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Welcome to the land that JOHN MUIR "DISCOVERED" the Crown Jewel in his legacy

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Click on underlined text and place names to jump to written information and Muir's descriptions.


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--------------- Sitka ------------- Elfin Cove- - Gustavus - Bartlett Cove ---------- ----------- Haines Junction - - Denali N.P.
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Tracy Arm - Taku Inlet - Juneau -- ----- Lynn Canal Fjord ----- -- HAINES -- -- Skagway
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Original 24 Foot MURAL at the SHELDON MUSEUM - Haines, Alaska.
Wrangell
Petersburg
Haines, Alaska's John Muir Association
Copyright '99 Nanney, Haines,AK
Klondike
Gold Rush Park

JOHN MUIR'S TRAVELS IN ALASKA
Excerpts from the book "Travels in Alaska" edited by Marion Randall Parsons and William Frederic Bade from Muir's own letters from Alaska written as a journalist for the San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin. The book was published posthumously in 1915 the year after Muir's death.
Copyright, 1915, by Houghton Mifflin Company, 2 Park St., Boston, Mass. 02108
SOURCE: http://www.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/

INTRODUCTION: Muir's seven trips to Alaska were in - 1879 (Southeast -Important Voyages of Discovery - Glacier Bay), 1880 (Southeast - Continued Voyages of Discovery - Tracy & Endicott Arm), 1881 (Arctic Coast - Alaska/Siberia), 1890 (Southeast), 1896 (Southeast), 1897 (Southeast - Observed and Reported on the Gold Rush), 1899 (Harriman Expedition - Extensive Scientific Research).

CHAPTER I - "Puget Sound and British Columbia."
Inspired by the increasingly beautiful scenery he writes from his boat enroute to Puget Sound, "when we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty."

CHAPTER II - "Alexander Archipelago and the Home I found in Alaska."
"To the lover of pure wildness Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world." ..."it seems as if surely we must at lenght reach the very paradise of the poets, the abode of the blessed."

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CHAPTER III - "Wrangell Island and Alaska Summers."
Muir's steamer goes first to Sitka, then on to Wrangell. The great Klondike gold rush was yet to come, but Muir heard of 28 miners who had just gone from Sitka through the heavily guarded territory of the Chilkats into the Yukon to prospect. The next summer he came across and interviewed a number of the original 28 then prospecting in S.E. Alaska in Sum Dum Bay. Some miners would winter in Wrangell from the MacKenzie River and other gold mines, others would go to Victoria and Puget Sound.

While in Wrangell he says he "was adopted by the Stickeen tribe, and given an Indian name (Ancoutahan) said to mean adopted chief. I was inclined to regard this honor as being unlikely to have any practical value, but I was assured by Mr. Vanderbilt, Mr. Young, and others that it would be a great safeguard while I was on my travels among the different tribes of the archipelago.... being adopted by the Stickeens, no one belonging to the other tribes would dare attack me, knowing that the Stickeens would hold them responsible."

He describes feasting and dancing at Chief Shakes "blockhouse." He says, "besides the bear dance, there were porpoise and deer dances with one of the party imitating the animals by stuffed specimens with an Indian inside, and the movements were so accurately imitated that they seemed the real thing... At the close of the amusements there was a potlatch when robes made of the skins of deer, wild sheep, marmots, and sables were distributed, and many of the fantastic head-dresses that had been worn by Shamans. One of these fell to my share. The floor of the house was strewn with fresh hemlock boughs, bunches of showy wild flowers adorned the walls, and the hearth was filled with huckleberry branches and epilobium. Altogether it was a wonderful show."

He described the most beautiful sunset he had ever seen - "At a height of about thirty degrees there was a heavy cloud-bank, deeply reddened on its lower edge and the projecting parts of its face. Below this there were three horizontal belts of purple edged with gold, while a vividly defined, spreading fan of flame streamed upward across the purple bars and faded in a feather edge of dull red. But beautiful and impressive as was this painting on the sky, the most novel and exciting effect was in the body of the atmosphere itself, which, laden with moisture, became one mass of color - a fine translucent purple haze in which the islands with softened outlines seemed to float, while a dense red ring lay around the base of each of them as a fitting border. The peaks, too, in the distance, and the snow-fields and glaciers and fleecy rolls of mist that lay in the hollows, were flushed with a deep, rosy alpenglow of ineffable loveliness."

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CHAPTER IV - "The Stikeen River."
The 350 mile river was the beginning of the route to the Cassiar and MacKenzie gold fields, steamers could navigate the first 150 miles to Glenora an old Hudson's Bay trading post, and sometimes another 15 miles to Telegraph Creek.

Describing the river he says, "it enters the Coast Range, and sweeps across it through a magnificent canyon three thousand to five thousand feet deep, and more than a hundred miles long. The majestic cliffs and mountains forming the canyon walls display endless variety of form and sculpture, and are wonderfully adorned and enlivened with glaciers and waterfalls, while throughout almost its whole extent the floor is a flowery landscape garden, like Yosemite. The most striking features are the glaciers, hanging over the cliffs, decending the side canyons and pushing forward to the river, greatly enhancing the wild beauty of all the others."

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CHAPTER V - "A Cruise in the Cassiar."
There was a failed attempt to sail the steamship Cassiar to visit the Chilkats and he explains that, "The main object of the missionaries was to ascertain the spiritual wants of the warlike Chilcat tribe, with a view to the establishment of a church and school in their principal village; the merchant and his party were bent on business and scenery; while my mind was on the mountains, glaciers, and forests."

Doing some glacier walking after the Cassiar trip had to turn around he writes, "The whole front of the glacier is gashed and sculptured into a maze of shallow caves and crevasses, and a bewildering variety of novel architectural forms, clusters, of glittering lance-tipped spires, gables, and obelisks, bold outstanding bastions and plain mural cliffs, adorned along the top with fretted cornice and battlement, while every gorge and crevasse, groove and hollow, was filled with light, shimmering and throbbing in pale-blue tones of inefable tenderness and beauty."

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CHAPTER VI - "The Cassiar Trail."
On a second trip up the Stikine he hikes far into the interior with a partner and writes, "Le Claire, finding me a good listner, told many stories of his adventurous life with Indians, bears and wolves, snow and hunger and of his many camps in the canadian woods, hidden like the nests and dens of wild animals; stories that have a singular interest to everybody, for they awaken inherited memories of the lang,lang syne when we were all wild." Le Claire tells him about the caribou, "The Indians hereabouts, hunted them with dogs, mostly in the fall and winter," and Muir notices, "On my return trip I met several bands of those Indians on the march, going north to hunt. Some of the men and women were carrying puppies on top of their heavy loads of dried salmon, while the grown dogs had saddle-bags filled with odds and ends strapped on their backs... I overtook another band going south, heavy laden with furs and skins to trade. An old woman, with short dress and leggings, was carrying a big load of furs and skins, on top of which was perched a little girl about three years old."

Of his trip he says, "I greatly enjoyed this little inland side trip -- the wide views; the miners along the branches of the great river, busy as moles and beavers; young men dreaming and hoping to stike it rich and rush home to marry their girls faithfully waiting; others hoping to clear off weary farm mortgages, and brighten the lives of the anxious home folk; but most, I suppose, just struggling for gold enough to make them indefinitely rich to spend their lives in aimless affluence, honor, and ease.

I enjoyed getting acquainted with the trees, especially the beautiful spruce and silver fir; the flower gardens and great grassy caribou pastures; the cherry, able marmot mountaineer; and above all the friendship and kindness of Mr. Le Claire, whom I shall never forget. Bidding goodbye, I sauntered back to the head of navigation on the Stickeen, happy and rich without a particle of obscuring gold-dust care."

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CHAPTER VII - "Glenora Peak."
Muir waxes poetic in descriptions of the sweeping views of the almost infinite expanse of the Coast Range he acquires on his climb.

CHAPTER VIII - "Exploration of the Stickeen Glaciers."
Muir does extensive glacier walking making numerous scientific and aesthetic observations.

CHAPTER IX - "A Canoe Voyage to Northward."
"I determined, therefore, to go ahead as far north as possible, to see and learn what I could, especially with reference to future work. When I made known my plans to Mr. Young, he offered to go with me, and, being acquainted with the Indians, procured a good canoe and crew, and with a large stock of provisions and blankets, we left Wrangell October 14, eager to welcome weather of every sort, a long as food lasted." "Mr. Young, my companion, was an adventurous evangelist, and it was the opportunities the trip might afford to meet the Indians of the different tribes on our route with reference to future missionary work, that induced him to join us."

Using Vancouver's chart, "Thus we made a journey more than eight hundred miles long... I had met several prospectors who had been as far as Chilkat at the head of Lynn Canal, who told wonderful stories about the great glaciers thay had seen there. All the high mountains up there, they said, seemed to be made of ice, and if glaciers are what you are after, that's the place for you."

Muir and Young stop at many villages and camps and he says, "with but one or two exceptions, all with apparent good faith declared their willingness to receive them, (school teachers or ministers) and many seened heartily delighted at the prospect of gaining light on subjects so important and so dark to them." Invited by a "Hootsenoo chief" to spend the night he says, "We spent the night under his roof, the first we had ever spent with Indians, and I never felt more at home. The loving kindness bestowed on the little ones made the house glow."

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CHAPTER X - "The Discovery of Glacier Bay"
After visiting the village of Hoonah they crossed Icy Strait into Glacier Bay. Camping in the innermost fiord on the beaches of the Grand Pacific Glacier he describes the sunrise against the Fairweather Range, "every mountain apparently was glowing from the heart like molten metal fresh from a furnace....the supernal fire slowly descended... peak after peak, with their spires and ridges and cascading glaciers, caught the heavenly glow, until all the mighty host stood transfigured, hushed, and thoughtful, as if awaiting the coming of the Lord." He notes that "Glacier bay is undoubtedly young as yet. Vancouver's chart, made only a century ago, shows no trace of it....even then the entire bay was occupied by a glacier....nearly as great a change has taken place in Sum Dum Bay...the main trunk glacier there having receded from eighteen to twenty-five miles from the line marked on his chart."

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CHAPTER XI - "The Country of the Chilcats"
He camped with some indians who had just visited the Chilkats. "A little daughter of the chief with the glow of the firelight on her eyes made an interesting picture, head held aslant. Another in the group, with upturned eyes, seeming to half understand the strange words about God, might have passed for one of Raphael's angels... The Chilcats are the most influential of all the Thlinkit tribes. Whenever on our journey I spoke of the interesting characteristics of other tribes we had visited, my crew would invariably say, "oh, yes, these are pretty good indians, but wait till you have seen the Chilcats."

While with the Chilkats, Muir and Young had five meetings each of them delivering speeches. Muir says, "I had to deliver a sort of lecture on the fine foodful country God had given them and the brotherhood of man... and we began to feel quite at home in the big block-house with our hospitable and warlike friends."

S. Hall Young asked their interpreter to tell him what the indians were saying about his sermons and was told, "They are talking about Mr. Muir's speech...they say he knows how to talk and beats the preacher far." Muir says, "Later, when the sending of a missionary and teacher was being considered, the chief said they wanted me, and, as an inducement, promised that if I would come to them they would always do as I directed, follow my councils, give me as many wives as I liked, build a church and school, and pick all the stones out of the paths and make them smooth for my feet. I made five speeches here, all of which seemed to be gladly heard, particularly what I said on the different kinds of white men and their motives, and their own kindness and good manners in making strangers feel at home in their houses.

Before venturing up the river to the principal village, located some ten miles up the river, we sent Sitka Charley and one of the young Chilcats as messengers...[who] returned the next day, bringing back word that we would all be heartily welcomed" but due to the onset of winter and other concerns Muir says, "we reluctantly concluded to start back on the home journey at once."


CLICK HERE FOR Chapters XII thrugh XIX --- BACK TO GUIDE MAP

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