Bernice, Montana … 15 miles west of Boulder, Montana October 4th, 2013

 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.

Ovando, Montana

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.

DSCF5534There 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.

there it is the Stray Bullet and the the Blackfoot Angler behind owned by another shaker and mover in this community Kathy Schoendoerfer who took the photo
there it is the Stray Bullet and the the Blackfoot Angler behind owned by another shaker and mover in this community Kathy Schoendoerfer who took the photo

This is what greets you when you come into town!  Peggy and Howie Fly owners
This is what greets you when you come into town! Peggy and Howie Fly owners

 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.

DSCF5565                       DSCF5570                     DSCF5583

DSCF5517                            DSCF5512                             DSCF5596

 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


Seeley Lake, Montana – September 18th, 2013

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

September 5th, 2013 Hot Springs, Montana

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

the campsite in a disheaveled mess, preparing to leave
the campsite in a disheaveled mess, preparing to leave

Montana Spirit hiding out in the trees, afternoon breaks with full fly protection on
Montana Spirit hiding out in the trees, afternoon breaks with full fly protection on

there is is late at night the famous Symes Hotel.."crawl in and walk out" that was the moto years ago, still going strong
there is is late at night the famous Symes Hotel..”crawl in and walk out” that was the moto years ago, still going strong


August 17th, 2013 final preparations for 1000 mile ride

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.

 Essie Pearl ( uninvited guest) having lunch at Theadora's Garden
Essie Pearl ( uninvited guest) having lunch at Theadora’s Garden
  •   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

    Essie Pearl  grazing in front of "the coop" a guest cottage, looking for treats no doubt
    Essie Pearl grazing in front of “the coop” a guest cottage, looking for treats no doubt

    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 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.

  • Sincerely, Bernice Ende, your lady long rider

    Harts new set up that I so ingeniously created
    Harts new set up that I so ingeniously created

    OK I know this is getting ridiculous but she needed a shade umbrella
    OK I know this is getting ridiculous but she needed a shade umbrella

July 17th, 2013 Fortine, Montana-one month lay over

On my travels through out the west I have come across several “cow camps”.

  “Well just what is a cow camp”, you might ask, “a place for cows to camp over night?” “Are the cows fed hay and grain and given a bed to rest in?” Well not exactly….When I first started long riding I did not even know there was such a thing as a “cow camp”!! I have come across many over the years each different each the same, it’s a temporary home for the cowboys and cowgirls that manage the herds of cattle that roam the National Forest land or BLM land or large private ranches.  Some of the camps are a trailer and a corral.  Others  are old shacks patched together.  Some are merely tents and steel corrals.


It was raining hard when a white pickup stopped, I’d seen it go by on the road a couple of times already. I knew it must be a local rancher. Cow dog on the seat, fencing equipment in the back of the truck.  A weathered face poked out the window, “hey if you need a place to hold up we got a cow camp up a ways”.  Well, I thought a second…. I was heading home, only had another few days to go. I wasn’t going to bother them but I knew one thing for sure I was hungry!!!! and I also knew another  sure thing and that was that cow camps have food!!! Food kept running thru my mind.  The cowboy was headed for town and had to get going.  We parted ways with a “maybe”.  The warm rain, now coming down strong  was determined to get me wet. I rode on a ways and finally chose a thick, tall fur tree to take cover under and waited it out.

 It did not take me long to decide when I reached the the turn off leading  up to the cow camp.  I headed up the road like a horse heading for home, now wet and hungry.

the bunk house that my gear in there
the bunk house that my gear in there

No one was there when I rode into camp, “just make your self at home” were the instructions so I did.  It was one of the prettiest places I have ever ridden into. Jerome Yoder and Toj Fletcher were the two cowboys managing the herd for a ranch out of Hot Springs, Montana. They had been at this mountain cow camp with the cattle for about a month and would stay until late October.DSCF5317DSCF5320What a pretty place it was.

DSCF5319             Neither men knew much about the history of the place but obviously it had been a homesteader ranch.  High mountains surrounding a year around creek running thru natural, open luscious meadows. Abundant wild life.  Long cold winters, deep snow and plenty of wind. The two men came in late, tired and dirty. Toj had been out with cattle all day and his horse knew the routine as it waited to have the saddle taken off, then sweet grain poured out for her,  a brush down, then back into the pasture. The cowboys alternate the horses, riding one day rest 2 days before using that same horse again.  A good cow horse, one that is quick minded and agile is a pleasure to ride and greatly appreciated by any cowboy. They are generally treated very well.

Rained hard again the night I arrived.  I am not much for sleeping inside anymore but when you get wet, coming in is not so bad. In the morning everyone was up early and Jerome had a feast in the making. OH I do I laugh now when I think of sitting there smelling that food and drinking his “cowboy coffee”, its just boiled coffee most of the time.  It is not espresso or anything but a deeply satisfying cup of coffee.  I never know if it’s just the surroundings when I am drinking a cup of “cowboy coffee” or if its the people I am sharing the brew with or that I am usually just so darn hungry and a cup of hot coffee or hot tea tastes so very good.   They both must of thought, “damn that gal sure can eat”.  But it could not have been to bad because they said, “stay as long as you like”.  My girls, Essie and Spirit were in full agreement when it was suggested that I ride out with Toj to help with the fencing and bring in some cows that had gotten out on Wolf Creek road. Jerome had to work on the horse trailer and run into town.   So I was given a horse to ride and out we rode.

Toj to the left starting a long day
Toj to the left
starting a long day

   DSCF5344                  Jerome Yoder above.

The job these two men have is this…keep the cattle alive!! They must in doing so keep fences fixed, keep the cattle off the roads, move them to  different locations to keep from overgrazing or damaging creeks, take out salt for the cattle, treated hurt animals. They do this 7 days a week from morning until dark.  They are usually given food from the ranch or ranches that own the cattle. Most times the horses (anywhere from 3 to 5 horses per rider) that the cowboys use and the dogs belong to the cowboys. Most camps do not have electricity. The cowboys do their  own horseshoeing, cooking, cleaning. They both said, “I love this life”. These cattle were trailered out to fatten over the summer months on National Forest Service land. These are cow /calf pairs and were the Black Angus breed. In October or maybe later the cow and calf are separated and the calf will either be held over one more year or are sold and shipped off to feed lot.

these cow dogs are truly amazing to watch
these cow dogs are truly amazing to watch

here the men are loading into a trailer to take their horses and dogs a little closer to the cattle
here the men are loading into a trailer to take their horses and dogs a little closer to the cattle


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           It is not often that I get to ride a cow horse. Dash was her name,Quarter horse breed.  She was a beautiful sorrel mare 8 years old I think. To ride a fast, quick horse that will go anywhere for you just to get those darn cows is like driving a sports car.  These horses seem to like the chase. Like the dogs the work these horses do is matter of agility, speed and quick thinking with a sturdiness of mind. DSCF5322

I rode out that morning with a full belly but I rode back in hungry. We fixed fences, moved cattle, which means you are running a horse over rough country, dashing under trees at a fast gallop to head off a cow and her calf who have a different route in mind than you do. I think we left about 8am and got back in by 7pm. Can’t say I was exhausted, long riding is pretty tough I was in condition from the 600 miles I’d just ridden.

Jerome made another feast! Geez I was hungry! Chicken,salad, potatoes( I made those with garlic). Slept outside that night. The mice and pack rats had kept me up the night before. It’s not unusual for me to share my space with “varmints” but usually I have Claire dog with me and she keeps them from running over my face…Now that would cause me to scream.  I spread my tarp out and made a bed out in the open meadow near the bunk house. The moon was coming full, horses grazing in hobbles nearby, the steady biting and chewing lulled me to sleep, I could not have asked for a more satisfying  day.

 I was tempted to stay longer, but home was tugging at my shirt sleeve. I saddled up that morning and as I watched the two cowboys loading their horses into the trailer and then travel a ways to herd more cattle and repeat the same thing, move cattle, check for strays, check for injured animals.  I wondered if they got tired of it.  But then I looked into their faces and saw what many times is absent in most faces and that is the look of knowing  that they are doing something that they truly love, doesn’t matter, they just love the life. Happy Trails Cowboys, happy trails


patiently waiting for the cue "load up"
patiently waiting for the cue “load up”