Thomas Oord is going long. With a backpack and camera, he plans to spend several months hiking more than a thousand miles and photographing his adventure to share the state’s incredible scenery.
Oord is a professor at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho, and father of three who will do most of his trip solo.
Here’s what he had to say about his coming adventure.
Q: What’s the significance of a thousand miles? Was it the number that intrigued you, or just how long the route ended up being?
A: I was first inspired to hike Idaho by the challenge of the Idaho Centennial Trail. That trail is roughly 950 miles from Nevada to Canada, most of which runs through the heart of Idaho.
But I realized there were other places not on the trail, such as Hells Canyon, Owyhee Mountains, Craters of the Moon, the Idaho base of the Tetons, City of Rocks, etc. I also wanted to hike. Adding those to the Centennial trail puts me well over 1,000.
Q: What’s been the biggest logistical challenge so far?
A: The United States has a little more than a half dozen long trails officially designated for thru-hikes. Perhaps the best known is the Appalachian Trail in the eastern states. Those who have hiked all of the major trails say Idaho’s is in many ways the most difficult.
The main difficulty of the Idaho Centennial Trail comes in finding ways to resupply with food and other necessities. The trail rarely goes near towns, so buying provisions along the way isn’t possible. My greatest challenge, then, is figuring out how to contact people to send packages or bury food along the route to pick up on my way.
By the way, the few long-distance hikers who have walked these epic trails say Idaho’s provides some of the best and most diverse scenery of all the trails. So I’m expecting to make some great photos.
Q: How much of your trip will be solo?
A: About 85 percent of my trip will be solo. My three daughters will hike short sections with me. I wanted to spend some father/daughter time with each.
A few colleagues want to tag along for some other short sections. And one week in May, I’ll take a group of Northwest Nazarene University students on a trek through remote sections of the Owyhee Mountains.
I’m submitting updates of my trip from time to time on a Facebook page I’ve created. I call the page, “My 1,000+ mile photographing Idaho walkabout.” I encourage those who might be interested to check it out.
Q: Do you expect the mental or physical challenge to be greatest and why?
A: Unlike the other half dozen or so people who have hiked the Idaho Centennial trail all in one summer, I’ll be carrying significant photography equipment. I take photography seriously, and that means having a quality camera, lenses, tripod and accessories. I plan to average about 15 miles of hiking each day, so the equipment weight will present challenges.
I’m sure I’ll also miss my wife and daughters when I’m alone on this 1,000-mile adventure. My wife will resupply me a few times, but there will be long periods of separation. I’m someone who enjoys being around loved ones, so being away most of three months will be challenging.
Q: What leg of this trip are you most looking forward to, and what leg makes you nervous?
A: I really enjoy hiking the Sawtooth Mountains and the Frank Church, so I’m probably most excited about those sections. I also like the wide-open desert, so hiking along the Jarbidge and Bruneau canyons also excites me.
I haven’t spent much time in the northern Idaho Panhandle. So I’m not sure what to expect. But that’s part of the adventure: uncertainty.
Q: What will be your “luxury” item on the trip?
A: I suppose most people would say my photography equipment is my “luxury” item. But the items my wife is most excited about my taking are a GPS/Spot tandem that allows me to send short text messages from the trail. The devices allows her to pinpoint my location on Google maps.
©2012 The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho)