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Successful Search

August 7, 2008

On Sunday about 11 am Dennis got word while we were at the fair grounds that Clark County Mounted Search and Rescue (MSAR) had been called out for the search for the 11 year old boy that was lost up in Skamania County.

Because most of the MSAR are Fence Riders, a lot of us were already off work and the horses were on site and available. We called our phone tree and found the riders and trailers that were close and available. Most of us did not have our search gear at the fair grounds so those that lived close or on the way to the search gathered all their available gear to help supply the ones that didn’t have any with them. After all this, we were able get horses, gear, food and people loaded and headed out of the fair grounds by 1:00.

One of the things that we work on is getting as rapid a response as possible. It’s not quite like loading up a backpack and heading out. Each member needs to have gear to survive for 24 hours out in the field for both horse and rider.

Eight horses and 10 people got to our base camp on the 57 road, tacked up and the headed out to the command center, on the 5701 road, about 3:00. The command center is usually as close to the search site as possible and that means that there is usually a very limited amount of real estate. One of the issues of having a mounted group is that we need more room to maneuver so our base camp is often separate from the command center. Because of that we also need base camp people to stay with the trailers.

Gary and I had a radio so we could hear what was going on and had our maps to plot where all the different search groups were looking. We watched with great interest the Washington State Patrol (WSP) fixed wing aircraft as it did its methodical search and of course the news helicopters trying to get their news footage. We could hear some of what the WSP pilot was reporting and it was great fun to have command give ‘Smoky’ their GPS coordinates. With that information, we found out where the command post was located. (at that time, we hadn’t left our gravel pit)

That is a real interesting process. Each searcher has a radio and the command center keeps track of where each group is on a computer map and can plot who has searched where and correlate any feedback so they can make sure that they have looked everywhere in the designated area. It really is quite an involved process.

Of course there were TV crews everywhere with their big camera and satellite trucks. Did you see our guys in the footage? They got quite a bit of screen time.

Command called everyone in at 6 pm but it took quite some time to get them all back. Our mounted group didn’t get back in until 8:00. They were a tired bunch. The Siouxon trail is really rough. The horses were dripping wet, even around their eyes, but they were troopers. They carried their riders through some very rough terrain with hardly any issues.

The search was scheduled to start at 6 AM the next morning. Because it took us so long to get clear up there on ‘not so trailer friendly’ roads, one of our members offered to put us up for the night at his place right down the hill in Amboy. He had room for all the horses to stretch and roll and he had beds, chairs and floors for us to bed down.

After making sure the horses were watered and fed, we all loaded up to go to Nick’s for dinner. Boy those hamburgers tasted great and the service was excellent. They even turned on the 10:00 news but we didn’t think of it soon enough so we didn’t see the story about the search. We had a great meal and did a lot of de-briefing. At the end of the meal when we went up to pay, the ladies that waited on us said no, the meal was on them. I want to personally thank them for the generosity. We all really appreciated it and want you all to know what wonderful people they are. I have no idea what their names are but next time you get a chance to go into Nick’s, say hi and pass along our thanks. I want them to know we appreciate them a bunch!

4 AM came way too early but when we got up, our hostess had biscuits and gravy and eggs ready for our breakfast. She kept saying we need a good breakfast to ride up on those trails. A big shout-out to her also.

Our horses were great sports and were more than ready to leave their spacious digs and load up for the days work. It was still dark! One of the things that we practice with our group is loading into ANY trailer and being able to ride with ANY horse. They all just jumped in where ever we put them and off we went.

We were tacked up and ready to mount when we heard over the radio the little guy had walked into camp ON HIS OWN. What a tough little bugger! We all gave a big shout and a ‘Thank you, Lord’. A deputy came by minutes later to thank us for our help and to sign us out. It was a job well done. So we packed back up, loaded the horses and headed back to the fair grounds. We got back there earlier than most of us get there on normal days. Our day seemed half done by 10:00 and we were ready for lunch.

Because I wasn’t on the actual ride, I’m having one of the riders write up an account of their ‘trial ride’ and will post it as soon as they get it done.

Because this is still fair time and we are all out there working, things have been slow to appear here and I apologize for that.

But we’ll ‘get r done’.

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