A reader sent this story and I’d like to post it for all of you.
The effort of the cat driver and snowmobile rescuers was EPIC. Not so much for her owner… and I wonder if she was given back to him? But, we can’t think of that. More we have to think about the miracle of the amazing humans who found her and figured out a way to rescue her.
THE STORY linked here.
Swift Creek Outfitters owner and operator BJ Hill leads 6-year-old Valentine out of the Bridger-Teton National Forest on Dec. 20. Valentine survived in the backcountry alone for six weeks.
Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2017 4:30 am
She was first seen mid-December, when a trail groomer was working to clear trees and pack down snow.
He knew immediately she was out of place alone in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, lost at the lower end of Fish Creek Trail.
The dark-coated mare stood out against a blanket of white snow. She was gaunt and had been pawing down the drifts, nibbling at what grass she could find.
The groomer contacted the Shoshone National Forest’s Wind River ranger station in Dubois that day, Dec. 14, and U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer Dirk Chalfant heard about it the next morning. He got on the horn and soon found out the horse belonged an outfitter who’d led pack trips in the area over the fall.
“What I discovered is this horse had probably been in there for six weeks, and at a least three of those six weeks it was probably in about 5 feet of snow,” Chalfant said, “and occasionally 30 below zero.”
Six-year-old Valentine had been left in the forest at the end of a hunting trip, having fallen too ill to pack out, said BJ Hill, owner and operator of Swift Creek Outfitters and Teton Horseback Adventures.
“She got sick in there really bad,” he said. “She had all the signs of dying.”
Hill was surprised to find she hadn’t perished in the backcountry, he said, because the area supports several species of carnivores.
“She hung high up North Forth and Fish Creek, and I think that’s what saved her from the wolves,” Hill said.
No easy job
It wasn’t going to be easy to get back to her. Chalfant figured she was about 6 miles down from the Continental Trail — a trail that wouldn’t normally be groomed at that point in December — on a sidehill.
The plan of the three-person search party — Chalfant, Hill and Hill’s son, Heith — was to first get some hay back to the horse. It had been six days since she’d been sighted when the team headed out. With trails ungroomed and more snow falling, they figured it was going to be hard enough to get back to her and they might need a couple of days to find a path out for her.
“I ride a brand-new 800 RMK snowmobile and it was challenging for the three of us to actually snowmobile down to where she was,” Chalfant said.
But when she spotted them she made it clear she did not want to be left behind again.
“She didn’t want to spend another night back there alone,” Chalfant said. “If we had to leave her and drive away, I think she would have been heartbroken.”
A horse with heart
It continued to snow as the men tried to make a path for the mare, accumulating about 8 inches that day, Chalfant said. Relief came when they heard a buzzing below them, the sound of the same groomer who had spotted the horse the week before while out working.
The groomer created an initial path out, and the men worked to build a road behind him on which to lead the mare. They led her by a rope behind their snowmobiles, while Chalfant raced up and back ahead of them, packing down the snow to help her make her way through.
“That horse would walk in our tracks and break through into 5 feet of snow,” Chalfant said. “We just took the time it took. It basically took eight hours — 1 mile an hour — to lead it out.
“She never quit,” Chalfant said. “She never tied up.”
Slowly they made it to Highway 26, about 6 miles east of Togwotee Pass. After what Chalfant estimated was 20 miles of travel they finally reached the Moccasin Basin parking lot, where they loaded her up in a trailer to take her back to her winter home in Pavillion.
“To be honest with you,” Chalfant said, “when we went down there, we didn’t think we could get her out. But all the stars aligned.
“To me, it was a Christmas miracle.”
Contact Melissa Cassutt at 732-7076 or email@example.com or @JHNGcounty.
OUR JANUARY 2017 BUCKET FUND: THE OLD AND FORGOTTEN HORSES of the Golden Carrot
JANUARY 2017 BUCKET FUND! In honor of Mama Tess, we are offering the MAMA TESS’ OLD AND FORGOTTEN FUND supporting the very old and forgotten horses who landed at The Golden Carrot. You can read their story here. Please help if you can. The Bucket has $895. Our goal is $2640.
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