Editor's Introduction - The wilderness areas surrounding the John Muir Trail in the Sierra-Nevada Range of California and Nevada, and the Continental Divide Trail in the Bob Marshall Wilderness of Montana represent some of the most beautiful, wild, and enamoring places on earth. Their sheer vastness harbors trekking routes measured in weeks rather than days - a rarity among American Wilderness. The author - my son - and I count the High Sierra and the Bob Marshall Wilderness among our favorite trekking, packrafting, and fishing destinations. So when he made the proposal to me to investigate the conservationists whose actions and ideologies led to their preservation as part of a high school social studies assignment, I eagerly accepted the opportunity to bring a bit of historical biography to the readers of Backpacking Light - in an effort to connect us to the people who labored tirelessly to help us travel lightly through these incredible places. Enjoy the read. - Ryan Jordan
When discussing a dystopian future where all of what was wilderness has been turned into manicured resorts, summer cottages, and cities, the environmentalist Aldo Leopold states that “when that day comes dead too will be a part of our Americanism” (qtd in Marshall 142). He means that the urge to explore is essential to the American spirit and without it, without a frontier, America loses a part of itself. With rapid industrialization, urbanization, and suburbanization occurring in America during the 19th and 20th centuries, men such as Theodore Roosevelt, Lee Metcalf, John Muir, and Bob Marshall stepped up to defend what wilderness was still left before Leopold’s dystopian future became reality. And although both Muir and Marshall played a crucial role in the preservation of America’s wilderness, John Muir was primarily responsible for the philosophy behind the wilderness movement while Robert Marshall was an early pragmatist for the wilderness movement.