[Louie Strentzel Muir]
St Michaels, Alaska, June 21, 1881. 2.15.P.M.
Sunshine dear Louie, sunshine all the day, ripe & mellow sunshine, like that which feeds the fruits & vines. it came to us just [illegible] days ago when we were approaching this little old fashioned trading post at the mouth of the Yukon River. How sweet & kindly & reviving it is after so long & deep a burial beneath dark sleety storm clouds. For a whole month it snowed everyday some days only for an hour or two, some days all day but never one in all the month in which more or less snow did not fall either in wet sleety blasts in thick gloom or in dry crystals blowing off the deck as fast as it fell or sticking on the rigging & making sloppy sludge on the deck & then freezing fast. I never before have seen so dark a month, so steadily cloudy a sky. And when we came here we seemed to have come out of a cave into the living exhilarating light. And yet strange to say in all this gloomy month there has been no night. All the thirty one days has been one cloudy day [in margin: in circle 18]
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manners like village parsons, They held us in long interesting talks & gave us some valuable information concerning the broad wilds of the Yukon. Yesterday I took a long walk of 12 or 14 miles over the tundra to a volcanic cone & back leaving the ship about 10 in the forenoon & getting back at half past 8. I found a great number of flowers in full bloom & birds of many species building their nests & a capital view of the surrounding country from the rim of an old crater altogether making a delightful day though a very wearisome one on account of the difficult walking. The grand back of St Michael stretches away in broad brown levels of baggy tundra promising fine walking but proving about as tedious & exhausting as possible the spongy covering roughened with tussocks of grass & sedges & creeping heath[illegible] & willows among which the foot staggers about & sinks & squints seeking rest & finding none [in margin: The steamer is again in perfect condition & now goodbye again, & love to all, wife, darling baby Anna, Grandmother & Grandfather]
When we were still 50 miles from here a linnet came to meet us & flew about the rigging & then a heavy burly bumblebee as if to tell us about the sunlight & guide us to it in safety. On the day of our arrival from [Plover?] [Bay?] a little steamer came into the harbor from the upper Yukon towing three large boats loaded with traders Indians & furs All the furs they had gathered during the winter. We went across to the store room of the company to see them, a queer lot they were whites & Indians as they unloaded their furs. It was worth while to look at the furs too Big bundles of bear skins brown & black, wolf, fox, beaver, marten, ermine, moose wolverine wild cats many of them with claws spread & hair on end as if still alive & fighting for their lives. Some of the Indian chiefs the wildest animals of all, & the more notable of the traders not at all wild sane in dress but rather gentle & refined in
[in margin: 1000 miles on [this?][steamer?] whenever I like, & his wife a nice lady sends you an invitation to come & make your home here while I am away] until far down between the rocking tussocks This covering is composed of a plush of mosses chiefly sphagnum about 8 inches on a foot deep resting on ice that never melts, with about half of the surface of the moss is covered with white & yellow & red & gray lichens & the other half is planted more or less with grasses sedges heathwarts & creeping willows & a flowering plant here & there such as prinula & purple spiked pedicularis. Out in this grand solitude,-solitary as far as man is concerned – we met a great many of the arctic grouse, ptarmigan cackling & screaming at our approach like old laying hens, also plovers snipes curlews sand pipers loons in ponds, & ducks & geese & finches & wrens about the crater & rocks at its base; We leave here for another cruise in the Arctic this evening hoping to return to this point in time to send letters by the Alaska Com Co. steamer “St Paul” which will leave about July 12. But in case we should be delayed by the ice I thought I would write now & leave it here in charge of Mr Laurence the Co’s agent. He has given me an invitation to go up the Yukon
St. Michaels, Alaska
1881 Jun 21
Original letter dimensions: 14.5 x 19.5 cm.
Muir, John, "Letter from [John Muir] to [Louie Strentzel Muir], 1881 Jun 21." (1881). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 656.
Reel 04, Image 0622
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