1419 Taylor St San Francisco Dec 3d 1877
My dear General.
I arrived in my old winter quarters here a week ago, My seasons field- -work done, & I was just sitting down to write to Mrs Bidwell when your letter of Nov 29th came in. The tardiness of my Kings River post. is easily explained. I committed it to the care of a mountaineer who was about to descend to the lowlands, & he probably carried it for a month or so in his breeches pocket in accordance with the well known business habits of that class of men. & now since you are so kindly interested in my welfare I must give you here, a sketch of my exploration since I wrote you from Sacramento. I left Snag Jumper at Sacramento in charge of a man whose name I have forgotten. He has boats of his own, & I tied Snag to one of his stakes in a snug out of-the-way nook above the railroad bridge. I met this pilot a mile up the river on his way home from hunting. He kindly led me into port, & then conducted me in the dark up the Barbary Coast into the town; & on taking
leave he volunteered the information, that he was always kindly disposed towards strangers, but that most people met under such circumstances would have robbed & made way [ with?] me etc, I think therefore that leaving Snag in his care will form an interesting experiment on human nature. I fully intended to sail on down into the bay & up the San Joaquin as far as Millerton, but when I came to examine a map of the river deltas & found that the distance was upwards of three hundred miles, & learned also that the upper San Joaquin was not navigable this dry year even for my craft, & when I also took into consideration the approach of winter & danger of snow storms on the Kings River summits, I concluded to [ bye?] my way into the mountains at once, & leave the San Joaquin studies until my return. Accordingly I took the streamer to San Francisco, where I remained one day, leaving extra baggage, & getting some changes of clothing. Then went directly rail to Visalia, thence pushed up the mountains to Hydes [ Hill?] on the Kaweah, where I obtained some flour, which, together with the tea Mrs Bidwell supplied me with, & that piece of dried beef, & a little sugar, constituted my stock of provisions. From here I crossed the divide, going northward through fine Sequoia woods to converse on Kings River. Here I spent two days making some studies on the Big Trees, chiefly with aperance to their age. Then I turned eastward & pushed
off into the glorious wilderness, following the general direction of the South Fork a few miles back from the brink until I had crossed three tributary canons from 1500 to 2000 feet deep. In the Eastmost & Middle were of the three I was delighted to discover some four or five square miles of Sequoia where I had long guessed the existence of these grand old tree kings. After this capital discovery I made my way to the bottom of the main South Fork Canon down a rugged side gorge having a descent of more than 4000 feet. This was at a point about two miles above the confluence of Bowld[illegible] Creek. From here I pushed slowly on up the bottom of the [ canon, through brush & avalanch?] boulders, past many a charming fall & garden sacred to Nature, & at length reached the grand Yosemite, at the head, where I stopped two days to make some measurements of the cliffs & cascades. This done, I crossed over the divide to the Middle Fork by a pass 12,200 feet high, & struck the head of a small tributary that conducted me to the head of the Main Middle Fork Canon - which I followed down through its entire length, though it has [illegible] been regarded as absolutely inaccessible in its lower reaches. This accomplished, & all my necessary sketches & measurements made, I climbed the canon wall below the confluence of the Mid’ & South Forks & came out at [ Converses?] again – then back to Hydes Hill, Visalia, & thence to Merced City by rail; thence by stage to Snelling & thence
to Hampton afoot. Here I built a little unpretentious successor to snag out of some gnarled [illegible] twisted fencing, launched it in the Merced opposite the village, & rowed down into the San Joaquin; thence down the San Joaquin past Stockton & through the tule region into the bay near Martinez. Here I aboad[illegible] my boat & set off cross lots, for Mt. Dia[illegible] Spent a night on the summit, & walked the next day into Oakland & here my fine summers’ wanderings came to an end. And now I find that this mere skeleton fingerboard indication of my excursion has filled at least the space of a long letter, while I have told you nothing of my gains. If you were nearer I would take a day or two & come & report, & talk i[illegible]terately in & out of season until you would be glad to have me once more in the canons & silence, but Chico is far, & I can only finish with a catalogue of my new riches, setting them down one after the other like words in a spelling book – 1st - Four or five Square miles Sequoia ——————————————————— 2 - The ages of 26 specimen Sequoia. of the Central plain of Cala. 3 - A fine fact about bears. 8 – A picturesque cluster of facts concerning the 4 - A sure measurement of the river birds & animals. deepest of all the ancient glaciers 9 – A glorious series of new landscapes – with yet traced in the Sierra. mountain furniture & furniture of the most 5 - Two waterfalls of the first order & ravishing grandeur & beauty. Cascades innumerable. 6 - [underlined: A new Yosemite Valley]!!! 7 - Grand facts concerning the formation
[Rose leaf in top left corner] And now here comes the third big sheet & nothing said. The most ex= tensive letters are capable of containing but little more than mere compliments. Here Mrs Bidwell is a rose leaf from a wild briar on Mt Diablo whose leaves are more flowers than its petals. [ Is’nt?] it beautiful? That New Yosemite Valley is located in the heart of the Middle Fork Canon, the most remote & inaccessible, one of the very grandest of all the mountain temples of the range. It is still sacred to Nature – its gardens untrodden & every nook & rejoicing cataract wears the bloom & glad sun beauty of primeral wildness. Ferns & lilies & grasses over ones head. I saw a flock of five deer in one of its open meadows, & a grizzly bear quietly munching acorns under a tree within a few steps. The cold was keen & searching the night I spent on the summit by the edge of a glacier lake 22 degrees below the freezing point, & a storm wind blowing in fine hearty surges among the shattered cliffs overhead, & to crown all, snow flowers began to fly a few minutes after midnight causing me to fold that quilt of yours & fly to avoid a serious snowbound. By daylight I was down in the Main Middle Fork in a milder climate & safer position at an elevation of only 7500 feet. All the summit
[in margin: I am ever cordially yours John Muir.]
peaks were quickly clad in close unbroken whites. I was terribly hungry ere I got out of this wild canon. – had less then sufficient for one meal in the last four days, this coupled with very hard nerve trying cliff work was sufficiently exhausting for any mountaineer. Yet, strange to say, I did not suffer much. Crystal water, & air, & honey sucked from the scarlet flowers of Zanchneria, about one tenth as much as would suffice for a hummingbird was my last breakfast - a very temperate meal, was it not? Wholly ungross & very nearly spiritual. Thy last effort before reaching food was a climb up out of the Main Canon of 5000 feet, still I made it in fair time – only a little faint, no giddiness, want of spirit, or incapacity to observe & enjoy, or any nonsense of this kind. How I should have liked to have then tumbled into your care for a day or two. My sail down the Merced & San Joaquin was about 250 miles in length & took two weeks, a far more difficult & less interesting as far as scenery is concerned than my memorable first voyage down the Sacramento. Sandbars & gravelly ripples as well as snags gave me much trouble, & in the Tule wilderness I had to [illegible] my tiny craft to a bunch of rushes & sleep cold in her bottom with the seat for a pillow. I have gotten past most of the weariness but am hungry yet notwithstanding friends have been stuffing me here ever since, I may go hungry thro life & into the very grave & beyond unless you effect a cure, & Im sure I should like to try Rancho Chico. Would have tried it ere this were you not so far off. I slept in your quilt all thru the excursion, & brought it here tolerably clean & whole. The flag I left [in margin: tied to a bush top in the bottom of the Mid F Canon. I have not yet written to Gray, have you? Remember me to your Sister. I mean to write to her soon. I must close. With lively remembrance of your rare Kindness]
1419 Taylor St. San Francisco, [Calif]
1877 Dec 3
Original letter dimensions unknown.
Muir, John, "Letter from John Muir to [John Bidwell], 1877 Dec 3." (1877). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 388.
Reel 03, Image 0631
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 http://www.pacific.edu/Library/Find/Holt-Atherton-Special-Collections/Fees-and-Forms-.html
The Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley. Please contact this institution directly to obtain copies of the images or permission to publish or use them beyond educational purposes.