Mountains Are Calling – The Story Behind The Famous Quote

Mountains Are Calling – The Story Behind The Famous Quote

John_Muir_by_Carelton_Watkins,_c1875
Portrait of John Muir

If you’re an avid hiker, you’ve probably heard of John Muir sometime or somewhere. John was a Scottish-American naturalist advocate in the United States and helped preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and other wilderness areas in the United States. He was devoted to protecting the national parks which and petitioned Congress for passing a bill in 1890. He sadly passed away in 1914, but his legacy lives on.

John Muir shaped the National Parks in the United States and his writings are often quoted by nature enthusiasts. His writings contained truths that became a personal guide into nature for many individuals and countless environmental establishments.

Where did this quote come from?

This quote was discovered in one of John’s letters written to his sister, Sarah Muir Galloway. In the letter it states:

Dear Sister Sarah:
I have just returned from the longest and hardest trip I have ever made in the mountains, having been gone over five weeks. I am weary, but resting fast; sleepy, but sleeping deep and fast; hungry, but eating much. For two weeks I explored the glaciers of the summits east of here, sleeping among the snowy mountains without blankets and with but little to eat on account of its being so inaccessible. After my icy experiences it seems strange to be down here in so warm and flowery a climate.

I will soon be off again, determined to use all the season in prosecuting my researches–will go next to Kings River a hundred miles south, then to Lake Tahoe and adjacent mountains, and in winter work in Oakland with my pen.

The Scotch are slow, but some day I will have the results of my mount mountain studies in a form in which you all will be able to read and judge of them. In the mean time I write occasionally for the Overland Monthly, but neither these magazine articles nor my first book will form any finished part of the scientific contribution that I hope to make. . . .The mountains are calling and I must go, and I will work on while I can, studying incessantly.

My love to you all, David and the children and Mrs. Galloway who though shut out from sunshine yet dwells in Light. I will write again when I return from Kings River Canyon. The leaf sent me from China is for Cecelia.

Farewell, with love everlasting

[John Muir]

Reading this quote in the context of the letter suggests a man that is ambitious, disciplined and committed to his work. In addition, he is devoted to protecting the mountains and creating the national parks, and it shows his love for nature and commitment to understanding and preserving it.

Muir was compelled to hike and continue to hike the mountains he tried to protect. While he was visiting Yosemite, he felt the calling from the mountains and from other beautiful natural places to protect and preserve.

We have John Muir to thank for Yellowstone and other National Parks today.

What does this quote mean to you?

As you read and reflect on John’s calling, take a look into your own personal life and meditate on your calling. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my calling?
  • Where will my calling take me and how can people in the future benefit from my calling?
  • Where will this calling take you and where will you go?

Wherever and whatever is calling you, take note of what John Muir experienced and go!