My Friend, My "Bay Cloud"
Written and experienced by Jo Dasso
Ever have "one of 'those' days"? Mine started October 2nd, 1999 at 7:30 am. Having planned a group ride...my friend, Sue, and I were to head up to Boundary Trail, (Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington State) to meet a group of friends for a day ride. Having the luxury of NOT being the driver for the day...I overslept, and when Sue arrived to pick me up...I was not prepared. Thus ensued the "throw everything into the trailer" (including horse, etc.) start to my day, so we could rush off to join the group. The plan for the ride was to travel to a certain spot...have lunch...then return the same way. Being the adventurous sort that I am...I was trying to figure out a way to turn this into a "loop" ride, to cover all new terrain, instead of doing the same trail twice. While riding...Sue and I see a trail that meets the one we are
on. I realize this is the trail that leads to the (Lewis River) horse camp where part of the group is planning on staying the night. So Sue and I split apart from the main group, with plans to meet up with them later that afternoon at the horse campsite. It's about an 11 mile ride, so I know we have plenty of time. The first mile or so of the trail reminded me of the hill in the movie "Snowy River"...all downhill, with no switchbacks. The second mile into the ride gave us a little relief from the severe hills, with a few level sections in the trail. As we were traversing the narrow trail, we let the horses pick their way slowly along. I had all the faith in 13 year old Cloud, as he knows how to gauge the terrain, and adjust his footsteps accordingly. We were making slow progress, as the ground was loose and unstable, so caution was in order. All of a sudden, I felt the ground give way beneath us. I felt as if we were in slow motion...you know the feeling...this must be a dream, it can't possibly be happening. In instinct, I kicked my feet out of the stirrups...I don't even recall doing it...but remained in the saddle. We slid about 10 feet down, and came to rest on our sides. My right leg was pinned under Cloud, but not in any pain, as the ground was so soft. We both froze. All I remember hearing from Sue was a faint "ohhhh" as we slid down to a stop. She has the experience to know that panic and hysteria get you nowhere in situations like these, and I was grateful for that. I slowly swung my top (left) leg off of Cloud and turned to lay spread eagle with my back against the hill...my right leg still under him. We both barely breathed, neither of us wanted to slide any further. I lay there thinking..."now what?...what to do?" No amount of preparation readies you for the actual feeling of something like this. My experience and training were on automatic...to keep me calm. There is no telling what ANY horse will do in this situation...no matter how great. As hard as it is to think...you have to be prepared for a horse panicking...and make sure you don't go down with it.
And then the most amazing thing happened. Cloud shifted forward...ever so slowly, to a halfway upright position, resting slightly on his chest. This took the pressure off my leg. Then he turned his neck, facing into the cliff, to look back at me. This was no small feat, and put him in a very awkward, hard to describe position. And this horse...the one I have ridden hundreds of miles...the one I feed and care for routinely...the one who everyone else thinks is...just another horse...the one I affectionately call my "ugly bay horse"...this horse turned and looked at me in a soul touching way. Have you ever had the feeling that time and space have stopped? That everything and everyone else fades into the background? This horse and I had such a moment. For we made eye contact, and it seemed to last forever. He looked at me as if to say..."are you alright my friend?" Yet, it was so much more than that. He looked at me. He looked INTO me. Unless this has happened to you...you will probably not understand it. With our eyes locked, I had such a strange feeling. He was not merely a horse looking for a way out of a bad situation...he was a friend trying to figure out how to get us both out of the mess we were in. Then...the moment was over. He slowly turned his head back...very gingerly stood up on all fours, then carefully walked over me and climbed up towards the trail. He positioned himself on solid footing, and then once again turned his head towards me. This time, it was as if to say..."Ok, I'm ready...now it's your turn". So I crawled up to him, grabbed hold of his tail, and he pulled me to the top. I checked him for any injuries, which there seemed to be none, then went back to see if Sue would be able to get across the missing part of the trail. After we accomplished getting her horse, Cowboy, across a spot he just watched another horse disappear from...I went back to Cloud...waiting ever patient, and mounted up, continuing on the ride. The trail thankfully leveled out then, and gave us a nice ride, crossing many small creeks, and following the larger Quartz Creek. We were enjoying the freshly cleared trail, and the quiet peacefulness that comes with two good friends riding together in the still of the forest. We were making good time, even after the little "detour", and figured to make camp well before dark. Five miles into the ride, we came to a downed "old growth" tree that had fallen in the last few days. It, of course, made the trail impassable. My stomach started to churn with the thought of having to turn back and retrace our trail up out of the "hole" we had ridden into. With darkness approaching, this was not an attractive option to either Sue, or myself. I carry a GPS (global positioning station) unit with me at all times, so I checked our position. I figured out where our truck and trailer were located, and was pretty sure we would not have time to make it back before dark. Well, we didn't. As we rode up out of the 'hole', we slowly lost daylight. I allowed my horse to travel down the darkening trail as I tried to make the decision as what to do. As it got blacker and blacker, I noticed my horse taking baby steps but willing to keep to the trail, which I could not see. We came to a point where the horses, smartly enough, would go no farther. So with not many choices at hand, and not wanting to risk injury to either the horses or ourselves, we decided to hunker down for the night in the deep dark woods. Would you like to know how many rides I have taken, with enough provisions for several people? Too many to count. I usually carry a flashlight, matches, medical kit, emergency foil blanket, etc. But remember my morning? Because we were in a hurry, I didn't take the larger saddlebags I commonly take. On THIS ride...where I would have relished a few emergency items, we didn't have them. Sue and I took the top saddle pads from under our saddles, left the saddles and bottom pads on our horses and we laid back to back and covered ourselves with a couple of 32" x 30" saddle blankets. I have come to the conclusion that they need to make the blankets a LOT bigger. Needless to say, we got COLD but very thankful that it wasn't raining, which is very common in the Pacific North West. We had water...and a LITTLE food, and we kept ourselves entertained with talking and giggling, with brief periods of dozing off. The night passed in about two hour increments, in which we would have to stand and shake out the kinks. I really felt as if daylight would forever elude us...but 'lo and behold...at 6:45, there it was. With enough light to see, we looked around and discovered why the horses would go no further the previous night. Right there was the deer trail that led to our truck and trailer, the trail I couldn't see because of the darkness...and I would have passed it right by in the dark. I kept telling myself...there is no way they saw, in the dark, that tiny little flag we had tied on a branch the day before...did they? We quickly gathered our stuff, and walked down the trail to load up the horses and gear, and head for the camp where our friends had spent the night, and expected us. Halfway down the hill, we were met by a truck of these friends, horses in tow, coming to search for and "rescue" us. With hot coffee and donuts, they were sure a welcome sight for our weary eyes...those wonderful friends of ours! And I feel blessed to have such a loyal friend to spend the night in the wilderness with me, thank you Sue...your friendship is the kind one prays for.
I came away from the whole trip with two lessons learned. One, (which I knew already but in my haste, ignored) is not to go on ANY ride...no matter how short you think it to be...without the proper emergency gear. Two, and this is a lesson I VALUE and hope all can experience...I leaned my horse is not "an animal I ride on," but a "friend I ride WITH." So if you ever meet up with us on the trail...and you think he is "just another bay"...I know that he is..."Cloudy, The Bay Cloud".
Click above to go to Remnant Farms Feed & Supply
Horseback riding and horse camping
in the Lewis River area:
What a wonderful place to be one with your horse and share the natural beauty with good friends. The Lewis River area gives you many opportunities to do just this! If you are a hard-core rider, or a weekend one, you will find many diverse kinds of trails for you and your horse's level of ability. There are currently 2 developed horse camps available for your comfort. Kalama Horse Camp and Lewis River Horse Camp, both maintained by the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and the Back Country Horsemen, Mt. St. Helens Chapter. These camps were built by the federal government and volunteer hours of the BCH (Back Country Horsemen), and the WTR (Washington Trail Riders).
Kalama Horse Camp Doubles in Size
New Facilities Added
Through the generous support of an Washington Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation (IAC) grant, and the volunteer efforts of the Backcountry Horsemen of Washington, and the Washington Trail Riders Association, a new campground loop has been constructed and will open this summer for the first time.
The campground expansion more than doubles the number of available campsites (27 sites are now open) at this favorite destination. Most are double and triple sites with extra corals and tables.
Under construction this summer is the Fossil Trail, which when completed in the fall of 2001, will lead northward from the campground around the upper west slope of Goat Mountain. Cinnamon Peak Trail (8.25 miles) is completed and ready for your enjoyment. A North West Forest Pass is required to park or camp at this horse camp.
Kalama Horse Camp
No camping fee, but donations are welcome. The camp is located on Forest Road 81. Take I-5 to Woodland, Washington, east on State Route 503 (29 miles) to Forest Road 81 to camp. Trails accessible from the camp include Trail 238, 237, 240, and now the NEW trail, Cinnamon Peak. There are 13 truck and trailer parking spaces, and 6 single vehicle parking spaces.
Picnic area with horseshoe pit, loading/unloading ramp, staging area with stock water trough, hitch rails, mounting assist area, and lounging area. There is a composting toilet. There are 6 double sites capable of holding two truck/trailer units, table, fire ring, and 4 10' x 10' corrals. Two single sites capable of holding one truck/trailer and one single vehicle, table, fire ring and 2 10' x 10' corrals. Two group sites capable of holding three or more truck/trailer units, 10' table with serving table, fire ring, 4 10' x 10' corrals and 1 high-picket line. All sites have access to the loop trail from the stock holding area. A new camping loop is under construction with 17 sites, many of them double and triple sites. The new addition is for stock users only. The trails are easy to difficult, short or long loops and the scenery, absolutely spectacular!
For more information on the history of Kalama horse camp, click here.
Lewis River Horse Camp
To get to this camp take State Route 503 east from Woodland, through Cougar, continue east on Forest Road 90, to Forest Road 93. Turn left 1/8 mile; the horse camp is on the right. Trails accessible from the camp include Quartz Creek Trail 5 (plus 5B and 5C) and Lewis River Trail 31 which create additional access to Trails 1, 2, 3, 3A, 4, 17, 18, 19, 25, 80, and 80A. All of these are also open to mountain bikes and some allow motorcycles. There are 9 camp sites and parking for 10 trailers and 15 vehicles. There is a composting toilet, water nearby, table, and fire ring. There are high lines for stock at each
campsite. Easy turning and parking. These trails are medium to difficult, use caution with hikers, bikers and motorcycles on the trails. This horse camp is for stock users only.
Click here to visit
The Washington State Equestrian Network
Andalusian horses, Horses for sale
Click above to go to Heermann Homestead
||Click here to go to the WashingtonTourist.com web site to view more information about places to go riding in Washington State.
WashingtonTourist.com welcomes you to Washington State.
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