I’ve been writing a lot for Eos magazine and last year, I started a new feature column called Living in Geologic Time, “a series of personal accounts that highlight the past, present, and future of famous landmarks on geologic timescales.”
The latest feature—Traversing the High Sierra on the People’s Paths—was inspired by my 27 day backpacking trip on the John Muir Trail in August:
Mile for mile, the John Muir Trail is one of the most scenic hikes on Earth. The footpath—never actually hiked by John Muir—starts in Ahwahnee (Yosemite Valley) and follows a series of lush meadows, granite lake basins, and high alpine mountain passes for over 200 miles along the spine of the Sierra Nevada to the top of Tumanguya (Mount Whitney), the highest peak in the lower 48 states.
Construction of the John Muir Trail began in 1915, the year after the conservationist’s death. But Indigenous people had already been traveling throughout the Sierra for thousands of years on a network of trails known as Nüümü Poyo, or People’s Paths. Long before the National Park Service began blasting out trails with dynamite, the Paiute and other tribes etched them out of the wilderness with bare feet and kept them open by setting fires.
Go to Eos.org to read the rest of the JMT story. I’m delighted that the Living in Geologic Time series was named part of “The Best of Eos in 2020”! Links to my other Living in Geologic Time columns on places like the Grand Canyon, the Cascade Volcanoes and Arches National Park can be found here. Stay tuned for more in 2021!