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What is the CHIEF JOSEPH TRAIL RIDE?
It may be on your bucket list. If it isn’t, it should be. The Chief Joseph Trail Ride is one of the longest-running historic rides in the United States, having been hosted by the Appaloosa Horse Club since 1965. It retraces the route taken by Chief Joseph and his people as they fled capture by the US cavalry during the Nez Perce War of 1877. As a progressive ride, the Chief Joseph covers an average of one hundred miles each year over a period of five days. The next year’s ride begins close to where the previous one concluded. This process continues annually, requiring a total of thirteen years to complete the entire journey from Joseph, Oregon to the Bear Paw battlefield in Montana.
Attempts to describe the riding experiences on the Chief Joseph are difficult, as the scenery and terrain encountered will vary from year to year and the conditions are dependent upon location and influenced by weather extremes. The ride that occurs along the Continental Divide will be accompanied by awe-inspiring views and technical mountainous challenges, while the ride through Yellowstone, no less scenic, wouldn’t be complete without obstacles of bison bulls and boggy marshes. High temperatures or persistent thunderstorms will add their own complications. Each year takes on a personality of its own and leaves those dedicated to the ride craving for more. It would be a disservice to declare that the Chief Joseph is merely a trail ride, for while it does provide access to scenic and mountainous riding adventures, it is also accompanied by historical presentations, cultural experiences and social gatherings. The Chief Joseph brings out the best in its participants, teaches them true grit and touches their hearts.
This year’s ride was to be the fourth leg in the thirteen-year cycle and was scheduled to take place on the wooded trails of the Lolo National Forest. Unfortunately, Lolo is currently ablaze and much of the area designated for this year's ride is either under threat of forest fire or already charred and decimated. As a result, the Appaloosa Horse Club had no choice but to cancel the Chief Joseph Trail Ride for 2021.
The Chief Joseph Trail Riders are a determined group, however, and we have identified a means to keep the ride alive this year. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the ride has been reinvented and reborn as a virtual experience! Obviously, it won't be the same as gathering on location with friends from across the nation (and even overseas), but we can ride together in spirit and share our experiences on our Chief Joseph Trail Riders Facebook page. Not only can we encourage each other to ride and log our accomplishments in this mileage challenge, but we can enjoy a sneak peak into each others' favorite trail systems.
Okay, you've peaked my interest. Exactly, WHAT is a virtual trail ride?
A virtual trail ride is one in which you celebrate the ride we cannot attend by riding on your favorite trails at home or better yet, while on vacation! Virtual trail rides are honor-based challenges where you track and log your miles every day you ride and submit them online until you reach your goal. Don't have an Appaloosa? No problem! The virtual ride is open to anyone who wishes to participate and support this historic ride. Unlike the actual Chief Joseph Trail Ride, there are no restrictions - you can ride any discipline, drive or even lead your horse. You can walk, trot or canter - cover the ground at any speed - but please no motorized participation. Our preferences would be for all to hit the trails, but if you prefer the show pen, you can log your miles in the arena. We just want you to spend time covering ground with your horse. If you don't have a horse, but would still like to participate, we welcome you to walk (take your dog along, he'll thank you for it), run, hike, or bike to reach the 100-mile goal.
How long do I have to complete the challenge?
On the actual ride, participants will cover 100 miles in five days. Our virtual ride allows you to complete the mileage at your own pace. You could take a few months and walk a mile a day if you wish, or combine all the miles you've accumulated while riding and walking/running/biking hiking. For some, this challenge will only take a few days. If this isn't your pace, that's just fine! While it is organized on an online racing platform, this isn't a race. It's a mileage challenge. We all will get there eventually (says the girl whose horse is almost always the last one in when riding on organized rides). Mileage is not retroactive. We have set the date of the ride to start on August 2nd, 2021, which was to have been the official start of the Chief Joseph Trail Ride. As the ride needs a conclusion, we will list the end of the event on December 31, 2021. If you haven't completed your mileage by then, you are encouraged to press on, but as we will be planning the actual 2022 ride by then, we will have to redirect our attention. Five months should give you ample time to get those miles logged so you can earn your bling.
Why are you still waiting? Get yourself settled into the saddle and let's ride!
How much does it cost?
There is a $40.00 entry fee for the VIRTUAL Chief Joseph Trail Ride, which includes an exclusive 2021 VIRTUAL CJTR 100-Mile Embroidered Patch to sew to your saddle bags, pads, jacket or gear bag AND a completion medal for participants in the USA (sorry, we cannot ship medals overseas unless you are willing to pay additional shipping). The medal design will likely be the same as the one the riders created for their buckle when the ride concluded in Bear Paw in 2014, which features a head study of Chief Joseph, several Appaloosas and a map of the trail highlighting the location of significant battles.
What about the actual Chief Joseph Trail Ride?
We are holding out hope that the 2022 Chief Joseph Trail Ride will come to fruition and we will all meet again in person in Idaho next year. Until then, periodically visit the ApHC website at www.appaloosa.com/trail/ChiefJoseph/htm for future information on the 2022 Ride, as well as details on ride preparation, registration and costs, The Facebook page, “Chief Joseph Trail Riders," is an excellent resource for networking, communication and mentorship. Any questions, comments or suggestions regarding this virtual challenge should be directed to your ride coordinator and national club Director, Kristen Reiter, at email@example.com.
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