Tuesday, August 3, 2010

MISSING LLAMA! Rainy's Lost in the Mount Hood Wilderness (Part III)


I had planned on going out this past weekend to search for Rainy and was hoping that a few people would jump in and help. All week long at work I stressed about her being up in those mountains alone, or perhaps attacked and eaten by a mountain lion. We put out the all points bulletin during the week and got the help we needed by Friday afternoon. A special thanks to Doug Fairrington, John Staub, Pamella Watson and David Watson. They were all extremely helpful and a delightful group. I know others wanted to help, but where constrained by work and other duties. I thank you all for your consideration!

On Friday afternoon I set up a camp site in the area (zone) where Rainy was lost. It was a meadowy spot just below Palmeteer Point on the old Barlow Road, which the immigrant wagon trains used to cross the mountains in to Oregon's Willamette Valley. A very historic location. I brought several llamas with me, so that if Rainy saw them she might come to them, since llamas are very social creatures. That evening Doug Fairrington joined me at the camp and we ate a very nice dinner before going to bed.

The next day, Saturday, not long after breakfast, my brother John showed up and managed the camp for us. He recently broke his toe and couldn't walk very well, which was actually fortuitous for me, because I needed a good camp manager!

Shortly after Doug and I headed out in to the forest the Watson's showed up and John was able to direct them on their search of an area where Doug and I were not going.

The plan that Doug and I put together involved zig zagging up the valley walls until we got to the top of Palmeteer point, where Rainy took off in to the forest. Our rationale was that we could cover a lot of ground this way and we surmised that she would have filtered down toward the meadow where we were camped. We didn't talk much about it, but we both thought she was probably dead, since no one had seen her after 7 days. In other words, we were looking for a downed llama with it's gear still on her. As we made out way up through the dense forest we realized that locating her would be like finding a needle in a hay stack; the forest was very dense and you could only see for 20 yards in any direction.

After 3 hours of contouring the valley walls we came to a place about 50 yards below Palmeteer Point where I looked down in to the forest and saw one of Rainy's panniers (one of two packs). I was not planning on finding her alive, but I knew that what I saw about 20 yards away was one of her panniers. I called out to Doug, who was 50 yards below me, that I had found a pack. As I walked toward the pannier that I saw, I came upon the other pannier. As Doug moved up the forest toward me he came upon Rainy with the pannier I saw still strapped to her... although I could only see the pannier from my line of sight. Being a dappled llama she was camouflaged and I could only see the pannier. It was an amazing discovery to find her alive! What an adrenaline rush! Rainy acted like she was very content where she was, which was remarkable! She had been without water for at leastd 7 days and all alone with a saddle and pannier strapped to her! The saddle and pannier were actually hanging from her and functioned as a kind of "ball and chain." Perhaps she would have made it down to Barlow Road and the meadow had she not been bound up with this saddle and pack. As we tried to help her, she resisted us. I actually had to get a rope out and corral her. Once we had her leadered and tied to a tree she became very docile and became completely taken up with interested in Doug's water bottle. Doug could see she was thirsty and cut his water bottle open so she could drink and she took his quart down as though it were a mere sip. I put my quart of water in Doug's enlarged bottle and she sucked that down, as well. She had been without water for at least 7 days! It's not uncommon for llamas to not drink for a couple of days, but 7 and perhaps 10 days (I don't know when she drank before the trip) is crazy. But then, llamas are camalids.

Doug was totally amazed by the rescue. He kept repeating to me that he kept praying during the search, "God, you know where she is!" He did and he showed us. In fact, just when we saw her we were going to make a zag in the zig zag and we probably would have missed seeing her. I had been near the very spot we found her a week earlier and had not seen her!

After Doug and I reason out God's providence in this situation, we saddled her, panniered her, and walked her down through the forest to the camp. She was amazing, acting as though nothing had happened to her and not showing any signs of stress; as though she had been on a vacation!

When we got back to the camp John called the Watson's on the walkie talkies to announce the rescue and they headed back to camp to meet us. They were about 2 miles away from camp at the time. As Rainy came in to camp to meet her sister llamas she looked at them, sniffed at a couple of them, bend over, and started eating grass! Not a very exciting home coming! But, as Pamella Watson said, "llamas are like cats."

We all sat around the trailer and enjoyed telling the story her rescue to each other.