Words: Page McCargo // Photos: Corey McLean, Makewild Films
From my desk in San Francisco I watch the Pacific Ocean. I have a post-it note on my computer screen that says “Stay in the chair,” and another that says, “What can be done?”
I go for a walk.
The question, ‘what can be done?’ I wrote literally, to focus myself on work and the projects ahead. But as I walk on the beach I find myself thinking in a grander sense, what can be done?
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity” John Muir, Our National Parks.
I think about places close to my heart, my history, my head; the mountains I grew up in and the granite peaks in Yosemite I explored last weekend. It’s late July and the days are long and I feel the pull to be out in those places. I feel lucky and I also feel scared. For those who cherish their time outside the recent administration’s budget cuts and disregard for our National Monuments, has that pre-storm heaviness that makes it hard to breathe.
I can take myself outside. Yosemite exists in large part because of one man’s desire to be outside and his enchantment with a place. John Muir founded the Sierra Club 125 years ago, his prolific writing on conservation and his legendary camping trip with Theodore Roosevelt played a critical role in the protection of the greater Yosemite area, and many other sacred places.
John Muir was a preservationist at heart, wanting to keep the wilderness truly free from human interference. But his own drive to experience nature and his practical mind and friends led him to conservation. He encouraged exploration, knowledge, and enjoyment of his favorite wild places.
“I know that our bodies were made to thrive only in pure air, and the scenes in which pure air is found.” John Muir
If we know a place, we are more likely to protect it. Standing tall in Yosemite National Park.
What incentivizes humanity to respect wild places? Muir challenged the Sierra Club’s first members to, “climb the mountains and get their good tidings.” Today the Sierra Club’s motto, ‘Explore, Enjoy, and Protect’ still speaks to the direct link between adventure and activism. Because knowing a place ties us to it. Sweating and sleeping outside, forging a river or jumping in an alpine lake create the memories which inspire us to share and preserve those experiences for others.
Yosemite is already a storied place, well-known for shaping John Muir into a man who championed wild places. What about those lesser known places? Today in this zenith of information sharing we too can combat destruction with awareness. We can learn, share, and document. We can pass the enjoyment and the respect on to our students, our children, and strangers.
I will find my way back to my chair. But first, I will continue to walk. Perhaps off into the Marin Headlands, another relic of John Muir, and I’ll watch the water from there.
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” — John Muir, The Yosemite (1912)
For the past 125 years, the Sierra Club has been on the front lines of the environmental movement. We teamed up to create a series of limited edition hats inspired by two national parks they helped to create. 100% of net profits from this collection support their work.