Boy, we were lucky to be in the rain forest during the dry season. The lush forest with its towering cedars, pristine streams, and giant ferns was a sight to behold. Life was great, dry and carefree, as we rode through one beautiful place after another in the beautiful Olympic National Forest of Washington.
On the Trial with Teens, Bees, and Shoes
The horseman has a host of options when it comes to where he can ride and camp in this gorgeous part of the country. There are several horse camps and trailheads throughout the forest which gives you access to hundreds of miles of trails for your riding pleasure. Many of the horse areas are maintained by local horse clubs and organizations. It’s very clear to see the pride the local horsemen have for their forest with the spotless camps and cleared trails.
Our stay at the La Bar horse camp, located in the southeastern part of the Olympic Peninsula, was certainly a memorable one for us and the Stevens, our traveling buddies. The developed campground was perfect for horse campers and fully equipped with corrals and picnic tables. The trail started from camp and meandered through the dense forest as we rode by huge firs, moss covered logs and rocks and a crystal blue green stream, as we rode up and down hills and enjoyed this gorgeous location.
The six of us, Jim and I, the Stevens, (Lynn, Lynette, and Nicole), and Nicole’s friend 16 year old Amber Redd were riding down the trail as we admired the spectacular surroundings. Jim and I were last in line and the target for the first of many viscous attacks by killer bees! Well, they were sure trying to kill Jim and me, as we were the only ones of the six being attacked. We wouldn’t dare change positions with the others – Lynn & Lynette were riding young, green horses and Nicole and Amber were youngins’ in our book and we wouldn’t knowingly put them in any kind of danger. With our two horses bucking, kicking, spinning, swatting, and generally doing anything and everything they could do to rid themselves of these stinging beasts, I couldn’t in all good conscience put anyone else in that position.
It didn’t take many attacks for us to turn around and head back to camp as fast as we could, however the obsessed bees didn’t back down one bit. As we rode we continued fighting our attackers as we tried to stay on our horse’s backs I noticed that Amber had joined us from the rear. I tried to convince her to get up front with the others but, she had hoped to distract the bees in an attempt to give us a break from the constant harassment. What a selfless act for such a young woman never-the-less I wanted her up front and safe.
Needless to say all humans and horses made it back to camp all in one piece although I must say Jim and I were lucky with the average of a dozen stings, Amber managed a couple, however, our horses Max and Smoke got the worst of the deal with hundreds of stings. They showed their discomfort for several hours, but where fine the next morning.
At at Quinault Ranger Distric trailhead, the parking area was small but our rigs were able to maneuver into the area just fine. An absolutely beautiful trail left directly from the parking area and the dense area was just as I pictured a rain forest would look like. The moss hanging from the huge covered Douglas firs, averaging five feet in diameter, giant ferns several feet tall, along with the dense fog added to the ambiance as we switch backed up the beautiful mountain trail.
At one point as we reached the top of the mountain, the suns rays broke through the thick fog, the effects were breathtaking as the rays streaked through the tree tops, giving rise to a beautiful days ride. Further down the trail, a gigantic redwood rested across our path. It was clear that our horses would not be able to jump over this obstacle, the hill beside the trial was too steep and slippery to try to go around, and the other side dropped straight down to the stream below. So, we returned down the beautiful trail that we came up on. Although we generally like to travel on a different trail on our return to camp, the scenery was just as beautiful going in the opposite direction.
As we were returning to our camp Jim noticed that Smoke’s front shoe was loose. As he dismounted to take a look Amber jumped off her horse to have her own gander. The next thing I knew she was down on the ground, Smoke’s hoof in hand as she inspected the situation. In a blink of an eye she was clinching the nails with a rock in an effort to save the shoe from coming off before we made it back to camp. Unfortunately, the shoe did come off in spite of all her efforts.
As soon as we returned to our rig, Jim and Amber started to work in an attempt to get a shoe on Smoke. Although they were tired from the days ride, the important thing was to have Smoke ready for the next day’s ride. With determination and ingenuity, since we didn’t have all the needed farrier tools to replace a shoe, the two accomplished the task and Smoke was ready for the trail.
Although this trip was turning into one adventure after another, it didn’t end with the replaced shoe, a horse shoe anyway. After riding another beautiful trail and while crossing a wide mountain stream on our way back to camp, Lynn and his young mare, Lady Moon, decided to take a different trail than the rest of us. Well, Lady Moon decided that she would rather be with her buddies than to ride on a different trail with her owner. As Lynn dismounted to clear their path from some debris, she decided that it was a perfect opportunity to make her escape.
Therefore, the next thing I knew Lady Moon was running behind us in an effort to catch up with the herd. When I turned around to see what was going on I saw a rider-less horse standing behind me, in the middle of the stream, with the reins wrapped around her leg. I figured my only option was to get her leg up and slip the reins from under her hoof. The only way to do this was certainly not from the back of my horse. So, without thinking I jumped into the water (with my brand new riding boots on) and hurriedly tried pick up Lady Moon’s leg. As I was doing this, out of no where, I found Amber right beside me as she was unsnapping the reins from Lady Moon’s bridle. Well, how did I know Lady had “snap on reigns”? Oh well, Amber to the rescue – again!
Well, this was certainly a very exciting trip for us as we rode some of the most beautiful forests this country has to offer. It was also a very educational time for us old folks as we learned a thing or two about the younger generation. Thanks to Amber and Nikki we now know that the country will have a bright future in their hands.
– Happy Trails, Janine
Olympic National Forest
1835 Black Lake Blvd SW
Olympia, WA 98512
Janine Wilder is a freelance writer and photographer, author of Western Horseman’s book: Trail Riding, Expert in Trail Riding, Horse Camping and Horse Traveling, Trail Clinician, Lecturer, and Long Rider