November 17 2013. A warm glistening crystal morning, the ground covered with 5 inches of fresh wet snow that last night silently dropped off… greeted me and the horses into Trego, Montana. Home from a quick 750 mile ride from Fortine, Montana to Boulder Montana and back.
Trego, Mt. Was the first stop, then south to the small community of Happy Inn. Rode into Hot Springs from the due east. Crossed the Mission Valley, to St. Ignatius over to Seeley Lake, Ovando, Helmville, Gold Creek, Deer Lodge, Champion Pass, Basin, and Finally 6 weeks and 300 plus miles, October 3rd, 2013 we arrived in Boulder, Montana. It snowed 7 inches the day after we got in.
The Davidson’s, Karen and Steve went above and beyond the call of duty hosting my 4 day stay at their ranch home in ….the town of Bernice, 12 miles or so west of Boulder. We returned the same route, due to weather I was weeks late and the visit was cut short, the return ride could not be delayed.
I won’t go into why I had gone over to Boulder, Mt. as that is all posted on the website earlier, except to say that I’d ridden over to visit a childhood friend of nearly 50 years. We rode our ponies together from the ages of 6 and 9. Running a muck on our parents Minnesota dairy farms. Paulette Smith, she was then Paulette Axt, and I had a very serendipitous meeting in 2011, crazy story how we met one another after 48 years, but as I said you’ll have to review the website for those stories.
I left august 17th,2013, with the whole family, Claire, Essie Pearl, Montana Spirit and Hart. Claire returned home after 2 weeks she did well enough but at 14 years old, well she needs to stay home now and she’s in good hands at Theodora’s Garden as guard dog extraordinaire or “doggie greeter” to the friendly people who come to see the gardens. Claire is happy, healthy and not missing me in the least. (I do however miss her). Essie and Spirit were all pop corn and trot, they breezed the 750 miles. Hart did well enough but coming home had a serious puncture wound that ended up for us having to be hauled the last 60 miles into Trego. He was gallantly defending his two mares from an annoying jack ass that was showing a bit to much interest in his two mares. He lunged for the fence and drove a stick or something into his leg. So we did not, unfortunately “ride in to town”. We were hauled the last 25 miles by cowboy Jerome Yoder and his friend Myron. Fish game and wildlife officer Frank Bowen hauled me from just south of Marion, to the cow-camp north east of Libby. The “Cow Camp Story” is on the website….Then 3 days of snow set in, some places had 12/14 inches. Both Jerome and Myron felt hauling was the wisest choice considering the situation I had with Hart. Who by the way is nearly healed.
I must say that riding a route you have already ridden is infinitely easier than the daily surprise and chance of not knowing where you will camp, where the food will come from or where the water will be. It was an easy ride home and retracing my steps let me say hello once again to folks that I had met on the trip over. Weather settled down, turned cold and I felt like the snow tip mountains of the Anaconda, Flint Creek and Garnet Ranges were laughing at me. “you’re running out of time” I heard them laughing at my silliness of riding into October and November. But you know it truly is some of the best time to ride, much easier on the horses and until you have single digit temperatures and the snow is deep, its pretty good travel. The days are short- I rarely got into the saddle before 11am and broke off by 4 or 5 pm. But still I was able to cover 15 or so miles and it was not difficult riding.
On the return home I had a surprise visit and 3 day stop over with long time acquaintances Don and Julie Flech friends from my years as a Ballet Teacher in Trego. Patty and Willi Stevens, tribal members of the Confederated Kootenai and Salish Nation invited me to stay at there home just out side of St. Ignatius. Patty is running for a Tribal Council seat and they were off to meetings and dinners but were still gracious enough to welcome me into their home. Gave the horses feed, hay and corrals and me a hot shower and a nice spot to camp. I had met Patty and Willi in 2011 at the end of my 6000 mile ride when I came thru their Tribal lands. I stayed one whole week in Hot Springs, camping at Leroy’s Big Medicine mineral Baths. Leroy has corrals and a lean-to shed and water that he let me rent for a small fee. I like that town, Hot Springs, gave a talk at the library and then it was just a few days north of Hot Springs that Hart had his accident.
I think the horses must love this time of year, it’s not terribly cold yet, no bugs, still plenty of grass to paw for, sun is warm, snow is soft to lie on. Windless nights for the most part here in the mountains. I always feel like this time of year takes a short breather, a moment of repose before sending in the serious winter.
I had several riding and camping changes I’d set out to try this year. The first half of the year from May to July I rode 600 or so miles with only Essie and Spirit. Trying a faster, lighter ride. Campsites were a quick in and out. I came to a number of conclusions that I won’t go into about riding that way but the horses liked it, so did I. But the rubbing increases greatly and you end up with about the same time as it would have taken you if you’d ridden slow.
I also wanted to improve my tent situation. I needed to come up with a tent that would keep me warm, that I could cook in with out condensation and would be sturdy enough for snow and winds. I came up with a tent cozy, (like a tea cozy) and vent system that I could not be happier with. This winter I will improve on it, fit it better etc.
I think my horseshoeing improved this year. I had two occasions to use my doctoring skills and I like to think that our local Veterinarian and friend Nancy Haugan would have been proud of me. I expanded my wild food knowledge and use. Next year I will take a fishing license and work on fishing skills. I also think I come home with a more serious attitude for these long rides than I have ridden with in the past.
Why? Well you know maybe its just because I want to learn to be a better long rider that’s all. This is the end of my 9th consecutive year of Long Riding- 20,000 miles. Who would have thought.
Next year? Well lets see….
I have to write this month and next. January and February, talks, begin training out a new horse, read, study routes, learn french, work on a new DVD. March and April- practice rides, more writing, and get out by April… get going again.
Where?…. Well I still have this Canadian ride tugging at my sleeve and it’s not going away so I had better get it done before I can’t do it. Coast to coast, east to west, a 2 year ride. Easy to talk about another thing to actually do.
I will post a schedule of my up coming talks if you are interested in attending one of my slide-show presentations. The DVD, ADVENTURES OF A LADY LONG RIDER, THE FIRST 10,000 MILES is still available as are other products click on THE STORE at the top of the page. Or if you are so inclined to make a donation for the up coming 2014 ride click on the DONATION button also at the top of the page.
And so…Please… to all of you who have helped me in one way or another this year, for your smiles and your encouragement, for your interest, food, shower, clean clothes or for just putting up with a woman that thinks she must ride 1000’s of mile’s around the country with horses. I sincerely, from the very depth of my heart that is filled with appreciation… I truly mean it when I say “I could not have done it with out you.”
A sincere thank you to each and every one of you for helping to make this another successful year of long riding.
Your lady long rider.….. Bernice Ende