We received a call late in the evening of August 26th for assistance with a 90-pound Labrador Retriever named Fisher. He had collapsed while hiking with his owner on the Tin Cup Joe Falls Trail, off the Middle Fork Trail in North Bend, and was unable to make it back to the trailhead.
We reached out to our friends at King County Explorer Search and Rescue (ESAR) to borrow a litter and wheel (this was to save time as their equipment was closer to the trailhead), as well as request additional volunteers to assist with the rescue. Four ESAR, two King County 4×4 Search and Rescue, and three WASART members responded.
We met at the Dingford Creek trailhead where we packed the litter and gathered needed supplies before heading out on the trail. The ESAR operations leader remained with the rescue truck and ran communications to the team.
We hit the Middle Fork Trail close to 1:30 am. Upon reaching the trail turnoff at Cripple Creek, we took the narrow boot path up the steep and, at times, hard to navigate trail with large fallen trees, debris, and overgrowth. We reached Fisher close to 3 am. His tail wagged and he drank water readily, but it was evident his hind area was bothering him.
Due to the difficult terrain in this blowdown section, a pack-out from this location would be very difficult. As he was able to stand, our plan was to make an emergency harness to assist and support him as far as possible down this section of trail to the junction with the Middle Fork Trail. From there, we would use the litter and wheel to transport him the remaining way back to the trailhead.
After securing Fisher with an emergency harness made from webbing, we assisted him down this steep portion of trail. We made it about 3/4 of the way down the Tin Cup Joe Falls Trail before Fisher was unable to continue any further. We assembled the litter and secured him in it using webbing and the harness. Once secured, we hand carried him in the litter the rest of the way down to the junction with the Middle Fork Trail.
Upon reaching the Middle Fork Trail, we placed the wheel on the litter and continued the pack-out. This portion of trail was tight and narrow, at times with a significant drop-off on one side. Moving a dog or human out with a litter is hard work and six people are needed hands-on at all times. Responders get tired and fresh responders swap out often. Since the way out of the Middle Fork Trail is at an incline on the way out, every member of the team helped with the litter transport. Fisher rode comfortably to the trailhead, with his owner always close by.
We arrived back at the trailhead a little after 5 am. Fisher was unpacked from the litter, given pets and praises, and placed in the owner’s vehicle. The team disassembled the equipment, packed up, and headed home just as the sun was rising.
Huge thanks to King County Search and Rescue for their assistance. It’s always a team effort and we work with some of the best in search and rescue.
We are glad to have been able to help Fisher get back to the trailhead safely. Thank you to his owner for making the right call and asking for assistance. Thank you also to all the volunteer responders who worked through the night to help Fisher.