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
Just rode into town, the horses are tied outside the library as I post. This is short!! more later…
I am scheduled to give a talk here at the Preston Town – County Library at 6pm on November the 8th.
Address is 203 East Main Street, just west of the school, can’t miss it.. Come out and here some VERY interesting stories.
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