This time of year, it’s nearly impossible to stay indoors all day long when it is so beautiful outside. So when the weekend rolls around, it isn’t unusual to find many of us hiking, camping, bicycling, canoeing, white-water rafting or savoring other outdoor activities. That’s why we took particular pleasure in putting together the July/August issue of American Spirit, whose cover image of a serene wooded spot on the John Muir Trail beckons the nature lover in us all.
Our resident hiking expert Megan Pacella explores the history behind the 211-mile scenic trail, which stretches from California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, through the Ansel Adams Wilderness, to the summit of Mount Whitney, and the man who made it possible—19th century conservationist John Muir.
Known as the “Father of the National Park Service,” Muir was driven to the natural world after a disillusioning experience working in factories back East and soon grew passionate about preserving the forests, mountains, waterfalls and wildernesses of the West. Thanks to Muir’s foresight, outdoor buffs like us can still enjoy the stunning views and peaceful respite of the trail, which we celebrate through poignant words and images in the Visions of America pictorial accompanying our cover story.
We all grew up hearing about another American frontier legend, Johnny Appleseed, but how many of those stories were true? Probably more than you might expect. Contributing editor Nancy Mann Jackson looks into the life of this fabled character, sorting the facts from the folklore. For instance, you might be surprised to discover that while Johnny Appleseed, aka John Chapman, did roam the countryside barefoot planting apple trees, he was also a shrewd businessman who sold his seeds to pioneers for pennies or on credit and helped them set up orchards. He also had a knack for storytelling—which might be why there are so many tales about him in the first place!
Almost as famous as the adage “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is Patrick Henry’s legendary rebuke “Give me liberty or give me death!” Historians have long celebrated Henry’s fervent challenge to his fellow Patriots, but few have focused on his life before and after that stirring speech. As part of our recurring “Our Patriots” series, contributing editor Phyllis Speidell uncovers the early experiences that transformed a young, unfocused Henry into the bold, articulate leader who would eventually become known as the “Revolution’s Voice.”