Kim Williams, More Than A Trail

Posted: Wednesday, June 13th, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Kim Williams, More Than A Trail Image

As a kid I grew up a stones throw from Rattlesnake Creek and had several acres of open space behind our house. I never had much interest in staying inside, I had too much to explore. I learned how to read water on that stretch of creek, catch trout if I didn’t like what was for dinner (as long as I cleaned them first). It was a great place to grow up, I could run wild, and did.

Around fourth grade we moved to South Avenue across from Dornblaser Field. The neighborhood was okay, plenty of kids to pal around with, I could ride my bike to Bonner Park, but something was missing. I didn’t have the woods and creek that I could escape into. We had a little yard and in the back of the yard was a little copse of scraggly bushes and lean little trees. Enough to hide out in. One day a woman came walking down our alley. She had an unruly head of white hair under her floppy brimmed hat. She looked at our bush and it’s berries and proclaimed it a Buffaloberry bush (Shepherdia argentea). That was my first interaction with Kim Williams.

Many of us know Kim Williams only for the trail named after her. Kim Williams grew up in Gallatin Township in New York and after graduating high school she attended Cornell University where she received a degree in human ecology with a minor in botany. From there she worked for several publications, during this time she began exploring poetry and prose based on personal experience.

In 1951 she met her husband Mel Williams. This began the next leg of her journey. After marrying they moved to Chile where they lived for the next twenty years. Kim continued her writing and while there published High Heels in the Andes and Wild Animals of Chile.

She and her husband returned to the States in 1971 and settled in Missoula where she live out the rest of her life.¬†Williams¬† returned to college and in 1981 received her masters degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Montana. She published her final two books, Eating Wild Plants and Kim Williams’ Book of Uncommon Sense: A Practical Guide With 10 Rules for Nearly Everything. During this time she also wrote a weekly column for the Missoulian about wildflowers and local plants. Williams is probably most well known from her radio show on KUFM that was later picked up by National Public Radio and her listeners jumped to as many as 2.5 million people.

During an episode of All Things Considered on NPR Williams announced that she had terminal cancer and was refusing chemotherapy, she stated to Susan Stamberg, “I wish to die in peace, not in pieces.” Kim Williams passed away August 6, 1986 at the age of 62.

We used to have a calendar that was published by Kim Williams that had a daily local reference, be it a wildflower bloom, meteor shower, or bird species’ return to the valley. I learned to appreciate every day, and what you can find outdoors.

Kim returned to that bush every year to pick berries in order to make jam. Every time I head out on her trail I have to smile at what a big personality she had.