They’re very small, nearly invisible. They hide in tree stumps, in trees, near trails, even on or under the trail. If you’ve ever encountered bees on a trail ride it cannot only be terrifying, but dangerous.
I’ve only run across bees twice on a trail ride. Both times could have been devastating. The first time was on Excelsior Pass, Mt. Baker. There was a pretty large group of us. I remember not too far into the ride we hit some pretty sticky bogs. The horses struggled to get through. Once on the other side of the mess we started climbing. I was in the middle of the pack.
All of a sudden someone yelled, “BEES, RUN!”. I was on a green horse I had recently purchased in Hermiston at a horse sale. Not sure how she’d react I just kicked her into a fast trot; very glad the horses in front of me took off. The people at the back of the group didn’t fair so well. A few people came off as the bees were finally pretty angry and were stinging horses and people alike. No one was hurt too badly but it could have been much worse.
The second encounter was years later on the trails at the Harry Osborne Trailhead. At the time I had a lot at “Cowboy Campsite”. It was a private campground for horse people. I wanted to go out for a ride and headed out by myself to enjoy an afternoon ride. It was early fall so it was a very pleasant day with a cool breeze. About a half hour into the ride I met a couple of other riders and joined them.
I was at the back of the group this time. It had gotten pretty hot and we’d been climbing for a while. We stopped to give the horses a break. Whenever you stop on an incline it’s usually a good idea to turn your horse sideways in the trail. It’s easier for them to rest. I had been sitting there for just a minute when I felt wind from below. It was the strangest sensation. Then came the pinches on the under side of my arms. Suddenly I realized that April had stepped on a hornet’s nest in the side of the trail. She started swishing her tail madly and crow hopping.
I yelled at the other two ladies, “Run!”. The three of us took off at a gallop, crashing through the underbrush, not paying attention to where the trail was. We were just running like mad to get away from the bees. As soon as we were out of danger we realized that the only way to get back to the trail was back the same way we came. SO we headed out at a brisk pace hoping the hornets had dissipated. As we galloped past the spot where the stinging began I again felt the pinches of the hornets. It was horrible.
We finally got far away from the hornets and stopped to take stock of how many bee stings on both the horses and ourselves. The adrenaline rush was over and all of a sudden I felt sick, light headed and nearly fell off my horse. She had been stung several times as well so I felt terrible for her. I did not have anything with me as far as a first aid kit or epinephrine pen. God was looking out for me. The two riders I had joined had Benadryl. I immediately took some and we gave some to the horse. One of the ladies was a nurse and knew what to do. Thankfully.
I say all this to beware of the potential for bees in the great outdoors. Be safe, learn from my mistakes and always pay attention to your surroundings. If you’ve had an encounter with bees on the trail, send us your story! Perhaps someone has some other safety tip to offer! You can email firstname.lastname@example.org.