Ode To Jim Stoltz
A lone man howled
And we heard his cry
His music and song taught us where and why
To love the land and all critters nearby
To bask in sun’s energy, our spiritual food
Respect and protect mountains, rivers and creeks
Never turning the other cheek.
A renaissance man who traveled far
A natural teacher explained who we are
Leading our children with meaningful tunes
America the beautiful sang loud and true
His footsteps showed us the way to follow
A new generation will live his dreams
Gone from our lives, too soon, too soon
Lives in our hearts and our minds evermore
A lone man howled
And we heard his cry
Montana’s favored son
Jim Stoltz we know why
~ Glad Elias
We should all be so fortunate to have so closely followed our love and our
instincts into our adult lives, and then be clearly remembered for
influencing others with that passion. I think about Jim often, and always
reach that same conclusion about the man.
My family and I sat around a smouldering, teapot-heating campfire in a dark
grove of cedar and hemlock listening to Jim picking and singing about
wildness on a late-summer day in 1982. We were not too far out of Libby,
Montana, right near a point where Jim could access the divide after spending
a day or so in town, and a night or two at our house.
The picture I still have shows us sitting on a big downed tree–the sort of
old growth Jim understood was the product of unman-aged land. On some sort
of spiritual cue, an owl announced his presence while we listened to Jim’s
liquid bass voice that-especially that evening–seemed to draw its resonance
from the roots below us. I distinctly remember thinking that if there were
ever to be a re-creation of that imagened scene where all the animals circle
around the fire, peering in wonder from behind trees, this was it. As I
reflect on that darkening evening, and that campsite with Jim’s minimalist
set of possessions neatly tucked up against the ferns around him, I thank my
lucky stars for having spent this time with him on his turf; his core
geography–far from the the public school enclaves he also loved, and so
influenced. There has been only one Jim Stoltz. What a fortunate guy he
I am writing to you because back some time ago I went to Springview Elementary in Flushing, MI . I graduated 2002 from flushing high school so i am not sure what year you came to our elementary…Anyways, long story short…. i was watching the animal planet the other night and this pika animal came on & at that very moment your song popped in my head… i mean were talking at least 17 years ago…. I just wanted to say what an amazing impression you leave in peoples minds and hearts. Thank you for this wonderful childhood memory, it makes me almost want to cry. God bless you in everything you do. I am so glad to see you still going strong after all these years.
Casondra L. Shepard
Recently, David Murnion and his partner, Jacqueline sent a copy of thier publication, Mountain Praire Time. Along with this was the powerful poem below.
You left your ballads behind
Bread for our souls
We marvel at your words
Did you find them in the wilderness
What are we to sing of your voice?
You were the times, earth friend.
A folk hero of the modern West
You were the song of the Age
And oh, did we need you.
Spirits smile at your many footsteps
Some of us still dance
A few of us have attained a vision
We know what is on the agenda
We know how this game is played.
Your folk songs resound in the Records
But these years summoned political demons
We stand now at the crossroads
Bluebirds sing hopes for blue skies
The bear lives at the edge of the earth
The wolf sounds the warning siren
Burly bison plod wearily through bureaucratic ignorance
The red tail hawk screams a distress cry
Are these pleas for another prophet?
Walk among the sentinel trees in quietude
The forests march towards the Land of Many Sages
Listen: The wild geese are calling your name, Jim
A timeless tribute to your courage Orange moon lights the Spanish Peaks
Now the mountains sing your ballads
DJ Murnion April 2012
Periodically we will be including some of Walkin’ Jim…
Periodically we will be including some of Walkin’ Jim Stoltz’s music (thanks to Leslie Stoltz). Should you have missed the earlier post, Walkin’ Jim passed away at the age of 57 from cancer. His music, however, lives on. ”Friends Along the Way” reminds me of grave marker I saw along the Washington PCT back in 1981 honoring a long-time friend of the high country. His epitaph read, “There are no strangers in the mountains, only friends you haven’t met.”
January 5, 2012
For nearly 30 years, we were pleased to have Jim as a friend. We first got to know him back in Big Sky. Like any friendship, contact ebbed and flowed over the years. Yet, Jim’s music was always there. Even a short listen to that distinctive voice and the ever present message about the Wild Places, brought the wilderness to us wherever life’s path was leading.
As we came to terms with Jim’s passing, we wanted to find a fitting way to remember him. Over the past few years, we’ve gone on regular backcountry adventures in Greg’s adopted home state of Idaho. One of Jim’s songs, “I’m Goin’ Back to Idaho,” became the inspiration for a memorable walk and a chance to remember Jim. Jim wrote:
“There’s a place that I know in the Sawtooth Range,
The Spangle Lakes, I hope it never does change.
It’s a little piece of heaven all locked up in snow,
That’s why I’m crazy about Idaho.”
We decided to make a trek to the Spangle Lakes and place a marker in Jim’s honor. Please view the linked video the hear Jim singing and get a visual tour of our trip. We hope you’ll make the trip yourself. There is a small cairn (strangely enough, it is looks a lot like two fingers making a peace sign), a marker with Walkin’ Jim’s name and a guest registry to share your thoughts. Here are some general directions and the specific coordinates:
Head to Pettit Lake (south of Stanley on Highway 75), on the East side of the Sawtooth Range. Take the Yellow Belly Trail and make your way past Farley Lake, Edith Lake, Edna Lake, Vernon Lake, and Ardeth Lake. You’ll then climb the saddle to the west of Glen’s Peak. We placed the marker overlooking the Spangle Lakes to the South, at 9288′ to the West of the trail. The coordinates are:
N 43° 57.4667’ W 115° 01.3220’
This was a 28 mile, four day/ three night trip with nearly 5,000 feet of total elevation gain from July 22 to July 25, 2011. But we’re a couple of nearly 50 year old guys…
Jim – your legacy lives on in the wilderness you loved, in the music you made and in the hearts you touched.
WATCH THE PLACING OF THE MARKER VIDEO
Jay Lindgren Edina, Minnesota
Greg Dittmer McCall, Idaho
November 28, 2011
Walkin’ Jim’s music lives on in the hearts and voices of the children….
My husband and I met Walkin’ Jim years ago when we worked at Lone Mountain Ranch in 1989. We loved hearing Jim sing at the Northfork Cabin and were quickly drawn to his kind, gentle and powerful spirit. We kept in touch with Jim through the years, sharing brief notes and letters, and later, photos of our daughter, born in 2007. Last year our daughter was very ill for several weeks, and all she wanted to do was to listen to “Walkin’ Jim”. She made herself comfortable on the couch, memorized all the tunes on Kid for the Wild, and chose the piece Come Walk with Me for her 4 year old birthday party dance. We miss Walkin’ Jim so very much. It is beautiful to witness his music and commitment to the Wild living and singing through our little one.
November 11, 2011
To Walkin Jim’s Family,
I am very saddened today to learn about the passing of Walkin’ Jim and I have learned a valuable lesson from his passing. My name is Todd Foster and I met Walkin’ Jim when he came to my elementary school music class in Royal Oak, Michigan. He sang songs and told us stories of his travels, I was amazed. During his visit a handful of us six graders were picked to record with him on the song “Spirit is Still on the Run”. Walkin’ Jim took us to a recording studio along with our music teacher and we all put on headphones and sang our little hearts out.
At that time I had already started twiddling with guitar but that recording experience changed everything for me. I practiced that guitar until my fingers were numb and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. For twenty four years the guitar has been a loyal friend to me and I don’t know if I would have taken playing and practicing so seriously if it not for meeting Walkin’ Jim.
A few years ago I lost my aunt to lung cancer and the day she died I promised myself I was going to do what I loved to do for a living. I quit my nine to five job, dusted off my old guitar and started pickin’ for a living. I have never been happier in my life. At that same time I took some time to look at my past and figure out my direction for the future. I came across my “Spirit is still on the Run” album and instantly searched out Walkin’ Jim online. I was glad to see he was still out there doing it. I drafted a email to Jim telling him how much that one meeting changed my life and how grateful and lucky I was to have met him…..I got busy with life and never sent the email.
So today I figured it was time email him thank him, only to find out I am too late. So I would just like his family to know he Did touch people and Did change lives and I was honored to have met him.
Memories of Walkin’ Jim Stoltz
I had met Jim many years ago (1984?), first hearing him at a Sierra Club meeting in the greater Detroit, MI area. Also heard him with his sister, Susan Grace Stoltz. I had lost her two cassette tapes, Circle of Friends and New Beginnigs, and only tonight found her website and purchased all of her CD’s . Also purchased Jim’s double CD, Forever Wild/Spirit Is Still on the Run. And that is when I discovered he had passed on in September of 2010.
But I digress… I really enjoyed hearing Jim speak on his beliefs, and while I have changed in the last 20 years, I will always appreciate his words, dedication, passion, integrity, and yes, his gentle strength. One meeting with him was very interesting as I had heard he had some women’s rain gear available and set up to meet him. It had been his wife’s and he wanted it to go to someone who would use it. He told me of her fight with malignant melanoma. You see I too had fought melanoma (and to this day, by the grace of God, I am still here).
He read to me from one of his trail journals, just simple (and at times profound) observations and happenings. To hear Jim read it was to experience it with him, even the simple telling of what he may have eaten on the trail that day or strangers he had met and then come to know. I still have his wife’s rain gear. Years later when I had married and had a child, I would sing her Susan’s song at her bedtime, “Follow Your Heart”. If my memory serves me, Susan had said that was a song inspired by her brother, Walkin’ Jim, of course.
My family and I have just returned form almost three weeks traveling to and from Montana. Our destination was Glacier National Park. I had been to Glacier myself in 1993, and then I honeymooned there in 1999 with my husband. We were so impressed by the glaciers, and knowing that they were receding and might not be there in another 20 years, we vowed to take our daughter there. So Emma, now 11 years old, who had been sung to every night with ‘Follow Your Heart’ and who I told of Susan’s and Jim’s songs, has now seen the glaciers and marvels of the Montana mountains. And now I am so glad I have found their music again so that I can share it with her, the next generation.
By the way, it rained a little when we first got to Glacier. Sure glad I had that rain gear….
May your Spirit find rest and live on in peace, Jim, and may God bless you through all those that you touched with your words, and music, and gentle strength. Thank you for touching my life, Jim.
Traverse City, MI
Updated letter, sent by John Roberts, August 2011
A Letter to Leslie Susan, Lisa, and Mark Stoltz,
“If I were a tree, I’d grow all gnarly,
my roots would be knobby and my limbs all snarly,
I’d have moss on my back and squirrels on my knees,
I’d grow old and wise, if I were a tree!”
In August, 1999, I first heard Walkin’ Jim sing this song on a “Folk Sampler” radio show that focused on trees, and it really grabbed my attention! Soon began our correspondence and the series of concerts and children’s programs Jim presented in the Richmond, Virginia area from October, 1999 through 2009, every two years…And this verse is now part of Richmond’s Camp Hanover “Nature Trail Guide”.
Gosh, I miss knowing Jim was out there, helping wilderness and thus helping us all. Our greatest challenge is to save biodiversity for the future…. I miss calling him up to talk or to line up a concert for wild things and wild places. Most of all, I miss his friendship….
I recall our canoe trip on the James here in Richmond, when Jim exclaimed about a “big fat fish” , a very large catfish visible in the clear water. Then there were our walks with my best friend’s dog, Tweed, a springer spaniel. And there was the time he took me cross country skiing near Yellowstone, such a good skier!… and he led us to a group of bison where we all ate our lunches.
“There’s a place that I know, where I love to go,
the rivers all run so crystal clear,
and the trees are growing tall and the critters have it all
and wild birds are all that you hear!…Come walk with me…”
When I go out on a backpacking or other wilderness trip, Jim’s songs just flow in to my head, with the joy of being in wild places….I once told Jim, that when I work on my house, (which is what I do mostly, it seems, renovating, restoring and greening), I often listen to his CD’s and so many of his songs just make me happy, expecially the ones “for children”.
“Prairie dog, prairie dog, barking louder than a big bull frog,
you’re a dusty dandy and one top dog.
Your town is where LIfe abounds,
With the blackfooted ferret and the bobcat around,
The bison comes to visit, too.
Life is a circle, they depend on you!”
Though I did not realize this at first, there is such wisdom in Jim’s songs, as he knows the animals and how they fit in to create a habitat of harmony. This is why it is so important that his message continue to be sung: for all to understand why we need wild animals and places.
You know, I especially like the quote from the “Wall Street Journal” article by Jim’s then new friend, Ken Bacon. Ken asked Jim, “Just what is wilderness?” Jim thought for a moment and said, “It’s any place where Nature works the way it was meant to work.” That is might fine, and to the point Walkin’ Jim!
“Harmony means things agree,
They fit all together so easily,
Like the whales and the seas, and flowers and bees,
Nature itself is harmony…”
Jim sang this song and others about habitat and wildlife to Richmond school children. Harmony was a big word for five year olds but, I think they got it! Three school classes and two museum shows with energetic children’s faces showed this.
Jim did many long walks, completing his last only the year before he died. That one was in the high desert country of Nevada, where, after a long day he once had to pack in an extra ten miles or so because the water hole was dry. Jim knew that self reliance on the trails makes our senses keener and brings us closer to the creatures for whom self reliance is a daily necessity.
And Jim’s long walks, his tales of following a fox, of being run over by rabbits, being saved by his guitar, or just waking to a glorious day, resonate with our own wilderness encounters.
“…The crystal morning is broken with a coon’ of a dove,
As you head on up the trail to the highlands up above,
Where the colors of the rainbow are the flowers at your feet,
And your heart sings a song with every beat…”
“The last two lines always bring a lump in my throat.”, I told Jim once. Well, we’ll take our lumps anyway we can get them!
Jim had such an easy rapport and gentle impact with his listeners as he reminded us that the parks, …He planted the seeds in us to protect wild places for people, but alsonational forests, and wilderness areas are our lands! And we could lobby, educate, and fight for these places. He planted seeds in us to protect wild places for people and also for all those critters who call them home.
“…The river’s a promise…of things to come
A ribbon of hope, shining in the sun,
The river is life, for the great and small,
Oh, it’s the call of the wild,
That the mighty river calls…”
Jim gave us a promise, that he would do his damndest through telling songs of long adventures, through witness of animal antics, and wild beauty, through tough times and good souls encountered on the trail, through teaching ballads to both children and adults, and through songs which are soul stirring hymns to a bright future for all Creation, and to keep some places, “Forever Wild!!”.
Gosh, I miss you, Jim, But I know the burden of grief is far greater for those closest to you… As I have recently sought to sovercome grief, two things stand out. One is seeking to be kind and helpful. And the other is the promise of nature, seeing birds still singing and flying, the glory of a sunset, and the majesty of a starry night. Maybe it seems pretentios to say all this, but I only recently learned this.
May I close with a poetic quote from Rachel Carson, who Jim has honored in song and a final verse of Jim’s?
“…Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of the birds, the ebb and flow of the tides, the folded bud ready for the spring. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.” (From The Sense of Wonder.)
John M Roberts
“Yes, I’m holding the memories of moments,
Of the times and the places that I ‘ve been,
It rides in my soul and I won’t let go,
Remembering that sweet summer wind
Wilderness walks within.”
Walkin’ Jim Stoltz
By Kevin F. Smith
Writer of the ancient forests
And singer of winds forever wild
He travelled so far in his little piece of time
All along his journey around the circle of life
He made so many friends along the way
Perhaps now he is back on the trail again
I know his spirit is still on the run
He saw a vision of whole Earth harmony
He taught us to follow our hearts
And live life as one with the power in the Earth
And oh, what a life his was
The river calls out in sorrow
The distant far horizon was all too close
The old crystal bell rings one last time
Remembering one who was and is
Forever a kid for the wild
April 20, 2011
Just want to let the folks at Wild Wind know that Jim is living on in the heart and mind of my soon to be 3 year old. She is fascinated with his Come Walk With Me DVD and talks constantly about going camping with Jim when she is a big kid like the ones in the DVD. She also listens over and over again in the car to his music. She plays the guitar (as well as a 3 yr old can) and sings his songs. She and her Dad “play” Walkin Jim together while singing and dancing and look for animals.
My daughter does not know that she will never get to go on a hike through the mountains with Jim, but he walks with her daily through our back woods in Ohio. I also can’t say how many people she has shocked by starting conversations about habitat and wilderness. Jim is continuing to teach and inspire, my daughter takes pride in picking bottles out of our local rivers…we call her Jim’s Habitat Healer.
February 15, 2011
I was so sorry to learn of Jim’s passing. I had the good fortune to earn his friendship in the early ’80s in Big Sky, Montana. I shot the photo of him on the back of “Spirit Still on the Run” one night at the Caboose Bar. When I listen to the album even today, I feel the gentle touch of the mountain breezes and know Jim’s rich voice is riding the wind… and his spirit is truly still on the run.
January 24, 2011
Lori, Robin, Rob, and Elizabeth Byron
My daughter and I had a glorious ski on “Walkin’ Jim’s Way” at Lone Mountain Ranch last week. We were delighted that LMR saw fit to honor Jim in this manner, renaming their most remote trail, previously “Little Bavaria”. The pristine conditions and absence of anyone else along the trail was apropos with our memory of him.
Our daughters’ grew up singing all of Jim’s songs and dancing to his video; we still have his music in all of our cars and on all of our iPods! Treasured photos of him with the kids at the North Fork Cabin grace our piano. Our Christmas cards have carried lyrics of Jim’s for many years; many more beautiful stanzas remain to be used in the future!
Walkin’ Jim reminds us of all that is grand, all that is beautiful, all that is good on this earth.
Thanks for all the entries, the poems, the love that exudes from the “Stories of Jim” tab on his website! May we all have eyes so merry and wonder so childlike as we partake of nature!
December 31, 2010
I was googling walkin’ jim as I wanted to bookmark his website and to
my sadness, I read Jim had passed away 3 months ago!!!
I first met Jim in the summer of 1980 when I worked at Granite Park
Chalet in northwestern Montana.
Walkin’ Jim at that time was walking the Continental Divide. He
stopped by and entertained staff and guests alike with his wonderful
voice and songs.
I was so impressed with Jim, that I wrote a feature story on him and
this was published in the Hungry Horse News out of Columbia Falls, MT.
Over the years, we kept in touch first by letter and then email.
I last saw Jim when he performed at the Journey musuem in Rapid City,
SD..in 2007, I believe.
I admired Jim for many things, but the one thing about him that always
stuck with me:
he followed his heart. Not many people have the courage and
determination to do this.
Yet, through the years, Jim did this and he did it with grace and integrity.
I was so proud and honored to call Jim my friend.
As a child, Walkin’ Jim was my teacher. He inspired me and taught me to love nature. He showed me the beauty in the untouched world around us and made me a true lover of the wilderness. I always looked up to Walkin’ Jim as a kid and made my mom watch his slide shows at Lone Mountain Ranch. I remember keeping my eyes peeled wide watching the slides and listening to Walkin’ Jim’s low voice. I can’t count how many times I squeezed the squeaky toy for Pika Pika. I would be so tired afterwards. I remember my mom carrying me back up the hill, both of us exhausted. I grew up listening to his songs, most notably Pika Pika, Just one Mosquito, Buffalo Love, Come Walk With Me, Habitat, River, River, River Run, Manfred the Mopey Moose, If I Were a Tree, Fly By the Light of the Moon, Climb a Mountain, Howl for the Wolf, and Big Fat Fish. As I grew older my constant favorite of his songs was Following the Rainbow Trail (I’m not sure if this is actually the songs name or not but it is what I’ve always known it by). I could picture the vast openness of nature and longed to be alone in the wilderness to connect with nature in the way he did. Walkin’ Jim was perhaps one of the biggest influences on my life thus far. He not only opened my eyes to nature and the world around me, but he showed me the joy in singing. He taught me that songs come from your heart and that when you sing it should be about what you feel inside and what you see around you. He taught me to sing with a deeper meaning. Thanks to Walkin’ Jim’s influence I fell in love with music and singing and am now a singer.
One of my most distinct memories of Walkin’ Jim is a more recent one. A few years ago he was in Columbus, my hometown, and was singing as my cousin’s school, Columbus School for Girls (CSG). He was staying at my aunt’s house because he was a close family friend and attended my brother’s birthday party with the whole family. He was truly a member of our family that night. I remember all of us sitting on my porch with the fire going in the fire pit outside casting flickering shadows on us. Walkin’ Jim pulled out his guitar and sang for us. He sang for about an hour and we all sang along. We knew the lyrics to all the songs, even some that he didn’t remember. When one of my little cousins requested for him to sing Buffalo Love Jim couldn’t remember the words so he played some chords and the family sang it for him, word for word, with a solo from my uncle. This was the last time I saw Walkin’ Jim. I will hold this memory near and dear to my heart forever.
Walkin’ Jim was one of the most honest, passionate, and caring people I have ever met. He loved kids almost as much as he loved nature. He was truly my role model through out my life. He was my constant inspiration and showed me what truly mattered in life, passion, meaning, and nature. His memory will live on in the hearts and minds of many children, and his lessons will continue to be a leading aspect of my life. The sound of him and his guitar alone in the silence was one of the most powerful sounds I have ever heard and will continue to live on in my memory forever. Walkin’ Jim, may you always sing on.
“I seen a friend the other day, he says, ‘Jim where the Hell you been?’
I been out runnin’ with them ol’ coyotes, I been out there singin’ in the wind…
I pack my pack upon my back and then I set out on my way,
Lookin’ for some peace of mind, you know I find it every day,
I’ve seen life in your cities, and I nearly went insane,
I’d rather get treed by a grizzly bear and sing in the falling rain”
– Followin’ the Rainbow Trail
Our family from Ohio has visited Big Sky, Montana, for the past 20-plus years. We have taken the Lone Mountain sleigh ride numerous times over those years. The songs that Jim wrote and sang were touching, meaningful, heartfelt and showed his love for this land. We will always have the fondest memories of that classy man. He could weave a story with his music like no other.
While making reservations for the sleigh ride this coming January, we learned of Jim’s death. It just won’t be the same without Walkin’ Jim. He is sorely missed. Our condolences to his friends and family.
Greg, Eileen, Chelsea and Clare Adams,
Bob and Norma Adams,
and Julie and Mark Keirle
December 9, 2010
Friends of Jim,
Absolutely keep me on the mailing list, and THANK YOU for pictures of our friend. Years ago Jim brought his presentations to Tappahannock VA. Among other things he played in our living room was “The Dirty Diaper Song.” Our kids thought he was a rock star, and of course he is. 🙂
More recently Jim was a guest at our home for a couple days and for a church concert during his AT tour 1 ½ years ago. We took HIM to a bookstore concert of “Saphire – The Uppity Women” the night before his concert a Peace United Methodist. Got a few pictures of him laughing. I’ll remember him leaving our home with a smile and the faint aroma of potato frying oil wafting from his van
The best to the pika. We’ll also are be glad to help keep Jim’s memory and passions alive.
David Erickson (Pastor of Peace UMC) Fredericksburg, VA
P.S. My wife, Patty, and I also are caretakers for a piece of God’s land up on a once and future Atlantic Salmon stream in New Brunswick, Canada. Our dream is to restore it to mature Maple-Balsaam-Yellow Poplar forest and healthy watershed. I wish that I could have shared that part of the world with Jim.
By I. Maitin, ZakMan AT 1987
December 1, 2010
I am so sorry to hear of Walking Jim’s passing. I work for the Department of Environmental Protection and I’ve used his music in presentations to school children. Kids really respond to his music – specifically, I played songs from the Web of Life.
I first heard Jim’s music twenty years ago at an Appalachian Long Distance Hikers gathering in Pipestem, WV. I had finished a thru-hike of the AT and was reconnecting with friends. Maybe, Jim was there – I can’t recall, I do remember his music though – live or recorded, whichever it was.
I’ll play some Walkin’ Jim for my kids in his memory.
November 25, 2010
Sam & Julie Garre
Spring Green WI
Cooking & listening to a random i-Pod selection we heard many Walkin’
Jim songs. I went to the Google to locate a nearby tour date to learn Walkin’ Jim has walked on.
My Grandmother found Walkin’ Jim in The NYT (80’s early 90’s) and sent me the piece. My wife gifted me ALL available cassette tapes for my birthday and we watched for nearby tour dates.
I saw Walkin’ Jim only twice: Madison WI & a nature center west of Milwaukee, I don’t recall the name.
Walkin’ Jim was a connection to the wild I once visited, frequented and worked in. The images he sang brought the wild alive where ever he toured. I have young nieces & nephews with whom I will take pride introducing Walkin’ Jim to.
Walk in peace, Walkin’ Jim.
By Steve Roberts, Slippery Rock, PA
November 23, 2010
I have been so busy as usual and just thought of Jim the other day and wondered why I had not heard from him as I usually do in the fall. I am just now hearing of his passing and thinking how fortunate I got to see him one last time when he stopped between concerts last year. I had always planned he and I taking a long “walk” together when I retired here in a year or so. Guess I will do one to honor him and reflect on his positive influence and great music. I just found out but that does not make it hurt any less.
See you again my friend.
By Jack Young
November 20, 2010
I met Walkin’ Jim the winter of ’82-’83 in Big Sky Montana where he had a winter gig in the local bar. He was probably the first long distance hiker I ever met. I ran into him in ~2001 in Davis, CA after he had given a show. It was so good to see him again. Yesterday I learned that he died and I’m a bit sad today. Feel like heading out on the Crest.
Jim certainly knew how to “Think Like a Mountain.”
Submitted by Rich Leon
November 16, 2010
I am very glad to see you are still doing the newsletter.I had the pleasure of knowing Jim for many years having brought him to Spokane about 5 or 6 times to do shows. He was here to do a show just a few days before he did his last show.Every time I go for a hike in the mountains a part of him goes with me and when he reach the high point on the mountain I raise my bottle of water to the sky and say “Thank you my friend for all the memories”
What a highlight Jim was to our wedding’s rehearsal (sleigh ride) dinner in December 2003. His personality was a true delight and his music a perfect blessing to us and our family on this, truly a most special, occasion. We will miss him indeed and he will always be remembered.
The Nelsons – Kurt, Gale and Nico of Boynton Beach Florida
By Jen Lindsay and Nicholas Zuckerman
November 5, 2010
I’m still in shock to learn that Walkin’ Jim past away well over 2 months ago… we’ve been listening to his music a lot these days, just relishing in great memories of when Jim came through Petrolia. We loved his presence, his stories, his songs… my students and I sang his songs for months and months…
Thanks, Jim….. may you rest in peace … you’ve left such a wonderful mark on our planet. Thanks for loving the wild!
By Jim Stoltz of North Dakota (please see related story under “Jim’s Stories”)
October 30, 2010
Me and my father and brother were out trying to catch a calf in our calf pasture on the family farm South of Dickinson ND. My brother Ed was on our horse, my father was in the pickup and I was on foot. My brother saw a man walking through our pasture with a backpack. Long black hair and bear with a walking stick with a feather on the end. My father drove the pickup up to this man and asked him who he was and the man replied, “I’m Jim Stoltz”. My father then said “No sir, that’s my son’s name”. Me and that man had the exact same name! Well he pulled out his ID and proved to us his name was Jim Stoltz. We exchanged a great conversation and became quite acquainted with each other. We sometimes talked over the phone through the years. It was very nice too see him again when he did a presentation at Dickinson State University. Me, and my family will miss Walking Jim greatly. Rest In Peace my friend.
By Jim and Karen Sayko (Atlanta, Georgia)
Jim and I were so blessed to have met and played host to Jim at the Whistle Stop in Atlanta , Idaho in the 1980s. The Atlanta Post Office (83601) was one of the places that he had designated for supplies to be mailed to him as he hiked and sang along one of his long hikes. He entertained the entire bar and then on a beautiful afternoon, Walkin Jim played a concert in our community park much to the adulation and awe of children and adults alike. Much of the route he took in and out of Atlanta was devasted by the Trail Creek Fire of August 2000 but as Nature is able to do Time Heals Many Wounds. The trees crowned on top of Sugar Hill and were less than a quarter mile from the back door of the Whistle Stop and our own little house. The bombers were able to pinpoint the distinctively colored metal roof of Len and Geri Perkins’ home on Sugar Hill and drop retardant at critical times including their last runs of that Saturday evening before returning to BIFC (Boise Interagency Fire Center) now NIFC (National IFC) at Boise’s Gowen Field…the Boise Airport…forced away from the battle by the darkness of nightfall. Late that evening the Elmore County Sheriff told those of us who had evacuated to the safety zone of the Greene Valley Ranch across the Middle Fork of the Boise River that we could go into town and check on our property. The town was safe…the flag still waved at the Whistle Stop…the bedroom in our little house smelled so smoky, even with all the windows closed tightly…that I insisted that we spend the night sleeping in our sleeping bags at the Ranch. Those of us who met Walkin Jim in the 1980s will never forget him and “His Spirit is Still on the Run.”
Go in Peace and God Speed
Your Friends…Jim and Karen Sayko and the people of Atlanta he touched.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to all his friends and family.
By Bill BrockettSeptember 2010
I like my dogs better than most people I’ve met. In fact, I love my dogs, and I actually love very few people. The ones I do are very, very special to me. Like Walkin’ Jim Stoltz…I met Jim about eighteen years ago at Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana. Nestled in a valley below the Spanish Peaks in southwest corner of the state, “The Ranch” was one of those very special places many people only read about. Jim and I both worked there.
During the early 90’s, Jim, his wife Leslie and I (along with various bow paddlers for me) canoed many of the rivers in eastern Idaho and Southwest Montana. I was an eyewitness to the only time Jim and Leslie ever capsized a canoe — under the railroad bridge on an otherwise pristine flat-water float through Harriman State Park on the Henry’s Fork in Last Chance, Idaho.
To say that Jim Stoltz was unique would be one of the great understatements of all time. Jim was truly one-of-a-kind! A gravel-voiced singer and songwriter, Jim hiked somewhere over 28,000 miles in his lifetime. Nearly all of those hikes he did alone and off trail in some of North America’s wildest and most beautiful places.
Jim had a bone-dry sense of humor. Adult audiences often totally missed one cleverly worded joke after another when Jim spoke. But Jim was really in his element when he was with kids. School kids. Jim traveled the country year after year with his “Forever Wild” multimedia show, all the while stopping at elementary schools to teach the kids about “Manfred the Mopey Moose” and other critters, as Jim liked to call the wild creatures he understood so well.
Jim was an amazing man and a great friend. He fought cancer once and beat it. Fought polycystic kidney disease and, with the help of a kidney donor, beat that. Jim faced untold perils in the wilderness during his many years of hiking alone and, in at least a few cases, barely lived through those. He was a survivor in the truest sense!
Recently Jim fell sick again. This time we knew it was going to be different. An old enemy had returned with a vengeance. But we all thought we had a little time… time to plan a trip to Helena, Montana in the near future for one last visit with our friend. It was not to be…
Jim died Saturday night with very little warning. Those of us who knew him are stunned. It all happened so quickly. Thankfully Leslie was there with him!
If you did not know Jim, I cannot begin to tell you how much bigger than life he was. His amazing music and his writings will live on. And thousands of kids who listened to his stories will never think of America’s wild places the same way because of him.
I hate cancer!
Ode to Walkin’ Jim
He stands slender, tall and straight
Soft dark hairs
Grace his kindly face
Bright eyes smile
From deep within
Legend qualities of Walkin’ Jim
A teacher of children, parents and friends
Hiking to places miles on end
Composing his music and his songs
Performing them for all to enjoy
Special qualities of Walkin’ Jim
To know and to love
His gentleness and his warm caress
The glow of nature beams from his face
With much affection
We are gratefully blessed
News from Pat Musick’s Studio
Friday, September 10, 2010
Walkin’ Jim Stoltz: Last Trail
Wilderness hiker and advocate, musician, and dear friend Walkin’ Jim Stoltz departed on the final trail Friday, September 3, after a sudden resurgence of the cancer he’d managed to overcome a couple of years ago. Some in Colorado Springs may remember Jim’s benefit concert for the Trails and Open Space Coalition in March of 2009.
It was Jim’s joyous, passionate, heart-on-sleeve love of wilderness that was so infectious–he was dedicated to a cause, but that dedication was fueled by love and the spiritual nourishment he channeled from the wilds to everyone he met, through his songs, poems, paintings, and his friendship. Most of his long treks were solitary, in which he fully immersed himself in the high ridges, sunrises, cold rivers, wildlife of remote wild places. Equally, he cherished his “Friends Along The Way” (one of his signature songs). Many people are dedicated to good causes, but few of us are so deeply fueled by wonder and joy in our activism, despite full awareness of the overwhelming issues and roadblocks. Jim didn’t succumb to despair, just came up with more ideas and energy.
Walkin’ Jim had walked over 28,000 miles since the 1970’s, most of it in recent years in wilderness-quality areas not yet protected. He had hiked the full lengths of the Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and a Mexico-to-Canada route he designed on his own, as well as walking from Maine to the Olympic Peninsula and from Yellowstone to the Yukon. When he wasn’t hiking, he toured with his one-man performance of his own songs inspired by his wilderness sojourns along with projected images of photos he took on his treks. He loved to give shows for children, enthusing little kids about wilderness and wildlife, hoping to engender love of the natural world in the next generations. Jim received an Outstanding Achievement award from the Environmental Protection Agency for his sharing of nature and wilderness across America. He co-wrote the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA), “the wildest bill in Congress,” co-founded the Last, Best Wildlands Campaign, and co-founded Musicians United to Sustain the Environment (MUSE). He truly walked his talk, and not just those 28,000 geographical miles.
September 8, 2010
I may not have wanted to admit it as a kid (when listening to the same music as your parents was the last thing most
young folks wanted to admit to), but your music has inspired me for as long as I can remember. My dad has been playing
your tapes and CDs since forever, in my mind. I can’t think of a single song you wrote that didn’t make me think more
about my relationship with our planet. From Forever Wild to Manfred the Mopey Moose, you always left me smiling ‐
sometimes laughing, sometimes contemplating. Your words gave me hope that we all can be better stewards of our
Planet. Your voice is one that literally sounds like the reverberations of the Earth. You were never out of tune with
Now, as an adult, I have to admit, I almost felt because your voice sang so strong, that you would be invincible, and of
course your songs are. But this day comes many years too soon. I know you are now having another hiking adventure
that none of us can even imagine, but it is still hard to know you won’t visit another school and inspire more of the next
generation to see how important care of the earth is. I guess that job is up to the rest of us now ‐ we will take your
message, your music, your photos and share them with all the children, so they know, it is their job, their right, to live in
harmony with all creatures, big and small.
“It’s the good hearts that spring from the salt of the Earth… they inspire and brighten my days. And I owe it all to the
spirit of love and the friends along the way.” Thank you for being an inspiration, a hero, a friend along the way.
I keep wanting to say, Rest in Peace, but I know I really mean, Walk in Peace, Jim. Walk in Peace.
Your fellow wilderness friend and child of the Great Divide,
Emily (O’Leary) Barker
Sept 2009, Edina, MN
By Nathan Fleming
October 20, 2010
Walkin’ Jim Stoltz was my step-dad for a few years back when I was a little rug rat. He married my mom and we lived in Polson, MT. I remember we used to go for hikes up to the Jewel Basin all the time. It was a great learning experience being in the woods and learning songs. Jim would always get me and my brother involved in music. He would set up a recording studio in the living room and we would get on the mic and sing whatever songs we were singing in school. My mom found a tape a few years back, she had to repair it, but it was fun listening! I’ve now played the guitar for over 15 years. My friends and I would listen to the Walkin’ Jim CD’s when I was in college. I would play some of the songs on my guitar and we would sing and laugh. It always struck me how deep his singing voice is! Our favorite song to sing was ” The Food Chain Song.” If you don’t know this song, give it a listen, it’s great! My favorite song is ” Thinking Like A Mountain.” There are a lot of truths and knowledge to be learned from Walkin’ Jim’s music and lyrics. Let’s keep this music alive and the spirit of Walkin’ Jim Stoltz! So go sing a song, weather it’s in your car or in the shower, just make sure it puts a smile on your face.
I remember a lot about Walkin’ Jim, as I’m sure many people do.
MWA Remembers Walkin’ Jim
By John Gatchell, Conservation Director of the Montana Wilderness Association
Bushwhacking up a deep, trail-less drainage below Swan Peak, we scrambled to follow a pair of very long legs topped by a pack carrying a big guitar inscribed: “FOREVER WILD” Through lush forest, thick huckleberries and into the glorious high country we followed the tall troubadour who carved those words; Walkin’ Jim Stoltz.
Through the summer of 1987, Jim led the “Great Bob Trek” through the unprotected wild lands of the Rocky Mountain Front, Badger Two Medicine and Swan Range. My wife and I, and many more, joined along the trail. Jim’s weekly journal entries were reprinted in newspapers. His deep rich voice and guitar later toured Montana to share his musical message: “let it stay – forever wild”
On September 3rd, Walkin’ Jim Stoltz died in Helena of cancer at age of 57. Jim died on the anniversary of The Wilderness Act.
The Great Bob Trek was an example of Jim’s lifelong devotion to the protection of wild country. His fabled wilderness treks, music and performances connected people from all walks of life to the spirit, joyous freedom and necessity of preserving our remaining wild places.
Long time wife and companion Leslie Stoltz, quoted Gandhi to explain Jim’s devotion: “My life is my message”
Jim was a gentle giant with an awesome voice and big beaming smile. The wild land he loved was his muse.
The Great Bob Trek began in the Continental Divide headwaters of the Big Blackfoot River, inspiring a new song written along the way based on Norman Maclean’s classic Montana story of family and nature—
There’s a river runnin’ through it, and it flows through you and me, Through the wild in us all, stretchin’ far as I can see, There’s a river runnin’ through it, and its flowin’ sweet and strong, It’s the feelin’ in our souls that the sleepin’ mountain knows, It’s a freedom, it’s a spirit, it’s a song. “A River Running Through It,” by Walkin’ Jim Stoltz 1987, Wild Wind Records
Some time back Jim began writing and recording children’s music. When our son was a toddler he would gleefully declare, “I’m a kid for the wild”. Jim packed Montana schools with youngsters squeaking like Pikas, howling like wolves and joining a rousing chorus of “wild things need wild places to live.”
Thank you Walkin’ Jim.
There’s a magic in the air, that I feel when I am there, It plays straight to my heart, and lays it all to bare, It’s in the cry of the eagle and the deer so meek and mild, It’s in the rise of the mountain, let it stay forever wild. “Forever Wild,” by Walkin’ Jim Stoltz, 1986, Wild Wind Records
Walkin’ Jim Stoltz has left the planet.
By Sandy Compton, Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness
Passages. He made so many. 27,000 miles and still counting, the last time I talked to him at Wild Idaho in Redfish Lake this past May. He came and sang his songs, howled his howls and treated us to his marvelous travelogue show, a uber-wilderness lover among a bunch of wilderness lovers, who among all of us might have hiked as far as he.
We have lost a treasure with a gravel voice, a shy smile and an endless insatiable urge to keep walking and working on behalf of wild places.
Walkin’ Jim stayed in my back yard a few years ago; deigned sleeping with a roof over his head for his skimpy tent and wandered off the next day, as he had wandered in, following whatever it was that kept him moving. “Whatever,” I suppose, was his absolute, unequivocal, unconditional love for wild places and the creatures that populate them.
Wherever he walked he was touched by what he walked through, and wherever he talked about these experiences, he touched those who listened to his bass treble voice and looked at his incredible pictures. Especially the children.
Earlier this year, Jim came to Thompson Falls and Trout Creek schools to work with the kids in the grade schools. What pleasure it was to watch the kids light up, laugh and learn as he encouraged them to squeak like pikas, howl like wolves, growl like bears and joyously sing with him, “Come walk with me through the big pine trees, from the mountain tops to the shining seas . . . ”
Later, he moved into the classrooms, and the kids were mesmerized by him, a lanky guy who looked as if he had escaped from mountain man times. He told of kayaking with whales and coyote tales of following and being followed by them. He gave endless, patient answers to endlessly enthusiastic questions, and then he drew the kids out, asking for their own wild stories, some of which, I’m sure, may never had been heard before.
He was just recovered from an earlier bout with cancer when he stayed in my back yard. I was amazed at by his skinny toughness, his genuine love for other folks, how much he carried in his heart and how little he seemed to need in his pack. Perhaps his biggest burden was his guitar.
A few days after he made his school visits to Thompson Falls and Trout Creek, I talked to one of the teacher from Thompson. “The kids are still singing that song,” she told me. Yes, and so are some of us adults. “. . . where the critters roam, free and on their own, in the wilderness, we’ll be right at home.”
The cancer came back and got him, as if it had forgotten, first time around. He didn’t want to go, I don’t think. There are too many other passages he wanted to make. But, we don’t really know what happens after the passage he did take. I would hope he will find even more beautiful and exciting spots to wander through in the Great Beyond Wilderness.
Goodby, Mr. Stoltz. Thanks for walkin’ through.
The wayfarer passes on; Goodbye Walkin’ Jim
By Todd Wilkinson (From the Jackson Hole newspaper, September 2010)
Jim Stoltz was headed for a gig in Bozeman and a new tune apparently had been rattling around in his brain.
At a turnout along the Gallatin River where we happened to be stopped, watching kayakers slalom through a rock course during high water, he pulled over in his pick-up truck, opened the door, said hello and reached for his guitar.
He wanted to commit the memory of a chord variation to his fingers. Ideas for his folksy wildland ballads visited him this way, though more often, he was dozens of miles away from a road—and alone— when the inspiration for new melodies found him.
On foot, doing that Aristotelian thing he did, the crooner and photographer from Big Sky, who was given the handle, “Walkin’ Jim,” racked up 28,000 miles, more than the distance reaching around the world at the equator.
Stoltz was no stranger to Jackson Hole, though he related to this valley the same way he did to other places in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, by backcountry trails and favorite shortcuts that required a bushwhack.
Before long-distance trekking became the rage of extreme ultra-light athletes, before some people did it to earn fame or win a book contract, Stoltz took up mega-wandering for modest reasons—to see places where the masses never go and to have a conversation within.
This was the stuff that fueled Walkin’ Jim the performing artist whose songlist, more or less, reflects most of the major conservation battles that have been fought in Greater Yellowstone since the Carter Administration.
More than a generation ago, the Michigan native set out with a full backpack, as a 24 year old, from West Quoddy Head, Maine and didn’t stop until his soles squished in the sea sand on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington.
A singular heroic accomplishment for anyone, but it came the year after he hiked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail and before he subsequently completed the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail (portions of which skirt Jackson Hole), and major stretches of the Rocky Mountain spine encompassed by the Yellowstone to Yukon corridor.
After every visit to the Back of Beyond, Stoltz had an expanded repertoire, a more generous spirit and a sincere belief that he was the luckiest person on Earth. His wife, Leslie, indulged his forays and knew that they served as ground-truthing research for what he brought to the stage.
It’s debatable whether Stoltz was more a firebrand conservationist who would carry a tune or a musician cut from the cloth of St. Francis who often said he sang for the animals.
To pay the bills during the winter months when snow impeded him, he provided the main entertainment at dinners set in an old cabin near Big Sky reachable only by horse-drawn sleigh. He almost never turned down an invitation to perform for conservation organizations, large or small, be it on behalf of creating more wilderness, protecting grizzlies and wolves, or halting the old logging practice known as clearcutting.
In 2006, he barnstormed across 46 states as a founding member of Musicians United to Save the Environment (MUSE).
Earlier this winter, he delivered a performance in Missoula in support of The Last Best Place Campaign to finally bring passage of a comprehensive statewide wilderness bill in Montana.
In spite of all the time he made for protecting the environment, Stoltz never let on to his audiences that he knew his own time was short. He had been battling cancer for years, rallying again after each new flare up, but never complaining.
Last week, he succumbed at age 57 in Helena, Mont. On his Webpage at www.walkinjim.com, he posted a quote from Rachel Carson, who also died from cancer not long after she published her book, Silent Spring.
Carson had said, “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find resources of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
A better epitaph comes from Walkin’ Jim himself and a song he composed called Morning in the Mountains:
“So live each day like you mean it,
Grab hold of each dawn that comes your way.
And if it’s blessings you’re a countin’
Try a morning in the mountains,
There ain’t no better way to start the day.”
It says something that he was loved, most of all, by kids.