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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Mountains Are Calling

"The mountains are calling and I must go."

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.”  

“But in every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.” -- John Muir

Although I had a vague notion of what John Muir did and stood for during his lifetime, I just recently began to get a broader understanding of how important his contributions to wilderness preservation were. His activism helped ensure the preservation of the Yosemite Vally, Sequoia National Forest and other irreplaceable wilderness areas. He petitioned the U.S. Congress for the national parks bill that established Yosemite National Park in 1890. He also founded the Sierra Club. Muir didn't just talk about wilderness; he explored it on foot, walking thousands of miles during his explorations. He lived in the Yosemite Valley. He was a powerful and tireless advocate for wilderness. 

Half Dome
I am just back from a wonderful hiking trip to Yosemite National Park. Aside from the spectacular views, the gigantic sequoia trees and the soaring granite cliffs, one of the things I truly enjoyed was the smell of wilderness.

A giant sequoia
That's right, the smell of the woods. It was a combination of fresh air, earth, leaves and trees, including incense cedars, oaks, sequoias and others. I live on a 1/2-acre lot with wonderful views of the Sandia Mountains. But being the high desert, large trees are rare except for the cottonwoods along the banks of the Rio Grande.  Hiking through these magnificent forests was a real treat for the senses.

Every visit to the mountains reminds me yet again of how much I value wilderness. I mentioned to one of our trip leaders that I wish someone could bottle the feeling and especially the scent of the forest so I could fill my house with it.

Yosemite Valley as seen from Glacier Point
Don't get me wrong. I love the comforts of home as much as anybody, and my old joints no longer appreciate lying on a thin pad on the ground at night. So my backpacking days are long gone. But I love day hikes in the woods, savoring"y the beauty, the sights, the sounds and the smells of the forest. And from time to time I whisper a prayer of thanks to those men -- John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt among them -- who had the foresight to push for the preservation of thousands of acres of American wilderness. It was because of Muir's persistence that Roosevelt signed legislation setting Yosemite aside as a national park.

Sadly, the battle to preserve our vanishing wilderness continues to this day, more than 100 years after Muir's death. As he predicted, "The battle for conservation must go on endlessly.
It is part of the universal warfare between right and wrong.”

Not everybody is comfortable outdoors, hiking the trails, climbing mountains and drinking in the beauty of nature. But I strive to heed Muir's words to "Climb the mountains and get their
good tidings.Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”