In the footsteps of Muir

  Would John Muir recognize the Yosemite of today? What would he think of his beloved "hospitable, Godful wilderness," where he roamed freely, built campfires anywhere he pleased and traveled with his unleashed dog, Carlo? To explore questions like that, writer Geraldine Vale and geographer Thomas Vale retraced the route that Muir described over a century ago in My First Summer in the Sierra. The Vales found Yosemite National Park surprisingly unchanged from Muir's solitary temple of 100 years ago. They also found that very few of the park's 4 million annual visitors reach Muir's level of engagement, or "brotherhood," as he called it, with the natural world. Instead, noise and cars dominate. Yet, the Vales say, "Even we encounter individuals on the trails who ask us the names of birds or trees. Desire for rational understanding is strong," and they suggest that the Park Service respond to that desire. "Encouraging knowledge and enhancing a sense of place, park-specific booklets, whether provided by the Park Service or the Yosemite Association, belong on the bookshelves of the visitor centers and concession stores." Walking with Muir Across Yosemite is available from the University of Wisconsin Press, Publicity Department, 2537 Daniels St., Madison, WI 53718-6772 (608/224-3888). Paper: $14.95, cloth $32.95. 176 pages. Illustrated with drawings and photographs.

* Jennifer Chergo

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