California at a Human Pace:
Re-Walking John Muir's 1868 Trip to Yosemite

Walkers: Peter and Donna Thomas

Project Overview

Our project is to determine the actual route John Muir used in 1868 to get from San Francisco to Yosemite, to map his route out and then develop and walk a route that parallels Muir’s. This new SF-Yosemite route will parallel Muir's route, using public walkways and open spaces (for example, we will walk the San Francisco Bay Trail from Oakland to Alviso, and then the Guadalupe River Trail from Alviso to San Jose).

We will take time to "botanize" and to note how the landscape and environment differ from what Muir reported. We will contact local newspapers and we will give presentations at public libraries along the route, to our story, talk about John Muir's legacy and influences, and promote the creation and use of walking paths and open spaces. It will be our goal to use our story to prompt community members to share their own stories about local hikes and walking routes, and local opportunities to appreciate nature and to encourage other people to walk the route we have developed.

Project Background

In 1868 John Muir sailed from New York to California. He wanted to see Yosemite. From San Francisco, the typical traveler took a ferry to Stockton and then completed the trip by horse or stage. John Muir chose to walk. He wanted to see the plant life, to "botanize" and experience the landscape at a human pace. Muir took a ferry to Oakland and then walked, via the Santa Clara Valley, over the Pacheco Pass, across the San Joaquin Valley to Snelling, and up the foothills through Coulterville to the Yosemite Valley. Yosemite proved to be his spiritual home. To promote and protect such places of natural beauty became his life’s work. Most of Muir’s travels are well documented by his letters and journals or later research, but there is little documentation of this walk to Yosemite. His diaries from this period are lost and no Muir scholar has thoroughly documented this trip.

Project Details

The planning phase of our project will take place September 2005- February 2006, and will be to research in historical archives like the Holt-Atherton Library at University of the Pacific to document the details of John Muir's trip and to determine his most likely route. We will also acquire historic maps and contemporary drawings, paintings and photographs of the places Muir passed by on his 1868 trip to use in our presentations.

The first phase of the project will take place in February or March of 2006. We will drive the roads he walked, compiling a current map of the route. We will take photographs to document the change relevant to Muir’s 1868 trip. At this time we will finalize the route that we will walk, which will parallel his path, but pass as much as possible through open spaces, parks, bike or walking trails, and small streets, rather than on the busy roads or highways that have replaced the dirt roads John Muir would have walked on.

The second phase will be to walk the route. March 30-April 1, 2006 we will attend the Muir Symposium at the University of the Pacific. Following that we will leave from San Francisco on April 2, 2006, to coincide with Muir's departure in 1868. We plan to have events to commemorate our departure from San Francisco and our arrival in Yosemite. As we walk, we will give programs for the local community at public libraries to talk about John Muir, tell the story of our trip, and promote the creation and use of walking paths and open spaces. We will address topics such as: "What was it about John Muir that inspired us to enter into this project?", "Is it still possible to walk across California in 2006, 120 years after Muir made his trip?" and "How has California changed?"

There will be a third phase after we have finished the walk. This will be to give additional public presentations and write articles for our sponsoring and supporting organizations (The Book Club of California, the Yosemite Association, The John Muir Center, The California State Library, our local newspaper, etc.). We will also create a limited edition aritsts’ book to document the trip and self-publish a map of the route we to encourage others to also enjoy California’s landscape and re-walk Muir's 1868 trip to Yosemite.

To find our web site just make a google search for Peter and Donna Thomas, or use this address:


UPDATE: See now:
Peter and Donna Thomas' website about their re-walking of Muir's 1868 trip: A Trans-California Ramble

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