Wednesday, June 18, 2008

No trails, no maps, but some breakfast, please!

It has happened to many of us that we found ourselves off the trail we had planned to go. Lost! Then we have a story to tell how we eventually made it home. Explorers in the past were often adventuring into new territory with no trails and no trail map. And they typically enjoyed to tell their story—often with a good portion of sensationalism. Clarence King, for example, who was surveying parts of the Great Basin and the Sierra Nevada in the 1860s, included such stories in his book Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada (1872). Aaron Sachs says about King's description of his ascent of Mount Tyndall in the Southern Sierra Nevada [1]:
The danger [which King illuminates] was probably real for the survey climbers of 1863 and 1864, who had no maps or trails, who had not read anyone else's descriptions of the area, who could never tell when the next abyss would cleave the earth.

John Muir, arriving in California a few years later, joked about King's description and said that he himself run up and down Mount Tyndall before breakfast. Anyway, I enjoy climbing up and down mountain peaks, but I like to have my breakfast first.

[1] Aaron Sachs The Humboldt Current: Nineteenth-Century Exploration and the Roots of American Environmentalism, Penguin Books, London (England), 2006; page 200 and page 307.

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