Welcome to the Wild Wind – Autumn 2019
IN THIS ISSUE:
A Note from the Office of Wild Wind
Words to Ponder
Words from Jim
Note from the Office of Wild Wind
Greetings to all of you. As I thought about what to include in a note like this, I realized it couldn’t remind us off all the discouraging news and hard work we have ahead of us. Yes, we live in new and interesting and sometimes, difficult, times. Sometimes, reminders of joy we have experienced before now do bring a nice spark to our day. So, I’ve decided to pass along some of the stories Jim jotted in his journals during his Ocean to Ocean, North country, walking journey. This journey was full of remarkable adventures, beautiful sights and life changing times. My next few newsletters will include some snippets of things Jim wrote and experienced along this long hike, which he did all on trails, dirt roads and railroad tracks.
May you all find beauty in your lives this season of Autumn turning to Winter.
Words to Ponder
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I…I took the one less traveled by. That has made all the difference.
— Robert Frost, from “The Road Not Taken”
“There are things you can’t reach. But
You can reach out to them, and all day long.
The wind, the bird flying away. The idea of god.
And it can keep you busy as anything else, and happier.
I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.
Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around
As though with your arms open.”
― Mary Oliver
“I could not be a poet without the natural world. Someone else could. But not me. For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple.”
— Mary Oliver, from “Upstream”
From the Office of Wild Wind
1974 was the year Jim finished the Appalachian Trail and his first long hike along the trail. The last miles of the AT Jim knew another long hike was in his future. After his return, he stayed “in the living room of his brother, Mark’s house” and the maps piled up.
May 1, 1975 Jim made it to his starting point, West Quoddy Head near Lubec, Maine. (The most eastern point in the continental US). Jim starts the story with his surprise of hearing another voice. This was Nelson Geel of the US Coast Guard and they were soon chatting in the dining room of the lighthouse over a cold beer. Nelson spoke of the fresh grave outside. It was Hopely Yeaton. He was the fist commissioned officer of the Revenue Marines, the forerunners of the Coast Guard. After many stories, Jim found himself outside and he realized what was waiting for him. There was little doubt in his mind he would make it.
He writes, “The last vibrations of the huge bell were dying across the water when I lifted my pack and bid farewell to Nelson. I set off along a gentle, winding path, hugging the coast and passing little cascades and step like cliffs.” Thus began the 1975-1976, North country expedition.
Jim went on to complete almost an almost 5000 mile journey that took him a circuitous route from the eastern most point of the U S to the western most point at Cape Alava, WA.
Jim kept a daily journal, although we don’t have a complete archive of that. His dad mailed him food and supply boxes along the way, which Jim had prepared ahead of time. Wilbur also kept an accurate account on Jim’s route as he pinned a mark on a map of North America each time he mailed those packages to small towns further and further west.
Sadly, nobody knows where that map is today.
The first state Jim walked out of was Maine. He writes “I was in the woods again when I saw a sign announcing my departure from the land of Maine.” It was a moment repeated at every border with additional intensity.
“I’d come over 400 miles. I was healthy and happy. I’d seen some beautiful sights, met some wonderful people and had come out on top of some rough situations. I paused for a word of thanks and then stepped into New Hampshire.”
One of many great stories below:
The following story is from the coast to coast journal of Jim Stoltz, written while walking nearly 5,000 miles from the Atlantic to the Pacific in 1975 and 1976:
(2888 miles + 16 miles = 2904 miles from the Atlantic Ocean)
Saturday April 24, 1976
It rains and rains all afternoon and into the night. I wonder if it will ever stop. Finally this morning it does. But the sky is still threatening so I keep to the tent for an hour or so longer before packing up and setting out across rolling pastures. The views are great and I feel good moving. I go perhaps 3 miles when I notice an ugly, dark cloud bearing down on me. I feel like I am being chased as I hurry along. Just as it begins to rain I come across an old granary and take shelter in it for about 15 minutes while the shower blows over.
Setting out once again I pass through a ravine full of sheep and soon strike a road. This I follow for a mile or so and then take to a faded track back across the rolling prairie. Though muddy, it is beautiful. I see 5 deer and am amazing to watch them gracefully, one by one, leap over the fences and away. I wish the fences were so easy for me to cross, too! Also see lots of jackrabbits and pheasants today. The rabbits are very similar to the deer in the way they leap and bound with their white tails flashing. I eventually merge onto a dirt road and follow it through plowed fields and pass many farms. By now the sky is clearing and it is colder. I climb a fence into a pasture and get water from a well flowing out of a pipe, and begin following a creek north towards Antelope Creek. Lots of cows about, and I’m starting to think about making camp when I see a pick-up truck out checking calves. I start towards them, but the truck drives away. Then I notice a horse and rider so I walk toward them, but they, too disappear over a hill. I keep walking and suddenly a young teenage boy comes riding over the hill. I greet him with a smile, but he’s not sure what to make of me. I notice another youngster on foot, and then the truck comes bouncing back towards me.
A short, muscular man gets out of the truck. He doesn’t look happy to see me. He asks me what I’m doing out there in his calving pasture, and at first I think he’s going to grab me. I’ve made it all these thousands of miles without getting in trouble with anyone, and now I’m thinking, Oh, oh. I’m going to spend the night in jail tonight!I’m trying to stay calm and cool. He repeats his question, and I answer that I’m walking across the country and looking for a place to camp for the night. The man doesn’t believe me. (I wonder if I would?) and asks to see some I.D.
I remove my pack and set it down so he can see it. Maybe he’ll notice the Coast to Coast patch on the back. I dig around for my driver’s license and as I hand it to him I say, My name is Jim Stoltz.
He looks surprised; kind of like I just punched him. What? I repeat, Jim Stoltz! He points to one of the boys, That there is Jim Stoltz!
I chuckle and so does he. It turns out that this is Leo Stoltz with his sons, Edward and Jim. Leo has 14 kids. One of them had to be a Jim. I relax and so do they. I’ve never been so glad to have the name I do! It turns out he has had trouble with hunters, rustlers, and even people planting marijuana on his land, so he has a right to be cautious of this stranger walking through. We talk and share our family’s history and they invite me over to their house tomorrow. I promise to stop by for lunch and then they head for home. I camp in the pasture and can’t get over meeting such nice folks. And another Jim Stoltz!!! Who would have thought it?
(2904 miles + 19 miles = 2923 miles from the Atlantic Ocean)
Sunday April 25, 1976
Very heavy frost last night and a cold, clear morning. I take my time getting going but it’s still an early start. I cross the pastures to a dirt road and follow various tracks for a few miles until I’m approaching Dobson Buttes. I’ve been watching these on the horizon for a few days so my goal is to climb up and get the view from up on top. Here, I cut across a plowed field heading for the more rounded of the two buttes. A few cars drive by as I’m walking across the field, but at the time I didn’t think anything about it. The wind is blowing like crazy when I get to the top. To stand up is difficult and cold, but I can see for miles and miles. I only stay for 15 minutes because of the brisk wind. Then I drop down the other side and make my way to the Stoltz farm. Leo greets me and I start to meet some of his many children. Later his wife, Mary Louise, comes home and I am very moved by her kind and friendly manner. We chat and later Leo’s father, George, comes over. He’s an old-timer and his father had come from Russia in 1890. Leo was born in one of those stone houses I’ve been seeing here and there across North Dakota. After a while we took a picture of the two Jim Stoltzs. They’ll send a copy home to the folks for me. The other Jim is 14 years old and his middle name is Joseph.
We were sitting at the table when the phone rang and a neighbor, an Aunt of Mrs. Stoltz’s, asked Leo if he’d seen a strange guy with a backpack walking around??!!! He smiled and said ”Yeh, he’s sitting right here!” She informed Leo that several people had reported me to the sheriff that morning after seeing me in the field by the butte. The sheriff, civil defense guys, mounted posse, folks with CB radios were out looking for me! Combing the countryside to find out where I’d vanished to and what I was up to. We had a great laugh, especially when Leo told her that I was his long lost brother!! He asked her to tell the sheriff and call the posse off. We laughed and laughed.
A while later the sheriff and a couple other fellows arrived and we explained everything. I showed them an article about me and the walk I am doing from the Bismarck newspaper. They were great sports about it and had a good laugh, too. They took the article down the road to where a whole passel of trucks and people had gathered and read it. The search was off. Sure was exciting for a while. Later we had a dinner that was out of this world —- ham, potatoes, candied rice, deviled eggs, and on and on. But the company is what made it such fun. Finally around 3:00 I bid farewell to the Stoltz family. They are such great folks and I really liked them.
This part of North Dakota will always have a special place in my heart.
I took a track through their pasture and walked steadily until nearly dark, pitching my camp in a field. The wind is still blowing and it’s cloudy as I write this. I’m hoping to reach Belfield tomorrow, rain or shine, to get mail and maps that are being sent there. Onward…
A note about the Stoltz family: Jim stayed in touch with them. They sent us wedding wishes, Christmas cards each year and we heard news when both Leo and Mary died. Through the years, the Stoltzs showed up at a concert in ND occasionally. When Jim died, I heard from “the other Jim Stoltz” who has a comment on the website.
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