Discovering the Region: Commentary

13. John Muir, "An Ascent of Mount Rainier"

If Helen Hunt Jackson in 1883 was mostly content to view the Northwest as scenery, John Muir arrived in 1889 more eager for intimate contact with the region’s mountains. The man who would become perhaps America’s first great proponent of wilderness—operating especially in the mountains of California’s Sierra Nevada—toured the vicinity around Puget Sound and then climbed Mount Rainier. He was not the first man to ascend the mountain, but he was among the earliest climbers to make the trip, and his account describes the techniques and equipment available to the mountaineers of the day. Like many discoverers, Muir’s perceptions and experiences depended to a considerable extent on the technologies at his disposal for travel around the land and water of the region. And like other discoverers, he wrote not for those who lived within view of the mountain but rather for more far-flung audiences who might have an interest in traveling to the region, or climbing the same peak, or imagining the trip in the comfort of their reading-chair.

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