My First Summer in the Sierra: Illustrated Edition

by John Muir and Scot Miller

An illustrated editon of John Muir's MY FIRST SUMMER IN THE SIERRA.

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780618988518
  • ISBN-10: 0618988513
  • Pages: 204
  • Publication Date: 03/10/2011
  • Carton Quantity: 12

About the book

From the photographer who brought Thoreau's Walden and Cape Cod to life comes a new work combining classic literature with brand-new photography. This time, Scot Miller takes on the seminal work of John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra. The book details Muir's first extended trip to the Sierra Nevada in what is now Yosemite National Park, a landscape that entranced him immediately and had a profound effect on his life. The towering waterfalls, natural rock formations, and abundant plant and animal life helped Muir develop his views of the natural world, views that would eventually lead him to push for the creation of the national parks.

My First Summer in the Sierra is illustrated with Miller's stunning photographs, showcasing the dramatic landscape of the High Sierra plus John Muir's illustrations from the original edition and several previously unpublished illustrations from his 1911 manuscript. The publication of My First Summer in the Sierra inspired many to journey there, and this newly illustrated edition will surely inspire many more.

This book is being published in collaboration with Yosemite Conservancy and, for each copy sold, Scot Miller is making a donation to Yosemite Conservancy. My First Summer in the Sierra won the National Outdoor Book Award.

About the author
John Muir

John Muir (1838-1914) was one of the most influential conservationists and nature writers in American history. He was instrumental in the creation and passage of the National Parks Act, and founder of the Sierra Club, acting as its president until his death. Muir was a spirit so free that all he did to prepare for an expedition was to "throw some tea and bread into an old sack and jump the back fence."

Scot Miller

SCOT MILLER is a professional photographer whose photographs have appeared in numerous books and publications, including Walden: The 150th Anniversary Illustrated Edition of the American Classic and Cape Cod: Illustrated Edition of the American Classic. Miller lives in Dallas, Texas, with his wife, Marilyn, where they operate Sun to Moon Gallery, a fine art photography gallery.



Chapter 1

Through the Foothills with a Flock of Sheep

In the great Central Valley of California

there are only two seasons — spring

and summer. The spring begins with the

first rainstorm, which usually falls in November.

In a few months the wonderful flowery

vegetation is in full bloom, and by the end

of May it is dead and dry and crisp, as if every

plant had been roasted in an oven.

 Then the lolling, panting flocks and herds are

driven to the high, cool, green pastures of the

Sierra. I was longing for the mountains about

this time, but money was scarce and I couldn’t

see how a bread supply was to be kept up. While

I was anxiously brooding on the bread problem,

so troublesome to wanderers, and trying

to believe that I might learn to live like the wild

animals, gleaning nourishment here and there

from seeds, berries, etc., sauntering and climbing

in joyful independence of money or baggage,

Mr. Delaney, a sheep-owner, for whom I

had worked a few weeks, called on me, and offered

to engage me to go with his shepherd and

flock to the headwaters of the Merced and Tuolumne

Rivers — the very region I had most in

mind. I was in the mood to accept work of any

kind that would take me into the mountains

whose treasures I had tasted last summer in the

Yosemite region. The flock, he explained, would

be moved gradually higher through the successive

forest belts as the snow melted, stopping

for a few weeks at the best places we came to.

These I thought would be good centers of observation

from which I might be able to make

many telling excursions within a radius of eight

or ten miles of the camps to learn something of

the plants, animals, and rocks; for he assured me

that I should be left perfectly free to follow my

studies. I judged, however, that I was in no way

the right man for the place, and freely explained

my shortcomings, confessing that I was wholly

unacquainted with the topography of the upper

mountains, the streams that would have to be

crossed, and the wild sheep-eating animals,

etc.; in short that, what with bears, coyotes,

rivers, cañons, and thorny, bewildering chaparral,

I feared that half or more of his flock would

be lost. Fortunately these shortcomings seemed

insignificant to Mr. Delaney. The main thing, he

said, was to have a man about the camp whom

he could trust to see that the shepherd did his

duty, and he assured me that the difficulties that

seemed so formidable at a distance would vanish

as we went on; encouraging me further by saying

that the shepherd would do all the herding,

that I could study plants and rocks and scenery

as much as I liked, and that he would himself

accompany us to the first main camp and make

occasional visits to our higher ones to replenish

our store of provisions and see how we prospered.

Therefore I concluded to go, though still

fearing, when I saw the silly sheep bouncing one

by one through the narrow gate of the home corral

to be counted, that of the two thousand and

fifty many would never return.

 I was fortunate in getting a fine St. Bernard

dog for a companion. His master, a hunter with

whom I was slightly acquainted, came to me as

soon as he heard that I was going to spend the

summer in the Sierra and begged me to take

his favorite dog, Carlo, with me, for he feared

that if he were compelled to stay all summer on

the plains the fierce heat might be the death of

him. “I think I can trust you to be kind to him,”

he said, “and I am sure he will be good to you.

He knows all about the mountain animals, will

guard the camp, assist in managing the sheep,

and in every way be found able and faithful.”

Carlo knew we were talking about him, watched

our faces, and listened so attentively that I fancied

he understood us. Calling him by name, I

asked him if he was willing to go with me. He

looked me in the face with eyes expressing wonderful

intelligence, then turned to his master,

and after permission was given by a wave of the

hand toward me and a farewell patting caress, he

quietly followed me as if he perfectly understood

all that had been said and had known me always.

June 3, 1869. This morning provisions, campkettles,

blankets, plant-press, etc., were packed

on two horses, the flock headed for the tawny

foothills, and away we sauntered in a cloud of

dust: Mr. Delaney, bony and tall, with sharply

hacked profile like Don Quixote, leading the

pack-horses, Billy, the proud shepherd, a Chinaman

and a Digger Indian to assist in driving

for the first few days in the brushy foothills, and

myself with notebook tied to my belt.

 The home ranch from which we set out is

on the south side of the Tuolumne River near

French Bar, where the foothills of metamorphic

gold-bearing slates dip below the stratified deposits

of the Central Valley. We had not gone

more than a mile before some of the old leaders

of the flock showed by the eager, inquiring

way they ran and looked ahead that they were

thinking of the high pastures they had enjoyed

last summer. Soon the whole flock seemed to

be hopefully excited, the mothers calling their

lambs, the lambs replying in tones wonderfully

human, their fondly quavering calls interrupted

now and then by hastily snatched mouthfuls

of withered grass. Amid all this seeming babel

of baas as they streamed over the hills every

mother and child recognized each other’s voice.

In case a tired lamb, half asleep in the smothering

dust, should fail to answer, its mother would

come running back through the flock toward the

spot whence its last response was heard, and refused

to be comforted until she found it, the one

of a thousand, though to our eyes and ears all

seemed alike.

 The flock traveled at the rate of about a mile

an hour, outspread in the form of an irregular

triangle, about a hundred yards wide at the

base, and a hundred and fifty yards long, with

a crooked, ever-changing point made up of the

strongest foragers, called the “leaders,” which,

with the most active of those scattered along the

ragged sides of the “main body,” hastily explored

nooks in the rocks and bushes for grass and

leaves; the lambs and feeble old mothers dawdling

in the rear were called the “tail end.”

 About noon the heat was hard to bear; the

poor sheep panted pitifully and tried to stop

in the shade of every tree they came to, while

we gazed with eager longing through the dun

burning glare toward the snowy mountains and

streams, though not one was in sight. The landscape

is only wavering foothills roughened here

and there with bushes and trees and outcropping

masses of slate. The trees, mostly the blue

oak (Quercus douglasii), are about thirty to forty

feet high, with pale blue-green leaves and white

bark, sparsely planted on the thinnest soil or in

crevices of rocks beyond the reach of grass fires.

The slates in many places rise abruptly through

the tawny grass in sharp lichen-covered slabs

like tombstones in deserted burying-grounds.

With the exception of the oak and four or five

species of manzanita and ceanothus, the vegetation

of the foothills is mostly the same as that of

the plains. I saw this region in the early spring,

when it was a charming landscape garden full of

birds and bees and flowers. Now the scorching

weather makes everything dreary. The ground

is full of cracks, lizards glide about on the rocks,

and ants in amazing numbers, whose tiny sparks

of life only burn the brighter with the heat, fairly