There’s been an interesting traveler spotted in and around Fernie and the backcountry over the last couple of weeks. Bernice Ende, along with her team of three horses and a dog, stopped in Fernie early last week to rest up before making the final stretch of her nearly six month journey on horseback.
Bernice is a long rider, embarking on rides of at least 1,000 miles or more. Her latest trek began in Montana and took her across the border into Saskatchewan, travelling as far east as Prince Albert, before heading west to Edmonton. She then turned south to pass through the Canadian Rockies for the home stretch. Home for Bernice, her dog Claire, and horses Hart, Essie Pearl, and Montana Spirit, is just a few minutes south of Eureka in Trego, Montana.
Following a career teaching dance, Bernice set off on her first ride back in 2005. Not quite knowing what she’d got herself into, she admits the first trip didn’t exactly go smoothly. “You’re alone and you’re faced with situations you couldn’t even imagine, no matter how prepared you are,” Bernice remarked. “Being out there alone at night, your horses are scared, there’s a bear that’s coming in, or you’re riding in traffic, or you can’t get through on a road. It was difficult, but by the time I did finish that ride, I realised that I was never going to go back to what I had once known as a life.”
Eight years, and nearly 18,000 miles later, Bernice can’t imagine doing anything else. “The life has just captured me, it’s captured my imagination,” she said. “It’s challenging and it’s interesting, and as difficult as it is, as dirty as it is, as frustrating as it can be, I love my life as a lady long rider.”
On the leg of the trip that took her through the Flathead Valley, Bernice was lucky enough to encounter a few different members of the Fernie community. After running into Conservation Officer Joe Caravetta, Jon Levesque and his family, as well as several others, Bernice found herself overwhelmed with generous contributions of food for herself, and her animal travel companions.
With tired horses in need of a break, Bernice took up Francesca and Martin Hart on their offer to stay at their property in Cokato, where she spent a few days relaxing and getting to know Fernie.
“There’s this ribbon of community here,” commented Bernice. “This happens everywhere in varying degrees, but this was exceptional. People were literally feeding me and passing me on.”
She went on to say, “Those basic needs of food, water, and shelter must be met every day. Without the help of others, no matter how much money you had, you couldn’t do this.”
On the trails since April, Bernie plans to make it back to her home in Trego by late October. She’ll spend the winter speaking at schools and retirement homes, as she plans her next ride. “I now give talks, it’s how I make my living,” said Bernice. “You know it’s a very meager living, but I’m happy and very satisfied with my life, and I feel a great deal of contentment in what I do.”
To follow Bernice on her journey, visit www.endeofthetrail.com.