My 1,000+Mile Photographing Idaho Walkabout

January 12th, 2012 / 20 Comments

This summer, I’m embarking on a 1,000+mile walkabout. I’ll be photographing the wild and remote places of Idaho.

I’ve been planning this trip for a couple years. I’ve been reading, buying light-weight backpacking materials, experimenting with foods, getting lightweight but excellent photo equipment, and working on my physical endurance. I’ve been poring over maps and talking to those who have experience backpacking in Idaho.

The Itinerary

The trip begins with short excursions to some of Idaho’s most fascinating natural wonders. I’ll hike Hells Canyon in April. This canyon is regarded as the deepest in North America, given that it winds through high mountain ranges. It is also known for an abundance of rattlesnakes.

In May, I’ll visit key sites in southern Idaho. Those include Craters of the Moon, Henry’s Lake, Owyhee Canyonlands, City of Rocks, petroglyph sites along the Snake River, and more. I’ll drive to the sites, hike around, spend the night, and drive to another.

I’ll be taking a group of NNU students for a week of backpacking in the remote Owyhee Mountains. This is part of a course I’ve put together called, “Theology and Nature.” We’ll end our hike in the Owyhees at Idaho’s historic Silver City.

In June, I’ll drive to the Idaho-Nevada border. The border begins my 900-mile hike on the Idaho Centennial Trail. The trail moves through the entire length of Idaho – 900 miles! – finishing at the Canadian border near Priest Lake.

Only a handful of people have hiked the Idaho Centennial Trail in one shot. The trip takes me through scenic deserts, mountain ranges, along rivers, deep canyons, and above beautiful lakes. Very few towns and supply points exist near the trail, so I’m strategizing how best to hike light.

My family has agreed to help me on this walkabout. My three daughters will hike short sections with me. I’m looking forward to that one-on-one trail time with them. My wife will help with some of the resupply points and give general oversight to things.

After the Hike

In addition to the walking this adventure requires, I’ll be taking numerous photos. This means adding more weight to my pack than most backpackers do. I’m taking my Canon 5D-Mark II camera, lenses, filters, other accessories, and tripod. I hope to shoot panoramas, landscapes, time-sequence series, and more. I’m really hoping to get a picture of a mountain lion!

Because I expect this to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I’m planning to do some things after the trip to report on my adventure. I’ve been working with magazines and newspapers, and they’ve shown interest in publishing stories and photos. I’m also planning to give some talks and show photos to various groups – nature clubs, church groups, etc.

If you have any advice or ideas you think might be useful, please let me know. And if you have some ideas about publishing photos or stories or talking to groups, I’d love to hear that too.


Add comment


Steve Stuebner

Sounds like a great trip – one that many Idahoans would love to do but most of us rarely make time for a journey like that. Best of luck!

T. C.



My brothers and I have talked (and talked) about hiking the Centennial Trail.  Best of luck and looking forward to hearing your stories and seeing your photos!

Dan Smitley

1) This sounds awesome!
2) I am jealous of your Theology and Nature class… wish they had something like this at MVNU when I was attending.

How long are you expecting the 900 mile hike to take you?

Also, what type of “listening material” are you going to be taking with you (since I am guessing reading material is out of the question).

T.C. is right, this is epic and I am thoroughly jealous.


Photography can be such a great way to look at life in a new way! This sounds like an adventure of a lifetime. People always think that they need to travel somewhere to get good photos when really, it’s all around, even in Idaho!

Hans Deventer

Looks like a once in a lifetime experience indeed. Way to go, Tom!

Thomas Jay Oord


Thanks for the kind comments and encouraging words!


The 900-mile portion of the hike should take me about 75 days. I don’t plan to take listening devices with me, though. Part of the experience is hearing the sounds of nature! : )

Tom McCall

Cool.  Very, very cool.

Are there any good (on-line) maps of the Centennial trail?

Marty Alan Michelson

I’d recommend an Olympus recording device.  I know even when I take “one day” hikes – the “thoughts I think” (very Seussical!) – are so different from “normal” life – that I’d want to try to capture them – and writing/texting wouldn’t be the same – and can’t be done in medies res.  The Olympus device I use, requires a mere 2 AAA batteries, is light, and records like 3 days worth of audio.  I’m sure there are other options too.

Craig Laughlin

Wow.  Looks like a great trip.  Looking forward to hearing about it and seeing the pictures.

Dave McCluung

I will be looking forward to your photos.

Will you be carrying a Spot, so we can track your progress?

Jared Grosse

I think this is a great idea!  I hope to do something like this every few years for the rest of my life.  I can’t wait to hear how God forms you through this experience!



Michael Lodahl

Sounds terrific, Tom. Hey, have you read Sallie McFague’s *Super, Natural Christians*? I recommend it for your course—but given that you probably already have your booklist put together, I recommend it at least as background reading for you . . . or else to take with you on your hike. But she may suggest some troubling things about the camera-view of things (much as I myself love to take, and look at, photographs).

Don Albers

Hi Tom, Ron Van Order, was a boy scout leader from the Meridian Nazarene Church leader in the early 1970’s and took a group of boys including my three sons down the 50 mile hike of Hells Canyon to Lewiston and I asked one of them how many rattlesnakes they saw, and he said on the plate! They got a forked stick and pined the head down to cut it off with a hunting knife. He said they taste like chicken. Have fun with this idea.

Keith Drury

Will be following you!  Sounds great!

Leo Hennessy

Good luck.  What a great adventure.

Mike O’Brien

Thomas, remind me when you return; I’d like to see and hear the results of your trip. There is a slim chance we may meet, since I expect to be hiking the border portion of the ICT this summer.

Thomas Jay Oord


I plan to finish at the Canadian border about August 20. I’ll be following the Montana-Idaho line a week or two before then. Do those dates line up with yours?


Trina Davison

Thank you Tom for a “buttkicker” of an experience. I was challenged emotionally, spiritually and physically. Thank you for being a great example of Christ-like character. I pray for strength, courage, and wisdom for you on this amazing journey! Blessings.

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