John Muir


[Helen Hunt] Jackson


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[Rough draft of letter]To Helen Hunt JacksonMartinez, June 16th, 1885My dear Mrs. Jackson:Your letter of June 8th has shown me how sick you are, but also that your good angel is guiding you to the mountains, and therefore I feel sure that you will soon be well again.When I came to California from the swamps of Florida, full of malarial poison, I crawled up the mountains over the snow into the blessed woods about Yosemite Valley, and the exquisite pleasure of convalescence that came to me at once and exuberant rebound to perfect health seem still as fresh and vivid after all these years as if enjoyed but yesterday.The conditions you lay down for your itinerary seem to me desperately forbidding. No path accessible to your compound congregation can be traced across the range, maintaining anything like an elevation of 4000 feet, to say nothing of coolness and moisture, while along the range the topography is still less compliant to your plans. When I was tracing the Sequoia belt from the Calaveras to [illegible] Kern River I was compelled to make a descent of 9000 ft. in one continuous swoop in crossing the Kings River Valley, while the ups and downs from ridge to ridge throughout the whole course averaged nearly 5000 feet.No considerable portion of the middle and southern Sierra is cool and moist at 4000 ft during late summer, for there you are only on the open margin of the main forest zone, which is sifted during the day by the dry warm winds that blow across the San Joaquin plains and foothills, though the night winds from the summit of the range make the nights delightfully cool and refreshing.The northern Sierra is considerably cooler and moister at the same heights. From the end of the Oregon R.R. beyond Redding you might work up by a gentle grade of fifty miles or so to Strawberry Valley where the elevation is 4000 feet. There is abundance of everything, civil [illegible] as well as wild, and from thence circle away all summer around Mt. Shasta where the circumference is about 100 miles, and only a small portion of your way would lie much above or below the required elevation, and only the North side, in Shasta Valley, would you find rather dry and warm, perhaps, while you would reach an express station at every round or a good messenger could find you in a day from the station at any point in your orbit. And think how glorious a centre you would have!-so glorious and inspiring that I would gladly revolve there, weary, afoot, and alone for all eternity.The Kings River yosemite would be a delightful summer den for you, abounding in the best the mountains have to give. Its elevation is about 5000 ft. length 9 miles, and it is reached by way of Visalia and Hyde's Mills among the Sequoias of the Kaweah, but not quite accessible to your wheels and pans, I fear. Have you considered the redwood region of the Coast Range about Mendocino? There you would find coolness, moist air, and spicy woods at a moderate elevation.If an elevation of 6000 ft. were considered admissible, I would advise your going on direct to Truckee by rail, rather than to Dutch Flat, where the climate may be found too dry and hot. From Truckee by easy stages to Tahoe City and thence around the Lake and over the lake all summer. This, as you must know, is a delightful region -- cool and moist and leafy, with abundance of food and express stations, etc.What an outfit you are to have - terrible as an army with banners! I scarce dare think of it. What will my poor Douglas squirrels say at the sight? They used to frisk across my feet, but I had only two feet, which seemed too many for the topography in some places, while you have a 100, besides wooden spokes and spooks. Under ordinary circumstances they would probably frighten the maid and stare the doctor out of countenance, but every tail will be turned haste and & hidden at the bottom of the deepest knotholes. And what shuffling and haste there will be in the chaparral when the bears are getting away! Even the winds might hold their breath, I fancy, 'pause and die'and the great pines groan aghast at the oncoming of so many shining cans and carriages and strange colors.But go to the mountains where and how you will, you will soon be free from the effects of this confusion, and God's sky will bend down about you as if made for you alone, and the pines will spread their healing arms above you and bless you and make you well again, and so delight the heart ofJ.M.[Folder marked "My letter to H.H. on her proposed trip into the Sierra for health"]


Martinez, [Calif]

Date Original

1885 Jun 16


Original letter dimensions: 20.5 x 25.5 cm.

Resource Identifier


File Identifier

Reel 05, Image 0292

Copyright Statement

The unpublished works of John Muir are copyrighted by the Muir-Hanna Trust. To purchase copies of images and/or obtain permission to publish or exhibit them, see

Owning Institution

University of the Pacific Library Holt-Atherton Special Collections. Please contact this institution directly to obtain copies of the images or permission to publish or use them beyond educational purposes.

Copyright Holder

Muir-Hanna Trust

Copyright Date


Page Number

Page 5


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