Friday, February 10, 2012

Darwin in Yosemite

"His noble character has suffered from silly, ignorant, and unbelieving men who say much about Darwinism without really knowing anything about it. A more devout and indefatigable seeker after truth than Darwin never lived." -John Muir, 1878.
This Sunday is Charles Darwin's birthday. Muir read and was a fan of Darwin. For context: "On the Origin of Species" came out when Muir was 21 years old (still living with his family in Wisconsin) and 5 years before Yosemite was first protected (with the signature of President Lincoln, who was born the same day that Darwin was!) Muir's writings made it into print while Darwin was still alive, but it's doubtful the British naturalist encountered the Sierra naturalist's tales. These two great individuals are closely joined in perpetuity south of Yosemite where Muir Pass provides access to Evolution Basin and the John Muir Trail runs beneath Mt. Darwin.
Our dry spell continues. We had a day of light drizzle on Tuesday. A few chorus frogs are calling at lower elevation, but they sound parched. Another chance at precipitation comes through on Sunday/Monday. NPS snow surveys show around 30% of average water content for our park watersheds. Elevations below the survey areas are drier yet. The Merced is flowing at 60% of average now. A few common mergansers have been paddling in El Portal, dippers doing a bit of singing.
On Saturday 10 March one of the park's best (and most delightful) naturalists, Karen Amstutz, is leading a fun Conservancy field seminar on snowshoes from Badger Pass out to Dewey Point and back. If you're up for a modestly physical (and extremely pleasant) day of exploration and discovery, think about coming up to join Karen. If you love a Yosemite experience, this one's a natural selection.


  1. Another contemporary of Darwin and Muir, both in calender years as well as in breadth of vision, is Jack London (d. 1916, 2 years after Muir), whose title alone, _The Call of The Wild_ evokes a timeless, primitive lure, a nomadic longing that all the fanaticisms of modern technology cannot quell.

    The wild still calls eternally, as trees grow for thousands of years while little pine cones called people fruit and decay in mere wisps of a 100 or so years or less.

    Jack London was unremitting in his assessment of society as fraudulent and needlessly as harsh as extremes of weather and stone for which humans are no match--indictments made clear in _The People of the Abyss_, _The Road_, _The Iron Heel_ and _Martin Eden_. How he struggled to pen a truth that would endure through time...and not in vain, for the worth his words are to me.

    Yet it is the sheer struggle both to survive and to express truth, the limitless scope of the challenge both nature and society throw in our paths, that create the adventure and drama of living. The gift of a balmy day of tranquil skies and majestic mountains of Yosemite is never for a second taken for granted in such context. To enjoy such a gift is why so many bother to shut down their computers, iphones, tell their bosses "no" for a few days, and go...go to wherever the Wild may call them...

  2. Nicely said. And: Jack London owned a lot in Foresta, in Yosemite! (It was given to him as a promotion by the developers.) The Wild still calls here.