2009-10-29 / News

Walkin’ Jim shares journeys with students

When many of us head out for our daily walk, we go to Ft. Getty. Others head to Beavertail or Ft. Wetherill. When Jim Stoltz heads out, he may walk 2,000 miles and not return for two years.

Jim’s first challenge in his 26,000-mile journey was the Appalachian Trail. He next walked from the Atlantic to the Pacific. He then walked from Canada to Mexico on three separate occasions. In search of more wild places, he walked from Yellowstone to the Yukon. More recently, he has spent months alone in the remote mountains of Utah and Nevada.

He is now known as “Walkin’ Jim Stoltz.”

The Conanicut Island Land Trust recently brought “Walkin’ Jim Stoltz” to Melrose Avenue School, where he entertained and informed grades K through 4 with his award-winning multimedia show of original music, stories and photography describing and celebrating the beauty of America’s wild places and wildlife. Following the school performance, “Walkin’ Jim” met with third grade students, where he answered questions about his last hike (a 500-mile loop in Nevada), his longest trip (an ocean to ocean hike), as well as how heavy his backpack is (it depends), whether he brings a cell phone (he doesn’t) and whether he’s ever been bitten by a wild animal (just mosquitoes).

When asked, “What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve seen?” Stoltz replied, “Oh, that’s a hard question…One day just before sunset, I was coming down a ridge on the continental divide. Ahead of me I saw a big boulder with a pair of antlers sticking out from each side, so I knew there were two deer behind it. I thought about getting my camera out, but decided not to. I walked around the boulder and saw two deer staring at me. The setting sun behind them was coming through the velvet on their antlers. It was beautiful. I didn’t get it on film, but I have that picture in my mind.

When asked, “What’s the closest animals have come to you?” Stoltz replied, “I’ve had grizzly bears and coyotes come within a few feet of me. One night, I had rabbits jump on my chest while I was in my sleeping bag. And I’ve had picas run across my toes when I was sitting very still. And I’ve found out that deer and caribou like guitar music. Sometimes at the end of the day when I’m sitting under a tree strumming on my guitar, I’ll look up and see a deer or caribou 10 feet away looking at me. If I stop playing, they turn around and leave. If I start playing again, they come back.”

After meeting with the third grade, Stoltz took the fourth grade outside to explore the new town forest. Upon returning to the classroom, they helped compose two new verses to his song, “The Web of Life.”

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