The spirit of Muir

Diagnosed with a health problem yesterday. Today, my thoughts return to walking.

Scan 22
Lyell Fork, Ansel Adams

Maybe I am undeserving, but I am hopeful that the good docs will be able to get me back in stride.

I guess I am already at the start of new things to learn. I went for a walk with Cooper this afternoon in the hills behind the house, taking it slow.

Today’s lesson: This is not impossible, just a little harder.

I have not yet begun treatment and know there are many who have hit much tougher stretches than I, including a 60-year-old friend who died just a few months ago. Meanwhile, I cannot help but to think of walking.

My hero after reading a biography somewhere between the third and fifth grades was Kit Carson, mostly because of his survival rate and all the ground he covered. But, by the time I was teenager and had read more, John Muir overtook Carson as the outdoorsman I admired most.

My constant image is of Muir on long legs, gliding through through the Sierra Nevada, hat on his head, silent, flour sack with a few provisions over his shoulder, eyes on the horizon.

I ran into Muir’s spirit one evening many years ago on Donohue Pass in the High Sierra, on a solo trip from Tuolumne Meadows to Devil’s Postpile via the John Muir Trail.

I was headed south, wanting to make Rush Creek before dark to camp. The slightly older guy who passed me probably was headed down to camp on the Lyell Fork, although his pace suggested he could reach the Hetch Hetchy by night. We exchanged only hellos. I turned to watch him disappear into the evening glow. I noticed he had a battered saucepan lashed to the back of his awkward-looking pack.

I admired his disregard for equipment conventions and, even though I was feeling a little lonely, liked that he seemed more interested in walking than talking. And I remember that saucepan every time I let gear questions distract from the real business of covering ground and seeing country.

I am pretty sure that, two years from draft age, I also ran into Robert S. McNamara on that mid-1960s trip — the next day in fact, near Thousand Island Lake. But that’s another story.

One thought

  1. John,
    I’m rooting for you to emerge from your illness in good shape.
    Have been following Dreamranch for several months since a link to it showed up in John Fleck’s blog. (Once you cover NM water politic you’re bound to keep following it.)

    Mary and I in Seattle 4 years. Love the dramatic mt/water contrasts. Though big chunk of our souls still in NM.

    Savor every day & get well.
    N

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