Better to saunter than to hike through life?

Lee Stetson as John Muir

This popped up in my social media pool this morning. Thanks to the good soul, now lost in the swell, who shared it. It’s about that ‘father of national parks‘, John Muir, born in Dunbar 1838, and his preference for ‘sauntering‘:

There are always some people in the mountains who are known as “hikers.” They rush over the trail at high speed and take great delight in being the first to reach camp and in covering the greatest number of miles in the least possible time. they measure the trail in terms of speed and distance.

One day as I was resting in the shade Mr. Muir overtook me on the trail and began to chat in that friendly way in which he delights to talk with everyone he meets. I said to him: “Mr. Muir, someone told me you did not approve of the word ‘hike.’ Is that so?” His blue eyes flashed, and with his Scotch accent he replied: “I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not hike!

“Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, “A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.”

John Muir lived up to his doctrine. He was usually the last man to reach camp. He never hurried. He stopped to get acquainted with individual trees along the way. He would hail people passing by and make them get down on hands and knees if necessary to see the beauty of some little bed of almost microscopic flowers. Usually he appeared at camp with some new flowers in his hat and a little piece of fir bough in his buttonhole.,of%20that%20word%20’saunter%3F’

Do we Scots spend too much time bragging of how we invented the modern world of TV, steam, telephone, vaccines and quantum physics, with all its attendant violence and alienation and too little celebrating this man?

9 thoughts on “Better to saunter than to hike through life?”

  1. As with David Hume, quotes attributed to John Muir have been uncovered which indicate that he expressed racist views. While these quotes, if true, are unacceptable and should be deplored, I am concerned that, as with Hume, the unco guid, will use these to condemn every aspect of Muir’s work and his inspiration for the eco movement.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I had heard that as well. Sadly back then it was common for people to view other races, usually black people as inferior. It’s always a disappointment when you hear that about people who became famous for doing good things!
      I have yet to finish my book about Patrick Matthew, a Scottish ‘commercial fruit grower’ who before Darwin, and with his research and knowledge into ‘Naval timber and Arboriculture’, used the term, natural process of selection’. His work was utterly plagarised by Darwin. Anyway the point of this is to say, he was a bit of a eugenisist, I suppose in keeping with his work on survival in nature, particularly apple trees, but it’s hard to understand that today.
      Here is a link if anyone is interested.


  2. I seem to recall that the man who invented jogging, died relatively young.
    Its better to meander, enjoy the craic with those you meet and wallow in the view, than scurry to a destination and miss out on the pleasure of life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alas, Jim Fixx. He was a good guy. He had congenital heart defects and took up running to try to take control of his life, because at the time the general advice for heart conditions was to take things easy. The running certainly improved things for him and he inspired others. He died while out running, which if he had the benefit of hindsight would have been the way he would have wanted to go.

      Liked by 1 person

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