Travels in Alaska
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Travels in Alaska

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  529 ratings  ·  51 reviews
...Forty years ago John Muir wrote to a friend; "I am hopelessly and forever a mountaineer. . . . Civilization and fever, and all the morbidness that has been hooted at me, have not dimmed my glacial eyes, and I care to live only to entice people to look at Nature's loveliness." How gloriously he fulfilled the promise of his early manhood! Fame, all unbidden, wore a path t...more
Paperback, 212 pages
Published May 8th 2008 by Book Jungle (first published 1915)
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Astin
I became aware of John Muir's extensive travels in Alaska while kayaking the Stikine River in 2008. I hadn't realized the founder of the Sierra Club had spent so much time in Southeast Alaska. When Ken Burn's 'National Parks' book/documentary came out last year, it further cemented my desire to dive into Muir's journals about his travels in Alaska. The coup di gras was reading 'The Only Kayak' by Kim Heacox. He further exposed me to Muir's writings that have inspired generations of intrepid adve...more
Stephanie
This certainly isn't a light read (it took me more than 2 weeks), but it is a good one. Reading about Muir's trip to Alaska while it was still relatively unknown is both interesting and exciting. He uses beautiful language to bring to life his surroundings.

There certainly is a lot of talk about glaciers and all of their grandeur. He really, really loved the glaciers. The amount of time dedicated to them is far more than necessary.

It's a good read but expect the book to drag. I recommend it if o...more
Jocelyn
The great American naturalist describes three trips to Alaska -- 1878, 1880, and 1890. It seems his motto was "carpe diem," because he never wasted a moment in which he could possibly hike, observe, measure, or sketch. He also took substantial risks to see as much as he can. He canoed through ice fields; he weathered the Alaskan rain forest without Gore-Tex; he trekked 20+ miles a day over mountains and glaciers. I was kind of gratified when, towards the end of the memoir, he recounts first near...more
Matthew
While there can be no doubt about John Muir's expertise in his field I did not find myself enjoying this book. That doesn't mean it isn't worth reading, simply that it wasn't of interest to me. The author spends probably 80% of his time describing what he sees: the sights, sounds, and smells of every form of flora and fauna that exists along his path. He spends some small amount of time describing the people that he encounters but it is apparent that Mr. Muir thinks more of the natural world tha...more
Jennifer Zartman
I picked up this book after reading several other Alaskan adventures, and I didn't enjoy it quite as much. Muir's disregard for safety considerations for himself and others shocked me--it's only by the grace of God that he lived to tell his tale. He possessed incredible luck as well as strength and stamina, and he oozes enthusiasm for glaciers, for plants, and for the wilderness. He describes the scenery with poetic zeal, and includes lists (sometimes lengthy) of every type of flower and tree th...more
Bob
I've been reading this book, a couple pages at a time, for about 10 years. It's so incredibly beautiful and is what inspired a trip to Alaska in 1999. I don't care about a plot or anything else when I read it...I just like to suck it in like the clean Alaskan air.
Caitlin
Travels in Alaska -
It was a bit difficult to read due to the fact that he is so good at describing the places he went that I was to fall asleep; I was happy & at peace reading such beautiful adventures. John Muir is my idol, so I may be a bit biased, because I am bound to love everything he writes. Although, this is the first of his books I have read; mostly just studied his life in school, etc.
Muir exams Alaska and all of its bergs (ice bergs, glaciers) by hiring Native dwellers (Native Am...more
Jason Mills
Apr 30, 2012 Jason Mills rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who can read.
A remarkable man writing about remarkable places in remarkable prose. John Muir, a Scot, was an advocate for the Great Outdoors, instrumental in the setting up of National Parks in the US, passionate about exploring the wilds of nature and passionate too in describing them. We find him striding fearlessly off to study his beloved rivers of ice, not sheltering from storms but rushing out in them, not shirking from danger but relishing it. So mad are his exploits that even the local Indians shake...more
Fed
Muir's writing is refreshing; his writing is so filled with adjectives and descriptions that his experience in Alaska can become alive to the readers.

While today many of us (me included) rely on cameras to collect our memories and the experiences of our journeys/travels, Muir used his senses and his memory to immortalize his experience and at last, pen and paper, to tell us the story of his adventure. Thus, his writing expresses all the feelings he sensed during this experience, instead of being...more
Marc Cappelletti
Nov 24, 2008 Marc Cappelletti rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who has ever been outside.
It's not so much Muir's prose which moves me most, although it is stirring, it's his mindset and the unbelievable level in which he was in tune with the world around him.

"Our good ship also seemed like a thing of life, its great iron heart beating on through calm and storm, a truly noble spectacle. But think of the hearts of these whales, beating warm against the sea, day and night, through dark and light, on and on for centuries; how red the blood must rush and gurgle in and out, bucketfuls, b...more
Meg
Done. Lovely as the writing was, it got repetitive, and I was bored at times. Then I realized that the book predated cheap and easy photography, and I wondered if anyone is writing naturalist books of the sort anymore and I felt a little bad.

Overall, I'm still glad I read it. Though the portraits of the Alaska tribes were sad and concerning. I truly hope the chiefs and others who spoke and welcomed Muir and his companions were self aware about their self effacement and humility. I have some hope...more
Forest
Reading John Muir is inspiring for sure, and appalling in many ways. Today, many people are concerned about having the best gear for their short visits to nature, and around the turn of the century, Muir was jovial to have any gear at all for his long journeys. Soaked, malnurished, and likely dehydrated, Muir explored some of the most unforgiving terrain in North America. Sleeping on devil's club, and prefering a night under Auroras to a warm cabin, Muir describes an insatiable appetite for unde...more
Tim
John Muir is awesome. It is hard for me to fathom what it would be like to travel to Alaska only 30-some years after Seward purchased it from Russia. Sure there was a bit of traffic from Yukon gold findings (I just finished Call of the Wild, which takes place about the same time), but for the most part Muir was exploring uncharted and pristine wilderness. The kind of environment he was born to write about.

Travels in Alaska is much heavier into geology than My First Summer in the Sierra, as the p...more
Jan
While this is on the whole not a gripping tale, John Muir's descriptions of his experiences exploring, charting, studying, and appreciating south-eastern Alaska's glaciers should be read by anyone contemplating cruising the Inland Passage. I wish I'd read it before our 2008 cruise. John Muir is clearly a character, with no fear, a complete adoration of nature and of God, and a heart for all the creatures of a place, including (but probably not especially) the people. Heading to Alaska again soon...more
Scott White
One of my favorites by Muir. Documenting his travels, in part, with the Harriman expedition into Alaska, and confronting some of the idiotic narrow views early 'wilderness' explorers from the states had. Also just a wonderfully written adventure by the man most responsible for the founding of our national park system.
Mj
John Muir has transformed the way in which I interact with Nature as I have read his works in the last two years. His writing style is can be a bit difficult to get into. It is flowery and almost biblical in its descriptions, probably owing to the fact that he had memorized both the Old and New Testaments before his teen years. It is in language with that epic tone that he describes his appreciation and observations of the natural world, infusing his writing with inspired passages detailing his...more
Helen Mccarthy
John Muir is a wonderful and poetic writer as well as a great observer of nature and the environment. In this book he tells of his explorations of the tidewater glaciers in the Inland Passage and Glacier Bay of Alaska. I particularly enjoyed this book because I was recently in those same places. The retreat of the glaciers was much swifter then than the process that continues today. Muir also describes his adventures while exploring the glaciers, often without other companions. He was fearless,...more
Julie
Wonderful descriptions of Muir's adventures studying glaciers in Alaska in the late 1600s. His enthusiasm is infectious!
Marilyn
Loved this book! Anyone could enjoy the wonderful writing, picture images, and if interested, the science which Muir brought to his three journeys in Alaska. Someone who has been to see the icebergs calve could certainly recall the sounds and sights, and for those who have not been, the motivation to go would certainly increase! Muir's writing is totally compelling, and one walks with him, and sees what he sees. I feel that I want to read several of Muir's other works now, especially things writ...more
Larry Lutz
Perhaps not the best first-read for a Muir book. But having seen Alaska twice, it was a satisfying way to broaden both the understanding and appreciation of the glaciers there. Read as a historical snapshot - both the language and the cultural observations seem odd and quaint now but were appropriate for the time - the book is quite satisfying. Muir is such an expert on plants, geology, the environment, etc. that he occasionally writes over the heads of an amateur reader. But his love and apprec...more
Laura Debenham
Feb 25, 2009 Laura Debenham rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Alaskans and Alaska lovers
Recommended to Laura by: a lady on a cruise ship
So far this book is a great peek into Alaskan wilderness in the early 1900s. John Muir is a great writer of wildlife and he paints a picture in your mind of how out-of-the-way places like Wrangle looked back then when white people were coming in and taking over. It is interesting but I didn't give it a really high mark. Maybe it will improve as I read...

...it didn't. But it is a good acurate telling of the travels of the first real naturalist and a great discription of Glacier Bay when there wer...more
Joshua Horn
This book is a memoir by John Muir, one of the early discovers of Alaska. Regrettably, the book is uncompleted as Muir died before he completed it. Muir is called the father of environmentalism, and was instrumental in the movement to set aside land of the United States as wilderness. He was a naturalist, and revered nature as God's works, however, it seems likely he would not worship the traditional God. In his travels in Alaska, Muir encounters many adventures as he enjoys and studies the glac...more
Laurie
Had this on my to-read list for a long time. Finally got to it! After living in SE AK for 9 years it was fun to try to to see in my mind the places he visited. I especially liked the sections describing his interactions with the native people. It was very idealized, but natives as seen thru the eyes of a traveler. There are a few images that will stay with me for a long time, and it was a really nice chance to revisit the forests and glaciers of southeast.
Tristan
I began this book while in Alaska, and while Muir is very enthusiastic about the landscape, the book is more of a travelogue than the kind of insight into the landscape that I was looking for. I struggled to make time for it in Alaska, and had no interest to continue when I returned.

With that said, Muir's journey was adventurous, and if one wants an explication of Alaska's state nickname--The Last Frontier—-this is a good place to start.
Carol Wakefield
Simply a beautiful chronicle of muirs trips to southeast alaska, mainly to study the regions glaciers. Not an easy task and these treks often were challenging and dangerous and frequently done solo. What is so delightful is us ability to describe the geology, the botany and beauty of these areas in glowing language that conveys how deeply moved he was by his objects of study.
Sarah
I was so relieved to finally finish this one. Judging from the preface, John Muir was a character - a passionate, gregarious talker and an outdoorsman with a Scottish outlook and superhuman energy - but far too little of that comes across in his writing. It's all description and no plot. I got sick of reading about glacier after glacier and alpine flower after flower.
Joshua Jacobson
Amazing adventures of an amazing naturalist. This book is part field notes, part travel memoir. The field notes are highly technical, but the overarching feeling of the book leaves you wanting to be in Alaska. He loves all of nature and his enthusiasm can't help but shine through. You just have to push your way through the field notes portion to get there.
Johanna Haas
A love-song to glaciers. While it gets a little repetitive, everyone should read this book to truly appreciate the majesty and glory of these quixotic natural phenomenon. The last book he wrote, this book illuminates some interesting bits about Muir's character - like he doesn't like Native American food.
Larry
I liked this a lot. Awe-inspiring, breathtaking,
even funny in places.

I can't help comparing Muir's story with the tragic
story of Christopher McCandless in Into the Wild.
What is wrong with us today?

Get it for free at Project Gutenburg.

MaryKate
The descriptions in this book of an untamed environment match the dairy entries by my Great Great Grandfather when he and his brother traveled to Alaska in search of gold. It's great to read about the environment prior to global change to remind us all to conserve, reduce, and recycle.
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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
More about John Muir...
My First Summer in the Sierra Nature Writings: The Story of My Boyhood and Youth / My First Summer in the Sierra / The Mountains of California / Stickeen / Essays (Library of America #92) The Mountains of California The Wilderness World of John Muir A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf

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“Most people who travel look only at what they are directed to look at. Great is the power of the guidebook maker, however ignorant.” 29 likes
“Our good ship also seemed like a thing of life, its great iron heart beating on through calm and storm, a truly noble spectacle. But think of the hearts of these whales, beating warm against the sea, day and night, through dark and light, on and on for centuries; how the red blood must rush and gurgle in and out, bucketfuls, barrelfuls at a beat!” 0 likes
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