Every tree calls for special admiration…Were they mere mechanical sculptures, what noble objects they would still be! How much more throbbing, thrilling, overflowing, full of life in every fibre and cell, grand glowing silverrods—the very gods of the plant kingdom, living their sublime century lives in sight of Heaven, watched and loved and admired from generation to generation! And how many other radiant resiny sun trees are here and higher up, —libocedrus, Douglas spruce, silver fir, sequoia. How rich our inheritance in these blessed mountains, the tree pastures into which our eyes are turned!
~John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra
Regardless of whether you have walked in his footsteps in Yosemite National Park or elsewhere in the Sierra Nevada, all Americans owe John Muir, “Father of the National Parks,” a debt of gratitude. Muir urged everyone–from ordinary Americans to titans of industry to politicians–to protect our most spectacular lands from devastation. President Theodore Roosevelt is famously one of those who listened to Muir, and as a result of their collaboration, Roosevelt established many forward-thinking conversation programs.
I, for one, am thankful for Muir’s efforts to protect the areas that now make up some of America’s most beautiful National Parks. I am further grateful for the impact John Muir has left on me personally, as I have gained a greater appreciation for the land through his naturalist philosophy and ramblings.
If you enjoy nature but haven’t read Muir, I’d encourage you to start with My First Summer in the Sierra (available for free online as public domain or for purchase in print via Amazon), a journal-like account of Muir’s time as a shepherd moving through the Sierra Nevada. Buried among the scientific accounts of trees & wildlife he encounters and disparaging remarks about the “hoofed locusts” (sheep) he is herding, there are poignant and thought-provoking passages describing the natural world he is encountering and its impact on him.
Above is a photo I shot of Sentinel Tree in Sequoia National Park. This is my favorite photo from my favorite day on my recent road trip through California with my parents. Sharing my favorite place on earth with the two people–more than anyone else–who indelibly shaped who I am was both incredibly satisfying and enjoyable, and an experience I’ll fondly cherish forever. While I cannot spend Thanksgiving with them today, this morning I’m looking back on that trip with a smile on my face.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families. I hope you have an enjoyable day of relaxation and reflection spent with family, friends, and those most important to you.