Had to post this section before heading out. From Sandpoint to Zillah, Washington we traveled with the Gullo’s Debbie and Dave to the…
I met Dave and Debbie in 2009 on a 6000 mile ride. Debbie has stayed in touch over the years and we met up again with all the other horse gals of Sandpoint last month. Dave owns Buffalo Arms Co. in Sandpoint. He is a world class and several times over world champion long range powder cartridge and mussel loader rifle competitor. We had such a good time at the Back Country Horseman event. I have spoken at several BCH meetings over the years and my sister Maryann is president of the Pecos chapter in New Mexico. The organization does a great deal to keep the public lands open to equestrian use. The event drew in 100’s of riders!!
Rains have set in, snow at higher elevations. Dense clouds hang close to the mountains. Its cold. My girls, Essie and Spirit like this weather. Once we are step out in the morning they are as lively and eager to be off as I am. But my adventurous traveling year is coming to a close. From New York to Spokane roughly 3500 miles. One of my best years ever.
I did not do this last year. Take a few weeks at the end of the year to rest, ride leisurely, reflect, camp, spend 3/4 days in one place. There was really no place TO DO IT. Time played a huge factor, nervous about making the ride pushing myself and the horses to make as many miles as possible last year.
With Elk in rut calling out thru the long pitch black nights I did take the time this past 2 weeks to take refuge from the travel. With campfires and wild foods cooking it was a time for reflection about what I have just accomplished. Time to fill every breath I take with appreciation, be grateful my two horses are healthy and still with me. Stop the pushing for awhile, BEFORE I finish the ride so I can coast in, re-enter smoothly. Because “coming in” as I refrer to it. Stopping! is always, always the hardest. Its not as difficult now that I spend all year in a tent near the horses, but the daily routine of traveling ends and I am beside myself. I don’t know who I am. I must find myself again.
At this time last year we- Essie, Spirit and I were heading back from the coast of Maine to Darlene Lundgrens home in Fort Edward, New York where I set up winter camp in the historical feed store building that sits behind her house. To be perfectly honest it seems impossible that I really and truly rode to the Atlantic Ocean last year.
I will let the photos do the talking as words never seem to show the beauty or the enchantment of crossing the mountains in late fall, this is a photo posting. More when I reach home in a couple of weeks.
I came in on the Flowery Trail Road Tuesday morning the 13th. I’d eaten ALL my food the day before. I’d had no coffee for days and yes I had food on my mind. The Flowery Trail Road is a long, steep, winding mountain road with log trucks racing down Chewelah Pass with full loads and Jake Brakes popping off a machine gun like rattle. (the drivers were very respectful of me and the horses.) I get over and off the road for them, turn in the saddle and tip my hat, give them a nod, let them know I’m ok, they don’t have to worry or slow down. They are after all out there trying to make a living. The last thing they need is a couple of horses and rider making it even MORE dangerous for them by not paying attention.
Any way back to the issue of food. Well it has happened again….
I rode into a BLUE Ribbon Community!!! So I rode in about 9am from the east on the Flowery Trail Rd. it drops right onto Main Street. I could smell Paul’s Coffee before I actually saw the place. The view of main street made me whisper “nice, this is going to be nice.” The smell pulled my head right, “there’s a coffee shop” I said, “a real coffee shop.” Big windows, place was busy. They all watched me, but here in this part of the country it’s not uncommon to see a pack horse and rider. I tied the horses around back and went in. “I’m liking this place more and more,” I said as I walked past a massage therapy business attached to Paul’s Coffee Shop. “I need a good cup of coffee.” A friendly man with a long pony tail gladly made me a latte’, a pretty latté! “where ya from?” Yes well I think,” this is getting complicated, trying to explain where I am on this ride, where I have come from, where I have gone and now I am going back home.” Trying to roll this into a quick concise answer is not so easy at this stage. So I say, “I am coming from New York.” and that usually gets their attention.
“The name Chewelah comes from the Indian word “S che wee leh”, meaning water or garter snake. There was a spring in what is now the southwest end of Chewelah. The motion of the water gave the illusion of snakes moving about in the water.” Prior to colonization by European-Americans, Chewelah was home to a band the Kalispel people. The Chewelah Band of Indians is currently part of the Spokane Tribe. “What must it have looked like for those people?” I thought as I came down off Quartsite Mountain into town. Such a rich and beautiful valley it is. A gathering place of 14 tribes who fished salmon. These mountain ranges, the Selkirk, Okanogan and Kettle River are considered the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. In 1811 white explorers led by David Thompson, embarked on a trip downriver from Kettle Falls to what would become the site of Fort Colville Trading Post. Mining was the reason Chewelah prospered as a town in the early 1880’s and in 1883 silver and lead were discovered. Those log trucks I mentioned earlier were heading for the mill north of Chewelah. The WELCOME TO CHEWELAH sign I passed as I rode into town had a skier on one side and a golfer on the other. Its a vacation town. Some surrounding farms and ranches. Spokane is only 45 min south of here. Lots of recreational tourist.
So how did this pretty town get a “blue ribbon rating?” I have this list in my head. First it must be attractive, it must be obvious there is town pride. Second, business and public buildings should be centrally located ie. the library, post office, city offices, sheriff and……laundry with in walking distance of one another, oh and stores, hardware and grocery. The town must have green spaces, parks, water, trees, flowers. I like to see people out on the street and I did. It must have a thrift store as I do much of my resupply from thrift stores, it did. Of course to be greeted into town with handshakes and smiles extended by interested town people, well that sure ups the rating. The newspaper or radio must show interest, it did. And then there must be a café, a place where people gather or…..a coffee shop. Paul’s Coffee Shop. Sometimes I must admit I feel like I am from another planet. I surely must look like it at times. I can not tell you how often I have ridden into town, tied the horses up out side to a propane tank or garbage dumpster or telephone pole or ?. I have stepped inside a café or coffee house, pulling my leather gloves off finger by finger as I do, tilt my big hat back and take a deep breath of humanity as people turn heads and stare at the weathered face and odd looking woman that has just entered their world. I had been in the mountains camping for 5 days on the ride over from Newport and had talked briefly with only two woodcutters during that time. The whole scene at Paul’s was like soup, a thick medley of spices. People talking in groups at tables others waiting in line for an espresso or some fancy concoction we like these days. This is a luxury item I will tell you honestly. But what caught my attention was the fact that there were so many women, my age or older, and they looked REALLY good. They had been exercising at the BodyShop Gym next door. They looked fit. I got my coffee and sat down across from two interesting looking women talking to each other. One was telling a moose story. She thought it was a statue, she just could not believe it and so walked closer and closer and just as she reached out to touch the “statue” the moose came to life and sent her startling and stumbling backwards quite shaken.” Must be Alaska,” I thought. Sure enough. With in a half hour I had met a couple of dozen women some my age some older and what a bunch they were. Lively. Some had recently moved here with husbands or had returned to care for elderly parents or had come and fallen in love with the place, “never left.”
Shelly Walden introduced herself. She works next door as a healing arts practitioner. Within a few minutes she was on the phone and had a place for us to camp. The ball has been rolling ever since. I could not have ended the year in a better town. I have now, after two days, made necessary preparations for my return in March at which time I’ll haul back to Chewelah and resume this journey. Later that day Shelly gave my tired aching body a much appreciated hot stone massage. She knew Stan who helped me get new horseshoes on because my horseshoeing equipment did not show up at the post office, just a befuddlement. I have had such a wonderful 3 days here in Chewelah. I am rested. I feel recharged. I feel satisfied to have ridden thus far. I am very glad I chose to ride across the mountains this fall instead of going home as I so wanted earlier. I’ve picked up supplies for the return ride to Sandpoint. I am hauling with Debra Gullo and her husband Dave to the Back Country Horseman’s annual “Ride and Wine” in Ellensburg, Washington on the 29th of this month. I have NEVER done anything like this before, NEVER. Debra said last year over 600 horse and riders attended the event! We return November 1st and the horses and I will be hauled by Judith Hemphill to Libby. I have a talk at the Cabinet Mountain Brewery on November 4th at 6pm.From there I’ll ride north to my cabin in Trego, a 2/3 day ride and call it a year.
Tamarack (larch) trees are transforming the forest floor into a soft golden carpet of dry needles. They are the only evergreen to do this and the sight of a Tamarack forest in full fall glory can match even your finest New England fall colors. Nights are much cooler, most mornings I discover a thin layer of ice covering the horses collapsible water buckets. The horses are fuzzy again, they sport fat full bellies and dance around at things they normally would ignore. Essie Pearl and Montana Spirit, the true, proven champions of this story. I am so proud of those two.
Often this “reentry phase” as I refer to it can be very difficult for me. I come in and I don’t know who I am, I don’t know what to do with my self. I must reestablish a new routine, not let myself fall into a slump and stay motivated. But this year it feels different. Perhaps I’ve been long riding, long enough so the transitions in and out of travel mode are easier, smoother. I love what I do. I so appreciate that I CAN do this. I am filled with gratitude for those who have helped carry us along the tens of thousands of trail miles. And with that I ride out in the morning. Happy trails. Bernice
There are times when I ride into a town and NO ONE comes out, it does not happen often but I tell you there is nothing, nothing like riding into a town and you are greeted by someone that takes on the “welcoming party” title and makes me feel, well, not so all alone. It was a hot afternoon when I rode into Newport. I stood looking at the pretty view of town, just standing with the horses trying to decide which way to go and there came Wayne Antcliff. He had a phone in his year as he walked from his cable business with a big smile on his face. That was all I really needed to see, the welcoming smile, it’ll all be ok, smile. A horseman, businessman, active community member, BackCountry Horseman member, Wayne took it upon himself to not only see me safely to the fairgrounds, he brought me hay and water for the horses and contacted the city hall to ok it all. All so appreciated, THANK YOU Wayne, THANK YOU.
We won’t be traveling to much more this year, couple more weeks. I must be at home this winter. Friends, the cabin, business are all calling me home. I will haul back out in the spring to complete this 8000 mile ride. I have never done this before. I know many do it this way, I never have. I’ve always just plopped myself down and made camp where ever I ended the year. I have about 1000 more miles. The west coast will be challenging and will take more time than riding to the Atlantic at Wells, Maine. Will have to land somewhere on the Olympic Peninsula. But that route I will work out this winter. We are now on the west side of the Rocky Mountains, bears are active, hunters are out, forest service roads busy. Nights in the mountains are dark, very, very dark. You can not see your hand in front of your face. We can now build campfires as long as its in a fire ring. The sun comes up late the sun retreats early, water bottles freeze at night, horses have a good start on winter coats. Another season. Another year.
Riding slow, enjoying the perfect weather, mountain riding. End of the season, end of the year. Essie and Spirit get easy relaxing days, we take long breaks. I am the guest of Debbie and Dave Gullo. I met Debbie and a host of horse women from this area in 2009. I was riding thru Sandpoint on a 6000 mile ride with Honor, Claire and Essie Pearl. I stayed at the Sandpoint Fairgrounds , they came out with supper and encouragement. Debbie has stayed in touch over the years and here we are once again. Debbie has the hat.
Will only ride another 3 weeks. Nice to be this far.
Happy Trails and a 1000 Thank Yous to all of you who have helped me get this far. Bernice
At this time last year we- Essie, Spirit and I were heading back to Darlene Lundgrens home in Fort Edward, New York. I set up winter camp in the historical feed store building that sits behind her house. To be perfectly honest it seems impossible that I really and truly rode to the Atlantic Ocean last year. The ride was so much more than I could have EVER imagined. Darlene – well the entire town were very gracious hosting my stay. I enjoyed being a “celebrity” through a snowy winter and I am sooooo glad my travels had taken me to the northeastern half of our country. I will reflect on the ride when I settle in this winter.
I have a new computer!
The name, Soroptimist, means “best for women,” and that’s what the organization strives to achieve.
Soroptimist is a global women’s organization whose members volunteer to improve the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment. Approximately 75,500 Soroptimist’s in 130 countries and territories support community–based and global projects benefiting women and girls. The organization is particularly concerned with providing women and girls access to education, as this is the most effective path to self-determination. Soroptimists are women at their best, working to help other women to be their best. I am familiar with the Soroptomist International Organization whose work supporting and encouraging women throughout the world is well known. I have frequented the thrift store they own in Whitefish, Montana many times. I have the Soroptomist’s to thank for this much needed tool, a computer. They also donated living expense for 2 months! The “geek Squad” as they are called at Best Buy in Kalispell helped me select a computer suitable for my unusual travel needs, it takes a beating in my Trail Max Panniers, (big saddle bags). This will be the first year I am going out with such a device, one that is light, has sufficient battery capacity and large enough key board that my fingers don’t protest. It will enable me to post regularly, maybe even more than I do!!. I can stay a bit more connected, have access to maps, messages etc. I have protested for years but now perhaps because there are so many that follow the ride or perhaps I just like sharing the story, I do feel the need to stay connected. At the very core of my rides is this…
I hope it encourages women to reach beyond fears that keep them from leadership! that’s it. SO thank you, thank you so very much Soroptimst of Whitefish, Montana. Thank you. www.soroptimist.org
I have been I must admit in turmoil about whether or not to continue riding any further this year. I have wanted to go home in the worst way. Just relax among community I know. Where I have invested time, be home.
After coming down from Canada, unable to get us across north of Waterton Parks, Alberta for several reasons, fires had slowed us down, then inclement weather, then vet papers expired and for reasons too complicated to explain – I returned. I came down thru Browning, Montana where the wind can wipe the smile off your face real quick. Oh my that is brutal wind, and so much of it. Spectacular vista’s as I came within view of the Rocky Mountain’s Eastern Front. A recent snow fall had the tips covered in snow, a reminder, “winter is coming, winter is coming.” Intimidating that’s what they are. Cold, dangerous and tired – wanting home, that’s how it felt crossing Maris’s Pass.
I must say something about riding a horse over Maria’s Pass. A five day dangerous ride. I have come across Maria’s Pass 2 other times both in a trailer/truck that Russ Barnett from OutFItters Supply hauled the horses with. Both times the pass had snow covering the sides of the road. This time for what ever reason, I felt I could do it. Please, please understand that I have two of the finest long riding horses – with thousands of miles, seasoned, exceptional, champions in my humble opinion, long riding horses. Don’t ride Maria’s Pass if you can avoid it. Just don’t, it’s far to dangerous. Semi traffic is horrendous they are coming down off the mountain fast, with Jake Brakes sounding like rifle shots. Guard rails keep you about 2 feet from them, I could reach out and touch some of them. Very few horses will hold for it. I could NEVER have ridden down the steep pavement with-out the horseshoes I have on from Roger Robinson, NEVER. I could never have done it with out Essie Pearl who is steadfast and trusting above and beyond the call of duty, she is truly a champion!
But the love and longing of the ride seems to always win out. I have kept riding. The horses are fit, kicking up dirt, round bellies, lively steps – the fall weather being their first choice and mine also, of riding seasons. But what has kept me from thinking of continuing much further than the Washington/Idaho border, Spokane area, was this which I read just yesterday….
“The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail.
Travel to fast and you miss all you are traveling for.”
It’s from Louis L’Amour, “Ride the Dark TraiI”
I recently read this in Gary Montgomery’s THE TRAIL. Gary publishes a quarterly collection of interviews, historical photos and as he says “interesting tidbits from the past.”.
Rest and repair stop at OUTFITTERS SUPPLY
I have camped behind OUTFITTERS SUPPLY’S store and warehouse in Columbia Falls I think 5 times on various rides coming and going. Ruth the seamstress reinforced a few seams on my saddlebags.!!!Replaced a few things but for the most part all the gear was in good repair.OH MY SPONSORS I so appreciate all of you, your products, your support. When I began long riding in 2005 I looked like a hopelessly homeless woman (but on a beautiful horse, Pride). I now have the best of equipment, support from a farrier, Vet, and equine nutritionist. I just have to do the ride, keep myself and horses alive. smiles
Supplies arrived from Theodora Brennan who manages to help keep me going and is the sum total of my “homebase.”(and somehow manages to keep me tied to reality) Then Chrissy Tate from Texas with friends in tow arrived. I met Chrissy years ago on another ride, this was a screamer, just by chance we see each other again!
The ride from Columbia Falls to Whitefish, besides an interview from the Flathead Beacon-(www.FLATHEADBEACON.COM – Sept. 23 issue,) held several other friends who came out to meet and greet, give hugs and encouragement. OH I so wanted to turn north and go home. But I also knew that once the hugs and smiles and joy of seeing friends and family had ended and they’d all gone home and on with their lives, well there I would be with a lot of time on my hands, riding time and to late to really go back out. SOOOOO
On I continue, but having settled in my head how far and what I am going to do this winter. Libby, Montana
This is I think the 7th time I have ridden thru Libby and the changes and make-over is remarkable to me. The town went thru hell with the Grace Mine fiasco, still is, but I tell you they have come a long ways in rebuilding town pride and the towns beauty. It sits in a valley surrounded by the Cabinet and Salish Mountain Ranges. Libby has a recreational park that most towns would give anything to have. Besides a walking path, sports area and picnic areas there is a horse arena covered stalls round pen and riding trails. The J.Neils Park. The Hilton to us.
Close enough to town to walk. I like Libby, I’m always greeted with, “hey your back again, where’d you go this time?” It is good to be back, feels like I have been gone a very long time. That’s the thing about traveling slow. You move in and out of terrain slow enough that it changes you, it has an effect on you. The mountains seem bigger to me, the scent of lodge pole pine stronger, the raptors, scavenger birds, eagles, turkey vulture’s big black ravens are loud and cocky. And the Tamaracks, just now getting underway transforming from green NEEDLES to the most incredible gold, yellow and tans. A very different color change and look than on the east coast which was also incredible. Everywhere, everywhere there is something beautiful to marvel at. Happy Trails, Bernice