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My First Summer in the Sierra

4.13  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,010 Ratings  ·  216 Reviews
John Muir, a young Scottish immigrant, had not yet become the famed conservationist whom he liked to call "John o' the Mountains" when he first trekked into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada not long after the end of the Civil War. Having caught a glimpse of such magical places as Tuolumne Meadows and El Capitan, Muir ached to return, and in the summer of 1869 he signed o ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published 1917 by Houghton Mifflin Company (first published 1911)
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Jason Koivu
Jun 16, 2014 Jason Koivu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: good-hearted folk
Recommended to Jason by: the trees
Why would I read this? For one, it takes place in my hood. Two, it's by John Muir, the famous Scottish/American naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club, which saved national treasures like Yosemite and the Sequoia National Park.

Without Muir this might no longer exist as it does to this day...


If it weren't for Muir these living trees, some of which have been here longer than the pyramids, may have been cut down...


To look at a map of the United States, one would get the impression that moving we
Patrick Gibson
May 11, 2011 Patrick Gibson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Listen to Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 – this is how you will feel while reading John Muir. Exhilarated. Joyous. Passionate. Alive.

This book is never far from my reach. It is my inspiration for life.

Take a few minutes and read a sample:

“Here, we are camped for the night, our big fire, heaped high with rosiny logs and branches, is blazing like a sunrise, gladly giving back the light slowly sifted from the sunbeams of centuries of summers; and in the glow of that old sunlight how impressively
Mar 11, 2013 Kathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I vacillated between being completely absorbed in this book to being bored out of my mind. I couldn't place my finger on it at first, but I quickly figured out what my issue was. While I very much enjoyed Muir's description and narration of the animals he saw during his camping, I had zero interest in his descriptions of the trees and plants. The journal is split pretty much 50/50 between the two, so I flip flopped between being interested and disinterested as he switched focus.

I continued readi
Tina Cipolla
Oct 08, 2012 Tina Cipolla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was excellent. It covers John Muir's first summer in the Sierra Mountains. I love reading books where I can see life at another point in time through someone else's eyes. For me, the most fascinating parts of the book were his encounters with the Native Americans. His reportage on these encounters are honest, discomforting and sometimes a bit frightening--and they have bear no resemblence the politically correct images of Native Americans you get in today's scrubbed history of these en ...more
Dec 05, 2012 Cee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My First Summer in the Sierra is a journal, not a novel. As a journal, it garners an A+++ from me.

John Muir's wonderfully descriptive account is a work of art, a labor of love. And it poses the question how can we have become so technologically advanced and yet we have lost the basic skills of journalling? How lamentable.

I deeply appreciate John Muir's prose. It is way above novels that try to tackle the natural world but fall short.

This read is for anyone who has gone to Yosemite National Park
Sean Wilson
John Muir, America's favourite Scotsman, writes so beautifully and eloquently in this passionate book on the Sierra wilderness. It's playful, philosophical, poetic, scientific and very hard to put down. Read Muir singing the songs of Robert Burns to squirrels, encounter bears, describe the colourful plant life that surrounds him, engage with Native Americans and surrender his soul to the transcending beauty that is Nature. His philosophical passages had an incredibly inspiring impact on me, and ...more
Feb 10, 2009 Stephen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
John Muir became a tireless advocate of conservation, a vocal proponent of creating national parks to protect this country’s great untouched western wild places. But, before that, he had to discover them for himself. He grew up on an improvised farm in Wisconsin with a domineering Calvinist father. He escaped as soon as he could.

Leaving home, he first became a walker and then a writer. He made his first trip into the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1869 as the rest of the country was just beginning t
Jul 29, 2009 William rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bryson Patterson
This I suppose was my first book by a naturalist and I enjoyed it. Detailing his own trip to Yosemite as a sheep herder during the summer of 1869, the book is a celebration of Yosemite. I felt a little envy for his unabashed use of exclamation points throughout. He's truly excited--wandering the meadows, climbing the domes, describing plant and animal life, drinking "champagne" water--and isn't restrained in showing it. The enthusiasm is palpable and I was glad to be reading it while in Yosemite ...more
Jan 01, 2013 Jamie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful and inspiring. I just love Muir's personality. His outlook on the world is so close to my own. I feel like I can really related to his writings. Themes that make sense to me: the natural world as sacred; God speaking to us through nature; spirituality coming to us mostly through the mundane and canny, but with occasional, apparently supernatural experiences that serve to confuse as much as anything.

My favorite passage from the book is Muir's description of going to see the falls:

I too
Nick Klagge
Jun 28, 2015 Nick Klagge rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have considered myself a big John Muir fan for a while, but this is easily the best thing I've read by him, and it's what I would recommend to anyone new to him. It's extremely accessible and is just what it says on the cover--a diary account of the first summer Muir spent in the Sierra (Tuolumne Meadow area), as some sort of supervisor to a shepherd taking a herd of sheep up into the mountains. (Muir does virtually no discernible work over the course of the book.) It was especially nice for m ...more
Dec 29, 2015 Adil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Muir's journals of his trips into Yosemite and the Sierras are inspiring reads, but they come with one very important prerequisite. I purchased My First Summer in the Sierra a few months after spending a day at Yosemite National Park, and, because of that trip, I felt a much deeper and more vivid connection to Muir's observations. Because I had seen some of the mountains, meadows, and trees which abound in Yosemite firsthand, Muir's descriptions of them really came to life and brought back ...more
Sep 28, 2011 Kent rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature
I suspect there is a good possibility that John Muir's My First Summer in the Sierra was on the book shelf in my childhood home in California. He was, after all, highly regarded by my parents and the home was filled with books of all types and genre. But, I do not remember it nor have I ever read anything written by John Muir, until this 100th Anniversary Illustrated Edition caught my attention.

Muir's account of his 1869 adventure in and around the Yosemite Valley of the Sierra Nevada range is p
May 21, 2012 joey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
A wonderful account. But note that this is a diary. Do not expect it to be "action" in diary's clothing.

Speaking of sheep, this diary follows John Muir's first summer in the Sierra mountains in California as a sheep herder. (Later, I have read, Muir lobbied against allowing sheep to graze in national parks.) Muir pities the pitiful sheep and is put off by their devouring grazing and the commercialism that would promote it:
They cannot hurt the trees, though ... should the woolly locusts [lol!] be
Dec 18, 2011 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This short book is an account of naturalist John Muir's first summer in what would later be Yosemite National Park. He worked as a sheepherder, moving a flock of about 250 sheep from meadow to meadow during a few summer months. His only duties seem to be bread baking and rounding up errant sheep, which leaves him plenty of time to appreciate the wilderness. He is a knowledgeable and infectious writer about nature, and the book is full of wise observations and wonder about the plants, animals, an ...more
Muir's enthusiasm for the Sierras is evident on every page. I would be convinced by him even if I hadn't seen the Sierras for myself. It is a good book to indulge in if you want to imagine that you have a summer to spend hiking in the mountains. The descriptions of trees and clouds are sometimes redundant, but there are lots of keen notes on natural history and interesting human or animal encounters. I particularly liked the story of the shepherd who thought he could scare off a mother bear (wit ...more
Feb 11, 2016 Melinda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enter the world of a true ecstatic tree-hugger. John Muir is amazing channeling Emerson and all those Transcendentalists with wild ravings about mountains and bugs and trees. The edition I read was illustrated with gorgeous pictures of the places Muir visited during his Golden Summer herding sheep from the San Joaquin Valley up into the high country. Muir says he could live on bread, mountain water, and "Godful" nature, and I believe him. Truly a transcendent memoir.
Amy Beth
Apr 27, 2016 Amy Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This writing is eloquent with just enough description and heartfelt musing. When he shares how things make him feel, it is so moving. If you've been to Yosemite, you get this. And even if you haven't, I think this book will convince you to go there. It is a spiritual experience. I admire John Muir so much for all he did, for all he started and brought to light. I think he is my number one hero of all time.
Mar 08, 2013 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely stunning, Nature with a capital N! I have always admired the work of John Muir and what he stood for but this is the first of his books that I have read. I am surprised at how wonderful and accessible the writing is, he had such an enthusiasm for the natural world that you can not help but be swept up in the joyful discoveries he makes on each page.
Best to be read with a good field guide for trees and flowers at hand so as to have the full effect of the descriptions, how splendidly he
Mar 23, 2015 Shannon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite out of the blue is Muir's hilarious description of the shepherd's overalls, which the shepherd never takes off. Collecting grease from his meat sack and then pollen, insects, pine needles etc, the overalls "wear thick instead of thin" and become a sort of microcosmic museum of Yosemite. I would have read the whole book just for that one page description. Too bad those overalls aren't in a museum somewhere.
Lastly, be prepared to pine for smoky fires and endless days of lazy hiking while re
Connor McCarthy
Jul 29, 2015 Connor McCarthy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful book, Johns love for nature is absolutely contagious. Cant wait to be back in the sierras!
Rift Vegan
Mar 20, 2010 Rift Vegan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
oh yeah! I just loved the journal format... very much reminiscent of Thoreau's journals!!!

John Muir wrote this book (or edited his journals) about 40 years after the fact. And, *smiles*, he expresses joy and elation every single day. Even when it rains, he is exceedingly happy!

Which makes me wonder if Muir is one of those always happy people that I would have to strangle if I meet them in real life! :) Or maybe it's just rose coloured glasses, years after the fact. *smiles*

Anyway, I enjoyed th
John Nelson
Mar 24, 2014 John Nelson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 1869, a California sheep rancher hired a young drifter named John Muir to help take a flock of sheep to the high country for summer pasture. In 1912, Muir, by then well-known as a pioneering conservationist, wilderness guide, and opponent of the Hetch-Hetchy dam, published this recollection of his First Summer in the Sierra.

Muir's employer apparently did not have much for him to do, for Muir spent the bulk of his time wandering over the mountains and observing the scenery, wildlife, and, espe
Voilà une bonne surprise! Un texte de référence pour bon nombre de naturalistes contemporains, datant de 1869, sans difficulté de langue (si on ne compte pas les noms d'espèces animales, végétales et minérales en latin) et d'un enthousiasme contagieux. On ne peut qu'apprécier l'émerveillement de Muir devant la créativité de la Nature, devant l'incroyable variété des paysages de la Sierra Nevada qu'il nomme joliment Range of Light, et sa capacité à conter les mésaventures de moutons et de leurs t ...more
Oct 25, 2014 Angela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An inspiring account of Ye Father of American Conservationism John Muir's blissed-out trip through Yosemite in the summer of 1869.

Brimming with 19th century Romantickal feelings about Nature and the sublime, this book is really great if you're either already an outdoors-person, or even a proto-outdoors-person. His enthusiastic descriptions are so inspiring that they make you want to put down your Kindle, put on your hiking boots, book flight tickets, and go hike the eponymous trail RIGHT NOW. I
Feb 11, 2016 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first I've read from John Muir. I'm sure to be back for more. If this book is typical of his writing, then the guy was non-stop manically happy when out in nature. An example:

P214: "Butterflies colored like the flowers waver above them in wonderful profusion, and many other beautiful winged people, numbered and known and loved only by the Lord, are waltzing together high over head, seemingly in pure play and hilarious enjoyment of their little sparks of life. How wonderful they are!
Jul 13, 2014 Jodyschro01 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading the anniversary edition with color pictures of the things and places Muir writes about was really special. Muir's writing is polished and smooth. I found myself having to look up meanings of words he uses. I used my I - pad to look up many flowers and trees he talks about which really added to my enjoyment of the book. It helps if you have been to Yosemite but, if you haven't, the book will surely convince you to go! Muir's enthusiasm is contagious. He went to the Sierra's with a friend' ...more
Chris Casey
My interest in the California Sierra's was sparked by reading 'Wild', and when John Muir was mentioned in the book, I realized that I had never read anything by Muir, and maybe I should. After all, anyone considered to be the 'Father of America's National Parks', as well as being the founder of the Sierra Club, is alright with me. Browsing his writings, the one that jumped out at me was 'My First Summer in the Sierra', in which Muir described his explorations as a shepherd taking a herd of sheep ...more
Not even an audiobook made with poor production values can ruin the impact of John Muir’s words from over 100 years ago. Muir wrote My First Summer in the Sierra at age 31 during the summer of 1869. As an assistant to a sheep rancher and his hired shepherd, Muir’s job was to safely lead 2050 sheep from the Central Valley to their summer pastures in the Sierras and back. As journal of those days, this book tells the story of his journey, including impressions of his work, his colleagues, and the ...more
Mar 08, 2016 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Muir's reflection on his summer of 1869 when he accompanied a flock of sheep into the Sierras for the summer. His love of nature and the woods is downright contagious, as if I didn't share it already. This was a book to be savored slowly, a bit each day as a forest meditation, a peaceful, positive addition to the day. There are moments when the scientific names seem a bit much, but Muir IS a scientist. I approached this with conflicting impulses. On the one hand, my favorite spot on earth is nea ...more
Feb 18, 2016 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wished I had a botanical guide as I read so I could better visualize what he was describing. Having taken a geology course in College, the geologic descriptions made sense, and it helped that I've been up in the Sierras, many times. This book is part travel journal, and part spiritual worship of the natural landscape. The spiritual side comes out in asking what a particular plant was "made," and, often in a reverence for the landscape. I choose this book as I had been reading too many depressi ...more
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John Muir (/mjʊər/; April 21, 1838 – December 24, 1914) was a Scottish-American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, have been read by millions. His activism helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park a ...more
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“Another glorious Sierra day in which one seems to be dissolved and absorbed and sent pulsing onward we know not where. Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality.” 210 likes
“We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us.” 201 likes
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