Herbert W. Gleason


John Muir





The Canadian Alps
Yellowstone Park
In Thoreau's Country
Wild Flowers of the Rockies
Bird Life

.Boston, Dec. 18, 1907.

My dear Mr. Muir:

I fear you will set me down as a worthless kind of muggins to be so neglectful of the promise which I gave you that Mrs. G. and I would call and see you again before we left California. I assure you that such was truly our intention and desire. I had the tickets to Martinez in my pocket all the time - and have them yet, - but Mrs. G. did not return north again after going to Los Angeles, as we planned, and when I returned I had to hurry away to Seattle and Portland on lecture engagements and then had to hurry back to Los Angeles for more lecture engagements. So I missed you entirely, for which I am very sorry.
There were a good many things that I wanted to talk over with you, and it is not very satisfactory to use a typewriter medium; but unless you are coming East very soon, this is my only resort, for unfortunately my tickets to Martinez do not cover the distance between here
and SanFrancisco.
I had a great time on my King's River trip. I particularly enjoyed the horseback ride in from Millwood - partly, no doubt, because it was such a contrast to what I had seen (and felt) during my two days' enforced stay at the Sequoia Hotel (save the mark!) in Millwood. In the canyon I made my headquarters at Kanawyer's, visiting various points in the neighborhood, ascending Bubb's Creek to Bullfrog-Bryanthus Lake, and climbing Kearsarge Pass and Mt. Gould. Unhappily, my time was limited (by another lecture engagement at Los Angeles) so I could not visit Owen's Valley or climb Mt. Whitney.
But I was supremely interested in the Sequoias. This was my first sight of them, and I took off my hat in adoration. No temple made by man, however stately and beautiful, has begun to inspire within me the reverence which I felt when I first gazed upon these forest giants. I spent a whole day tramping about in the Gen. Grant Park all alone and would fain have stayed there six months. The one thing above all others which draws me to California and makes me eager to visit the state again is the Big Trees.
I enjoyed especially the trip through



the unpreserved trees in the Boulder Creek region. Here I saw some enormous trees, one of which Kanawyer pointed out to me as bigger than the Gen. Grant. And yet you California people are going to let the Sanger Lumber Co. go in there next year and cut every one of those superb trees down! I am glad that I am not a citizen of California, to have that crime on my conscience. I told an audience in Los Angeles that I thought it ought to be made a capital offence to cut down a Sequoia, and they applauded me. Are there not enough like-minded people in California to prevent this threatened infernal slaughter? It is an unspeakable shame and will be an everlasting disgrace to California if this thing is done. Better dam up the Hetch-Hetchy a hundred times rather than allow these priceless trees to be cut down, for the Hetch-Hetchy Valley can be restored, after people come to their senses and see the wickedness of damming it up; but once these 4,000-years old Sequoias are cut down, they can never be restored. We people in the East are taking every possible means to preserve our ancient elms, but these trees are mere infants of yesterday compared with California's Sequoias.
That whole forest south of the King's, between Millwood and the Canyon, ought to be un-

reservedly protected in perpetuity. It is a sublime forest, and I was vexed because we had to hasten through it so rapidly. Another time I mean to walk through it and take my time, if I have to spend a month there.
The art editor of the Los Angeles Times wrote up an interview with me on the King's River Canyon, a copy of which I enclose. I don't imagine you will agree with me in my comparison between the Canyon and Yosemite, but that is the way it impressed me. Doubtless the persistent prominence of a certain sort of human beings in the Yosemite and the contrasting primitiveness and wildness of the King's led me to the conclusion which I have stated. I long to visit the Yosemite again, but I wish I could see it without its repelling human adjuncts.
I made a delightful acquaintance among the California pines and brought home over a dozen cones of different species, - all except P. muricata and P. Torreyi, I believe. Later I shall hope to send you some typical photographs.
Southern California was hot, dry and dusty. We saw a good deal of Los Angeles, Red-lands, Riverside, Pasadena, etc., but another time I must choose a different season for our visit.
Our trip to Del Monte and the Monterey

shore was one of our most delightful experiences of the summer. Those ancient cypresses simply took me captive, and the shore views (there happened to be a tremendous surf during our stay there) were magnificent.
We left Los Angeles Nov. 16 and stopped for a second time at the Grand Canyon on our way East. I had planned, as I told you, to also visit the Petrified Forest, but was prevented by an unfortunate accident which deprived me of the use of my camera. I was starting out with a pack-mule down the Bright Angel trail one morning. The trail was icy and the mule (the stable boys had given me one which was smooth-shod) suddenly slipped, fell, and went rolling over the cliff out of sight, with my cameras on his back! It was a fearsome sight. But on going to the place where he had disappeared I saw him, 290 feet below, caught against a tree right on the very edge of a 100 ft. precipice. It too six men with tackle two hours to get that mule back on the trail again. He wasn't hurt, but my cameras - alas, alas! I packed up and started for Boston as quick as I could get there.
But the Petrified Forest isn't likely to be made into lumber right away, and I hope to have another chance to visit it.
Soon after reaching Boston I called on Mr. Mifflin and gave him your order for the Thoreau books. He said he would find out just what kind of binding you wanted and have them shipped to you. I guess you will think twice before you give me another verbal order for books! If you had written H. M. & Co. at the time you spoke to me you might have had the books delivered and half read through by this time!
Mrs. Gleason joins me in most cordial regards both to your daughter and yourself. We hope you are both in excellent health. If only you in California could have a little of the snap and vigor of our New England winter in your atmosphere I think you would be irresistibly attractive! But really, I don't want any more of Southern California in the summer time.

Sincerely yours,



Art and Artists.



The Greatest Thing in California.
Herbert W. Gleason, Who is a member of the American Alpine Club, the Mazama Club, the Appalachian Mountain Club, etc., is well known in the East as a lecturer on a variety of subjects connected with travel and nature study. He has also been engaged to illustrate with his photographs editions de luxe of the writings of Thoreau, Emerson, Lowell, John, Burroughs and others.
For the past seven years Mr. Gleason has spent the summer season among the mountains of the West, including the Canadian Rockies, the Selkirks the Cascades, the great snow peaks of Washington. Onegon and Alaska, securing with his camera picturesque views of the wonderful mountain scenery of these various regions, and also exceptionally beautiful photographs of the wild flowers birds and animals.
This year he has given the entire summer to California, visiting Yosemite Valley and the region about Tuolumne Meadows with the Sierra Club on their annual excursion, and then going to Mt. Shasta for a brief trip, followed by two weeks spent in the fascinating country about Lake Tahoe. He has just returned to Los Angeles from another two weeks spent in the King's River Canon.
"The King's River Canon lying along the south fork of the King's River," said the artist-photographer to me the other day, "is the grandest thing I have yet seen in California. It is remarkably similar, in its main features, to the famous Yosemite Valley, and a comparison is naturally suggested. The Yosemite stands without a rival the world over for its unique beauty and variety. Nowhere else can be found within such limited space so many and so striking natural wonders. Its waterfalls, in particular, are unsurpassed.
"Yet the King's River Canon, including the upper portion called Bubb's Creek Canon, really a part of the same great glacial trough, and Paradise Canon, which is a tremendous gorge in itself, although only tributary to the main canon, greatly exceeds the Yosemite in the grandeur and extent of its massive rock formations and in the height and majesty of its moun- the southern wall of the canon, is over 11,000 feet; Mt. Brewer, reached by an easy journey from Bubb's Creek, is over 13.000 feet, while a number of peaks, farther south; - but still within arm's length, so to, speak, of the canon, approach 14,000 feet.
"A trip up the canon to the crest of the Sierras at the famous Kearsarge Pass, such as I took last week, is of extreme interest. The trail leads along the boisterous yet beautiful Bubb's Creek, with majestic cliffs close on either hand. At many points the view back down the valley is surpassingly fine. The trail continually ascends until some of the higher meadows are reached when the superb East and West Videttes loom up in all their grandeur and a glorious view is had of Mt. Brewer with its glistening snow field.
"Still climbing, the trail reaches Bullfrog Lake (or Bryanthus Lake, as many wish to call it,) an exquisitely beautiful Alpine gem with a mountainous setting so vast and rugged as to make its quiet charm all the more impressive by contrast. Farther on the Kearsarge Lakes are reached, and then, after a short climb, Kearsarge Pass---the highest pass in the Sierras, 12000 feet above the sea. Here one looks down a steep ascent toward the east. Far in the distance appears the desert and the valley of Owens River, with the town of Independence and its surrounding ranches clearly discerned through the haze. The backbone of the Sierras is so sharp at this point that it can almost be straddled, and the view both north and south along the ridge is exceedingly wild and rugged.
"Thus far one can come on horseback, but a much grander and more extensive view is to be had from the summit of Mt. Gould (13,001 feet,) which is reached by an easy though somewhat steep scramble from the pass. Standing here, one can look far to the north and northwest over a sea of lofty peaks. Along the eastern horizon stretch the Inyo Mountains, separated from the Sierras by the great Owens Valley. Far in the southeast is seen Owens Lake, with its desert surroundings. Immediately to the south rises the grand University of California Peak, with the Kearsarge Pinnacles in the foreground, while back of these extends a splendid array of snow-



(Continued From First Page.)

ers would doubtless prefer the quicker and more comfortable stage route.
"The new road will pass through the Gen. Grant National Park, thence to Ten-mile Creek, thence to the southern portion of the cafion, crossing the river and continuing along the north bank through some very notable scenery until the main floor of the cafion is reached. There is a camp at the junction of Copper Creek and the King's, and here have already begun extensive improvements in anticipation of the certain increase of visitors following the completion of the stage road.
"There is no question, but that this King's River region is one of the most valuable assets which the State possesses. It is sure to become widely famous in the immediate future, and it will not surprise me if eventually the number of visitors annually will equal or exceed those now going to the Yosemite. In that case, of course, something of the charm of the locality will be lost, for at present its primitive wildness and total absence of everything artificial constitute no small part of its attractiveness to many visitors.
"But if the matter is properly handled this loss will be very slight. First of all, the entire region of the head-waters of the Middle and South Fork of the King's should be made a national park, and placed under government supervision. The advantages accruing from this would be inestimable, not only in making the region more accessible and maintaining its facilities in better shape, but in preserving its natural beauties, especially the forest growth, and protecting its wild life. Contrast the present timidity of wild animals, especially the deer, in the King's River region with the tameness of the same animals,(wild, and yet protected,) which we find in Yellowstone Park. It would be but a few years, under proper government supervision, when the King's River region would also become a paradise for wild animals.
"There is one other improvement which should be made, it seems to me," Mr. Gleason continued reflectively, "and that is in respect to the nomenclature of the locality. It is unfortunate that the cafion did not receive some appropriate name of Spanish or Indian origin. Yosemite, Tuolumne, Merced, San Joaquin, Tehipite-are all beautiful names. Mr. King may have been a very worthy man, but the name is empty and devoid of all significance to 99 out of every 100 who visit the cafion. And who was Bubb? It is a shame that such a magnificent valley and stream should bear such an insignificant name."
"Mr. Gleason, referring again to the comparison between the Yosemite and the King's-a comparison that did not strike me as being at all odious-if a person can visit but one of these localities, which shall he choose?"
"The Yosemite, by all means," answered the artist emphatically, "because of its greater accessibility and its manifold beauty, but having seen the Yosemite, he should, if possible, visit the King's River Cafion, if he would gain a true conception of the marvelous scenery of the Sierra Nevada."


Herbert W. Gleason.

tain setting. The mountains adjacent to the Yosemite are scarcely over 9000 feet high, while many. of the peaks which are neighboring to the King's River Cafion are 11,000 and 12,000 feet in altitude, while the high crest of the Sierras, immediately to the south, exceeds 14,000 feet at many points. Consequently the King's River Cafion, taking in the surroundings as well as the valley itself [Illegible] decidedly more impressive than the Yosemite [Illegible].
Perhaps I looked a wonder that bordered on incredulity Mr. Gleason, however, only smiled reassuringly to me and kept on talking.
"I speak the simple truth," said he. "My tale is no airy tissue of the imagination, no cloud-wrought fancy of the mind. Go and see for yourself. Nor are the single features of the cafion belittled by a comparison with the more famous valley. Grand Sentinel rears its lofty, [Illegible] pinnacled top 3700 feet sheer above the floor of the valley. The North Dome approaches El. Capitan in the grandeur of its perpendicular face, while Bubb's Dome is even more, gigantic. Buck-Peak, Glacier Monument. East West Videttes, and various other points over-looking the valley, which are as yet nameless, are quite as sublime as the corresponding cliffs of the Yosemite. To be sure, there is no Vernal or Bridal Veil Fall, yet there are a number of tumutuous, cascades of great beauty along the Paradise Branch. Bubb's Creek Roaring River, while Mist Falls and Roaring River Falls possess a unique charm. The floor of the valley, also, while not conspicuous for its open meadows, like those of the Yosemite, is exceedingly beautiful, with its magnificent sugar pines, yellow pines. California oaks and incense cedars.
"But it is chiefly in its mountain surroundings that the King's River Cafion calls for highest admiration. Goat Mountain, just to the north, reaches an altitude of 12,203 feet, and the view from its summit is one of the grandest in the entire Sierras. Avalanche Peak, within only two miles of capped giants- the whole forming a mountain panorama superbly beautiful.
"To the west, just beneath one's feet, lies the valley in which Bullfrog Lake is situated, beyond which can be traced the striking headlands which mark the boundaries of the King's River Cafion. A view of this character, so extensive, so magnificent, and so easily reached ought to make. Mt Gould the Mecca of mountain-loving tourists from all over the world. Yet this is only one of many similar lofty points which are comfortably accessible from King's River Cafion."
"Tell me, Mr. Gleason, are there any other trips of interest which can be made from Kings River Cafion as a base?"
"Any? Many of them and all of the greatest interest. The climber may go up the valley of Copper Creek, with the ascent of Goat Mountain, or up the basin of Roaring River, on to East Lake, from which Mt. Brewer can be easily climbed, or up the South Fork to Paradise Valley and Mt. King and Mt. Gardner, or to Tehipite Valley on the Middle Fork- and every one of these is a red-letter excursion by itself."
"But how did you get to King's River Cafion?"
"I was obliged to make a horseback trip of it, and the trail was not always easy or delightful. However, the good news has gone forth that [illegible] the long-contemplated. State road is now in actual construction and will be completed in two years. At present, leaving the Southern Pacific is at Sanger, there is a stage ride of fifty miles to Millwood, where one must transfer himself and his belongings to a pack train. Two days more are required to reach the cafion by this conveyance, and while the trail leads through a wonderfully interesting region- particularly interesting on account of the splendid groves of noble sequoias through which it passes-most travel-

(Continued on Fourteenth Page.)




Date Original

1907 Dec 18


Original letter dimensions: 21 x 14 cm.

Resource Identifier


File Identifier

Reel 16, Image 1283

Collection Identifier

Online finding aid for the microform version of the John Muir Correspondence

Copyright Statement

Some letters written to John Muir may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.). Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Owning Institution

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


5 pages


Environmentalist, naturalist, travel, conservation, national parks, John Muir, Yosemite, California, history, correspondence, letters



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.