Orofino Creek Railroad Hike

This article tells the story of my second training hike in preparation for my pilgrimage along El Camino de Santiago in Spain.


Our second training hike took us out along the old railroad tracks that follow the Orofino Creek all the way to Pierce, Idaho. I love this stretch because the tracks are less than a mile from my house and they head out into the middle of nowhere. One of the first things Sassy and I did when we moved to town was go camping out here.

I thought hiking along old train tracks would be smooth sailing, but it really isn’t. The ground is not level between the ties unless it’s filled with ballast, which is fist-sized rock poured beneath and between the ties to provide a level support structure that drains water. Ballast also rolls under your foot.

Fortunately, some stretches of rail were filled up with dirt and debris enough to smooth out the walking. Unfortunately, this is also where saplings like to grow. So if you’re not clomping along like a lame horse between uneven ties, or twisting your ankles on ballast, then you’re tripping over cute little trees and vicious, thorny vines. Seriously, abandoned railroads may seem romantic (think, Stand By Me), but give me a single track mountain trail any day of the week!

We hiked about 10 miles along this old, abandoned railroad through a deep, narrow canyon. The tracks were washed out in three places, covered by a mudslide in another, and generally long out of use. Our camp was quiet and isolated off the track. We took our time packing up and heading home in the morning. After a peaceful 21 hours without human contact, the last thing I expected to hear was a truck honking at me!

Apparently, the railroad owner is making plans to get the track operational by Fall. He and a couple other guys were scouting the lines to assess their condition. It was a neat opportunity to talk to someone who knew the area well. He said that the really beautiful part of the track is closer to Pierce than Orofino. I guess the canyon opens up a bit more, giving some breathtaking views. I hope I can make it out there before all the constructions starts.

My right knee held up well on this trip, despite the lopsided gait I maintained. I felt like I got to know my bag a lot better this time out, too. I’m packing it more efficiently, and figuring out how to set the straps for what is comfortable and balanced for me. And I am now expert enough to retrieve, and put away, my water bottle without taking my bag off. Achievement earned.

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