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John "Man of the Mountains" Muir
Can you imagine a life without forests, rivers, lakes, marshes, and all the life they sustain?
John Muir couldn't.
John emigrated to the US from Scotland at the age of 11. His family settled in the Wisconsin woods and as a child, John thrived in the great outdoors. The forest was his cathedral and he escaped into it whenever he could.
Born in 1838, John came of age as the United States was racing to industrialize. As he grew, he watched as roads spread their tentacles across the country. He bore witness as people and businesses gobbled up the land's finite resources. He lamented the degradation of nature at the hands of humans.
John grew up to be an inveterate traveler, writer, and artist, as well as part-time inventor. He observed nature wherever he went, documenting his discoveries in both writing and botanical drawings. He became vocal about the need to preserve nature and the importance of people regularly connecting with the environment. Whether Wisconsin backwoods, Florida swamp, or Sierra Nevada desert, John Muir made it his life’s work to protect it.
His efforts were first recognized in 1892 when John was named president of the newly formed Sierra Club. His notoriety began to spread as he built relationships with businessmen and politicians, such as President Theodore Roosevelt.
In 1903, the two hiked through the Yosemite Valley together. Though much of Yosemite had been considered a national park since the 1890s, Yosemite Valley, at the time of this historic walk, was still under the control of the State of California. Thanks to Muir's discussions with Roosevelt and other state authorities, the Yosemite Grant was returned to the federal government three years later, preserving the Valley forever as part of federally protected national parkland. Yosemite National Park was one of the first in a network that now includes 417 protected sites, and today, the iconic park boasts 15 trails, roads, natural landmarks, and celestial bodies named for John Muir -- including a trail that starts in Yosemite and traverses the Sierra Nevada.
John Muir was an environmentalist before this was even a thing. That's why he's a Time Traveler Tours #HistoryHero. Waves to Allison Williams, of Rochester, NY, USA, for bringing him to our attention!