Thursday, October 1, 2009
While enjoying breakfast together Sunday morning in Merced, poetic snipets were read aloud from "My First Summer in the Sierra" by John Muir. The first rains moisten thirsty grounds in the Fall of November which causes a wide variety of wild flowers, trees, and shrubs to bloom. By the end of September, all blooms have been fully baked by the sun so in 1869 whatever herds grazed upon the valley greens were driven to the cooler pastures of the High Sierra. The sunrise, sunset, moon and stars provided the only light by day or starry, starry night for a crew of five in the summer of 1869! John Muir's first summer in what is now known as Kings Canyon was magical and as Muir puts it, it was an answer to prayer! John had been longing to study the plants, animals and mountains that hosted the treasures that flowed down from the top of the Merced and Tuolumne Rivers. So he quickly said yes to an offer by Mr Delaney to travel three months with a Shepherd, an Indian, a Chinese cook and a Saint Bernard named Carlo. Reading about this adventure that started off somewhere close to El Camino Real in Merced, John and Barbara decided to take a Sunday drive to Coulterville! The Muir team herded a flock of sheep at a rate of one mile per hour by horse from the home ranch located at the south side of the Tuolumne River near French Bar. The LeVan coup purred up the hill at 55 miles per hour passing quick quick rows of corn and golden meadows! The Muir expedition set out in June's scorching weather, the ground full of cracks, lizards, rattlers, and cottontails - and the dust choked group drove ahead through brushy hills with an Indian guide that pushed through the thorny jungle towards Coulterville. Camping and waking to coffee, bacon and beans, John Muir travelled with paper and pen in his belt. "The Sabine Pines interest me greatly, Muir eager to sketch was in a fever of excitement without accomplishing much. After gaining a vista from the first summit, we felt the natural exhileration due to the slight elevation of a thousand feet or so. With excited hopes concerning the outlook to be obtained, a magnificient section of the Merced Valley is this vantage point called Horseshoe Bend. What a soul fill it is to have time stop while you are saturated wtih the glorious wildnerness. A choir of songful voices flush through your body as you witness the bold, down-sweeping slopes, the tall standing pines and clumps of manzanita. The sun so bright, full and close, with each inhale, you can hold the sunny, open spaces between the trees. The folds of finely modeled hills and ridges rise into mountain masses, all covered with a shaggy growth --- without distance perceived, a perfect planting by God, all greenery stunning and amazingly woven to appear soft, rich and plush to the touch. As far as the eye can reach it extends, a heavenly swelling sea of greens as regular and continuous as that produced by the heaths of Scotland. The landscape is striking in its lavish detail. A grand congregation of puffy clouds, with the massive heights of the Merced River shining between. Each level carved into smooth, graceful folds without leaving a single rocky angle exposed---as if the delicate fluting and ridging of metamorphic slates had been carefully sand papered! The whole landscape showed purposed design, more beautiful than man's noblest sculpture. How wonderful the power of its beauty! Gazing, stricken with awe, one could leave all else behind and not have a want or need not met by this magnificance. Glad, about the endless hours that lay before him, Muir spent hour after sacred hour tracing the forces that brought forth the timeless features, its rocks, plants, animals and glorious weather. Beauty beyond thought everywhere! Beneath, above, made and being made forever! The colors and lines of this divine landsccape-contenance are so burned into mind and heart they surely can never grow dim. Whatever way you STOP to look, you see the mountains that are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling each pore and cell of us. Our flesh and bone tabernacle of spirit seems transparent as glass - feeling bouyant because of the beauty engulfing us, we are truly inseperable part of the all that is, all that was given to us to enjoy! Thrilling with the air and the trees, streams, rocks, and waves of blooms, we are neither old or young, sick or well, but immortal. How glorious a conversion so complete and whole mind/body consuming, all longing satisfied in this health giving nature! We saw a lovely lily in a shady thicket near Coulterville. It is white with a faith purplish tinge inside at the base of the petals. A most impressive plant, pure as a snow crystal, one of the plant saints that loves deeply and purely the looker who sees their beauty meant for their eyes only. The lily puts the roughest mountaineer on his best behavior. Tred lightly through thy meadow, up the hillside, to reach a peak and TWIRL. The sugary sap fragrance of a noble Sugar Pine calls to the senses of those whose pace is slowed by her feathery arms. Reaching above the spires of her companion cousin the Fir, her cones swing like tassels at the ends of her branches with superb ornamental effect. She bekons a touch as her lush greenery grows wild beyond Coulterville where peaks and valleys await our passage.