Trego, Montana – July 19th, 2016 —– HOME

photo by Lydia Hopper

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.

Judith Hemphill of Libby, Montana. She has helped me so many times in the past years, this time it was with a sign for the Troy, Mt. 4th of July parade
Judith Hemphill of Libby, Montana. She has helped me so many times in the past years, this time it was with a sign for the Troy, Mt. 4th of July parade.
4th of July Parade
4th of July Parade
coming into Trego, ran into more freinds
coming into Trego, ran into more friends
The next set of photos were taken by Lydia Hopper of Colville, Washington – June 17th, 2016 lovely

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.