Plymouth marks 3,000 miles of her 8,000 mile journey
Bernice Ende will have ridden about 26,000 miles on horseback and spent nearly 12 years on the road by the time she finishes her ride in 2016. That’s longer than if she’d ridden around the world on the Equator! (The equatorial circumference of the Earth is 24,902 miles.) She has also crossed the Rocky Mountains 12 times and has not lived indoors since 2008, instead camping in a tent by her horses even in the winter!
Bernice Ende, also know as “Lady Long Rider,” is 60 years old. She is a retired teacher, who “set off on the open road” to explore freedom and experience American life in new ways, she said. Ende is tough by all accounts, but she exhibits a calm focus that is simultaneously intense and peaceful. Her soft grey-bluish-green eyes focus stronger and longer than most, seemingly honoring each moment without distraction. Perhaps this is the same focus she uses to survive on the trail?
Through her journey, Ende has braved threats to her survival from weather, from intruders, from accidents and from a lack of food, water or adequate shelter for both herself and her two horses. She doesn’t carry a cell phone, but does carry a gun.
“I can’t be distracted,” she said, describing the journey as “hard and dangerous… Anything can happen at any time. You are always living on the edge.”
Her current ride is an 8,000 mile trek. Ende started from her cabin in the northwest corner of Montana and will ride to the coast of Maine and back to upstate New York before winter sets in. In the spring, she’ll head north to Canada, then west to the coast before returning to Montana. She aims for 30 miles per day, traveling 5-6 mph.
Ende arrived in Plymouth, Vt., Friday, Sept. 26. The stop marked 3,000 miles into the journey. Kelly Siemans, Mina and Dick Turner, and neighbor Chase Morsey, welcomed Ende to Plymouth.
“The Turner home in Plymouth, Vermont is one of those bubbly, lively revolving door households where you can not help but be devoured by ‘family,’” Ende wrote in a recent blog post. “I have never seen the Northeast in its glorious fall attire… It’s as if a head of broccoli had been painted by a Picasso.”
Q&A with Bernice Ende
Mountain Times: It’s a rare choice for someone to give up creature comforts and take on such challenges, especially post-retirement and as a single woman. Why do you do it?
Bernice Ende: For freedom? Yes, but not in the way many assume. It’s a lot of work to be alone on the open road. You can’t imagine what it’s like until you’re out here… you’re submerged in life… you’re experiencing the world with every cell in your body; engulfed in all the elements, the flies, the heat, the rain, the dust and dirt…
I fancied myself as an experienced horsewoman before I took off on the journey, but it wasn’t until I lived with them and really understood what life was from their perspective. The journey together requires a great deal of trust — the horses must trust me and I them.
What message do you carry? Is there a specific cause you are riding for?
The main message I carry on my journeys is that of the freedom we enjoy in this country. It’s amazing that I’m able to do this at all. The goodness and generosity of people is overwhelming and it stands in stark contrast to many of the news reports most people hear. If you come with me for a week, you’d see.
I also hope to inspire women to be rid of the fears that hold them back, to go out and do what it is we want to do and to know that we can. This year marks the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in Montana, so I’ve included a history tour of women suffragist on this itinerary stopping a places to honor Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage.
I chose Wells, Maine as my furthest point eastward, in part because it’s the home of Rachel Louise Carson’s National Wildlife Refuge. Carson was an American marine biologist and conservationist whose book Silent Spring and other writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement.
People often assume I’m a radical about returning to the simpler days of our past, but I’m definitely not. I would never want to go back to the days when women didn’t have the right to vote, or any rights at all! Or to having slaves?!? No. We’re much better off today.
Another common assumption is that I’m doing this for fun. This journey is certainly interesting and challenging, but I would never put it in the category of “fun.”
How do you meet your basic needs?
Grass, water and relatively flat ground are key elements I look for when selecting a place to bed down. I sleep in a tent with horses tied up near by. (The are picketed at the ankle with 25 foot lines.) In the west there is a lot of public open lands to camp on and sometimes I go a week without seeing anybody. But in the east you can’t do that. Most of the land is private so I ask for permission – everyone is generous. Sometimes I sleeps in ditches, in abandoned houses, in fields, or on private property. In New England it’s easy to find grass and water. I usually start looking for a location each evening around 4-5 p.m.
Sometimes its hard to find food, water, or a proper place to stay. But I’m pretty tenacious, the harder it gets the more determined I become.
Survival also includes keeping the mind focused. It was really hard to do when I first started, I cried every night. But now I have learned to prevent such distractions by being proactive. Now I stop it, I get up and do something active.
How do the horses fair on such a trip?
I have a team of two Norwegian Fjord mares. Essie Pearl is 13 years old and Montana Spirit is 6 year old. Both ride and pack.
Norwegian Fjords are the “Horse of Norway” and I wouldn’t travel with another breed. They have a heavy coat, thick skin… they are hearty with a quiet mind. For a trip like this they must be a good as a police horse and as savy as a mountain horse.
How many long rides have you done?
This is my seventh ride. I started in 2005 with a 2,000 mile journey from Trego, Montana to Edgewood, New Mexico. In 2006-07, I embarked on a 5,000 mile ride. Starting from Montana and doing a large loop around the western US. I traveled through South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, California, Organ, Washington and Idaho. In 2008, my journey took me 3,000 miles from Montana to South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. From 2009-20011, a 6,000 mile trek brought me on a different loop of the west coast, this time traveling deeper into Texas and up through Utah. In November of 2011 I took a “vacation ride” through Montana, a relatively short ride of 600 miles. In 2012, I ventured north into the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan for a 2,000 journey. In 2013 I completed a 1,500 Mile trip through Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Now I am on the longest continuous ride I have attempted yet. 3,000 miles down, 5,000 to go!
Is this your final long-distance ride?
No, I know I can’t go on forever, I’ll be 62 when finished with this ride, but I think I have at least one more long journey in me before I’ll have to call it quits. I think I’ll hit 30,000 miles by the time I’m finished with long rides… it’s not a goal, I just think it will happen.
Meet Lady Long Rider Bernice Ende when she comes back through the area in mid-October. She is hoping to give a community talk nearby. Look for more details in the next edition of The Mountain Times or at www.mountaintimes.info. For more information about Bernice Ende and her journey, visit endeofthetrail.com.
By Polly Lynn