Jim’s Stories

500x100_reflection2

I took this from another page on Jim’s website…….something that is as relevant today as it was when he wrote this a few years ago.  LS

A Few Words From Walkin’ Jim
Dear Friends –

If you have found this site, you’re probably interested in long-distance hiking, wilderness music, wild country, or spending time out in the backcountry. Over the years I’ve seen the battle to preserve America’s last wild places become more polarized, more politicized, and more critical. I’ve seen battles won, battles lost, and battles that were once won fought all over again. Those who want to despoil our natural environment never rest. If they can’t get at it one way, they try another.

The thing that frustrates me more than anything is that I know in my heart that if all the folks who use the backcountry would stand up for it, write letters, make phone calls, and vote for pro-environmental candidates we could make so much progress for the planet. We wouldn’t have to fight the same battles over and over.

It’s time to stop turning our backs on the Earth which sustains us. As Abbey says “Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.” Please take a few minutes to write a letter or make a call (e-mails don’t have as much impact with the leaders) to those who are making decisions effecting not just us humans, but all of the life we share this Earth with.

The folks in Congress do not know wilderness. They do not know the value of an unblemished skyline, or the sight of a grizzly bear galloping across a mountainside. They can’t grasp the importance of a spotted owl or for that matter a lowly prairie dog. They’ve never felt the power of the old growth forests or the silence of the Utah canyons. You need to tell them about these things. You must share your feelings about life and nature and how precious they are. Those who are making the decisions need to know.

We are starting to see a rising awareness of environmental problems. With the effects of global climate change slapping us in the face…it is about time! Please take a few minutes and contact your leaders. You can make a difference. And you’ll feel better for it, too.

– Walkin’ Jim Stoltz

In the Listening

If I could give you any gift,
It would be the will to listen.
Not with the ears of a human, But that of a river or the mountain;
Of the land itself.
There would be joy in the listening.
And truth in there somewhere.

Smashed under the rock of indifference,
Wallowing in the backwaters and tucked away.
You would hear it in the wind,
In the splash of a landing of a Golden Eye
In the footstep of a wayward man
Or woman

And you would recognize it
Right away,
Greeting it with a nod of knowing
In your neighbors
And in yourself.

The following was taken from Jim’s original unpublished manuscript, “Walkin’ With the Wild Wind,” the tale of a trip in 1990.  It has since been published and this story remains in the final edition of the book but not in this exact form. 

     I’m off the trail now, making my way past Painted and Cataract Lakes. The mountain’s reflections shimmer only slightly in the mirror of the lake’s faces. The silence is total. I’m tempted to stop for the night at Cataract, but this strange mood has spooked me. I’m nervous about the route I’ve planned. Better push on into the next basin to see how it looks.

     A couple hours later, and one scary boulder field behind me, I camp on the edge of a wooded bench next to a wide rock outcropping. From atop the smooth rock I can see into the basin. The walls look steep and snow covered. They scare me. There’s no way I’ll get up them with a full pack. A pass directly south of me looks possible. Maybe. But it’ll take me miles off my route and no telling what the other side of it will be like. I go about my camp chores, pausing every few minutes to glance up the basin at the snow and cliffs. My anxiety is building. I don’t like climbing on snow.

    1982 – Utah

             The morning atop Tipanogos comes slowly, dragging rosy hues over the peaks to the east and     spilling gray across the desert to the west. It’s been a long night. Cold, with wind blasting nonstop here on the 11,750 foot summit. I haven’t slept very well. The climb yesterday without an ice ax was nerve wracking. This morning I must face the descent.

            Earlier this morning I was pelted by snow. It’s still cold and I linger long in the coziness of my bag, putting off for as long as I can, the dreaded descent. After a short breakfast I pack up and walk down the narrow ridge. I’m feeling better until I get to where I must drop off the east side. (I guess I shouldn’t use that phrase, “drop off”.) Gee, it looks steeper than it did yesterday. Maybe I should try a different route. I pull off the pack and look at the map for the ninety-seventh time. Yep, this is it. This is where I should go down. Yikes!

           The map goes back in the pack. Stella (my worn, beat up, case- less guitar) is strapped down tighter on the back of the backpack. The pack is hoisted up, and its straps tightened, too. I grab my walking stick, give it a shake of assurance, and step hesitantly onto the ice.

           Not too bad. I try another. The snow is rock hard. I’m kicking my steps, but only getting an inch or so in. Below me the ice slides down 40 yards and drops abruptly off into hundred foot cliffs. One mistake and I can lose it all. My knees feel weak. I can put my elbow out and bump the side of the hill. Too steep, but if I can just make it across to where the cliffs peter out, not even a quarter mile away, I’ll be OK.

           I kick a step, go a step or two, stop, catch my breath, and then try another step. It’s slow. It’s terrifying. It’s crazy! What am I doing here?! But I can’t go back now; turning around on the sheer slope would be impossible. Kick. Step. Stop.

           I’m trying not to look down. I’m trying to picture myself safely in the snow-filled basin below. My legs feel like rubber. I kick and step again. Not enough grip. My foot isn’t holding! I’m slipping! I’m falling!

            I’m sliding with my face to the mountain. I can’t see the cliffs below me getting closer with every inch. But I can feel them just as clear as can be. My feet can’t catch an edge. I kick them ,but the ice is too hard. Fingers claw at the sandpaper surface, skin ripping off with every inch. I’m not slowing down. In fact, I’m picking up speed, sliding steadily toward the cliffs. I’m trying to stop. Nothing’s working! I’m a goner.

           I roll onto my back to see what I’m going to hit when I fly off into space. The edge of the drop is ten feet below , racing toward me. I’m going to go over! And then, ….. all is still. I’m stopped.

           I’m not dead. In fact, I’m still above the cliff. I’m dangling like a puppet from my pack straps, facing the world, the cliffs, the deadly drop into the basin. For a moment I just hang there. I’m still breathing. I’m alive! But what happened?

          Hesitant to move, I tilt my head slowly, craning my neck in a manner to see, but not move the pack. Stella! My guitar! The old beater is lashed snugly onto the back of my pack without a case, with the neck pointed down. The neck of the guitar has gouged deep into the icy crust, sticking like an ice ax and lodging me firmly to the ice field in a spot five feet above the edge of the drop off. Soaked with sweat, and with pounding heart, I sigh and settle back. I need to think about this.

Guitar_and_Boots-800pxThe 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 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 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……

     The following was taken from Jim’s original unpublished manuscript, “Walkin’ With the Wild Wind,” the tale of a trip in 1990.  It has since been published and this story remains in the final edition of the book but not in this exact form. 

     I’m off the trail now, making my way past Painted and Cataract Lakes. The mountain’s reflections shimmer only slightly in the mirror of the lake’s faces. The silence is total. I’m tempted to stop for the night at Cataract, but this strange mood has spooked me. I’m nervous about the route I’ve planned. Better push on into the next basin to see how it looks.

     A couple hours later, and one scary boulder field behind me, I camp on the edge of a wooded bench next to a wide rock outcropping. From atop the smooth rock I can see into the basin. The walls look steep and snow covered. They scare me. There’s no way I’ll get up them with a full pack. A pass directly south of me looks possible. Maybe. But it’ll take me miles off my route and no telling what the other side of it will be like. I go about my camp chores, pausing every few minutes to glance up the basin at the snow and cliffs. My anxiety is building. I don’t like climbing on snow.

    1982 – Utah

             The morning atop Tipanogos comes slowly, dragging rosy hues over the peaks to the east and     spilling gray across the desert to the west. It’s been a long night. Cold, with wind blasting nonstop here on the 11,750 foot summit. I haven’t slept very well. The climb yesterday without an ice ax was nerve wracking. This morning I must face the descent.

            Earlier this morning I was pelted by snow. It’s still cold and I linger long in the coziness of my bag, putting off for as long as I can, the dreaded descent. After a short breakfast I pack up and walk down the narrow ridge. I’m feeling better until I get to where I must drop off the east side. (I guess I shouldn’t use that phrase, “drop off”.) Gee, it looks steeper than it did yesterday. Maybe I should try a different route. I pull off the pack and look at the map for the ninety-seventh time. Yep, this is it. This is where I should go down. Yikes!

           The map goes back in the pack. Stella (my worn, beat up, case- less guitar) is strapped down tighter on the back of the backpack. The pack is hoisted up, and its straps tightened, too. I grab my walking stick, give it a shake of assurance, and step hesitantly onto the ice.

           Not too bad. I try another. The snow is rock hard. I’m kicking my steps, but only getting an inch or so in. Below me the ice slides down 40 yards and drops abruptly off into hundred foot cliffs. One mistake and I can lose it all. My knees feel weak. I can put my elbow out and bump the side of the hill. Too steep, but if I can just make it across to where the cliffs peter out, not even a quarter mile away, I’ll be OK.

           I kick a step, go a step or two, stop, catch my breath, and then try another step. It’s slow. It’s terrifying. It’s crazy! What am I doing here?! But I can’t go back now; turning around on the sheer slope would be impossible. Kick. Step. Stop.

           I’m trying not to look down. I’m trying to picture myself safely in the snow-filled basin below. My legs feel like rubber. I kick and step again. Not enough grip. My foot isn’t holding! I’m slipping! I’m falling!

            I’m sliding with my face to the mountain. I can’t see the cliffs below me getting closer with every inch. But I can feel them just as clear as can be. My feet can’t catch an edge. I kick them ,but the ice is too hard. Fingers claw at the sandpaper surface, skin ripping off with every inch. I’m not slowing down. In fact, I’m picking up speed, sliding steadily toward the cliffs. I’m trying to stop. Nothing’s working! I’m a goner.

           I roll onto my back to see what I’m going to hit when I fly off into space. The edge of the drop is ten feet below , racing toward me. I’m going to go over! And then, ….. all is still. I’m stopped.

           I’m not dead. In fact, I’m still above the cliff. I’m dangling like a puppet from my pack straps, facing the world, the cliffs, the deadly drop into the basin. For a moment I just hang there. I’m still breathing. I’m alive! But what happened?

          Hesitant to move, I tilt my head slowly, craning my neck in a manner to see, but not move the pack. Stella! My guitar! The old beater is lashed snugly onto the back of my pack without a case, with the neck pointed down. The neck of the guitar has gouged deep into the icy crust, sticking like an ice ax and lodging me firmly to the ice field in a spot five feet above the edge of the drop off. Soaked with sweat, and with pounding heart, I sigh and settle back. I need to think about this.