Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 195 – Peak 4340 & Flagpole Mountain (3-12-17)

(Start, 9:11 AM, 37°F, West Cascade Mountain Road a few miles S of Hot Springs, SD off Hwy 71.)

Well, that was easy!  Except for the cactus, of course.  Lupe hated the cactus!  SPHP had had to carry her to the summit of Peak 4340 for short stretches where the cactus was worst.  Fortunately, the summit had only been a couple hundred yards W of West Cascade Mountain Road.  Even carting a Dingo around, it had only taken minutes to get here.

Lupe at the summit of Peak 4340. This was actually the first of two high points she found that were true summit candidates. The other one was a couple hundred yards SW of here. Photo looks NW.

The topo map on showed only one contour where the true summit of the mountain could be, but things seemed a little different when actually here.  SPHP thought another place a couple hundred yards farther SW looked possibly even a little higher.  Naturally, Lupe had to visit that high point, too.

Loop at the 2nd possible location of the true summit. Due to the cactus threat, Lupe demanded that SPHP tote her part of the way over here, too. Photo looks S.

The top of Peak 4340 was a large area of gently rolling terrain and open forest, but offered only teaser glimpses of distant views.  Close to a rural housing subdivision, it really wasn’t a terribly interesting place.  With cactus around, Lupe didn’t think much of it either, but at least she could now cross another Brian Kalet peak off her list.  She only had a couple of them left to visit in the southern Black Hills.

Lupe was happy to put a quick end to her visit of Peak 4340, and return to the G6 (9:41 AM, 38°F).

The trivial trek to both possible summits of Peak 4340 was only a warm-up exercise.  Lupe had a much more interesting peakbagging goal in store.  Flagpole Mountain (4,320 ft.) sits at the far SE end of the Black Hills, N of the Cheyenne River and W of Angostura Reservoir.  Lupe might have some fantastic views far out across the prairies beyond the hills from there.

SPHP’s old USFS map showed that Flagpole Mountain was on USFS land, but surrounded by private property.  Before Lupe could begin her climb, SPHP needed to find legal access.  The shortest route up Flagpole Mountain would be from the SW.  SPHP drove S on Hwy 71 intending to scout out the approach.

On the way, Lupe stopped briefly by Cascade Falls.  She had been here before, but it’s always fun to see the falls!

Devil’s Slide Mountain (3,965 ft.) from the Cascade Falls picnic ground. Photo looks NE.
Cascade Falls is more of a rapids. Wading in Cascade Creek which plunges into a deep swimming hole is a locally popular summer activity. Cascade Falls is only a mile N of the Cheyenne River at the far S end of the Black Hills.
Devil’s Slide Mountain from Cascade Creek a little upstream of the falls. Photo looks NE.

For some reason, Cascade Creek always seems to have good flow, no matter what the season.  Cascade Falls was looking good today, too, but it was too chilly out to stay and enjoy it.  The middle of July is better for that!  Lupe and SPHP continued S on Hwy 71.

Just N of the Cheyenne River, a gravel road headed ESE from Hwy 71.  The road wound around to the SE for more than a mile.  It deteriorated at the end of a short stretch that went E.  A log-sided home was on the N side of the road.  Before SPHP even got out of the G6, a man opened the door of the house.

His name was Mike.  When SPHP told Mike that Lupe would like permission to cross his land to climb Flagpole Mountain, the answer was flatly “no”.  Mike didn’t exactly come right out and say it, but his attitude was clearly “Get Off My Property”.  Mike didn’t want to talk about it.  The matter was not up for discussion.

Mike was still helpful, however.  He told SPHP that 5 or 6 years ago, the state of South Dakota had purchased land leading to the national forest on the other side of the mountain.  Lupe would have legal access from Sheps Canyon.

That was good news!  Well, at least pretty good news.  Sheps Canyon was an alternate route that SPHP had intended to check on if things didn’t work out here.  The route to Flagpole Mountain from Sheps Canyon would be a lot longer than if Lupe had been able to start from Mike’s ranch.

No is no.  SPHP thanked Mike for the tip.  Lupe left his property.

Driving down Sheps Canyon was not initially encouraging.  Lupe passed by housing developments and more ranches.  “No Trespassing” signs were all along the S side of the road at frequent intervals.  Lupe was all the way down to the lower end of the canyon not too far from Angostura Reservoir before SPHP spotted the Hill Ranch Game Production Area.  This had to be the legal public access Mike had mentioned!

Lupe at the entrance to the Hill Ranch Game Production Area. This entrance is easy to spot on the S side of Sheps Canyon Road in the lower part of the canyon. Photo looks SSE and was taken late in the day.
The Hill Ranch Game Production Area is mostly used by hunters, but is open to public access for other uses like hiking, too.

A good dirt and gravel road led into the Hill Ranch GPA.  SPHP parked the G6 at a curve at the far E end of the road only a short distance from Sheps Canyon Road (10:48 AM, 43°F).  Lupe could regain her confidence trotting along the cactus-free road for a while.

The road went steadily uphill at a moderate pace, heading W for the most part.  Lupe passed by a parking pullout and then a small lodge.  The lodge appeared to be closed.  A couple of parking pullouts farther, Lupe had quite a good view of Angostura Reservoir.

Angostura Reservoir from the Hill Ranch GPA. Photo looks E.

The road went 2 miles before ending near a couple of gates at the edge of the national forest.  (Even the G6 would have made it this far easily enough, if SPHP had chosen to drive to this point.)  A map of the Hill Ranch GPA was posted here.

This map of the Hills Ranch GPA was posted at the end of the road. The national forest was just W of here beyond a couple of gates.

Lupe went through the smaller gate, continuing W into the Black Hills National Forest.  The good road was behind her.  She followed faint traces of an old jeep trail, still gaining elevation steadily.

Angostura Reservoir is still in view as Lupe continues W now on Black Hills National Forest ground. Photo looks E.

A ridge coming in from the ENE soon merged with the ground Lupe was traveling.  Shortly after that, she came to a place where she had a great view to the N.  She could see Peak 4310, which she had visited only a couple of expeditions ago.  Today the scene wasn’t all snowy like it had been then.

Lupe reaches the first viewpoint to the N. Peak 4310 is the barren distant high point extending farthest toward the center of the photo from the R. Lupe had been there only 2 expeditions ago. Photo looks N.

From this first viewpoint looking far to the N, the faint trail turned SW.  It soon came to a saddle between two hills.  Flagpole Mountain was in view!

Flagpole Mountain (Center) came into view at a saddle between two hills. It was only 1.5 miles away, but Lupe would have to go a lot farther than that to get there. Green Canyon was in the way! Photo looks SW.

Flagpole Mountain was only 1.5 miles off to the SW when Lupe first saw it.  However, she would have to go a lot farther than that to get there.  Green Canyon was in the way.

To get to Flagpole Mountain, the plan was to go around the W end of Green Canyon.  Lupe would follow a couple of long ridges shown on the topo map.  The first ridge went first W then NW for nearly 1.5 miles.  The map showed a substantial part of this ridge as being very skinny.  SPHP wasn’t certain what Lupe might encounter along the way.

Lupe turned W and started around the S side of the highest little hill in this area.  The hill was the first part of the ridge leading W.  The ridge wasn’t narrow here, but going around the S side of the hill quickly proved to be a mistake.  The grassy open ground below the forested summit was full of cactus!  Lupe was immediately seized with fear.

Although the hill wasn’t all that big, it took a while to get past it.  Lupe was scared to move.  The cactus had her mentally paralyzed.  SPHP had to carry her repeatedly.

Once beyond the hill, the ridge narrowed considerably, but was still plenty wide.  Cactus continued to be a near constant problem, but Lupe gradually made progress.  SPHP had to carry her less and less.

Nearly a year ago, Lupe had developed a system on her way up Matias Peak (4,780 ft.) for dealing with cactus.  She would wait in one spot while SPHP scouted the area ahead.  When SPHP sat down, she considered it a signal that all the ground to that point was cactus-free.  She then came running.

Now Lupe wanted SPHP to do the same thing.  Doing a good job of scouting was important, so Loop would continue to have confidence in the system.  This process was sort of slow, but much easier than carrying the Carolina Dog any significant distance.  Stop, scout, go.  Stop, scout, go.  Lupe progressed along the ridge.

Lupe wasn’t any closer to Flagpole Mountain yet, but the route was beautiful.  Loop could see Flagpole Mountain almost the entire time.  She often had grand views to the N, or down into Green Canyon.  She came to a place with huge boulders, and many more places with interesting rock formations.  The route was up and down, but none of the elevation changes were too drastic.

Another look to the N from the ridge Lupe was following W.
Looking across Green Gulch. The high point seen straight up from Lupe is not Flagpole Mountain, but Lupe would go by it on her way there. Photo looks SW.

The part of the ridge that angled NW was the skinniest.  Up and down one narrow little hill or rock formation after another.  At one point, Lupe had to do a teensy bit of scrambling, but only once and it hardly amounted to anything.  Eventually, the much, bigger, wider hill at the NW end of the ridge came into view.  Lupe was almost there!

The much bigger, wider hill at the NW end of the ridge came into view. Lupe was getting there! Photo looks NW.

Soon she was there.  Lupe didn’t go quite all the way to the top.  She stayed in the trees a little S of the summit.  Loop went over to the W edge of another ridgeline heading S from here.  She had her first look at a vast new territory to the W and SW.

Lupe could see a vast territory off to the W and SW after reaching the big hill at the NW end of the long ridge she had been following. Photo looks SW.

Going 1.5 miles along the skinny W and NW ridge hadn’t brought Lupe any closer to Flagpole Mountain as the crow flies, but she was now past the W end of Green Gulch and could turn S.  A much broader ridge went SSW from here.  The W edge of this ridge dropped steeply, but sloped much more moderately toward Green Canyon to the E.

Going S meant traversing several more drops and hills along the way.  These were larger than the bumps Lupe had gone over along the skinny ridge, but she didn’t have climb to the top of each one.  At the bottom of the first drop was good news.  A dirt road climbed up to this point from the W.  It turned S here, just the direction Lupe needed to go.  Lupe could follow the road!

Reaching the road quickly restored Lupe’s confidence.  She wasn’t afraid of cactus on the road.  Suddenly she was making great progress.  SPHP didn’t have to carry her, or play the scouting ahead game at all.  Lupe trotted right along.  It wouldn’t take her long to get to Flagpole Mountain at this pace!

Lupe was able to follow this road on the big ridge heading SSW. Unafraid of cactus on the road, she was making great progress! Her destination, Flagpole Mountain is in view on the L. Photo looks SSW.

The road stayed E of the top of the ridgeline most of the time, but was occasionally near it.  At once place, Lupe went over to the W edge for another look at the big views.

The weather had been changing in the short time she’d been traveling S.  The light NW breeze present earlier, had turned into a gale!  Lupe did not like the fierce wind at the W edge of the ridge, but the views were still excellent.

Lupe did not like the fierce NW wind now gusting up the W side the of ridge, but the views were still excellent! The near slope is part of Horseshoe Bend. Photo looks W.
Looking WNW.

The helpful road Lupe had been following ended a little before reaching the S end of the ridge, but had brought the Carolina Dog a long way.  She was getting close to Flagpole Mountain, but now nervous about cactus again.  She was right to be.  More patches of dreaded cactus were scattered here and there.  SPHP had to resume cactus scouting operations.  Once again, Lupe got carried over the worst of it.

For the last 0.25 mile to the summit, the ridgeline turned SE.  Lupe was high on broad open terrain where she had expansive views to the S.  To the N was forest.  The sight of several deer running on another minor ridge excited her so much she forgot all about the cactus and dashed about unsure how to get over there.  Fortunately, she didn’t run into any cacti.

The top of Flagpole Mountain (4,320 ft.) appeared ahead.  A short, grassy slope led to a summit crowned by big rocks, bare bushes and a few pine trees.  In a flash, Lupe was there.  She stood on the highest boulders at the very SE end of the Black Hills with a grand sweeping view of miles and miles of desolate territory stretching to the horizon.

Lupe reaches the summit of Flagpole Mountain! Photo looks ESE.
Despite a long, winding route, countless cacti, and a wild NW wind, a bold American Dingo stood atop Flagpole Mountain for the very first time. Photo looks ESE.
The grand view to the SW. Lupe had hoped to come up the mountain from this direction, which would have been a much shorter trek, but she was refused permission to cross Mike’s ranch. Part of Coffee Flat near the Cheyenne River is seen far below. Photo looks SW.
Neither wind, nor miles, nor cacti can keep an American Dingo from its appointed peakbagging! Looper atop Flagpole Mountain. Photo looks SW.
A series of snow squalls swept over Flagpole Mountain while Lupe was here. Another one is on its way. Each time a squall hit, Lupe took refuge at the base of these rocks, where she was sheltered from the raging NW wind. Photo looks WNW.

Although partially protected by pines trees to the N, the top of Flagpole Mountain was windy.  A powerful NW wind was blowing a series of snow squalls over the mountain.  Each time a line of clouds passed over, a brief, but exciting snowstorm developed.  The wind raged at the height of its fury beneath an ominous sky.

When the squalls hit, Lupe took shelter at the base of the big rocks at the S end of the summit.  She nestled on SPHP’s lap, wrapped in a fuzzy blue pullover sweater, enjoying the incredible views and dramatic weather.

Lupe relaxes sheltered from the wind as she awaits the start of the next exciting snow squall. Photo looks S.
The next snow squall begins. Photo looks S.

Though each squall was exciting and began impressively, the snow flakes were tiny and melted as soon as they hit the ground.  The squalls never lasted more than a few minutes.  Gorgeous blue skies reappeared as soon as they were over, and the winds calmed down somewhat.

Between squalls, Lupe explored the summit area, while SPHP enjoyed the views from various vantage points.  By going only a little down the S or SE side of the mountain, it was possible to almost entirely escape the wind.  The day felt pleasant, warm and sunny.

Looking ESE toward the SW end of Angostura Reservoir. The Cheyenne River can be seen flowing into it from the R.
Lupe back on the summit of Flagpole Mountain between squalls, though another one is in the works. Photo looks WNW.
Your Carolina Dog guide to the Black Hills on another mountaintop! Photo looks WNW.
Looking down on Coffee Flats (R) next to the Cheyenne River. The more distant flat, grassy highland on the L is Stage Hill. Photo looks SSW with a little help from the telephoto lens.
Between snow squalls, the skies cleared to a gorgeous, fresh blue. Photo looks NW.

Lupe and SPHP stayed for an hour or more at the summit of Flagpole Mountain.  Although the trek here had been amazing and beautiful, the presence of so much cactus meant it might be a long time, if ever, before Lupe would return.  These distant views beyond the Cheyenne River across the vast, lonely prairies were a rare treat.

Taken from the summit of Flagpole Mountain, this photo looks SE down toward Tepee Mountain (3,790 ft.), the low forested ridge on the R beyond the Cheyenne River.
Looking W from the summit.
Lupe a little SE of the summit (R). Photo looks W.
The SW end of Angostura Reservoir is in the distance on the L. The Cheyenne River flows into it from the R. Photo looks ESE.
A closer look at where the Cheyenne River flows into Angostura Reservoir. Photo looks ESE using the telephoto lens.
Distant snow squalls sweep the plains of western South Dakota beyond Angostura Reservoir. Photo looks E.
Lupe at the far SE end of the greater Flagpole Mountain summit area. The low, darkly forested ridge is Tepee Mountain, which lies just on the other side of the Cheyenne River. Photo looks SE.
Flagpole Mountain had a few cacti down the SE slope. Here Lupe waits for the all clear signal from SPHP before feeling safe to come this way. Photo looks S.
Forest hid the views to the N from Flagpole Mountain’s summit, but by going down the SE slope a little way, Lupe came to this great viewpoint. (It was very windy here!) The long W and NW ridge she had taken on her way to Flagpole Mountain is seen extending nearly all the way across the photo. On the way back, Lupe would have to traverse it again going from L to R. Photo looks N.

An hour went by.  It had been a while since the last snow squall had blown through.  Apparently they were all over and done with.  Sadly, it was time for Lupe to leave Flagpole Mountain.  She had to take the same long route all the way back to the G6.

On the way back, SPHP took a few minor shortcuts, but they saved only a little time.  More time was saved by staying on the N side of slopes where there were fewer cacti.  Lupe’s increased confidence in SPHP’s cacti scouting skills saved the most time of all.  She still appreciated being carried for short distances wherever the cacti was worst.

The trek back along the ridges was beautiful, and went faster the second time around.  Lupe had time to stop and sniff the air at various places along the way.

On the way back, Lupe took the road going N along the first wider ridge. One of the bigger hills along this route is in view ahead. Lupe didn’t have to go all the way to the top of the hill. The road went around the E (R) side of it. Photo looks N.
Looking down on Horseshoe Bend (the near slope) NW of Flagpole Mountain. Photo looks WNW.
Looking over Horseshoe bend. The Cheyenne River is seen in the distance. The Cheyenne flows into South Dakota from Wyoming and winds around the S end of the Black Hills on its way to Angostura Reservoir. From Angostura it flows NE all the way to the Missouri River. Photo looks W.
Making progress around Green Canyon. The S (R) side of the little high point L of Center is where Lupe encountered the worst of the cactus on the whole trek to Flagpole Mountain. On the way back, Lupe stayed in the forest going around the N (L) side of the hill. She came to a few snowbanks there, but almost no cacti. Definitely the way to go! Photo looks ENE.
A final look back at Flagpole Mountain (seen above Lupe) from the area of big boulders on the first ridge Lupe had taken W, then NW. Photo looks SSW.
In the area of big boulders. Lupe had originally reached this area fairly early on her way to Flagpole Mountain, but here she’s on her way back to the G6. Photo looks WNW.
Looking N on the way back. Peak 4310 is the high bare ridge extending farthest toward Center from the R.

Lupe’s cactus worries were all behind her before she even reached the good dirt road at the Hill Ranch Game Production Area.  The rest of the trek was a long, relaxing downhill stroll all the way.  Lupe stopped by the same boulder with a view of Angostura Reservoir again.

Back in the Hill Ranch GPA, Lupe stopped by the same boulder with the view of Angostura Reservoir again. It was still windy out. Photo looks E.

Lupe was content to trot along the good road all the way through the Hill Ranch GPA to the G6 (5:38 PM, 37°F).  Her Flagpole Mountain adventure was over, but it was the first day of Daylight Savings Time in 2017.  The sun would still be up for another 1.5 hours.

SPHP used the extra hour of evening daylight to drive Lupe down to Angostura Reservoir.  She had seen it from afar from several different mountains on recent expeditions.  Now she would get to see it up close.

The drive was beautiful.  SPHP was surprised to find a good gravel road winding S for miles along the W shore of the lake.  Lupe stopped at a boat ramp.  The wind was out of the NE here and still strong.  The temperature was in the 30’s and dropping.  It felt cold out.  Waves crashed into the shore.  Lupe drank a little water out of the lake, then got up on the swaying dock.  Tepee Mountain, which she had seen earlier from Flagpole Mountain, was in view in the distance.

Lupe at Angostura Lake for the first time ever after having seen it in the distance from several mountains on recent expeditions. Tepee Mountain is in view in the distance. Photo looks SW.

SPHP was curious.  How far did this road go?  Lupe and SPHP drove farther SW.  The road went by many great campsites up on the bank above the shore of the lake.  Lupe stopped at another place offering lake access.

Looking NE across Angostura.
Looking SE.
Looking SW.

Lupe and SPHP drove all the way to the end of the road.  Surprisingly, at the end was a horse camp.  Maps and information at the horse camp said a riding trail went 5.1 miles farther along the lake and up the Cheyenne River.  Horses were restricted to the trail while in the Sheps Canyon Outdoor Recreation Complex, but the trail went all the way to the Black Hills National Forest, where horses could be ridden anywhere.

It was a beautiful area.  The trail along the lake and up the river would be an awesome place to ride horses.  Once to the national forest, maybe horses could even climb Flagpole Mountain?  One thing was for certain, an American Dingo could!

With a new route to explore, maybe someday a Carolina Dog will stand in the breeze far above the Cheyenne River on Flagpole Mountain again.Want more Lupe adventures?  Check out her Black Hills, SD & WY Expeditions Adventure Index, Master Adventure Index, or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures!

Sailing the North Pacific Ocean to Grace Ridge, Kachemak Bay State Park, Alaska (8-26-16)

Day 28 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska

Ugh, what is it Loop?  What now?  Lupe kept pawing at SPHP.  Oh, Loopster, what do you want?  Do you need out? … 7:00 AM! … Oh, my gosh, Loop!  Thanks for waking me up!  We’ve got to get going!

Lupe may have just saved the day.  SPHP meant to be up an hour ago.  The sun was already above the horizon.  Was there still time?  The day was perfect – clear and bright, as SPHP drove out to the Homer Spit.

Narrow Homer Spit protruding 6 miles into Kachemak Bay was awesome!  Hundreds of boats of all descriptions were moored in a gigantic pack on the protected NE side.  Sea gulls whirled overhead.  The one road along the spit was lined with restaurants, colorful tourist shops, and fishing and sight-seeing charter businesses.  People were up and about.  The whole place hummed with activity.

SPHP drove slowly, looking for Homer Ocean Charters.  There it was, on the SW side of the street!  SPHP parked and went in, while Lupe waited in the G6.  SPHP asked the lady at the counter about getting a water taxi ride over to Grace Ridge in Kachemak Bay State Park.

The good news was that dogs were welcome, and Lupe could come along for free!  The bad news was they had a 2 person minimum requirement.  Grace Ridge wasn’t that popular.  They had no one else scheduled to go to Grace Ridge today.  The lady suggested either a different destination, or trying Mako’s Water Taxi across the street.

Mako’s wasn’t right across the street, although it wasn’t far away.  It took SPHP a few minutes to spot it.  Once again, Lupe waited in the G6 while SPHP went in, a little fearful of another negative response.  Mako’s was busy.  It took a few minutes for SPHP’s turn to come.  Another woman behind a counter asked what SPHP wanted.

Water taxi service to Grace Ridge?  They had only one group scheduled for Grace Ridge today.  Three people were leaving right now.  Round trip price was $81 plus tax (total a bit over $91).  Pickup at 6 PM.  Lupe could come along, no extra charge.  Was now OK?

Perfect!  Now was absolutely perfect!  SPHP paid up, then ran out to move the G6 to free parking a couple blocks away next to the Homer Grill.  As SPHP and a somewhat alarmed Lupe started running back to the dock, Mako’s captain of the water taxi XtraTuff was already yelling at SPHP to hurry up.  When Mako says now, they mean NOW!  They were leaving!

Lupe on Homer Spit, moments before dashing off to catch a ride to Grace Ridge on Mako’s water taxi XtraTuff. Photo looks NE.

Lupe was afraid of the open metal grate dock.  She could see the water below her.  SPHP picked the surprised Carolina Dog up, and ran carrying her to the XtraTuff.  Moments later, she was aboard.  Immediately, the captain put the engine into reverse, and started easing the XtraTuff away from the dock.  Lupe and SPHP sat out in the open air on a bench in the front of the boat.

Sea dog, Loopster, aboard Mako’s water taxi XtraTuff, embarks from Homer Spit to sail across Kachemak Bay of the North Pacific Ocean on her way to Grace Ridge! Photo looks NW.

The XtraTuff cruised slowly, leaving little wake, while maneuvering around all the other boats on the way out of port.  The XtraTuff picked up a little speed once it was clear of the moored boats.  The captain steered SE toward the end of Homer Spit.

Lupe aboard the XtraTuff nearing the SE end of Homer Spit. Grace Ridge is in view above the 2nd support from the L. Photo looks S.
Rounding Homer Spit. Grace Ridge on the L. Photo looks S.

As the XtraTuff rounded Homer Spit and headed out across Kachemak Bay, the captain put her in high gear.  XtraTuff was fast!  The water taxi bounded across the waves.

Even though the sea wasn’t that rough, it was a bumpy ride.  Every now and then XtraTuff hit a wave with a jarring jolt.  The morning’s cool breeze became rather chilly, as the XtraTuff raced toward Eldred Passage.  SPHP hung onto Lupe, so there wouldn’t be an American Dingo overboard.

On Kachemak Bay heading for Eldred Passage. Photo looks SSW.

The captain asked if Lupe and SPHP would like to come in the enclosed cabin to get out of the cold wind.  Thanks, but hell no!  This was what Lupe had come for!  Here she was, bounding across Kachemak Bay of the North Pacific Ocean on her way to Grace Ridge (3,136 ft.) in Alaska with fabulous views everywhere.  This was exciting!  This was glorious!

Mountains along Kachemak Bay. Photo looks SE.
Approaching Yukon Island (Center) aboard the XtraTuff. Photo looks SSW.
OK, SPHP, we’re way out here now. So level with me, what the heck are you getting us into?
Grace Ridge from Kachemak Bay aboard the XtraTuff. Photo looks S.
In Eldred Passage on the way to Tutka Bay. Billy, one of the other passengers, later told SPHP that the sharp peak on the L is called Broken Knife, although SPHP doesn’t find that name on any map. Photo looks SSW.

The Grace Ridge Trail is 9 miles long.  Lupe was going to take the entire trail from one end to the other, making only a single traverse.  A water taxi would pick her up at the other end.  SPHP had a choice of where to get dropped off.  At the N end, closest to Kachemak Bay, is Kayak Beach.  The more remote S trailhead is along the NE shore of Tutka Bay.  The other 3 passengers were going to the S trailhead.  SPHP told the captain that was where Lupe wanted to be dropped off, too.

The XtraTuff raced over smoother waters through Eldred Passage.  Lupe passed by the entrance to Sadie Cove to the E.  XtraTuff sailed S around the NW end of Grace Ridge.  Entering Tutka Bay, XtraTuff was still making great time.  After a few miles, though, a dense fog bank was dead ahead right on the water.

The captain slowed XtraTuff to a crawl as Lupe entered the fog.  Everything disappeared from view.  The drop-off point wasn’t much farther.  XtraTuff crept cautiously forward, the captain straining to see something, anything.  After 5 minutes, a tiny beach appeared close by and directly ahead.  The captain had found it!  This tiny beach was the Grace Ridge S trailhead.

XtraTuff glided into shore.  Lupe, SPHP, and the other 3 passengers disembarked.  It only took a minute.  As the XtraTuff backed slowly away, everyone waved and thanked the captain, who waved back.  XtraTuff disappeared like a ghost.

XtraTuff about to disappear into the fog on Tutka Bay. Photo looks, uh, well, let’s see, NW maybe?

Wow!  Incredible!  If the 3 other passengers hadn’t been here, this place would have been just plain spooky.  A dark, dense, primeval forest extended right down to the tiny beach at water’s edge.  Leafy ferns, thick clumps of moss, ancient trees.  In the fog, it all looked unnervingly prehistoric.  It could have been 10,000 years ago, maybe 10,000,000 years ago.  What was out there?  Bears?  Dinosaurs!?  Lupe was lost in time.

Lupe lost in time, and looking a tad concerned about it, at the South Grace Ridge trailhead.

The other 3 passengers seemed to know where they were.  They set right off, following a good single track trail through the jungle.  The trail gained elevation slowly at first, but soon started switchbacking up a steep slope.  Lupe and SPHP followed the rest of the group, trailing a little behind.

So far, so good. No bears or dinosaurs yet.

The fog bank was dense, but wasn’t all that thick.  Soon Lupe was getting up high enough to where sunshine could be seen filtering through the trees.  The other 3 XtraTuff passengers set a fairly brisk pace.  Lupe and SPHP continued following along behind.

As Lupe climbed above the fog, sunlight began filtering through the trees.

The trail was good.  The switchbacks made the pace of elevation gain moderate.  Lupe was making great time and gaining elevation steadily.  The rest of the group was traveling almost too fast for SPHP’s taste.  What was the hurry?  Lupe had been dropped off at the S trailhead around 9 AM.  She didn’t need to be at the N trailhead until 6 PM, 9 hours later.  Since the trail was only 9 miles long, she only had to travel one mile per hour.

Soon everyone, except Lupe, was sweating.  The group stopped for a break.  SPHP stripped down to a T-shirt.  The woman of the group introduced herself as Sandy.  With her were Kevin and Billy.  They were all friendly, but spent much of their time deeply engaged in their own conversations.  They were friends who all live in Homer, as near as SPHP could gather.

Everyone set off again.  The rapid pace continued.  Lupe and SPHP lagged behind when Lupe found, not a bear or a dinosaur, but a squirrel in the forest.  A brief, enthusiastic barkfest ensued.  A bit later, Lupe and SPHP caught up with the group again.  As Lupe gained elevation, the primeval forest gave way to a more normal looking forest minus all the moss and ferns.  The normal forest then began to thin out, with some of the tall bushes common in Alaska starting to take over.

There were other people on the trail!  The XtraTuff group overtook and passed a family of four.  Soon after that, Lupe got her first look at a barren high point ahead.

As the Grace Ridge Trail neared the ridgeline, Lupe got her first look at a barren high point ahead. Photo looks NNW.

The trail reached the ridgeline.  The switchbacks were done.  From now on, the trail would stay up on the ridgeline following it all the way NNW to the summit.  Tall bushes and scattered trees dominated at first, but that didn’t last long.  The moderate pace of elevation gain enjoyed while on the switchbacks was over.  The trail climbed steeply, quickly bringing Lupe up above all the tall vegetation.

The American Dingo wasn’t anywhere near the summit of Grace Ridge yet, but truly awesome views were opening up all around.

Tutka Bay, which Lupe had come sailing over on the water taxi XtraTuff on her way to the Grace Ridge S trailhead. The broader expanse of Kachemak Bay is seen in the distance. Photo looks WNW.
Looking down at the S end of Sadie Cove, which borders Grace Ridge to the N and E. Photo looks SE.
Lupe on the Grace Ridge trail having reached the first high point along the ridgeline above all the trees and tall bushes. Photo looks SSE back down along Grace Ridge. Part of Tutka Bay is seen on the R.

Ahead, Grace Ridge was covered only with alpine tundra.  A marvelous ridgeline trek of sweeping unobstructed panoramas was in store for Lupe.  The Carolina Dog still had a long way to go to reach the summit.  It wasn’t even in view yet.

Ahead, a marvelous ridge hike over alpine tundra was in store for Lupe. The summit was still far off. It wasn’t even in view yet. Photo looks NNW.

From her vantage point high on Grace Ridge, Lupe was now able to see great distances over the tundra.  She saw something move far below.  Suddenly, Lupe took off straight down the steep W slope toward Tutka Bay.  SPHP called her, but she disappeared over the edge of an embankment.  She had lost hundreds of feet of elevation in hardly any time at all!  SPHP kept calling her.

After a few minutes, here came the American Dingo, charging straight back up almost as fast as she had gone down.  Lupe arrived with a long pink tongue dangling from her mouth, panting as though she might burst.  Did she ever look happy, though!  Wow, what would SPHP give to be in that kind of shape?  Simply amazing!  However, Lupe was now under orders not to go running off like that again.  SPHP never did see whatever it was she chased after.

Lupe and SPHP had fallen a little behind the XtraTuff group, but caught up with them again between two small rocky hills where they had stopped for a snack.  Up on the exposed ridgeline, an E breeze was blowing, but between these small hills the trail was protected from the wind.

While everyone was still eating, Lupe climbed up the small hill on the E side of the trail for a look around.  The views were getting better!  Lupe could even see Iliamna Volcano (10,016 ft.) faint and far away across Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet to the NW.

Lupe up on the small rocky hill E of where the XtraTuff gang stopped for a rest break. A small part of Sadie Cove is seen on the lower L. The highest peak on the L may be Sadie Peak (4,320 ft.). Photo looks SE.
The views kept getting better as Lupe gained elevation. This photo looks S farther into Kachemak Bay State Park.
Lupe back down in the sheltered area near the trail. The rest of the XtraTuff gang has already finished their break and moved on. Iliamna Volcano is seen very faintly far across Cook Inlet to the L of Lupe. Photo looks NW.

When the rest of the XtraTuff group moved on, Lupe and SPHP stayed at the sheltered spot between the two hills.  Everyone else seemed to be in a hurry to get to the summit.  No reason for it that SPHP could see.  Lupe had plenty of time.

SPHP had asked how much more elevation was left to be gained.  Sandy, Keven and Billy had all insisted Lupe was only halfway up, but that seemed to be a gross underestimate of the progress already made.  Lupe must have gained at least 67% of the 3,136 feet required to reach the summit.  Probably more like 75% or even 80%.

After a nice break, Lupe and SPHP continued on.  The trail remained good.  The route was obvious, in any case.  The exposed ridge hike was a ton of fun.  Fantastic views everywhere, all the time.  After passing through a dip into a big saddle, there was one more fairly long steep climb.

Lupe near the top of the next big climb. Tutka Bay is seen below. The mountain Billy called Broken Knife is on the R. SPHP wonders if it isn’t really Red Mountain (3,524 ft.), though the name would make more sense for the more distant tan colored peak seen straight up from Lupe. Photo looks SW.

Grace Ridge’s easily recognizable big summit ridge came into view ahead.  There was no mistaking it.  The trail headed straight for it, passing over several prominent high points.  This part of the ridge was often narrow and steep.

Grace Ridge’s easily recognizable big summit ridge(R) came into view. To get there, Lupe followed the trail up and down over several high points. Along the way, the trail was often steep and the ridge quite narrow.
How’s this for a view, SPHP? I’m not even at the summit yet! Kachemak Bay from Grace Ridge. Photo looks WNW.

Beyond the last of the prominences, Lupe had an unobstructed view of the big summit ridge running SE/NW ahead.  Getting there was going to be a piece of cake.  The ridgeline became much wider here.  The trail would take Lupe up to the SE end of the summit ridge.  The true summit of Grace Ridge was a knob of rock relatively close to that end.  Lupe was almost there!

From the last prominence, Lupe had an unobstructed view of Grace Ridge’s big summit ridge ahead. The trail would take Lupe to the SE (R) end. From there it wasn’t far to the true summit, the small knob of rock seen a little to the L.
Lupe at the last of the prominences prior to going on to the summit ridge. Sadie Cove is seen below on the L. Photo looks SSE.
Looking SSE using the telephoto lens.

Fifteen minutes later, Lupe was up at the SE end of the summit ridge.  While it had been breezy down along the lower ridge, it was just plain windy up here.  The E wind was strong!  Lupe didn’t like the wind one bit, but tried to wait patiently for SPHP to finish loitering around.

Lupe found a survey benchmark(R) at the end of a long pipe at the SE end of Grace Ridge’s big summit ridge. The near ridge in view is on the other side of Sadie Cove. Part of Kachemak Bay is in the distance on the L. Photo looks NE.
Peaks of Kachemak Bay State Park. Photo looks NE using the telephoto lens.
Lupe enduring the wind at the SE end of the Grace Ridge summit ridge. Photo looks SW.
The survey benchmark at the SE end of the Grace Ridge summit ridge.
Looking SSE back the way Lupe came up. Sadie Cove is on the L. The survey benchmark is at the lower L corner. A windswept Carolina Dog is on the R.

The true summit of Grace Ridge was only 200 yards away.  Sandy, Kevin and Billy were all over there, sitting below the SW side of the summit sheltered from the wind.  Lupe was going to get a lot more fresh air on her way over there.

The true summit of Grace Ridge is seen only 200 yards away to the NW. Sandy, Kevin and Billy were already over there taking shelter from the wind. Photo looks NW.

Of course, before rejoining the rest of the XtraTuff gang, Lupe had to climb up on top of the true summit to claim her windy Grace Ridge peakbagging success!

Lupe reaches the true summit of Grace Ridge in Alaska’s remote Kachemak Bay State Park! Photo looks NW.
Skinny Homer Spit is seen extending 6 miles into Kachemak Bay. Photo looks NNW from the true summit of Grace Ridge.
Mighty Loopster astride the true summit of Grace Ridge. Photo looks NW.

Kachemak Bay from the summit of Grace Ridge. Photo looks NNE.
Homer Spit again, this time using the telephoto lens. Photo looks N.
Looking SSE. Lupe’s route up was along the barren hilly ridgeline seen on the R.

Lupe was glad to get down off the true summit to take refuge from the wind on the SW side of the big rock outcropping.  Sandy, Kevin and Billy were still relaxing and finishing up lunch there for a little while longer.  They said it was noon, which meant it had taken Lupe only 3 hours to get here from the S Grace Ridge trailhead.  Lupe had 6 whole hours until she needed to be down at the N trailhead for the scheduled water taxi pickup at Kayak Beach.

Before long, the rest of the XtraTuff gang moved on.  Lupe and SPHP stayed alone, enjoying the solitude and the magnificent scenery.  The family of 4 that had been passed on the way up came by, continuing farther NW along the summit ridge.  For more than half an hour, Lupe and SPHP did not stir from the sheltered spot below the summit.  What a magnificent place!  Eventually, though, the time came to start exploring the big summit ridge.

The view to the SW from the sheltered spot where Lupe relaxed out of the wind just below the summit. Tutka Bay is down below.

First, Lupe returned to the SE end of the summit ridge near the survey benchmark.  The views of the mountains to the S were best from this end of the ridge.  Lupe and SPHP wanted to see them from this vantage point one more time before leaving.

Looking SE using the telephoto lens.
Worth a second look, aye?
Looking SSE.
Sadie Cove and Sadie Peak(L). Photo looks SE.
Lupe rests on the tundra near the SE end of Grace Ridge’s big summit ridge. The true summit is on the R. Tutka Bay is on the L. Photo looks WNW.

Bidding farewell to the S mountain views, Lupe headed NW, passing by the true summit for the final time.

Grace Ridge’s big summit ridge is about 0.25 mile long.  Unlike the lower SSE ridge Lupe followed to get here, which was narrow and steep in some places, the big summit ridge is broad and flat to gently rolling.  No clear trail exists most of the way, but the general route is totally obvious.  If you still don’t get it, NW of the true summit the route is marked by a series of big cairns.

Tutka Bay. A fog bank hangs over adjoining Kachemak Bay. Photo looks WNW.
Lupe NW of the true summit, seen on the L. Of course, American Dingoes can find their way across this broad, gentle ridge with their eyes closed. Huge cairns showed SPHP the way. Photo looks SSE.

Going NW along the big ridge, Lupe was heading away from the mountains and toward the ocean.  There was one impressive mountain view, however, which she was going toward.  Faint and far away, beyond Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet, was Iliamna Volcano (10,016 ft.).

Naturally, faint and far away aren’t normally associated with impressive.  A look through the camera’s telephoto lens told a different story.

Iliamna Volcano from Grace Ridge. Bring those binoculars, if you want to see it looking like this instead of simply faint and far away. Photo looks NW.

A 0.25 mile long summit ridge is a pretty big summit, but even at a very leisurely pace with stops to sniff and admire the views, it took Lupe only half an hour to reach the NW end where the best ocean views were.

Lupe near the NW end of the big summit ridge. Photo looks back to the SSE. The true summit is seen on the L.
At the NW end. Photo looks WNW.
Anchor Point along Cook Inlet is in view here beyond Kachemak Bay. Photo looks NW.
Iliamna Volcano towers above low clouds covering Cook Inlet. Photo looks NW using the telephoto lens.
Anchor Point from the NW end of the Grace Ridge summit ridge. And, hey, isn’t that the peakbagging Carolina Dog from the Black Hills of South Dakota up there?! Photo looks NW.

Lupe and SPHP had first reached the SE end of the Grace Ridge summit ridge an hour and forty minutes ago.  If the wind hadn’t been so strong, Lupe would have remained at least another hour.  However, as wonderful as the views were, the wind was wearing enough to make starting down sound like a good idea.

A final look back at the true summit of Grace Ridge(R) before starting down. Sadie Peak is seen R of Center. Photo looks ESE.
Homer and the Homer Spit across Kachemak Bay. Lupe’s route down off Grace Ridge started toward the R in the direction of the cairn. Photo looks N.

The wind soon abated as Lupe lost elevation, a welcome development as far as she was concerned.  Going down the NW end of Grace Ridge was a lot different from coming up the SE end.  Lupe was facing views of the ocean.  The trail going down didn’t follow any distinct ridgeline, but wound around in open country.

Lupe in open country on her way down. Photo looks S.
On the trail down. Photo looks SSE.

Lupe had already lost a lot of elevation when she reached some flat ground.  Ahead was a small rise the trail was about to go over.  People were down here, and up on the rise, too.

Kevin from the XtraTuff group was in the flat area picking blueberries using a blueberry rake, a simple contraption SPHP had never seen before.  A woman named Poppy was picking blueberries, too.  Sandy and Billy were up ahead on the rise talking to still more people.

It was sunny and comfortably warm out.  The air was still.  Lupe had hours to reach Kayak Beach.  Picking blueberries sounded like a good idea.  The others were saving blueberries in plastic bags, but SPHP sat on the ground picking and eating them on the spot.  Lupe dozed contentedly in the shade of an evergreen tree.

Lupe’s nap and SPHP’s blueberry feast went on for 30 or 40 minutes.  Then almost everyone decided it was time to mosey on down the trail to the Kayak Beach pickup point.  Lupe and SPHP went with, tagging along at the end of the group.  Only Kevin and Poppy remained, picking blueberries for a while longer.

Looking back at Grace Ridge from the small rise. The trail Lupe had come down wound its way around in the territory seen on the L. Part of the trail is in view below, L of Center. The flat land where all the blueberry picking went on was down there next to the trail. Photo looks SE.
Hesketh Island(L) and Yukon Island(R) from the small rise. Anchor Point is in the distance on the far R. Photo looks NW.

As Lupe lost more elevation, the trail entered steeper terrain.  Tall bushes and trees hid the views.  The forest was full of Devil’s club, a tall plant with very large leaves, a thick and thorny stem, all crowned by numerous clusters of bright red berries.  A sort of giant blueberry plant grew 5 or 6 feet high here, too.

The trail was much wetter and muddier down here than anywhere else.  A couple of times, people fell on the slick mud.  Fortunately, no one sustained any injury beyond wounded pride.

Lupe investigates a small stream along the trail.
Devil’s club berries.

This larger group Lupe and SPHP were now part of traveled very slowly down the steeper part of the trail.  The pace finally picked up lower down, when the slope of the incline finally decreased.  Near the coast, the trees of the forest took over.  There were fewer bushes and tall plants.

Lupe reached Kayak Beach about 5:15 PM.  Kayak Beach proved to be much larger than the tiny beach at the S trailhead.  Still more people were on the beach, and several dogs, too.  Even though pickup time wasn’t supposed to be until 6:00 PM, Mako already had two water taxis here, ready and waiting.

Surprisingly, Lupe wasn’t interested in the other dogs.  Something else had caught her attention!  In the ocean, right next to the shore, was something very odd.  Lupe had never seen anything like it before!  A round translucent creature marked with an emblem of the sun moved with each wave.  Lupe was fascinated, but regarded the strange creature with deep suspicion.

Lupe discovered a jellyfish in the ocean at water’s edge on Kayak beach.
Lupe had never seen a jellyfish before. She regarded it with both fascination and suspicion, following it toward the sea when it retreated with the waves, and leaping back when the jellyfish surged forward, seemingly on the attack!
The jellyfish was a most puzzling creature to the Carolina Dog. Lupe spent a long time keeping a watchful eye on it. Who knew jellyfish could be so entertaining?
Lupe maintains her jellyfish vigil (it’s barely visible right in front of her nose) as one of the water taxis moves in to shore to begin boarding. Iliamna Volcano is seen faintly far beyond Eldred Passage(Center). Yukon Island is on the L. Photo looks NW.
Iliamna Volcano from Kayak Beach. Yukon Island on the L. Photo looks NW using the telephoto lens.

There was quite a large group of people milling around on the beach.  In addition to the two Mako water taxis, there was a third water taxi from another company waiting to return passengers to Homer Spit.

Apparently, there is a regulation prohibiting the water taxis from carrying more than 6 passengers at a time.  Everyone seemed worried about securing a spot on the water taxis.  Everyone except Lupe and SPHP, and two women who were staying to camp out at Kayak Beach.

Yes!  Mako had 13 passengers waiting for pickup, but could only take 12.  The water taxis filled up.  Lupe and SPHP were left standing on the beach.  Totally awesome!  Mako promised another water taxi was on the way.  It would be here in 15 minutes.  Whatever.  As long as it came eventually, Lupe and SPHP were happy.

The two women who were going to camp out here had two large dogs with them.  The biggest one, Ruby, acted so aggressively toward Lupe, that Ruby got put on a leash.  The women invited SPHP to join them for a cup of wine.  Who was SPHP to disappoint them?  While Lupe and the friendly dog played and explored, SPHP and the two women sat watching the ocean, chatting, and sipping wine.

Fifteen minutes was a lousy estimate.  The water taxi, Orca, didn’t show up until 7:00 PM, which was totally cool as far as Lupe and SPHP were concerned.   SPHP bid farewell to the two women, thanking them for the wine.  Lupe and SPHP boarded the Orca, and it pulled away from shore.

Mako’s water taxi, Orca, arrives at 7:00 PM to pick up Lupe and SPHP. Ruby, who was back off leash by now, is the dark brown dog on the R. The light brown dog is the friendly one that played with Lupe. The black dog came with the Orca. Yukon Island in the background. Photo looks NW.

A guy came running out of the woods from the direction of the trail.  Wait!!!  Come back!!!  His group had a 7:00 PM scheduled pickup with Mako.  Two more were still coming.  They would be here shortly.

Mako was confused.  The guy’s story didn’t seem to add up at first.  The confusion arose, because, just like the original XtraTuff group of 3, this group of 3 also had a Kevin and a Sandy.  For a few minutes, Mako thought they had already done their duty and picked up everyone they needed to.  However, instead of a Billy, this group had a Mark.

It all got straightened out over the radio.  Back to shore.  The two remaining members of the new Kevin, Sandy, and Mark group appeared.  Everyone boarded.  Out to sea again.  Soon the Orca was dashing over a glassy sea through Eldred Passage.  Lupe and SPHP enjoyed the ride seated out front in the open air again.

Aboard the Orca on Kachemak Bay.

Turned out the Orca wasn’t going directly back to the Homer Spit.  A package needed to be delivered to China Cove farther N on the E side of Kachemak Bay.  Fantastic!  A free extra long water taxi ride on a gorgeous evening!  The farther away China Cove was, the better.

The side trip to China Cove added an extra half hour.  Flocks of seagulls raced the Orca.  Lupe saw boats and ships on Kachemak Bay.  Beauty, light, and the cool, clean Alaskan air Orca rushed through were everywhere.  Life couldn’t be better!

It had to end.  The Orca returned to Homer Spit.

Kachemak Bay from the Orca near Homer Spit. Photo looks E.
Lupe aboard the Orca as it pulls into port at Homer Spit.
Her Kachemak Bay of the North Pacific Ocean and Grace Ridge adventure over, Lupe returned to land on Homer Spit.

What a day!  What an adventure!  Lupe and SPHP were famished.  Back in the G6, SPHP drove to Safeway in Homer and bought a whole roasted chicken.  Then it was back to a park on the SW side of Homer Spit.  Lupe and SPHP dined in the G6 watching gentle waves roll into shore.

The tide was coming in.  Across Kachemak Bay, there was Grace Ridge in the evening light.  Full of chicken, Lupe and SPHP left the G6 and strolled down to the ocean shore.  A woman from Homer was gathering pretty or unusual rocks she would use to line the sides of her driveway.  Most everyone else had gone home.

Grace Ridge(L) from Homer Spit. Photo looks SSW.
Grace Ridge using the telephoto lens. Photo looks S.

Well, Looper, you did save the day!  I’m sure glad you woke me up in the nick of time when you did.  There aren’t many days like this one in a lifetime.  We are so lucky we didn’t miss it!

And so it ended, with Lupe standing at the edge of the North Pacific Ocean on Homer Spit, Grace Ridge in view, beneath the fading glory of a rare epic day.


Mako’s Water Taxi

Kachemak Bay State Park and State Wilderness Park

Kachemak Bay State Park & Wilderness Park Brochure and Map

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Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 194 – Summit Peak & Bishop Mountain (3-5-17)

Of course!  But, really?  Do you mean it?  You’re not just pulling my curly Dingo tail?  Lupe was incredulous.  SPHP had just asked if she wanted to go up into the mountains?  Half the day was almost shot already.  Until a moment ago, SPHP hadn’t shown the least inclination to go anywhere.  Loop was mentally prepared for another idle day lounging about the house.

SPHP sprang into action.  To the Carolina Dog’s utter amazement and joy, suddenly preparations were underway!  The reason?  A neighbor had casually mentioned winds gusting to 70 mph tomorrow.  Lupe was supposed to go on one of her Black Hills expeditions tomorrow, not today, but SPHP had quickly checked the forecast.  It said more like 30 mph winds with occasional stronger gusts.  Not nearly as dramatic, but combined with temperatures in the low 40’s, no picnic either.

Today was an unseasonably warm 65°F with a gentle breeze.  Given the circumstances, waiting until tomorrow was nuts.  As late as it was, there wasn’t time to go clear down to the southern Black Hills to continue Lupe’s adventures there.  That would have to wait for another day.  However, there was still time for some kind of an expedition closer to home.

Ever ready for adventure, Lupe was soon leaping out of the G6.  She found herself at the intersection of Old Hill City Road and USFS Road No. 357 (1:06 PM, 57°F).

Lupe near the start of USFS Road No. 357 about 2 miles ESE of Hill City. Photo looks SW.

Lupe began by heading SW on No. 357.  A big pasture, part of a private ranch, was right next to the road.  Lupe’s first peakbagging objective was all on Black Hills National Forest land, however, so she wouldn’t have any access issues.  Summit Peak (5,655 ft.) was less than a mile from the G6.  Soon Lupe was leaving the road to start her climb.

In an open forest thinned by logging operations, Lupe came to a spiffy rock outcropping before she had even gained much elevation.  She hopped up on the rocks and struck a happy American Dingo explorer pose.  Who knew what the top of Summit Peak might be like?  From a distance, the mountain was heavily forested.  There might not be anything to look at up there except trees.  At least this rock formation looked good in a photo.

Lupe astride the spiffy rock outcropping she reached before she’d even gained much elevation on her way up Summit Peak. Photo looks ENE.

Lupe continued upward.  She quickly came to another, higher road.  This grassy road was apparently seldom used.  Instead of charging right up the N slope of Summit Peak, Lupe followed the grassy road.  She gained elevation gradually as the road went SW along the NW flank of the mountain.

When the grassy road seemed to be getting close to topping out, Lupe left it to start climbing directly up a heavily forested hillside.  She arrived up on a saddle between rock formations.  A rusty barbed wire fence ran along the ridgeline, a hazard for Lupe and an unwelcome sight.  SPHP made certain she stayed away from it.

The topo map showed the true summit of Summit Peak at the SW end of the mountain, but Lupe was much closer to the NE end now.  Another high point was supposed to be to the NE, so Lupe explored that direction first.  The rock formation on the ridgeline was much larger and more rugged than it initially appeared.  Before long, Lupe was forced to make a choice on how best to try to reach the NE end of the mountain.

Lupe got off the rocks to continue NE along the SE side of the formation.  She soon found herself below a solid wall of rock, but had no problem continuing NE along its base.  She was gaining elevation along the way, but so was the wall of rock.  After going hundreds of feet, it became clear that she was nearing the far NE end of the ridge.

Fortunately, gaps in the rock wall provided the Carolina Dog a relatively easy way to scramble to the top.

Lupe up on the rocks at the far NE end of Summit Peak. Photo looks NE.

The rocks at the very NE end weren’t the absolute highest.  A couple of massive rocks only 20 or 30 feet farther SW were clearly the high point.  These rocks were too large for Lupe to get up on them from this direction.

The highest rocks, one of which is seen on the L, were a short distance from the NE end of Summit Peak. Lupe couldn’t climb them from this direction. Photo looks SW.
Lupe had this great view of Ford Mountain from the far NE end of Summit Peak. Photo looks NW with some help from the telephoto lens.

The only hope for Lupe to climb onto the highest rocks was if there was a route up from the SW.  To find out, she went down a narrow gap right next to them.  Small bushes grew thickly in the gap, but Lupe had no problem getting through.

Lupe comes down the narrow gap next to the summit rocks on her way to look for a way up from the SW. Photo looks NE.

The wall of rock was too high for Lupe to climb by herself, but she found a spot where it was possible for SPHP to scramble up.  Lupe waited anxiously below while SPHP scouted around above.  She didn’t like being left behind, especially when SPHP disappeared from view.

Yes, there was a way up to the highest rocks along the SE side of the rock formation!  SPHP came back to tell Lupe the good news.  She was mostly relieved that she hadn’t been abandoned.  SPHP scrambled down, then lifted Lupe up, giving her the boost she needed to get on the rock wall.  SPHP then climbed back up to join her.

The route to the top was short.  To get up on the very highest rocks Lupe needed another boost, but with SPHP’s help she made it!  A look back to the SW convinced SPHP that Lupe was now on the true summit of Summit Peak (5,655 ft.).  The topo map showing the true summit at the opposite SW end of the mountain was wrong.  SPHP would have bet money on it!

With a couple of boosts from SPHP along the way, Lupe sits at the true summit of Summit Peak! Some of the rocks she had been on earlier at the far NW end of the ridge are seen not very far away on the L. They weren’t much lower, only a few feet. Photo looks NE.
Loopster on Summit Peak with Five Points (6,221 ft.) in view in the distance on the L. Photo looks NNE.
Lupe’s no longer at the very summit here, but close to it on rocks only a little to the SW. Photo looks SW along the ridgeline. The rounded, forested hill on the R is the SW end of Summit Peak. The topo map showed the true summit over there, but SPHP would have bet money Lupe had found the true summit here at the NE end of the mountain no matter what the map said. Photo looks SW.

SPHP was surprised at the size and length of the rock formations on Summit Peak.  Lupe had some terrific views!  When she was ready to get down, SPHP helped her off the true summit.  While she explored among rocks nearly as high nearby, SPHP took pictures.

This massive granite formation is shown as Elkhorn Mountain on the topo map. It is part of a long rise toward the summit of Black Elk Peak. Photo looks SE with help from the telephoto lens.
Sweet Loop checking out the views. The summit rock, which she had just been on, is right behind her. Photo looks NE.
Black Elk Peak (7,231 ft.), the highest mountain in South Dakota, towers over the Palmer Gulch KOA, seen at lower L. Photo looks S.
Black Elk Peak using the telephoto lens. Photo looks S.
Saint Elmo Peak (6,458 ft.) is the high point on the horizon slightly to the R of Lupe.  Photo looks SSW.
Bishop Mountain (5,706 ft.) (R of Center) would be Lupe’s next peakbagging objective when she finished exploring Summit Peak. Photo looks NW.

After enjoying the impressive views from the summit area, Lupe and SPHP left by the same route Lupe had come up.  Loop was willing to leap off the rock wall, but SPHP helped the Carolina Dog so she wouldn’t risk joint damage.

Lupe headed SW exploring the NW side of the rock wall along the ridgeline.  The rocks were even more impressive over here than on the SE side she had investigated earlier.

Loop on her way down on the NW side of the rock wall. Photo looks NE.
The amount of rock on Summit Peak was totally unexpected! Photo looks S.
Working along the base of the rock wall was sometimes slow work due to the number of boulders scattered around. Photo looks E.

Once beyond the long rock wall, Lupe continued SW along the ridgeline.  SPHP was convinced she had already been to the true summit, but she was going to see what the official summit according to the topo map was like.  Was there any chance it actually was higher?

Lupe had to dodge the rusty barbed wire fence a couple of times again.  SPHP wondered for the 10 millionth time, why it was so common to find barbed wire fences so incredibly high up on rugged mountains and ridges in the Black Hills?  These hazardous fences were useless and silly.  They always had been.  No cow or horse would ever attempt this kind of terrain of its own free will!

As Lupe continued SW, she came to more high points.  Near the first big one was a very odd rock formation.  The rocks formed a large square surrounding a depression full of boulders, branches and pine needles.  Strange!  SPHP decided to name this formation Box O’ Rocks.

Lupe at the next significant high point SW along the ridge. SPHP was certain this wasn’t as high as where she’d been earlier. The Box O’ Rocks formation was only a little farther SW from here. Photo looks W.
Looper sits at the NE end of Box O’ Rocks. Photo looks NNE.

Lupe had lost quite a bit of elevation coming down from the NE, but she eventually regained a fair amount of it.  After a fairly big climb, she arrived at a high point SPHP suspected might be the location of the (erroneous) true summit shown on the topo map.

Trees made it hard to see much in most directions, but the nice flat rock at the top did offer lovely, clear views to the N and NW.  Lupe had a great look at both Bishop and Ford mountains, her next peakbagging objectives.

Lupe sits on the flat rock that SPHP suspected might be the (erroneous) true summit near the SW end of Summit Peak indicated on the topo map. She had a great view of Bishop Mountain (L) and Ford Mountain (R), both of which she still hoped to climb on Expedition No. 194. Photo looks NW.
Lupe still at what SPHP suspected might be the SW summit. Although she had a great view of Bishop and Ford Mountains and a few other peaks from here, this view was more typical of what she could see in most directions. Photo looks WSW.
Years ago, Storm Hill was a beautiful green, but a forest fire changed that. Photo looks N using the telephoto lens.
Five Points (6,221 ft.) (Center) and the mountain Lupe knows as New Year’s Eve Peak (6,046 ft.) (on the horizon on the R). Humbolt Mountain (5,722 ft.) is the lower peak in front of and a bit L of Five Points. Photo looks N.

Lupe had to retreat off this possible SW summit going back down toward the NE.  She then circled around the SE side of the ridgeline to continue SW.  She went some distance before finding an easy way over to the NW side of the ridge.  SPHP was again surprised at the size of some of the rock formations that continued SW from here.

When Lupe made it over to the NW side of the ridge, she started working her way down the mountain.  Looking back up, SPHP began to have doubts if Lupe had actually been to the true SW high point.  Maybe one of those towering rocks was actually it?

Lupe below some of the towering rocks of the SW end of the ridge. She’s already starting down the mountain. Photo looks S.

Lupe continued on down for 10 minutes while SPHP dithered.  Finally, SPHP decided Lupe had better go back up to check it out.  It’s a good thing American Dingoes have a lot of patience and a forgiving nature.  Lupe didn’t complain in the least about having to return to the ridge.  She didn’t bite SPHP even once.

SPHP wasn’t even certain Lupe could make it to the top of the towering rocks, but investigation revealed a surprisingly easy route.  Lupe was soon perched at the highest point.  She was maybe a couple hundred yards SW of the last high point she’d been at.  SPHP could sort of see the other high point between the trees, but not clearly.  This final spot seemed to be about as high.

From here, Lupe had some fabulous views.  She could also clearly see there weren’t any higher points farther SW along the ridge.

The wide open views from the final SW high point Lupe reached along the ridge were fabulous! Photo looks N.
So, satisfied yet, SPHP? Is this the true summit? … Yes, my curiosity is satisfied now Loop! Thank you! This might or might not be higher than the last spot you went to, but I still believe the true summit was way back near the NE end of the mountain. Fantastic views here, though, aye?
Lupe could see clearly there weren’t any higher points along the ridge farther SW than where she was now. Photo looks SW.

SPHP was now completely satisfied that Lupe had been to every possible location of the true summit on Summit Peak.  So much time had been spent on the mountain, it was doubtful Lupe had time to climb any others.  Maybe she could still try to make it up Bishop Mountain (5,706 ft.)?

Lupe went back down to the NW side of the ridge.  She resumed following the ridgeline SW, but was losing elevation steadily.  Large rock formations continued much farther than SPHP expected, but there was no need to climb any of these rocks.  None were as high as where Lupe had already been.  When she finally reached the end of the rock formations, Lupe turned NW descending as quickly as possible.

Bishop Mountain was less than 2 miles NW, but Lupe first had to detour nearly a mile to the WSW to get around private property.  She was now making rapid progress, but SPHP had made her dilly-dally a long time up on Summit Peak.  By the time she was approaching Bishop Mountain, it was clear she wouldn’t have any time to waste here.

Approaching Bishop Mountain from the S.

Lupe started up Bishop Mountain.  At first her course aimed between two high points midway up, but she eventually drifted over to the E to reach the S ridgeline.  As soon as she was on the ridge, she came to big rock formations.  Due to the forest, good viewpoints were rare, but Lupe came to a few along the way.

One of the good viewpoints Lupe came to climbing the S ridge of Bishop Mountain. Black Elk Peak is in the distance. Photo looks SSE.

The higher Lupe went, the more rock formations she encountered.  However, they did not form continuous walls like on Summit Peak.  Lupe could wind around among them easily enough while working her way higher.  Loopster was quite high on the mountain, but not at the summit yet, when she saw the golden glow in the W.  The sun had already set.

Sunset from Bishop Mountain. Good chance this photo looks W.

The sky had been almost totally overcast for a while.  Lupe hadn’t seen sunshine since leaving Summit Peak.  However, there must have been a small break in the clouds.  Off to the S, suddenly Elkhorn Mountain and Black Elk Peak were aglow in the final rays of sunlight on those higher peaks.

Elkhorn Mountain glows in the last rays before sunset. Photo looks SE using the telephoto lens.
Black Elk Peak. Photo looks SSE.

With light fading fast, Lupe pressed on looking for the true summit of Bishop Mountain.  The top of the mountain was a fairly big area dotted with large rock outcroppings.  The farther N Lupe went, the higher the rock formations were.  She’d made it quite a long way N when one rock formation appeared higher than all the others so far.

Looper scrambled to the top.

Lupe scrambled to the top of this rock formation, which SPHP briefly thought might be the true summit of Bishop Mountain. Photo looks SE.
Hwy 16 S of Hill City is seen below from Bishop Mountain. Photo looks SW.

The true summit of Bishop Mountain proved to be a less dramatic place.  Only a little farther, way at the N end of the mountain, Lupe came to a modestly sloping area with a couple of minor high points so nearly equal in elevation that either might have been the true summit.  She also discovered 3 cement pillars.  The pillars were likely part of the foundation of some former structure, though they looked almost new.

It was already so dark out when Lupe arrived, even the highly light sensitive camera lens had a hard time producing a clear image.

Lupe at the first candidate for true summit of Bishop Mountain. Photo looks S.
Loop on the tallest cement pillar. They all looked new, but SPHP believed they were supports for some former structure. The top of Ford Mountain can be seen between the trees L of Lupe. Photo looks NE.
Lupe on the sloping rock that was the 2nd candidate for true summit of Bishop Mountain. Photo looks N.
Sheesh! Trying to make me leap out of my fur? Lemme know before you do that! … Sorry Looper, just seeing if things look any better using the flash.
Part of the Bishop Mountain summit area. Photo looks NNW.

With darkness growing by the minute, it was time to get off the mountain.  The G6 was less than 1.5 miles to the E, so the return trip seemed like an easy, done deal.  SPHP became careless about the route Lupe would take back.  Down, down the mountain she went, but SPHP missed the saddle between the two high points to the S.

Suddenly there were houses ahead.  Somehow Lupe was on private property instead of USFS land.  What had happened?  The realization grew that SPHP had taken Lupe in totally the wrong direction.  The best guess was that she was now somewhere SW of Bishop Mountain.  In the dark with an overcast sky, it was hard to know exactly where she might be, or what direction she was headed.

So the wandering began.  Back up away from the homes, then up and down over ridge after ridge.  Lupe came to lots of little dirt roads in the forest, but none had any signage.  In the darkness, the mountains loomed much higher than seemed possible.  How much elevation had Lupe lost?  Nothing was familiar.  Peachy.

Lupe was still having fun!  She loved prowling around in the night.  Fortunately she stuck close to SPHP.  On and on.  SPHP thought Lupe was now heading mostly N or E, but wasn’t sure.

Finally, the Carolina Dog came to a big power line up on a hill.  The USFS map showed a power line going NE/SW about a mile E of Hill City.  A few stars were now out, so it was possible to be more certain which way Lupe was going.  She followed the power line NE.  At least it went straight, although the route was still up and down.

Lupe eventually left the rugged power line route.  She wound up in Hill City!  She had been considerably farther S than SPHP believed.  The poor American Dingo had to traipse the entire boring length of the town to get back to Old Hill City Road.  Sadly, it was Sunday, so the Alpine Inn was closed.  If it had been open, Lupe have been delighted to stop in for a delicious filet Mingon steak.

Still two miles to the G6!  Funny how things work out.  Clouds dissipated from the night sky.  Stars and a half moon lit the way through the quiet countryside.  Lupe trotted along alertly checking fields for signs of deer or wild animals.  Truth was, the happy Carolina Dog may have been a little sad when her beautiful moonlit stroll and Expedition No. 194 came to an end.  (9:21 PM, 37°F)

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s Black Hills Expeditions Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe Adventures.

Beluga Point, Portage Lake, the Byron Glacier & Cook Inlet of the North Pacific Ocean, Alaska (8-25-16)

Day 27 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska

Everything hung on what the radio would say in the morning.  Yesterday evening, the rain had started in again in Palmer, Alaska before the light had faded completely away.  Every time Lupe woke up during the night, the relentless rain continued.  Once there was only fog, but that was hardly any better.

As near as SPHP could tell, the S coast of Alaska had already seen a solid month of rain and gloom.  A couple days ago, the forecast had been for 3 more days of rain, then clearing skies.  Lupe had left Palmer then, resigned to going all the way back to Canada.  Luckily, only an hour’s drive away, the skies had cleared enough so she could spend a couple days climbing Gunsight Mountain (6,441 ft.) and Lion Head (3,185 ft.).  Lupe was still in Alaska!  She had returned to Palmer hoping for the best.

Morning came.  Still raining.  For the 3rd time on this Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation, SPHP cheated and turned on the radio.  If the forecast was unchanged, if the skies really were going to clear in only another day or two, Lupe would stay in Alaska.  On the other hand, if the forecast had been revised again to yet another vague promise of better days another 3 or 4 or 5 days in the future, this was it.  Lupe was abandoning hope, and going back to Canada.

Finally, the weather report came on.  Rain continuing throughout the day in Anchorage … yes, yes, and then? … clearing skies into the weekend, with highs near 70°F.  Click.  That was enough.  No Pepper Peak (5,381 ft.) today, but that was OK.  The clearing skies would likely be coming from the SW.  Lupe was going to greet them.  Well, Loopster, you lucky Dingo, you’re going to get to see Anchorage after all, and a whole lot more!

Anchorage was a big city, like other big cities.  Rush hour traffic slowed to a crawl for miles on the wet Glenn Highway due to an accident.  Downtown, SPHP missed the turn S on the Seward Highway, but managed to get back to it.  S of Anchorage, the rain was lighter.  Skies were still overcast, with occasional patches of fog.

The Seward Highway turned SE following the railroad right along the Turnagain Arm of the North Pacific Ocean.  At Beluga Point, Lupe and SPHP stopped for a look.

Lupe reaches Beluga Point on the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet, part of the North Pacific Ocean. Photo looks W.
Beluga Point is SE of Anchorage along the Seward Highway, which follows the coast of the Turnagain Arm. Photo looks NW.

Beluga Point is a popular place for watching Beluga whales.  Although the white whales are usually easy to spot, Lupe didn’t see any.  Several people at the Beluga Point pullout told SPHP they often saw whales here.  One claimed to have seen 28 Beluga whales during a single recent visit.

A powerful tide was coming in.  The strong, rippling current looked dangerous, as the ocean surged SE into the Turnagain Arm past Beluga Point.  Less than 10 miles away on the misty far shore, Lupe had her first glimpse of the Kenai Peninsula.

A powerful tidal current ripples past Beluga Point as the ocean surges SE (L) into the Turnagain Arm. On the far shore, Lupe could see the misty N coast of the Kenai Peninsula. Photo looks SW.
Looking S from Beluga Point.

Lupe and SPHP continued on.  The murky brown waters of the Turnagain Arm didn’t look very deep.  From the G6, Lupe saw huge expanses of exposed mud flats.  The incoming tide was in the process of inundating them again.  When the SE end of the Turnagain Arm came into view, Lupe made a brief stop at another viewpoint.

Near Girdwood, the SE end of the Turnagain Arm came into view. Photo looks SE.
Even on a cloudy, misty day, the scenery was beautiful. Photo looks SE at a glacier perched on a steep mountainside near the end of the Turnagain Arm.

The last several miles of the Turnagain Arm was nothing but mud flats and marshlands with a river flowing through it all.  Rounding the very SE end, Lupe and SPHP left the Seward Highway, turning E (L) on Portage Glacier Road.  Lupe didn’t take the road quite all the way to the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel to Whittier.  Instead, she went to see Portage Lake, bypassing the Begich Boggs Visitor Center along the way.

Lupe arrives at Portage Lake. The Portage Glacier used to fill this entire valley, but has since retreated out of sight behind the mountain on the R. Portage Lake is 3 miles long and up to 1 mile wide. Photo looks SE along 2/3 of the length of the lake.

Note: The Begich Boggs Visitor Center is located at the NW end of Portage Lake about 6 miles from the Seward Highway.  It was built in 1986 on the 1914 terminal moraine of the Portage Glacier.  The Portage Glacier used to be visible at the far SE end of the lake from the visitor center, but has since retreated out of sight.  Among other services, commercial boat tours to see the glacier are available at the visitor center.

The Portage Glacier can also be viewed from Portage Pass, accessed via a good hiking trail with 800 ft. of elevation gain.  From the pass, it is possible to hike on toward Portage Lake for a closer look at the glacier, which is less than a mile directly across the lake.  The turn to the Portage Pass trailhead is located on the SW (R) side of the road to Whittier about 0.25 mile after going through the 2.5 mile long Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel.  A $13.00 round trip fee (passenger car, 2016) is charged to go through the tunnel.

Even under drippy, overcast skies, Portage Lake was very beautiful.  On the opposite NE shore of the lake, Lupe saw waterfalls cascading down from a hanging glacier on Maynard Mountain (4,137 ft.).

Across Portage Lake, waterfalls cascaded down from a hanging glacier on Maynard Mountain. Photo looks NE.
Maynard Mountain from across Portage Lake. Photo looks NE.
From Portage Lake, Lupe could hear these waterfalls on Maynard Mountain, as well as others on nearby peaks. Photo looks NE using the telephoto lens.

Less than 0.5 mile before Lupe reached Portage Lake, she had passed by the trailhead to the Byron Glacier.  This easy trail with very modest elevation gain leads about a mile up a valley to the SW where the Byron Glacier can be seen.  Lupe and SPHP left Portage Lake to go check it out, parking the G6 at the trailhead (11:52 AM, 53°F).

The first part of the trail was an easy stroll through a forest.  Meltwaters from the Byron Glacier formed a rushing stream on the SE side of the trail.  The trail did not cross the stream, but followed it up the valley.  When the trail left the forest, the Byron Glacier, which has retreated up onto the steep N slopes of Byron Peak (4,700 ft.), was in view ahead.

When the trail left the forest, the Byron Glacier was in view clinging to the steep N face of Byron Peak. Photo looks SW.
The Byron Glacier has retreated from the valley, and is now a hanging glacier. Photo looks SW using the telephoto lens.
The top of Byron Peak was hidden in the clouds, but most of the glacier was in view. Photo looks SW using the telephoto lens.

The official Byron Glacier trail ended at a low rock wall.  The trail was busy, even on this overcast day, and some people turned back here.  However, many went farther up the valley to get closer to the glacier, scrambling among the rocky terrain left by the glacier’s retreat.  Lupe and SPHP continued beyond the trail’s end, too.

Lupe on the low rock wall at the official end of the Byron Glacier trail. The glacier has retreated so far that the end of the trail is no longer all that close to the glacier. Photo looks SW.

The Byron Glacier is famous for having accessible ice caves.  Lupe didn’t go that far, but she did go beyond the official end of the trail far enough to see what appeared to be a large ice cave ahead.

Lupe went far enough up the valley to where she could see what looked like a large ice cave ahead. Photo looks SW.
The ice cave looked less like a cave through the telephoto lens, but maybe there was a cave up there somewhere. What was clear was that the Byron Glacier was larger than it looked. A lot of snow and ice was hidden beneath rocks and debris. Photo looks SW.

The closer Lupe got, the easier it was to see the blue ice high up on the Byron Glacier.  The glacier was a beautiful sight with the gorgeous blue and white ice above, and waterfalls plunging down the gray mountainside below.

The Byron Glacier was a gorgeous sight with blue and white ice above, and waterfalls plunging down the gray mountainside below. Photo looks SW.
Love that glacial blue ice!

Lupe explored up the valley far enough to where she could look back down and see Portage Lake surrounded by mountains in the distance.

Looking back down the valley, Lupe could see Portage Lake surrounded by mountains in the distance. Photo looks NE.
Meltwaters from the Byron Glacier stream toward Portage Lake. The waters will eventually leave Portage Lake flowing only 6 miles NW to the Turnagain Arm of the North Pacific Ocean. Photo looks NE.

Lupe and SPHP returned to the G6 (1:51 PM).  Even at a leisurely pace, the easy trek to see the Byron Glacier had only taken a couple of hours.  At least it had given Lupe a chance to get some exercise.  Most of the rest of the day would be spent in the G6 looking for those sunny skies.

SPHP drove back to the Seward Highway and turned S (L).  Almost immediately, the highway curved around to the NW.  A few miles later, it turned SW where a big sign welcomed Lupe to the Kenai Peninsula!

Lupe reaches Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.

The drive through the Kenai Peninsula was gorgeous.  Lupe saw forests, towering mountains, big lakes and rivers.  At a junction, SPHP took the Sterling Highway toward Soldotna.  Lupe passed Kenai Lake, traveled for miles along the beautiful blue-green Kenai River, saw the turnoffs for huge Skilak Lake and the Russian River where bears fish for salmon.

A few miles after passing the Mystery Hills trailhead, the Sterling Highway left the mountains.  This part of the Kenai Peninsula was low, forested, flat, and dotted with lakes and marshlands.  Sterling was hardly noticeable as a community, but Soldotna was a thriving, busy place.  A quick stop for supplies at the Safeway in Soldotna, and Lupe continued on.

The Sterling Highway headed SW from Soldotna, eventually reaching bluffs above the Cook Inlet of the North Pacific Ocean.  By now the skies had cleared.  At last, Lupe basked in sunshine!  Perched along the bluffs overlooking Cook Inlet were homes, campgrounds, RV parks and restaurants.  They all had a stupendous view.

Far to the W across Cook Inlet was a grand, lofty mountain.  At first, SPHP wasn’t sure what mountain that was, but Lupe was seeing the highest peak of the Aleutian Range, the Redoubt Volcano (10,197 ft.), for the first time.

SW of Soldotna, the Sterling Highway reached bluffs above the Cook Inlet of the North Pacific Ocean. Far away to the W, on the other side of Cook Inlet, Lupe saw a grand, lofty mountain – the Redoubt Volcano! Photo looks W.

Near the tiny village of Ninilchik, SPHP left the highway to drive a couple miles down a deeply potholed road to the beach.  Lupe and SPHP left the G6, and walked down to the shore of Cook Inlet.

Bathed in evening sunlight, Lupe reaches Cook Inlet of the North Pacific Ocean near the tiny community of Ninilchik. Redoubt Volcano is very faintly seen on the far horizon straight up from Lupe’s head. Photo looks NW.

Faintly, beyond the shining sea, Lupe saw not just one, but two magnificent peaks!  To the NW was the Redoubt Volcano, which she had already glimpsed from the highway.  To the W was another glacier-covered stratovolcano, nearly as high, the Iliamna Volcano (10,016 ft.).

Redoubt Volcano from the Cook Inlet beach at Ninilchik. Photo looks NW using the telephoto lens.
Across the shining sea was a 2nd magnificent mountain, the Iliamna Volcano. Photo looks W using the telephoto lens.

Lupe had seen the ocean twice already on her Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation, once at Hyder, Alaska on her trip to see the Salmon Glacier, and then again earlier today at Beluga Point.  At Ninilchik, though, for the first time since she was only 1.5 years old during her 2012 Dingo Vacation to the West Coast, Lupe got to go for a walk along the ocean.

Here at Ninilchik, a happy Lupe got to go for a walk along the ocean for the first time since she was only 1.5 years old on her 2012 Dingo Vacation to the West Coast. She went as far as the end of the bluff seen in the distance. Photo looks SW.

SPHP wondered if Lupe remembered playing at the ocean?  Did she remember what a fabulous time she had on the West Coast in 2012 racing along the beach, while barking at seagulls flying overhead?  At first, Lupe seemed uncertain about the ocean, but somewhere in that Dingo mind, she did recall something.

Soon she was watching for seagulls again, but saw only one fly by.  She made up for it by barking at some crows.  She began to run around exploring, stopping to sniff the very strange smells of seaweed, dead crabs, and other things washed up on the beach.  She remained cautious, though, when it came to the cold waves rolling in to shore.  She was careful not to let more than her paws get wet.

Lupe looks out to sea, being careful not to let more than her paws get wet in the cold water. If Lupe had been here 238 years earlier in late May, 1778, she might have seen the HMS Resolution sail by under the command of famous explorer Captain James Cook on his search for the fabled Northwest Passage.
Exploring the beach.

The evening stroll along Cook Inlet was fantastic!  Living in the Black Hills of South Dakota more than 1,000 miles from any ocean, being here was a rare treat.  The glowing sunlight, the sound and motion of the surf, and the distant wild mountains of Alaska on the far shore watched over by the giant Redoubt and Iliamna Volcanoes were an unforgettable combination.

Lupe went SW along Cook Inlet as far as Deep Creek, right across from Cape Ninilchik.  She was perhaps 2 miles from where she’d started near Ninilchik village.  Then it was time to turn around, and enjoy it all over again.

Lupe on the shore of Cook Inlet. Buildings back at the village of Ninilchik are seen on the far bluff. Photo looks NE.

A woman was searching for her lost 9 year old dog named Ola, when Lupe and SPHP neared Ninilchik again.  Unfortunately, Lupe and SPHP hadn’t seen Ola, and couldn’t help her.  Lupe’s fur was full of sand from her romp on the beach, so SPHP drove her over to a campground to rinse it off.

It wasn’t long until sunset now, but there was still time to go take a look at Ninilchik’s most famous building.  On a steep bluff above the village of Ninilchik sits a Russian Orthodox church dedicated on this site in 1901.  Lupe and SPHP went to pay it a visit.  When Lupe arrived, the lady looking for Ola was there, too.  Someone had seen Ola not too far from here a short time ago.

Since Ola was likely to be found soon, Lupe went on to take a look at the little church.

This Russian Orthodox church sits on a bluff above the village of Ninilchik.
The church was closed, but Lupe at least got to sit on the front porch.

The churchyard seemed to double as a graveyard with many white crosses around. The grounds also featured a profusion of flowers.

The Russian Orthodox church was a quaint reminder of the Russian origins of Ninilchik back in the 1800’s before the United States purchased Alaska from Russia.  Lupe had a good time sniffing among the many flowers growing in the churchyard, but she couldn’t stay long.

Before the sun was down, Lupe returned to the beach on the Cook Inlet.  A handful of other people and dogs were around (though not the elusive Ola), too.  Everyone was gathered here to enjoy sunset over Cook Inlet and the mountains on the far shore.

Iliamna Volcano from Ninilchik near sunset. Photo looks W using the telephoto lens.
Lupe made it back to the beach on Cook Inlet near Ninilchik with little time to spare before sunset. Redoubt Volcano can be seen beyond Lupe. Photo looks NW using the telephoto lens.
Cook Inlet and Redoubt Volcano. Photo looks NW.
Cook Inlet and Iliamna Volcano. Photo looks W.

Sunset at Ninilchik was an amazingly beautiful and peaceful time.  Everyone was friendly and happy.  Lupe had found her sunshine at last, after many long days of trying to dodge, or wait out, frequent rain beneath dark skies.

Sunset over Cook Inlet from Ninilchik. Iliamna Volcano on L. Photo looks W.
Carolina Dog, Lupe was 238 years too late to see Captain James Cook of the British navy sail by on his search for the Northwest Passage, but at least she was here now to discover Cook Inlet for all American Dingoes!
Day’s end at Cook Inlet, Ninilchik, Alaska. Photo looks WNW.
Iliamna Volcano.
Redoubt Volcano.

And then it was over.  The last rays of sunset disappeared from view.

The sun was down, but Lupe’s day wasn’t over yet.  As golden twilight faded to night, SPHP drove SSW on the Sterling Highway.  Near Anchor Point, Lupe was running out of land farther W on the Kenai Peninsula.  The road curved S, then SE.

It was 10:30 PM, by the time Lupe rolled into Homer.  Her next big Alaska adventure would start here.  Today, Lupe had reached and enjoyed time spent along the North Pacific Ocean at Cook Inlet.  Tomorrow, if the weather held, explorer Lupe would set sail.

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s 2016 Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska Adventure Index, Dingo Vacations Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to New Lupe Adventures.

Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 193 – Seven Sisters Range High Point, Peak 4371 & Peak 4310 (2-27-17)

Good grief!  The temperature, already chilly enough back at home, was dropping instead of rising.  Maybe a Black Hills expedition today wasn’t such a great idea after all?  Lupe had been as enthusiastic as always, though.  Hopefully the morning would warm up as forecast.  This afternoon it was supposed to get a little above freezing, a heatwave compared to the 14°F the G6 was registering.

By the time Lupe was on East Cascade Mountain Road off Hwy 71 approaching the Seven Sisters Range High Point (4,420 ft.), the G6 said it was 20°F out.  Better, but still a crispy start.  SPHP parked the G6 just N of the junction with Big Buck Boulevard (7:49 AM).  A few minutes later, Lupe had permission to enter and inspect the private property to the E.

The Seven Sisters Range High Point is dead ahead. Photo looks E along East Cascade Mountain Road.

20 acres were for sale by owner E of Big Buck Boulevard.  The property was all barb wire fenced and had a small, partially finished cabin on it.  The acreage was tucked in a scenic spot at the base of the Seven Sisters Range High Point, and went partway up the mountainside.  Although some of the land was a bit steep and rocky, most of it was horse pasture.  The asking price was $100,000.

Lupe starts her inspection of the 20 acres for sale W of the Seven Sisters Range High Point. Photo looks ENE.

Two horses were supposedly on the property.  Lupe saw no sign of them, but did see horses in pastures to the N and S.  Cows at a cattle operation W of Big Buck Boulevard were mooing loudly.  The property had an ambiance that an American Dingo could certainly appreciate!  Lupe went to sniff around the little cabin.  She got up on the deck that faced N toward the best view.

The cabin was 7 years old, but only partially completed.  No heat, no power and no water.  Kind of a Spartan existence.  Lupe couldn’t go inside, and it didn’t take her long to complete her outside inspection.  She left the cabin to head up the mountain for an even better look at the view.

After inspecting the rustic cabin, Lupe climbed higher up on the 20 acres for a better look at the views. Lupe knew people looking for horse property in the Black Hills. Maybe she could earn a finder’s fee? She was disappointed when SPHP explained that she lacked the necessary real estate license. Photo looks W.

Lupe kept climbing.  The higher she went, the better the views were.

A wintery view from the upper W slopes of the Seven Sisters Range High Point. Peak 4371 is seen on the L. Photo looks SSW.

Lupe reached the top of the W face of the mountain near the N end.  For the most part, trees hid the views.  Lupe could no longer see the little cabin, but managed to find a few gaps between the trees from which she could see off into the distance.

Looper at the N end of the W face of the mountain. Photo looks WSW.
Looking N.

The mountain’s true summit was clearly farther S, somewhere close to the edge of the W face.  Loopster led the way S to go look for it.

The high point is this way, SPHP! Come on! Photo looks SSE.

Winter had made a comeback in the past week.  It certainly felt like February again!  When Lupe came to a small snow-free patch of ground before even reaching the high point, SPHP called a halt.  Time to warm up!  Lupe huddled inside SPHP’s jacket.  She was shivering a little.  SPHP took off a shoe to warm up a foot.

After a few minutes resting quietly, Lupe tensed up.  Off to the NE, a herd of deer was running through the snow.  Although quite a distance away, the deer were of keen interest to the Carolina Dog.  Lupe watched excitedly until the last deer disappeared into the forest.

When Lupe quit shivering and SPHP’s foot had warmed up, it was time to carry on.  The high point couldn’t be much farther.

Lupe stands next to the little bare patch of ground where she stopped to warm up inside SPHP’s jacket. She’d enjoyed watching a herd of deer running through the snow in the thinly treed area down the slope seen behind her. Photo looks NE.
Lupe stands at a viewpoint only 20 feet from where she’d warmed up at the bare patch of ground. Peak 4371 is the closest big ridge on the L. Photo looks SSW.

The Seven Sisters Range High Point (4,420 ft.) wasn’t far from where Lupe had warmed up.  The summit area turned out to be quite large, 200 – 300 feet long N/S and not quite as wide E/W.  The whole area was thinly forested.  The terrain was so flat it was hard to discern any definite exact highest spot among the snow drifts.

The best views were along the edge of the steep W face of the mountain, though the ground seemed slightly higher a little farther E.   Lupe toured the summit area hoping to find a squirrel in one of the trees, but it was so cold out any squirrels must have been curled up in their holes and wrapped in their bushy tails for warmth.

Lupe reaches the Seven Sisters Range High Point. The summit area was large, thinly forested and quite flat. Photo looks SSW toward Peak 4371.
Looking WNW from along the W rim of the summit area.
Lupe stands at what seemed to be the true summit of the Seven Sisters Range, although there was a lot of ground around very nearly as high. Photo looks WSW.

Disappointed by the lack of squirrels, Lupe continued S near the W rim of the mountain.  Grand open vistas were on display to the SW.  Under the overcast sky, the snow made the scene look clean and white, remote and desolate.  What a great place to be!  Off to the E, South Knapple Canyon was in view.

Looking E down South Knapple Canyon. The high prairies of western South Dakota are seen beyond the edge of the Black Hills.

When Lupe got to the area near High Point 4360 on the topo map, she had a clear view of her next peakbagging objective, Peak 4371, ahead.

When Lupe reached the area near High Point 4360 toward the S end of the Seven Sisters Range High Point, she had a clear view of Peak 4371 ahead. Photo looks SW.
Looking back toward the summit of the Seven Sisters Range from near High Point 4360. The sky was dark off to the NW (L) where a snow shower was going on. Photo looks N.

Beyond High Point 4360, the ridgeline turned SE.  Soon Lupe could see far below a snowy pass she would have to traverse to get to Peak 4371.

SE of High Point 4360, Lupe came to this overlook where she could see the snowy pass leading to Peak 4371.

As Lupe continued SE, she discovered a snow-covered road.  The road descended gradually at first, but became steep, rocky, and soft as it made a sharp turn down to the pass.  Following the road made it much easier for Lupe to get down to the pass than it would have been otherwise.

The road did not continue up Peak 4371.  Upon reaching the pass, Lupe left it.  She enjoyed a snowy romp over to the base of Peak 4371’s NE ridge.  The NE ridge was the steepest part of the climb up the mountain, but wasn’t bad at all.  When Lupe was halfway up, the ridgeline turned W gaining elevation at an easier pace.

Peak 4371 had looked fairly heavily forested from a distance.  SPHP wasn’t certain if Lupe would find any clear views from the top.  On her way up the W ridge, Looper agreed to pose for a photo at nice viewpoint, just in case the summit was buried in trees.

The Seven Sisters Range High Point from the NE ridge of Peak 4371. Photo looks N.
Lupe on her way up Peak 4371. She is on the upper E ridge here, with a great view of the Seven Sisters Range High Point to the NNE.

Lupe didn’t reach the summit of Peak 4371 until she made it all the way to the far W end of the mountain.  The summit area here was much smaller than at the Seven Sisters Range High Point, though there was still plenty of room to move around.  The whole area sloped moderately down toward the E.  A rock very close to the W edge of the mountain was clearly the true summit.

Success! Lupe stands on the rock that’s the true summit of Peak 4371. Photo looks SW.
Lupe still perched on Peak 4371’s summit rock. This photo shows a little wider view of part of the summit area. Peak 4310 is the next snowy ridge seen on the L. Lupe was going there next! Photo looks SSW.

Trees were at the summit of Peak 4371, but the top of the mountain wasn’t buried in them as SPHP had feared.  Views could be seen in most directions, although Lupe often had to move around a bit to get a clear look.  The whole summit area was only 50 or 60 feet in diameter, so it didn’t take Lupe long to explore it.

Loopster on another rock along the W rim of Peak 4371. Photo looks NW.

The best view from Peak 4371 was a sweeping panorama to the SSW.  Lupe was fortunate to be here on a day when the white snow made the scene particularly beautiful.  Lupe could see her next peakbagging objective, Peak 4310, plus a couple other peaks of interest.

Peak 4310, the nearest snowy ridge and Lupe’s next peakbagging objective, was in clear view from Peak 4371. Photo looks SSW.
Lupe was fortunate to be on Peak 4371 on a day when the snow made the scene so beautiful and grand! Snowy Peak 4310 (L) is in view close by. The highest point in the distance on the far L is Flagpole Mountain. The most distant of the low ridges in the foreground on the R may be part of Devil’s Slide Mountain (3,965 ft.). Photo looks SSW using the telephoto lens.
A wider look at Peak 4310 nearby. To get there, Lupe would have to go all the way down to the big treeless patch of snow seen at Center below. From this pass, she could follow a road going first SW (R) then SE (L) up the mountain. Photo looks S.

Lupe left the summit of Peak 4371 following the SE ridge.  She was losing elevation steadily, but it was soon apparent that she was going to have to lose it even faster.  Below to the S, she could see the wide pass leading to Peak 4310.  The slope leading down to it was rather steep.

This time there wasn’t any road to follow.  Lupe started directly down the steep S slope.  She had barely left Peak 4371’s SE ridgeline, however, when suddenly Lupe wanted to stop.  Exactly why wasn’t clear.  Nevertheless, only 10 or 12 feet below the edge of the ridge, Lupe and SPHP stopped to rest on a small rock ledge.

Even though it had warmed up enough to be helpful by now, SPHP let Lupe huddle inside the jacket.  She wasn’t shivering, though, like last time.  Maybe she had stepped on a cactus under the snow?  Maybe she had heard something that had made her nervous?  Her reason for wanting to stop wasn’t clear, but Lupe seemed happy resting right here.  At least the view of Peak 4310 was splendid.

Lupe on the little rock ledge she wanted to stop at for a while on the upper S slope of Peak 4371. The view of Peak 4310 to the SSW was splendid from here.

Another idea.  Maybe Lupe was hungry?  She was!  She devoured an entire bowl of Taste of the Wild.  The poor Carolina Dog was famished!  Climbing two mountains already had built up an appetite.

While Lupe was crunching happily away, SPHP noticed what appeared to be a structure near the W end of Peak 4310 where the true summit was supposed to be.  A house or some sort of outbuilding?  A tower was in view near it, too.  Using the camera’s telephoto lens, SPHP saw that the structure was a shed of some sort, not a home.  A road could also be seen winding up the NW side of the mountain to reach a high saddle E of the true summit.

Even after dining, Lupe was perfectly content right where she was.  However, it was time to press on.  Puppy, ho!  Picking a way down the steep, snowy slope took a while, but Lupe made it down to the pass.  From the pass, she took the road up to the high saddle in the middle of Peak 4310.  On the other side of the saddle, off to the SE, was another surprise.  A rather nice cabin was situated in a wooded area.

Peak 4310 has two high points at opposite ends of the mountain.  The true summit is to the W.  Slightly lower High Point 4304 is to the E.  Lupe went to check out High Point 4304 first, passing to the N of the hidden cabin.

At High Point 4304, Lupe found a large rock.  From it, she had a great view to the SE down Red Canyon.  She could see Angostura Reservoir, the largest lake in the Black Hills region.  The lake is formed by a dam on the Cheyenne River.

Lupe on the big rock at the top of High Point 4304. Photo looks SE down Red Canyon toward frozen Angostura Reservoir.
Another look at Angostura Reservoir using the telephoto lens. Photo looks SE.

The view toward Angostura Reservoir was the best, but Loop could also see Flagpole Mountain to the S.

Flagpole Mountain is the distant high point straight up from Lupe’s head. Photo looks S.

Having seen what there was to see from High Point 4304, Lupe headed W to visit the true summit of Peak 4310.  She passed by the hidden cabin again.

Lupe passed to the N of this rather nice cabin on Peak 4310 both on her way to and back from High Point 4304. Photo looks SW using the telephoto lens.

Although Peak 4310 was the lowest hill Lupe climbed on Expedition No. 193, the true summit was the most barren and open here.  Consequently, the views were amazing!  The summit area was larger than Peak 4371’s, but smaller than at the Seven Sisters Range High Point.

Although Peak 4310 was the lowest of all the peaks Lupe climbed on Expedition No. 193, the views were simply amazing. A beautifully wintery look at Sheps Canyon is seen here. The high point in the distance L of Center is Flagpole Mountain. Photo looks S.
This photo shows much of the summit area at the W end of Peak 4310. Lupe found the highest rock on the mountain near the trees on the L. Photo looks N.
Another look at Angostura, this time from the W end of Peak 4310. Photo looks SE.
The great view to the WNW.

With fantastic views in practically every direction, Lupe and SPHP lingered on top of Peak 4310 longer than anywhere else.  A medium-sized flat rock was at the true summit of the mountain.  Lupe and SPHP sat here for a while admiring the wintery scenes all around.  SPHP ate an apple.  Lupe sat contently on SPHP’s lap, enjoying being petted and adored.

Lupe stands on the flat rock at the true summit of Peak 4310. For a minor Black Hills peak, the views were outstanding! Photo looks WSW.
At the N end of the summit area, Lupe had this fabulous view back to the N. Peaks 4371 and the Seven Sisters Range High Point are seen on the R.
Looking NW.

Upon reaching Peak 4310, Lupe had achieved all of her primary peakbagging goals for Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 193.  Yet the position of the sun, seen dimly through the clouds, indicated it was only mid-day.  Lupe had a few secondary goals in the general area.  Maybe she still had time to climb another peak, if she got back to the G6 soon enough?

After the apple was gone, Lupe and SPHP spent an extra 10 minutes on Peak 4310, simply wandering around looking at all the splendid views again.  Before departing, Lupe returned to the rock at the true summit.  It was a little sad to be leaving such a great place.

Before departing, Lupe returned to the rock at the true summit of Peak 4310. Photo looks SE.

To return to the G6, Lupe had to retrace her entire route.  She took the road from the high saddle on Peak 4310 all the way back down to the pass leading to Peak 4371.  She climbed Peak 4371’s steep S slope, passing by her prior rest stop at the little rock ledge just below the SE ridgeline.  Here she turned for one last look at Peak 4310.  It was as beautiful as a Christmas card.

Looking back at Peak 4310 for a final time, it was as beautiful as a Christmas card. Photo looks SSW.

Since it was on her way, Lupe tagged the rock at the true summit of Peak 4371 again.  Then she went back down the E ridge along the N side of the mountain.  Where the E ridge angled NE, the Carolina Dog climbed up on a big rock outcropping for yet another look around.

Lupe returns to the rock at the true summit of Peak 4371 to complete her 2nd ascent of the mountain on Expedition No. 193. Photo looks NW.
Partway down the E ridge of Peak 4371, Lupe got up on this big rock formation. From here, the ridge turns NE and drops more steeply down to the pass leading to the Seven Sisters Range High Point. Photo looks SE.
This American Dingo can be encountered almost anywhere in the Black Hills of South Dakota. No need to exercise any special caution, however. Dingoes are wary, but extraordinarily friendly once you get to know them.

As Lupe continued down the NE ridge to the next pass, the sun made its best effort of the day to break through the clouds.  Patches of blue sky began appearing.  The day felt warmer.  Snow softened and began to melt.

As Lupe came down Peak 4371’s NE ridge, patches of blue sky appeared. As the sun tried to break through the clouds, it became noticeably warmer out. Photo looks N toward the Seven Sisters Range High Point.

Down at the pass, Lupe got back on the road leading up to the Seven Sisters Range High Point.  Approaching High Point 4360 again, she saw another herd of deer up there.  The Carolina Dog raced off to investigate, perhaps with the intention of procuring dinner, but the deer had a huge head start on her.  They were long gone well before she reached High Point 4360.

As far as Lupe was concerned, it was still an exhilarating experience!

Lupe comes running back from High Point 4360. No venison for dinner, not even close, but it had still been a fun romp. Hope springs eternal in a Carolina Dog’s heart!

SPHP went back up to High Point 4360 with Lupe to see where the deer had been.  No telling if this had been the same herd Lupe saw early in the day when she stopped at the snow-free spot to warm up.  Probably not, since this was the opposite S end of the mountain, and those deer had been heading N.

Back to the road.  Lupe didn’t have much farther to go to reach the Seven Sisters Range High Point again.

Approaching the Seven Sisters Range High Point. This time coming from the SSE.

Lupe had to leave the road to return to the Seven Sisters Range High Point summit.  Another mountain successfully ascended for a 2nd time today!

This time, Lupe didn’t linger very long.  She already knew there weren’t any squirrels to be found here!  She continued N along the scenic W rim of the mountain.

The sunshine hadn’t lasted long. By the time Lupe made it back up to the summit of the Seven Sisters Range, the sky was overcast again. Photo looks W from the W rim of the mountain.

Lupe went all the way back to the N end of the mountain for a final look at the view there.  Then she started down the W slope where she had originally come up early in the day.  SPHP took a long time to picking a way down the steep slope, but Lupe eventually arrived back at the rustic cabin and 20 acres for sale (2:04 PM, 35°F).

With 3.5 hours left before sunset, it seemed like Lupe ought to be able to climb another peak today.  However, the G6 fell just short of making it up a long snowy slope on West Cascade Mountain Road.  SPHP wasn’t even certain this was the way to Peak 4340, so decided to forget this one until the snow was gone.  Miles farther N, the road to Peak 4160 was a muddy, sloppy mess.

So that was it.  No more peaks.  Expedition No. 193 was over.  Oh, well!  Lupe didn’t care.  She had a wonderful time barking at cows and horses all the way home.  SPHP didn’t really care either.  What a wonderful day it had already been, roaming the Seven Sisters Range with the plucky Carolina Dog, exploring an unexpectedly gorgeous part of Lupe’s world!

Lupe at the N end of the W rim of the Seven Sisters Range High Point, her last stop before heading down to the G6. Photo looks WSW.

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s Black Hills Expeditions Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe Adventures.

Lion Head & the Matanuska Glacier, Chugach Range, Alaska (8-24-16)

Day 26 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska

For once it wasn’t raining when Lupe woke up.  However, evidence some moisture had been received overnight was present S of the Glenn Highway (Alaska Route 1).  The highest peaks of the Chugach Range had a light dusting of new snow.

Finally, a day without rain! Some moisture had been received overnight, though. The highest peaks of the Chugach Range S of the Glenn Highway had a dusting of new snow. Photo looks SW from the Gunsight Mountain TH.
New snow on the Chugach Range.

No rain was good news!  Lupe could climb Lion Head today, famous for its fabulous views of the Matanuska Glacier.  The trail up Lion Head is short, but steep, gaining over 1,000 feet of elevation in less than a mile.  The climb wouldn’t take Lupe very long.  She had plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast.  Beef stew was on the menu.  Carolina Dogs love beef stew!

Lupe had a pleasant surprise when Luke Hall, the Australian whom she had met at the top of Gunsight Mountain (6,441 ft.) yesterday, dropped by for a visit.  Luke showed Lupe and SPHP his gray Chevy van that has served as both transportation and base camp on his extended adventures in Canada and Alaska over the past 3 years.

Luke and SPHP chatted about past adventures and plans for the day.  SPHP told Luke about Lupe’s intention to visit Lion Head to see the Matanuska Glacier.  Luke said he was heading for Long Lake.  After a good visit, Luke bid Lupe and SPHP farewell, and was off.

With the American Dingo contentedly full of beef stew, SPHP drove over to the S side of the Glen Highway, taking the Alascom Access Road leading to the Knob Lakes.  The intention wasn’t to go all the way to the lakes, only far enough to get a good view from a distance of Gunsight Mountain.

Gunsight Mountain, a really fun climb Lupe had made the day before. Lupe’s route up had been along the easy NE ridge seen on the R. Photo looks W from the Alascom Access Road leading to the Knob Lakes.

After a good look at Gunsight Mountain from the E, Lupe and SPHP returned to the Glenn Highway and headed W.  The turn onto the short Lion Head access road at milepost 106 was only 12 miles away.  On the approach, Lupe had a fantastic view of Lion Head (3,185 ft.) from the highway.

Lion Head is the distinctive rocky prominence seen at Center. Nearby peaks of the Chugach Range tower above it. Photo looks SW along the Glenn Highway (Alaska Route 1).

SPHP parked the G6 along the Lion Head access road.  Half a dozen other vehicles were around, all parked before the gate across the road.  Yesterday the gate had been closed, but today it was standing wide open.

Within a few minutes of Lupe’s arrival, Luke Hall appeared again!  He was already on his way back from climbing Lion Head.  He pronounced the climb a lot of bang for one’s hiking buck.  The views of the Matanuska Glacier were fantastic!  After a brief conversation, Luke was on his way to Long Lake.

Lupe and SPHP left the G6 (1:19 PM, 63°F) taking the access road through the open gate.  The road started out going SW, but almost immediately started curving around to the E, where a trail left it going S.  There was no sign, but the trail had to be the one going up Lion Head.

A woman from Girdwood, Alaska came along, and confirmed this was the trail.  She had two dogs with her, one larger than Lupe and one much smaller.  The little dog was 9 years old, a purebred, and totally deaf.  Lupe liked the little doggie, but was snarly toward the larger one.  She’s often that way.  She feels threatened by bigger dogs, and wants them to understand from the start not to mess with a Carolina Dog.

For a little while, the woman from Girdwood, her two dogs, Lupe and SPHP all took the trail climbing Lion Head together.  Since she was from Alaska, SPHP asked what she knew about the “No Trespassing” sign AT&T had on the access road gate.  Evidently no one pays any attention to that sign.  What was the real deal?

The Girdwood woman said the AT&T guys were really nice.  AT&T has a big tower on the N side of Lion Head.  AT&T doesn’t want people wandering over by the tower, but doesn’t care if people climb Lion Head, if they act responsibly.  Of course, without official permission from AT&T, it’s all at your own risk.  If you get hurt, AT&T doesn’t want you and your lawyer to come crying to them.

Lupe on the trail up Lion Head. She’s getting close to the top here. Photo looks SE.

The trail was steep most of the way.  Trees and large bushes blocked the views most of the time.  In places, the trail was braided, with two or more possible routes up.  It wasn’t until Lupe started getting close to the top of the mountain, that the trail began to level out.  Fewer trees and bushes were here.  Tremendous views started opening up!

As Lupe drew near the summit of Lion Head, tremendous views began to open up. The Matanuska River below the Glenn Highway is visible on the R. The Matanuska Glacier, much of it covered with dark-colored debris, is seen on the L. Photo looks W.
Only a little below the summit, Lupe had this fabulous view of the Matanuska Glacier. Photo looks SSE.

The last part of the climb was easy.  Lupe reached her peakbagging goal for the day up on the highest rocks on Lion Head.  What a gorgeous place!  The stunning view of the Matanuska Glacier winding for miles down a broad valley between snow-capped peaks was the main attraction, but glorious sights were in every direction.

Matanuska Glacier from the summit of Lion Head. Photo looks SSE.
Lupe at the summit. The Glenn Highway is seen below. Beyond it is Fortress Ridge. Photo looks NNW.
Sheep Mountain (6,223 ft.) (L) and the Matanuska River(Center). Photo looks NE.

When Lupe reached the top of Lion Head, she found 3 more people with 2 more dogs already there.  Both dogs were much bigger than Lupe, and she stayed away from them.  Fortunately, the summit area was roomy enough for everyone to enjoy it from their own space.

Lupe found more people and dogs on top of Lion Head, but the summit area was easily large enough to accommodate everyone with room to spread out a bit. About the W half of the summit area is shown here. Photo looks W.

The views were so wonderful, Lupe was in no hurry to leave.  Eventually everyone else did.  Lupe and SPHP stayed to enjoy this special place.  The Matanuska Glacier was simply awesome!

What a sight! The Matanuska Glacier from Lion Head. Photo looks SSE with some help from the telephoto lens.
E edge of the Matanuska Glacier(R) with possibly Fog Peak (8,555 ft.)(R) seen beyond it. Other mysterious snow and ice-capped peaks of the Chugach Range are on the L. Photo looks SE.
The W edge of the Matanuska Glacier is on the L. The highest, dramatic snow-covered peak on the R may be Icing Peak (10,955 ft.). Photo looks S.

Before long, someone else appeared at the top of Lion Head.  Incredibly, it was someone Lupe knew!  Laura from Montana, who had hailed Lupe and SPHP on her way down Gunsight Mountain yesterday, had arrived.  She was equally astonished to find Lupe here.

Once again, Laura was very friendly.  She was so, so kind to Lupe, and spent a long time talking with SPHP.  After climbing Gunsight Mountain yesterday, she’d had a dinner date that went well.  Today was her last day in Alaska.  Tomorrow she would fly home to Montana.  She was thinking about her college options, whether to complete a degree she had been working on, or switch majors.  She talked about going to school in Vermont.

Laura from Montana, who had hailed Lupe and SPHP yesterday on her way down Gunsight Mountain, made a surprise appearance on Lion Head, too! She was equally astonished to find Lupe and SPHP here.
Laura was so, so kind to Lupe on Lion Head. Lupe was enjoying every moment!

Laura happened to come up Lion Head on the recommendation of friends she was visiting in Alaska.  They worked nearby for a private company offering guided ice-climbing tours on the Matanuska Glacier.  They also told Laura that AT&T had no problem with people climbing Lion Head.

Laura and SPHP conversed for a long time.  Lupe enjoyed all the loving attention Laura gave her.  For an hour and a half, Laura, Lupe and SPHP shared the top of Lion Head and all the amazing sights.

The fabulous Matanuska Glacier is 26 miles long. It is the largest glacier accessible by road in Alaska. Photo looks SSE.
Looking as far up the Matanuska Glacier valley as it was possible to see. Photo looks SSE using the telephoto lens.
The Matanuska Glacier is larger than it appears. In the vicinity of Lion Head, the glacier spreads out to almost 4 miles wide. Much of the snow and ice is hidden beneath rocks and dirt being transported by the glacier. Photo looks SW.
Part of the Matanuska Glacier viewed through the telephoto lens. Photo looks SW.
Another look at the Matanuska Glacier through the telephoto lens. The glacier is more than 1.5 miles wide here. Photo looks SSE.

The time spent with Laura was fun, but eventually the moment arrived to leave Laura alone with her thoughts.  She retreated to the E end of the summit area, and sat on the brink of a precipice contemplating the Matanuska River valley, and the decisions she would face upon flying home to Montana tomorrow.  Lupe and SPHP spent a short while taking a final look around at the magnificent scenes from Lion Head, then bid Laura good luck and good-bye.

Lupe never saw Laura again, but she did hear her once.  Laura hadn’t stayed much longer up on lonely Lion Head after Lupe and SPHP departed.  She wound up on a different part of the braided trail on the way down, but saw Lupe from above.  Laura shouted a final farewell to Lupe.  SPHP answered for Lupe in return.

Back at the G6 (5:29 PM), Luke and Laura were gone.  Lupe’s Lion Head adventure was over.  Of course, Lupe and SPHP still had each other.  The question was, which way from here?  Easy answer.  Since the weather was good, back to Palmer!  Maybe Lupe could climb nearby Pepper Peak (5,381 ft.), tomorrow?

The road stayed dry all the way back to Palmer, but in town dark clouds could be seen hanging low in a valley to the SE.  Before the evening’s light was gone, rain started in again.  As usual, nothing could be done about it, except wait to see what tomorrow would bring.

Links of potential interest:

Matanuska Glacier State Recreational Site

Matanuska Glacier Adventures

Lupe and Laura a few moments before parting.

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s 2016 Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska Adventure Index, Dingo Vacations Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to New Lupe Adventures.

Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 192 – Maverick Mountain, Battle Mountain & Friendshuh Mountain (2-20-17)

Nope!  No way!  I’m not budging from this spot.  Take it off!  Take it off, now!

Tugging on the leash only made Lupe dig in and resist.  She wasn’t going anywhere.

OK, Loop, but you gotta stay close to me.  Let me lead the way.

The American Dingo had won.  SPHP couldn’t drag her all the way up the mountain by the neck.  The leash came off.  Would Lupe follow?  Reluctantly she did.  Her adventure had hardly begun, and she was already terrified.  SPHP had spoken the dreaded word: cactus.  Ever since her adventure in the Wildcat Hills of Nebraska with mountaineer, Jobe Wymore, cactus has been a greatly feared nemesis.

Lupe followed right at SPHP’s heels.  A very faint remnant of a road led W up the mountain.  Lupe wasn’t about to go running around off the road, or take the lead.  She did plod steadily along, however, which was all it would take to ultimately be successful.  Onward and upward!

SPHP had been afraid of this.  Lupe was on her way up Maverick Mountain (3,750 ft.) on the SE edge of the Black Hills.  The southern part of the Black Hills region is the driest and lowest.  Cactus line (sort of like tree line) tends to be in the 4,500 to 5,000 ft. range.  Maverick Mountain is well below that, so cactus wasn’t unexpected.

Lupe had arrived early at the Romney GPA (Game Production Area) parking lot (7:39 AM, 45°F), which serves as the Maverick Mountain trailhead.  On recent expeditions, she has been working on climbing peaks in the southern Black Hills that prolific climber Brian Kalet visited and added to the data base in May of 2016.  Maverick Mountain was yet another Brian Kalet peak.

Counterintuitively, being lower meant that climbing Maverick Mountain was a more daunting task for Lupe than the higher Brian Kalet peaks she had been to farther N – all because of the cactus.  If Lupe was going to climb Maverick Mountain at all, though, this was the time of year to do it.  Once the weather warmed up consistently, another even greater danger might be present.  SPHP wouldn’t even consider bringing her here then to risk a prairie rattlesnake bite.

Lupe’s Maverick Mountain adventure had begun only a few minutes ago, when she passed under a short wooden section in an otherwise barbed wire fence near the N end of the Romney GPA parking lot.  She’d paused by a fallen steel tower, and then headed straight past it to start up the base of a forested ridge.  She’d barely reached the trees when SPHP realized the situation, and spoken the dreaded word that brought Lupe to a screeching halt.

One of the signs posted along the barbed wire fence at the edge of the Romney GPA.
Plaque at the Romney GPA parking lot off Scenic Road. While hunting is the most common use of the Romney GPA, public access is allowed for other uses, too. The summit of Maverick Mountain is in the Romney GPA about a mile W of the parking lot. Photo looks NE.
Lupe at the start of her route up Maverick Mountain. She went under the section of wood fence seen here. (It’s near the N end of the parking area.) Beyond it, part of a fallen steel tower is laying on the ground. Lupe started up toward the bare spot on the ridge going to the R of the two big trees. She encountered both cactus, and the faint road leading to the top of Maverick Mountain before reaching the ridgeline. Photo looks WNW.
Lupe near the fallen steel tower. An old road leads up Maverick Mountain from the E. It was essentially non-existent at the start and end of Lupe’s route. However, at one time it apparently went to the L of the 2 big trees seen on the L. Lupe went to the R of the trees, but luckily still found a remnant of the road appearing as an almost indiscernible trail a little farther up the hillside. The old road got better as it went W (toward the L) up Maverick Mountain. Photo looks WNW.

Lupe resumed her trek with trepidation, as SPHP watched carefully for cacti on the way up the first hillside.  The Loopster wasn’t at all eager to move quickly, which was good, since there was plenty of cactus SPHP needed to guide her around.

Lupe had initially started up toward a bare spot on the ridgeline ahead.  Before she even got that far, she came across a trail angling to the W (L) that was so faint, at first, that SPHP wasn’t even certain it wasn’t imaginary.  However, it quickly improved and soon proved to be the old dirt road leading to the summit.

The road became easy to follow.  Fortunately, there wasn’t any cactus on it.  Lupe’s confidence began to return.  Although she now trotted ahead on the old road, she was careful not to leave it.  She understood perfectly well that the horrible cactus was waiting for her off the road.

Things were going well, again.  Lupe gained elevation steadily.  The road passed through a mixed forest of Ponderosa pines and junipers.  Spiny Yucca plants grew in sunny spots between the trees.  Occasional open views of the prairie to the E improved rapidly.  The highlight was the Cheyenne River sparkling in the morning sunlight.

Maverick Mountain is on the SE edge of the Black Hills. As Lupe climbed W, she had long distance views of the western SD prairies back to the E. The highlight of the view was the Cheyenne River sparkling in the morning sun. 4-lane Hwy 79 is seen down by the river, and crosses it on the R. Photo looks SE with help from the telephoto lens.
Getting higher. Photo looks SE.

Once Lupe found the old road going W up Maverick Mountain, it was typically easy to follow.  Where it wasn’t, straight ahead was always a good assumption.  The road kept progressing steadily W, with few twists or turns.

Fairly high up on the mountain, Angostura Reservoir came into view to the S.  Only on the edge of the Black Hills, and not actually in them, Angostura Reservoir is the largest lake in the entire Black Hills region.  Popular for fishing and boating, the lake was created by a dam on the Cheyenne River.

Fairly high up on Maverick Mountain, Lupe had this view of still frozen Angostura Reservoir. Located on the far SE edge of the Black Hills, it is the largest lake in the region. Photo looks S.

The old road faded away as it leveled out neared the top of Maverick Mountain.  Ahead of Lupe was an open field.  A dried up stock pond was in the middle of the field toward the S.  Trees rimmed the N and W edges of the field.  A small hill straight ahead was clearly the location of the true summit.

Almost there! The road faded out here with the summit of Maverick Mountain in view at the top of the small hill toward the R. Photo looks WSW.

Lupe was worried about cactus when the road disappeared.  She had good reason.  Even though the cactus had been worse lower down, there was still some scattered around.  Lupe followed SPHP closely across the field.  She made it to the summit of Maverick Mountain (3,750 ft.) without incident.

A cluster of several big Ponderosa pines grew right at the true summit of Maverick Mountain. Photo looks NNW.
Success! Despite it’s cacti defenses, Loopster arrives at the summit of Maverick Mountain! Photo looks NNW.
Comin’ for you Brian Kalet! Maverick Mountain was another southern Black Hills peak Brian Kalet had entered into the data base in the spring of 2016. Lupe has been climbing as many of them as she can lately.

Ordinarily, Lupe would have lingered on top of the mountain for a little while, exploring the summit area and seeing what there was to see.  With cactus on the mountain, though, she wasn’t about to get too rambunctious, or hang around for very long.  The views toward higher hills to the N and W were almost completely blocked by trees, anyway.

Lupe did roam around enough, though, to see the highlights of what views Maverick Mountain had to offer off to the S and E.

Looking E toward the prairies of western SD beyond the Black Hills. You’d be happy too, if you managed to get all the way to the top of Maverick Mountain without getting stabbed in the paw by a cactus spine!
The Cheyenne River from Maverick Mountain. An old windmill that had fallen over on the mountain S of the dried up stock pond is sort of in view beyond and to the L of Lupe. Photo looks SE.
The fallen over windmill is now on the R. The dried up stock pond is behind the closest pine tree L of Center. The way back down the mountain is off to the far L side of this photo. Photo looks ESE.

After a 15 or 20 minute stay up on the Maverick Mountain summit, Lupe headed E back across the N side of the field where the dried up stock pond was to start her trip back down the mountain.  The Carolina Dog was eager to get off this pin cushion!

Besides, Lupe had other higher peaks to climb not too far away near Hot Springs, SD.

On her way back down Maverick Mountain, Lupe was facing the great views of the Cheyenne River far below. Photo looks SE using the telephoto lens.
The old road is rather faint here, but Lupe is almost right on it. Maverick Junction where Hwys 79, 18 & 385 meet 5 miles E of Hot Springs, SD is seen far below on the L. Photo looks ENE.

When Lupe reached the last hillside at the bottom of the mountain, SPHP made her stop and stay put.  Due her fear of cactus, she didn’t dare disobey.

SPHP started searching around.  Earlier, SPHP had noticed Lupe wasn’t wearing her pink collar.  She’d had it on when she started out.  Where had it gone?  After some thought, SPHP had decided it must have come off in this area during all the commotion with the cactus and the leash right near the start of Lupe’s excursion.

The search was a failure.  Lupe’s pink collar was nowhere to be seen.  Lupe stood motionless wondering what was going on?  An idea!  SPHP took the leash out of a pocket.  Hah!  There it was!  Lupe’s pink collar had gotten tangled up with the leash, and been in SPHP’s pocket all along.  Doh!

Sorry, about the wait Looper.  Guess I’m losin’ it.  Come on, let’s go!  Lupe was more than ready.  She returned to the G6, leaving Pin Cushion Mountain behind forever!  Even Brian Kalet couldn’t get her to come back a second time.  (9:25 AM, 48°F)

Maverick Mountain had only been a warm-up.  Lupe had other higher peaks to climb not too far away near Hot Springs, SD.  Soon SPHP was parking the G6 on Sheridan Street in the N part of Hot Springs.  (9:40 AM, 50°F)  A stroll S to the end of the block brought Lupe to the start of Battle Mountain Road.

Lupe turned E on Battle Mountain Road.  The road climbed relentlessly all the way up to almost the top of, you guessed it, Battle Mountain (4,434 ft.)!  A short ascent up a jeep trail and rotting wood-framed steps brought Lupe to the rocks at the S end of the summit near the old fire lookout tower.  Looper got up on the rocks for a look around.

Lupe up on rocks near the very top of Battle Mountain. Photo looks NW.
Looper checks out the views from Battle Mountain. The high ridge on the L is part of the Seven Sisters Range. Photo looks SSW.

Lupe had been up on top of Battle Mountain once before, nearly two years ago on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 126.  Back then a tribe of Neanderthals, still hanging around Hot Springs long after the woolly mammoths Hot Springs, SD is famous for (see Mammoth Site of Hot Springs) were gone, had left a lot of trash including broken glass strewn around the summit.  Due to all the sharp broken glass, SPHP had had to carry Lupe all around the summit area.

The summit of Battle Mountain was in considerably better condition today.  Almost no trash around.  Although there was still some broken glass, it looked weathered and old, lacking sharp, stabby points and edges.  SPHP was still cautious about letting Lupe get near the worst of it, but for the most part she could roam the top of Battle Mountain at will.

The big tower seen here was visible from down on Sheridan Street in Hot Springs where the G6 was parked. It isn’t quite at the top of the mountain, however. Photo looks WNW.
Loopster on the old Battle Mountain fire lookout tower. Photo looks SW.

Battle Mountain has a collection of towers on it. They partially obstruct the view of Angostura Reservoir from the summit. Photo looks S.

The reason for Lupe’s return to Battle Mountain didn’t seem to be in view from the summit.  Pine trees blocked the views to the NE.  Less than 2 miles that way was where Lupe’s next peakbagging goal was.  Friendshuh Mountain (4,450 ft.) was barely higher than Battle Mountain.  Lupe would have to go considerably farther than 2 miles to get there.  Dudley Canyon was in the way.

Friendshuh Mountain wasn’t actually another Brian Kalet peak.   Gustav Sexaur added it to the data base.  However, Gustav had never been there.  So far, Brian Kalet was the only account holder to have ever actually climbed Friendshuh Mountain.  Either way, it was another red circle on Lupe’s Black Hills map that needed to turn green!

Lupe left the Battle Mountain summit heading N into the forest.  She was barely below the summit’s limestone cap when a glimpse of Friendshuh Mountain appeared between the pines.

Friendshuh Mountain from just below the limestone cap at the N end of the Battle Mountain summit. Photo looks NE.

Friendshuh Mountain isn’t in the Black Hills National Forest.  Neither is Battle Mountain.  Both are in the Battle Mountain GPA (Game Production Area), however, so there is public access.

Coming down the N slope of Battle Mountain, SPHP was looking for the Battle Mountain GPA access road, which leads to the N end of Dudley Canyon close to Friendshuh Mountain.  Lupe found a way down off the limestone escarpments she ran into along the way, and very quickly came to a road.  Was this it?  The road headed E through a cut in the mountain.  SPHP was pretty certain this wasn’t the right road.

As Lupe had come up Battle Mountain Road, fairly close to the top of the mountain there had been 3 roads she could have taken.  None of them had any signs.  The first (lowest) turned N and went by a small building with a tower or big antenna next to it.  The second road also angled N, and came only 100 or 150 feet before Battle Mountain Road turned sharply S on its final short leg to the summit.

Where Battle Mountain Road had turned S, a third road had continued E uphill and then turned N.  Lupe was on this third, highest road.

Despite the lack of a sign, SPHP was pretty sure that the second road was actually the Battle Mountain GPA access road Lupe needed to be on.  Instead of going E through the cut, Lupe followed the high road S and then W back down to the intersection with Battle Mountain Road.  When she reached the second road, she turned and started following it N.

Lupe at the start of the 2nd road leading N from Battle Mountain Road near the top of Battle Mountain. This turned out to be the correct choice. This is the Battle Mountain GPA access road leading to the N end of Dudley Canyon.

For about 0.25 mile, the road was quite level.  It headed N on the W side of Battle Mountain.  When the road started curving NE making its way around the NW slope of Battle Mountain, Lupe was surprised and happy to find snow and ice.  From here on, she came to frequent stretches of snow, ice and mud wherever the road was shaded.

Lupe was surprised and happy to find snow and ice on the road where it curved NE around the NW slope of Battle Mountain. She came to many snowy, icy, muddy stretches from here on wherever the road was heavily shaded. Photo looks NE.

On the N side of Battle Mountain, the road began to lose elevation, going all the way down to about 4,080 ft.  There it crossed a saddle heading ENE toward Dudley Canyon.  This was the first drop.

By now SPHP was certain Lupe was on the correct road.  It began winding around to the N and sometimes NW, slowly regaining nearly all of the elevation Lupe had just lost.  The road stayed on the upper W slopes of Dudley Canyon.  Due to the forest, most of the time the canyon wasn’t even in view.  Lupe had fun.  She found a few squirrels to bark at.

The Battle Mountain GPA access road eventually turned E.  When it did, Lupe started losing elevation again.  She had barely started down when Friendshuh Mountain came into view to the SE.

Shortly after the road turned E, and before it had lost much elevation again, Friendshuh Mountain came into view to the SE.
Loop on the Battle Mountain GPA road as it starts its second significant elevation loss. From here, the road soon turned NE (L) and dropped down into the N end of Dudley Canyon. Friendshuh Mountain is in view ahead. Photo looks SE.

The road turned briefly toward Friendshuh Mountain before turning back to the NE and making its second and final significant drop down into the N end of Dudley Canyon.

At around 4,135 ft. elevation, Lupe reached the bottom of Dudley Canyon.  Next to the road, a map was posted of the Battle Mountain Game Production Area.  Apparently not enough game was being produced.  The map itself had been a frequent target.  It was riddled with bullet holes.

The N end of Dudley Canyon was mostly open ground with scattered stands of pines. Lupe reached the bottom of the canyon down by the pines on the R. She would eventually continue on up the other side of the canyon in the draw seen beyond them. Photo looks ENE.
This bullet hole riddled map of the Battle Mountain GPA is posted down at the bottom of the N end of Dudley Canyon. The Friendshuh Mountain GPA adjacent to the N is shown, too. A parking area was just S of this map. A dirt road nearby continued N through an open gate.

A parking area was S of the map, and a dirt road headed N through an open gate.  Lupe followed the road 100 yards to a double gate which was padlocked shut.  Another dirt road headed ESE up the draw behind it.

100 yards N of the map was this double gate, which was padlocked shut. A dirt road beyond it went up the draw seen on the right. Lupe went through the gate and up the draw. Photo looks ESE.

Lupe and SPHP went under and over the double gate respectively.  Lupe followed the dirt road up the draw.  Part of the road shaded by pines was snowy and muddy, but it wasn’t long before Lupe was up on a sunny hillside.  The road now went E along the N side of a barbed wire fence.

Lupe came to another set of double gates, both of which were standing wide open.  Friendshuh Mountain was in view beyond them directly to the S only 0.33 mile away.  Lupe was almost there!

The Carolina Dog didn’t head directly for Friendshuh Mountain, however.  The top of the barren ridge the road had been climbing was only a little farther uphill.  An interestingly shaped flat rock up there looked like it might offer a great unobstructed view of whatever was over on the E side of the ridge.  SPHP wanted to go see the views.

Lupe was a little reluctant to leave the road.  Her concern was justified.  On the way to the odd flat rock, SPHP saw her nemesis again.  Cacti were scattered on the dry, sunny ridge.  Not as many as at Maverick Mountain, but enough to be a concern.  Still, it was a good thing Lupe had come this way.  Upon reaching the odd flat rock, she made a discovery even more interesting than the sweeping views to the N and E.

Long, long ago, something else had come this way.  Something gigantic and dangerous!  Pressed deep into the rock next to the odd flat rock was a dinosaur track!  Other similar depressions were nearby, but none were so clear as this one.

Lupe on top of the odd flat rock on the ridge. She had come to see the big sweeping views to the N and E, but discovered something even more interesting – the huge dinosaur track pressed into the rock below. (The depression on the L.) Photo looks E.
Dingoes may rule the earth now, but that wasn’t always true! Another look at the dinosaur track. Photo looks SE.

The huge dinosaur track was pretty cool, and the wide open views on the barren ridge were great, too.  The summit of Friendshuh Mountain was covered with pines, so the views might be limited up there.  Why not take a break here?  Lupe was happy with that idea.  She curled up inside the dinosaur track while SPHP ate an apple.

Daring Dingo dallies in dino depression! Lupe actually curled up and rested for 10 minutes in the dinosaur track.
Loop back on top of the odd flat rock next to the dino track (out of sight just to the R). The open gates in the fence line Lupe would go through to finish her trek to Friendshuh Mountain are in view. Photo looks WSW.

After her brief rest stop in the dinosaur track next to the odd flat rock, Lupe returned to the road and went S through the open gates.  The dirt road went up a gradual slope heading almost straight for Friendshuh Mountain.

Lupe soon arrived at a large water tank, which had plenty of water in it.  Here the dirt road angled SE going over a gentle pass on its way around the E side of Friendshuh Mountain.  To the SW, a faint single track trail went up toward the trees N of the summit.  Information SPHP had previously found online indicated that the two routes made a loop around Friendshuh Mountain, but didn’t go to the summit.

Lupe arrives at the water tank. She’s very close to the summit of Friendshuh Mountain now! Photo looks SSW.
Lupe didn’t like the area near the water tank. Scattered cacti grew in the grassland around here. She didn’t get into the cactus, but she did get a few painful, sharp thorns from some other kind of plant stuck in her right front paw. SPHP had to pull the thorns out.

The area near the water tank was Lupe’s least favorite part of the journey to Friendshuh Mountain.  Cacti grew in scattered clumps in the grassland.  Some other plant with thorns was around, too.  Lupe had a couple of painful thorns in her right front paw by the time she reached the water tank.  SPHP pulled them out, but Lupe wasn’t happy.  She demanded to be carried from here.

Fortunately, the summit of Friendshuh Mountain was very close by now.  SPHP carried Lupe up the faint trail to the SW.  From the top of a little ridge N of the mountain, Lupe could see that the trail soon became a dirt road a little farther to the SSW.  The views to the W and SW were quite nice here.  SPHP put Lupe down for a couple photos.  She seemed a little more confident again.

Lupe just N of the top of Friendshuh Mountain. Battle Mountain and the towers on it (L) are in view. SPHP wonders if the small hill in the far distance on the R isn’t Matias Peak (4780 ft.)? Photo looks WSW.
Looking WNW. SPHP would have liked to explore the rocky ridge in the foreground, but with cactus around, it just wasn’t worth the worry and potential pain for Lupe. The ridge remains unexplored by American Dingoes.

Lupe made the final climb from the trail up to the summit of Friendshuh Mountain (4,450 ft.) on her own.  She felt safer and more confident among the trees than out on the open grasslands.  She came to no cactus up on the summit area, but she did find a limestone summit cairn next to a big melting snow bank.  The cold snow felt good on sore paws.

Success! Lupe reaches the summit cairn of Friendshuh Mountain. The cold snow felt good on sore paws. Photo looks S.
Friendshuh Mountain was defended not only by cacti, but dinosaurs, too! Even so, a wily Carolina Dog managed to reach this summit cairn.

Friendshuh Mountain had a roomy, flat summit area about 250 or 300 feet long N/S.  It sloped gradually down toward the E.  The top was open forest, but around the edges, the forest was thicker and effectively blocked the views in most directions.

After a short exploration, Lupe spent most of her time on Friendshuh Mountain at the S end of the summit area where there were fewer trees, and the best views were on display.  Lupe and SPHP rested here, enjoying the scene and simply being together in the warm sunshine.

Frozen Angostura Reservoir was partially in view to the S.
The big ridge on the horizon is part of the Seven Sisters Range (Center). Photo looks SW.
A glimpse between the trees off toward the ESE.

After a pleasant half hour on Friendshuh Mountain, the time came to think about beginning the return trip to the G6.  Before leaving the mountain, Lupe returned briefly to the area near the summit cairn.

Before leaving Friendshuh Mountain, Lupe returned briefly to the area near the summit cairn. Here she is at the W edge of the summit. Photo looks NNE.
Loop enjoyed the feel of the cold snow on her paws near the summit cairn one more time. The cairn is in the shadows on the R. Photo looks SW.

Lupe was fine going down the forested N slope of Friendshuh Mountain on her own.  However, when SPHP wanted to cut directly across the open land back to the road leading to the gates near the dinosaur track, it was a different story.

Carolina Dogs have no fear of dinosaurs, but cacti are another matter.  SPHP had to carry Lupe all the way down to the road.  Even then, she wasn’t thrilled about being put down again.

While Lupe was being carted across the open ground on the way down to the road, she had this sweeping view off to the NNW. Black Elk Peak (7,231 ft.) (R) is on the horizon. Photo looks NNW.
Couldn’t you at least carry me back to the forest? The open gates N of Friendshuh Mountain are seen ahead. After going through the gates, the odd flat rock and dinosaur track are off to the R (E). The way back to Dudley Canyon is to the L (W).

Since it was a little later in the day, SPHP wanted to return to the odd flat rock and the dinosaur track.  The sun would be lighting up more of the dino track now.  Loopster was dubious about wisdom of leaving the road, even for such a short distance.  When she managed to trot over to the dino track without incident, she cheered up.

Lupe cheered up when she reached the dinosaur track again without encountering any cactus. She wasn’t the least bit concerned about encountering the dinosaur. The track was obviously quite old. That dinosaur had to be many miles away by now. Photo looks SE.
Now that it was later in the day, the dinosaur track was better lit up by the sun. From the orientation of the claw marks, the dinosaur had been on its way from Wind Cave National Park to  Badlands National Park. Probably a tourist, or in search of one.
Looper seemed to enjoy being in the dinosaur track. She returned to her old resting place again, but this time she just sat there watching instead of curling up. Perhaps she was hoping to get a glimpse of the next dinosaur to come this way.
Come on, SPHP! Sing along with me! Oh, give me a home, where the dinosaurs roam, and the deer and the antelope play! Where never is seen, a cactus that’s green, and your paws won’t get stabbed all day!

From the odd flat rock and the dinosaur track, it was about 4.0 miles back to the G6 in Hot Springs.  Lupe got to follow the road back the entire way, retracing her earlier route to Friendshuh Mountain.

When Lupe got to the forest on the W side of Dudley Canyon again, she forgot all about cactus when she saw a squirrel.  She dashed off into the forest without a moment’s hesitation.  From then on, she left the road to roam through the forest whenever she felt like it.  Although there were still a few cacti scattered around, she didn’t step on any and had a great time.

Since the side trip up to the top of Battle Mountain (4,434 ft.) was so short, Lupe returned to the summit again when she got back to Battle Mountain Road.

On her way back to the G6, Lupe made the short side trip up to the top of Battle Mountain again. Photo looks SW.
I’ll have a Dingo on the rocks, please! A great way to end any long day. Photo looks NW.

Wow, it was 62°F out when Lupe reached the G6 (4:08 PM)!  What a fabulous, warm, bright day it had been for February!  Despite repeated cactus concerns, overall Expedition No. 192 had been a fun time with several more peakbagging successes for the Looper.

On the way home, Lupe got a ride in the G6 through beautiful Wind Cave National Park.  She did see a few buffalo roaming, but not a single dinosaur.  Dinosaurs just aren’t that common any more, even way out here in the remote Black Hills of western South Dakota.


Maverick Mountain post on by Panhandletrails

Friendshuh Mountain post on by Panhandletrails

Trailhead Directions:

Maverick Mountain – The parking lot for the Romney GPA serves as the trailhead.  From Maverick Junction (intersection of Hwys 18, 79 & 385 about 5 miles E of Hot Springs, SD), go 0.7 mile W on Hwy 18/385.  Turn S (L) on Scenic Road immediately after crossing Fall River.  Follow Scenic Road 1 mile S to the Romney GPA parking lot on the R (W).

Battle & Friendshuh Mountains – A few blocks E of Evans Plunge in Hot Springs, SD, Hwy 385 turns N on its way to Wind Cave National Park.  Take Thompson Avenue E (R) just N of the turn.  A couple of blocks to the E, Thompson Avenue feeds straight into Battle Mountain Road (also known as Skyline Road), which goes 1.2 miles to the summit of Battle Mountain.  Another 2.5 miles on the unsigned Battle Mountain GPA access road leads to the parking area at the bullet hole riddled map about 0.5 mile NW (as the crow flies) of Friendshuh Mountain. 

Lupe on Battle Mountain near the end of Expedition No. 192. Photo looks SSW.

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s Black Hills Expeditions Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe Adventures.

Gunsight Mountain, Talkeetna Range, Alaska (8-23-16)

Day 25 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska

Lupe wanted out twice during the night.  Both times it was nice out, a hopeful sign.  Dawn arrived a few hours later to dash those hopes.  Steady rain beneath a drearily overcast low-ceiling sky.  The forecasts were going to be right, weren’t they?  Three more full days of rain before things might improve.

A little after 10:00 AM, Lupe and SPHP left Palmer on the Glen Highway (Alaska Route 1) heading E.  Sad, very sad, but SPHP was resigned to it.  There was no beating this endless rain on the Alaska S coast.  Lupe wasn’t going to get to do any of the fun adventures around Anchorage or on the Kenai Peninsula.

The plan was to go as far as it took to get out of the rain, even if that meant going back to Canada.  Lupe still had a couple of peakbagging objectives on her list not too far E of Palmer, if the rain would let up.  There didn’t seem to be much hope of that.  SPHP was prepared for a long drive.  Lupe stared out the rain-streaked window of the G6 at the beautiful Matanuska River valley she was leaving behind.

Lupe stared out the window of the G6 at the beautiful Matanuska River valley she was leaving behind. Photo looks SE.

The rain didn’t extend nearly as far as SPHP feared.  Surprisingly, by the time Lupe was nearing the Matanuska Glacier, the sky had stopped its seemingly endless dripping.  The glacier was visible from the highway, so Lupe stopped for a look.

The Matanuska Glacier was visible from the Glen Highway. Photo looks SE.
Lupe along the Glen Highway with the Matanuska Glacier in the background. Photo looks SE.
Toe of the Matanuska Glacier with a little help from the telephoto lens. Photo looks SE.

Conditions improved rapidly as Lupe and SPHP continued E on the Glen Highway.  That was great news!  Two of Lupe’s peakbagging objectives were coming up soon.

The first was Lion Head (3,185 ft.).  Lupe found the road that serves as a trailhead near milepost 106.  Beyond a parking area, a closed gate was across the road.  A “No Trespassing” sign said AT&T owned the property.  No one allowed in without permission from AT&T.  Most disappointing.

Surprising, too!  SPHP had read online accounts touting the climb up Lion Head for the spectacular views of the Matanuska Glacier.  None of them had mentioned an access problem.  Several vehicles were parked along the road near the closed gate.  Others must be making the hike.  SPHP hesitated.  Gunsight Mountain was another 10 or 12 miles E.  Maybe Lupe should check out Gunsight instead?

Near milepost 117, Lupe and SPHP stopped at a large empty pullout on the SE side of the Glen Highway.  A sign said this was the Camp Creek trailhead.  Absolutely no other information was available.  Not a soul was around.  Gunsight Mountain loomed to the NW right across the highway.

Despite involving 3,400 feet of elevation gain, the climb up Gunsight was supposed to be easy and straightforward.  Was this the trailhead for Gunsight?  Except for those tall bushes low down on the mountain, the climb looked easy enough whether there was a trail or not.  SPHP grabbed the backpack, crossed the highway, and Lupe was on her way!  (1:29 PM, 54°F)

Five minutes after Lupe started her assault on Gunsight, SPHP was beating a retreat.  Those tall bushes were an impassable jungle!  There certainly didn’t seem to be any trail.  Lupe had no choice, but to follow SPHP back to the G6.  So far, Lupe’s day had been nothing but frustration.  Another mile E, near milepost 118, her luck changed.

A green street sign read “Trailhead Access Road”.  A short road on the NW side of the highway led to a large paved parking lot.  A posted map showed several trails in this area, including one leading to Gunsight Mountain (6,441 ft.).  Twenty minutes after launching her first attack on Gunsight, Lupe set out again.

An old road led to an ATV trail that climbed rather steeply at the start.  Things leveled out after 200 feet of elevation gain.  The ATV trail had turned N.  Lupe reached an intersection where a small pond was a short distance ahead.

The ATV trail led Lupe to an intersection where this small pond was in view. The long ridge in the background is part of Syncline Mountain (5,471 ft.). Photo looks N.

Lupe didn’t need to go N.  She turned W on another ATV trail leading toward Gunsight Mountain.  A huge, colorful hillside, was ahead.  The top of Gunsight Mountain appeared above it in the distance.

Lupe turns W on the ATV trail leading toward Gunsight Mountain. A huge, colorful hillside was ahead.

The ATV trail was full of big, muddy potholes, and soon gave out.  A single track trail led into the bushes which dominated the landscape.  It too, disintegrated before long.  A bewildering maze of little trails went in all directions, appearing and disappearing in no discernable pattern.  Lupe thought this was great!  She could prowl around unseen until she was almost upon SPHP.

The bushes down where Lupe had made her first brief assault on Gunsight had towered over SPHP.  They had strong, thick branches.  Fortunately, the bushes here were only chest high on SPHP.  It was possible to push through these smaller bushes along the myriad of little trails, though it was preferable to follow the occasional strips of open ground between them whenever possible.

Getting to the top of this first big hillside took a while.  The climb gradually steepened along the way.  On the bright side, the open ground between bushes started to dominate as Lupe gained elevation.  If there was any organized trail up this long hill, Lupe never found it.  During short rest stops, SPHP consumed wild blueberries, which grew in great profusion on the hillside.

By the time Lupe reached the top of the big, colorful hillside, the bushes had disappeared entirely.  Only the low, delicate plants of the tundra remained.  Lupe already had some fabulous views from here.

Lupe already had fabulous views from the top of the first, long, colorful hillside. Photo looks SE.
Looking SW down the Matanuska River valley.
Looking back down the long, colorful hillside toward the Gunsight Mountain trailhead near the Glenn Highway. Photo looks E.

The best route to the top from here was obvious.  Lupe headed W across a broad area of fairly level tundra toward the NE ridge of the mountain.  She even lost a little elevation along the way, before the climb resumed.

Lupe on her way W from the top of the long, colorful hillside toward Gunsight’s NE ridge seen on the R. She would stay on the near side of the ridge, especially as she neared the summit. Photo looks WSW.

Lupe was still on her way up toward Gunsight’s NE ridge, when suddenly there was a voice coming from above.  A young woman was cheerily hailing Lupe and SPHP as she hiked down the mountain.  SPHP hadn’t even seen her.  Her name was Laura.  She was here in Alaska visiting friends who had to work today, so she had just trotted on up to the top of Gunsight Mountain for something to do.

Laura was from Montana, which made her practically a neighbor to Lupe.  She was very friendly.  Was the guy following Lupe and SPHP part of the group?  SPHP turned around.  There was someone coming!  He was still over toward the top of the long, colorful hillside, but heading this way fast.  No, Lupe and SPHP had never seen him before.

Lupe with Laura from Montana. Laura had already been to the top of Gunsight Mountain. She was on her way down when she spotted Lupe and SPHP coming up.

Laura and SPHP chatted pleasantly for a few minutes, before she went onward.  A few minutes later, she could be seen talking to the guy who was hot on Lupe’s trail coming up.  Meanwhile, Lupe reached the NE ridge.  Staying on the less steep SE side of the ridge, Lupe and SPHP continued toward the summit.

Lupe reaches the NE ridge. Photo looks SW.

Within a few hundred feet of the summit, the tundra finally gave way to a long, scree slope.  During the fairly steep ascent up the scree, the guy who had been following Lupe overtook SPHP.  He promised to save Lupe and SPHP good seats with a view at the top.

Lupe on the long scree slope leading to the summit. Photo looks W.

Coming up the easy, broad E slopes of Gunsight Mountain, SPHP had come under the impression that the summit might well be a large plateau, with plenty of room for Lupe to run around.  However, when Lupe reached the top of the scree slope, the mountain simply ended.  On the other side of the little summit ridge was a gaping chasm.

Standing out at the very end of a small, narrow prominence, surrounded on 3 sides by nothing but air, was the guy who had promised to save Lupe and SPHP good seats with a view.  He stood on the brink of destruction at the chasm’s edge surveying the spectacular views, as calmly as any mountain goat might to whom it was all old hat, part of a daily humdrum routine.

His precarious position made SPHP nervous for him, but he calmly walked over to greet Lupe and introduce himself to SPHP.  His name was Luke Hall.  He was originally from Sidney, Australia.  Luke had left Sidney 3 years ago. Since then, he’d worked for a while in Banff, Canada and London, England, and a few other places around the globe.  At the moment, Luke was in the middle of an already months long trip exploring and climbing peaks in Alaska.

Lupe meets Australian globe-trotter Luke Hall at the summit of Gunsight Mountain. Photo looks SW.
Lupe at the summit. SPHP had expected some kind of broad plateau up here where Lupe could run around. Instead, Lupe arrived to find huge cliffs, chasms, and jagged knife-edge ridges. Photo looks NW.

Wow!  Sounded like Luke was adventure personified!  Lupe, Luke and SPHP spend 30 minutes together on Gunsight.  A lot of chatting, comparing notes, and taking photos went on.  Luke had been to Berg Lake in Mount Robson Provincial Park in Canada.  Lupe had been there on her Summer of 2013 Dingo Vacation, too.  Luke and Lupe had both been to several other places, among them Sukakpak Mountain (4,459 ft.), N of the Arctic Circle.

Luke was surprised to learn that Lupe had made it to the top of Sukakpak.  He had been there a couple of weeks ago.  He’d made it very high up on the mountain, but hadn’t found the route to the summit.  Lupe and SPHP shared how Lupe managed to get there.

Of course, as long as Luke had already been exploring Alaska, he’d seen a lot of places Lupe hadn’t.  There was so much to talk about!  Fun times, but it was getting to be evening, and this was, after all, the top of a mountain in Alaska.  Luke was wearing shorts.  Not too surprisingly, he started getting cold standing around.  He needed to get moving again, so good-byes were said.  Luke started down the mountain.

Luke and Lupe on Gunsight Mountain. Luke had certainly kept his promise to save Lupe a seat with a view! Photo looks SW.
Peaks over-looking the Matanuska Glacier, portions of which are in view in the valley below. Photo looks SW using the telephoto lens.
Looking WSW. Part of the Matanuska Glacier in view on the lower L.
Luke Hall starts down the mountain after a fun half hour with Lupe at the top. Note the actual patches of blue sky and sunshine! Photo looks ENE.

After Luke departed, Lupe and SPHP spent another 20 minutes at the summit.  The views were tremendous in every direction.  The day had started discouragingly, but was ending on a literal high note here with Lupe at the top of splendid Gunsight Mountain!

Looking SW along the length of Sheep Mountain (6,223 ft.)(R). Part of the Matanuska Glacier(L) is in view in the distance.
Sheep Mountain using the telephoto lens. Photo looks SW.
Looking N.
Looking SSW. The weather was still stormy looking toward the SW.
South Fork of the Matanuska River. Photo looks SSE using the telephoto lens.
Big patches of blue sky were appearing off to the E, the first blue sky Lupe had seen in days. Trail Lake is the largest lake in view on the lower R. The Gunsight Mountain trailhead(Center) is barely above the bottom edge. Photo looks ENE.
Looking N again.
So many mountains were in view from Gunsight! The mountains to the S were high enough to block a view of what lay beyond them. Off to the N, however, range after range could be seen receding to the horizon. This photo looks NNW using the telephoto lens.
Looking over Gunsight Mountain’s summit ridge at the gaping chasm to the SW. Sheep Mountain is on the R. The Matanuska River is on the L flowing toward the more distant Matanuska Glacier. Photo looks SW.
Wondering if Lupe found the Gun survey benchmark? Here ya go!
Looking NW.

After nearly an hour at the top, Lupe started back down the NE ridge.  The evening and surroundings were incredibly beautiful.  Most encouragingly, the patches of blue sky and sunshine which had started appearing on Lupe’s way up seemed to be spreading.

Lupe comes back up along the NE ridge to see what’s keeping that slowpoke SPHP. Photo looks NE.

Luke had said he was planning on going to Anchorage and the Kenai peninsula.  Maybe Lupe should, too!  Maybe the weather was going to improve, and Lupe wouldn’t have to miss out on all the fun that had been planned there.  She was only an hour’s drive E of Palmer.  Lupe could climb Lion Head tomorrow, and then return to Palmer!  It was too soon to leave Alaska, if Lupe didn’t have to.

Although the plan seemed to change with each passing cloud, these happy thoughts accompanied Lupe and SPHP as they took their time on the descent.  The long, colorful hill was easier descending than ascending.  It was possible to see the pattern of the open areas between the bushes from above, which made it easy to avoid the worst of the bushes.  Of course, Lupe thought the bushes were fun, but she didn’t mind being able to run in the open, too.

A tired, but happy American Dingo arrived back at the G6 (9:29 PM).  This had turned out to be a great day after all.  Maybe things were looking up.  Tomorrow, Lion Head!

On Gunsight’s NE ridge.

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s 2016 Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska Adventure Index, Dingo Vacations Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to New Lupe Adventures.

Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 191 – Peak 5360, Peak 5240 & Buckhorn Mountain (2-13-17)

Even standing right next to the marker, the numbers on it were so faded SPHP could barely make them out.  313.1G.  Excellent!  No doubt about it now, this icy dirt road leading into the trees was a USFS Road.  Come on out, Loop, this is it!  Lupe was out of the G6 in a flash (8:58 AM, 39°F).  She thrashed around rolling on the ice in her excitement and desire to cool off.

Most of the land right along Carroll Creek Road (County Road No. 313) was privately owned in this area, but SPHP’s old USFS map did show national forest land coming right down to Carroll Creek Road in a few places.  Finding USFS Road No. 313.1G meant Lupe had national forest access around the private property nearby.  She could get to Peak 5360.

Much of the snow that had been in this vicinity a week ago had melted.  What was left had turned to ice on No. 313.1G, making it quite slippery.  Off road, patches of crusty, crunchy snow lingered in shady spots.

The snow that had been in this vicinity a week ago, had turned to ice now on USFS Road No. 313.1G. Photo looks N.

Peak 5360 was another of the series of peaks in the southern Black Hills that Brian Kalet had added to the data base last spring.  On recent expeditions, Lupe’s adventures had been focused on climbing these Brian Kalet peaks.  She now had a good start on visiting all of them.  A successful summit of Peak 5360 would “X” another one off the list.

Peak 5360 was only 0.67 miles N as the crow flies.  Lupe would have to go more like a mile to actually reach the summit.  No. 313.1G started out curving across the lower end of a draw to the NE.  It then went around the SW end of a forested ridge before turning NE.  Here, Lupe already had a view of Peak 5360 to the N beyond a field of private property.

After following No. 313.1G around the SW end of a forested ridge, Lupe could see Peak 5360 ahead beyond a privately-owned field. Photo looks N.
Peak 5360 from the S.

Displaying limestone cliffs at the SW end, Peak 5360 looked like it was probably easiest to climb from the NE.  Lupe followed No. 313.1G up the valley.  After the road got beyond the end of the private field, Lupe came to two intersections in rapid succession.  At the second one, she left No. 313.1G to continue NE on No. 313.1H.  She hadn’t gone far at all before reaching a fence with a “No Trespassing” sign.

SPHP checked the USFS map again.  Yes, a very narrow strip of private property within the national forest extended farther up the valley from here.  Lupe ought to be able to go around it easily enough.  SPHP led Lupe NW directly toward Peak 5360.  Sure enough, the fence ended shortly after reaching the trees.  Lupe turned NE again.

As she got closer to the NE end of the mountain, Lupe started climbing.  She had already gained a fair amount of elevation by the time she was able to turn SW to tackle the steepest part of the slope leading to the summit.  The remaining snow was getting soft and starting to melt, making things slick for SPHP.  The Carolina Dog had no problem, though.  She was rapidly approaching the small limestone outcroppings near the top of the mountain.

The snow was starting to melt and make things slippery as Lupe reached the steepest part of the climb up the NE slope. The snow was no problem for her. Soon she could see the limestone rock outcroppings just below the top of the mountain ahead.
Lupe at the base of the limestone cap of Peak 5360. Fortunately, the line of rock was discontinuous here at the NE end of the mountain. Lupe had no problem finding an easy route to the top. Photo looks SSW.

The exposed limestone cap at the NE end of Peak 5360 was not thick or continuous enough to create a solid line of cliffs.  Lupe had no problem reaching the top of the mountain.  The mountaintop was heavily forested, but she had good views from an opening looking NE.

Cicero Peak (6,166 ft.) (L) from the NE end of Peak 5360. Photo looks NE.
Black Elk Peak (7,231 ft.) (L). Photo looks NNE using the telephoto lens.

Now that she had made it up here, it was time for Lupe to explore the top of Peak 5360 to find the true summit.  The summit ridge extended another 0.125 mile to the SW, so the high point might be some distance away.

From here near the NE end of the mountaintop, Lupe set out to find the true summit of Peak 5360. Photo looks WSW.

As it turned out, Lupe didn’t have far to go.  The true summit was only 100 feet from where she’d reached the top of the mountain’s limestone cap.  Brian Kalet had marked the true summit on as being close to the NE end of the mountain.  Brian was absolutely correct.

A dead tree had fallen over right at the actual summit, and made a great prop from which Lupe could claim her 1st peakbagging success of the day.

Lupe stands on the fallen dead tree at the true summit of Peak 5360. Photo looks NE.
Amid a dense forest, the gnarly roots of the fallen dead tree were the most scenic thing in view from the true summit.

Simply because she had reached the true summit of Peak 5360 so quickly didn’t mean Lupe was done here.  Loop was ready to explore the entire summit area to see what else she might discover.  Two ridges converged at the true summit.  The shorter one went W, while the longer one went SW.  Lupe went SW first.

The SW ridge varied from 50 – 200 feet wide.  Although the ridge was fairly level, Lupe lost elevation steadily as she conducted her exploration.  From cliffs along the SE edge, Lupe often had nice views in that direction, but the forest hid everything to the NW.

Explorer Lupe midway along the SW ridge. Photo looks back to the NE in the direction she was coming from.
Exploring the SW ridge. Photo looks SW.

Lupe had lost significant elevation by the time she reached the cliffs at the end of the SW ridge.  Unsurprisingly, the best views were to the SSW.  Lupe could see both Parker Peak (4,848 ft.) and Matias Peak (4,780 ft.).  Both were far away on the horizon and looked like mere bumps from here.

The best view from the end of the SW ridge was to the SSW. Lupe could see both Parker Peak (on the horizon straight up from the end of her nose) and Matias Peak (also on the horizon, but a little to the R of her tail), but they were so far away they looked like mere bumps from here.
Looking down on the Carroll Creek valley. Despite the melting snow, the creek was bone dry when Lupe came by today. Photo looks WNW.

Since the views were better here at the end of the SW ridge than back at the true summit, SPHP suggested taking a short break.  Lupe was fine with that for 10 minutes.  Then she disappeared.  SPHP had to call her.  She came running back from the NE.  Apparently she had seen enough of this end of the mountain!

At the end of the SW ridge during break time. Photo looks S.

Lupe and SPHP started back up to the NE.  When the Carolina Dog was getting close to the true summit again, she turned W to explore the shorter W ridge.  This was the only part of the mountain with decent views toward the N or NW.  Lupe saw both Sylvan Hill (7,000 ft.) and Thunderhead Mountain (6,567 ft.), but they were quite a long way off.

Lupe’s explorations of Peak 5360 were now complete.  She returned briefly to the true summit before heading back down the NE slope.  She retraced her entire route back to the G6 (11:12 AM, 46°F).

On USFS Road No. 313.1G again on her way back to the G6. Photo looks SSW.

Lupe wasn’t done with Brian Kalet peaks yet today.  Another one, Peak 5240, was her next destination.  Peak 5240 is nearly 4 miles SE of Peak 5360 on the opposite side of the little town of Pringle.  Ordinarily that would have been close enough for Lupe to consider simply exploring a route to it through the hills, but the USFS map showed a lot of private property in the Pringle area.  Lucky Lupe was going to get a ride over to Peak 5240 in the G6.

That was fine with the American Dingo!  She kept a keen eye out for cows and horses to bark at along the way.  She saw several on the way to Pringle, and hit the jackpot when she got there.  A whole herd of black cattle was grazing SE of the intersection of Hwy 385 and Hwy 89.  Peak 5240 was close by, in full view beyond the herd.

Peak 5240 is only 0.67 miles SE of the small town of Pringle. It is clearly visible from the junction of Hwy 385 & Hwy 89. Photo looks ESE at the mountain from Hwy 89 less than 0.5 mile S of Pringle.

The old USFS map made it look like there was national forest access to Peak 5240 starting less than 1 mile E of Pringle on the S side of Hwy 385.  A possible USFS road shown on the topo map was nowhere in evidence, though, when SPHP drove by.  Quite a bit of private property was in the area.

In fact, an apparently long-established commercial business, the Pringle Bed & Breakfast resort, sat on fenced land S of Hwy 385 where SPHP had expected to find the national forest.  The Pringle Bed & Breakfast looked affordable to begin with, and they were advertising winter rates.  SPHP was in a generous mood.  Did Lupe want to go in for a luxurious, comfy snooze and hearty, nutritious breakfast?

Oh, you’re a riot SPHP! No, I’m not this tired or hungry!
I’ll get you for this! Yeah, some day my fans will be reading “SPHP went missing mysteriously on Expedition No. Blah, Blah”.

SPHP still thought the land the Pringle Bed & Breakfast sat on was national forest ground, but the expected access road didn’t seem to exist and there was nowhere to park.  Maybe there was access from the W?  SPHP drove back W to Shirttail Canyon Road and turned S.  After passing by several private properties, a USFS marker appeared near the start of a dirt side road.  Lupe was in luck!  SPHP parked the G6, and Lupe was back in business (11:41 AM, 47°F).

The USFS road led up the W slope of Peak 5240 through an open forest of Ponderosa pines.  It soon ended at the old Townsite Mine, where a couple of signs indicated someone from Oklahoma had recently staked a new mining claim.  Lupe found nothing else here other than the big scar in the hillside left by the original mining operation.  She did have quite a good view back toward Pringle to the NW.

Lupe arrives at the historic Townsite Mine on the upper W slope of Peak 5240. It is historic simply because all defunct old mines are historic, in case you hadn’t ever noticed before.
From the Townsite Mine, Lupe had an unobstructed view of Pringle, SD. Photo looks NW.
Other than this big gash in the W side of Peak 5240, Lupe found nothing else at the old Townsite Mine. Photo looks N.

It doesn’t take a Carolina Dog long to look at a hole in the ground, even if it’s a fairly big one.  Lupe left the Townsite Mine going a little S before turning E.  She had to make her way up a short, fairly steep slope, but quickly reached the top of a limestone outcropping.  Lupe stopped briefly here for a look at the already great view to the SSW.

The view from here was similar to the one Lupe had from the SW ridge on Peak 5360, but was more open and panoramic.  Loopster could see Parker Peak (4,848 ft.) and Matias Peak (4,780 ft.) again.  They were still far away, but a little closer than before.

Coming up Peak 5240 from the SW, Lupe reached the top of this limestone outcropping where she had a great panoramic view to the S. Still appearing as little bumps on the horizon, Lupe saw Matias Peak (straight up from her tail end) and Parker Peak (L of Center). Photo looks SSW.
Another look SSW. Parker Peak is now near (Center) on the horizon.
Parker Peak (R) through the telephoto lens.

The rest of the climb up Peak 5240 was only moderately steep.  At the top of the mountain, one medium-sized rock stood out as being the true summit of Peak 5240.  Lupe stood on it to claim her 2nd peakbagging success of the day, striking a somewhat dramatic pose.  There was little doubt she was merely following a tradition already established by Brian Kalet.

Lupe poses dramatically at the true summit of Peak 5240! Hwy 385/89 N of Pringle can be seen in the distance. Bear Mountain (7,166 ft.) is on the far horizon. Photo looks NNW.
At the true summit. Photo looks WNW.

Near a cairn E of the true summit, Lupe found a survey marker, but it seemed to have more to do with a section line than anything having to do with Peak 5240.  The top of the mountain formed a ridge running E/W.  The ground was close to level for about 200 feet in this direction.  Lupe had surprisingly good views in most directions except to the W and NW, where pines blocked the view toward Pringle.

Looking down the S ridge from a point E of the true summit. Photo looks S.
View to the NE.
Looking SE. A lot of forest had burned in this direction.

After looking at the views from the E end of the summit, Lupe and SPHP took a break over toward the W end.  The trees here provided welcome shade.  Lupe wasn’t really hungry yet, but she stayed close by while SPHP munched an apple.

The view down the S slope was lovely.  On the horizon was a distant blue ridge that might be part of the Seven Sisters Range (4,420 ft.), where Lupe hopes to visit some more Brian Kalet peaks in the relatively near future.  SPHP must have been daydreaming and munching away for a while.  Suddenly an American Dingo was right there, demanding an explanation.

Just how long does it take you to eat one crummy apple, anyway? Can we go yet?

Lupe was ready for action!  OK, OK!  SPHP finished the apple.  Lupe cooperated with SPHP for one last photo looking down the S slope.  She returned briefly to stand atop the summit rock one more time.  Then she headed down the S slope to continue her exploration of Peak 5240.

Looking at the lovely view down the S slope from the break area a little W of the true summit. Photo looks SSE.
The high points along the distant blue ridge at Center and to the L may be part of the Seven Sisters Range S of Hot Springs, SD. Photo looks SSE using the telephoto lens.

Lupe went all the way down to the drop-off at the bottom of the S slope.  Although she had lost a fair amount of elevation, she still had a great panoramic view.

Lupe near the drop-off at the lower end of Peak 5240’s S slope. Shirttail Canyon Road is the dirt road below on the R. Beyond it, Hwy 89 curves away to the W. Matias Peak is the highest dark hill seen L of Center near the horizon. Photo looks SW.
Looking N back up the S slope.

Lupe’s investigations on Peak 5240 were now complete.  She left the mountain, stopping by the Townsite Mine one more time along the way.  Soon she was back at the G6 (1:04 PM, 47°F).

More than 4 hours remained before sunset.  Lupe had run out of Brian Kalet peaks to explore near Pringle.  However, while Loopster had been climbing all the Brian Kalet peaks farther N in recent weeks, SPHP had noticed a mountain not in the data base that Brian had somehow missed.  Buckhorn Mountain (6,330 ft.) was just N of Custer, SD.

Lupe had seen Buckhorn Mountain from Peak 6181 only a few weeks ago.  It looked like a fairly impressive peak which might have some pretty sweet views from the top.  The Custer area, especially to the N, is rugged territory for the Black Hills featuring lots of huge granite rock formations.  SPHP wasn’t even certain if Lupe could get to the top of Buckhorn Mountain, but she was about to find out!

After driving to Custer, SPHP parked the G6 again at the intersection of Hwy 89 and USFS Road No. 362, about a mile N of Hwy Alt 16 (1:33 PM, 45°F).  Buckhorn Mountain was only 1.5 miles to the NW.

On the first half of the trek to Buckhorn Mountain, Lupe followed USFS Road No. 362.  The road wound NW through a forest which had been thinned by loggers fairly recently.  Lupe liked the open forest, and trotted along on or near the road sniffing happily.  She gained elevation steadily, but only gradually, on the way.  She passed by a private drive on the N side of the road, but No. 362 continued on beyond it.

At the high point on No. 362, Lupe found an intersection.  From here, No. 362 went W starting downhill.  USFS Road No. 362.1C went N.  By now, Lupe was very close to the end of the part of the forest the loggers had thinned.  Buckhorn Mountain’s thickly forested SE ridge came right down to No. 362.1C nearby.  Lupe took No. 362.1C going N, but arrived almost immediately at a gate barring the road.  A sign said she had reached private property.

Lupe didn’t need to go any farther N anyway.  Time for the American Dingo to begin her ascent of Buckhorn Mountain!  Lupe and SPHP plunged into the forest, starting up the SE ridge.

The climb was really fun!  It was steep, but not too steep.  At first the forest was the only obstacle to navigate, but very quickly Lupe began coming to granite rock formations along the top of the ridge.  The higher up Lupe went, the more the rock outcroppings grew in size.  At any moment Lupe might come to a wall of solid rock preventing further advance along the ridge, but she didn’t.  Each time that kind of situation seemed to be developing, Lupe found an easy way over, around, or through.

Climbing Buckhorn Mountain’s SE ridge, Lupe came to many interesting rock formations along the way. This one has a hole in it near the top. Photo looks SSE.

SPHP knew that Lupe would eventually come to an intermediate high point, sort of an ESE shoulder of the mountain.  The shoulder area had some towering granite at the top.  It was the first area of real concern.  Would Lupe be able to get past this area without having to lose a bunch of elevation going around it?

A wall of rock 40 feet high appeared ahead.   Lupe’s prospects weren’t looking too good, but she kept climbing right up to it.  The luck of the Dingo held.  Looper found an easy route around the NE side of the rock formation.  She was past the ESE shoulder.  Nothing to it!

Lupe at the rock formations of the ESE shoulder of Buckhorn Mountain. She has already made her way around the NE (L) side of them. Photo looks SE.
Lupe below the rocks of the ESE shoulder. Photo looks SE.

Now that she was beyond the ESE shoulder, Lupe could see the top of Buckhorn Mountain ahead.  It was still a bit of a climb, but wasn’t that far away!

Now that she was past the ESE shoulder, Lupe could see the top of Buckhorn Mountain ahead. It wasn’t that far away!

Lupe lost only a little elevation traversing the saddle from the ESE shoulder to start the remaining climb up the E slope of the mountain.  The forest in the saddle had been thinned by loggers.  SPHP staggered through all the annoying slash the loggers had left behind.  Before reaching the end of the slash, Lupe was already climbing again.

It still wasn’t clear if Lupe would be able to reach the top of Buckhorn Mountain or not.  The final climb had stretches near the top which were even steeper than before.  SPHP had to grab onto rocks and trees in some places to get up.  None of this was difficult or scary – just a little light scrambling, but with snow and some deadfall timber around, it was slow going.

Near the top, suddenly the ridge was much flatter and easier than before.  Lupe and SPHP went W making rapid progress.  High rocks appeared ahead.  SPHP’s heart sank.  There was no way Lupe could reach the top, at least not from what SPHP was seeing from this direction.  The rocks were nearly vertical and way too high.

Nothing to do, but check it out.  Lupe worked her way around the N side of the rock formation, and found herself in a saddle between it and another rock formation to the N.  It still didn’t look like Lupe would be able to climb up the first rock formation.  So disappointing!  The rocks to the N looked easier, so Lupe went that way first.

The rocks extended farther N than SPHP had seen at first.  Lupe kept climbing along a surprisingly easy route.  As she reached the N end, SPHP looked back and saw that she appeared to be every bit as high as the highest rocks to the S!  In fact, the very highest rocks at the N end looked like they might even be slightly higher.  Lupe had reached the true summit of Buckhorn Mountain (6,330 ft.)!  Easy as pie in the end!

Lupe reaches the summit of Buckhorn Mountain. Easy as pie in the end! Photo looks E.
Lupe at the top of Buckhorn Mountain. These rocks at the N end are the true summit in SPHP’s opinion, although it is a very close contest with the first high point Lupe had seen roughly 200 – 300 feet farther S. Photo looks N.

The views were fabulous!  Poor Brian Kalet had really missed out by not getting to this peak.  Lupe had a sweeping 180°+ panoramic view everywhere to the N.  The Carolina Dog could see lots of the highest, most rugged territory and peaks of the Black Hills from here.

Thunderhead Mountain (6,567 ft.) is almost always referred to locally as Crazy Horse due to the memorial being carved into the mountain. Photo looks N using the telephoto lens.
Sylvan Hill (7,000 ft.)(L) and Black Elk Peak (7,231 ft.)(R). Photo looks NNE.
Bear Mountain (7,166 ft.) (L of Center) is the highest point along the far ridge. Photo looks NW.

Lupe decided to celebrate her successful ascent of Buckhorn Mountain by taking a break.  She feasted on Taste of the Wild, then curled up for a rest at a comfy spot in the warm sunlight.

Lupe decided it was time to put a little Taste of the Wild in her tank.
Relaxing in the sun. Photo looks NNE.

While Lupe relaxed, SPHP took a couple of close-ups using the telephoto lens.

Sylvan Hill with some help from the telephoto lens. Photo looks NNE.
A closer look at Bear Mountain. Photo looks NW.

After her short rest, Lupe got back up on the true summit at the N end of Buckhorn Mountain again.

Lupe returned to the N summit after her rest break. Black Elk Peak is seen on the R. Photo looks NNE.

The time had arrived to explore the rest of the summit area.  Maybe it was possible for Lupe to reach the top of the first rock formation she had come to farther S?  If she could, there wouldn’t be any question whether she had reached the true summit of Buckhorn Mountain.  The Carolina Dog headed S to check it out.

The top of the rock formation to the S is seen on the R. Photo looks S from a point not too far from the N summit.

It turned out that the S rock formation was really the middle high point on Buckhorn Mountain.  Between the trees, another high point could be seen even farther off to the SSW.  However, it was clear that the actual S high point wasn’t as high as either the central or N ones were.

From the NW, the middle rock formation didn’t look nearly as daunting as it had from the E.  Lupe could probably climb it from the SW!

Lupe near the middle high point. Seen from the NW, it wasn’t nearly as imposing as it had seemed when Lupe originally approached from the E. In fact, it looked like Lupe might be able to get to the top from the SW. Photo looks SE.

A couple of minutes later, Lupe and SPHP were at the top of the middle summit.  Getting there was an easy little scramble.  The area at the top was all lumpy granite, but Lupe had a little room to move around.  From here, she had terrific views to the E.  She could see part of the town of Custer to the SSE, and beyond all the way to Northeast Cicero Peak (6,240 ft.).

Loop reaches the top of the central high point on Buckhorn Mountain, the rock formation that had looked too imposing to climb as Lupe first approached it from the E. Photo looks NE.
Lupe on the Central high point. Looking back toward the N summit, which was almost in view from here, SPHP really wasn’t certain which was the true summit. Either way, Lupe had now been on top of both. SPHP’s final conclusion was that the N high point is the true summit, but it’s an extremely close contest. It’s entirely possible this is actually it. The difference might be only inches, a foot or two at most.

Having climbed both the N and Central high points now, no matter which one was actually the true summit of Buckhorn Mountain, Lupe had been there.  All that was left to do was check out the views from the lower S high point.  As Lupe approached it from the N, there seemed to be little prospect of reaching the top.  The rocks were vertical.

As Lupe approached from the N, there seemed to be little chance she could get to the top of the S high point. Photo looks S.

Sadly, SPHP didn’t think Lupe could even reach the S end of this rock formation, where there ought to be a sweeping panoramic view.  Wrong!  Lupe discovered an easy way around the W side that led directly up to a fantastic viewpoint.

From the far S end of the S high point, Lupe had this beautiful view to the WNW. Huge granite formations were close by. Farther off was Atlantic Hill (6,393 ft.) (R), and beyond it were the distant high ridges of the western Black Hills.
Lupe at the far S end of the S high point. The town of Custer is seen below. In the distance is Northeast Cicero Peak (6,240 ft.) (Center). Apparently deer (or mountain goats?) like this view. There were lots of what looked like deer droppings near the edge of the precipice. Photo looks SSE.
Part of the town of Custer, SD with Northeast Cicero Peak in the distance. Photo looks SSE using the telephoto lens.

Lupe couldn’t get to the top of the highest rocks at the S high point, but reached a point that wasn’t too much lower.  It didn’t matter anyway, since the S high point was definitely not the true summit.  After enjoying the grand view, Lupe returned to the N end of the mountain.  SPHP needed to retrieve the pack, which had been left there.

Thunderhead Mountain (Crazy Horse) (R of Center) again from the N summit. Photo looks N.
Black Elk Peak with a little help from the telephoto lens.

After SPHP retrieved the pack, Lupe left Buckhorn Mountain.  What a splendid fun climb and summit it had been!  Lupe went back to the G6 following the same scenic route she had taken up.  Near the wild-looking rock with a hole in it, SPHP found the topo maps on the ground.  SPHP had dropped them on the way up.

Fortunately, when the route is obvious, a map isn’t required.  Just keep following that curly Dingo tail onward and upward!  (5:27 PM, 36°F)

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Skyscraper Mountain, Talkeetna Range, Alaska (8-22-16)

Days 22, 23 & 24 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska

8-20-16, 8:00 AM.  Gray, gloomy, light rain.  Disappointing, but it didn’t matter too much.  Lupe was at Byers Lake in Denali State Park in Alaska.  She’d spent the last two days exploring fabulous K’esugi Ridge.  She’d had a wonderful time, but after dragging back in to the G6 after 3:30 AM last night, both Lupe and SPHP were in real need of a rest day.  Even if the skies had been crystal clear and blue, there wouldn’t have been much on the agenda today.

SPHP drove over to pay the $5.00 daily parking fee, as strongly suggested by the official pay envelope waiting on the G6’s windshield upon Lupe’s return last night.  Then it was back to the parking lot.  Lupe was going to get her $5.00 worth today.  Time for more shuteye.

Of course, it would have been nice if the skies had cleared.  Although Lupe had been in the Denali State Park area for nearly 3 days now, she still hadn’t gotten a good, clear view of Denali (20,310 ft.).  She’d seen the incredibly massive white mountain from an enormous distance earlier, while still close to Fairbanks, but had only caught brief glimpses since.

Nature doesn’t care what might be nice.  The clouds did not part.  Not even the tiniest speck of blue sky appeared.  The dreary, light rain fell sporadically all day.  Lupe and SPHP mostly snoozed.  Maybe tomorrow Lupe would finally get that superb view of Denali?

8-21-16, morning.  See Denali?  Hah!  Not a chance!  The sky had wept all night.  Rain was still falling, steadily, and much harder than yesterday.  Time to give up on the Denali Dream.  Lupe was all rested up now.  She had other adventures to get to!  Good-bye Denali State Park.  Good-bye fabulous K’esugi Ridge!

Rain poured down, as SPHP drove S on the George Parks Highway (Alaska Route 3).  The truth was, nearly all of the Alaskan adventures left on Lupe’s list of possibilities were somewhere relatively close to the S coast.  The coast had been socked in with rain and fog for weeks.  Conditions weren’t likely to be any better along the coast than at Denali State Park.  Maybe Lupe’s time in Alaska was drawing to a close?

The sky remained overcast, but the rain ended before Lupe reached Wasilla.  Civilization!  Lupe and SPHP shared a box of ice cream bars and a couple of cheeseburgers.  SPHP killed some time at the laundromat, and taking care of a few other chores.  Already 5:00 PM.  This day was slipping by, too.

One adventure still seemed like a possibility.  If the rain would hold off, maybe Lupe could climb Skyscraper?  Less than 1,000 feet of elevation gain was required.  The mountain’s summit wasn’t even a mile from Hatcher Pass, a scenic 20 or 30 minute drive NW of Palmer.

Palmer wasn’t far from Wasilla.  At Fishhook Junction, a mile N of Palmer, SPHP turned W (L) off the Glenn Highway (Alaska Route 1) onto Fishhook Willow Road.  Fishhook Willow Road went W 2 miles then turned N following the Susitna River valley.  After a sharp L turn onto Willow Creek Road, SPHP figured Lupe must be getting close to Hatcher Pass.  SPHP parked the G6 at a pullout near the Fishhook Trailhead, right off Willow Creek Road.

Conditions weren’t so great.  Mist was falling here.  Low clouds draped over every mountain peak, threatening to unleash more serious moisture at any moment.  If Lupe did make it to the top of Skyscraper Mountain, she might not see anything except fog.

However, Lupe desperately wanted to go.  She’d been cooped up in the G6 for nearly 2 days now.  The mountain looked only moderately steep, and appeared to be an easy climb.  A maze of soft, damp trails wove among low, wet bushes toward the S spine of the mountain.  Lupe and SPHP started up.

Glad to finally get out of the G6, Lupe starts up the mountain. Photo looks N.

Everything was going fine.  Lupe was having a good time.  She’d already gained perhaps 250 feet of elevation, when SPHP paused for a quick breather.  So far, so good.  Except for that view to the W.  Something was wrong over there.  A road snaked up the main valley into a side valley, continuing on up to a big saddle even higher than where Lupe was now.  How could that be?

Mist turned to light rain, as it all sunk in.  That road was the Willow Creek Road going up to Hatcher Pass.  It had to be.  For pity’s sake!  Lupe wasn’t even climbing the right mountain.  Skyscraper Mountain (4,825 ft.) was over there!  No doubt about it.

Lupe at the highest point she reached on the trail up the wrong mountain. At least she had a good view of Skyscraper Mountain(Center) and Hatcher Pass(L) from here. Photo looks W.
Skyscraper Mountain (4,825 ft.) (Center) overlooks Willow Creek Road on its way up to Hatcher Pass. Lupe was supposed to have been climbing Skyscraper along the SW ridge seen on the L. Photo looks W.

Sheesh!  SPHP had no idea where this trail Lupe was on went, how far it went, or what mountain Lupe was on.  (She was on the 1.2 mile long trail up Marmot Mountain.)

Oh, well.  Conditions were deteriorating anyway.  May as well call it.  Back to the G6!  At least Lupe had some exercise and fun.  As an added bonus, SPHP finally understood where Hatcher Pass and Skyscraper Mountain were.

Who knew?  With a little luck, tomorrow would be a better day.  Lupe might be glad her climb of Skyscraper had been postponed.

I’m on the wrong mountain? How can that be? You’re joking, right? SPHP, you come up with the craziest notions! Maybe I’m going to have to take a firmer paw in adventure planning from now on.

Dream on!  The G6’s radio said differently.  Rain continuing through tomorrow, extending into blah, blah.  Enough of that!  Outside the G6, the world continued dripping.

8-22-16, morning again.  Still heavily overcast, but not raining.  Maybe Lupe could climb Skyscraper right now, first thing?  SPHP drove up to Hatcher Pass.  The pass wasn’t far at all, but conditions were a lot different here.  Steady rain, 52°F, a chilly breeze, and fog.  Umm, no thank you!  When it comes to adventure, Lupe and SPHP are fair weather friends.  No need to star in a private episode of Survivor!

Civilization has its advantages.  Lupe and SPHP left Hatcher Pass and drove down to Palmer.  A roasted chicken was obtained and shared.  Lupe gnawed on a rawhide stick for a while, then snoozed.  SPHP read.  Palmer was overcast, of course, but it wasn’t raining.

Early afternoon.  Still no rain in Palmer.  Maybe things were better by now at Hatcher Pass?  Lupe and SPHP went back up there.  No rain until just before reaching the pass, where nothing had changed since this morning.  Aggravating.  Lupe would just stay here and wait it out.  Sooner or later, there had to be a break didn’t there?

Lupe poses near the Hatcher Pass monument during a brief lull in the rain. Photo looks W.

Despite the cold rain, a surprising number of people came and went.  Most were well equipped with umbrellas and rain gear.  Many took short walks on trails over the gently sloping tundra beyond the Hatcher Pass monument, but few remained in the area for long.

SPHP talked to a couple of guys getting back into their vehicle with Alaska plates.  Did they know anything about the long range weather forecast?  It was a rental car.  They were Germans, but they did know something about Alaskan weather.  They’d been in Alaska for 2 weeks and had been going to extremes to try to find a little sunshine.

The Germans said 3 more days of rain were in store here, then it was supposed to clear.  As soon as they left Hatcher Pass, they were headed for Anchorage to fly to Nome.  Nome was sunny.  In 3 days, they would fly back to Anchorage.  Now, there was an idea.  Lupe could fly to Nome!

Perhaps SPHP lacks imagination.  Flying Lupe to Nome on the spur of the moment seemed a bit extreme.  No doubt a spontaneous trip to Nome would have been a grand adventure, though!

There were brief lulls, but mostly the rain went on and on.  The afternoon ticked away.  Lupe had been snoozing, but during a lull in the rain, she finally woke up.  She just had to get out and run!  Off like a shot, the Carolina Dog flew across the heather until she was a distant speck.  SPHP stood in drizzle watching from afar, waiting for Lupe to tire of her big romp and return.

A couple of women walked by with 3 kids.  The older woman was telling the children to be careful not to slip on the muddy trail.  Moments later, the oldest child slipped and fell in the mud.  She started crying.  The older woman lost it, and started screaming at the girl.  She was glad Michelle was hurt!  It served her right for not listening and being careful.  Hadn’t she just been told to be careful?  Michelle wouldn’t get any help from her!

The obscenity-laden rant went on for several minutes while Michelle cried.  The other woman at least helped her back on her feet.  Michelle was what, maybe 9 – 11 years old?  SPHP was on the verge of going over to have a few choice words with Cruella de Vil, when she finally shut up.  The immediate crisis was over.  Even so, Michelle’s problems in life were far from over, not by a long shot, if that witch was her mother.

The glorious human race!  So capable of both the very best and very worst the planet has on offer.  Carolina Dogs are better company – active, friendly, sensible and loyal!  Speaking of which, where was Lupe?  Here she came, racing back from her romp.  She was eager for SPHP to join in the fun.  It had only been misting lightly during Michelle’s ordeal.  Might as well try Skyscraper now, before things changed.

SPHP drove down to a slightly lower pullout at the base of the informal trail up Skyscraper Mountain.  Lupe could hardly wait.  As soon as she was out of the G6, she took off again, racing hundreds of feet down the tundra on the other side of the road.  She came right back, panting hard, and was overjoyed to see SPHP getting the pack ready.

A volley of raindrops splattered SPHP, but didn’t last long.  Yes, raingear was in order.  SPHP dug it out of the pack, and put on a green plastic rain poncho.  Ready for another attempt.  How far Lupe would get was in serious doubt, but at least she would be on the right mountain this time around.  Lupe and SPHP started up the slope.  (6:20 PM, 48°F)

Start of the trail up Skyscraper Mountain from the pullout along Willow Creek Road near Hatcher Pass. Photo looks N.

The longest, steepest part of the climb came right at the start.  Skyscraper is one of those mountains where the top always looks only another 50 feet higher.  By the time Lupe reached the first high point, she had already gained 2/3 of the total 950 feet of elevation gain required to reach the summit.

Lupe finally nears the first high point. Photo looks N.

From a rock formation at the first high point, Lupe got her first view of what lay ahead.  Not far to the N, an orange windsock floated on the breeze above a broad, rounded ridge.  From the windsock, Lupe would have an easy time traveling over gently rising tundra toward a couple modestly higher points along the ridge.

From the rock formation at the first high point, Lupe saw an orange windsock floating in the breeze. The ridge ahead was broad and rounded. Lupe would have an easy time traveling over the tundra here. Photo looks NNW.
From the first high point, Lupe saw two modestly higher points ahead along Skyscraper’s SW ridge. Beyond them, she could already see the S end of the summit ridge. Photo looks NNE.

Looking back, Lupe could see Summit Lake on the W side of Hatcher Pass.  April Bowl and Hatch Peak (4,811 ft.) on the S side of the pass were in view, too.

Looking back the way Lupe had come, Summit Lake(R) was in view on the W side of Hatcher Pass. Hatch Peak(L) and April Bowl (where the snow is below the peak) were in view, too. Photo looks S.

Lupe checked out the orange windsock, before turning NE to start the easy stroll up toward the next couple of high points.  She had a blast running around sniffing and exploring the tundra.  By now, Skyscraper Mountain’s entire summit ridge was in view, including the little bump up at the N end where the true summit is located.

Lupe checks out the orange windsock. The first high point she reached is on the L. Hatch Peak(R) and April Bowl are seen in the background. Photo looks SSE.
The gentle path to the next modestly higher points. Skyscraper Mountain’s summit ridge is in view L of Center. Photo looks NE.

The path along the higher part of the SW ridge undulated from one minor high point to the next.  Through the light mist, Lupe could see mountains in every direction.  If it had been a clear day, the scene would have been really gorgeous.  Lupe had nothing to complain about, however.  She was lucky the rain was holding off for the time being.

Lupe on the undulating SW ridge. Skyscraper Mountain dead ahead! Photo looks NE.
The tundra features such amazingly brilliant little plants!

Beyond the minor high points of the SW ridge, the trail lost some elevation heading down to a saddle leading to Skyscraper’s summit ridge.  Another steep climb ensued from the saddle, but it was only half as long as the first big climb had been.  Soon Lupe was up at the S end of the summit ridge.  The Pass survey benchmark was right there.

The Pass survey benchmark was hard to miss at the S end of Skyscraper’s summit ridge. The “P”, “A” and part of the first “S” for Pass can still be made out to the L of the center triangle.

Skyscraper’s summit ridge is nearly level until it reaches a modest bump up at the N end where the true summit is located.  The ridge was much narrower than the SW ridge Lupe had come up, especially toward the N end.  The true summit was only 150 yards N of the Pass survey benchmark.

Lupe was there in practically no time at all.  After days of waiting, success rewarded patience!  Congratulations, and the usual paw-shaking ceremony ensued.

Lupe stands next to the Pass survey benchmark. The true summit of Skyscraper is only 150 yards away along the ridge. Beyond Skyscraper’s summit, Bullion Mountain (5,100 ft.) is seen in the distance. Photo looks N.
Lupe stands atop the true summit of Skyscraper Mountain! Marmot Mountain (4,770 ft.) is seen beyond Lupe. SPHP believes Microdot (4,900 ft.) is the high point L of Center, and The Pinnacle (5,500 ft.) is the highest point on the far L. Photo looks NE.
Lupe on top of Skyscraper. Photo looks ENE.
Carolina Dogs are rarely seen on Skyscraper Mountain, but it does happen! Microdot is visible on the L. Photo looks NE.

Mist and drizzle had occasionally given way to light rain on the way up.  Lupe was fortunate to have reached the summit of Skyscraper.  Conditions might worsen at any moment, so Lupe and SPHP didn’t stay at the summit too long.  There was time enough for some photos, and a good look around at what could be seen of the rugged surrounding peaks of the Talkeetna Range.

Lupe stands on a nearby high point while SPHP stands on the true summit. Skyscraper’s summit ridge extends off to the L. The SW ridge Lupe came up is visible to her R. Hatch Peak and April Bowl are in view R of Center. Photo looks S.
Looking NNE farther along the ridgeline from Skyscraper’s summit. Bullion Mountain is on the L. The Pinnacle is the highest point seen R of Center. Microdot is on the R.
Lupe once again on the summit. Photo looks SW back toward the easy SW ridge she came up.

Time to go.  Lupe and SPHP started back S along the summit ridge.  In the saddle between the summit ridge and the SW ridge, Lupe met two young guys from Wasilla on their way up Skyscraper.  They said the weather was typical of this time of year around here.

Out of curiosity, SPHP asked them what trails/peaks they recommended Lupe save for a sunny day in the area?  Reed Lakes was the immediate response.  It wasn’t far from here.  SPHP had heard of it.  Good information.  Never hurts to ask the local experts!

Looking S from the S end of Skyscraper’s summit ridge (near the Pass survey benchmark). Hatch Peak and April Bowl are on the L. Hatcher Pass is seen at Center. Skyscraper’s SW ridge leading back down to the G6 is on the R. Photo looks SSW.

A thick fog rolled in as Lupe descended the last little stretch of the steep final slope to the G6.  Rain came with it.  Back just in time (9:13 PM)!  Those poor guys from Wasilla hadn’t looked prepared for this.

Fifteen minutes later they appeared running across Willow Creek Road toward Hatcher Pass, where their vehicle must have been parked.  Had they made it to the summit of Skyscraper?  Probably, but they couldn’t have been there long enough to enjoy it.  Lupe would never know for sure.  At least they were back safely, though cold and soaking wet.

Lupe’s Skyscraper Mountain adventure had reached a successful conclusion, despite all the doubts of the last several days.  Time to celebrate!  SPHP drove down out of the soup back to Palmer.  All remaining roasted chicken was devoured, along with a second course of cheese and crackers.

Carolina Dogs love cheese!  Lupe always gobbled the cheese first before she would touch the cracker.  American Dingoes always go for the gusto, then mop up whatever remains later on.  But then, you probably knew that already.

Note:  A number of trails exist near Skyscraper Mountain, including the Reed Lakes trail recommended by the two guys from Wasilla.  Gold was discovered near the summit of Skyscraper Mountain in 1906.  Nearby is the Independence Mine State Historical Site.  The following links may be of interest:

Hatcher Pass Management Area

Independence Mine State Historical Site

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s 2016 Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska Adventure Index, Dingo Vacations Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to New Lupe Adventures.