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Ceres council backs plan to attach John Muirs name to Highway 132
Scottish immigrant John Muir as photographed sometime close to his first journey to Yosemite in 1868. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Highway 132.

Yosemite Boulevard.

John Muir Highway?

The Ceres City Council thinks the latter has a nice ring to it.

Members voted 4-0 on July 27 to add their support to designating the route through Modesto, Empire, Waterford and La Grange en route to Coulterville as the John Muir Highway.

The John Muir Geotourism Center in Coulterville is spearheading the name change to honor Muir, whose first journey to Yosemite in 1868 followed some of the present highway.

Muir achieved fame as a botanist, naturalist and conservationist who sought protection of Yosemite National Park. His death came in 1914 after losing the fight to prevent the damming of Hetch Hetchy Valley.

The Coulterville center, which is located in the historic Gazzola Building in Coulterville, wants Muir's name attached to Highway 132 from I-580 to Coulterville.

The Ceres resolution notes that the designation is "intended to memorialize the traditions and accomplishments of John Muir but also to provide a marketing brand for Route 132, which is under-appreciated as an alternate scenic routes to Yosemite National Park, and that with creative marketing could become a popular travel option for tourists..."

Other bodies that are supporting the branding effort are the city of Waterford and the Mariposa County Board of Supervisors.

Muir made his way from the Bay to Yosemite in 1868 with an Englishman friend he met on the Oakland Ferry. He sojourned to San Jose, then Gilroy and then east over Pacheco Pass near the current-day San Luis Reservoir. At the top of the pass, Muir caught his never-to-be-forgotten view of the great Central Valley of California. Muir and his companion crossed the San Joaquin River at Hill's Ferry three miles northeast of Newman and 20 miles directly south of Ceres where Daniel Whitmore was farming wheat. Muir trekked the area between Delhi and Livingston.

Muir wrote: "Crossing this greatest of flower gardens and the San Joaquin River at Hill's Ferry, we followed the Merced River, which I knew drained Yosemite Valley, and ascended the foothills from Snelling by way of Coulterville. We had several accidents and adventures. At the little mining town of Coulterville we bought flour and tea and made inquiries about roads and trails, and the forests we would have to pass through. The storekeeper, an Italian, took kindly pains to tell the pair of wandering wayfarers, new arrived in California, that the winter had been very severe, that in some places the Yosemite trail was still buried in snow eight or ten feet deep, and therefore we would have to wait at least a month before we could possibly get into the great valley, for we would surely get lost should we attempt to go on. As to the forests, the trees, he said, were very large; some of the pines eight or ten feet in diameter."

It's believed that the store in Coulterville - referenced to as being operated by an Italian - is the same building which today houses the John Muir Geotourism Center.