he was also a mountaineer, geologist, naturalist, inventor, a glaciologist and, of course, a conservationist? So many talent for jus tone man! Among his many great campaigns he helped to save Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and other wilderness areas. In 1903, Muir accompanied President Theodore Roosevelt on a visit to Yosemite and convinced him that it would be logical to federalise Yosemite Valley and integrate it with the already federalised wider park. Two years later Congress transferred the Mariposa Grove and the Valley to the Park. In 1892 Muir founded the environmental organisation, the Sierra Club, and was the president until he died. The Sierra Club now has an impressive membership of 750,000 and is said to have helped to create other similar organisations, such as Friends of the Earth. Muir also wrote of his great adventures in nature and inspired others to enjoy the great outdoors. He loved the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California in particular. There is a 211-mile John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada, which has long been popular with walkers. [caption id="attachment_15896" align="aligncenter" width="550"] Thoughts of Muir: Walk the John Muir Way in Scotland.[/caption]
What people have said about Muir
Author Thurman Wilkins said the main aim of Muir's philosophy was to challenge mankind's "enormous conceit". Muir's biographer, Steven J. Holmes, believed Muir became "one of the patron saints of 20 century American environmental activity”. Nature photographer Ansel Adams said of Muir: “He has profoundly shaped the very categories through which Americans understand and envision their relationships with the natural world”. Author William Anderson said Muir exemplified "the archetype of our oneness with the earth". Biographer Donald Worster says he believed Muir’s was: "...saving the American soul from total surrender to materialism."
The John Muir Way in Scotland
The route was officially opened on the century of Muir’s birth on April 21, 2014. It travels 134 miles from Helensburgh on the west coast to Dunbar, on the east coast. It takes most walkers around seven to 10 days of steady walking to complete the route although there are plenty of access points for walking sections of the route. The trail heads through some beautiful landscapes as it passes through the heartland of Scotland. Highlights include:
- The chance to visit Edinburgh and Glasgow.
- Peaceful flat walking along the Forth & Clyde Canal
- Scotland’s iconic Falkirk Wheel
- Glengoyne distillery, near Dumgoyne
- Beautiful Loch Lomond
- Seeing both the west coast and the east coast of Scotland.