In the late 1800’s there was a shift in the way society perceived the wild lands beyond the growing urban sprawl of America’s cities. This change was spurred in part by health concerns over the close quarters and polluted conditions in which many urbanites were forced to live. The country offered clean water and fresh air for those able to afford the luxury—and healthful benefits—of leaving the cities for weeks at a time to enjoy the amenities of summer resorts that sprang up in New York’s Catskill Mountains or in the Poconos of Pennsylvania. The San Gabriel Mountains of Southern California experienced a similar boon with the construction of private retreat cabins along the Santa Anita Wash and the Echo Mountain House resort accessible by the Mt. Lowe Railway.
The interest in turning to the woods for recreational opportunities was also heavily influenced by American naturalist John Muir. Muir was a major advocate of wilderness preservation and is largely responsible for the preservation of Yosemite Valley as a national park.
"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees."
Los Angeles’ PBS affiliate, KCET, has put together a photo retrospective of this period of wilderness awakening and posted it on their website. It’s a very informative and entertaining trip to a bygone era. And the next time you complain about the lack of support in those new hiking boots, just think back to when hikes were done in long woolen skirts or vest and tie, and maybe that next couple of miles on the trail won’t seem so bad.
You can view KCET’s photos by clicking here.