Below the forested canopy old mossy timber prevails above its own darkness, casting shadows on shadows, listing in soaring breezes, groaning beneath their own immensity—Frank
—But it was near calm at ground level. After years of living in the backcountry, fear rarely crosses my mind. But, one small piece of the Pacific Crest Trail that had been eluding me for several years, put a little jeebie in me one day while I was out alone with Wiley and Chloe. I’d decided since I had a couple of days off, we’d trailer over and take a look since it’s just a little more than an hour drive from base camp. After inviting a few different folks to tag along, I was on my own. LT wanted me to stop off on my way back to tell him how it went—said he needed a good laugh. I asked him what was so funny, he just said, “you’ll see”. “What?” I asked. He just laughed and walked away over to the barn wavin’ his arm and hand at me from behind. I shook my head a little side to side squinting, “what the hell?”
The first part of the trail passes through a ski area up on Snoqualmie Pass —The only leg of the Washington section I had not been a part of, was from this starting point over to Goat Peak, near Easton. Be a good long day ride and a half—My brother lives just north of there so I can get a ride back to the trailer. Wiley started off eager and made pretty good time past Beaver Lake and into the dense timber. It had rained a lot the night before and the trail in that section was full of mud-bare, old-growth roots and standing water. The trees were still dripping but the skies were fairly clear. Thick moss, salal, and ferns spread out into the dense timber for what looked like an endless jungle—it was dark as dusk.
I kept thinkin’ about LT and what he was sayin’, then I figured he was just playin’ to put some kind of doubt in me. But, so far so good, and I can’t see lettin’ someone else’s fear of somethin’ make me afraid too—just not my nature.
We pulled along side lodge lake and up at the far end was a little camp area. I got down for a minute and took a quick look around when of the sudden the hair stood up in the back of my neck like I was bein’ stalked. Wiley unsettled himself at the same time—that’s always the first sign of trouble. Horses are flighty creatures—run like hell and ask questions later. You can train a lot of that fear out of them with trust, but when fear takes over you better hope you’re not in the way, or on em’—maybe—well, it depends on the situation. I didn’t want to get left behind so I climbed aboard with Wiley circlin’ away to get movin’. When I got back on everything went back to normal and bein’ the kind of person that trusts his horse (more or less) I figured it was all ok. Then I got to thinking, maybe Wiley was thinkin the same thing. Well, now I just don’t know if he’s trustin’ me, or I’m just trustin’ him. All I know is if the time comes, I hope to hang on.
We spun around and headed back to the trail and on our way. Chloe ran point as always—that dog does two miles to every one of mine. She heads up a quarter mile and then trots back to check in. Then off she goes again. Back and forth all day scouting’ the way. She stays back till I say ok, but she can hardly wait on her own. She’s just wired to be wired I guess—weird. Much of the trail started to open up into logging country and even crosses some logging roads along the way, but about two miles past the lake the horse just froze and backed up a couple steps rearin’ just a little. Chloe took off into the brush chasin’ after something and that damn dog just disappeared. So I called out, whistled and waited. Wiley wasn’t likin’ the whole thing, and I could just feel his horsepower tensin’ up, and then he’d relax. He was smellin’ something, but we weren’t seein’ anything, including the dog—she had never left my line of sight before. Fifteen minutes went by, then thirty minutes went by. I was whistlin’ loud and hearing nothing. I was beginning to think maybe this whole day was a bad idea.
It’s never too late to regret. People only regret when it’s too late—Frank
I had a dog named Monty when I lived in Bellevue for a while, and every so often he would run off. There was a house he would go to in Issaquah—twelve miles away by car and about seven as the crow flies—not sure how he ever found it the first time, but there was another dog he had a thing for. It was across busy streets, up over a mountainside development and through timbered areas and several neighborhoods in a cul-de-sac. But, a lady called the number on the tag and said she had my dog. When I heard where, I was thinkin’, “what the hell?” Just like today. But every time Monty would get out, he’d go back to that same house. It got to be a running joke. “Hello? “You have my dog again?” I wished somebody could do that for Chloe about now. We needed to get moving—or go home. We started lookin’ around the general area. My worry was startin’ to get serious. Two hours then three…then four—I had to turn back. It was 4 o’clock. Not sure if you have ever galloped a horse before, but galloping on a mountain trail is about as crazy as can be—but the reality today was panic and fear—where was my damn dog? We pulled up to slow down at lodge lake to manage through the mud and the roots and Wiley stopped again. He balked at even one more step, so we took a little side detour towards a high spot to see if I could call her in one more time. The terrain started up, but leveled off lookin’ like a mud bog for about a thirty feet, but appeared well used by something. Wiley stopped again and just refused to go further. “Well horse friend”, I said, “you won’t go the other way, and you won’t go this way, you won’t go that, and I sure as hell don’t want to be here for the night, so what do you want to do?” I rarely ask a horse for his opinion, but now was a good time for suggestions. I urged him on a few more times and he finally relented, took a couple of stutter steps like he was gettin ready to jump, put his front feet down in the edge of the mud and the bottom fell out. He lunged in belly deep mud and I was able to bail off the side and see if he could buck his way out of it. He barely crawled out the other side and had black mud a foot from the top of his hind quarters. I was so focused on lookin’ for the dog, I forgot who the trail boss was.
If a puddle looks deep, doesn’t mean it is, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t. Trust your horse—Frank
That was a pretty close shave right there, but after checkin’ Wiley out, we managed to get back under way, picked a better lie back to the main trail and made it down to the truck. I figured I’d just sleep in the trailer in front of Wiley, but I figured wrong. I’ve done that quite a bit lately—sleepin’ in a horse trailer with a horse is about like sleepin’ on a waterbed with a automatic tsunami timer set to go off once a minute. They just don’t stand still, and every time I’d wake up, it would be to more worry. C’mon dog! I finally fell asleep and woke at daylight—still no Chloe.
We went back to the spot we lost her and nosed around for a while but nothin’. There was not any weirdness or balking horse this time. It was calm and empty.
I left a sign at the resort map board and a couple at the summit stores, rest area, gas station, talked to a few people and went back home, hoping for somethin’. I started thinking about Monte, and how he was able to find his way through the craziest of neighborhoods and navigate his way in the city and hills. Maybe Chloe just went home.