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Horses, riders stranded for two days

Lara Mullin, Sierra Sun

A day’s horseback ride during the July Fourth holiday week turned into a two-night ordeal for two tourists from Roseville who ended up stranded at Warren Lake.

According to police reports, Melinda Ortiz and Gerald Steed collected a topographical map from Euer Valley Ranch on the morning of Sunday, July 1 that outlined a trail down into Warren Lake.

As the couple descended the crude trail, their horses slipped repeatedly on loose granite slabs, leading the riders to worry about the return trip.

Attempting to turn around and lead the horses back up the trail, Ortiz and Steed struggled to climb the rock ledges and the horses fell over several times.

Realizing that further attempts would only serve to injure the animals, the two began to search for alternate exit routes.

Ortiz and Steed met up with Pat Castor of Truckee, who was also hiking through the canyon. Castor hiked out of the canyon to use his cell phone, leaving the couple with his sleeping bag and some warmer shirts. The riders were only equipped with their light clothes and small water bottles, and had no food.

Castor reported the incident to Nevada County Search and Rescue and Animal Control Officer Dan Olson.

Approximately three hours after Castor’s call, a California Highway Patrol helicopter arrived in the Warren Lake area. After two hours of searching for the stranded equestrians, copilot John Arrabit spotted Steed on the south side of the lake.

The couple adamantly refused to leave their horses and supplies were flown back to Warren Lake to assist them through the night.

Deputies Smith and Walsh and Animal Control Officer Olson arrived at Warren Lake on Tuesday morning, two days after the couple embarked on their trip, to aid the riders in safely escorting the horses out of the valley.

The horses were finally led safely out on Wednesday.

The morning of July 4 brought Truckee locals Gary Dodds and Mike Borden into the rescue effort. Borden relied on his knowledge of the area to lead the riders and their horses to safety. Ortiz and Steed and their horses were unharmed.

“It was a cooperative effort from all sides to get those horses out. The wranglers [Dodds and Borden] were a tremendous help,” said Nevada County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Gary Jacobson.

Maps distributed by Euer Valley Ranch to riders have not been adjusted to prevent a reoccurrence of this incident, though Capt. Jacobson said, “we will definitely be talking to them about where they are sending people.”

Euer Valley Ranch could not be reached for comment.


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