On the morning of July 3rd Yukon (dog) and I headed up to Inspiration Point (IP) in Wrightwood to hike from IP to Vincent Gap (VG) and back. This is an 8 mile hike, mostly in shade and the weather was in the mid 80’s. Yukon has hiked this with me before and he has the endurance because we hike 3 times a week. I had plenty of water for the roughly 4 hour trek for Yukon and myself as well as snacks for both of us. We were prepared, so I thought.
When we got out of the car at IP we were met with a strong wind that was chilly enough to require a light jacket. As we progressed out on the trail we were sheltered from the wind and the temperature was not too bad, especially in the shade. Yukon was having a great time on the hike. Lots of smelling and happy dog smiles. We made it to VG and rested there awhile refueling and drinking water while talking to a couple who had spent the night up at Baden Powell. After about 15 minutes we started back to IP.
The first 2 miles or so of trail heading back is steep and sunnier than most of the trail. About 1 ½ miles in Yukon suddenly raced ahead of me and dove for the bushes. I thought he had gotten stung by a bee, but could not find evidence of a bee sting. He calmed down, I gave him some water and we continued. At 2 miles he did it again but this time he staggered and his tongue was blood red. At this point I knew he was heat stroking. So we took cover under a large pine tree and I used some of my water to try and cool him down and gave him water to drink. We sat there for about 15 minutes. When his tongue returned to a better color we continued resting in the shade as we went. Yukon continued to decline.
Cell coverage is limited on the trails in Wrightwood but I was able to reach my husband and let him know we were in trouble and water was running low due to my attempts to try and cool Yukon with our water supply. My goal was to get Yukon to Grassy Hollow where there would be people and I could get a ride back to my car at IP which is about a 3 minute drive from Grassy Hollow. I knew we would never make the last mile in the sun over the hill to get back to IP, if I attempted it I would lose Yukon. At this point I spotted a group of 6 hikers. When they reached us I told them my dog was in trouble. Yukon was collapsed in the middle of the trail. They told me I was about 20 minutes from Grassy Hollow but maybe I should take the fire road but they had no idea where it went and it was solid sun. Apparently, they did not have any water to spare either and were eager to get on with their hike. So each one of them stepped over my dog and continued on with their hike. I knew that the advice to take the fire road would result in a bad situation getting even worse. I was starting to dehydrate because I was saving my water for Yukon. So we continued on the trail and Yukon was a trooper when I had to push him he looked at me with those big brown eyes and he understood I was trying to get him help.
On up the trail another group of hikers came up on us as Yukon was again collapsed in the middle of the trail. They said oh “happy dog”, I explained that he was heat stroking and I was trying to get him as fast as possible to Grassy Hollow. They said “oh that’s too bad” and stepped over him and continued on their way. I was shocked! Finally we made it to Grassy Hollow and I went to the first picnic bench where Yukon collapsed and a couple was eating lunch. I told them that my dog was having a heat stroke and I needed to get him to my car at IP, 3 minutes up the road to air conditioning and possibly to a vet as quickly as possible would they mind giving me a ride. They responded with well we just got here and we are going to take a mountain bike ride when we finish our lunch and so if you can wait a few hours we can take you then. Well Yukon would be DEAD in a few hours. So I went to another couple who was filling up water and they immediately grabbed a water bowl and fresh water from their truck for Yukon and said of course we will take you we have dogs too we understand. So Yukon rode in my lap in the front of the truck up to the car and I thanked this couple over and over again. Multiple people could have gotten involved and this couple was the only one that did. I got Yukon in the air conditioning and I always carry water in my trunk so I had him drink and drink. When we got him I took his temperature and we were out of the danger zone but I still applied cold packs underneath his arms and he drank more water. For dinner he got an In N Out hamburger because he was one tough dog out on that trail and if it was not for his willpower he would not have made it off that trail.
The temperature up in Wrightwood was nothing that we have not hiked in before and we had shade and water. The heat stroke symptoms came on fast. He first started running forward frantically, running into weeds, trees, bushes. Next his tongue became bright red, panting was heavy and he began to stagger. Finally he collapsed. I felt helpless out there on the trail and was happy when people approached hoping for help to get him off the trail. So I’m writing this in hopes that people will see that this can happen to even the most experienced dog handler. Also, if you meet someone on the trail in my situation there are some things you can do. Offer water to them and their dog, even if it means you have to cut your hike short, offer them water! Ask if there is anything you can do to help like carry the dog out with them. I could have known my surrounding area better as far as sources to get help. I knew there was a campground that I passed but did not know how far up it was, if I had known that I could have gotten to help sooner. So when hiking with your dog’s know campground locations, distances and distances to the road. Also, do not deviate from the trail you know, if I had done what that first group suggested we may not have made it off the trail alive. Also, on your phone you can go to Google maps and pin your location and get a latitude/longitude reading in case you do have cell coverage that way you can give that to rescuers. You can also text 9-1-1 and sometimes when a call won’t go through a text will.
If this helps one person out on the trail with an injured dog or makes someone think about forgoing there plans to help a fellow human than it is worth writing. I hope that we are not becoming a society that turns there back on fellow humans and animals but I was very disappointed in mankind on this hike that could have ended in tragedy. I cannot thank the couple enough who helped us out and if I can ever pay it forward I will in a heartbeat.
Stay safe out there and help others.