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Nine Wilderness Hero Hikes

Nine hikes as big as the hearts of their namesake wilderness visionaries.

by: Jeff Rennicke

John Muir Wilderness, California

For more than a century, the voice of John Muir has rung like a bell through the conservation movement. As the founder of the Sierra Club in 1892, Muir and his words were a call to action. In his books of inspired prose, he made us stop and consider the beauty of nature and its effects on the soul. Some captured the wilderness in photographs, others in paintings. For Muir, his life was the work of art that most reflected his love of wild places--walking 1,000 miles through the Sierra with little more than a pocketful of rice, swinging from tall trees during storms, clinging to the edge of roaring waterfalls, all to experience nature firsthand, directly, and in all its raw beauty. He died in 1914, his heart broken over the damming of Hetch Hetchy Valley, but his spirit, his words, and the example he set still ring through the mountains he loved and in the hearts of all who love them still.

On the trail: When John Muir was asked in 1868 where he would like to go, he replied, "Anyplace wild." Today, a good choice would be any of the trails within his 580,000-acre namesake wilderness. One particularly good place to look for his bootprints is the South Lake to Whitney Portal, a 92-mile, one-way hike that leads along the very crest of what Muir called "The Range of Light" and to the summit of 14,410-foot Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states. Although some sections of the trail get a lot of use, icy stream crossings, high mountain weather, and rocky summits give the hike a wildness that even Muir himself would appreciate.

Contact: Inyo National Forest, White Mountain Ranger Station, 798 N. Main St., Bishop, CA 93545; (760) 873-2500.

Trail guide: 100 Hikes in California's Central Sierra and Coast Range, by Vicky Spring. The Mountaineers Books, 1001 S.W. Klickitat Way, Suite 201, Seattle, WA 98134; (800) 553-4453; $12.95.

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