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.
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
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."
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".
"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.
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.