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Alaska Days with John Muir

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Samuel Hall Young, a Presbyterian clergyman, met John Muir when the great naturalist's steamboat docked at Fort Wrangell, in southeastern Alaska, where Young was a missionary to the Stickeen Indians. In Alaska Days with John Muir he describes this 1879 ""A hearty grip of the hand and we seemed to coalesce in a friendship which, to me at least, has been one of the very best things in a life full of blessings.""

This book, first published in 1915, describes two journeys of discovery taken in company with Muir in 1879 and 1880. Despite the pleas of his missionary colleagues that he not risk life and limb with ""that wild Muir,"" Young accompanied Muir in the exploration of Glacier Bay. Upon Muir's return to Alaska in 1880, they traveled together and mapped the inside route to Sitka. Young describes Muir's ability to ""slide"" up glaciers, the broad Scotch he used when he was enjoying himself, and his natural affinity for Indian wisdom and theistic religion. From the gripping account of their near-disastrous ascent of Glenora Peak to Young's perspective on Muir's famous dog story ""Stickeen,"" Alaska Days is an engaging record of a friendship grounded in the shared wonders of Alaska's wild landscapes.

190 pages, Paperback

First published June 1, 1915

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About the author

Samuel Hall Young graduated from the University of Wooster in Ohio and the Western Theological Seminary in Allegheny, Pennsylvania and was ordained by the Presbyterian Church. He went to Fort Wrangel, Alaska as a missionary and explorer, organized the first Protestant Church in Alaska, held pastorates in California, Illinois, Iowa, and Ohio and was later sent to the Klondike. In 1879 and again in 1880' he accompanied John Muir when he discovered Glacier Bay, Alaska. During a mountain climb near Glendora on the Stikine River, he almost fell to his death after dislocating both arms and was only saved from a narrow ledge when John Muir pulled him to safety with his teeth. In 1904, he established the First Presbyterian Church in the new town of Fairbanks. He was appointed superintendent of Presbyterian missions in Alaska.

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Displaying 1 - 20 of 20 reviews
Profile Image for Bam cooks the books ;-).
1,912 reviews248 followers
September 13, 2016
I bought this from the national park rangers who came aboard our cruise ship in Glacier Bay and it was the perfect book to enhance our travel experiences as John Muir and his close friend explore the region in the late 1800s. How wonderful to be able to picture the pristine beauty of the region before it was despoiled by the gold rushers and modern-day settlers.

Samuel Hall Young was a Presbyterian minister who came to the Alaskan territory as a missionary and met John Muir at Fort Wrangell. They became fast friends and traveling companions. Their adventures together are told by Young with beautiful description, warmth, and humor.

Young's shoulders were badly dislocated during a harrowing glacier climbing accident and afterwards, he was no longer able to climb with Muir but he still thrilled to hear of Muir's discoveries when he returned to camp. Together they shared many glorious adventures and the love of the dog, Stickeen, and what a joy it is to read their stories more than 100 years later! Highly recommend!
Profile Image for Lynn.
740 reviews
June 17, 2023
This was a lovely companion read to John Muir's Travels in Alaska written by a Presbyterian missionary friend who accompanied him on his explorations. I'm so glad they had each other as friends.
Profile Image for Holly B.
26 reviews
July 5, 2023
I read this book to my partner in a series of audio recordings, and the description of nature in Alaska is truly incredible. Certainly some colonialism occurring, but the aventures and the appreciation of nature are unmatched.
Profile Image for Bob Nichols.
914 reviews302 followers
July 23, 2019
Young was a Christian missionary in Wrangel, Alaska, teaching Indians the “white man civilization” (apparently, Alaska had more than a few of such). John Muir made a couple of trips to SE Alaska (1879-80) to check out the landscape and, specifically, to look for evidence of mountain glaciers (U shaped valleys, hanging cliffs, striations, etc.) that would confirm his theories of mountain glaciation in Yosemite and the High Sierras. Young accompanied Muir on two canoe trips in the inner waterways of SE Alaska, feeling “the eager zeal…at the prospect of telling them [the Indians] for the first time the Good News.” The book gives an account of his two trips with Muir.

Young’s account of Muir is what one would expect. Muir would take off early in the morning with minimal food and gear and return late at night. On Muir’s second visit, Young’s dog, Stickeen, adopted Muir and accompanied him on Muir’s many wanderings and was, of course, the dog that Muir wrote in Stickeen. Writing of Muir, Young writes that “I sat at his feet; and at the feet of his spirit I still sit, a student, absorbed, surrendered, as this ‘priest of Nature’s inmost shrine’ unfolds to me the secrets of his ‘mountains of God.’” Muir, he goes on to write, “was a devout theist. The Fatherhood of God and the Unity of God, the immanence of God in nature and His management of all the affairs of the universe, was his constantly reiterated belief.”

Young’s observations about Indian life were also striking. One of the tribes near Skagway, he says, was “the most quarrelsome and warlike of the tribes of Alaska, and their villages were full of slaves procured by forays upon the coasts of Vancouver Island, Puget Sound, and as far south as the mouth of the Columbia River.” In another story, Young writes of an Indian chief who, after a couple of disappointing years from his salmon stream due to an advancing glacier prayed to his gods, and “sacrificed two of my slaves, members of my household, my best slaves, a strong man and his wife, to the spirit of that glacier” to get it to stop….When I [Young] exclaimed in horror at his deed of blood he was astonished; he could not understand. ‘Why, they were my slaves,’ he said, ‘and the man suggested it himself. He was glad to go to death to help his chief.’”

Pristine even now, Young gives us a vivid picture of what it was like in SE Alaska 150 years before. Young is an excellent storyteller. And he knows how to write.
Profile Image for Angela.
148 reviews1 follower
October 13, 2021
Much as I enjoyed reading this, it is also a painful reminder to me of the glaciers we have lost and continue to lose to global warming. The majesty of the glaciers in bygone days, their formation and their calving - a sight and sound that is rare to witness in recent years. I was in Alaska in June 2019 and I felt keenly then, and even more so after reading this book, what we have lost. It is heart-breaking.
Profile Image for C. Michael.
197 reviews4 followers
December 22, 2021
A pleasant introduction to both Young and Muir. It sent me scrambling (at least virtually) to read more about both men as well as the glaciers that figure prominently in the book. There's also an elegiac tone, especially in the last chapters, that caught me by surprise and left me more moved by this book than I'd imagined. It was a serendipitous purchase that has whetted my appetite for more Muir.
Profile Image for Mike Panton.
103 reviews1 follower
January 1, 2019
Reading about Muir and his adventures into the wild cant help but stir something inside the reader. His childlike enthusiasm and love for all things nature is refreshing. It was interesting to read about the adventures from a friend of Muir.
Profile Image for Katherine.
89 reviews4 followers
August 25, 2020
An enjoyable insight into a younger Muir than we usually see in pictures. It's a wonderful telling of friendship and discovery by Muir's companion during these early days.
Profile Image for Kelly Veatch.
936 reviews9 followers
June 5, 2023
Very interesting to learn about the adventures of Samuel Hall and John Muir in Alaska at the end of the 1800s. Can't wait to see some of the places mentioned in the book!
Profile Image for Jennifer Zartman.
Author 2 books3 followers
May 20, 2013
I enjoyed this look at Alaska through the eyes of a missionary to the Stickeen people. He includes breathtaking descriptions of Alaska's wild beauty and the people he ministered to. I wish I could have known the godly chief who feared nothing and died trying to bring peace between his people. Samuel Young owned the little dog that John Muir wrote about in his book, "Stickeen." I highly recommend reading it in conjunction with John Muir's book.
1 review
January 23, 2017
Profound Journey in Alaska

Thirty years ago I read a number of books written by John Muir and found them enthralling. This volume written by a friend, colleague, and co-adventurer provides a contemporary and personal glimpse into Muir. He loved wilderness. He recognized God in nature. I enjoyed this renewed vision into a great life. John Muir's travels in Alaska are profound in helping us to see with new eyes and to feel with new hearts.
Profile Image for Joshua Horn.
Author 4 books8 followers
March 21, 2012
This book is by Samuel Young, a friend and fellow traveler of John Muir, the famous naturalist and explorer. Young was a Presbyterian missionary that tagged along with Muir on his travels through Alaska. He describes Alaska in vivid detail. The only regret is that he was unable to explor as far as Muir, because his shoulders dislocated easily.
1,293 reviews8 followers
February 10, 2014
John Muir was a Christian. Upon beholding a new, breathtaking scene in nature, he would shout, "Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!" I liked the places in this book that actually told what they were doing; camping in the wind in a tent, sleeping on beds made from tree boughs; but I did not care so much for flowery descriptions of glaciers, mountain peaks, etc.
Profile Image for Pam Porter.
159 reviews
January 15, 2018
Very interesting book written by Samuel Young when he was a minister stationed at Fort Wrangell, Alaska. In 1879, John Muir came to SE Alaska to explore the glaciers and mountains. Young and Muir became fellow explorers and friends. Young was the owner of Stickeen, the dog Muir made famous in one of his adventure stories.
Profile Image for Russ.
138 reviews
May 29, 2019
One of the most insightful books related to John Muir. For those who admire the man, this book gives insight into his enthusiasm for the natural world, and his unbounded joy as he exclaims, "Praise God from whom all blessing flow." Samuel Hall's stories of his time with Muir lend credence to the man, who he was. This is one fine read.
Profile Image for Lee.
22 reviews1 follower
May 28, 2013
The world has had many interesting people, John Muir should be towards the top of anyone's list that likes the outdoors. it takes an observer to tell the world how cool they really were; this is a great example.
Profile Image for Annie.
314 reviews
February 6, 2012
Absolutely marvelous! Can't wait to read "Stickeen" by John Muir.
122 reviews
February 21, 2013
The e-book is free. It's interesting to hear someone tell first-hand stories about John Muir. The first story is the best.
7 reviews1 follower
August 5, 2013
I was not aware of how much John Muir explored Alaska - and was shocked to read what an outdoors maniac he was!
The dog Stickeen is a wonderful addition to this true life adventure!
Displaying 1 - 20 of 20 reviews

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