In celebration of Muir’s 182nd birthday, here is one of our favorite and most simple posts from our archive. A curation of some of his most eloquent quotes. – Ed.
Been outside lately? How about a few reminders from the Poet Laureate of the High Sierra? John Muir was ecstatically writing about the mountains 100 years before you had an iPhone to stare at while your eyes glazed over. He was also writing about how we lose our feeling for being alive by working too much, focusing on making money instead of the things that bring us joy. Sound familiar? Bit of a visionary, that guy. You can thank him for Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park, as well as these little snippets of inspiration.
1. “Most people are on the world, not in it. ”
2. “Who wouldn’t be a mountaineer! Up here all the world’s prizes seem nothing.”
3. “Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action.”
4. “The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.”
5. “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”
6. “I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”
7. “In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
8. “This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.”
9. “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”
10. “There is a love of wild nature in everybody, an ancient mother-love showing itself whether recognized or no, and however covered by cares and duties”
11. “I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news.”
12. “One day’s exposure to mountains is better than a cartload of books.”
13. “Most people who travel look only at what they are directed to look at. Great is the power of the guidebook maker, however ignorant.”
14. “I never saw a discontented tree.”
15. “None of Nature’s landscapes are ugly so long as they are wild.”
16. “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
17. “Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.”
18. “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”
19. “The mountains are fountains of men as well as of rivers, of glaciers, of fertile soil. The great poets, philosophers, prophets, able men whose thoughts and deeds have moved the world, have come down from the mountains – mountain dwellers who have grown strong there with the forest trees in Nature’s workshops.”
20. “Going to the mountains is going home.”
Some of our fave Muir books
Have kids going crazy at home? Distract them with Little Naturalists: John Muir, available on sale, here.
Going crazy at home, period? How about a deep dive into the life of Muir, with the biography A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir
In The Yosemite, Muir recounts his first experiences spending significant time in the backcountry that shaped him more than anywhere else.
We largely have Muir to thank for national parks, so his essays, Our National Parks, ought be required reading for those who love them today.