Today, the Yosemite America the Beautiful Quarter Coin remembers when Houghton-Mifflin released a holiday reprint of John Muir’s Our National Parks on October 30, 1909.
In an excerpt from Our National Parks, John Muir described one of his favorite places:
The Yosemite National Park
Of all the mountain ranges I have climbed, I like the Sierra Nevada the best.
Though extremely rugged, with its main features on the grandest scale in height and depth, it is nevertheless easy of access and hospitable; and its marvelous beauty, displayed in striking and alluring forms, woos the admiring wanderer on and on, higher and higher, charmed and enchanted.
Benevolent, solemn, fateful, pervaded with divine light, every landscape glows like a countenance hallowed in eternal repose; and every one of its living creatures, clad in flesh and leaves, and every crystal of its rocks, whether on the surface shining in the sun or buried miles deep in what we call darkness, is throbbing and pulsing with the heartbeats of God.
All the world lies warm in one heart, yet the Sierra seems to get more light than other mountains.
The weather is mostly sunshine embellished with magnificent storms, and nearly everything shines from base to summit, — the rocks, streams, lakes, glaciers, irised falls, and the forests of silver fir and silver pine.
And how bright is the shining after summer showers and dewy nights, and after frosty nights in spring and autumn, when the morning sunbeams are pouring through the crystals on the bushes and grass, and in winter through the snow-laden trees!
The average cloudiness for the whole year is perhaps less than ten hundredths. Scarcely a day of all the summer is dark, though there is no lack of magnificent thundering cumuli.
They rise in the warm midday hours, mostly over the middle region, in June and July, like new mountain ranges, higher Sierras, mightily augmenting the grandeur of the scenery while giving rain to the forests and gardens and bringing forth their fragrance.
The wonderful weather and beauty inspire everybody to be up and doing.
Every summer day is a workday to be confidently counted on, the short dashes of rain forming, not interruptions, but rests.
The big blessed storm days of winter, when the whole range stands white, are not a whit less inspiring and kind.
Well may the Sierra be called the Range of Light, not the Snowy Range; for only in winter is it white, while all the year it is bright.
Of this glorious range the Yosemite National Park is a central section, thirty-six miles in length and forty-eight miles in breadth.
The famous Yosemite Valley lies in the heart of it, and it includes the head waters of the Tuolumne and Merced rivers, two of the most songful streams in the world; innumerable lakes and waterfalls and smooth silky lawns; the noblest forests, the loftiest granite domes, the deepest ice-sculptured canons, the brightest crystalline pavements, and snowy mountains soaring into the sky twelve and thirteen thousand feet, arrayed in open ranks and spiry pinnacled groups partially separated by tremendous canons and amphitheatres; gardens on their sunny brows, avalanches thundering down their long white slopes, cataracts roaring gray and foaming in the crooked rugged gorges, and glaciers in their shadowy recesses working in silence, slowly completing their sculpture; new-born lakes at their feet, blue and green, free or encumbered with drifting icebergs like miniature Arctic Oceans, shining, sparkling, calm as stars.
Nowhere will you see the majestic operations of nature more clearly revealed beside the frailest, most gentle and peaceful things.
Nearly all the park is a profound solitude.
Yet it is full of charming company, full of God’s thoughts, a place of peace and safety amid the most exalted grandeur and eager enthusiastic action, a new song, a place of beginnings abounding in first lessons on life, mountain-building, eternal, invincible, unbreakable order; with sermons in stones, storms, trees, flowers, and animals brimful of humanity.
During the last glacial period, just past, the former features of the range were rubbed off as a chalk sketch from a blackboard, and a new beginning was made.
Hence the wonderful clearness and freshness of the rocky pages. But to get all this into words is a hopeless task.
The leanest sketch of each feature would need a whole chapter.
Nor would any amount of space, however industriously scribbled, be of much avail.
To defrauded town toilers, parks in magazine articles are like pictures of bread to the hungry.
I can write only hints to incite good wanderers to come to the feast.
While this glorious park embraces big, generous samples of the very best of the Sierra treasures, it is, fortunately, at the same time, the most accessible portion.
It lies opposite San Francisco, at a distance of about one hundred and forty miles.
Railroads connected with all the continent reach into the foothills, and three good carriage roads, from Big Oak Flat, Coulterville, and Raymond, run into Yosemite Valley.
Another, called the Tioga road, runs from Crocker’s Station on the Yosemite Big Oak Flat road near the Tuolumne Big Tree Grove, right across the park to the summit of the range by way of Lake Tenaya, the Big Tuolumne Meadows, and Mount Dana.
These roads, with many trails that radiate from Yosemite Valley, bring most of the park within reach of everybody, well or half well.
The Yosemite America the Beautiful Quarter Coin shows with an image of John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt on Glacier Point in Yosemite Valley, circa early 1900s.