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  May/June 2001 Issue
Features: 100 Years of Sierra Club Outings:
Happy Trails
280 Boots and 14,000 Feet
Mountain Memories
First on Top
Learning to Walk in the Wilderness
Energy Features:
Snake Oil for Fossil Fools
A Modest Proposal to Stop Global Warming
Inside Sierra
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Lay of the Land
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Sierra Magazine


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The Sierra Club celebrates a century of wilderness outings.

by Reed McManus

More than 100 years ago, John Muir and his fledgling Sierra Club knew not to keep a good thing to themselves. The best way to expand the Club's army of mountain defenders, Muir believed, was to share the joy he felt each time he set foot in the Sierra.

"It is impossible to overestimate the value of wild mountains and mountain temples as places for people to grow in, recreation grounds for soul and body," Muir enthused in an early Sierra Club Bulletin. On another occasion he wrote, "If people in general could be got into the woods, even for once, to hear the trees speak for themselves, all difficulties in the way of forest preservation would vanish." The Club's mission, method, and sense of community would forever be intertwined. In 1901, the Club announced an annual summer outing, which then-secretary Will Colby said "will do an infinite amount of good toward awakening the proper kind of interest in the forests and other natural features of our mountains, and will also tend to create a spirit of good fellowship among our members." Almost 100 people attended that first Club trip, to Yosemite's Tuolumne Meadows.

Nearly every summer for more than 50 years, groups averaging 150 participants were taken into the wilderness on what became known as High Trips. They were elaborate affairs, with pack trains, 200-pound stoves, and full-time cook crews. (Colby liked them so much he would lead them for 35 years.) By the 1940s the Club was also running "burro" and "knapsack" trips or people wishing to travel in smaller groups, and "base camps," where participants stayed at one site for two to four weeks. Because of concerns about the impact of so many hooves and heels, the High Trips were discontinued in the 1960s, although a final one was staged in 1972.

For more information, contact Sierra Club Outings, 85 Second St., 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105-3441; phone (415) 977-5630; e-mail; or visit the Web

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Happy Trails | High Trips | Mountain Memories | Peakbagging | Wilderness Walking