2021

Day 16 – Go West

Rest day in Dunbar

If you’re watching a quiz show and there is a question about conservation, national parks etc. and it starts “Who …” the answer will probably be John Muir. Born in 1838 here in Dunbar, he grew up in a strictly religious family. They emigrated to America when he was 10, originally intending to settle in Canada but, like so many others, they decided to go west, to Wisconsin. He was nearly blinded in an industrial accident and when his vision returned he decided to walk into a new life, to see nature and to write about it. His influence spread and he is now considered the father of the US National Parks, from which all others followed.

In very recent years the Scots have reclaimed John Muir and I spent an inspiring afternoon in his family home where his lifetime achievements and legacy are beautifully displayed.

In America the John Muir Trail runs through the wilderness from Yosemite to Mt Whitney and if you walk that one, you must be prepared to wrestle bears, tread on rattlesnakes, catch your own dinner etc. The John Muir Way in Scotland is a stroll even by British standards. It’s a shame they didn’t think to name the Southern Upland Way after him. All the same, it’s an interesting walk through the Scottish Lowlands, exploring the wonders of Scottish engineering, old and new. There’s also a rest day in Edinburgh coming up.

I’d like to think I would have emigrated to America in the 19th century. My ancestors thought about it, reached the port but then changed their mind. So I’m left behind feeling a little bit restless at times. That’s why I like to listen to the Pet Shop Boys singing Go West.

Resonance
Cockles and mussels alive alive oh
The ruined castle by the harbour.
It’s level, honest
John Muir’s family home in Dunbar
Flagstone at the end

7 comments on “Day 16 – Go West

  1. Philippa

    Dunbar looks much more like my idea of a gritty but beautiful Scottish harbour! And John Muir’s story is inspiring; will look forward to hearing more about him along the way. Love the description of him being a pilgrim on nature’s path :).

    • You’re right, it’s a gritty little harbour, a relic of the old herring industry.

  2. North of San Francisco there is a beautiful park called Muir Woods after John Muir. It is known for its towering redwoods and they are stunning. It is quite a tourist spot with fishing, birds and other mammals.

    PS – Bissets Seafood has quite the selection!!!

    • Hi Lynn, thanks so much for referencing Muir Woods. I visited during my Greyhound trip across America in 1979. Unforgettable place but I hadn’t connected it to John Muir until now. Those giant coastal redwoods must be seen. I also visited Sequoia National Park but not Yosemite, nor the Pacific Northwest. I’m coming as soon as Tesla make a camper van. By the way, have you read Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, brilliant book? Tim

      • I just downloaded the audio book. It looks intriguing… thanks for the recommendation.

      • Funny, being a Yank, my thought was exactly the opposite. Wait. Muir Woods. California — love that place! Had no idea John Muir was from Scotland. I’m with you, though. In reclaiming one of the most famous naturalists in the world, you’d think they might have done it with more than a little local trail. 🙂

      • Great to hear from you, DJ. Talk of Muir Woods and your national parks makes me want to make a trip to America and particularly California. For the moment that probably means digging for gold in my DVD collection. I never made it to the Pacific north west. I would love to go up there. One day!

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