Western icon with ties to Western NCWritten by Don Hendershot
Acclaimed storyteller and actor Lee Stetson will bring his one-man show on John Muir to Western North Carolina in October. Stetson who was the “voice of John Muir” in Ken Burns’ recent PBS special “The National Parks-America’s Best Idea” has toured throughout the country since the early 1980s bringing Muir and his passion for wilderness to life for a myriad of audiences.
Muir was co-founder of the Sierra Club and an eloquent and persistent voice for the creation of our National Parks System. People often think of the dichotomy of today’s conservation movement between those who see forests as reservoirs of natural resources to be managed for long-term sustainable commercial use and those who see forests in a more holistic ecological sense as living ecosystems with their own inherent value as a “modern” dilemma. But the fact is these two divergent views have existed since the beginning of the conservation movement in the late 1800s. And they were physically embodied in two charismatic and influential individuals of the era — Gifford Pinchot, who became the first head of the U.S. Forest Service, and John Muir, known as the father of our national parks.
Pinchot was a champion of more sustainable, science-based silviculture, but in the end still held the view that “forestry is tree farming.” Muir on the other hand saw forests as “places for rest, inspiration, and prayers.” He had a more personal and spiritual connection with wilderness and wild places and his enthusiasm never waned.
While Muir is primarily known for his work in the Sierra Nevada Range and Yosemite Valley he did travel through other wilderness, including Western North Carolina. Muir walked from Indiana to the Gulf Coast of Florida and wrote about his adventure in book titled A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf. In the book, Muir writes, “I have found a multitude of falls and rapids where the wilderness finds a voice. Such a river is the Hiawassee, with its surface broken to a thousand sparkling gems, and its forest walls vine-draped and flowery as Eden. And how fine the songs it sings!”
Stetson regales his audiences with tales about Muir’s boyhood remembrances of flocks of millions of passenger pigeons filling the sky for days and how in his old age he is made aware of Martha, the very last passenger pigeon, held captive at the Cincinnati Zoo.
Stetson, as Muir, will tell the story of getting lost in a snowstorm on an Alaska glacier with his canine companion, Stickeen.
Stetson will be bringing Muir to life Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Asheville Community Theatre, sponsored by the Western North Carolina Alliance. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door, $20 for WNCA members and $12 for attendees under 18. For more info see www.wnca.org/portal1/pivot/entry.php?id=517&w=my_weblog
The next evening, Oct. 15, Friends of the Smokies will present Stetson at Haywood Community College’s Beall Auditorium at 7 p.m. Tickets for the event are: advance $23, door $27, Friends of the Smokies members $20, and students $15. Tickets may be purchased at Blue Ridge Books, 152 S Main St, Waynesville; by calling 828.452.0720; or online at www.friendsofthesmokies.org.
Proceeds from the Haywood show will benefit Trails Forever and other Great Smoky Mountains National Park projects.