HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!!
Reflections of an 8000 mile journey
It was not the route I had originally planned. No, I had hoped to ride more of Canada coming back. I thought I would ride south of Minneapolis not come from the north as I did. I’d planned on riding further north into Maine and I certainly did not plan on wintering in New York. Three months into the ride Cuchullaine from the Long Riders Guild informed me… “Bernice no one has ever ridden a continuous round trip coast to coast ride.” Well of course I thought, “oh put a little pressure on the ride.” I had know idea I’d be attempting a first time ever ride, alone as a single 62 year old woman. I had no idea it had not been done, nor would I have set out to prove myself. Huh, who would have thought?
We are home now, truly home at my Montana cabin for the first time in 12 years and I must say I am not entirely sure who I am right now. Already I turn and see our trail of hoof tracks disappearing with the incoming tide. It hardly seems possible I accomplished such a trek. I rode in on Wolf Creek Road one week ago, a road I left on 12 years ago in 2005 riding a nervous, dancing Tennessee Walking horse named Pride. My first ride, such a novice. How did I do it? That first ride changed me more than I think anything ever had in my life. I felt for the first time I had, “climbed into my own skin.” And now riding in on Wolf Creek 12 years later on two of the finest (in my humble opinion) long riding horses that have ever lived, I feel seasoned, accomplished as I have never felt in my life. This ride has changed me again, more than even the first ride had.
It takes years, it takes experience, trials and many, many errors. It takes pushing yourself beyond that which you thought impossible. One must stretch and reach, find humility and great gusts of appreciation before you uncover, strip off the layers of gunk to reveal what you are truly made of and where you’re going. And even then is it not an ongoing process of self discovery? That is what I feel this 8000 mile ride has done to me. It has left me feeling “seasoned.”
The horses are trimming the lawn. One week and they are restless. Spirit nearly ran me over yesterday with one of her fits of joy and delight as she rounded the cabin with bucks, farts and squeals. She is into everything, pulling on table clothes, attempting to open gates, enter the cabin and feed shed. She wants to move. Of all my horses Spirit has displayed a natural instinct to long riding. She has a natural instinct to keep moving. Essie takes a more laid back approach to life. She waits with diligence for hand outs at the cabin door, an apple will do or crackers or bread or… well it matters little just so she gets something before returning to graze at Spirits side.
Reaching my final east and west coast destinies brought tears to my eyes. “The people.” I thought, “so many people who helped in one way or another.” And my horses, my beloved horses who stood knee deep, their first time ever, in salt waters. I thought of the miles they walked, packed, tolerated with willingness as we passed thru state after state. They are the true champions of this story, my horses. I must not forget my sponsors for they provide more than equipment, they also give me credibility. Tuckers Saddle and Outfitters Supply gave generous financial contributions and I dare say the ride would most likely not have happened with out their donations. There were also many private donations that kept me going. That is all I ask, please just let me keep going.
I often times hear remarks made by observers and its funny they think my life so independent so free and it’s anything but. I could not possibly do these rides without the help, kindness and generosity of others. I am for the most part completely dependent on the people I meet who offer food, shelter, directions, a hot shower and most importantly encouragement.
How do you end an 8000 mile 2 ½ year ride? Gracefully as one can. This is by far the hardest part, the reentry. Where I must find my footing on stationary ground without the daily packing and moving without the, “Ok girls lets go,” a fresh new road sprawled out before us. I can hear my mother calling, “Bernice, come on in now, it’s getting late, put those horses away come in and get ready for bed or supper or…” I will admit I have pulled maps out already in search of a short, few hundred mile, ride this fall. Next years east coast ride is already filling my head. But right now I have much to do. I speak next month, August 26th in Sandpoint, Idaho at the International Fjord Show. And the book must be finished! I have been asked to teach a few Ballet Classes in Eureka at the Creative Arts Center, that I will do.
I shall see what it feels like to once again, live a normal life.
To each and everyone who’s path I cross a hearty thank you for the interest the support the encouragement, I could not have done it with out you.
Dan and Sally owners of THE CHEWUCH INN are hosting my stay once again. Heading for home this time. THANK YOU so much for the hospitality!!
I leave behind emerald green waters rushing westward to the Pacific Ocean. I will miss the short season of wild thimbleberries and blackberries. Fields of strawberries and blueberries which the Skagit Valley is known for were not quite ripe. The terrain changes dramatically from that rich, luscious, thick, colorful “Garden of Eden” land of western Washington to a much more subtle, drier, open land of eastern Washington. Divided by the magnificent Cascade Mountain Range.
I first heard about the Mazama Country Store in Chewelah, WA. I was told it was a “hoydee toydee” store. I might describe the store as an old-time mercantile look blended with an uptown Seattle look hosting a wide selection of specialty foods, deli and bakery all wrapped in wood sidewalks and a charming patio with picnic tables. A very unusual store considering it’s in the middle of no where – well its at the far west end of the Methow Valley. Missy and Dan Ledue bought the store 16 years ago when it still appeared pretty shabby. The trail system and tourist business were still in its infancy and had not been developed as it is now. So I asked Missy, “Was it not kind of risky taking on such a business venture back then?” She said she was raised in family business venture, in Seattle, she brought support and know how with her. She and her husband Dan created a jewel. I walked in and just stopped and then said to myself, “What’s this all about? How can this be here? Who did this?” It’s a family run store. I met two teenage daughters and son who appeared competent enough to take over the store. When I asked if they had plans to do so they smiled and well it was apparent they were interested. May 26th I camped across the street from the store. I got up and walked over for coffee and breakfast which was “on the house.” Pesto egg sandwich and blueberry scone…fabulous! I visited with Logan, a young music major working at the Mazama Store for the summer. His hands were full, making sandwiches. He said he would make 500 sandwiches for the weekend! Good Golly! I rode out late Friday morning. The really busy hours were still ahead but they were set, they were ready and willing with smiles…..
I have to tell you a “trail angel” story. I rode into Mazama the first time, heading west, after a night with the Burkharts who own Early Winters Ranch a mile east of Mazama and run a string of 100 horses for Outfitting and trail rides…beside running a working ranch I might add.
I really had no idea of how I would logistically ride over the pass. There’d be no grass for two days. I could have packed out feed from the Burkharts but I hated to pack so much weight on the horses for that long, I still had days to ride. I stopped at the Mazama Store not so much for supplies but rather out of curiosity how could I not? Smiles greeted me. There I met Cheryl Crosby, alias “trail angel.” We talked for sometime and then she said I am going to come out and check up on you!!! more of a telling me rather than asking voice, she was determined to see me safely over that pass. (her husband volunteers for the fire dept.- it must run in the family) So I said if you come out would you bring my grain? And she did she brought 50pds of grain form my girls. I tried to force money upon her, NO WAY! She did accept at least a DVD momentum from me. Well I just thought that was the kindest thing. I rode as far as Lone Fir Campground still a good deal of snow and NO food for the horses! OH my thank you so much from my horses, thank you so much Cheryl. I so remember her standing there saying, “You are going to have such a spectacular ride over to the coast, everything will work out great, it will be wonderful, don’t worry!” In my mind I am going, “You have know idea what I must still go through lady.” And I didn’t know, I just had her words to go on and I shoved faith and trust down my throat and into every cell in my body and rode on. But then as you already know I did indeed have one of the very best rides ever from Winthrop to Padilla Bay and back again.
We rode (memorial day weekend) with the flow of traffic not water as we came eastward over “the pass” as it is referred to by locals. Highway #20 raced with a steady stream of cars and pickup trucks pulling travel RV’s boasting names like “Adventure” “Escape 19” “Sunset” driven by people hungry for the out-of-doors seeking it in the only way they know how, with lots of stuff. But then John Muir legendary naturalist, outdoorsman and father of our National Forest Service and Park lands, would say I carry an awful lot of stuff. Muir in the 1950’s walked the Sierras with nothing more than the clothes on his back and slept covered by leaves. So it is all relative. What is not is that we have places and spaces where we can go. Where our needs and hungers for nature can be satisfied. Public Lands they are truly our national treasure well worth holding on to, a must to hold on. Something that stands out in the entire Methow Valley is the trail system of hiking, biking, riding and skiing it’s incredible as is the desire to keep the natural surrounding beauty through careful land use planning and zoning.
Four miles or so from Mazama a car stopped and two people leaped from their car waving their arms yelling, “Bernice, Bernice.” What the heck is that all about….SUPRISE! SUPRISE… Friends from Trego heading to Anacortes. Good golly miss molly!!!
I have a 8 day ride up and over several mountain passes all back roads to Republic where I have 4 talks and will up date the website. Only about 200 miles to ride. Chewelah is the end of the trail. They have promised a party, we shall see, maybe they’ve forgotten who the lady with the big hat is! smiles
Until later Happy Trails
Photo by Kristen Smith Nice
Made it into Winthrop, Washington yesterday. Just letting folks know I am doing a talk Sunday evening, May 29th at the Winthrop Ice Arena at 7pm. Come if you can. BRING YOUR OWN CHAIR
Journal, May 17th, 2016…I feast on Salmon berries and the scent of wild roses as we make our way westward to Padilla Bay, coastal waters, seagulls, saltwater and ships. How thrilling!! The horses are fat thanks to Washington’s luscious cornucopia of grasses. The horses literally graze as we travel. Following the Cascade Trail (another marvelous Rails to Trails creation) from Concrete into Sedro Woolley keeps us off a VERY dangerous Hwy #20 packed with log trucks, semi’s and tourist traffic. The Skagit River to our left is as anxious to reach ocean waters as we are, but travels much faster than we do.
May 21st, 2016
We – Essie, Spirit and I, are the guests of Cheryl Cunningham and Marty Purvis of Marblemount,Washington. They like so many in this part of Washington have a beautiful, richly decorated home of flowers, gardens and a wide variety of tree specimens. EVERYTHING grows like mad here. It truly feels like the “Garden of Eden” there is just SO MUCH foliage! I met Marty when I stopped for the night at Colonial Campground in the Ross Lake State Park. Not sure if horses were allowed I walked over to a handful of Park Rangers and workers (the grounds were not open they were working hard to prepare the area for an onslaught of vacationers) to ask if I could spend the night. WELL, as I have said Washington is thee most horse friendly state I have ridden thru and the response was… “Well of course.” Washington also has many very friendly park and forest service workers willing to help this lady long rider, enthusiasm oozed from them when I revealed my story. A young gal named Kassandra, took charge and then Marty joined in and with in 20 min. or so they had me and my horses all laid out with places to camp through out the following week. One of which was Kasandra’s folks the Barnedt’s and Marty’s place. You must remember that when I left Winthrop I had NO IDEA how I would manage the ride over to Padilla Bay. Now it all fell into place. My heart filled with relief, believe me!
We reached our most westward point, Padilla Bay, BayView State Park on May 18th at 11am. (same day Mt. Helens erupted… Wednesday marked the 36th anniversary) The Skagit Valley Herald arrived to document the occasion. I arrived at the Sedro Woolley Rodeo Grounds the day before greeted my Doug Wood President of the rodeo association. They hosted my stay for 3 nights. Very nice facility, hot showers, many visitors and Doug made sure I had everything, food and supplies before leaving. The next day I was up early, saddled Spirit, Essie ran naked next to me on lead. We raced the 16.2 miles over to the coastal waters in 3 hours. We took photos of the Long Riders Guild Flag, had lunch visited with the camp hosts and dashed back before traffic roared with folks eager to get home from work. I marvel at my horses, their steadfastness and ability to maintain composure in the face of such chaos. THEY are the champions of this story!! We spent 2 more nights in Sedro Woolley, rain set in and because of that I asked Doug if he would haul me to Marblemount there by keeping us off the most dangerous stretch of all from Concrete to Rockport where logging was most active. I am back at Cheryl’s and Marty’s camped under a magical grove of Cedar trees, more rain. I must re-shoe the horses, rest and update the website before making the arduous journey up and over the Cascade Highway to Winthrop. Memorial Day weekend will light highway #20 up like fire by next weekend. I must ride out in the morning, even if I would dearly love to stay. It is like this, not often, but there are stops, at private homes, when we all say…”I feel like I have known you all my life” and the stop is like going home to old friends. That’s what its been like with Marty and Cheryl.
OK HERE ARE THE PHOTOS
link to Skagit Valley Herald skagit.ws/1rYXKeM
Ok that is enough, still must re shoe the horses and…squeeze in some rest… Thank you so much, all of you that have helped facilitate this stretch of the ride, THANK YOU, as my card says, “I could not have done it with out your help.”
Your lady long rider Bernice Ende
We (Essie, Spirit and I) are guests at the Chewuch Inn – Cabins and Lodging – www.chewuchinn.com – (Owners Dan and Sally Kuperberg did offer a room but I’m adamant about staying with the horses) I camped out back where they have a corral and shed, PERFECT! It’s just the prettiest place, a B&B, nicely located in town, quiet. If you come to Winthrop, stay here! smiles! We rode in late afternoon Sunday, May 9th, a day late and a dollar short for Winthrop’s “49er’s Days.” Aaron Lee and Judy Burkhart found me at the Red Barn auditorium wondering what to do. They’d heard about me from someone, not sure who but was very glad to see a truck pull up and a couple of smiles offering hope to a tired lady long rider. Aaron lee and Judy own Early Winters Ranch where I’ll be staying tomorrow night as I make my way across the North Cascade highway. The Burkharts and the Kuperbergs are good friends…thus my stay here. Winthrop is a big stop for me. I’ve had lots to do all day, boxes in from sponsors, boxes needing to go, website updating, more food and REST. Yeah right!!!
Winthrop is a unique town. I have never ridden through another town quite like it. A completely westernized theme town, but nicely done, drawing people from all over the world. There is so much to do here. They call it the “Swiss Alps” of Washington or something like that, its stunning. Hiking, horseback riding, bicycling, 4-wheeling, boating, fishing, swimming, have I missed anything, probably. I’ll write more about Winthrop on my return ride. I must say it is truly with-out doubt a “horse friendly” place. But I think Washington is by far the most horse friendly state I have ever ridden through.(this is my 3rd and 4th time crossing Washington) I think its the Garden of Eden state because its so green and luscious and water is everywhere and so easy to ride across. I am able to pick wild foods just about anywhere and the horses are, well lets say voluptuous, thanks to Washington’s generosity. But let me go back and tell you of my journey thus far…..
The first day out Gary Bellinger forwarded my panniers on-to Arden, via his pick up, letting us travel fast and light. Essie ran naked in the sun, grabbing mouthfuls of tall, green brome grass as we trotted along. It’s a nice way to start the horses out, give them a chance to travel with-out the heavy load. Lilac smell filled the air from enormous trees, purple, blue’s and white lilac’s, so pretty. I camped at the Rodeo Grounds in Arden and then had the unexpected treat of watching a drill team rehearse. Nearly twenty riders doing some complicated figurations, very impressive. Cindy Baskin is founder of the drill team. “Encouraging women to get out and do things,” was her reason for bringing it all together. They preform at local events its quite an undertaking. I say “Bravo” to Cindy and her husband Dave who helps enormously.
Gary did yet another haul with my panniers over to the Sherwood Creek Wildlife Area. Where Jerry “Chris” Christensen was expecting us. There I camped in a barn that had been moved from another part of the 8,700 acre wildlife area. After coming back from Texas in 2009 I realized the importance of our public lands. Texas has 2% of its state in public land. 2%!!!! It was like riding down a hallway and all the doors were locked, there was just no place to get off, go off to. Not like we have it up here in the Pacific Northwest. Public Land is SO IMPORTANT!! Mr. Christensen has been instrumental in making the Sherman Creek Wildlife Area a success. It is situated along the west side of Lake Roosevelt which begins at Kettle Falls. He is very proud of his work there. It supports a wide diversity of wildlife including both white-tail and mule deer, wild turkeys, both bald and golden eagles, osprey, bats and many varieties of songbirds. I could not say enough good things about the facility, check it out.
Jana Pekaar, who has come out to visit on every ride also arrived to haul my panniers over Sherman Pass. Her accordion playing has improved immensely! even Essie agreed.
Sherman Pass had snow, was no fun, camped on pavement in a parking lot, froze that night. Morning sun came late but was greatly welcomed. April 31st.
May 1st and 2nd. Spent two nights in Republic, another western type town, very friendly. The Ferry Fair Grounds were well kept by the grounds man Wayne, gracious and welcoming made me feel at home.
May 3rd I spent the night at a old school house in Waconda. Visitors Sarah Wilson whom I met earlier in the day and her friend Laurel brought food out. I am feeling tired by this time.
The next day just before “hanging rock” a dangerous sharp curve on Hwy 20 I came across a state work crew repairing the road. Well they were all very concerned about my safety and when the foreman arrived he took matters in to his own hands and did this…..
Gosh I hope he did not get into trouble for helping me like that, it was SOOO kind of him to do this. It actually said…”slow down, lady long, ahead.” Made my day, I rode safely on with a big smile on my face. THEN a few days later another gentleman from the same work crew JUST happen to be driving home from work as I neared Conconully when my packs slipped. Under Spirit’s belly they went. Now my girls are good and know to stop and just wait until the mess is fixed. But we were on a busy road and not much shoulder and here he comes just in the nick of time. MOST times I am scrambling as fast as I can to un-cinch the packs and undue everything from the horse and get it all dropped to the ground so I can reassemble but with help we could push it back in place, quick and easy. Gosh I soooo appreciate this kind of help. Chevalier is alive and well!!
May 4th as I neared Talkier Lake Rd (which I had intended on riding that evening) a storm whipped out of nowhere with wind and rain. I raced into an unexpected couples home who were quietly minding their own business. John and Janine House never knew what hit them, but they were good sports and let me sleep in their shop while the horses were out of the wind and safe. Thank you!
The ride down to Riverside, Wa. and across to Conconully could not have been more spectacular. As I said every where ever I ride it is luscious and water is gushing from snow melt. But the Talkier Lake Rd had devastation (mild compared to what I would see later) from forest fires that ravished Washington last year. I felt the effects as far way as Canada on my ride home last year. But I have never seen anything like I did on my ride from Conconully to Winthrop. From Conconully which was postcard beauty into this, wow. I had asked permission to ride #42 a forest service road which had been closed because of the burn. After riding it and seeing what I saw I was surprised the National Forest Service let me through.
AND THEN CAME THIS
The photos simply can not speak of the damage done from these horrendous fires. Sad day, left me exhausted and very sober that evening. Mother Nature can be harsh to say the least.
And now here we are in Winthrop having ridden through rain and wind, beauty and devastation. Having met a host of good people and a wide variety of campsites I called home, we are in Winthrop, Washington at the Chewuch Inn, thank you Sally and Dan. Thank you ALL of you. I have so needed help on this stretch in particular, its been greatly appreciated.
Essie Pearl- my beautiful girl at Meyers Falls, afternoon break
I think Chewelah is even prettier now than it is in the fall. Colorful blossoms, both tree and flowers, decorate the streets, lawns are SO green and mowed. Streets have a fresh clean look, (they did just have a full blown “clean-up day, every one was out.) I declared Chewelah a “Blue Ribbon Community” last year the story is in the archives.
Fran Genne has been kind enough to let me and my girls camp at her barn just blocks from the edge of town. Convenient enough for me to walk to stores, post office and of-course the library. I arrived April 17th after a full day of hauling. First a short skip with Ruth Ann Mclaury from Eureka, then a longer ride with Judith Hemphill from, Libby and finally a long ride with Gary Bellinger of Chelwelah. As most of you know I had ridden as far as Chewelah last fall…..from New York I might add. So I had no desire to re-ride the same stretch as I have ridden it several times in the past. I then rode home in late October and arrived in the Trego area mid November where I wintered over.
So here we are back out ready to finish this Odyssey, it does seem like it, two years, goodness, 8000 miles~ I leave in the morning riding Hwy 20 across the mountains to Samish Bay, Washington, south of Bellingham.
Besides resting and preparing for the finally leg of this ride the following photos will tell you what I have been up to this past week.
Standing behind Stan is Gary Bellinger who has been with-out doubt the most helpful person I could have asked for at this point of my ride. He’s helped facilitate not only my haul over from Sandpoint, Idaho but has gotten me to my talks on time, set up a small corral for the horses, taken me out on a scouting trip – scoping the route and has offered oodles of encouragement when I have most needed it. Thank you Gary! This is not a long stretch – 750 miles – from here to the west coast, but the road (hwy 20, will be challenging.) I rarely have help like this. I rarely let it be so. But this time it feels right to have so many people assisting with this final 8000 mile journey I embarked upon 2 years ago. Chewelah has assured me of a party upon my return in June. I am taking the same route over and back and will not be going up thru Canada as I had originally planned. The Long Riders Guild Flag will have ridden with me coast to coast when I arrive at Samish Bay. I’ll take photos of course as I did on the east coast.
SO tomorrow we ride. I know Essie and Spirit are bored and ready to go. Northeast Washington is spectacular county with breathtaking vista’s in every direction. It is the grass that so captivates me. It’s just so luscious, so green and thick I want to eat it like my horses, roll in it, run my hands thru it. The horses will eat well on this stretch.
Happy Trails, Bernice