Forest Road Hike

Hike Distance: 7.3 miles      Yearly Hike Distance: 1063.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 829 feet      Yearly Elevation Gain: 157758 feet

A hot day, with plenty of humidity, made us head out for a shorter hike that would mostly be under the canopy.  The hike was very typical but two things stood out.

The first thing that stood out was when we went into a clear cut, and a magnificent view of Mt. Rainier greeted us!  It’s always amazing to us how big that volcano is, but at over 14,000 feet it stands out like a sore thumb!  We took plenty of photos but my zoom just didn’t do the photos justice.

I moved forward on the road to get a better angle shot of Mt. Rainier, but then heard a loud grunt!  Oh crap, a large horse is coming at us slowly.  My first reaction was to stop and assess the situation, but very quickly.  I slowly backed up and the horse stopped it’s forward motion.  Off to the side of the horse were three other horses.  It just so happens I violated their space and looked threatening to them, and the stallion was protecting its mares!

I backed up and started making noises, while waving my hiking poles.  The horses had a clear exit path and they ran about 100 yards away, and started foraging.  We looked at each other and I suggested we continue forward, and as we did the horses stared at us until we went out of view.

We were turning onto another road, where forest bordered its entire length.  I quickly looked back and saw the horses running across the field, but in a similar direction as us.  I told my wife that I hoped they weren’t flanking us, but moved on and just kept an eye out for them.  While hiking along this alternate road, we evidently spooked some other large animals, that were in the dense forest.  They could have been horses, or even elk, but we just made noise and they disappeared.

So we walked along some tree lined roads and were heading back to the main road, which led to our car.  We were between 1/2 to 1/4 mile before reaching the main road when we saw the four horses blocking our way!  I thought to myself, I’ll just yell, wave my hiking poles to look larger, and they’ll get out of the way.  Nope, not these horses.  They were not impressed.

I pulled out my extra loud whistle and blew it hard, but that just made them curious and they started moving toward us!  Shit,  what the hell are we going to do.  This is like a nightmare.  I’d often thought about our vacations to Yellowstone, and getting trapped on a trail due to a blockage by bison, wolves or even grizzlies, and this was that scenario!  I yelled and waved my hiking sticks and they stopped again.  phew!  All the while we saw them I had taken out my bear spray, but didn’t want to use it, if possible.  Besides, I didn’t know if the winds would blow the bear spray back at us, and that would be bad.

It turns out I had no obvious tricks left, or so I thought.  We needed to get out of here, and couldn’t go around them and through the forest, as it was too dense.  What can we do to speed this up, and prevent us from getting trampled?  I’d heard a rumor, from a person we bumped into long ago, in this area, and he mentioned how the horses forced a hunter to climb a tree!  Were these the same angry horses or was this a different clan.  I didn’t want to find out!

I looked at my wife and said, “Play some music on your smartphone”.  She looked at her music list and chose the song “Shout” by Tears for Fears!  She maxed out the Android phone volume, which isn’t loud, and we sang the song loudly, while moving ahead cautiously.  To our amazement, these horses were no match for Tears for Fears and our loud singing!  They were disturbed by our concert and quickly backed away.

We would push them up the road about 100-200 feet and they would stop and try to hold their ground, but they were no match for our screeching voices and loud music.  We pushed forward, at a slow enough pace, and after about 15-20 minutes were able to reach the main road. 🙂  The horses had finally escaped to the clear cut and gave us ample room to pass them by.

Now, I’d heard, or possibly read, something about playing music to scare off animals, but didn’t know if it was bullshit.  I can’t take credit for such an original idea, but was glad to use some other person’s wisdom.  Well, I’m here to tell you it was very effective, in this case.

Maybe we should have turned around, when we first saw the horses.  We’d run into a stallion before, in this area, and that horse stood its ground, and we turned around.  The correct answer isn’t always obvious, except in hindsight.  This is a great story, and the outcome was the best possible, but it could have turned out badly.  I really didn’t expect the horses to follow us down the road, and there was no way to know this, and it never happened before.  The bottom line is that it will never be completely safe when hiking in remote locations.  Be as prepared as possible and try to anticipate what you would do in scenarios like this.  We carry an emergency beacon and are very prepared for protecting ourselves.  We’re also prepared to stay overnight, and carry the 10 essentials.  Actually, we have more like 50 essentials.  haha

This trip report isn’t actually the best example, but 999/1000 times we turn around, and live to hike another day.  We learned from this experience, and will take this as a learning experience to improve our safety in the future!