In my column last month, I discussed John Muir’s love of the Scottish poet, Robert Burns. As I thought about my column’s topic for February, Muir once again came to mind with his strong opinions on hiking.
In 1911, a fellow Sierra Club member named Albert Palmer recorded an anecdote of a conversation he had with Muir about the latter’s dislike of the word “hike.”
Muir reportedly answered with this now well-known quote that is popular on social media today:
“Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, “A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’
“And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.”