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Mammoth, California

In Muir's Words

Lake in Reds Meadow.
The conservationist John Muir is the catalyst responsible for saving much of the pristine wilderness we enjoy today in the Sierras. His words touched people from around the world, and these words ultimately motivated leaders like President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt (a conservationist in his own right) to strive particularly hard to preserve these natural wonders. The Sierras are frequently referred to as the "Range of Light", due to Muir's words.


Sierra Granite Spires.
Coining the "Range of Light"
The term "Range of Light" was coined in the following passage by Muir."After ten years spent in the heart of it, rejoicing and wondering, bathing in its glorious floods of light, seeing the sunbursts of morning among the icy peaks, the noonday radiance on the trees and rocks and snow, the flush of alpenglow, and a thousand dashing waterfalls with their marvelous abundance of irised spray, it still seems to me above all others the Range of Light"

The light is what always fascinated Muir. Anyone that has traveled through the Sierras, especially those hiking the John Muir Trail will have experienced the incredible array and manifestations that this light creates in these mountains. Muir also wrote, "...the mighty Sierra, miles in height, and so gloriously colored and so radiant, it seemed not clothed with light, but wholly composed of it, like the wall of some celestial city."


Mount Whitney Trail.
On the Eastern Sierras
Environmentalist John Muir described the Eastern Sierras as "A country of wonderful contrasts. Hot deserts bounded by snow-laden mountains, - cinders and ashes scattered on glacier-polished pavements, - frost and fire working together in the making of beauty." Maybe more insightful was his prescription for expedition planning here "throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence".


High Sierra Lake.

On Mono Lake
"The Lake, though bitter as the Dead Sea, is yet translucent as Tahoe, and in calms mirrors the colors of its shores and the massive cumuli that pile themselves in the purple sky above it as no fresh water lake ever can." John Muir, San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin, 1875.3 Tahoe refers to Lake Tahoe that is in the Northern Sierras and is considered one of the clearest lakes in the world. You may be surprised that there is no mention of Tufa Towers, but remember that at this time they would have been primarily underwater. It was alone after a significant amount of water diversion by the City of Los Angeles significantly lowering lake waters that these tufas became towers.


High Sierra Lake.

Muir dies of a broken heart
Muir is said to have died from a broken heart. He died three days after he lost the battle he fought for years with congress to save the Hetchy Hetchy. The Hetchy Hetchy was a glaciated valley a few miles north of Yosemite valley. Muir considered the Hetchy Hetchy as beautiful as Yosemite. The Hetchy Hetchy was protected vigorously by both republican Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Howard Taft from damming by the city of San Francisco as a water reservoir. The Democrats finally gave it up as a war prize in exchange for political support, after Woodrow Wilson was elected in the famous "Bull Moose" election of 1912.

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