John Muir (1838-1914) was America’s most famous and influential naturalist and conservationist. He is one of California’s most important historical personalities. He has been called “The Father of our National Parks,” “Wilderness Prophet,” and “Citizen of the Universe.” He once described himself more humorously, and perhaps most accurately, as a “poetico-trampo-geologist-botanist and ornithologist-naturalist etc. etc. !!!!” , says the Sierra Club. A good biography to read for more details is A Passion for Nature by Donald Worster.
Geotourism is defined as tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well being of its residents.
Geotourism incorporates the concept of sustainable tourism—that destinations should remain unspoiled for future generations—while allowing for ways to protect a place’s character. Geotourism also takes a principle from its ecotourism cousin— that tourism revenue should promote conservation—and extends it to culture and history as well, that is, to all distinctive assets of a place.
The John Muir Geotourism Center (JMGC) was founded based on John Muir’s “My First Summer in the Sierra”, journal in which he describes his first journey to Yosemite. Along the way, he trod the Sierra Foothills and walked right along J132 in Mariposa County, named the John Muir Historic Route in 2010. He described countryside that today still looks the same, with the same trees he drew still standing. It provides an opportunity to follow John Muir’s example in order to preserve and enhance the rural community and natural environment, and in turn educate future visitors. The express mission of the JMGC is to enrich the natural and rural communities by inspiring people to explore, learn, share and preserve the values of the John Muir Legacy through innovative and creative programs.
Geotravelers “go local.” They patronize locally owned businesses and guides. They buy from local craftspeople and eat at restaurants serving regional cuisine. They seek out traditional music and dance. As a result, the money they spend helps local people earn a living and preserves the place’s authenticity.
Greeley Hill & Coulterville promote local store offerings and Mariposa County relies primarily on local vendors for most commercial activity rather than big box chains and franchised businesses: Not even a stoplight in the area.
A Geotourism trip to Yosemite can be fun, educational and healthy for individuals and families while enriching and maintaining the environment and supporting the country folk who live in this beautiful region. Visitors will honor Muir, learn about his journey of epiphany on the way to Yosemite as a young man and, at the same time, help preserve this original route to Yosemite Valley by sustaining the rural lifestyle that has kept it in its undeveloped state. It is a way to relive Muir’s journals from 1868-69 and make direct contact with the flora and fauna he wrote about while being “green” and environmentally responsible. (You get out and walk where he walked instead of just driving by at 60 mph.)
It is located along a 14-mile stretch of a beautiful mountain roadway, California State Route 132. The route begins at the junction with Hwy 49 in Coulterville and ends at the Smith Station junction with Hwy 120 See Map.
Buy a book or get a whole list of books about Muir’s actual journey! The first step would be to get a copy of the wonderful Muir Ramble Route (released in 2010 and authored by Peter & Donna Thomas after their reenactment of Muir’s 1868 first trip to Yosemite Valley after landing in San Francisco). You may purchase Muir Ramble Route directly from the Northern Mariposa County History Museum or the Coulterville Visitor’s Center, or from Amazon and begin planning your trip or segments of your trip any time of the year.
Being “Young John Muir” through a geotourism trip to the park puts the visitor into his footsteps by following his own journal entries from Muir’s My First Summer in the Sierra along with the Thomas’ Muir Ramble Route, or as a guide to the botanical and zoological beauty that still exists in this approach to Yosemite. You can hear his wonder and his voice speaking to you as you ascend in mind and spirit along with him on the same route he writes about.
The 5th Annual John Muir Festival, All Things Muir, will be held on May 31th, 2014 in Coulterville, CA.