‘When a man plants a tree, he plants himself. Every root is an anchor, over which he rests with grateful interest, and becomes sufficiently calm to feel the joy of living.’
Steep Trails encompasses a delightful mix of John Muir's essays and adventure narratives, spanning a period of twenty-nine years. The selections included in this book are varied: ranging from geological studies to stories of the people and towns he encounters throughout his exploits. As Muir expert Terry Gifford observes in the foreword, ‘Most of Steep Trails’ chapters are dispatches from Muir as travelling correspondent with a mixture of insights into local cultures, criticism of pollution and enthusiasm for everything wild.’
Muir’s refreshing philosophy of being ‘at one’ with nature shines through every account he details, as does his agenda for environmental activism – to treat wildness lovingly, rather than selfishly for material greed. Covering mostly the western regions of the states, California, Washington, Nevada, The Grand Canyon, Oregon and Utah; Steep Trails showcases Muir’s passion continuously as he climbs mountains, bathes in lakes, and sketches his findings. Muir’s classic extended metaphors and knowledgeable tone are present throughout, making for both an enjoyable and educational read.
The enthusiasm contained within these pages is infectious, and as well as simply describing the beauty he sees, Muir will inspire you too, to ‘go and see for yourselves’ the rewards of studying the endless gift of nature:
‘Surely faithful and loving skill can go no farther in putting the multitudinous decorated forms on paper. But the colours, the living, rejoicing colours, chanting morning and evening in chorus to heaven! Whose brush or pencil, however lovingly inspired, can give us these? And if paint is of no effect, what hope lies in pen-work? Only this: some may be incited by it to go and see for themselves.’