THE MUIR RAMBLE ROUTE (MMR) This web site was created in 2006 and it provides information about following the MRR, a 310 mile walking and/or cycling trail from San Francisco to Yosemite, pioneered by Peter and Donna Thomas, which follows the route John Muir used when he first walked to Yosemite in 1868. The route is divided into seven sections, each which can be walked in a long weekend, each having campgrounds or hotels to sleep every night. The MRR is a great way to take a self-powered vacation and to see California through John Muir's eyes.
In 1868 Muir wrote about the trip saying that he "followed the Diablo foothills along the San José Valley to Gilroy, thence over the Diablo Mountains to valley of San Joaquin by the Pacific pass, thence down the valley opposite the mouth of the Merced River, thence across the San Joaquin, and up into the Sierra Nevada to the mammoth trees of Mariposa and the glorious Yosemite."
If you click on the map link you will see the path of the MRR compared to Muir's original route. Our research (outlined in the book) found that most of the pathways Muir followed in 1868 are now major roadways. Asking ourselves, "What would Muir do?", we decided he would travel, as much as possible, where there were still wild places. Our goal, then, became to make a route using urban trails, bike paths and small roads, passing through as many parks, open spaces and greenways as possible, to stay as close as possible to Muir's original route.
We first rediscovered, mapped, and hiked this route in 2006. We call this trail the Muir Ramble Route inspired by the fact that Muir himself took it as a ramble. Here's what he said in a letter written to his brother:
"...we had plenty of time, and proposed drifting leisurely...by any road that we chanced to find; enjoying the flowers and light, "camping out" in our blankets wherever overtaken by night, and paying very little compliance to roads or times..."
Our book, the "The Muir Ramble Route," is really three books in one. It is a guide book for a walking or cycling route that crosses California from San Francisco to Yosemite via the Pacheco Passthat following John Muir's footsteps. It is an adventure book, telling the story of our 2006 ramble across California to discover that route. And finally it is a history book, presenting in its entirety and for the first time, the complete story of John Muir’s first trip to Yosemite. Muir took that trip the year before his "First Summer in the Sierra", and it had never been published before this, existing in obscurity, hidden in Muir's various writings, until it we reconstructed it in preparation for our trip to follow John Muir’s footsteps.
If you have any questions, feel free to go to the contact page and send us an email.
Peter and Donna Thomas, Santa Cruz, CA
THERE IS A COMMONLY TOLD STORY that John Muir would just throw a bag of tea in his pocket, grab some bread, toss a coat over his shoulder and walk to Yosemite. In 2005, while walking the John Muir Trail, Donna Thomas decided she wanted to do what Muir did: step out her front door and walk to Yosemite. She thought it would be easy, "Surely others have done this before me. I will just ask around and find out how to do it. Maybe there is a book.." But she couldn't find anyone who had written about Muir's walking to Yosemite, nor could she could find anyone who had walked from Santa Cruz to Yosemite. Peter joined in the project and together they set out to discover when John Muir had walked to Yosemite. It took a lot of hunting but they finally found Muir had walked from San Francisco to Yosemite in 1868, and that no one knew much about this trip, and no one had ever retraced it. They decided to be the first and follow his footsteps to Yosemite.
ON MARCH 27, 1868, John Muir arrived in San Francisco, having traveled by steamship from New York via Panama. He was thirty, had recently completed walking from Indiana to Florida, and wanted to see Yosemite. The typical traveler took a ferry from San Francisco to Stockton, a stage to Coulterville, and then completed the trip to Yosemite on horseback. John Muir chose to walk. He took a ferry to Oakland, then walked south through the Santa Clara Valley, over the Pacheco Pass, across the San Joaquin Valley to Snelling, up the foothills through Coulterville, and arrived in Yosemite Valley around May 22, 1868.
SINCE JOHN MUIR gave only the most general details of his route, Donna and Peter turned to dusty old maps, from museums and libraries across the state, to fill in the details. Overlaying the old maps with modern ones showed most of the picturesque little roads Muir followed were now major roads and highways. Walking these roads would be pretty grueling, but they were committed by this time and decided to do it anyway. Further study of more specialized modern maps revealed the existence of urban trails, parks and pathways running parallel to Muir's route. This led to the idea of making the trip an "Urban Backpacking" trip, linking these trails and open spaces together while walking as close to Muir's route as possible. Following what they came to think of as Muir's spiritual footsteps, rather than his actual footsteps, they created a three hundred mile SF - Yosemite route that, as much as possible, travels through nature and off the main roads.
PETER AND DONNA THOMAS' first walk across California in the footsteps of John Muir's 1868 walk from San Francisco to Yosemite was a 33 day trip in April - May of 2006. While on this trip they gave talks at libraries and history museums along the route. The general enthusiasm for what they were doing inspired the Thomases to create a guide book so others could benefit from the research they had done. Realizing most people would not be able to take 30 days off work to follow the complete route, and because there are some places with no legal public sleeping options within a days walk, they divided the trip into 7 sections, each a trip that can be done over a long weekend with places to sleep every night. In 2007-8 they re-walked and cycled these sections of the route several times, alone and with small groups, verifying the directions and logistics, and composing their guide book.
THE MUIR RAMBLE ROUTE GUIDE BOOK is a 186 page 9 by 6 inch paperback book, titled, "The Muir Ramble Route: San Francisco to Yosemite in the Footsteps of John Muir". The price is $19.50.
HERE IS A REVIEW OF THE BOOK TAKEN FROM AMAZON: This labor of love is the culmination of years of research on how to retrace John Muir's 1868 "ramble" from San Francisco to Yosemite. The challenge for the authors was how to contend with all the "civilization" of the 21st century Bay Area and San Joaquin Valley and still make someone consider, attempt and relish the effort of this 300 mile journey themselves.
The book is broken down into seven trip sections starting with taking the ferry from San Francisco and ending at Sierra Club's Le Conte Memorial Lodge in Yosemite Valley. Since John Muir did not keep a specific journal of this, his first trip to Yosemite, the Thomases have seamlessly woven together in Muir's own words from other writings, the route of his trip, how he did it, and what he saw along the way. Then they did it themselves.
Peter and Donna obviously did a tremendous amount of research but this book does not feel ponderous, overly scholarly or environmentally preachy. Rather, they ask themselves throughout: are we traveling in the literal footsteps of John Muir--difficult to do when contending with a major highway; are we traveling in the spirit of Muir--continually enthralled by the beauty of this traverse of the state. And they succeed for themselves and for the memory of Muir and for the rest of us who might want to try this journey of both body and spirit.
This guidebook leaves little out but the effort and focus and optimism a user should be prepared to expend to meet it halfway. The directions are meticulously detailed with any number of options in how to negotiate this combination of urban, suburban, ex-urban, agricultural and finally, pristinely wild habitat that the Ramble entails.
It may seem strange to discuss ferry schedules, Bay Area Rapid Transit, Bay Area hotels and restaurants, taxi companies, light rail and carpooling in a book that deals with Yosemite, but all that information is truly needed in this instance. Each section, in addition to careful mileage outlines, Donna's lovely maps, and Peter's own journal entries, has a Resources section that includes transportation, accommodation options, side trips, map sources, books, and particularly contacts for planning a particular leg of the trip. And all legs can be done in any or no particular order though late spring is the best time of year.
The authors' hope is obviously that their Muir Ramble Route becomes, if not some "official" trail, at least increasingly more available to the hiker wanting to walk in the steps of this John Muir adventure. They fully realize we cannot turn back the clock but they challenge all to see the potential in finding the glory of the outdoors everywhere, starting even as this trip does in the densest jungles of civilization. The Thomases are to be commended for their efforts. And we, who like to hike, bird, botanize, look at Bridal Veil Falls, and long to find beauty wherever we are, with a little effort on our own, will benefit from this unique guide.
NOTE: This web site was originally made to document Peter and Donna Thomas' 2006 "Trans-California Ramble" walking in John Muir's footsteps from San Francisco to Yosemite, following the route of his first trip to Yosemite taken in 1868. When we give talks they will be listed under EVENTS. Newspaper and magazine articles will posted under NEWS/ARTICLES. Any corrections or updates to the route will be listed under ROUTE CHANGES.
Peter and Donna Thomas have also made a limited edition hard cover book print on demand photo book with over 100 photographs taken while walking the Muir Ramble Route. Click here for more information.