The ride is exclusive to the Appaloosa breed and is the longest-running and most popular trail ride hosted by the ApHC, therefore you MUST be an ApHC member AND the horses MUST be registered with the ApHC. It is a very historic ride as it retraces the route of the Nez Perce as they tried to make their way to freedom in Canada, where they would not have to live on a reservation. During the 1300+ mile flight to freedom they endured attacks from the Cavalry, their people died, they endured more hardships than you can ever imagine. One measly rabbit might feed 10 people. Lets see that would be maybe two bites of food!
Sunday AM all of us drivers took our cars and extra vehicles out to "destination", then we got a bus back to camp. The storm waited until after dinner and the opening ceremony before it attacked. The ground turns to gumbo in the rain and after Sunday nights big storm it was decided that we weren't moving camp. Remember, we aren't just moving a few vehicles but more than 150 trucks, trailers, and such. The road going into what was supposed to be Monday nights camp required 4 WD on a "good" day, so we were staying right here and letting it dry out until Wednesday. Camp was on a bit of a slope, and after all the thunder storms and heavy rain Terry Wade renamed camp, Snotty Knob.
Now this put a different spin on things because "normally" each day is an average of 20 miles so that the ride covers approximately 100 miles of trail, thus taking 13 years to complete. Luckily this year the ride had a guide, a local fellow who had ranched for years and knew the trails. So it was decided that we'd delay the start of day 1 for an hour, with riders going out North to an old homestead then loop back around to camp. This would have them doing the only first part of the route that was originally planned. Having to return meant they would not be going to Cow Creek, the Island or Spencer Ridge. That was pretty disappointing for most but it was the safe option for the day. I believe 143 riders rode out and it was a typical Monday morning rodeo with a couple buck offs in the first mile. One fellow got back on his horse and rode the day with broken ribs, but he rode!! Another walked back to camp and led his horse. And A.J. went out with the 4 wheeler to bring the other rider in. There was a later incident in a bog but those riders were OK. No one had to be flown out to a hospital so it was all good! It takes a really good minded horse to do this ride. Marcus Dominguez was still playing his guitar and people were on the dance floor when the big storm bashed us again! The hail stones were the size of grapes and Molly and I hunkered down in the horse trailer and stayed dry at least. Yeah we needed more rain!
Tuesday the guide led riders towards the Missouri River, down along some gullies for some great views and then return to camp. This was an area not previously used for the ride. Unlike wagons following one another and making deep ruts that were visible for years, this trail is harder to find because the bands of the tribe fanned out a bit. This gave their horses a bit of graze as they went along. Tuesday night Otis Halfmoon of the Nez Perce came and spoke about Joseph and all the Chiefs. He told us many stories that led up to the siege at Bear Paw prior to the surrender.
It rained a little early Wednesday morning but everyone packed it up and we were rolling out of camp at 9:15. We had good road and by the time we got to the two track road it was mostly dry with only a couple boggy spots that we pulled around. Our camp at Benson Lake was one of the most gorgeous spots. From the hilltop one could see for miles and I could even get a pic sent out on my phone! Woohoo. The skies were always so beautiful with so many colors rippled through them. It was amazing.
It was a beautiful sight when riders rode by the lake Thursday morning. The water was still and the reflections were pretty cool! We were back on track with close to 150 riders heading out on the trail, riding point to point and ending at the camp site planned for Thursday night. The distance that day was GPS'd at 15.75 miles. A day of rolling hills, grasslands and wheat fields.
The ApHC gives out awards for 5, 10, 13, 26, 39 and 52 years. These riders received awards for 13 years. Sorry I don't know all of them but there was Kristin Reiter, Lucy Samuels, A J, Bob Vetter, Mike and Barbra Croy, Christy Wood and Beth Wendell. Horses can also earn an ApHC Bronze Medallion for 10 consecutive years at the Chief Joe, and nine horses received that prestigious honor!