David's Reviews > The Mountains of California

The Mountains of California by John Muir
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's review
Dec 14, 09

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Read in December, 2009

A better title might be The High Sierras, as most of the pieces in this somewhat uneven suite deal with California's east-central mountains. Collected from Muir's journals and magazine articles, there is a fair amount of repetition (Muir makes the point multiple times that he really doesn't like shepherds and their foliage-munching charges).

The best chapter is the longish field guide to conifers of the Sierras, and I appreciated the chapter about one of my favorite western birds, the American Dipper (the Water-Ouzel to Muir, and Cinclus mexicanus to both of us).

Sometimes Muir's Victorian era anthropomorphizing is a little much to to take, and I'm not sure whether we should take his claims of eating nothing but bread and tea in the field as synecdoche. Even though he trod lightly in the wilderness (climbing Mt. Ritter in a pair of boots and his shirtsleeves), he was not above his own ways of exploiting the woods: singing the praises of beekeepers, playing stalactite chimes in a limestone caverrn, cutting boughs for bedding.

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