This time we ride west for eastern Washington. The Okanagon Area. Meeting up with Lynx Vilden for a short 2/300ride with her. The two of us are planning a 1000 mile ride in France next year. WE SHALL SEE. We shall see.
Poor little Liska Pearl was soft as butter when we left nearly 4 weeks ago. She is returning stronger and having acquired a fair amount of experience, she did well. The two mares have bonded in a way Montana Spirit and Essie Pearl never did. Montana Spirit has taken on the role of big sister, little Liska Pearl well she is of course the little sister. It’s a pleasure working with the horses when they are quiet together and not bickering.
While in Plains besides speaking at the Back Country Horseman meeting I spoke for the 6th grade classes, mostly about the long ride they were on, SCHOOL! I then had the pleasure of meeting up with the students once again on their class outing at the Bend Guard Station this is my reflection from that stop.
A Good Thing or One more reason to keep our Public Lands PUBLIC!
Two 6th grade classes, from the Plains grade School, 30 plus enthusiastic and rambunctious students on a class field trip swarmed the Bend Guard Station for two days. The restored historic Bend Guard Station also known as The Bend Work Center was once a Ranger Station for the old Cabinet National Forest. The original log ranger cabin which was constructed in 1911 is still on the site. It is located 25 miles or so north of Plains and graciously accommodated the lively, curious students.
In 1989 Jean Nemeth a teacher, forged ahead with her idea of taking the children on an outdoor hands-on experience. Now twenty-eight years later the 6th grade class continues making this yearly trek into the National Forest discovering, learning and growing in a classroom of blue skies and tall evergreen trees. With-out cell phones, I-pads, and social media conversations jig-jaged back and forth while a full moon enhanced the ambiance we all experienced. They were IN LIFE not just watching it. They learned survival skills, ecology, packing a horse, beading and roasted wild game while circled around a large fire pit. You could see it, you could hear it in their voices when they played a Native American game called the “screaming warrior.” You could feel their excitement of being so close to the earth. But there were also moments of reflection as they relaxed into a story told by Native American story teller Dennis Burt.
They quietly boarded the yellow school bus exhausted. It was as if they’d replaced the frantic life they came with – a life we are all to familiar with. They had replaced it with the calmness of cold creeks and wind whistling through tall trees. A bit humbled.
I say “Bravo” to Jean, Sandra and Lisa. To the school for encouraging and continuing the 6th grade outing and to the parents and volunteers that helped to make it happen. This is but one more reason to keep our public lands – public.
As I made a 20 plus mile descent off the long winding road from historical Bend Ranger Station, the snow covered Cabinet Mountain’s rising at my back, I had the good fortune to meet up with BACKCOUNTRY HORSEMAN of Plains, Montana. Trucks and trailers loaded with horses and mules heading home from a mountain ride, first one of the year. John Errecart stopped with his two big sorrel mules quietly standing in the horse trailer, heads and long ears poking out the windows as we talked. Montana Spirit is quite use to all this but little Liska Pearl is encountering newness at every step. If you are not familiar with BACKCOUNTRY HORSEMAN – www.bchmt.org ( I have written about them often and spoken at many of their meetings) they are in my opinion one of the best horse organizations if you want equestrian camaraderie or want to learn about packing or doing a back-country ride these are the folks to hook up with. I’ll be speaking at their meeting Monday evening here in Plains. I look forward to it.
If I am sore from our first 100 miles, then for sure the horses must be. Little Liska may be wishing she had stayed home. But I really do not think so. She has an eager look and excitement in her fast long stride. No more circles and arenas. These are long straight (or winding) roads she now travels, stretching out miles and miles and miles before her peaked ears and bright black eyes. She’s part of a team and seems very attached to Spirit. But oh my oh my what a radical change it must be for her.
We are put up, (thanks to BACKCOUNTRY HORSEMAN who helped with the fees, a bit high for me) at the lovely and I mean they are lovely, Sanders County Fairgrounds. I do not complain about the cost it does take time and money to maintain these fairground facilities. I was headed away from the fairgrounds for a rough patch of open land near the Thompson River that is swelled and raging with spring waters when once again John Errecart pulls up next to us. This time with his wife, looking for me, bearing gifts of hay and grain! I must admit I’d been looking forward to staying at the fairgrounds. The horses needed the rest, free from ropes and tether lines. I needed a hot shower and corrals which are like having a baby sitter for my horses, allowing me undisturbed sleep. And so it happened a restful, very pleasant stay, “like the Hilton,” at the Sanders County Fairgrounds. Thank you BCH.
Rain and snow followed me most of the way from my cabin to the Libby stop over where I also had the good fortune of once again running into Judith Hemphill, a fine horsewoman in her own right who seems to always .lend a hand when I come thru Libby. She lent me a car so I could run errands while the horses remained safely at the J.Neil rodeo grounds.
Sixteen days – about 130 miles, not far, not fast, we must go slow. My back felt like it did the first year I rode a long ride. I thought I’d damaged my kidneys. I lay in my tent thinking “I can’t do this, I want to go back.” It does I must admit, take a fair amount of determination to long ride. “Well,” I said to myself – as I said to myself 13 years ago, “just how bad do you want to do this?” It hurts sometimes and it’s not fun nor easy as many imagine long riding to be. At not so young an age of 63 I must use more brain than brawn. I am glad Liska is small when I pack up. I am grateful everyday for the ease, the willingness and skills that my Montana Spirit offers me. But oh my, oh my, not a day goes by when I think, “How is it, how is it I get to do this?” The beauty, the people, this life of long riding. Each time I ride out I am filled with gratitude for our public land I have access to enjoy. We all must support this national treasure. Once again I am swept up by the enormity of the country I live in. A country that has filled my spirit these many years. A joy I thought I may have lost this past year.
Its an up and coming town, Libby but ravaged by the Grace Mine fiasco. But they – have thanks to the EPA and government funding, have picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and are again prospering. The new Cabinet Mountain Brewery is a must stop if you are in Libby, Montana. As are the many parks and recreational areas.
Damn the first week is hard, new horse, old body (mine).
Bernice Ende is a horsewoman and adventurer who has ridden over 28,000 miles on horseback throughout the United States. Back in 2005, without any significant experience in long riding, Bernice set out by herself from her home in Trego, Montana and headed south—2,000 miles south, all the way to the Albuquerque, New Mexico. In the following years, her rides became more and more ambitious, and her most recent trip stretched 8,000 miles from Montana to the coast of Maine and back, a journey that took over two and a half years to complete!
I was surprised to learn that Bernice is relatively new to long riding and never had life-long dreams of making long riding a full-time vocation. She grew up on a Minnesota dairy farm and spent the majority of her adult life teaching ballet in cities such as San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Seattle. In 1992 she moved to Trego, Montana and opened a ballet school in a historic community hall building. After a decade of teaching there in Trego, she made the decision to take her first long ride. Since then, her story has been featured in numerous magazines, newspapers, and even on the Today Show. More importantly, her rides have inspired people of all ages to follow their dreams and pursue lives of adventure.
Bernice is extremely gifted at telling her her life story, so we had a fun and in-depth conversation. We discussed her background and the decisions that led her to strike out on her own on her first long ride. We talked about the mental challenges of pursuing such ambitious adventures and how she manages the emotional ups and downs of years on the road. She breaks down the specifics of her long rides—how far she rides each day, what she eats, where she sleeps, and all the other details. She also shares some heartwarming stories of people she has met on her rides—stories that will restore your faith in humanity in the midst of our current volatile political climate.
Thank you again to Bernice for taking the time to chat. I hope you enjoy!