New thing #16: The John Muir National Historic Site

I have wanted to visit the John Muir house ever since I realized it was only a town away from me in Martinez, CA. I grew up hearing John Muir’s name, but it wasn’t until I was older that I really began to understand his legacy. Not only has he had a tremendous impact on the world as the father of the national parks system (not to mention as a writer, artist, naturalist, inventor, conservationist, scientist, etc.), he has also had an indirect impact on my life.

When it came time for my parents— both environmental studies majors and outdoor enthusiasts— to name their first baby (yours truly), they had a few names in mind, and almost went with Sarah. They decided though that they wanted something more unique, and wanted to name me after something they both loved. Ultimately they settled on Sierra, after the mountains.

As my dad pointed out to my brother and I when we arrived at the site today, the Sierra’s would be a very different place today without the influence of John Muir. There would be no Yosemite. No national parks at all. I think my dad, a nature lover who grew up with John Muir as a hero, might have even grown up to be a different person, and therefor I would be different. At the very least I would likely be Sarah Machado.

I don’t know if it’s because of my name that I feel some kind of obligation to love the outdoors, but I really don’t think so. John Muir wrote a lot about that inner peace that comes from spending time in nature, and I really feel that. Sometimes it’s such a profound and overwhelming joy, so I wonder why I don’t spend more time outside. I guess I get too comfortable settling for mild contentment.

“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” –John Muir

As we strolled through the orchards on the 10-acre property, explored the house, and learned more and more about John Muir’s amazing life, I kept saying how it blows my mind that remarkable/gorgeous/historical (pick your own adjective) places like this just exist in our own backyards. Like, John Muir’s house is just… there, sitting across the street from the Valero gas station. He lived in the same city my dad’s whole family grew up in. I seriously can’t get over it.

After we walked the grounds and ate a little lunch on one of the scattered picnic tables, my dad gave me my (early) birthday present. I unwrapped the small box, and inside was a “ticket” for one new thing of my choosing that he will fund. Very creative, Dad, and very much appreciated. Thanks again for coming with me today, and for being the man and father you are.