Excerpts from Jim’s Book

Read a few exerpts from Jim’s “Walking With The Wild Wind”
 On Bears:

“I lost the moose somewhere. No, there are the tracks. Once again I follow the winding trail of the cow and calf I’ve been watching the past hour. It’s been a fun game for me. Watch from a distance, let them get ahead, then try to follow their trail to within sight again. We’re going down the broad wooded canyon. I spend a lot of time up here but have never really explored the dense forest on this side of the creek. The going is getting tougher. Slower, too. Trees are growing closer together, and the downfall is thick in places. Where are those moose now?

The tracks are plain, but suddenly their trail has taken an abrupt turn. Instead of continuing down through the thick forest, they’ve turned back up the basin, climbing. I look at the tracks, then up the steep hill. Nope. Time to say good-bye to those guys. I’ll just poke around in the trees for a time and then head home. I keep walking in the original direction.

Trees like matchsticks are all about me. The going is slow. Noisy, too. Limbs snapping. Legs crashing. Concentrating on getting over a log, I don’t see the bear until he woofs. The direction I’m heading, I’d have bumped right into him in another thirty feet or so. He’s standing. A jumble of fallen trees lie between us. My mouth open. Eyes wide. Grizz eyes staring me down.

He woofs again.”

 On Walking:

“I want you to understand something about walking, something about long-distance walking. It’s not a physical kind of thing. Oh, there’s the rhythm, the sweat, the power of your legs chugging away. That’s a thing most of us can comprehend, and that is indeed very physical, but most folks think of these long hikes as a feat of some super being. If you could see me, you’d know the truth. I’m tall and skinny. I’m not an athlete. I’m not in any way, shape, or form a super hiker. The physical part of the trek is real and demanding, but more important, I think, is the will. When it comes right down to it, walking is often a state of mind. Many days are a trial for me physically, yet because of my intense desire to be there, the miles drift by undetected. Often, it seems, sheer willpower pulls me over a mountain.

As in anything, one must be intent upon the path. When you’re unhappy about The Way, that’s when The Way becomes difficult. A long trek is a journey through the land, but it is also a searching odyssey into your self. It is not for everyone. To be alone and facing the wild places on their own terms is often easy compared to looking into our true selves for weeks and months at a time, which being alone on the trail forces us to do. But it’s often the connection with the wilderness that pulls us through the confrontations within ourselves. I wouldn’t want to be alone for so long in any other kind of environment.

But these are just outlines. What of the actual steps? When does walking, the motion, become thought? This is what I want you to understand. There is a point where the action goes unrecognized and is replaced by an emptiness that is based totally in the present. It is a knowledge, gained in each step, flooded with each turn, and brought into being for each second of the day. It is a holy state. This is when I wish I could tap myself, pouring my essence into a bottle. When someone asks me, “Why do you walk?” I’d just pull out the brew and say, “Drink this.” Some days I can feel the miles building up under me, piling up and spilling over. But then there are days, like this one, when I float in a blessed euphoria. Steps cease to be merely feet gained. Rather, each action is a journey of its own. Each step holds its own wonders. And joy floods me at every turn.”

On Thirst:

“Water. My body craves it. I’m drinking too much and still not getting enough. The air is hot and heavy with the haze of the now-distant fire. My thirst is unquenchable. My water, which should have lasted me a few days, is more than half gone. It’s the day after the storm.

This morning I’d slept. Not long, but enough to keep me going. I’d curled up at the base of my pack, too tired to even bother pulling out the sleeping bag. The sun, warming to a burn, had awakened me. It wouldn’t let me lie there for long. I got moving again, searching for some shade.

All morning I’ve walked, drinking from my shrinking supply of water. The heat is intense, especially on the lava. The black rock radiates like a stove. No shade in sight.

By the middle of the afternoon I realize my water is not going to last. The map shows a well a few miles to the east of my route. It’s a chance. There may be water. When I come to a jeep trail heading east, I follow it.

The miles are getting longer; at least, they take longer to walk. But I finally see an old stone building, and then a couple weathered outbuildings. It looks like the scene from an old western movie. A dilapidated windmill stands creaking in the breeze. I rush to the well. It’s bone dry.”

 On Nature:

“We as a species need to experience nature. Plain and simple. We need something to remind us of where we came from, something that says, “You, too, are a part of this planet.” To often “nature” is but the roses in our suburban yard, or green grass in the neighborhood park. The fish in the aquarium are our only glimpse of wildlife. But they don’t count. These are imitations. Pruned, fed, and pampered imitations. Nature is a living system, a living system that can stand on its own. Wilderness is nature as it was meant to be. It just is. Its birth and being do not revolve around human whims and whiles.”

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