The Vision CD

 The Vision



Wild Wind
Thinkin’ Like A Mountain
Old Crystal Bell
Old Man From The Mountains
These Are The Ancient Forests
Morning In The Mountains
Power In The Earth
Searchin’ For The Road Not Taken
The Food Chain Song
Way Out West
Wild Rockies Home
The Vision


This was Jim’s fifth recording from 1992. It was re-released in 2000 with new versions of a few of the songs and a new cover. Below are some selected lyrics from each of the songs as well as a few words from the liner notes with further background. 

Wild Wind     

In July of 1988 I walked the length of Idaho’s Lemhi Range. Most of the trek was off-trail hiking, ridge walking at its best; high and wild. One wild, windy day this song came blowing at me. Don’t turn your back on the wild wind!

               … I come here searchin’ for my share of dreams,
                   Lookin’ for songs on the way,
                  And the tunes that I heard, were all sung without words
                  But the wild wind sure had its say.
                  I heard the coyotes question, and the elks answered call,
                 The bluebirds sing with the water’s sweet fall
                 And the Earth sang her blessing to each one and all,
                 With her windsong.                                     Don’t turn your back on the wild wind,
                                     It’s a gift that’s so precious and rare,
                                     Don’t turn your back on the wild wind,
                                     With a prayer it will always be there
                                     Wild wind, wild wind, wild wind, always be there. 
                                                                            — from “Wild Wind” 

Thinkin’ Like A Mountain

The Italian Peaks, along the Idaho-Montana line, are one of the most beautiful wild ranges in the northern Rockies. As of this writing it is still in danger of losing that special wild character. This song was written there in July of ’90, and is dedicated to the memory and vision of Aldo Leopold.

                         This life is so rich I can taste it,
And I’ve given my heart to the wind,
And when the rain falls down, And the sun rolls ‘round,
I’ll be thinkin’ like a mountain once again.
                                                          — from “Thinkin’ Like A Mountain”

The Old Crystal Bell

The summer of 1983 found me walking the length of Idaho. Nearly all of my walking is done in the backcountry, but on this trip I trekked for nearly 80 miles on dirt roads through the farm country south of the Snake River. One day as I walked along a hot, dusty lane, a dark ominous, end-of-the- world cloud appeared on the horizon. I picked up the pace, not knowing where I was going, but wanting to get somewhere more sheltered than the open road before the storm hit.

The thunder began to roll and lightning came streaking down. As the first rain began to fall I took shelter in an old abandoned schoolhouse in Crystal, Idaho. Crystal, Idaho consists of an old abandoned schoolhouse! The storm pounded down on the old ruin in a fury and I thanked my lucky stars it still had a roof. I’m sure the other critters were thankful, too. A pack rat had a cozy nest in the corner, owls had been roosting in the rafters, and a number of swallows called the place home.

On what was left of the walls, was an amazing variety of graffiti. Much of it was interesting, but the most intriguing for me was, “I went to school here in 1920”. It got me thinking about the old community and all the folks who used to live there. This song came along two weeks later around a camp fire in the Smokey Mountains of Idaho.

     And oh how them old wood floors would creak inside that little hall,
I remember getting out for harvest in the Fall,
I can hear that Crystal Bell a-ringin’ down the lane,
Stayed too long beside the creek, I’m late for school again.
                    But that bell ain’t a-ringin’,
And there ain’t no voices singin’
In that old Crystal school anymore,
‘Cause the roofs nearly gone,
Children grown and all moved on,
And there’s no one left to hear the bell no more.
                                                                 —  from “The Old Crystal Bell”


The wind is many things to me: companion, adversary, inspirer, teacher, healer, but perhaps most of all … singer. This one came singing to me in the Bechlar region of Yellowstone in April of ’84 and was completed in the Mazatzel Wilderness of Arizona a month later.

         There’s a mountain that I know, always covered up with snow,
And she stands out over the miles, they say the spirits all run wild.
And the eagle comes to visit, and she flies by on the wing,
And then the wind comes a-whistlin’, together they will sing.
She’s a dream spinner, song bringer, windsinger.
                                                                                — from “Windsinger”

Old Man From The Mountains

It is sad to think that every one of us knows of some special place, a place of peaceful forest, open field, flowing river, untouched beach, or unmarred mountain, that has been forever lost to the unending sweep of so-called progress. The loss of these natural areas continues at an ever faster rate, yet we still shrug it off. Life goes on, but a bit less rich than the day before. What most of us refer to as progress is really a sick deterioration. When the quality of Life is lowered for the sake of a quick buck, can it be anything else? This song was written back in 1980. Its message is even more relevant today. Bigger doesn’t mean better, and faster surely doesn’t mean farther. Listen to this old man from the mountains.

                                 He says:”Bigger ain’t better, and faster ain’t farther,
Unless you’re runnin’ stoneblind.
We’re sellin’ out fast all the gold of our past,
And tradin’ away one of a kind,
And we’re burying them one at a time.
                                                          —  from “Old Man From The Mountains”

Morning In The Mountains    

In the summer of 1989, my wife and I walked 700 miles of the Continental Divide through the high country of Colorado. Quite often we’d be up before the sun and walking along the Great Divide just as the day started to break. Morning is always a special time, but in the mountains it takes on a life of its own. This song was inspired in Colorado, but written in the High Uintas of Utah that same year.

                              So live each day like you mean it,
Grab hold of each dawn that comes your way
And if its blessings you’re a-countin’,
Try a morning in the mountains,
There ain’t no better way to start the day.
                                                       — from “Morning In The Mountains”

The Food Chain Song

One thing humans need to realize when they hike in grizzly bear country is that they become part of the food chain. For our species, it’s a unique view of Life, and a very valuable perspective. We tend to get very high nosed and even pompous in our attitude toward Nature. Having creatures bigger and more powerful than we are humbles us and puts us in our place. It reminds us that we’re not the gods some of us think we are. It helps us walk a little softer. This song was written in the Centennial Mountains in 1990.

                                 Yes, he’s a hiker man you can tell by his tan,
He’s carryin’ everything that his back can stand,
He’s a walkin’ page out of LL Bean,
And if you saw him in the woods, you’d know what I mean.
No one can replace him, no, no, none,
He’s a most special man because he carries a gun.
                                 But then you think about the food chain,
And along comes a hungry grizz,
And chomp, chomp, chomp,
Gobble, gobble, gobble,
Gulp, gulp, gulp, he’s gone!
                                                                       — from “The Food Chain Song”

Searchin’ For The Road Not Taken  

This song was inspired by Robert Frost’s classic poem, “The Road Not Taken”, which I start the piece with. The poem has always been a favorite of mine, even back in Junior High when I first learned it. The song was written just after my coast to coast walk (’75-’76) and much of the imagery comes from that trek.

                              Made to order Montana mornings,
Evenings by the edges of the sea,
Dusty days out in the Dakotas,
Every place remains a part of me.
                              I’ve seen a lot of sunshine on the mountain,
                              Raced the thunder ‘cross the rollin’ plain,
Can’t say I did it all for nothing,
Can’t say that I haven’t changed,
                               But my chains are fallin’ all behind,
And all I’m runnin’ from is Old Man Time,
Slowly but surely your spell is breakin’
And I’m searchin’, still searchin’,
Searchin’ for the road not taken.
                                                      — from “Searchin’ For The Road Not Taken”

Way Out West

One of the greatest adventures of all time was the Lewis and Clark Expedition. For three years this small band of explorers wandered through the beautiful, untrampled, wild West. I’ve always been captured by the romance and grandness of their journey. How exciting to see this land as pristine and perfect as it must have been! I’ve always wondered what happened to the unsung heroes, the common enlisted men of the expedition. How did they feel after returning to civilization after three years in the wilderness? Did they dream of the wide, golden prairies? Did they long for the bite of the Rocky Mountain wind?

One man in particular has always intrigued me. Hugh McNeal was a name that pops up often in the journals. On August 12, 1805, Captain Lewis reached the crest of the Continental Divide near Lemhi Pass with a small advance party. From his journal: “two miles below McNeal had exultantly stood with a foot on each side of this little rivulet and thanked his God that he had lived to bestride the mighty and heretofore deemed endless Missouri.”

On August 6, 1990 I put in a long day of walking along the Continental Divide, nearly 25 miles, and approached Lemhi Pass just after the sun set below the peaks to the west. I hadn’t seen people in a few days and there on the little gravel road was a mini-van with a couple from Massachusetts. Mark & Nancy Jo Jander were spending their summer vacation retracing the route of Lewis and Clark. I had dinner with the Janders. And as the full moon rose over the Montana mountains, we talked of the great adventure 185 years before.

I slept under the stars that night, in a stand of lodgepole pine. A spring gurgled away nearby, singing to the silver stillness hanging on the night. I had no doubt that Lewis and his men had stopped there to drink, and perhaps had even paused to listen to the water’s gentle tune. The next morning, as I walked north on the Great Divide, this song came singing into life.

                              He’d said, “Come with us, to the lands uncharted,
We’ll see this country at its very best,
We’ll follow the wild, wide Missouri,
Into the sun, we’ll go Way Out West.”
                                                                                              from “Way Out West”

Wild Rockies Home

In the summer of ’90 I hiked a 500 mile loop hike through the wild country of southwest Montana. One night I camped on the open crest of the Continental Divide, in the southern reaches of the Bitterroot Range. From the coziness of my sleeping bag, I watched the sun sink over the Lemhi Range to the west. The evening was quiet and still. A buck muledeer grazed peacefully 50 yards below. I just happened to glance behind me and was startled to see the full moon creeping over the mountains like a huge, friendly monster. I was pulled between watching the sun set, or the moon rise, and flicked my attention back and forth between the two. My heart seemed to swell with each passing second as the colors intensified and the glory of the phenomena splashed over the evening.

The sun sank and the moon came to dominate the night. There was no way I could sleep. The stunning view I’d had by day, was now cloaked in the soft silver of enchanting moonlight. I slipped my guitar over my shoulder and leaving the bag, began to wander across the starry ridge, singing a wordless song. Playing my way slowly along the open crest, singing to the moon, the stars, the seemingly endless mountains, this song started to spill out.

When I found myself back in the coziness of my sleeping bag, leaning back against my backpack, gazing up and out over the Wild Rockies moonlight magic, I wrote down these lyrics by the light of the moon.

                                 Come walk with me out in the hills,
We’ll sing in the mountain rain,
We’ll drink of them clear, sweet rolling waters,
Learn the song of the open plains,
Come walk with me out in the sun,
Out where the wild ones still roam.
And we’ll be walkin’ free, you and me,
Out in my Wild Rockies Home.
                                                                      — from “Wild Rockies Home”

These Are The Ancient Forests  

The Earth’s forests continue to fall at an alarming rate. Thousands upon thousands of living things are pushed to extinction each year by this insane over-cutting. And America, the world’s shining example, continues to cut its precious last stands of old growth. The ancient forests of the U.S., down to only 5% of what they once were, are banks of life that hold the last strongholds for countless species, protect the watersheds, cleanse the air of vast amounts of carbon dioxide, and remain as islands of diversity in a world of increasing sterility. The environmental laws protecting these forests are being weakened and attacked. For those who care about the future of the forests and the future of the planet (one and the same) the time to stand up is now! This song was written in 1989 and is dedicated to the big trees.

                       Here among the giants, life has grown so rich,
Each living thing has found its special place
And the lesson to be learned as the seasons slowly turn
Is written on the ages all in grace.

These are the ancient forests, beyond all price or worth,
Here now they rise in glory, the pride of a living Earth.
                                                        — from “These Are The Ancient Forests”

 Power In The Earth

This song has an interesting history as a Christian hymn, a union song, and now an environmental anthem. Originally known as “Power in The Blood”, the religious hymn was a popular song in the late 1800’s and early part of the 1900’s. When the Industrial Workers of the World (the Wooblies) were organizing the first unions and trying to get fair deals for the common worker (and often getting hung for it in the process) back around the same time, they found that if they took popular tunes everyone knew, and put their own lyrics to them, folks could learn the songs and sing along much easier. The message would spread that much faster. Joe Hill changed the hymn to “Power in The Union”.

In 1985 I became involved in a series of environmental demonstrations. I found it was fine to stand around with a sign and talk to people, but a song was really lacking. Especially when the local law enforcement arrived and started hauling people away. I decided to continue the folk process and took Joe Hill’s song and turned it into an environmental song. Since then, it has been sung at hundreds of rallies, meetings, and demonstrations across the nation. New verses keep popping up for every cause and issue. Feel free to add to it, pass it around, and by all means … sing it!

                              There is power, there is power in a band of folks that care
When they stand, hand in hand.
That’s a power, that’s a power
Must be heard throughout this land
For the Earth now we must stand.
                                                                              — from “Power In The Earth”

 The Vision     

The summer of ’89 was a very special one for me. Leslie and I hiked all summer in Colorado and three days after we finished our 700 mile walk, I was off into the High Uintas in Utah for a month of solo hiking in September. The songs spilled out, inspired by the magnificent country and the ideas I’d stored up over the entire summer. My last night out, I was visited by an incredible, beautiful, frightening, inspiring, humdinger of an electrical storm. The lightning and thunder went on for hours and dumped hail by the ton. I awoke in the middle of the night feeling something pressing on my face. It was the tent bowed in from the weight of the hail.

The next morning I walked out the last five miles, knowing that it was the last walk of the season. The morning was clear as could be, scrubbed fresh and clean from the storm the night before. The hail was piled a foot deep in places and the leaves had been stripped off the aspen trees by the power of the storm. The day smelled clean and alive. I soaked the mountain air down deep into my lungs, savoring each breath and smell, reluctant to leave the wild country once again.

As I walked out, I thought about why I go into the wilderness, and what I get from it. This song sang itself to me as I hiked those last miles. The Vision. I carry it with me now and always. I hope you carry it along with you, too.

                Oh, I went up on the mountain side, to see what I could see,
And the vision that was given there,
I carry on with me.
                                                                         — from “The Vision”