Walkin’ Jim sure does
RANGELEY – After 27,000 miles of hiking the wilds of North America in 35 years, Jim Stoltz, 55, has earned his title.
During a folksy performance of photographs, song and stories this morning, Stoltz of Helena, Montana, told the students at Rangeley Lakes Regional School he’s been called Walkin’ Jim after he completed the 2,175-mile Georgia to Maine Appalachian Trail in 1974 as a 20-year-old and then in 1975 starting walking coast to coast, from West Quoddy Head, Maine to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. That 5,000-mile trek took him a year and a half and he’s been walkin’ ever since.
“When I reached Mt. Katahdin, (AT’s northern terminus in Maine), I felt like I could do anything. I had once cent in my pocket. It was all I had; my worldly wealth,” he said grinning and added, “I’ve always said I have a rich man’s life without the money.”
He walks the long treks every year, from Mexico to Canada, Yellowstone to the Yukon, the Pacific Crest Trail, and Alaska’s northern arctic refuge.
After thousands of miles of traveling the wild backcountry, Stoltz has lots of stories, songs he’s written from the trail and photos.
“Just trying to share the beauty of this planet,” he told his audience. His performance at the Rangeley school is one of 20 schools he’s visited since February along the AT and is sponsored by the local Appalachian Trail Conferences and the outdoor retailer REI.
“I sometimes go weeks alone without seeing another person. It’s time alone with nature,” he said. Nature, in the form of grizzlies, mountain lions, raging rivers and unexpected blizzards that he’s met along the trail, can be challenging but provide lots of good stories and songs.
He sings, encouraging the students to join in: “Habitat, habitat. Have to have a habitat! (haba haba) You have to have a habitat to carry on!”
“Have respect for life. Not only for us, but for everyone else,” he said closing with, “Happy trails!”
Stoltz will be performing his show general audiences “Forever Wild” at the Belgrade Community Center for All Seasons, in Belgrade, on April 22 at 7 p.m. Celebrate Earth Day and Support the Kennebec Highlands Phase III Campaign. The Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance is hosting the event. $10 tickets available by calling Mary at BRCA 207-495-6039 or e-mailing [email protected]. For more info visit: www.belgradelakes.org
Lloyd Griscom appreciated Jim’s mention of “the freedom of the pack” and also his statement that “people really have no idea how many choices they have in life”.