The Culture of Exploring the Sierras
By Mitchell Gutierrez




Exploration by the Native Peoples
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The first peoples to trek the mountains of the Sierra, according to archeologists and anthropologists, were the Martis People. They were present within the Sierras for nearly 2500 years. Though the Martis were the first to trek the Sierras, the first civilization to arise and sustain was the Northern Paiute, which stretched across Washington and Oregon as well. Other Indian tribes moved into different parts of the Sierras following the Paiute, though no tribe made its home near the peaks of the mountains, an area that was left unexplored by any human beings.


Exploration by the Civilized World
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Recreational and Economical exploration of the Sierras began in the mid 1800's, during the age in which many eastern settlers traveled upon the Oregon trail, hoping to find a new, better home in California and Oregon. Though the trail let most settlers out of a mountain path in Wyoming, numerous paths towards California led through the Sierra Mountains. The most famous story of a pioneering trip through the mountains is told in the story of the Donner Party.


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Soon following the initial immigration into California, the Gold Rush in 1860 brought about a tremendous immigration into California, causing thousands of peoples to travel across the Sierras in their search for gold. While the miners themselves took residence near rivers or at the base of the mountains, this great passing brought the Sierras to the world's attention as an untamed wilderness, arousing the interest of famous explorers. Among these explorers John Muir, William Brewer, Charles Hoffman, and Clarence King. Exploration by these men was not an act fueled with hopes of striking it rich, but instead a test of endurance and quest to learn of the wild and its inhabitants.

Famous Explorers

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John Muir: A Scottish born American, Muir was one of the earliest activists for the preservation of wildlife. He founded the Sierra Club, an organization for conservation of wildlife.


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Joseph Nisbet: born in Oakland, California, Joseph Nisbet was a mountaineer for most of life, and a valued member of the Sierra Club.

James Hutchinson: Born in San Francisco, James Hutchinson was a lawyer, a mountaineer, and an environmentalist. He, along with Joseph Nisbet, was one of the first members of the Sierra Club.

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Norman Clyde: one of the few famous Californian explorers who was not a part of the Sierra Club, Norman Clyde was a mountaineer, photographer, writer, and naturalist. He made a total of 130 grand ascensions.