I will finish one of the best books I have ever read later today. A Passion for Nature becomes the ultimate travel book towards the end. I have already promised it to others. I have to thank Eric Stearns at the John Muir NHS in Martinez, CA one final time for connecting me to a book that so completely suits my interests.
In Chapter 13 called “Earthquakes” writer Donald Worster tells about Muir’s final, major world trip that began with Charles Sprague Sargent. Sargent was a man of inherited wealth who lived in Boston and became a Professor of Botany at Harvard. He went on to become an important forest commissioner and an acquaintance of Muir as a result. Both men agreed to travel together on the grandest world tour in 1903-04 thatI have ever read about. Muir judged it to be the worst trip of his life but tolerated it until he was able to break free and go off on his own. This passionate loner for his entire life should have known better, but by this time he was becoming a world figure with a considerable reputation.
President Teddy Roosevelt visited Muir in Yosemite and called himself only an influential man, not the President, in preparation for this visit. Roosevelt and Muir camped together. This delighted Muir who found The current U. S. President to be a hearty companion and a kindred spirit. Muir, always something of an eccentric, was in his 60s by the time he embarked on this trip with Sargent. Becoming wealthy by this time, Muir needed the break from writing that this trip promised.
At this point, Worster decided to define a tourist. He or she was a person like Muir who traveled throughout his life for pleasure. However, the best trips always brought “Glimpses of the Sublime” and improved one’s understanding of nature. Both fit Muir’s perceptions. The least significant trips involved man-made monuments. This co-trip with Sargent was destined to not work.
After sailing to LIverpool, England, during which time some important documents disappeared causing delays, these travelers began a tour of Europe together that included Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, and St. Petersburg, Russia. Muir’s favorite experience was a humble stay in a Finnish farmhouse. They continued by rail to the Black Sea and got on the Trans Siberian Railroad for a 6,000 journey to the Pacific Ocean. The partners finally had to admit that traveling together was not working, and they split in China after going to Manchuria.
Muir’s weight had dropped to 100 pounds as he traveled by himself to India. From there he went to Egypt and The Holy Land. He then went from this part of the world to Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, The Philippines, Hong Kong, and Japan. With his weight back up to 150 pounds, he finally headed for home. Worster comments, “Only a few Americans had seen as much of the world as he.” Muir travelled mostly domestically after this, but he also went to Africa and South America.
Worster goes on to tell about Muir’s experiences in the 1906 earthquake, and I learned details about it that I had never heard before. Muir lived near San Francisco, and his property in Martinez was severely damaged as was much of the United States’ West Coast. Seismographs in Germany, Worster noted, reacted to this earthquake.