Saturday, February 21, 2009

John Muir and his Legacy.

Not many of you probably know who John Muir is or what he accomplished in his lifetime, but you are all recipients of his brilliance and his love for all things wild. He was a farmer,sheepherder,naturalist,explorer,writer and conservationist. Born in Dunbar, Scotland April 12, 1838 he immigrated to America in 1849. Muir had a harsh and unforgiving Father who worked his family from dawn till dusk.Any time Muir could steal away from his chores he spent in the outdoor observing the natural world around him. He loved to invent things, and once invented a clock that would actually throw him out of bed in the mornings.

Muir attend school and made good grades, but he was restless and soon found himself traveling his way across northern America and into Canada.
Once while working at a carriage works in Indianapolis, Muir suffered a blinding eye injury that forever changed his life. He prayed that if his eyesight would return he would no longer take the wondrous world for granted, but would spend more time in his beloved outdoors. He regained his sight one month later and began to wander. He walked a thousand miles from Indianapolis to the Gulf of Mexico. He sailed to Cuba and then to Panama,crossing the Isthmus and then sailing up the coast to San Francisco. Though he still travelled around the world, California and it's natural beauty captivated him completely becoming his home for the rest of his life. In California it was the Yosemite Valley and the Sierra Nevada's that he loved best.
"Then it seemed to me that the Sierra should be called not the Nevada or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light...the most divinely beautiful of all the mountain chains I have ever seen."
Muir began writing in 1874 and over his lifetime he wrote over 300 articles, ten books and changed a Nation. Through his influence and efforts Yosemite was made into a National Park. He was also personally involved in creating Sequoia, Mount Rainier, Petrified Forest and the Grand Canyon National Parks. No wonder he is often called " The Father of our National Parks System". In 1892 Muir and a number of his supporters founded the Sierra Club, " To do something for wildness and make the mountains glad." He was the President until his death in 1914.
He married Louisiana Strentzel 1880 and settled in Martinez California, my hometown.They had two daughters. His house is a beautiful Victorian, a gift from his in-laws. It is now on the Historic Register and is owned and operated by the National Park. Tours and events are held here frequently.
John Muir continued to wander the West his whole life. He died in 1914 while visiting his daughter Wanda in Los Angeles. He is buried in Martinez in his family plot. It is in a secret location just outside of town ( but I know where!) under a tree that he wrote frequently and lovingly about.

As if his legacy of inventions and protected wilderness wasn't enough, John Muir has a grandson- Michael Muir.

Michael founded Access Adventure in 2005 after retiring as President of the United States Driving for the Disabled Inc. A lifelong horsemen he was born about 30 minutes East of Martinez in Dixon. Michael has lived with Multiple Sclerosis for more than forty years. When he could no longer ride he taught himself to drive.
" Even though I can't ride anymore...when I put the reins in my hands, we start that great communication between man and horse. It's the dance of life..."
In 2001 he led an international group of horsemen a whopping 3000 miles- a ten month Journey Across America, driving a wheelchair accessible carriage from Mission San Diego in California and ending up in Washington D.C.
" We have shown that people with Disabilities can accomplish amazing things."
"Nature is healing. Demonstrating to others that life can be rich and exciting after catastrophic illness or accident gives people hope."
Michael drives a unique type of horse, one that he has developed specially for his work. It is a loud colored Appaloosa Sporthorse. He has several,they have wonderful temperments and are flashy enough to call attention to himself and his work. His carriage is also a custom design, allowing his wheelchair to be placed on board, and still giving him control over the vehicle. Michael makes frequent appearances across the USA and I hear he has also been to Europe on a massive cross country trip there.

For more infomation on Michael Muir and Access America follow the above link.

I know that several of my blogging friends have had catastophic accidents to deal with. It is always hard to change the direction of your life, but it is not impossible. Horses can remain integral. I've always said that if I can't ride 'em, I'll drive em. I've met Michael on several occassions, he was Master of Ceremonies at our Battle of the Barns one year. He is an inspirational and dedicated man- just as his Grandfather before him.
I hope you have enjoyed this little historical journey today. I have!


Lil Mama said...

Awesome post! I love John Muir. I think we need to go thru his house again pretty soon.

Anonymous said...

You are such a historian! I love when you post on local history!

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

That's pretty interesting. I always wondered why he was such a famous naturalist. I did not know he started the Sierra Club!!

Vodka Mom said...

that was incredibly inspiring!! I am just a nut about history- and Michael's backstory is just AMAZING!!!

(MY sister is partially deaf- I so appreciate people who make the rest of us look like rookies....)

♥~♥ Tracey ♥~♥ said...

John Muir Rocks! I just learned about him a couple of years ago. Neat man.

Train Wreck said...

Look at you! You are quite the history buff. Great information. I enjoyed reading it. I thought you only like the vintage photos, you know history as well!

Building Life in AK said...

John Muir will always be one of my favorites. I remember working during "John Muir Days" and always wished I could live in THAT HOUSE! I miss it!
Thanks for posting a great memory!

Rising Rainbow said...

It's pretty amazing what one man can accomplish when he puts his mind to it.