Of Historic Note:
Readers of The Trail will probably guess that I love history. I love reading about the history of the Sierra Nevada, the history of exploration, and about the Native Americans who were present long before the arrival of European colonists.
Below are some historic photos of various pioneers of the John Muir Trail and other things I've found interesting. For a more comprehensive list of historical sources, please see the Recommended Reading Appendix to The Trail.
Native Americans in the Sierra Nevada
While it is not known when the first peoples came to the Americas, it is believed these migrations originated in Asia and took place in several waves. The majority of these peoples are thought to have crossed a land bridge from Siberia during the last glacial period, which ended some 10,000 years ago.
Native Americans were well established in California prior to the arrival of the Spaniards in the 1500's. The predominant groups living in and around the Sierra were the Miwoks (living mostly in the western Sierra) and the Mono and Paiutes (living mostly in the eastern Sierra). These groups carried out extensive trade as evidenced by the numerous Indian trails crossing the Sierra (see map to left), artifacts such as arrowheads, and grinding rocks where native people ground acorns and other seeds into meal. As noted in The Trail, many of the routes "pioneered" by the so-called early Sierra explorers followed well-established Native American trade routes.
Many of these peoples, such as the Ahwahneeche in Yosemite, suffered the same fate of removal and annihilation as other tribes across the continent, see for example: The Ahwahneechees and Yosemite Online Library
In recent year, descendants of some of these tribes have sought to reclaim ancestral trade routes, claiming hiking trails such as the JMT to be part of their people's heritage, see: Nüümü Poyo
(1838 – 1914) a Scottish-American naturalist, writer, author, environmental philosopher, mountaineer, botanist, co-founder and first president of the Sierra Club, and advocate for the preservation of wilderness.
Some of Muir's extensive biography is presented in The Trail.
Many great books exist detailing the life of John Muir. One of the best is: Son of Wilderness by Linnie Marsh Wolfe.
Of Muir's many great works, two of my favorites are The Mountains of California and Stickeen, which can be found in this great collection: John Muir: Nature Writings
Theodore Seixas Solomons
(1870–1947) an explorer and charter member of the Sierra Club. He was instrumental in envisioning, exploring, and establishing the northern section of what became the John Muir Trail. Discoverer of Evolution Valley. Solomons made three major expeditions into the Sierra. Mount Solomons just above Muir Pass is named in his honor.
A more detailed history of Theodore Solomons may be found in my book The Trail, see also: Solomons of the Sierra
Bolton Coit Brown
(1864–1936) an artist, lithographer, explorer, and mountaineer. An early member of the Sierra Club, Brown came to California when he was hired as a 27-year-old faculty member by Stanford University to found their art department. He later went on to perform pioneering work in lithography and was a founder of Byrdcliffe, the Woodstock Art Colony.
Brown was a tonalist, famous for his drawings of natural subjects in the wilderness (see Miscellanea). Brown studied mountaineering in the Alps and was the first to climb Mt. Clarence King, pulling himself up over the top using a lasso. Together with his wife Lucy, he helped explore much of the region of the Sierra that became the southern section of the John Muir Trail. Mount Bolton Brown in the Palisades region of the Sierra is named in his honor.
A more detailed history of Bolton Brown may be found in my book The Trail, see also: Crayonstone
Joseph Nisbet LeConte
(1870–1950) an explorer, cartographer, mountaineer, and professor of mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley. A charter member of the Sierra Club, LeConte spent his summers mapping and exploring the Sierra.
Following the death of Muir, LeConte served as the second president of the Sierra Club. He is responsible for mapping and connecting many of the sections of what would become the John Muir Trail. In 1908, together with James S. Hutchinson and Duncan McDuffie, he made what many consider to be the first thru-hike of the proposed route from Yosemite to Kings Canyon.
LeConte made many first ascents, including North Palisade and possibly Split Mountain. The latter he climbed with his wife Helen in 1902, making this the only 14,000 foot peak in the Sierra to have had a first recorded ascent by a woman (some evidence suggests this peak may have previously been climbed by Frank Saulque and four other Basque shepherds in 1887).
LeConte Canyon along the route of the JMT and LeConte Point in Hetch Hetchy Valley are both named in his honor.
A more detailed history of J.N. LeConte may be found in my book The Trail.
A historic map of the Yosemite High Country and Mono Lake in the Sierra by J.N. LeConte, published in The Sierra Club Bulletin.
Requiem for Hetch Hetchy Valley
A collection maintained by the Sierra Club of J.N. LeConte's historic photos of Hetch Hetchy Valley, which Muir called a Second Yosemite, before it was dammed and flooded to build a reservoir. Something it turns out never had to happen except for the wounded pride of Gifford Pinchot in his fight with John Muir over the project, as a more viable and less costly site had already been found. And yes, this is the same Pinchot for whom Pinchot Pass on the JMT is named.
See the complete collection here: Requiem for Hetch Hetchy