In the spring of 1868, less than a month before his 30th birthday, a wild-haired itinerant college-dropout by the name of John Muir, “with incredibly little money,” and no guidebook, stepped off a Panama steamer at the Port of San Francisco. The way he tells it, the first thing he did was walk up and ask a fellow for the best way out of town.
“But where do you want to go?” the fellow asked.
“To any place that is wild,” said Muir.
The fellow pointed the way to the Oakland Ferry.
Muir booked passage across the bay, took rough bearings from the sun, then waded across the Central Valley—roughly 300 miles through a sea of waist-deep wildflowers—to what he would later describe as “the most divinely beautiful of all the mountain-chains I have ever seen.”
120 years later, Peter and Donna Thomas, artisan bookmakers of Santa Cruz, undertook to retrace old John's introduction to California.
"What they found," writes Mike Morris of the Sonora Union Democrat, "was that little country roads Muir walked decades earlier have been replaced by major highways and that the wildflower-strewn fields he saw are now farmlands and subdivisions."