John Muir began his trek by walking from Indiana to Florida and then hopping a steamer to Cuba with the intention of continuing to South America, reaching the headwaters of the Amazon and rafting its full distance to the Pacific Ocean. However, short of funds and recovering from fever picked up in Florida, Muir changed his plans and decided to spend a year or two in California and visit the fabled Yosemite Valley. He arrived in San Francisco via Panama Steamer in March of 1868 and after spending just a single day in what he perceived as a cramped and oppressive city, took a ferry to Oakland and immediately set out on a 200 mile journey to Yosemite on foot. Muir’s route took him south from the Oakland Wharf straddling the baylands and the green foothills through Hayward and on towards San Jose:
“The goodness of the weather as I journeyed towards Pacheco was beyond all praise and description, fragrant end mellow and bright. The air was perfectly delicious, sweet enough for the breath of angels; every draught of it gave a separate and distinct piece of pleasure. I do not believe that Adam and Eve ever tasted better in their balmiest nook.
The last of the Coast Range foothills were in near view all the way to Gilroy. Their union with the valley is by curves and slopes of inimitable beauty, and they were robed with the greenest grass and richest light I ever beheld, and colored and shaded with millions of flowers of every hue, chiefly of purple and golden yellow; and hundreds of crystal rills joined songs with the larks, filling all the valley with music like a sea, making it an Eden from end to end”
Muir skirted the Santa Clara Valley foothills to Gilroy, over the coast range to the San Joaquin Valley through what is now the Pacheco Pass, across the rich wide valley to the gold camp of Coulterville and finally up into the Sierra Nevada to the mammoth trees of Mariposa and the glorious Yosemite Valley. The10 days he spent exploring the mountains, rivers and fauna made a deep impression and his second visit a year later turned into a life-long relationship with the “range of light”. Muir’s influence resulted in the establishment of Yosemite National Park and its continuing environmental protection through the formation of the Sierra Club.
As fellow seekers we are reminding once again to embrace the journey and to be amazed and thankful for whatever life may our way. Get out your hiking boots! -Bill