Trekking The Eel River Canyon: The Haunted Railroad

The Haunted Railroad

Immediately my naturally curious mind set to pondering upon the possibilities of just what might be out there to be found along this missing 100-mile stretch of unseen railway.  The prospect seemed all at once juicy, enticing, laden thick with the potential for adventure, and at the very least demanding further inquiry.

Rust ever sleeps. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Rust ever sleeps.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

It didn’t take long to come to the conclusion that the only way to really satisfactorily solve this mystery would be to get out there and trek it through on my own two feet, seeing as how the better part of this hidden stretch of abandoned railroad traversed a canyon which paralleled an officially-designated “wild and scenic river”, read: no frontage or bisecting roads- just the river and the land, exactly as nature etched it out (except for the, uh, railroad).

Regurgitated railroad. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Regurgitated railroad.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Considering the exceedingly remote nature of the region, coupled with the fact that the stretch of land in question was virtually in its entirety held by private entities, any attempt at retrieving information about the area promised to be a task which would almost surely offer little if any return on whatever effort was invested to this end.  And so it proved.  Soon enough it became clear that to properly sate my quest for knowledge and discovery, I would have to take to the land and stomp my way through it- no lesser method was going to carry the day, as it were.


The Eel River Canyon. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The Eel River Canyon.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Ghost Train Departing

And so it was that I and a group of my fellow idiot friends set out northward from San Francisco on the fourth of May, 2012, in a two-car caravan.  Dropping one of the cars off in Dos Rios, where our through-hike would end (hopefully), we piled into my friend Shane’s truck and made our way northward to the remote community of Fort Seward, where our journey would begin.

Eel River camp. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Eel River camp.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

We camped for the night on the wide dry rock-bed of the Eel River, of which the current flow occupied only a narrow portion.  We gathered what little bit of twigs and sticks as was available on the rocky riverbed, which very likely had been covered to near its full width by flowing river water during spring’s peak flow, just a month or two earlier.  We sat around our tiny campfire and drank a few beers, turning in early beneath a nearly full moon.

The optimistic fools. (photo by S. McCarthy)
The optimistic fools.
(photo by S. McCarthy)

In the morning we broke camp under a quickly warming sun, shouldered our loaded packs, and said our goodbyes to Shane and Ian, who drove off in the truck, leaving me, Jake, and Chalk to either complete our trek on foot back to Jake’s car in Dos Rios, some 55 miles south via the derelict rail-bed, or find some other way back to civilization.

Duly noted. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Duly noted.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)


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Next chapter:  The Alderpoint Shuffle (04)

4 thoughts on “Trekking The Eel River Canyon: The Haunted Railroad”

  1. I was unaware that the NWP had gone through the legal pushups required to abandon this stretch of ROW. In fact according to the NCRA it has not. That is the rumor used by a couple of individuals who have been trying to market the rails as scrap iron for a few years, and for a short while had a group of hikers and bicyclists supporting them, to the extent that they had started unbolting splice plates and taking bracing off of bridges (federal offenses still). What have I missed? Abandonment is an involved process that among other things requires approval of the Federal Government. Approval that has never been given. Because it has never been requested.

    1. I think the term, “abandoned”, as used by the author, isn’t meant to be indicative of it’s (the railroad’s) legal state. I believe it is meant to describe the fact that people have quit using it, have let it decay to the point of not being able to use it, and that people in general have “forgotten” it. Basically, that it serves no purpose anymore, and that it is a relic of human existence from the past left to decay inthe wilds of the mountains. This is the sense that most folks would take from the use of the word, dont you think? Most people don’t think in terms of legal statuses, or in legalese, especially when the obvious context of it’s use isnt one of a legal nature.

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