John Muir

The armed theft of John Muir's Yosemite

The armed theft of John Muir's Yosemite

To grow up in a California family like mine — backpacking and beachcombing, sympathetic to social justice and environmental causes — is to grow up eternally grateful to John Muir, California's secular patron saint of wilderness worship and outdoor adventure.

Muir was born in Scotland in 1838, and he died 101 years ago today, on Christmas Eve, in Los Angeles. In between he helped his violently abusive father hack a farm out of old-growth Wisconsin forest, walked through the American South after the Civil War, and wound up in Yosemite, where he emerged as a preacher for the saving power of nature.

In my own childhood, with my parents, I spent weekends hiking over wind-swept...

EDITION: California | U.S. & World