John Muir


John Muir


[Strentzel Family]



On board the Zephyr between Steilicoom & Olympia June 25th 1879. ————

I wish I could tell you how beautiful our sail has been ever since we entered the Straits of F[illegible] The shores are de[illegible]ly timbered with the most lovely comfers & Arbutus (Madrono) down to the waters edge & the jutting headlands & long promout[illegible] islets, islands; bays sound inlets & rivers are so varied & so marvelously composed that the whole is one extr[illegible]tly lovely fairy land. And then even from the steamer the glacial handwriting is so clear & telling & on so grand a scale that I have been nervous & excited beyond all control. I’m sorry I have to do so soon, for the details of this grand poem of God can never be read by me. We landed at Esquimalt 3 ms from Victoria & down to town along a well built road which mazes around & past unumerable big up swelling [rocky mountains?] fresh & telling scarce at all changed by post glacial erosion, & on every bed of sail between the rocks the most luxuriant & densest growth of Comfers I ever saw. How fresh & sweet & hopeful they are – they bounded the road

[in margin: Alaska] [in margin: 00855]

[Page 2]


like a hedge – what masses of light & shade in the ferns four to eight feet high beneath, with Trintalis s[illegible] [ Erythrea?] & geranium. Here & there a Mad[illegible] & the most lavish masses of rose & speraea in full bloom. The rose ten feet high – flrs 3 inches diameter & deliciously fragrant fairly filling the air. The Mad[illegible] is in flr’ too & so are all three of the Spiraens one purple, two white. One of the white is a bush ten or 15 ft hight & the most gloriously lavish in its bloom of all I ever beheld. A branch half an inch in dia would have 40 or 50 p[illegible] six inches long upon it. bloom on bloom over leaning & over lying in a perfect storm of extra[illegible]. These roses, these sp[illegible] these glorious Enifers & will have with me for- =ever. The glacial phenomena too are interesting beyond measure. The whole region hear abouts was overswept by an ice sheet from the north. This is [underlined: Certain]. The direction of the flow at Victoria was a little to the east of [illegible]. The [ harbo?] is full of rock islets – [illegible] [illegible] not at all changed by the action of the waves they are new born & have but just begun to feel the swash & swell & ripple of the sea


How strange it seems to see vessels & large towns or indeed man homes of any sort on so glacial a ground. It is as if one should come upon a town on the glacial [illegible] above Yosemite All the scenery of Pugets Sound is suggestion of that of Lake Tahoe & it is hard indeed to feel that one is really on an arm of the sea & not rather on an Alpine lake. I could this moment throw a stone into the woods so closely are we passing a lovely pro[illegible] Oh dear! I can tell you so little – We had head winds a heavy sea the first two days. Most everyone but me were seasick, The hope & the joy & the eager excitement all vanished from the faces of the afflicted company as if they had been born in the most somber state of mind & had so re== =mained. No company of mourners at the grave that I ever observed were half so deeply gloom crushed. Yet the sea grand & inspiring – the fresh brim heaving in noble masses & the brave gulls tracing there curves on steady wing, warm while we shivered in the [illegible] of the cabins, [ & ever & arrow a company of whales spout?] -ing lustily & rolling in grand enjoyment while their

[Page 3]

huge hearts went beating through the storm bucketfuls of warm blood rushing through their veins at every beat, hundreds of p[illegible] too racing & gamboling pitching themselves out of the waves in company like rollicking boys at play. forming a most startling & impressive picture of life in the cold barren looking sea-prairie. But now we are just approaching Olympia & I must haste to the end of my sheet The Captain was good to me & many others I met I forget to say that the wave tops torn by the gale [illegible] spray & sand were beautifully [illegible]. The waters of the [ Strait of Juca?] are black As for that cold I had it vanished the first day of the gale – blown out like a candle. We left the Dakota at Seattle. We may return to Seattle tomorrow, thence where? The world is all before me. I hope to be able to overcome the Sas[illegible] but I feel it yet. Sent you a line from Victoria. Their goes the whistle to the Wharf. Now the engineers bell sounds we slow up – [ A lovely evening?] Thanks for all the Strentzel goodness

[in margin: I have enjoyed. Farewell Good night John Muir]

[Page 4]

[in margin: 417]



Alhambra, June 27, 1879.

Dear John

After coming home I grew more and more uneasy concerning your Herbarium, until at last it seemed to me that there could be no safety for it except under my care. Before, I thought only of the danger from a fire here, but we have always been cautious and have never left the house alone during dry weather. At Mr. Upham’s they could not be expected to leave their own treasures to rescue just a lot of old papers and dried plants; while with me, well, you know only too well how precious in my

[4] [27 June. 1879]

Express to Seattle, the box of promise, and “hopes it will prove of much benefit to your party during the tramp of tribulation.” Yesterday’s Bulletin notice arrival of the Dakota at Victoria on Tuesday and at Seattle Wednesday, but no mention is made of stormy weather, although here in our sheltered valley a south-west wind blew furiously nearly all of Saturday. it was more severe than we have had for two or three years! and even papa looked grave when we spoke of storms at sea, so you may know we were thankful when the Bulletin that evening named only a “fine fresh breeze” There again! Dear John, do not be vexed with me even this time. One can not grow to be brave in an hour or a day,

[in margin: 846]


On board the Zephyr between Steilicoom & Olympia

Date Original

1879 Jun 25


Original letter dimensions: 25 x 39 cm.

Resource Identifier


File Identifier

Reel 03, Image 1088

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, click here to view the Holt-Atherton Special Collections policies.

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



4 pages



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