The ride back over Champion Pass (7000 ft) west of Boulder went quick, cold but sunny weather unlike the trip over to Boulder. When I rode into Deer Lodge the temperature’s were in the 60’s. We put up behind the elevators of the Ranchers Argriculture Service in Deer Lodge. I had stopped there on the ride over and bought a sack of grain for the horses. I left 1/2 the bag there as I knew I would be returning via the same route. I must say, this is the first time I have ever rerode the the same route and it is infinitly easier to come back knowing where the good campsites will be, where the water is, and like riding into Deer Lodge, that I would have a place to camp and grain for the horses. Wade Murphy from Back Country Horseman stopped on the way into town. ” What do you need?” “Can I get you anything?” “Well I could use some salt and a couple of canesters of propane”. And sure enough he brought then out to me. Always so many that help. The grain elevators were a reminder of my childhood days when I would ride in the back of my fathers old farm truck to the “mill” to have the corn ground into feed for his herd of Holstein milk cows. The elevators, located next to the railroad tracks, at the west side of town were in remarkably good working condition. The smell, sounds and even the men working the elevators had memories chasing thur my mind as I picked up the 1/2 sack of grain for the horses and got an early start the next day.
So here I am back in Helmville, once again at the Geary Ranch rodeo grounds, 3 day stop over. When I rode into Helmville September 23rd I was greeted by several people coming home from the funeral of Dan Geary who was 3rd generation Geary clan the last of his generation. The Geary Ranch took root in 1867 or there abouts. Irish Catholic. The ranch is still owned and managed by the family. Bob and Dick Geary were moving cattle, sorting calves from cows, shipping out the yearlings the day I rode into town this time. It is always a loud commotion on these days with the cows ballering in protest. Life goes on. When I rode in last month Lisa Bignell was the “welcome wagon extraordinare.” I sent her a thank you card and said “… the smile that you greeted me with was as generous as the friendliness that fills the town of Helmville.” She not only made sure I had a place to stay, she also made sure I had a hot meal from the Copper Queen Saloon. Many Thanks to all of you in the town of Helmville that I met and who helped in one way or another to make my ride more pleasurable. I hope to be back in January for a slide show presentation.
We are off in the morning, making our way back up thru the Blackfoot Valley to Ovando and Seeley Lake. The weather askes for more clothes, thicker hairy coats on the horses and a warm “Cozy” for my tent. It is my favorite time to travel although I do see serious even pitiful looks from passerbys. Wondering I suppose at “what in the world that woman is doing out there?” Happy Trails…Bernice
Yes it is true I am in the town of Bernice, MT. 15 miles west of Boulder, MT. I am staying (with much gratitude) with Karen and Steve Davidson where the horses are tucked nicely in corrals with hay and grain and water and protection from the snow storm that has descended upon us. Thank you Karen and Steve… Bernice, Montana has no real town remaining except an exit off the freeway, a few ancient looking buildings that were once the stage coach stop and the road departments maintenance buildings. The name Bernice came from the wife of one of the surveyors first laying out the roads and rail road. It is now covered in snow with the storm that has moved in and my oh my it does have me wondering what the return trip will be like.
“But why did you ride over to Boulder?” you might ask. Well it was to see a childhood friend named Paulette Smith. Paulette and I rode horses, ran wild as young children between the ages of 6 and 9 across the gentle Minnesota farm land that I grew up in. She had a profound effect on me and my rides today, although I did not in any way think so at that time. But you must hear how I came to connect with this friend I once knew 48 years ago, a good story…. In 2011 I was coming in from a 6000 mile ride. I had been out 2 1/2 years on that ride. It was early spring, snow, wind and rain had me moving slow but steady making my way westward from eastern Montana. I had been caught in yet another snow storm south of Boulder and really had not planned on riding thru the town but would skirt it and go up over Champion pass. But I needed supplies so I rode into Boulder, way off my scheduled time.
I just happened to stop at the library to ask about using the computer. Tied the horses up outside and walked up to the door. As I reached for the door handle I was stunned to a stand still to see a poster reading.. “Lady Long Rider Bernice Ende will be speaking at the library tomorrow at 2 pm”. I composed myself, went in thinking I don’t know what.. “well I am here”, introduced myself and made the necessary arrangements. Went out side walked across the street to the senior center to ask if they also would like a talk while I was in town. I handed my cards to two elderly women sitting at a puzzle they were putting together. They were the only ones in the Senior Center. I told them I’d stop back tomorrow and left. Well one of those lady’s was Paulette’s mother, Mrs. Axt. She took the card home and asked Paulette, “well what do you think could it be the same Bernice from Minnesota?”. Later that day as I was unloading the horses out at the fairgrounds, tired and not at all clear about what had happened at the library ( I found out the next day that my website hostess Emily had set the talk up thinking I WAS going thru Boulder)
I was tired, dirty and still had a couple of hours to get camp set up and the horses taken care of. So when a woman I did not recognize walked into the building at the fair ground, I did not take much notice until she started asking questions…” Are you that woman riding across the country?” she asked. “yes I am” I replied. ” Are you from Minnesota?” “yes I am”. Did you live in Rogers, Minnesota?”, “Yes I did”. Now at this point I turned and looked long at this woman. “Paulette?” I asked, squinting in disbelief. “Paulette Axt?” Well you can only imagine how we both in complete disbelief at this chance meeting must have felt. That is how I came to meet up with my child hood friend that I had not seen in 48 years. WOW that is a Wow.
So I decided to ride over and see her again. Once again I am way off schedule and late and the weather looks down on me with “will she make it?. “will she make it?” Yes of course I will I defiantly think. But I will not be staying long, I head back home on Saturday.
At this point I would like to recap my ride from Seeley Lake, Montana to here with photos and a few stories.
Peggy Fly and her husband Howie greeted me when I rode into this charming, quaint, creative town of Ovando. My horses were tied in a corral as we decided where best to put me for the night. I bought a sack of grain for the horses and had a cup of hot coffee from their store. This town is visually eye catching. This town said, ” hell no we won’t go”, the community dug their heels in with tremendous force and creativity, etched out a new model for the people and surrounding ranches and here they are alive and well and what a model they are for other communities struggling to survive.
There were many other travelers crisscrossing thru the Blackfoot Valley. The CDT- the Continental Divide Trail is not far from Ovando and this is one of the hiker’s stops. Bikers, thats motorcyclists, bicyclists, hunters, and ranchers alike sat at the Stray Bullet for breakfast… This was written in the menu and I think it sums it up…”Welcome to the Stay Bullet in Ovando, Montana. I am proud to be a 5th generation family from the Blackfoot Valley. This valley is a remarkable example of landowners, neighbors and sportsmen working together to show our pride and respect for this landscape. We make every effort to use the local products and businesses to help sustain our community by providing quality service and a taste of the west. To the locals, I thank you for your support, and to those of you passing through, we hope you enjoy your stay and spend sometime exploring this one of a kind community. Cheers, Colleen Zoe Stone, Family and Friends.
The Town also is home to the BlackFoot Challenge a private non-profit organization with the mission to coordinate efforts that conserve and enhance the natural resources and rural way of life in the Blackfoot Watershed for present and future generation. The big word is sustainability!! It has been 20 years since the Challenge was founded in the spirit of partnership, since then the group has worked to conserve working landscapes throughout the valley, protect a rural way of life, control noxious weeds, address drought and mitigate wildlife conflicts. And you know what this Valley these communities of Ovando and Helmville that I rode through have made a successful story out their efforts…What a remarkable place it was. I remember writing in my journal..” I feel like I have ridden into the “unusual”. Both Ovando and The Blackfoot Challenge have websites well worth checking into. I saw more of this collaboration between ranchers, the hunter/fisherman and tourist as I rode through Helmville, MT. There I was greeted into town by the folks from the Bignell Ranch who sent me over to The Geary Ranch where Bob Geary opened up the rodeo grounds for me to camp at and showed me the breathtaking beauty of the Nevada Creek Valley. I met with David and Peggy Mannix who helped me with directions to cross the Garnett Mountains. The Mannix Ranch is another example of a family successfully reaching out for alternative ways to keep the family ranch thriving by raising naturally fed beef. It is absolutely essential that you understand the difference between beef raised in this kind of environment and what is not. The taste and quality of meat is obvious when eaten. The Mannix Ranch Natural Beef. Peggy sent out ground hamburger patties and I was taken back by the taste after I cooked them over the fire, simply delicious and I felt like I could truly enjoy the meat as I knew the animals had been raised humanely from birth to slaughter. Thank you to all of you.
A few photos of crossing the Garnett Mountains where I was caught in “weather” and spent 5 days when it should have taken me 2 days to cross. Ran out of food. A local living up there in a remote cabin stopped on her way to Drummond, MT. to ask if I needed anything, she brought back food for me. I then was stopped in Gold Creek, Mt. for another round of wind and rain, it is never dull, this long riding business, NEVER.
Well that is enough for now. I hope to be off this weekend. October? could be a cold wet, snowy ride back home. The horses are doing very well. Hart is in great shape and is making his way just fine I am glad I brought him out, there were several situations where it was his steadfast sureness that got us down a busy, dangerous highway. I have got a team that is unbeatable at this point. They are getting lots of grain and carry light loads.
Enough – Happy Trails and of course many, many thanks to all of you that have helped on this ride, so many just so many that help.. Sincerely your lady long rider Bernice Ende
Just a quick posting from Seeley Lake library where the Library is at the High School which I think is a brilliant idea. Rode into town 2 days ago looking for a place that I could do horseshoes, I needed a anvil and large hammer to do the job. Found “Woodie”, who owns a machine shop, repair shop for boats and he does welding and does just about anything. He let me tie up behind the shop and away I went. Then I need a place to camp and the Seeley Lake Motel let me camp out back behind the Motel. This is a tourist town AND the logging industry is still in business and the mill is still open. But this time of year is slower and the business people are having a bit of a rest before the next winter season starts. I rode thru Seeley Lake in 2008 and several people have come up to say hello
I have picked up supplies and sent out emails and will post more photos when I get to Boulder, Montana, where I will take a 5/6 day break. Should be there before the end of the month. Horses are doing real well. The ride across the Mission Valley nearly did me in, so hot!!, But here the weather has taken a change and Fall has snapped into place. I have picked up a “winter box” of woolens and and OutFitters Supply has sent out a much needed box for repairs and accessories. So I am off in the morning and Happy Trails to all of you. Sincerely Bernice
When I rode into town I thought, geez no one will starve in this town! I have never in any town that I have ridden through, seen so many fruit trees. Apples of many varieties, pears, plums, peaches, apricots, choke cherries, gooseberries. The trees dripping with fruit, branches burdened with heavy loads of delicous rippening fruit that the horses and I have been feasting on.
Hot Springs is I must say one of the most unique towns that I have ever ridden through. It is a mecca for the outlandish, the unusual. It is fertile ground for the creative for those chosing an alternative life. But it also has a thread of conservative influence of long time ranchers and farmers in the community and although there remains differences as does in any town this town fosters a high level of tolerance. It is a FIDO town. Dogs…you are welcomed here.
I have my camp set up at Leroy’s. He has a set of corrals and a shed and water, nice set up for me and the horses. And my campsite is next to his “Big Medicene Hot Springs” this is Tribal land belonging to the Confederated Tribes of the Salish and Kootenai Nations. I will be traveling across Tribal lands (with a permit) and hope to stop in St. Ignatious to present the Tribal Elders with a gift, a thank you for letting me cross their Tribal lands.
Claire and Hart did so well on the 17 day ride down. However Claire has gone home to Theodoras Garden, it was enough for her. Hart will continue on. He really is doing so well, I contribute much of his well being to the SOURCE MICRONUTRIENTS that I have been using. I am glad I brought him out again. Such a dependable, loving horse he is and a grounding force to the mares that can be so silly at times I wonder that they are even my horses.
From here I head due east to Seeley lake. OUTFITTERS SUPPLY has sent out a few items that I need and I will pick them up there. It will be a short stop might have to do horseshoes. The higher elevations are tossing out colder weather at night and I have added more woolens to my saddle bags. This is now the best of weather to be riding in. One must hide out during the heat of the day but mornings and evenings are purely…. perfect.
I head back out in the morning. The Mission Valley lies ahead, then it is up and over into the DeerLodge National Forest, I cross Champion Pass east of Deer Lodge then drop down into Boulder, Montana to visit friends for a 5 day lay over. I believe it will take 3 weeks to ride over there, not much more but like I say its a whole lot easier to say your going to ride here and there and every where, its a different thing to do it. Happy Trails to all of you that follow the ride. Bernice
It is late and this will be short. WE leave, “we” being all of us… Essie Pearl, Montana Spirit, Hart and yes even Claire dog will be riding out with me this time. We shall see how she does. I had not meant to stay in this long but here I am mid August just heading out.
The horses have had a good rest both Essie and Montana Spirit did very well on the fast short 600 mile ride we did earlier this year. The weather was hot the entire time we stayed on here at Theadora’s Garden where I rent the barn facility. You might wonder that I am taking Hart out again. Yes the big horse will come with, carrying only a light 40 pound load. It is because I still need him! The two mares are simply not ready for busy- in town traffic and Hart is like a steady train pulling us thru the thick of chaos out there. I will only ride him when I need that extra steadfast lead horse that I have come to depend on from him.
Because there are fires east of here in Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness area I am heading due south once again. First stop will be the McCurry Tennessee Walking Horse Ranch where I will visit Al and Judy McCurry. Mac McCurry and Evelyn have passed away and now Al their son has taken a great interest in the horses. As some of you already know Pride, the first horse that I used on the 2005 ride came from the McCurry ranch. Pride now 18 yrs old is with long time veterinarian Nancy Haugan in Eureka. After that we will make our way down to Hot Springs, Montana where I decide whether or not Claire should continue with us. I am meeting up with several friends there for a much needed soak in the therapeutic
mineral baths. From there I hope to get over to Boulder, Montana which is due east of Hot Springs about 300 miles. Again to visit friends and maybe soak in more mineral baths. I would like to ride south from there into the Centennial Mountain range south of Dillion, Montana near the Idaho border.
I set out on this ride with this in mind..to ride late into the year. To experience northern winter riding. I have ridden many miles thru out Arizona and New Mexico thru winter months and I have ridden early spring in the northern states but I have not ridden into the late northern winter months. So this I would like to try, see what it takes to keep the horses in good health and myself warm! If it gets to the point that it not safe for the horses well of course I will get back home some how.
September and October are two of my favorite months to ride. The heat of summer cools, mosquito’s and fly’s lessen, there is less of a rush on the roads, a quieting of the year as it comes into its fall season. But before I sign off here I would like to thank Claudia Sieman, Nancy Newman and Theodora Brennan for helping to care for Hart and Claire while away. I also would like to extend a thank you to my much appreciated sponsors (please see sponsorship page) who provide me with the saddle, packs and gear, nutritional supplements, vet checks, boots, hats. All of which are indispensable to my rides. Thank you, Thank you, THANK YOU. Happy Trails to all of you that follow the rides.