In Muir’s Steps: Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of John Muir’s Trek Through Kentucky Part 2

By Andrew Berry

John Muir Circa 1875

Muir crossed the Ohio River into Louisville on September 2nd, 1867. Muir likely traveled south along the present day Highway 61.

I steered through the big city by compass without speaking a word to any one. Beyond the city I found a road running southward, and after passing a scatterment of suburban cabins and cottages I reached the green woods and spread out my pocket map to rough-hew a plan for my journey.”

 Muir signifies his intentions of seeking out the wilderness, mentioning the need for uncultivated lands and virgin forest. He also mentions the common jitters that occur early on in a long journey in unfamiliar territory.  From his comments, Muir suggests he may have veered from Highway 61.

My plan was simply to push on in a general southward direction by the wildest, leafiest, and least trodden way I could find, promising the greatest extent of virgin forest. Folding my map, I shouldered my little bag and plant press and strode away among the old Kentucky oaks, rejoicing in splendid visions of pines and palms and tropic flowers in glorious array, not, however, without a few cold shadows of loneliness, although the great oaks seemed to spread their arms in welcome.”

Muir laments on the character of the vegetation, particularly the grandeur of the oaks. Muir likely walks south on 61 towards Shepherdsville, but also strayed from the road seeking less traveled routes.

“I have seen oaks of many species in many kinds of exposure and soil, but those of Kentucky excel in grandeur all I had ever before beheld. They are broad and dense and bright green. In the leafy bowers and caves of their long branches dwell magnificent avenues of shade, and every tree seems to be blessed with a double portion of strong exulting life. Walked twenty miles, mostly on river bottom, and found shelter in a rickety tavern.”


Why are we commemorating John Muir?

Read Part 1 of this blog for more information.
Read Part 3 for more of John Muir’s story in his own words.
Be sure to follow our live tweet of our commemorative hike on Sunday (@bernheimforest) or read the recap here.


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