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Copper Spring Ranch

Looks like heaven & feels like home.

Three months before my departure from the Calgary Stampede I sat in my apartment downtown Toronto feeling hopeless. As I wrote out a list of what I still needed in order to pull off this journey, my heart sunk. 

- 2 Horses

- Money

- Camera Equipment

With each new dash came a new problem. Less than 90 days separated me from my departure and I had nothing.

For the previous 9 months I had sent out sponsorship packages, travelled to Brazil’s capital to speak to the ministry of culture, met with consuls… Nada… The only support I had was from family, friends and 2 companies - Mellohawk Logistics and Brasil Remittance

One day, while roping with my good friend Jason Thomson's in Guelph Ontario, he gave me the contact of Brian Anderson the manager of Copper Spring Ranch. Jason knew his brother Bruce really well and thought Brian might be able to help.

As soon as I got home I emailed Brian with all of the information I had on the trip. He replied immediately saying he would see what he could do.

Three days later I opened my email to find a new message from him. With my heart racing towards my throat I opened it. This is what I read.

"Good afternoon Filipe, I am happy to inform you that the ranch has agreed to provide you with a very nice sorrel gelding named "Bruiser" for your adventure."

I must have jumped up and down for 20 minutes celebrating! I couldn’t believe it.

Brian and Copper Spring were the one of the first to believe in my dream! And in doing so, I trully believe they opened the doors of the universe for me. A few days after learning about Bruiser, Brian sent me another email with the good news about Stan Weaver donating Frenchie for the trip. Then OutWildTV struck up a partnership with me, the Calgary Stampede allowed me to depart from the Centennial Rodeo and the RCMP Musical Ride Unit agreed to see me out… Everything fell into place! 

When I rode up to the Copper Spring sign a few weeks ago it was a surreal feeling! I had always said that making it to the Ranch in Bozeman would be my first hurdle. And there I was. Turning down its long driveway with my beautiful horses.

I have never in my life seen such a spectacular horse ranch! Surrounded by mountains the property is gorgeous and home to state of the arc facilities. And the horses.. oh the horses… My jaw was on the floor the entire time I was there. Composition, bloodlines, training… Their Quarter Horses have it all!

During my week resting at Copper Spring I got the opportunity to hang out with Justin Marquez, a trainer at the Ranch. Everyday we would head down to the Barns and I would watch him as he worked with 2-year-olds. It was an amazing opportunity

"I have always worked with horses and I love it," Justin told me as he sat on a colt.

As the week went on I got a chance to see what the Ranch’s day-to-day is like. Some mornings I helped Brian and Justin rope steers, then I watched Matt Rice work with yearlings and if Lisa Anderson was riding a Barrel Horse I would watch in awe of her horsemanship!

I can’t thank the Copper Spring Family enough for their hospitality and love. Klein and Karen Gilhousen, Lisa and Brian Anderson, Seth Crowl, Justin Marquez, Matt Rice and everyone on the team made my stay a true pleasure!

Unfortunately, my time at the Ranch ended with tragedy. During the week Bruiser kicked a fence and went sore. His leg swelled up and the next morning he was barely putting any weight one it. It was the worst! 

Luckily, Copper Spring lent me another horse to ride through Yelowstone. Well, while crossing the last river of the park, Frenchie stifled his hind left leg… I couldn’t believe it. How unlucky could one be?

We trailered Frenchie back to the Ranch where him and Bruiser are currently resting. Brian Anderson AKA the saint of a man, found me another horse to pack for the time being.

I hated leaving my two ponies back there… But they need to rest in order to get better. And with winter lurking close by, I had to keep moving south.

Copper Spring Ranch & Brian and Lisa Anderson Thank youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu from the bottom of my heart :)

Epic

Is the only word to describe my ride through Yellowstone National Park.

After crossing 3 suspension bridges, 7 rivers and too many mountain peaks to even count, Brian Anderson the Manager of Copper Spring Ranch looked at me and said, “you know we are brothers now right?” 

The all-around cowboy and farrier not only kept me alive during our time in the park, he kept me laughing like a haina. It is not very often that you meet someone like Brian. To be able to call him my brother is an honour!

Our trip started off to a rocky start. Only 1 hour down the trail Brian’s horse, Lucky, stepped off the path and almost tumbled down the steep mountain. With cat like reflexes Brian jumped off his horse as Lucky’s back end hung off the edge. I saw it all play out in slow motion.

(look right next to my horses right ear)

"Wow, I thought we were about to lose lucky there," Brian said as I rode up to him.

Other than the scare and a bruised elbow he was okay. We continued our ride next to the Yellowstone River. After a few miles we crossed the first suspencion bridge of the trip. What a feeling. Water raged far underneath us as the bridge wobbled with every step our horses took. 

After crossing the bridge I got off my horse to take some pictures. When I went to remount, my pony decided it would be a good idea to start climbing the very steep mountain side to our left. As I tried to put my leg over the saddle I saw that right behind us was now the precipice that led straight to the river.  That’s when I heard, “jump off, jump off.” 

Next thing I knew I was laying on the dirt and my horse was next to me panting. 

"Man you would have fallen for a week before you hit that river. Do you know how close you were to going over the edge," Brian said after he realized I was okay. 

It is in the roughest of times that I have made the strongest friendships in my life. It is also during these times that I have learned the most important lessons. Travelling through Yellowstone National Park proved to be one of these experiences.

After eating eggs and bacon for breakfast we were ready for our second day of the trip. This would prove to be the hardest ride both for ourselves and our horses. We knew it would be a very long day so we were up at 6am. After taking down the camp, packing and tacking up our horses we were ready to hit the trail. 

As the sun climbed the bright-blue sky we rode by Buffalo, elk and deer with breathtaking views all around us. It was a beautiful start. After lunch we found ourselves next to the Yellowstone river again, only this time we looked down on it from way up.

"What a great day to be alive," Brian sang.

It certainly was a great day, but as 6pm hit and Brian looked at our map from atop the ridge we were riding, we realized we still had over 16 miles to go. And these weren’t just any miles. They proved to be the hardest yet. Due to the drought Wyoming is currently facing we had no water the entire way. This took a toll not only on ourselves but also our horses. What made it worst was that we were climbing the steepest mountains I have ever seen for about 10 of those miles.

"Man this has to be the summit," Brian and I would say to each other as we approached the next peak. Only to be let down with the sight of a trail going up another face. It was both mentally and physically exhausting. Due to the lack of water and difficulty of the ride we decided to get off our horses and walk most of this stretch. 

At one of these gruelling climbs our pack saddle began to slide off our horse. So we were forced to re-pack in the middle of the mountain. As I took the blue tarp of the pack Brian’s sleeping bag fell and rolled down at speeds of up to 30 miles an hour. By the time it stopped it looked like it had made it back to Montana. Seconds after our tent did the same thing. Luckily a tree stopped it halfway down.

After fixing the pack, getting the tent and tying everything up we continued our climb - without Brian’s sleeping bag. I wanted to get it but he protested it would take me way too long and we didn’t have the time. He was right, night was quickly approaching and we were still really far. Just after 8pm we reached the summit of Amethyst Mountain. At close to 10 000 feet it is the highest peak in the Specimen Ridge Range of the Yellowstone.

We felt like a milion bucks! Sure we were exhausted, thirsty and sore but we had proved to ourselves that quitting is never an option. And as a reward for our hard work we were blessed with a herd of Bighorn mountain sheep and a beautiful sunset.

"Filipe that’s the biggest one I have ever seen in my life," Brian said as he pointed to one of the males in the herd. 

The mountains glowed red in the far as the sheep stood in front watching us. It was majestic. A perfect moment. After taking a few pictures we started our decent  - with a very tense stretch. 

Grizzly bear tracks and fresh droppings plagued the trail as Brian lead the way with his riffle in hand (or meat in the pot as he called the Marlen 444). I kept my hand close to the bear spray that hung from my belt. As we made our way down the mountain, so did the sun. Eventually we were left walking in the pitch black. 

That was the hardest part of the day for me. I have been in a dark forest before and it was scary. But to be in a dark forest full of Grizzly bears gives scary a whole new meaning. I couldn’t see one foot in front of me as I treked with the bear spray now in hand. 

"Hey Bear, we are coming in your house. Just going to walk on through," we yelled in the hope of not surprising one with our carcasses. At 11pm we began to hear the river running. It was music to our ears! We needed water for our horses badly, therefore we had to reach the river before setting up camp.

At 12am we finally stumbled on the shores of the Lamar River. The cool night didn’t stop us from simply walking into the freezing water to give our horses a chance to drink. Brian dropped our filter into the water and pumped like a mad man. All that was heard was heavy slurping from ourselves and our horses. 

After a few minutes we led them out of the river and untacked. Only to discouver our food bag was gone. It was the bitter-icing on this long-day of a cake.

I looked at Brian and said, “what are we going to do?”

He was so tired he simply looked back with a blank expression on his face and said, “we’ll think about it tomorrow morning.”

By the time our tent was up it was already 1am and extremely cold. With his sleeping bag back in Montana, Brian pulled a Joey from Friend’s and put all of his close on. I felt so bad for him. In the middle of the night we brought our cooking burner in to try to create some heat.

This proved to the the hardest day of our entire trip. The next morning Brian went to look for our food and ended up finding a Grizzly bear.

"I was eating berries of a bush and when I looked beside me I thought there was a Buffalo. Then I noticed it was a huge bear so I slowly backed up out of there… I was worried my spurs were going to make noise," he told me when he got back to our camp.

The thermo bag packed with food was forever gone. Luckily the river was full of fish! Brian caught 8 and I caught 3… lol I suck! We made fish ala crushed peanutes. No sault, no butter, no oil. It dont know if he is the best cook in the world or if I was really hungry, but it was the best fish I have ever had.

Adventure is what we were looking for… Adventure is what we got in Yellowstone Park :)

First month on the road

Ladies and Gentleman,

It is with a smile on my face and a beer in my hand that I close JourneyAmerica’s first month on the road :)

Currently in Three Forks, Montana, this scene above seems so distant. Riding out from the Centennial Calgary Stampede is but a far away memory. 

This past month has been one of the busiest times of my entire life. Everyday has been jam-packed with caring for the horses, tacking them up, riding for 8 - 10 hours, finding water for the ponies, shooting footage and conducting interviews for the doc, getting interviewed by newspapers and television stations, finding places to sleep, blogging, etc, etc…

Add extreme heat to all of this and you get one tired cowboy! lol But even with all of this work and the intense traveling conditions it has been one of the best months of my life. I have met some amazing people. Bonded with my two beautiful Quarter Horses. And travelled through breathtaking sceneries. I mean, just look at the picture above. This is my office! 

Altogether Bruiser, Frenchie & I have travelled more than 700 km’s. We have climbed the rockies, drank water from ice-cold rivers and slept under the stars. Yesterday we had our first run-in with the police! An officer pulled me over in Three Forks, not because I was speeding, but to check that the horses had the proper papers. Luckily we were all good. 

Today I checked off another first for the journey. I got to jump off this bridge! This is the birth-place of the Missouri river. I rode on it coming into town yesterday and was super jealous of the kids jumping into the water. So today I trecked back and took a leap of faith in my Wrangler Jeans… they are still drying.

Tomorrow morning I leave Three Forks for Manhattan! In two days I will be pulling into Copper Spring Ranch, Bruiser’s home. Feeling like a million bucks!

Highlight of the week - Cutting hay with Dusty Hahn in Townsend

Extreme Drought & Heat

It seems like I have picked the worst year to ride through the United States.

Up to Dupuyer, Montana the grass was green and the creeks were flowing with fresh water from the mountains. But this last stretch of the ride has been a lot different.

The heat has been a factor since I left Calgary. I have been trying to leave as early as possible but by 8am it is already super hot. There have been days where by the last 2 hours of the ride I have had to push real hard to continue. Especially since I have been carrying a heavy back-pack since Cardston, Alberta - walking for half of the day to help Bruiser.

Now we are starting to experience the extreme drought the United States is facing. The last stretch of our ride has been accompanied by burned grass and dry creeks.

"On July 24 more than 54 per cent of the United States was in moderate or worse drought conditions," National Drought Mitigation Center.

According to the website, droughtmonitor, over 80 per cent of the topsoil in Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico was rated short or very short of moisture. We will ride through all three of these states. 

Since my horses health comes as an absolute first priority, I will have to find a way to make these hard next few months easier on them. One way I am thinking of doing so is by having a vehicle follow us with tanks full of fresh water and some hay for the day. It will be hard due to my budget, or lack there of, but it may be the only alternative as the United States faces the worst drought in a generation.

Luckily every problem has a solution! We will continue moving south :)

Crossing the First Border

I shut my eyes. My alarm goes off. Is this a joke? 

It’s just after 6:00am and I am brushing my teeth. I look at myself in the mirror - I look tired. Today is the most important day of the journey thus far. Today, I will attempt to cross the first imaginary line of the trip. The first of many borders to come.

I shove all of my belongings in my exploding backpack and begin the first leg of the day’s trek - A 40 minute walk to the barn where my horses are staying in Cardston, Alberta.

The walk is beautiful. Deer run around the fields next to me as the sun makes its way up the sky. The mountains glow red. By the time I arrive at the Agrodome my back is drenched with sweat. 

I grab the ponies, tack them up and fill my water bottles. It’s just after 7:00am now and it’s already hot… Going to be a scorcher, again!

Before I take off I decide to ask for some protection. The day before while visiting with Child Protection Services on the Blood Reserve, I was given two braids of sweet-grass. In Aboriginal culture the sacred plant is used for peace and protection.

"Burn the end and use your hands to cover your head with the smoke 5 times. Then ask for protection from your god," the Chief’s whife Rhonda Weasel Head told me.

She said I should do this when I feel scared in order to keep bad spirits away. Less than 24 hours later, here I am trembling at the idea of entering the United States riding two horses. It was meant to be.

With my horses behind me I kneel on the soft grass and do just as instructed. I cover myself with the smoke from the sweet-grass and pray to the Universe for protection.

After 4 hours riding with the immense “chief mountain” on my right I find myself at the border-crossing. Five cars separate me from the little window where passports are exchanged for entry stamps. My heart is racing faster than a formula one car. As the line moves slowly people take photos of Bruiser, Frenchie and I in disbelief. Soon enough it is our turn.

I get off Bruiser and lead the horses up to the window. The immigration officer looks at me and says, “Please tell me you have papers for your horses.” I smile back and say “yes, sir,” as I hand him their health papers. He looks relieved. Another officer walks outside with his Iphone to capture the moment. 

"Man, no one has ever ridden across this border before," he says as he points the phone towards us. This makes me feel a lot calmer. I thought they would be rigid and intimidating. Instead they are full of smiles and loving the experience! 

The officer takes my passport and the horse papers and asks me to tie them by the parking lot and step inside the building. I find a shady spot and tie the boys up.

After 30 minutes filling out a form for the horses my passport is stamped and we are ready to go. I can’t believe it. The moment I dreaded for the past week went so well. So smoothly. 

With 1 country down and 11 to go, I ride away from the border and into Blackfeet Nation. My excitement quickly disappears as I travell in the extreme heat the United States is currently experiencing. The heat off the pavement is so intense I feel like I am going to collapse before the day is over. I walk the majority of the time after crossing the border to give Bruiser a break. If It’s extremely hot for me, it’s double that for him.

Just as I think I am about to melt from the heat I spot my lay-over for the night. It feels like finding a pool in the middle of the desert. I walk up Gus and Traci Vaile’s driveway and give the horses some much needed water. After they have drank I sip from the hose just as vigorously as they had their bucket seconds before. Water is life. And seconds after this much needed drink we all feel much better :)

Gus and Traci are rodeo superstars with championship buckles and saddles found in every corner of their beautiful home. Not only have they opened their house for my ponies and I, Traci gets on the phone and starts setting up the next places where we will stay.

"Okay so tomorrow you will stay with Dick and Barbie Powell then Steve and Jackie Conway…" Traci tells me as she hands me a paper with their contacts.

This has been the way the entire journey through Montana has been. Ranchers and Rodeo Cowboys and Cowgirls not only hosting me extremely well, but making sure my next home is secured before I leave their places. It has been nothing short of unbelievable. I can’t even begin to explain all of the help and support we have received here in Montana!

SPECIAL THANKS TO Smiley Kittson & Family, Kathy Murphy & Patrick Greany, Dick & Barbie Powell, Steve and Jackie Conway, Bobbi & Dan Levine, The Broken Pick Ranch, Inn Dupuyer Bed & Breakfast, Tim Gill, Brian Anderson & Copper Spring Ranch and the many others who have helped Bruiser, Frenchie and I get to Helena, Montana! 

COOL FACTS

- Saw a Grizzley Bear outside of Augusta… Almost had a heart attack.

- Took a picture of a huge rattle snake by Wolf Creek

-Washed my Wrangler Jeans after wearing them from Cardston, Alberta to Helena, Montana for the first time today! lol Since I sent the Pack Saddle ahead I have been travelling with a small backpack. Couldn’t fit another pair of pants… People let me wash my clothes at their house, but I didn’t have anything else to wear while the pants washed. Bought a pair of shorts from K-Mart :) Pants look brand new!!! 

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