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John Muir

Looking back on my Alaska travels, I have always been glad that good luck gave me Mr. Young as a companion, for he brought me into confiding contact with the Thlinkit tribes, so that I learned their customs, what manner of men they were, how they lived and loved, fought and played, their morals, religion, hopes and fears, and superstitions, how they resembled and differed in their characteristics from our own and other races. It was easy to see that they differed greatly from the typical American Indian of the interior of this continent. They were doubtless derived from the Mongol stock.

Forty years ago John Muir wrote to a friend; "I am hopelessly and forever a mountaineer. . . . Civilization and fever, and all the morbidness that has been hooted at me, have not dimmed my glacial eyes, and I care to live only to entice people to look at Nature's loveliness." How gloriously he fulfilled the promise of his early manhood! Fame, all unbidden, wore a path to his door, but he always remained a modest, unspoiled mountaineer. Kindred spirits, the greatest of his time, sought him out, even in his mountain cabin, and felt honored by his friendship.

I arrived early on the morning of the eighth of August on the steamer California to continue my explorations of the fiords to the northward which were closed by winter the previous November. The noise of our cannon and whistle was barely sufficient to awaken the sleepy town. The morning shout of one good rooster was the only evidence of life and health in all the place.

For the use of the ever-increasing number of Yosemite visitors who make extensive excursions into the mountains beyond the Valley, a sketch of the forest trees in general will probably be found useful. The different species are arranged in zones and sections, which brings the forest as a whole within the comprehension of every observer.

Between the heavy pine and silver fir zones towers the Big Tree (Sequoia gigantea), the king of all the conifers in the world, "the noblest of the noble race." The groves nearest Yosemite Valley are about twenty miles to the westward and southward and are called the Tuolumne, Merced and Mariposa groves. It extends, a widely interrupted belt, from a very small grove on the middle fork of the American River to the head of Deer Creek, a distance of about 260 miles, its northern limit being near the thirty-ninth parallel, the southern a little below the thirty-sixth.

Yosemite was all one glorious flower garden before plows and scythes and trampling, biting horses came to make its wide open spaces look like farmers' pasture fields. Nevertheless, countless flowers still bloom every year in glorious profusion on the grand talus slopes, wall benches and tablets, and in all the fine, cool side-canyons up to the rim of the Valley, and beyond, higher and higher, to the summits of the peaks. Even on the open floor and in easily-reached side-nooks many common flowering plants have survived and still make a brave show in the spring and early summer.

The songs of the Yosemite winds and waterfalls are delightfully enriched with bird song, especially in the nesting time of spring and early summer. The most familiar and best known of all is the common robin, who may be seen every day, hopping about briskly on the meadows and uttering his cheery, enlivening call. The black-headed grosbeak, too, is here, with the Bullock oriole, and western tanager, brown song-sparrow, hermit thrush, the purple finch, - a fine singer, with head and throat of a rosy-red hue, - several species of warblers and vireos, kinglets, flycatchers, etc.

With the exception of a few spires and pinnacles, the South Dome is the only rock about the Valley that is strictly inaccessible without artificial means, and its inaccessibility is expressed in severe terms. Nevertheless many a mountaineer, gazing admiringly, tried hard to invent a way to the top of its noble crown - all in vain, until in the year 1875, George Anderson, an indomitable Scotchman, undertook the adventure.

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