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The Mountains’ Spell

The Sierra Nevada mountains in California, and especially the mountains in Yosemite National Park, cast a spell on (give a magical feeling to) everyone who visits them. I know. I’ve been there and experienced it.

If you look at a map of California, you’ll see two mountain ranges (lines of mountains). The Coastal Range is next to the ocean. The Sierra Nevada Range – and Yosemite – is on the opposite, or east, side of California. It’s more than 500 miles long and its mountains are from 8,000 to 15,000 feet high.

I don’t go to the mountains as often as I would like, but I have two friends who can take me there in an instant (immediately) anytime I want to go. Let me introduce you to them.

No one can describe nature (the natural world) like John Muir. Muir was an American naturalist (student of nature) and explorer. He fell in love with Yosemite when he first visited it in 1868, and he returned many times before he died in 1914. He often spent many weeks hiking (walking in the mountains) alone through the park.

Muir paints word pictures like an artist. When I read his words, I can clearly see the mountains in my mind. Here is my “simple English” version of one paragraph from his book The Mountains of California (If you want to read his original words, you can find them here.).

The walls of Yosemite’s valleys (low land) are made of rocks as large as mountains, separated (kept apart) by narrow canyons. They are so steep (vertical, up and down) in front, and so close together on the valley’s flat floor, that when you look at all of them at the same time, the spaces in between them look like vast (very large) rooms lighted by the sky above. Every rock seems to glow (shine brightly) with life…. They are awesome (impressive), majestic, and permanent. But at the same time, they are full of delicate (fragile, easily damaged) and temporary beauty. The feet of the mountains stand in groves (groups) of pine trees and bright green fields. Their heads are in the sky, covered with light and floods of singing water. Snowstorms, avalanches (snow falling down the mountain), and winds quickly come and go all year long. These mountains remind me of mansions (large homes) where Nature has carefully collected her most valuable treasures so her lovers will come close and spend time with her.

If I want to look at Yosemite’s mountains, for me there is nothing better than Ansel Adams’s beautiful black-and-white (without color) photographs. Adams is one of America’s most famous photographers because of his photographs of Yosemite National Park. Adams first visited the park when he was 14 years old and it quickly became one of his favorite places. He lived there for many years and took many of his best-known photographs there.

If you want to learn more about Adams and see some of his photographs, I recommend two articles from the New York Times newspaper. The articles are What Adams Saw Through His Lens and Ansel Adams’s Yosemite. In the second article you can see nine of his photographs and hear a brief description of each one.

If you want to learn more about Yosemite, be sure to listen to English Cafe #238 on April 21st and hear what Jeff has to say about it.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL tutor/coach and creator of where you can learn more about how to improve your English.

~ Photo by Jim Brekke used by permission.

19 Responses to “The Mountains’ Spell”

  1. Ilya Says:

    thumbs up =)

  2. Stanislaw Says:

    I had possibility to visit Yosemite National Park in 2004. It was really a very impressive part of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
    And I may recommend visiting Kings Canyon National Park, not far away from Yosemite, which offers especially picturesque views.

  3. Rabea Ali Says:

    Nature heals our broken hearts .

  4. Horst F. Hofstätter Says:

    Very intresting article. I love nature and I love mountains too. I`ve just heard about Yosemite National Park, especially in connection with climbing. But i`ve never seen so beautiful pictures of Yosemite like those taken by Ansel Adams. Sometimes I want to visit the YNP and see this amazing landscape with my own eyes!

  5. Bakhtiar Says:

    Unique article

  6. emiliano Says:

    Reading in Wiki the life of this man I think that it would be necessary for us and for the Earth to have more persons like him. Me being born in a big city like Madrid to have the posibility of living for short periods of time among the mountains, the forest, and wild natural life, has been always the most pleasant feelings in my life.
    We need to be grateful to these kind of persons like John Muir who were conscious about the transcendental importance of preserving great zones of nature spaces against the human destruction.
    Thank you Warren, it has been very nice and interesting to see these incredible pictures and to know something about the life of this great personality.

    To me nothing is better that to breath in the forest, to see the lands and mountains or walking along the sea side. Some of my best remembrances have something to do with these moments, also being among Nature I feel myself closer to the Creator, and it is something ever I am lacking just to be outside in places like Yosemite or other similars that many countries may have too.

  7. Rolf Says:

    I have visited Yosemite N.P. and Sierra Nevada last year. It was really gorgeous and breathtaking.

  8. Abdulrahman Says:

    I hope I was there for a moment to speak to the beautiful nature .

  9. Chris Says:

    I like this artical and the website you have recommended. Thanks.

  10. dongsung Says:

    I would really like to go to the Yosemite N.P, if possible. Beautiful black and white photographs of Yosemite National Park taken by Ansel Adams’s are fantastic. I think I’ve seen this place in other commercial or wall paper and so on. We all should thank nature for its beautiful gift. Thank you

  11. Kuba Says:

    Thanks for this post. I like very much the idea to put “simple English” explanations of some more difficult words that is done in all entries. Makes it really nice to read and learn new vocabulary and plus you get stragihtforwardly the synonyms! Descriptions of nature and generally descriptions in literature often contain lots of difficult words, ulike perhaps spoken English phrases.
    So I liked it a lot to see explanatations of words in the extract in the post, with vocabulary like ‘grove’ for example. “Grove” and similar words, if spotted in a piece of literature, would take a lot of looking up in dictionaries which is quite tedious an activity and often discourages you from reading. Thanks!!

  12. Sara Says:

    Thank you! I really enjoyed it!

  13. Tania Says:

    Hi! Yes! For a “restless spirit“mountaineering is one of my sensible points. The Ceahlau Mountain from the Carpathian Mountains seems to be almost identical with that from your photo .
    At night when it is dark the white-grayish granite shines in the moon-light thinking you can reach the sky and stars. I was climbing the Ceahlau Mountain when I was very young. And I climbed it again last year with the satisfaction that I was able to do it. I feel I am alive. After a day in mountains I feel I am under sedation in bed at night. The secret is the fresh air, landscape and sensation of freedom: no boss, no family worries, nobody, nobody… just you, the silence of the mountains and the need of spiritual nourishment. I have read John Muir’s biography like a nice story.
    We have national reservations to protect and preserve wild and natural environments, too. Unfortunately, deforestation on large areas is a disaster for wilderness.

    So all our respect for people like John Muir.

    Best wishes ,


  14. Matt Says:

    It is my opinion that everyone should visit Yosemite at least once in their lifetime. As Rolf stated, it is truly “breathtaking”. Also, not enough can be said about John Muir. If one has the time, I recommend some reading or investigation of the “John Muir Trail”, this man is a legend.

  15. Sony Says:

    After reading this article about the magic cast spell of Sierra Nevada mountains , especially the Yosemite ‘s moutain.I can really image the freshness and wildness of nature.It is marvelous! In the narrative paragraph written by Muir, the way he painted the picture full of descriptive words makes me feel like i am walking through the park. I ‘ve never been to this place before, so hopefully i have a chance for it to enjoy Yosemite park’s beauty with my real vision.

  16. Tania Says:

    Hi ! I like to read about the legendary people . On this occasion we have visited the Ansel Adams Gallery , we have had a look at the contemporary artwork delighted of black-and-white photographs , color photographs ,
    paintings and etchings including new phrases . I have listened to Andreea G. Stillman ‘s voice with pleasure . His former assistant’comments on the most famous photographs of Yosemite National Park reveal us the real
    life of the photographer of natural details . So , I could see the rainbow in “Nevada Fall, Rainbow” . I was admiring “Dogwood , Blossoms” and “Bridalveil Fall” but and the “Autumn in Yosemite” by Michael Frye.
    I had to listen to her comments three times to understand her better but it deserved .
    I spent a nice week-end together with John Muir and Ansel Adams . Thank you , dear Warren .

    Best wishes ,


  17. Tania Says:

    Hi ! Thank you for the news from The New York Times.

  18. Tania Says:

    Hi ! I agree with Kuba regarding the “simple English” explanations .

  19. emiliano Says:

    Thank you Tania, it has been a pleasure to read your posts.
    Congratulations indeed, your English is going up and your imagination is fresh. I may see you climbing the Ceahlau with clear vividness.
    My best wishes as always.