The information we received just before dark on Sunday was of a 130 lb. dog with injury needing help to get down the Gothic Basin Trail. The inReach also gave us coordinates, which was incredibly helpful in planning the response.
We’ve been on this trail twice before — two years ago, we helped a dog and his injured owner out of nearly the exact same spot, and that resulted in a helicopter evacuation due to the safety concerns of helping the pair out with the more common methods and another time, also for a paw injury a couple of years before that, so we had a good idea what we were in for.
It would be easy to be upset with owners who end up needing help in this situation. This is a difficult trail. However, this hike allows dogs on leash and sometimes you don’t know what you are in for until you are in it.
The Gothic Basin Trail starts easy enough, then inclines to something more challenging. After that, it gets steeper, then steeper until you think it’s as steep as it can get, then it gets both steeper and more difficult by having small rock faces to scramble up. We knew we’d also have to be hauling equipment up, so we’d be loaded down with extra weight as well.
Since we were certain we couldn’t do even the hike in safely in the dark, much less the hike out, we sent a message back through the inReach that we’d be out in the morning.
The next morning, we assembled at the trailhead, loaded gear, and headed up.
This trail is over 25 miles from the nearest thing to a cell signal, so we brought our own inReach devices on their first mission. Two of our responders stayed with the van as the Base to provide a touch point back to our call coordinator who was in touch with the Snohomish County Sheriff.
Three of our responders were headed out to the dog. They’re technical rescue-trained. They were joined by a responder from Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue (SCVSAR), who was also a technical rescue rigger. This made up Team 1.
We also knew there were 4 individuals with the dog.
The way up took just over 3 hours of focused hiking.
The last 1/4 of the trip had us a bit concerned about the technicalities of getting the dog safely out if it turned out we wouldn’t be able to get him to walk. The rock and other geographical features meant we’d need to be creative with rigging or call in more rigging help. Moving a litter down a trail is tiring under the best of conditions, but this would be difficult as well as challenging.
We met up with the subject, Kodin, a beautiful 3-year-old King German Shepherd, his owner, and three adults in a small flat space not too far from where the trees give up before Gothic Basin becomes a landscape of just rock with a couple of lakes. The three adults with the subject and owner were passers-by that paused in their own trips to help out. One of them owned the inReach, and the other two were college students. They stayed with Kodin and his owner overnight, and provided basic pet first aid, such as wrapping his injured paws.
One of our responders is a vet, and he took the lead in examining and rewrapping Kodin’s paws. The previous wrap job was well done, though we ended up adding more padding in the form of folded over maxi-pads (the cheaper the pads, the more padding!), wrapped with vet wrap, duct tape then covered with a sock on each paw, and added more duct tape on top of that.
It’s our policy to muzzle dogs for safety reasons, however, Kodin was extremely good-natured and tolerant of the unwrap, exam, cleaning, and rewrap. His only complaints were flies zooming around his face.
It was our hope Kodin would be able to walk at least part of the way. If he couldn’t make it past the difficult part on his feet, we’d need to call in extra hands, which would mean spending the night. To be safe, Team 1 radioed to Base to request a second call for volunteers. The Snohomish County Search and Rescue Coordinator put out a request to other counties as well.
We didn’t know what the results would be — with volunteers, you get what you get and it was a workday so it would be harder to get people able and willing to come out for what might end up being an overnight stay.
An hour later after we arrived, we were ready to see if Kodin would be able to walk out. We reasoned, even if he could walk 20 feet before deciding it was too much for him, it would be 20 feet less of difficult terrain we have to move the litter over.
We’d get as far as we could.
We put a lift harness on him and tied 25 ft. 8 mm rigging rope to the harness to act as a belay and help brake him on the way down. Thanks to the extra padding in the new wrapping and Kodin’s fortitude, he began to walk. The difficult parts came nearly immediately, with very steep somewhat sanded-down rock faces. Kodin was understandably hesitant. Between the belay rope and the patient encouragement of his owner, Kodin made it down the first and the next. Slowly he gained confidence and trust in us and the process.
We didn’t know how long our luck and Kodin’s determination would hold out. There was a waterfall and three creeks to cross. After that, the trail wasn’t quite as bad, and we’d count ourselves lucky if we could get past those four water features. It wouldn’t be fun, but we could manage the trail after that with the litter if we needed to.
At each water feature, we let Kodin drink as much as he wanted and lay in the cold water. It was a hot day, so we poured water over him both as he lay in the creekbeds and whenever we took a little break to let him (and us) rest.
Making our slow way down, we were grateful for every increment Kodin walked. We eventually got to a smoother trail. Kodin kept walking. Near the bottom, we needed to first adjust a couple of socks that had begun to slide off and then later pause for a rewrap.
Eventually we radioed Base to let them know we didn’t think we’d need extra hands after all.
We arrived back at Base just before 6 p.m. The descent took about 3 1/2 hours.
At Base, Kodin had some extra water and some canned food. Our responders at Base had picked up some snacks in Granite Falls nearby. A passing hiker left a bag of blueberries. As we all had some food and water, we got a chance to hang out with Kodin a bit more and enjoy his company.
Eventually, the owner loaded Kodin into his car and headed out to an emergency vet.
We debriefed and headed home.
This is a difficult trail. It could be easy, not being in the situation, to be upset with any owners who end up needing help. However, this hike allows dogs on leash and sometimes you don’t know what you are in for until you are in it. For us, it was especially nice to see three strangers stop and help someone who needed it. Part of that help allowed us to assist as well in the form of the inReach, and as a team we all worked to get everyone out safe. As always, we are appreciative of the trust from the owner, and the chance to help out in a difficult situation.
Thanks to SCVSAR, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, the three who stayed the night with our injured subject and his owner, and the numerous hikers who stopped by Base to offer good wishes.
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