100th Anniversary of John Muir’s Classic Adventure Memoir on Yosemite National Park

by  Katie Mendelson | May 3, 2011
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park / chaolik/iStock

John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, first stumbled upon the expansive, spectacular wilderness of California’s Yosemite high country in the summer of 1869. For the environmental pioneer, it was a place as close to heaven as he could imagine: “Here I could stay tethered forever with just bread and water.”

Muir chronicled his sheepherding and trailblazing adventures in My First Summer in the Sierra, initially published in 1911. This March, Houghton Mifflin released the 100th anniversary edition of the book ($30), featuring Muir’s original text, photographs of his journal entries and sketches, and new Yosemite photos by Scot Miller.

Having previously photographed Cape Cod and Walden Pond for a new edition of Thoreau’s classic, Miller spent over a decade shooting the park for this book after first visiting in 1990. His reaction was no less profound than Muir’s. “A whole new wilderness world, full of opportunities and challenges, stretched out as far as my eyes could see,” Miller says. “It was an emotional and life-changing experience.”

Thanks in part to Muir’s conservation efforts, the snowcapped peaks and ancient trees depicted in these glossy photos appear much as they did when Muir described them. And while capturing the images, Miller was still able to feel like a true outdoorsman in the park’s vast hinterlands, especially when meeting bears who came upon his camp in broad daylight. Muir, Miller muses, “was an adventurer in the purest sense of the word. He lived the dream. He inspired me to live the dream. I hope this book inspires others to do so, too.”

For general trip-planning information, see our California Travel Guide.

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