Monday, August 07 2017
The weekend before the Tevis Jeremy and I went back up to Robinson Flat to mark Duncan canyon and to verify that trail repairs had been made in that section as we had flagged and marked it for repairs two weeks before that.
We drove up to Robinson Flat. It would be a 6 mile, one way hike. I dropped off Jeremy, Adam and Adam's nephew, Brett at the top. Poncho was also going with them. I said good bye to the four of them, then used the restroom and got in the car and drove 6 miles on road 43, a gravel road across to Mosquito Ridge Road, hung a left and went down 5.3 miles to the trail head at the bottom that you can hike in about 1/4 mile to the bottom of Duncan Canyon.
Merlin posing above French Meadows
Merlin waiting for our runners, looking up Duncan Canyon
The hike should have taken about 2 hours at the most. Merlin and I were hanging out, playing stick, taking pictures and he was also sun bathing. We started getting bored after a while. When it was over 2:30 hours I was getting worried. Just shy of 3 hours Jeremy, Adam and Brett showed up but not Poncho.
Jeremy told me the story, Poncho had been running with them, at the back of the group, the way any good cattle dog would run. About 2.5 miles into the run there was a stream. Adam and Brett stopped there. Jeremy was up ahead, around the bend out of sight. Adam had thought that Poncho was with Jeremy. Jeremy realized that no one was behind him and turned back. He jogged back to the stream where Adam and Brett had stopped. This is when Adam saw that Poncho was not with Jeremy and Jeremy saw that Poncho was not there. Jeremy ran back. He saw wet paw prints that showed that Poncho had made it to the stream but had then turned back around for whatever reason. Jeremy hauled butt back up the canyon, shouting Poncho's name and whistling for him. Duncan canyon is pretty steep and 2.5 miles is a long uphill to book up.
Once Jeremy reached the top he asked a camper at the campground if he had seen Poncho. He had seen him, Poncho had gone up to the restroom (the last place I had been) circled around a few times and then jogged away. That was the last time someone saw Poncho...For the next 5 days!!
We drove up Mosquito Ridge Road and drove back on gravel road 43 to Robinson Flat trying to find him. We saw some paw prints but Poncho's feet are coyote size so it was hard to know if it was him or someone else. The worst part was that we were seeing a lot of VERY large cat prints out there as well as bear prints. After looking for a couple of hours we had to go back to Auburn to drop off Adam and Brett. We left Merlin's dog bed at the restroom where Poncho had last been seen with a note with our phone number on it.
Jeremy and I grabbed camping gear and some food and went back up to Robinson after dropping off Adam and Brett, about an hour and fifteen minute drive.
I set up camp while Jeremy drove out the gravel road towards Soda Springs. I had rolled my ankle two weeks earlier and had torn ligaments so I wasn't much use hiking around. I got out the tent we had only to find out that the tent poles were not there. I then proceeded to inflate a queen size air matress by mouth! It did have SOME air in it when I started but didn't fit in our car if inflated on the drive up. During this time Merlin would see a squirrel from time to time and I would take advantge of this and egg him on so that he would bark, hoping Poncho would hear his friend.
Jeremy went 6 miles out on that road while I asked every person I saw if they had seen Poncho. No luck. We had to deflate the air matress a bit and try cramming it into the back of our truck as the plan to stay outside was shot down by the crazy amount of mosquitos. The truck is not wide enough for the matress so it was curling up in places. It made for a very interesting night sleep. Not much sleep was had. Merlin was even having bad dreams that night. At one point I woke up from a bad dream to see that Merlin was thrashing and making noise in his sleep. I had to wake him up.
On Sunday we spent the whole day driving around yelling for Poncho. Part way through the day Greg Kimler called and offered us their jeep. We went and got it and were able to look in more places. At the end of that day we were both losing our voices and were completely bummed, I felt emotionally drained and completely defeated. As the sun was setting for a second time I looked out in to the vast wilderness area and just started crying. Poncho was alone and there was SOOO much space out there.
The vast wilderness from Robinson Flat
We had to go home that night but our friend Elizabeth and her dog went up to Robinson to continue the search and camp for the night. That was really super of them.
My sister Holly had put a lot of posts online and the internet was well aware of his disapearance. I was getting flooded with helpful suggestions and people wanting to know how they could help.
Tammy and Greg Kimler also helped tremendously. They let us borrow their jeep for the second half of Sunday and Monday and Tuesday's search. On Monday I went back up the mountain by myself. It was afternoon as we had to pack for Tevis. I was in the jeep again and yelled and drove all around. By this time Tammy Kimler had printed up a big stack of fliers for me to go post all around. I drove up to Robinson and went across road 43 and down to the bottom of Duncan Canyon. I left my shirt and a bowl of water there as well as a flier. I sat there for :40 mins calling for Poncho. I drove below to French Meadows Reservoir and put up signs and also at the French meadows Campground.
My shirt and waterbowl at the bottom of Duncan Canyon.
From the day that we had lost Poncho there had been a trail crew of around 10 people working on Duncan Canyon that would be on the trail daily. None of them ever saw Poncho.
After no sightings of Poncho for yet another day I had to head back down the hill. It was getting dark already and Poncho was still out there. I was so sad. After I returned the jeep I put up fliers in Foresthill at all of the stores and gas stations.
Tuesday we had more that we had to get done, we rode our Tevis horses and then I went to the animal shelter to put a flier there and look to see if Poncho was there. The lady at the fron tdesk had not seen Poncho but did recognize him from seeing him on the internet thanks to my sister Holly. Then I went up to look alone again. I took the car this time and decided to just go up Mosquito Ridge and not go to Robinson. On my way up, in Foresthill I saw a logging truck and walked over and talked to the driver and he said he was working up in that area and that he would keep his eye out for him.
I wasn't going to go up on Tuesday but I felt like I should go check at the bottom of the canyon as I had put my shirt and had spent so much time there the day before. He was not there. I took the shirt off my back and traded it out for the shirt that was there to freshen my scent and left.
On the way up to Duncan Canyon, earlier that day I stopped at a logging camp and put a flier on the outhouse, I also saw a horse trailer with some horses tied to it but no truck or people out on Mosquito Ridge, way up there. I put a flier on the hitch of that trailer thinking maybe Poncho would be out with the range cattle. I drove back and had to hustle to make it back to the VIP Tevis BB-Q that evening.
At the BB-Q I was asked by countless friends if we had found Poncho. It was really hard not to just burst into tears. I kept it together...Barely.
On Wednesday our friend Lynn Kenelly had arrived to crew for Tevis. She had driven from Montana. I had decided that I would not go up to Robinson Flat that day. I had to get my head right for Tevis and I felt like Poncho needed to find a human and get found. No amount of looking up in the wilderness area would bring him back, he had to bring himself back at this point.
Lynn, Jeremy and I went for a massage. When my massage started I decided that I would think of Poncho for my whole massage. Near the last 1/4 of my massage I imagined being reunited with Poncho at a vet check at Tevis and luckily I was face down during this part of my massage because the tears started flowing again.
After the massage we went to go pick up some drinks for dinner. Lynn had brought buffalo meat for burgers that night. Adam would be BB-Qing them for us. After we got in the car from the store I saw that I had just missed a call and a voicemail. My phone is slow at times and the voicemail wasn't really able to be played yet as it was somewhere in cyberspace still posting. I hit redial.
The lady who answered told me she had Poncho!!!! I asked her where she was and she was at Robinson Flat!! She asked if we were still up there. I told her we were in Auburn and would be there in an hour. I was crying with happiness and she was alarmed. I called Adam and told him we would be at least 2 hours late for the BB-Q.
When we got up to Robinson Flat we got the story. This lady, Nancy Perry and her husband (I never did get his name) were hiking around up there on trails that day looking for Cougar Rock. Then they were going to camp somewhere else that night but decided to camp at Robinson Flat instead. They had been relaxing when all of the sudden they noticed their dogs getting excited. They looked over and this dog had wandered into their camp. It looked like their blue heeler that they recently had to put down. Nancy walked over to him and saw that he had tags on and called me!!
When Poncho saw us he was really happy. Poncho is very much my dog, (probably why he got lost in the first place, looking for me). When he was untied he came over to me made eye contact but walked past me to Jeremy and tucked his head against Jeremy as in an apologetic hug. He was very sorry that he had left and was lettiing Jeremy know. It was amazing that 5 days later it was still so fresh on his mind as a "first thing to do item". After this he came to me and gave me a big happy grin and a hug.
Nancy jokingly said that we were lucky that he had tags or she would have thought it was meant to be and kept him. Nancy had no idea that there was a dog lost. She had the impression that I might have lost him that day. When I told her that it had been 5 days she understood why I had been crying on the phone earlier.
The amazing thing is that they had decided by chance to stay at Robinson Flat, then they had cell service right at their camp (unreal). Nancy has been crewing at Tevis for friends since the late 60's. She knew several of the same people that we did. When we got to talking she and her husband found out that we were going to be doing the Tevis that weekend. They told us that we would love the ride. We then told them that we had done the ride before and that we had actually done very well. At this point the husband told us that he had a Tevis magazine in his truck. He went to get it. He said that maybe our names would be in there if we had done it before.
He opened it up (It was the Tevis Forum from some earlier year). He then asked our names. After we told him he giggled and looked at the first place name. His eyes lit up, "YOU WON??!!" It was pretty funny and more than coincidental that he happened to have the 2011 forum!! There was Jeremy, right on the front cover. Too funny.
The whole time we were talking Poncho was laying with his chin on the ground between his front paws. Looking up at us but clearly fighting off sleep. Nancy had fed and watered him right when she found him. We said our good byes and got in Lynn's car.
Less than 200 yards later we ran into Matt and Leigh Scribner. Leigh had had knee surgery 3 days earlier and every day she had been asking about Poncho. Today (Wednesday) was her first day out of bed from the surgery and she desperately wanted Poncho to be found and she wanted to help. They had their pack of Chihuahua's with them as a search crew. They were overjoyed to see us and PONCHO!!!! We had a happy reunion talking with them. Poncho was sitting in the car. I walked away a little too far for Poncho and he darn near jumped out the window. I then stood next to the car with my arm in the car to keep him at peace.
The Scribner search party
We drove back to Auburn, I was happy for the first time in 5 days. Poncho was now "Mountain Man Poncho, the Survivor". He was exhausted. On the drive down he was facing away from me in the backseat and he would almost be asleep but then he would startle and jolt awake. I can only imagine the things he had been through. I had him turn around so that he was facing me. He put his head on my lap and fell into a deep sleep right away.
Poncho sleeping on the drive home.
Poncho was three legged when he showed up from his 5 day adventure. All 4 paws were pretty rough but one of his fronts had slices and punctures in his pad. His pastern area above each paw was also rubbed and raw. He really didn't lose much weight though. He had obviously gotten very little, if any sleep in the past 5 days as well. He smelled very strongly of sage brush with the slightly sticky residue of it clinging to him and was covered in a dusty layer of wilderness. When we got home he got a bath and fed, then he ate a buffalo burger and passed out.
Poncho after his bath and his burger
Merlin was really happy to see Poncho and almost equally happy to get his dog bed back! That night I had to wake Poncho up so he could go out to potty. He was too tired to volunteer to go and really didn't want to walk on his paw. The second time that he went out he used the tree and then just stared at how far away the house was. I carried him back inside.
By Thursday afternoon Poncho was doing much better, still exhausted but very happy and his paw is healing. We are overjoyed that we have Poncho back in our life. He was over the moon to see horses again. Thank you to all who helped. Special thank yous to Elizabeth, Holly, Tammy and Greg, Jack Meiyer and the Scribners.