Mark Twain's Sierra Nevada: Quotes from Roughing It

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 28 May 2011


This page is to collect comments about Mark Twain's High Sierra observations recorded in Roughing It explored on the Mark Twain's High Sierra page from the trail guide.

The above link brings you  to quotes from Twain about Lake Tahoe, the Silver Boom in the Eastern Sierra, and Mono Lake.

Better yet, read Mark Twain's Roughing It.

Twain offers an amazing window into an almost pristine Lake Tahoe and Eastern Sierra in the 1860s.

Twain's later works reveal his burning observations about what we had done to our country and our govenment by the 1880s. Since then we have built quite an ethical and physical empire of contradictions off the foundations laid during Twain's Era...

Comments or Questions through the comments link below. 


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The trail marked on the map that Clemens took to Tahoe would be extremely difficult, and illogical. It is much more likely that he would have gone up the Clear Creek trail or the Kings Canyon road, which was built 9 years earlier.
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Twain's writing career had a trajectory that reflects, parallels and well characterizes the changes that America underwent during the last half of the 19th century.

Twain had a 'happy' era, encompassing his early era and works, including "Roughing It," and the more well known Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. Twain had a 'scathing' era, defined by "The Gilded Age" (link below), and then he had a downright 'angry' era defined by the works of his later life. "A Conneticut Yankee..." as well as numerous of his later short stories burned with anger at stupid greedy American behavior.

I have not read Twain's autobiography that recently came out after being witheld at Twain's request for a 100 years, to soften its blows. It should be good. Mark Twain was getting brutally and directly honest towards the end of his life.

I have read many of the short stories Twain wrote in his later life, which his family tried hard to prevent from being published. Twain was the leader and mentor of a group of young radical authors of the late 19th century. A classic from this group is Burk Turlington's "Big." (bad ref-will correct...)

These were not the stories of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. These were stories that clearly identified and completely condemned the irresponsible growth that sacrificed our farmer democracy in favor of the huge industrial cities dominated by the rising corporate aristocracy of the Robber Barons.

The Twain family tried to bury these short stories. The Mentor paperback of Twain's collected short stories has many of these stories. It's worth hunting down a copy in your local used book store.

The Gilded Age, Project Gutenberg eBook, Mark Twain and Charles Warner, American Publishing Company, Hartford, 1874

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Project Gutenberg eBook, Mark Twain, Webster, NY, 1889.


Alex Wierbinski

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