The Mountains of California

The Mountains of California

by John Muir

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Overview

Go where you may within the bounds of California, mountains are ever in sight, charming and glorifying every landscape. Yet so simple and massive is the topography of the State in general views, that the main central portion displays only one valley, and two chains of mountains which seem almost perfectly regular in trend and height: the Coast Range on the west side, the Sierra Nevada on the east. These two ranges coming together in curves on the north and south inclose a magnificent basin, with a level floor more than 400 miles long, and from 35 to 60 miles wide. This is the grand Central Valley of California, the waters of which have only one outlet to the sea through the Golden Gate. But with this general simplicity of features there is great complexity of hidden detail. The Coast Range, rising as a grand green barrier against the ocean, from 2000 to 8000 feet high, is composed of innumerable forest-crowned spurs, ridges, and rolling hill-waves which inclose a multitude of smaller valleys; some looking out through long, forest-lined vistas to the sea; others, with but few trees, to the Central Valley; while a thousand others yet smaller are embosomed and concealed in mild, round-browed hills, each, with its own climate, soil, and productions.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780464081746
Publisher: Blurb, Inc.
Publication date: 10/02/2019
Pages: 262
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.55(d)

About the Author

John Muir (1838-1914) was born in Scotland. In 1849 he emigrated with his family to the United States, where he later enrolled in courses in chemistry, geology, and botany at the University of Wisconsin. Muir made extended journeys throughout America, observing both scientifically and enthusiastically the beauties of the wilderness. The Mountains of California, his first book, was published in 1894. He eventually settled in California, where he became an impassioned leader of the forest conservation movement. His writings include Our National Parks (1901), My First Summer in the Sierra (1911), The Yosemite (1912), Travels in Alaska (1915), A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf (1916), and Steep Trails (1918).
Edward Hoagland's books include The Courage of Turtles, Walking the Dead Diamond River, Red Wolves and Black Bears, and Notes from the Century Before: A Journal from British Columbia.
Edward Hoagland's books include The Courage of Turtles, Walking the Dead Diamond River, Red Wolves and Black Bears, and Notes from the Century Before: A Journal from British Columbia.

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chapter i
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Excerpted from "The Mountains of California"
by .
Copyright © 2008 John Muir.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

I. The Sierra Nevada
II. The Glaciers
III. The Snow
IV. A Nedar View of the High Sierra
V. The Passes
VI. The Glacier Lakes
VII. The Glacier Meadows
VIII. The Forests
IX. The Douglas Squirrel
X. A Wind-Storm in the Forests
XI. The River Floods
XII. Sierra Thunder-Storms
XIII. The Water-Ouzel
XIV. The Wild Sheep
XV. In the Sierra Foot-Hills
XVI. The Bee-Pastures

Reading Group Guide

1. John Muir moved with his family from Scotland to Wisconsin in 1849, then alone to California in 1868, and wrote The Mountains of California in 1894. Consider the changes that were taking place in the United States during this time–increasing industrialization and the move away from a rural lifestyle, the building of more railroads, California’s statehood, the Civil War, and Reconstruction–and how they might have influenced Muir’s book. Does it seem sometimes as if he is immune to these dramatic events, or do you think his effort to preserve nature is a political statement in itself?

2. Some readers have described The Mountains of California as a gospel to the outdoors. To what degree is Muir’s writing suffused with religion and spirituality in its language and its tone? How do you define spirituality in this context?

3. How do you think Muir reconciled his spirituality (and his own puritanical upbringing) with his theories about evolution, specifically regarding his observations about changes in the natural landscape?

4. Though Muir was a sheepherder, he was also acutely aware of the devastation wrought on the meadows and forests by sheep and cattle. The attention he drew to this destruction led to the creation of some of our most famous and beloved national parks. What examples can you find in the book where Muir describes ways man has adversely affected nature?

5. In his Introduction, Bill McKibben argues that Muir “invents, by sheer force of his love, an entirely new vocabulary and grammar of the wild . . .” How did Muir break with the style of his contemporaries? What is so revolutionary about his writing? Is it the accessibility of his prose? Could this book, which was written over a century ago, have been written today?

6. Consider Muir’s literary influences. How does his writing resemble the work of romantics and trancendentalists?

7. How does Muir reel the reader in and act as a guide? Note his use of the word “you,” in addressing his audience, from the very first page.

8. What do you suppose was Muir’s purpose in writing this book? Bill McKibben says the book fostered, ultimately, an interest in environmentalism and conservationism. Having read this book, are you more inclined to visit the mountains?

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