Bees sent a woman and her horse hurtling down a ravine at least 50 feet deep near the Gales Creek Trail Thursday, July 20, with horse and rider somehow escaping with minor injuries after a rescue by the Washington County Sheriff's Office.
Terraka Mishler was riding Primo, her 19 year-old Kiger mustang and Quarter Horse cross with another rider near Reehers Camp on the Step Creek Trail, Mishler told this newspaper in a message.
The Step Creek Trail is a small offshoot of the Gales Creek Trail, a 12 mile hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian trail linking the Gales Creek Campground near Highway 6 to Reehers Camp near Timber in the Tillamook State Forest.
All was going well until a few miles in when disaster struck.
Primo jumped up and horse and rider went tumbling down a ravine that the Washington County Sheriff's Office described as 50 feet, and that Mishler said is much deeper.
"I rolled off of him on the uphill side, but we were tangled together and I distinctly remember three or four cartwheels," Mishler recounted.
Meanwhile, Mishler's companion, also on a horse, was under attack, being stung several times. She and her horse took off from the enraged insects, attempting to ride out from the ground hive they'd inadvertently disturbed. She managed to shout down to Mishler that she was going to ride it out.
Two mountain bikers that were nearby came to Mishler's aid; one stayed with her, crawling down into the ravine while the other rode off after the other horse and rider to see if they were alright.
Mishler's dogs Spud and Aliza made their way down to her, licking her scrapes.
Adrenaline pumping, Mishler managed to move a huge log and get Primo on his feet. He appeared uninjured.
Mishler and the mountain biker attempted for about an hour to get Primo up the ravine, to no avail. Worse, during one attempt, Primo fell further into the ravine, ending up at the creek bottom after tumbling down what the sheriff's office described as a 10 or fifteen foot drop.
At this point, Primo was exhausted, Mishler said.
"I took off his saddle, and disconnected his reins, and told him hang in there, and stay put. I said a prayer for him," Mishler said. She grabbed her supplies and began the climb out of the ravine, dragging herself up the embankment with the aid of stinging nettles and any brush she could grab.
At the top, she marked the trail with two branches in an 'X' and ran to the trailhead, where she ran into first responders who had been called to the scene by the mountain bikers and her riding companion, who had been treated for her numerous bee stings.
After hiking to the spot and clambering down to the bottom of the ravine, the Washington County Sheriff's Office said Sargent Jason Yazzolino, an experienced horseman himself, assessed the situation and determined that there was no way Primo, who sported a small abrasion and was "a little stressed," could get out the way he had come.
And so, Sgt. Yazzolino led the horse up the opposite side of the ravine, beginning a five mile trek around 5:30 p.m. and ending at 9:30 p.m. at the main road where Primo was reunited with Mishler, who had by this time called Kim Post with the Banks Veterinary Service to the scene. Post checked Primo out and determined that, other than some scrapes, he was remarkably uninjured.
"It was a long journey, approximately 5 miles, but having another deputy with me made it enjoyable, filled with conversation and breathtaking views," Yazzolino said. "My training and experience with horses and traversing the wilderness proved invaluable," he added.
Mishler sent her thanks to the emergency crews that helped at the scene, the mountain bikers and her riding companion, others back at camp, her two dogs, and Kim Post from Banks Vet.
"And of course my Primo, the toughest damn horse I've ever known," Mishler said.
"We've lived to ride another day."