Douglas on mountains and wilderness

Excerpt from 1957 interview

“For myself it is a testing ground of my strength and endurance, a pitting of finite man against one of the great rigors of the universe.  A man – or girl – can get to know himself – or herself- on the mountain.  He gets to know his inner strength-the power of the soul to add to the power of the legs and lungs. In the solitude of the mountains – especially on the highest peaks- he is close to the heavens, close to the outer limits of the earthly zone.  It is for me easy, therefore, to have communion with God and to come to understand terms of my own being.”

–November 6, 1954 letter to a Seattle schoolgirl, The Douglas Letters (1987)

“As I walked the ridge that evening, I could hear the Chinook on distant ridges before it reached me.  Then it touched the sage at my feet and made it sing.  It brushed my cheek, warm and soft.  It ran its fingers through my hair and rippled away in the darkness.  It was a friendly wind, friendly to man throughout time.  It was beneficent…”

–Go East, Young Man (1974)

Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas hiking Olympic Beach in Washington state. Color.

“Man must be able to escape civilization if he is to survive.  Some of his greatest needs are for refuges and retreats where he can recapture for a day or a week the primitive conditions of life.”

“If our wilderness areas are preserved, every person will have a better chance to maintain his freedom by allowing his idiosyncrasies to flower under the influence of the wonders of the wilderness.”

“Most glacial peaks exude an atmosphere of mystery.  There is wonderment at the forces that created it. The sheer beauty of basalt cliffs, glacial ice, snow-covered summits, and the blue sky is tranquilizing.  The clash and turmoil of civilization are far behind.  Now one faces the elemental forces-those that produced the great mountain, those that are in the process of leveling it.”

“…to be whole and harmonious, man must also know the music of the beaches and the woods.  He must find the thing of which he is only an infinitesimal part of and nurture it and love it, if he is to live.”

“If the sun sets clear, there is a moment before the mountain is swallowed up by the darkness when it is brightly luminous, incandescent, a startling ball of cold light.  When the full moon rises, the distant snow fields dimly reflect a golden glow.  Then the mountain seems so far, so remote, as to belong to another world.”

–My Wilderness: The Pacific West (1960)

Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas looking out across the frontier.