<< Back

Muir, John

A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf. Boston & New York. 1916.

John Muir was born in Scotland, April 21, 1838. In 1849 his family emigrated to the United States and settled near the Fox River in Wisconsin. Muir worked on the family farm, clearing trees and performing other manual labor, while continuing to read every available book. He entered the University of Wisconsin at the age of twenty-two and soon began to make botanical and geological excursions around the Great Lakes and through the southern states. His travels through the southeast region are chronicled in this volume. While in search of rare plants, Muir penetrated the swamps of Florida where he contracted malaria. After partially recovering, he spent a month in Cuba and then crossed the Isthmus of Panama and headed for California. Muir eventually made his home in the Yosemite Valley and studied the geological effects of the glacial period. By 1894 Muir was becoming famous for his many articles published in such journals as Harper's and Century. His writings were often compared favorable to Henry David Thoreau. The establishment of the Yosemite and Seqouia National Parks and the great Sierra Forest Reservation are traced to the effect of his writings.

This large paper edition contains Muir's account of his travels through much of southeastern America, including Kentucky, a journey across the Cumberland Mountains, and travels through Georgia and Florida. The saga continues with travel to Cuba and California. Muir undertook this botanical journey in 1867 at the age of twenty-nine. While traveling, Muir kept a journal of his observations and ruminations. The inside cover of the journal reads: "John Muir, Earth-planet, Universe." The volume is edited by William F. Bade, Muir's literary executor, from the naturalist's unpublished journals. The volume was published in 1916, almost 50 years after Muir's walk, and received high acclaim from reviewers. In a February 1917 New York Times book review, a critic wrote: "John Muir's Thousand-Mile Walk is of interest as the gateway to a life unequaled in its insight and unsurpassed in its interpretive power of nature."

Muir's trail began in Indianapolis and continued south through Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia. From Savannah, he traveled by boat to Fernandina, Florida and then traversed the state on foot, through Gainesville to the Cedar Keys.

Florida is so watery and vine-tied that pathless wanderings are not easily possible in any direction. I started to cross the State by a gap hewn for the locomotive, walking sometimes between the rails, stepping from tie to tie, or walking the strip of sand at the sides, gazing into the mysterious forest, Nature's own. It is impossible to write the dimmest picture of plant grandeur so redundant, unfathomable.

Muir became ill in Florida, probably from malaria, and convalesced in Cedar Key and later in Cuba. Due to his illness, Muir gave up his original intention to explore the tropical jungles along the Andes in South America.