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Our National Parks
by John Muir
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A key founder of the modern conservation movement, John Muir was a champion of the preservation of the unspoiled wilderness and of the careful guardianship of the environment. This 1901 work, a collection of essays first published in the Atlantic Monthly, is Muir's valentine to the national parks of the American West. He introduces us to: . the glacier meadows and wild geysers of Yellowstone . the "magnificent mirror for the woods and mountains and sky" that is Yellowstone Lake . the coniferous forests of the Sierra Nevada, including the beautiful giant sequoia . the grizzly bears of the mountain ranges . and much more. Scottish-American naturalist, explorer, and writer JOHN MUIR (1838-1914) helped found the Sierra Club in 1892, and served as its first president. He wrote numerous articles for such publications as Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, and the New York Tribune; among his many books are The Mountains of California (1894), The Yosemite (1912), and Travels in Alaska (1915). __________________________________ ALSO FROM COSIMO: Muir's Steep Trails, Letters to a Friend, and Studies in the Sierra
John Muir's classic, detailed, loving ode to the wonders of America's natural environment.
About the Author
John Muir (1838-1914), founder of the Sierra Club, is the individual most responsible for the creation of Yosemite National Park. Alfred Runte, National Parks historian, is a distinguished scholar and the author of Yosemite: The Embattled Wilderness.
Excerpted from Our National Parks [E-BOOK: MICROSOFT READER] by John Muir. Copyright © 2000. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved
The Big Tree ( Sequoia gigantea ) is Nature's forest masterpiece, and, so far as I know, the greatest of living things. It belongs to an ancient stock, as its remains in old rocks show, and has a strange air of other days about it, a thoroughbred look inherited from the long ago-the auld lang syne of trees. Once the genus was common, and with many species flourished in the now desolate Arctic regions, in the interior of North America, and in Europe, but in long, eventful wanderings from climate to climate only two species have survived the hardships they had to encounter, the gigantea and sempervirens, the former now restricted to the western slopes of the Sierra, the other to the Coast Mountains, and both to California, excepting a few groves of Redwood which extend into Oregon. The Pacific Coast in general is the paradise of conifers. Here nearly all of them are giants, and display a beauty and magnificence unknown elsewhere. The climate is mild, the ground never freezes, and moisture and sunshine abound all the year. Nevertheless it is not easy to account for the colossal size of the Sequoias. The largest are about three hundred feet high and thirty feet in diameter. Who of all the dwellers of the plains and prairies and fertile home forests of round-headed oak and maple, hickory and elm, ever dreamed that earth could bear such growths,-trees that the familiar pines and firs seem to know nothing about, lonely, silent, serene, with a physiognomy almost godlike; and so old, thousands of them still living had already counted their years by tens of centuries when Columbus set sail from Spain and were in the vigor of youth or middle age when the star led the Chaldean sages to the infant Saviour's cradle! As far as man is concerned they are the same yesterday, today, and forever, emblems of permanence.
No description can give any adequate idea of their singular majesty, much less their beauty. Excepting the sugar-pine, most of their neighbors with pointed tops seem to be forever shouting Excelsior, while the Big Tree, though soaring above them all, seems satisfied, its rounded head, poised lightly as a cloud, giving no impression of trying to go higher. Only in youth does it show like other conifers a heavenward yearning, keenly aspiring with a long quick-growing top. Indeed the whole tree for the first century or two, or until a hundred to a hundred and fifty feet high, is arrowhead in form, and, compared with the solemn rigidity of age, is as sensitive to the wind as a squirrel tail. The lower branches are gradually dropped as it grows older, and the upper ones thinned out until comparatively few are left. These, however, are developed to great size, divide again and again, and terminate in bossy rounded masses of leafy branchlets, while the head becomes dome-shaped. Then poised in fullness of strength and beauty, stern and solemn in mien, it glows with eager, enthusiastic life, quivering to the tip of every leaf and branch and far-reaching root, calm as a granite dome, the first to feel the touch of the rosy beams of the morning, the last to bid the sun good-night.
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