Alaska Days with John Muir
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Alaska Days with John Muir


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76 pages

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Samuel Hall Young, a Presbyterian clergyman, met John Muir when the great naturalist's steamboat docked at Fort Wrangell, in southeastern Alaska, where Young was a missionary to the Stickeen Indians. In Alaska Days with John Muir he describes this 1879 meeting: "A hearty grip of the hand and we seemed to coalesce in a friendship which, to me at least, has been one of the very best things in a life full of blessings."
This book, first published in 1915, describes two journeys of discovery taken in company with Muir in 1879 and 1880. Despite the pleas of his missionary colleagues that he not risk life and limb with "that wild Muir," Young accompanied Muir in the exploration of Glacier Bay. Upon Muir's return to Alaska in 1880, they traveled together and mapped the inside route to Sitka. Young describes Muir's ability to "slide" up glaciers, the broad Scotch he used when he was enjoying himself, and his natural affinity for Indian wisdom and theistic religion. From the gripping account of their near?disastrous ascent of Glenora Peak to Young's perspective on Muir's famous dog story "Stickeen," Alaska Days is an engaging record of a friendship grounded in the shared wonders of Alaska's wild landscapes.
The Mountain
The Rescue
The Voyage
The Discovery
The Lost Glacier
The Dog and the Man
The Man in Perspective



Publié par
Date de parution 13 août 2013
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780882409689
Langue English

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This book, first published in 1915, describes two journeys of discovery taken in company with Muir in 1879 and 1880. Despite the pleas of his missionary colleagues that he not risk life and limb with "that wild Muir," Young accompanied Muir in the exploration of Glacier Bay. Upon Muir's return to Alaska in 1880, they traveled together and mapped the inside route to Sitka. Young describes Muir's ability to "slide" up glaciers, the broad Scotch he used when he was enjoying himself, and his natural affinity for Indian wisdom and theistic religion. From the gripping account of their near?disastrous ascent of Glenora Peak to Young's perspective on Muir's famous dog story "Stickeen," Alaska Days is an engaging record of a friendship grounded in the shared wonders of Alaska's wild landscapes.
The Mountain
The Rescue
The Voyage
The Discovery
The Lost Glacier
The Dog and the Man
The Man in Perspective' />

Contemporary Praise for Alaska Days with John Muir
Do you remember Stickeen, the canine hero of John Muir s dog story? Here is a book by the man who owned Stickeen and was Muir s companion on the adventurous trip among the Alaskan glaciers. This is not only a breezy outdoor book, full of the wild beauties of the Alaskan wilderness, it is also a living portrait of John Muir in the great moments of his career.
- New York Times
I can see only one fault with the book, it is far too short. I should love to read such a book as big as the dictionary. Thank you very much!
-Gene Stratton-Porter
One need not be an admirer of John Muir to be thoroughly entertained by the lively pages. The Muir of this book is the familiar vibrant personality. This little book, the record of these trips, is written in a style animated and vivid without being journalistic-a style not unlike that of the lover of glaciers himself.
- The Nation
Foreword by
Foreword 2013 by Richard Francis Fleck
All rights reserved. No part of the copyrighted materials may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the publisher.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Young, Samuel Hall, 1847-1927.
Alaska days with John Muir / Samuel Hall Young ; foreword by Richard Francis Fleck.
pages cm. - (The literary naturalist series)
Originally published: New York : Fleming H. Revell Company, 1915.
ISBN 978-0-88240-943-6 (paperback)
ISBN 978-0-88240-968-9 (e-book)
ISBN 978-0-88240-977-1 (hardbound)
1. Alaska-Description and travel. 2. Natural history-Alaska. 3. Muir, John, 1838-1914-Travel-Alaska. 4. Young, Samuel Hall, 1847-1927-Travel-Alaska. I. Title.
F908.M96Y6 2013
WestWinds Press An imprint of Graphic Arts Books P.O. Box 56118 Portland, OR 97238-6118 (503)254-5591
Design by Vicki Knapton Cover image: Don Paulson / Jaynes Gallery / Danita

I The Mountain
II The Rescue
III The Voyage
IV The Discovery
V The Lost Glacier
VI The Dog and the Man
VII The Man in Perspective


The blue-veined glacier, cold of heart and pale, Warmed, at his glance, to amethystine blush, And murmured deep, fond undertones of love.
-Samuel Hall Young
Anumber of summers ago during my first evening in Alaska, a Tsimshian elder gracefully spread swan s down on the floor of Juneau s Native Brotherhood Hall to open the Nishkiya ceremony. As white feathers floated through the air, my mind and spirit seemed released from all the tensions of travel from the lower 48; I was more than ready to listen to stories of beaver and porcupine people out in the wilds of the surrounding sitka forests, rivers, and mountains of panhandle Alaska.
Later that evening, Juneau Harbor, blinking with shiplights, did little to dispel my hypnotic state: I ambled down to the dock where my day cruise would begin the next morning to Sum Dum Bay and Tracy Arm and tried to imagine what I would see. In preparation for my trip I had read two companion volumes, John Muir s Travels in Alaska (1916) and Samuel Hall Young s Alaska Days with John Muir (1915). The Tlingit and Tsimshian Indians in those days (1879-90) were in the process of learning English and a new religion from Protestant missionaries like Samuel Hall Young whom the famous Scottish naturalist from Yosemite had met and befriended.
Muir explains in his book that he wanted to hire several Indian guides (in whose stories and conversations he delighted) to go into the back country where he could explore glaciers. The Tlingits suggested the names of a few including Sitka Charlie who would be best for that purpose because he hi yu kumtux wawa Boston -knew well how to speak English.
Dawn came bright and clear very early my second day in Alaska. About twelve of us boarded the Riviera skippered by a young man called Rusty from Cape Cod; we soon left the harbor behind us. Sitka-studded Admiralty Island looked like a Rockwell Kent print with snowcapped peaks flanked by feathery clouds of silver. On the mainland side we could make out Taku Inlet but not the receded Taku Glacier. On another day I would take a seaplane over the immense Juneau Icefields and the crinkly surface of Taku Glacier to land on a marshy inlet. On that flight I would catch an icy glimpse of what most of North America looked like at the height of the Wisconsin Ice Age or what Iceland s Vatnaj kull glacier looks like today.
As our craft plied through icy waters beyond Taku Inlet, we passed numerous crab boats hauling in their harvest of Alaskan snow crabs. Within an hour we entered Sum Dum Bay as John Muir had done over a hundred years earlier. We gazed at the hanging Sum Dum Glacier in cloudy mountains south of Tracy Arm fiord. Quickly, granite walls engulfed us rising straight up to brightly glaring snowfields. Streams of water hurled through space down to the green waters of the fiord. Bright blue icebergs drifted past as we closed in on a tell-tale cliff carved and scratched by a myriad slow-moving glaciers of yore. Following Ralph Waldo Emerson s lead, John Muir called these scratchings glacial hieroglyphics because they surely furnished as much information as the Egyptian Rosetta Stone.
Approaching South Sawyer Glacier, we amused ourselves watching jet-black seals sunbathing on bright blue bergs, blue being the only color refracted out of their dense masses. Our ship came to within a hundred yards of the glacier looking like an arched blue planet all its own. A sudden thunderous boom startled us as a huge chunk of ice broke off the edge of the glacier and splashed down into the narrow bay. The Tlingit words sum dum are indeed apt. The berg makes the sound SUM, and the echoing cliffs DUM! Aquamarine and copper-colored ice chunks bobbed all around the glistening new berg. Here we could easily envision future yosemites. Samuel Young writes, glaciers were Muir s special pets, his intimate companions, with whom he held sweet communion. Their voices were plain to his ears, their work, as God s landscape gardeners, of the wisest and best Nature could offer.
We sailed silently through a fiord as mesmerizing as the floating swan s down of the Nishkiya ceremony. In the silence I imagined an Indian s voice singing from atop some immense summit. By now we had become accustomed to a world of dark blue ice, hieroglyphic cliffs, and rivers falling out of the sky. But we were in store for something more. Just off Admiralty Island a humpback whale rose out of the water to flap his tail fin so forcefully it sounded like a cannonade. His gigantic body rose and splashed several times before disappearing southward. Too quickly Juneau Harbor, dominated by Mount Juneau and Mount Roberts, came into view. We camped at the site of what is now Juneau, the capital of Alaska, writes Samuel Young of his and Muir s 1879 voyage, and no dream of the millions of gold that were to be taken from those mountains disturbed us. If we had known, I do not think that we would have halted a day or staked a claim. Our treasures were richer than gold and securely laid up in the vaults of our memories.
I sought a different gold as well. It wasn t difficult finding the trailhead above the city where soft rain angled down from greyness of cloud. I gingerly proceeded along Mount Roberts trail through foggy forests of sitka spruce, hemlock, yellow cedar, alder, thick undergrowths of stinging devil s club, ferns, mosses, and clusters of blue lupine and bright red Indian paint-brush. But quickly the trail became extremely steep with a series of tiring switchbacks. I rested for a spell glancing down on Juneau Harbor filled with fishing craft, luxury liners, and seaplanes taking off like noisy mosquitoes through layers of fog. However, Nature s own sounds held sway. Aisles of spruce resounded again and again with the musical quiver of rising and falling notes of the Swainson s thrush, and splashing threads of waterfalls tumbling down the flanks of Mount Juneau spun with webs of mist.
I plodded ever upward. From beneath my dripping poncho I noticed how scrawny the trees had become; ferns had barely unfurled from fiddleheads. Notes from some distant thrush or warbler suddenly caught my ear, but the more I listened the more I imagined them to be faint notes from a stone flute. One cannot help but feel the presence of the Tlingit and Haida Indian s spirit in such a place. How fortunate Muir and Young were to have shared a portion of their lives with the natives of Alaska a hundred and twenty years ago.
Mist cleared long enough for me to spot the glazed summits of Mount Gastineau and Mount Roberts looming above like humpback whales-only to disappear in greyness. An omnipresent wind shifted direction and blew gently across the valley carrying the plash of many distant waterfalls. Was I in Scandinavia? The music of Finlandia kept creeping through my mind.
Ever upward I hiked through endless groves of leafy scrub alder bushes as if in a dream. But suddenly I was scared witless by a willow ptarmigan fluttering and clucking like something out of mythology, trying to decoy me away from her brood of chicks. With a fast-beating heart, I continued my climb across glaring snowfields melted down to the green tundra of June. A denizen of the tundra, the Smith s longspur, whistled a high note and then, a bit later, a low note. In the spirit of fun, I whistled two highs and a low and various combinations of highs and lows, trying to confuse him. But, of course, he maintained his beauteous melody that claimed his territory.
Finding an exposed rock, I sat down to peer through holes in the fog at brilliantly illuminated peaks above the Juneau Icefield. Time vanished up here in the Alaskan tundra; who knows how long I sat just staring at fog patterns occasionally revealing alpine peneplains. Noticing how dark the tundra had gotten, I became apprehensive. Mountains no longer peeked through the fog holes. Even the Smith s longspur ceased its song. Primal instinct warned me of an impending storm; quickly I descended to open tundra and alder clumps.
Sure enough, by the time I reached scrub timber, it started to pour down in buckets, making my steep and muddy trail as slick as grease. I had to catch myself a couple of times; my feet nearly slipped from under me. Thankfully, I entered the firmer ground of a sitka forest not far above the silvery wet streets of Juneau. As I looked out over the shining rooftops of the city punctuated with the onion top dome of a Russian Orthodox church, I did not wonder that John Muir returned again and again to this land of mist and ice.
The reader can share the experience of Alaska in John Muir s time by journeying through the lively pages of Samuel Hall Yong s delightful volume Alaska Days with John Muir . Samuel Hall Young, Presbyterian clergyman, was born in Butler, Pennsylvania, in 1847, eleven years after John Muir. He was encouraged by his father, Rev. Loyal Young, to study divinity at the University of Wooster (Ohio) where he graduated in 1875 (seven years after John Muir s arrival in California). During the next three years he studied at Princeton Theological Seminary (1875-1876) and at Western Theological Seminary (Holland, Michigan) where he graduated in 1878. One year before Muir first arrived traveled to Alaska, Young became an ordained missionary to the Stickeen Indians at Fort Wrangell, Alaska. That same year, he married Fannie E. Kellog with whom he would have three daughters. He organized the first Protestant church in Alaska, also missions in Dawson, Eagle, Rampart, Nome, and Teller. In 1901 he was appointed superintendent of all Alaskan Presbyterian missions.
He visited all parts of Alaska, reaching the Siberian Coast and the Arctic Ocean by boat and traveling great distances in winter by dogsled. As a result of his missionary experiences, he wrote a series of articles for the New York Evangelist entitled The Gospel by Canoe, a number of poems (some of which are incorporated in this volume), and four books: Alaska Days with John Muir (1916), Klondike Clan (1916), Adventures in Alaska (1919), and Kenowan, the Hydah Boy (1919). During a visit to West Virginia in 1927, he was killed by a trolley car near Clarksburg.
Samuel H. Young first met John Muir in 1879 when they explored Glacier Bay and discovered a glacier later named after Muir. Upon Muir s return to Alaska in 1880, they traveled together and mapped the inside route to Sitka. During this trip, Muir named a glacier in the Endicott Arm the Young in honor of his friend. They met briefly two more times in Alaska, in 1897 and again in 1899. His biographer, Robert Hastings Nichols, described Young as a man of inexhaustible energy, vitality, humor, and devotion. He was an ideal friend and companion for John Muir. Alaska Days with John Muir stands as an engaging record of that friendship in which they shared the wonders of Alaska and the wisdom of her native Indian populations. If anyone could be the exact opposite of John Muir s stern, inflexible and grim-faced religious, bible-preaching father, it was Samuel Hall Young, and perhaps this sharp contrast explains Muir s affinity for a religious missionary the likes of Samuel Young.
The reader of Alaska Days with John Muir learns much about the character of Young s friendship with Muir-their mutual admiration, and shared affinity for Nature, Indian cultures, and philosophical books by such authors as Emerson and Thoreau. Young garnered a vast amount of nature lore from his lifetime friend. As the minister writes, I was blind and he made me see. Even though their climb of Glenora Peak resulted in near tragedy, never before had Young been exposed to such enthusiasm and exultation for flowers, glaciers, and mountains. And never before had he seen anyone slide up a mountain like a human spider on sheer granite walls.
On the other hand Muir respected Young s spunk during the rescue mission on the upper slopes of Glenora Peak. The youthful minister endured the tremendous pain of two dislocated shoulders (brought on by a much earlier accident) and yet had the will and stamina to be guided back to civilization by his caring friend. Young s account of this rescue (Chapter II) serves as an interesting supplement to John Muir s own account The Stickeen River found in Mountaineering Essays (University of Utah Press, 1997).
Alaska Days with John Muir also provides us with a number of literary anecdotes. We learn that Muir was as good a storyteller as he was a writer and that he truly inspired the Indians of Alaska with his ice and storm sermons-so much so that he was dubbed Glate Ankow or Ice Chief. While Young does not give us details of these sermons, he does state that he spoke of the one God of us all. For the text of one of Muir s ice sermons, see the appendix of my book, Henry Thoreau and John Muir Among the Indians (Archon Books, 1985).
Young also describes Muir s painstaking writing process which involved much revision and rewriting. Muir was never satisfied with his marvelous dog story Stickeen until each sentence balanced well. We are given some significant chronological information about when Muir started writing his various books. In 1897, he had begun Our National Parks (1901) and portions of Travels in Alaska (1916). By 1910 he had begun writing The Story of My Boyhood and Youth (1913) just four years before his death. Young believed that Muir s books on mountains and forests were the best ever written.
While Young does, at times, slip into tones of a Victorian minister, his account also sparks with enthusiasm and love for the Tlingit Indians of panhandle Alaska. Young had mastered the Tlingit language and couldn t resist including native vocabulary throughout his book. He introduced Muir to a culture which had a profound impact on the naturalist s environmental thinking. While Muir became quite upset with occasional over-hunting and over-drinking (brought on by the white man), he nonetheless admired and respected their living in essential environmental harmony. They plied the waters in red cedar canoes, ate salmon and seal, wore clothing made from the materials of Nature, and had a rich folklore that included such mythic figures as Koosta-kah , an otterman who seized sleeping beings to cradle them atop the highest trees of the sitka forest.
It was rather amusing to both Young and Muir that the Indians couldn t understand why these two men sought only ice in the hills and not gold! Perhaps they were Indian in spirit because they, too, believed in living glacier beings. Curious also to the Indians was the willingness of Muir and Young to listen and not just talk. They learned as much about Tlingit religion as the natives did of Christianity, though Muir s religion was closer to the Indian s than was Young s. As the minister explains, Muir was a devout theist. The Fatherhood of God and the Unity of God, the immanence of God in Nature and His management of all the affairs of the universe, was his constant reiterated belief.
Even though Young took his religion seriously, as one would expect, he did possess a streak of whimsy. Sometimes he preferred going off in the wilds with Muir to preaching. Once, he arranged for other divines to preach to a group of eager Indians so that he could steal away from camp with his friend John of the mountains. Up there above tree line Young recollects that Nowhere else have I see[n] anything approaching the luxuriance and variety of delicate blossoms shown by these high, mountain pastures of the North.
When Young visited Muir at his California home near Martinez in 1883, he caught Muir in a dark moment of his life. The distraught naturalist had been away from his beloved wilderness for two years; he complained to Young that he had become a machine for making money at his fruit ranch. How fortunate Muir was to have his Alaskan friend drop by so unexpectedly to reinvigorate him with talk of icy fiords and adventures on Taylor Glacier with the brave little dog Stickeen that inspired him to write his great dog story Stickeen fourteen years later in 1897.
By the time an older Reverend Samuel Hall Young wrote his book about John Muir (one year after his friend s death), he looked forward to an afterlife because he knew instinctively that he would join his departed friends, John and Stickeen, to explore mountains and glaciers of a glorified Northland.
-Richard Francis Fleck, 1990 and 2012
Additional Commentary on Alaska Days with John Muir in Chronological Order:
Ronald H. Limbaugh, John Muir s Stickeen and the Lessons of Nature . Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press, 1996, pp. 19-20.
Terry Gifford, Reconnecting with John Muir . Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2006, p. 148.
Donald Worster, A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008, pp. 249-254.
Deep calm from God enfolds the land;
Light on the mountain top I stand;
How peaceful all, but ah, how grand!
Low lies the bay beneath my feet;
The bergs sail out, a white-winged fleet,
To where the sky and ocean meet.
Their glacier mother sleeps between
Her granite walls. The mountains lean
Above her, trailing skirts of green.
Each ancient brow is raised to heaven:
The snow streams always, tempest-driven,
Like hoary locks, o er chasms riven
By throes of Earth. But, still as sleep,
No storm disturbs the quiet deep
Where mirrored forms their silence keep.
A heaven of light beneath the sea!
A dream of worlds from shadow free!
A pictured, bright eternity!
The azure domes above, below
(A crystal casket), hold and show,
As precious jewels, gems of snow,
Dark emerald islets, amethyst
Of far horizon, pearls of mist
In pendant clouds, clear icebergs, kissed
By wavelets-sparkling diamonds rare
Quick flashing through the ambient air.
A ring of mountains, graven fair
In lines of grace, encircles all,
Save where the purple splendors fall
On sky and ocean s bridal-hall.
The yellow river, broad and fleet,
Winds through its velvet meadows sweet-
A chain of gold for jewels meet.
Pours over all the sun s broad ray;
Power, beauty, peace, in one array!
My God, I thank Thee for this day.
In the summer of 1879 I was stationed at Fort Wrangell in southeastern Alaska, whence I had come the year before, a green young student fresh from college and seminary-very green and very fresh-to do what I could towards establishing the white man s civilization among the Thlinget (Tlingit) Indians. I had very many things to learn and many more to unlearn.
Thither came by the monthly mail steamboat in July to aid and counsel me in my work three men of national reputation-Dr. Henry Kendall of New York; Dr. Aaron L. Lindsley of Portland, Oregon; and Dr. Sheldon Jackson of Denver and the West.
Their wives accompanied them and they were to spend a month with us.
Standing a little apart from them as the steamboat drew to the dock, his peering blue eyes already eagerly scanning the islands and mountains, was a lean, sinewy man of forty, with waving, reddish-brown hair and beard, and shoulders slightly stooped. He wore a Scotch cap and a long, gray tweed Ulster, which I have always since associated with him, and which seemed the same garment, unsoiled and unchanged, that he wore later on his northern trips. He was introduced as Professor Muir, the Naturalist. A hearty grip of the hand, and we seemed to coalesce at once in a friendship which, to me at least, has been one of the very best things I have known in a life full of blessings. From the first he was the strongest and most attractive of these four fine personalities to me, and I began to recognize him as my Master who was to lead me into enchanting regions of beauty and mystery, which without his aid must forever have remained unseen by the eyes of my soul. I sat at his feet; and at the feet of his spirit I still sit, a student, absorbed, surrendered, as this priest of Nature s inmost shrine unfolds to me the secrets of his mountains of God.
Minor excursions culminated in the chartering of the little steamer Cassiar , on which our party, augmented by two or three friends, steamed between the tremendous glaciers and through the columned canyons of the swift Stickeen River through the narrow strip of Alaska s cup-handle to Glenora, in British Columbia, one hundred and fifty miles from the river s mouth. Our captain was Nat. Lane, a grandson of the famous Senator Joseph Lane of Oregon.

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