Reflections on the wilderness: the modern legacy of John Muir

By British Exploring Society,
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Our Hartz Scottish Explorers immersed themselves in the wilderness this summer and experienced first-hand the beauty of John Muir’s homeland.

Known as the ‘Father of National Parks’, influential Scottish-born American naturalist John Muir was an advocate for the benefits of experiencing and protecting our natural heritage. His activism helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley and Sequoia National Park in America, influencing the preservation of many other wilderness areas. His inspiring words have heightened our perception of nature and continue to resonate with those of us lucky enough to spend time in the great outdoors.

For some of our Young Explorers, going on expedition is their first chance to swap cities and 4G phone signal for mountain views and tents. Encouraged by Senior Knowledge Leader Susannah Cass to consider how John Muir’s words resonate with their thoughts and feelings during expedition, Young Explorers reflected on their own experiences of the wilderness.


You have to spend time, make time to be alone, to refresh your senses, to reflect, be aware, forgive, and focus on the present. You have to do something, a challenge to push yourself and help you realise that you’ve got a lot still to learn but there is a fire inside you – the ability to push yourself, more than you knew. It’s a realisation, a realisation of what you can do.

Nature is a beautiful getaway, one worth holding on to. For in nature, we’re just tiny aspects there, part of a bigger picture. It’s a getaway from the noise, the noise outside and around you, and in your head. To take a breath and appreciate nature’s great tidings and stillness is to release all that tension and stress and worries to be whole in oneself and focus your mind once again.

This quote speaks quite well to me as all these reflections is something I enjoy doing too, in nature. To reach a focus once again and breath in that stillness of the green, the air, the bird calls and the rain all together as one.

Written by Young Explorer Sofia Antunes Trabuco, 17

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean…” – John Muir quoted by Samuel Hall Young in Alaska Days with John Muir

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” – Letter to sister Sarah Galloway, September 3rd 1873, in Life and Letters of John Muir.

When I saw the mountains I was so happy and I was looking forward to climbing them. It was really nice to come from a city to mountains, I’ve had so much fun.

Written by Young Explorer Nathan Hathaway, 16

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” – John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra.

Being out in nature helps me to concentrate on my surroundings around me after a busy day. I’m into photography and I like taking lots of pictures of wildlife.

Being in the Scottish Highlands helps me to appreciate my surroundings. I have taken lots of pictures of the landscape around me. 

The landscape is so beautiful I will never forget how beautiful it is.

Art and words by Young Explorer William Sharpley, 17 

My walks in Scotland during this expedition have really allowed me to discover who I am and what I want in life – it’s given me a lot of time to think. I came here for a break and now I feel that I’m going to come out a better person. 

Written by Young Explorer Vince Bigas, 15 

“But in every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir, Steep Trails


“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.” – John Muir, marginal note in Prose Works vol. I. by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Art by Young Explorer Bella MacFarlane, 15