'Lady Long Rider' trots into Moose Lake
Imagine riding a horse for two years.
That is just what Bernice Ende is doing, and this is the 10th year of her long rides.
Ende stopped to rest for the night at the home of Frank and Lois Klejeski, located west of Moose Lake and the Soo Line Trail on Friday, June 20.
Ende left Moose Lake to head east into Wisconsin early the next morning.
"I picked up the Soo Line Trail at Remer," said Ende in an interview that Friday evening. "That is the best ATV trail that I've seen. It is well marked and well maintained, and it was so clean. There was no trash at all. It was far and above the other trails that I have ridden on."
Ende said she started this trip from her home in Trego, Montana, late in March. Trego is located in the northwest corner of the state, near the Canadian border. She plans to ride to Maine by the end of October and spend the winter there.
And then Ende plans to continue her trip by riding across Canada, down into Washington and come back across Idaho to her home in Montana. It is a two-year ride, ending in 2016.
Ende is a member of the Long Riders Association. She calls herself the Lady Long Rider.
This is the 10th year Ende has been on long rides, averaging several thousand miles each.
"After I retired from teaching ballet, I decided to ride down to see my sister in Albuquerque, New Mexico," she said. "After riding 1,000 miles, I cried every day. There were some ranchers that put me back in the saddle so I could finish my ride. I've come a long way since then."
Ende said, in addition to the horse she rides, Essie Pearl, a pack horse, Montana Spirit, carries their supplies. They travel 30 miles at a day at a trot.
"That's hard to do," said Frank Klejeski.
Although Ende has had several horses over the years, she has ridden close to 21,500 miles.
"I'll have 30,000 miles in when I finish this ride," she said.
Even though Ende often stays with people whom others tell her about, she still sleeps in her tent close to her horses. She spent the night at the Klejeski's in her tent in the barn, just on the other side of the horse stalls.
"Sometimes I camp in a ditch," she said.
Although Ende often picks greens, such as dandelion greens, lambs quarters, pokeweed, spinach and fresh strawberries, from the land for her meals, she does stop to ask for food and water at times.
"That's the hardest," she said. "I feel that people are going to laugh at me when I stop and ask for water for my horses and for food."
Ende said she grew up in Minnesota near Rogers, located near Elk River.
"My mother rode so I was probably riding before I was born," she said. "When I was growing up I would sit in front of the TV and watch Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy.
"I had the good fortune to see those shows again at the Lone Pine Museum. They have 400 black and white movies. As I watched them I realized that this is where it all started.
"I hope that my rides remind people of freedom and finding adventure in their lives. People can take what they want from that. It's an iconic image, to ride vicariously.
"Hundreds of people stand and look up at me in my saddle with tears in their eyes. They tell me that they have always wanted to do this."
That evening, at the Klejeski home, three women who own and ride horses came to see Ende. Lois Latham spoke about setting out on a ride like Ende's.
"But I'm scared," she told Ende.
Jeanne Beck and JoAnn Flynn were fascinated with Ende's story.
"That's a good part of the ride," said Ende, "sharing stories and passing on the kindness and generosity of the people I meet. Most people who do long rides do just one and go back to their lives. This is my life."
Ende said she is a member of the International Long Riders Guild, an organization that requires the integrity of long riders is kept, and that honors the horses.
Ende's horses are Norwegian Fjords. She explained they are a very ancient breed, and are shorter, stockier and well suited to long riding.
"Riding those beautiful animals teaches you humility," she said. "It shows you how to step down off of your high horse and how to live a simple life."
Ende said she has no cause to ride for, and she is not out to change the world.
"I simply love to long ride," she said.
Ende often gives talks along the trail to schoolchildren, Lions Clubs, at nursing homes and other places where people want to hear more about her rides. She also has a DVD for sale.
"I teach people how to ask for help," she said. "I think that kids can be bored in school or can use it, to look around and see what they can do. I share my stories and they tell me their stories."
The equipment that Ende uses and the nutritional supplements Ende feeds the horses has been provided by sponsors. She also accepts donations for the ride.
Ende said she has to take a rest day now and then for both herself and her horses. She is 60 years old.
"I never thought that I would be riding this long," she said. "It was never a dream of mine to be a long rider. I think people make too big a deal of it. I'm just living day to day, like everyone else.
"I feel that I am the luckiest girl in the world. It is spectacular to be riding across the country, to be submerged in life. Life is right there in front of you."
Ende said she has goals to reach certain areas by certain times so she arrives in Maine late in October. She will have the horses hauled across the Mackinaw Bridge and from Detroit to Toledo.
Meanwhile, she rides on, meeting people, sharing her story and learning theirs.
Ende takes photos of the people and places she sees, and she keeps journals. She plans to write a book about her experiences, right after she finishes long riding.
For more information about Ende and to read her blog, visit her website at endeofthetrail.com.