The Long Trails CD

 The Long Trails

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 Nevada Walking Song
 The Appalachian Trail
 Back On The Trail Again
 Wilderness Walks Within
 Friends Along The Way
 All Along the Great Divide
 Distant Far Horizon
 Forever Wild/Roses of Prince Charlie
 Range of Light
 The Long Trails
 Out on the Crest Trail
 Range of Light
 The Long Trails
 Out on the Crest Trail 
 This was Jim’s eighth recording from 1999. It’s a collection of “trail songs” inspired from the long trails he has been fortunate enough to follow over the years. Below are some selected lyrics from each of the selections as well as a few words from the liner notes about the songs themselves.

 

 

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The Long Trails

Nevada Walkin’ Song

 In 1986 I walked home from Arizona. My route led me through the western portion of the Grand Canyon, into Nevada, up the east side of Nevada, across Idaho, and back to Montana. The country north of Mesquite, Nevada posed a great challenge. My detailed topographical maps didn’t show any water. Nor trails. Heading north, following my compass, I was filled with anxiety. I didn’t sleep well that night. The next morning I was up and walking before the sunrise. As the day began to break, the spirit of the desert and the freedom of the pack stirred my soul. I not only found this song that day, but later I came across some water, too!

            Sun’s coming over the mountain, but the moon’s still hangin’ in the sky,
The dawn is breakin’ and the world is awaitin’, and my spirits are singing high.
Because I’m a-walkin’ cross the desert with my backpack on my back,
I’m a free man and I like it that way, You know I must be on the right track.
 

                                                                      — from “Nevada Walkin’ Song” 
 
 The Appalachian Trail    

I was doing a day hike on the Appalachian Trail in 1973 near Loft Mountain in the Shenandoah National Park. At the time I had no idea of what the trail was. A backpacker came walking down the trail and I asked him where he was heading. “Maine” was his reply. I was boggled, but when he said he’d started in Georgia, I was totally captivated. I drilled him with questions and let my imagination run away with this big adventure. The seed was planted. The next spring (1974) I set out from Springer Mountain in Georgia to walk up to Maine. The experience of those six months on the trail changed my life. It gave me the confidence to tackle whatever life dealt. It gave me the thirst for more treks. And it also gave me this song.

                              Down at Springer Mountain I learned a thing or two
Just a greenhorn city boy, starting out brand new,
I’d been feeling disconnected, kind of lost along the way,
But the first step that I took, found me coming home that day.
 

 
                                                                        — from “The Appalachian Trail” 
 
Back On The Trail Again    

In 1984 I walked across Arizona for the second time. My first night on the trail I slept in an abandoned fire lookout high in the Huachuca mountains atop Miller Peak. A few years before I’d weathered a two day snow storm in the same place. Now, I settled down to watch the hundreds of square miles of southeast Arizona and northern Mexico as the sun began to set. The shadow of the mountain began to stretch eastward across the valley, the moon shone through, and the coyotes began to sing. This song wrote itself that night. It sure felt good to be back on the trail again.

                                The sun’s goin’ down the Santa Ritas,
The mountain shadows playin’ down below,
The moon’s already bright, like a smile in the night,
                                 And I can make out the lights in Mexico.
 
                                The desert winds a whispering’ down the valley.
The coyotes you can hear them from afar,
I know its only words, but its peace on Earth,
Sitting here and singin’ to the stars.
                                And I’m back on the trail again,
missed you like some long last friend,
Sometimes I think I’m just a part of the wind,
When I’m back on the trail again.
 

                                                                   — from “Back On The Trail Again” 
 Forever Wild

Another song from Nevada in ’86, this one has become very widely sung. Over the years I have performed it in churches, theaters, halls, schools, and even a courtroom. But my favorite place to sing it is sitting on top of a mountain looking out over wild country. This was recorded on my second album in 1986, but I sing it differently now and wanted to revamp it. I was very honored to have Lori Cleland singing harmony again. Mike’s drumming and Daniel’s piping adds just the right touch. 

                             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, forever wild,
                                               Let it stay, forever wild.

 

                                                                                 — from “Forever Wild” 
 
Wilderness Walks Within     

In 1997 I started a Yellowstone to Yukon walk to coincide with the Y2Y Conservation Initiative; an effort to preserve the wildlife corridors existing between the Yellowstone ecosystem and the Northern Rockies in the Yukon. The first leg of the trip was from Yellowstone up to Waterton National Park. In ’98 I did another 600 miles from Waterton to Jasper. My wife, Leslie joined me for the last month of the trip. She brought a message from my friend, Tom Kwiatkowski. Tom suggested I write a song called Wilderness Walks Within. This is the song I wrote from Tom’s idea. Next time you log onto the Internet and see www, think of Wilderness Walks Within.

                             Wind blowin’ wild, down over the mountain
Shaking the stem and lifting the seed,
Where will it drift to before it can grow,
Roots holding strong, when there’s a need.
                             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.
                                                                      — from “Wilderness Walks Within 
 
Long Trails      

The vast majority of my songs are written on the long walks. This is the only one in this collection written at home, finished just in time to record for this project. It’s a reflection on this wonderful lifestyle I’ve fallen into. 

                              I’ve been chasing rainbows since I was a kid
Seekin’ out the paths where no others did.
The life of the trail I took to my heart,
Wanderin’ wild, and livin’ the part.
I found my way down that endless track,
It fit me well, this life of the pack,
Out where the world is one, untamed and on the run,
Stretching out into the setting sun.
                                            I walk the long trails, I came of age on the long trails,
I found my place in those wide open spaces
Out there a-walkin’ on the long trails.
 

                                                                             — from “The Long Trails” 
 
All Along The Great Divide

In 1979 I did my first Mexico to Canada walk. It was along the Continental Divide. This song was written on that trek, started in the Centennial Mountains and completed one rainy night in Glacier National Park, just days from finishing the walk. Since then I’ve retraced many a mile along the Divide as parts of other long treks. I have a strong attachment to this geographical feature and never feel so at home, so much an Earthling, as when I’m tramping along the crest of the continent. This was recorded on my very first album in 1984. I’ve changed the lyric a bit, but I never get tired of singing it even after all these years. 

                               Well, you get up in the morning, shake the dew off of your mind,
As the sun pours like honey through the Ponderosa Pine
You’re livin’ every moment as if you’ve just arrived,
Because you know what it means to be alive.
                               The crystal morning is broken with a cooing 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.
 

                                                   All along the Great Divide, yes, we can understand,
What it means to be alive, all along the Great Divide
 

                                                                            — from “All Along The Great Divide” 
 
Out On The Crest Trail

I first crossed the Pacific Crest Trail up in the Pasayten Wilderness of Washington in 1976. At the time I was nearing completion of a year and a half, backcountry walk from coast to coast. I remember looking up and down the trail and thinking “someday I’ll walk this trail, too.” But many other long treks intervened. It wasn’t until twenty years later (1996) that I set out from the Mexican border and walked to Canada along the PCT. It is an incredible trail with a wide variety of terrain and conditions. This song was written around a series of campfires in the Cascade Range in Washington as I neared the end of the trail. 

                               Step out to the desert, into the chaparral,
Miles of manzinita, come to know it well.
With the desert in bloom, and my mind in tune,
I’ve flown my cage, I’m a bird set free.
A rattler holds his ground, as the sun beats down,
But we don’t mind, this ol’ trail and me.
                                           Out on the Crest Trail, there’s a wind a-blowin’,
                                           Mojave wind, blowin’ way my cares.
It’s pushing me northward, that’s where I’m a-goin’,
                                           I’m bound for the border and I’ll soon be there. 

                                                                              — from “On the Crest Trail” 
 

Distant Far Horizon

Tom Kwiatkowski wrote me my first fan letter, ever, back in 1980. I wrote back and over the years we’ve developed a great friendship. Tom joined me on the trail, he’s visited me at my home, he’s hosted concerts, and he’s inspired me in many ways. One of the things that bonded us is our attitude toward the Earth. Tom has spent lots of solo time in the woods. He knows the wild country and feels at home there. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get out there very much these days. You see, Tom now has multiple sclerosis (MS). And even facing this terrible disease, he continues to impress me. We were sitting around after one of my Seattle concerts (Tom in his wheelchair) and talking about the fate of wild places. During the conversation he stressed that his, or my, or anybody else’s, not being able to get out into the backcountry didn’t matter. He said that just knowing that the wild country is out there is enough to keep us going, enough to strengthen our spirits. That summer of 1993, I walked across eastern Oregon and Idaho. This song was written for Tom and for his love of wild places.

                            When the clouds build up like castles, the wind is singin’ true,
Fire up on the mountain, storms are brewin’, too.
                            It all makes me thankful of this Earth I am a part
I can feel it my bones, know it in my heart.
                            It’s all out there it calls to me, land that I may never set my eyes on
But I know it’s there, wild and free, on the distant far …. horizon.
 

                                                                              — from “Distant Far Horizons” 
 
Range of Light      

The snowy heights of the Sierra Nevada had a great hand in shaping the philosophy of the great conservationist, John Muir. Once a hiker walks through the High Sierra that inspiration to preserve the wild places can be fully understood. This one was written there while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 1996. 

                               Mirrors of time, reflections shine, double up the day,
There’s a new view, shining through you, lighting up the way,
Somewhere in the depths, of that crystal mountain lake,
Is the thought to keep it as it is, just for its own sake.
 

                                         This world keeps right on turning
But his words keep right on burning
All inspired by the sights, here in the Range of Light
                                         Yes, the fire of ol’ Man Muir is still a-shining bright,
Up in the High Sierra, out in the Range of Light
 

                                                                            — from “Range of Light” 
 
 Friends Along the Way

Walking the Pacific Crest Trail in ’96 was a very different kind of hike for me. Not since ’74 on the Appalachian Trail, had one of my long treks been on such an established pathway. I wasn’t used to having such a well-maintained trail, easy re-supply points, and other long-distance hikers. The community of the thru-hiker is a mobile one, constantly on the move, and constantly changing as some hikers drop out, pull ahead, or fall behind. I loved it. And I ended up hiking about a third of the PCT with other hikers and developed some great friendships. It drove home to me how important people are in my life. This song was written in the North Cascades and is dedicated to all the friends who have ever shared a mile, a smile, a song, or a kind word. Thank you all. 

                               I’ve been the lone wanderer, ramblin’ free,
But there’s more to this life that I want you to see,
For around every bend, a kind thought and a friend,
Has been there uplifting me.
 

                                       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.
 

                                                                           — from “Friends Along The Way” 

 

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