In early March 1867, Muir was injured while working at a wagon wheels factory: a tool he was using slipped and struck him in the eye. This accident changed the course of his life. He was confined to a darkened room for six weeks, worried he'd lost his sight forever. When he did recover, the world looked completely different and life had taken on a new meaning for him. Muir later said, "This affliction has driven me to the sweet fields. God has to nearly kill us sometimes, to teach us lessons." From that point on, he determined to "be true to myself" and follow his dream of exploring and studying plants.
A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf recounts Muir's walk of approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 km) from Indiana to Florida. He did not follow a specific route, only going by the "wildest, leafiest, and least trodden way I could find." This journal is the earliest of Muir's writings and autobiographically bridges the period between "The Story of my Boyhood and Youth" and "My First Summer in the Sierra."