Day 8 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Wind River Range, Wyoming & Select Peaks in Montana
Before the sun was up, Lupe wanted out of her “tiny house”. SPHP unzipped the door and let her go. The Carolina Dog must have slept well. She hadn’t been so perky last evening after her long trek to Porcupine Pass from Lower Green River Lake. SPHP dozed a bit longer. When SPHP finally emerged, Loop was busy watching 3 deer and a marmot.
Sweet! Having a great time watching wildlife, aye Looper?
Oh, yes! It turns out this Porcupine Pass is a terrific spot. Don’t make any sudden movements, and please be quiet so the deer don’t run away!
Sorry, but we’ve got to get going, Loop. Today’s the big day. Squaretop Mountain or bust! Before we head for New Benchmark, want to take a stroll up Porcupine Pass Peak for a better look at what we’re facing?
Sure! Let me know when you’re ready. I’m going to keep watching these deer till then.
Porcupine Pass Peak(10,890 ft.) is a barren hill on the SW side of Porcupine Pass. Lupe gained less than 200 feet of elevation on her way to the top. The stroll was an easy one, free of obstacles except for a steep snowbank just below the rim of the summit area. Fortunately, the snowbank wasn’t large. SPHP found a way around most of it. The snow presented no problem at all to the American Dingo, who powered her way right on up, chomping snow for moisture as she went.
The top of Porcupine Pass Peak proved to be a large, gently rounded area, carpeted with green alpine plants. Not a tree or bush anywhere. Medium-sized rocks laid thinly scattered across the field. In every direction, Lupe gazed upon magnificent mountains and huge valleys.
Beauty was everywhere, but the view to the E from Porcupine Pass Peak was disconcerting. Beyond Porcupine Pass, Lupe had her first good look at New Benchmark(11,850 ft.). The mountain was bigger, higher, and considerably more rugged than SPHP expected.
New Benchmark was the first of two major obstacles Lupe would face on her intended route to Squaretop Mountain(11,695 ft.). Once safely past it, she would reach more favorable terrain on the way to Peaks11,820 and 11,590. The second obstacle she would come to was a steep drop down to a narrow saddle leading to Peak 11,415. If Loop could cross that saddle, the remaining 1.5 miles N to the summit of Squaretop should be relatively easy.
Easy? Too funny! Staring only at maps, SPHP had been optimistic Lupe wouldn’t face anything more serious than a long ridge walk to get to Squaretop Mountain from Porcupine Pass today. Now that the Carolina Dog was actually here, staring at the reality of New Benchmark, it was clear nothing about this was going to be easy.
Come on, Loopster! We’ve got a gargantuan day ahead of us. We’d best get on with it!
Down at Porcupine Pass, SPHP disassembled Lupe’s tiny house. It was now perfectly clear she wasn’t likely to get all the way to Squaretop Mountain and back again in a single day. Everything had to come with.
Lupe and SPHP left Porcupine Pass. The Carolina Dog lost a bit of elevation heading ESE over to the base of a long, steep, scree and talus slope. This slope was the first big climb on the way up New Benchmark.
Lupe started climbing NE up the rough slope. Looper had no trouble maneuvering around, but SPHP was slow as always. Steady progress was being made, but it took a long time. While SPHP struggled up, Lupe enjoyed scanning the rocky terrain from increasingly lofty perches. Now and then, she encouraged SPHP to keep climbing.
After a long way up, the terrain finally became less steep. The rocks were bigger here, which was sometimes a help and sometimes a hindrance. Lupe appeared to be coming to some kind of a top.
Loop reached a top alright, but it wasn’t the top of New Benchmark. She was only halfway there on a false summit. The false summit was a large area of rough ground full of big rocks and boulders. Overall it was fairly level. It wasn’t hard to move around here, which was encouraging. SPHP was finally able to pick up the pace.
The highest parts of the false summit were toward the SSE, but Lupe went only partway there. A broad, relatively shallow saddle came into view leading NE to New Benchmark.
Much to her delight, the American Dingo got to romp across a big, gently sloping snowfield on her way down to the saddle. At the saddle, she saw two beautiful pale blue tarns surrounded by ice and snow in a cirque below her to the NW.
Once across the saddle, Lupe angled E. The second big climb was about to begin. Loop would have to gain just as much elevation as on the first leg up, but the terrain wasn’t quite as steep here. It wasn’t nearly as rocky, either, which helped SPHP tremendously. Lupe followed lanes of vegetation staying above, and safely away from, huge SW-facing cliffs.
Suddenly, things were going well! SPHP was able to climb much faster here. Heart, lung and leg power were the only limitations. SPHP could plod steadily upward instead of scrambling slowly among rocks. Lupe was going to make it to the top of New Benchmark! The question now was, what would she find on the other side? Could she continue on to Squaretop Mountain?
Lupe and SPHP approached the summit full of hope. Before long, the Carolina Dog was there, perched atop New Benchmark’s highest rocks! New Benchmark(11,850 ft.) was a glorious peak in its own right. The views of the Wind River Range were fantastic!
New Benchmark’s summit area was fairly large and flat. The highest rocks were along the NW edge. Lupe and SPHP searched around for a registry or a survey benchmark, but found neither.
While the views were grand in all directions, some of the most spectacular peaks were off to the E and SE along the continental divide. Lupe could see Gannett Peak(13,804 ft.), the highest mountain in Wyoming.
Reaching the summit of New Benchmark was a peakbagging victory for Lupe. Her ultimate objective, however, was still Squaretop Mountain(11,695 ft.). She could see it from New Benchmark, about 3.5 miles to the NE as the crow flies. In fact, she was looking down on it.
The news wasn’t good, though. To get to Squaretop Mountain, Lupe needed to be able to get from New Benchmark over to easier terrain near Peak11,820 to the E. Cliffs eliminated any possibility of going directly E or SE, but the topo map showed Lupe ought to be able to go down New Benchmark’s NNE slope and reach a saddle leading E. This route shouldn’t be any steeper than the route Lupe had taken up New Benchmark.
Lupe started down New Benchmark’s NNE slope, only to discover a huge, long snowbank wrapped around the N and NE side of the mountain. The snow curved steeply away out of sight. How far down the snow went, and how steep it became was impossible to tell. Unequipped, SPHP wasn’t willing to walk out on the snow far enough to tell. A slip might easily become a rocket slide hundreds of feet onto deadly rocks below.
The sky had been partly cloudy all morning. For the last several hours, it had been especially cloudy to the NE. It hadn’t look threatening, though, and Lupe had spent a full hour up on New Benchmark’s superb summit. Now, as Loop stood on rocks above the steep snowbank gazing E, dark clouds and rain were sweeping over the continental divide not too many miles beyond Squaretop Mountain.
Not looking too good, is it, SPHP?
No, not really, Loop. So frustrating! This route has been more challenging than I expected, but it should have worked. If this snowbank wasn’t here, I still believe we would have been able to scramble down this slope easily enough and continue E.
Would we have made it to Squaretop then?
Not sure, but we certainly could have gotten a lot closer. Once beyond New Benchmark, it looks like a cinch to get at least as far as Peak 11,590. Beyond that, who knows? Can’t tell from here. Maybe there isn’t a safe route across the saddle to Peak 11,415? That would have been the last real obstacle, though.
So now what? Are we beaten?
Looks like it, Loopster. We’re staring at defeat here as far as Squaretop Mountain is concerned. Weather’s looking kind of iffy, anyway. Even if we could continue on, it might not be the smartest thing to spend the rest of the day sauntering around on exposed mountaintops.
Well, don’t take it too hard, SPHP. We made it to New Benchmark, didn’t we? That was a peakbagging victory. New Benchmark is a splendid mountain, wouldn’t you say?
Oh, yes, indeed! New Benchmark is awesome! It’s a grand consolation prize as your peakbagging goes. Still, as far as our original intentions went, this day has been a small victory, and a major defeat. Had my heart set on Squaretop Mountain for you. Thought we would be there today. Really did.
Oh, whaa, whaa! Get over it, SPHP. Look at where we are, high in the glorious Wind River Range! Let’s have fun! We going back to Porcupine Pass now?
Yeah, I suppose we better. No sense arguing with reality in the mountains, especially mountains as big as the Winds. Onward, sweet puppy!
Now you’re talking! Maybe the deers and marmot will still be there? I hope so!
By the time Loop made it around to the W side of New Benchmark to start the first big descent, a storm could be seen approaching. The surprising thing was that it was coming from the W where the sky had been relatively clear, instead of from the E. The storm was quite some distance away, so it appeared the Carolina Dog still had time to carry on for a while.
Halfway down to the saddle leading to the false summit, suddenly the whole sky turned gray. Clouds were forming directly overhead. Light rain fell. More was certainly on the way. Continuing down the mountain, SPHP started looking for a place where Lupe could take shelter. Some tall rocks with a slight overhang was all that was on offer. Lupe reached this refuge moments before the downpour began in earnest.
It rained hard for half an hour, with pea-sized hail thrown into the mix toward the end just for fun. Lupe was fairly well protected by the little overhang. The Carolina Dog emerged from the experience only a bit damp. SPHP, however, was thoroughly drenched. Only SPHP’s head and shoulders had been spared.
Ha, ha! Look at you, SPHP! For once, you’re the drowned rat. Usually I’m the soggy doggie!
Heh, that was a bit more refreshing than it needed to be, alright. Come on, Looper, let’s move it! The storm isn’t over yet. Let’s get down to the saddle during this break.
Good idea. I remember some really big rocks down there. We can find a better place to hide!
Stray raindrops continued falling all the way down to the saddle. Lupe was right about the big rocks. The saddle featured a collection of huge boulders all jumbled together. Loop and SPHP found a much larger overhang, almost like a cave. Not a moment too soon, either. No sooner was the American Dingo safe inside than the next downpour began.
This time it didn’t rain quite as hard. A cold wind blew instead. Another shot of pea-sized hail fell. The cave wasn’t very big. It would have been considerably more comfortable, if the ceiling had been higher and dripped less. SPHP sat scrunched over on a small rock, watching water trickle down the wet ceiling, while Loop stared out of the cave. Hopefully it would all be over soon. This wouldn’t be such a great way to spend the night.
After 20 minutes, the rain tapered off. A small patch of blue sky appeared. Lupe watched the patch grow for 10 minutes before it seemed safe to venture out. Scattered raindrops carried on the breeze continued falling as Lupe and SPHP headed SW toward the false summit. By the time Lupe was there, the rain was over.
As Lupe began the final big descent, the sky began to clear. The lucky American Dingo would enjoy sunshine the rest of the way back to Porcupine Pass. As usual, it took SPHP a long time going down the steep, rocky slopes. It didn’t matter, though. The air was fresh and clean, the sky blue, the mountains gorgeous.
Victory and defeat! This was living the life of Lupe. She had it better than Riley ever did!
Lupe was late, a whole week late, but it wasn’t her fault. She’d spent the last several days of 2017 in the Denver area visiting babies Felix and Owen, and having adventures with cousin Dusty. The weather had been frigid, anyway, in the Black Hills. It was still 5 below zero when Lupe returned home on New Year’s Eve 2017, and that was the high on New Year’s Day 2018.
Loop had climbed Peak6046 for the first time on New Year’s Eve 2012 way back when she was barely 2 years old. Since then, returning near the end of each year or the beginning of the next, had evolved into a tradition. As far as the American Dingo and SPHP were concerned, Peak 6046 had become New Year’s Eve Peak(6,046 ft.). Now, even though Lupe was a week late, returning to New Year’s Eve Peak seemed like a must for her first Black Hills, SD Expedition of 2018.
It’s odd that it would matter, but this year felt a bit different due to the later date. SPHP decided to shake things up a bit. Lupe would take a slightly different route from her favorite one in recent years. Instead of following USFS Road No. 710 W up a valley N of Peak 5800, Lupe would start by climbing Peak 5800 instead. She’d only been on Peak 5800 once before. She’d climbed the mountain from the W after visiting New Year’s Eve Peak first on New Year’s Day 2016.
Lupe didn’t care what route SPHP wanted to try. The Carolina Dog was just glad that it was finally warm enough to go out on an expedition in the hills! So instead of taking USFS Road No. 710, SPHP had her skip the road entirely and head SW straight for Peak 5800.
Despite the recent bitter cold temperatures, this part of the Black Hills hadn’t received much snow so far this winter. Several inches blanketed the NE slopes of Peak 5800, but that was only half as much as Lupe was used to seeing in this area in recent years.
Without any definite route in mind, Lupe and SPHP wandered up the mountain. Peak 5800 has two NE ridges. Looper soon chanced upon on the one farthest S, which ultimately leads to the lower SE part of the big main summit ridge. The Carolina Dog was in snowy forest most of the way up. As she got higher, she started coming to rock formations, some of which provided decent viewpoints.
Lupe reached the top of Peak 5800’s long, broad summit ridge near a high point close to its SE end. This high point wasn’t the true summit, which was still some distance to the NW. Since the broad ridge isn’t heavily forested, Loop already enjoyed some rather nice panoramas.
After a look around from the SE end of the summit ridge, Looper sniffed her way NW to the true summit. An easy 10 minute stroll and she was there.
The sweeping views from Peak 5800 were actually grander than what Lupe would see from New Year’s Eve Peak, but Loop was still going on. A chilly W breeze encouraged her not to linger too long at Peak 5800’s summit. She left it heading W, and was soon picking her way down through boulders on the mountain’s W face.
Once below the boulder field, Lupe and SPHP headed NW across rolling fields and hills. This is a favorite area. A fire had burned the forest here years ago. Young pines now dot the landscape in some places, but most of the terrain is grassy. Sharp rock formations exist scattered along the edge of high ground overlooking territory that slopes S down toward the Horse Creek valley.
Approaching High Point 5917 from the SE, Lupe rejoined her usual route to New Year’s Eve Peak. She turned W staying S of High Point 5917, and crossed a saddle leading to the SE end of New Year’s Eve Peak’s S ridge. On the W side of the saddle she faced two steep snowy climbs in succession. Neither was particularly long, but the first one was both longest and steepest.
Looper reached Pistol Point, a traditional stopping point on the way to New Year’s Eve Peak. SPHP had named it Pistol Point after a large rock that looks like the handle of a big pistol jutting up out of the ground. The Carolina Dog could see the top of New Year’s Eve Peak(6,046 ft.) from here.
After climbing around on the rocks checking out the views from Pistol Point, Lupe headed W. She was already on New Year’s Eve Peak’s S ridge, which soon swept around to the N. The ridge became narrower, rockier, and more heavily forested as Lupe continued on, before finally widening out again upon reaching New Year’s Eve Peak’s upper S slope.
A few more minutes and Lupe was there, standing atop the boulder at the summit of New Year’s Eve Peak(6,046 ft.).
The first two times Lupe had climbed New Year’s Eve Peak, the summit area had all been heavily forested. It had been hard to get much more than a glimpse of a view in any direction. New Year’s Eve Peak used to have a shady, dark, gloomy feel to it, an atmosphere which fit in with being here alone at the end of a dying year.
Sometime during 2015, loggers had come. When Lupe had arrived on New Year’s Day 2016, the S end of the summit area and part of the S slope below it had been cleared. Lots of slash and dead logs had been left to stumble around upon. The affected area was relatively small, but the logging created good, open views to the S and SE. Ever since then, the summit has been brighter and cheerier.
Somehow Lupe and SPHP preferred it the old way, yet that didn’t mean there was any reason not to take a look around.
A chilly 20 mph W wind was blowing. It had been 40°F when Lupe and SPHP left the G6 this morning. It didn’t feel like the day had warmed up a bit since then. Lupe and SPHP sat huddled together at the W edge of the summit facing the cold wind, pondering the beautiful winter scene, the passage of 2017, and start of 2018.
Lupe munched on Taste of the Wild. She had been eating snow, and didn’t want any water. SPHP hadn’t brought anything else.
It’s funny what the mind is capable of. Every other time Loop had been here, the mood had been melancholy, especially when she’d been here right on New Year’s Eve. There was something psychologically depressing about watching the sun sink toward the horizon, and the light of day disappear for the last time on a year that had been part of the unknown future not so long ago. A year now rapidly passing away never to be seen or experienced again.
The years when Loop had been here on New Year’s Day instead of right on New Year’s Eve, some of that sadness still lingered. However, it was already being counterbalanced to a degree by the hope, brilliance and excitement of the new year just beginning.
Perhaps it was partially because Lupe was here earlier in the day today than on previous years, while the sun was still relatively high in the sky. As the Carolina Dog and SPHP sat facing the cold wind, it no longer felt possible to truly mourn the passing of 2017. Surprisingly, with only 2% of 2018 now history, the new year no longer seemed quite as completely bright and shiny as it had been a week ago, either. The mind had already made the adjustment and moved on.
It only felt cold. And like Lupe really had arrived late. Not terribly late, but late. It was good to be here, though, together again, on top of New Year’s Eve Peak peering out at the quiet, familiar wintry scene last gazed upon a little more than a year ago. Loopster’s 2018 adventures were now underway. That was a good thing. 2017 had been a fabulous year, and 2018 was still a 98% clean slate with many adventures to come. Her annual pilgrimage to New Year’s Eve Peak complete, Lupe was ready to press on.
Puppy ho! She was right, no sense sitting in the cold wind too long. Lupe returned briefly to the summit boulder.
Even though this year’s experience wasn’t quite the same, coming here today had been better late than never. Lupe and SPHP bid farewell to New Year’s Eve Peak, promising to return again, hopefully right when New Year’s Eve finally rolled around again many adventures from now. Then Lupe led the way down the mountain’s S slope to retrace her route along the S ridge back to Pistol Point.
It felt good to be moving again. Lower down the W wind was demoted to a mere breeze. The slanting afternoon sunlight highlighted details of the terrain. Growing shadows added contrast. All the way back to the G6, Lupe ran and played in a beautiful world. 2018 was finally off to a good start! (3:42 PM, 33 °F)
Days 6 & 7 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Wind River Range, Wyoming & Select Peaks in Montana
The morning after Lupe’s return from her successful 4 day journey to Wind River Peak(13,192 ft.) was a lazy one. The Carolina Dog had certainly earned a rest day! SPHP picked up some fried chicken and a salad at Safeway in Lander. Lupe took a couple of easy walks down by the Middle Popo Agie River across from Lander City Park.
By 11:00 AM, it was plenty hot out. McDonald’s had ice cream cones on sale for 50 cents. Even cheapskate SPHP was willing to spring for that! Lupe got lessons in how to eat an ice cream cone. By watching SPHP’s example, she became quite proficient at it. It turns out Carolina Dogs are naturals at eating ice cream cones!
Lupe’s next peakbagging objective, Squaretop Mountain(11,695 ft.), was clear over on the other side of the Wind River Range at the far NW entrance to Green River Lakes. It would take all afternoon to drive over there, so right after the ice cream cones vanished, Lupe and SPHP left Lander and hit the road.
On her grand summer of 2015 Dingo Vacation, Lupe had spent a day reconnoitering Squaretop Mountain. SPHP has an old book called Wind River Trails by Finis Mitchell, who spent most of his life running a fishing camp in the Wind River Range near the Big Sandy entrance. In it, Mitchell describes a route up Squaretop Mountain from the E leaving the Highline Trail near Beaver Park.
Mitchell wrote that his route up Squaretop Mountain was “not difficult”. He had taken scouting groups, and even a 4 year old child up this way once, yet Lupe had arrived at Beaver Park in late August 2015 only to see towering cliffs. The topo map showed 3,500 feet of elevation gain in less than a mile. No doubt Mitchell knew what he was talking about, but Lupe’s reconnaissance left SPHP desiring a more detailed route description than Finis had provided in Wind River Trails.
On the way back to Green River Lakes, Lupe had met Chad, a friendly forest ranger. Did Chad know of a route up Squaretop? Chad said he’d been to the top of Squaretop himself. He said Mitchell’s route was hard to find since some of the landmarks in his route description (burnt areas) had changed. SPHP asked if there wasn’t a feasible route from the W via Porcupine Pass? Chad confirmed there was one, but it was longer, and he didn’t know the details.
Now, almost two years later, Lupe was on her way to Green River Lakes hoping to find that route from Porcupine Pass to Squaretop Mountain! Hopes were high, bolstered by her success in reaching the summit of Wind River Peak.
The last part of the road to Green River Lakes, which used to be rough, was greatly improved. It was still dusty and washboardy, but wasn’t nearly as stony as in 2015. Gophers were abundant, and frequently dashed across the road as the G6 approached. Lupe was enthusiastic about the gophers, and barked frantically at them as she sped by.
Lupe arrived at the trailhead near Lower Green River Lake at 5:00 PM. Loop and SPHP were both anxious to go down to the lake to get a good look at gorgeous Squaretop Mountain again.
Lower Green River Lake and Squaretop Mountain were every bit as lovely as Lupe and SPHP remembered. Of all the mountains in the Wind River Range, Finis Mitchell had chosen Squaretop for the cover of his book Wind River Trails.
Lupe and SPHP both went wading in Lower Green River Lake. The mosquitoes were bad, though, and eventually put an end to the fun. Lupe then went down to the Highline Trail bridge where the Green River exits the lake. A sign said that the bridge over Clear Creek (near the opposite end of Lower Green River Lake) was out due to flooding.
The Green River was running high, full of water from bank to bank. Having just seen how full the creeks were, and how much snow still existed in the high country near Wind River Peak, Lupe wasn’t surprised. With the bridge over Clear Creek out, Lupe wouldn’t be able to take the Highline Trail (No. 94) to Porcupine Pass tomorrow. Fortunately, an alternate route exists. Lupe could still take the Lakeside Trail (No. 144).
Even though Lower Green River Lake is at 7,961 feet elevation, the evening was hot. The mosquitoes were bad. Lupe and SPHP ended up staying in the G6, periodically running the AC to keep cool. While SPHP caught up the journal, Lupe watched gophers. Every now and then, she just had to be let out to bark at squirrels, or sniff at a gopher hole.
The next morning it was time for action! Lupe and SPHP went down to Lower Green River Lake again to admire Squaretop Mountain(11,695 ft.) before setting out for Porcupine Pass. (8:44 AM, 7-14-17, 66°F).
After a good look at her magnificent objective, Lupe followed the Lakeside Trail S along the W side of Lower Green River Lake. Despite it’s name, the Lakeside Trail is seldom down by the shore. Most of the time the trail stayed in the forest 50 to 150 feet above the lake. Only once in a while did Lupe come to an opening with a good view of the lake and mountains beyond.
Lupe was less than halfway along Lower Green River Lake, when a backpacker approached from the opposite direction. He turned out to be quite an interesting fellow. Radek Hecsko was 48 years old, and from the Czech Republic. He billed himself as “Czech Mix”.
Czech Mix was hiking the entire 3,100 mile Continental Divide Trail from Mexico to Canada! He had started on May 2 in New Mexico, and hoped to reach the Canadian border by mid-September. In 2015, he had previously hiked the entire 2,600 mile Pacific Crest Trail, which also goes all the way from Mexico to Canada.
Czech Mix jokingly called the Continental Divide Trail the “IPA Trail”. He said he typically hikes 30 miles per day, though not in the most rugged territory, and does take occasional rest days. Depending on the kindness of strangers, he hitchhikes to towns whenever possible to resupply. On the trail he often goes hungry, but in towns he packs in the calories feasting on hamburgers, coffee and IPA’s.
Czech Mix said he might eventually take on the 2,190 mile Appalachian Trail to complete the “Triple Crown”, a feat very few people have ever accomplished. He hadn’t really decided yet, though. It was another massive undertaking. For now he was staying concentrated on enjoying and completing the Continental Divide Trail. Completing the CDT would be a rare accomplishment in itself, since it was the longest of the 3 trails and by far the least traveled.
After petting Lupe, and a nice chat with SPHP, Czech Mix pressed on.
Well, that Czech Mix was mighty impressive, Loopster! Can you imagine tackling a 3,000+ mile long trail through high mountains like that? It’s just plain heroic!
Oh, are we gonna do that?
I’ve no doubt you could, Loop, but I’m not up for it. Completing any one of those trails is a gigantic endeavor! I’ll be happy, if we can just make it to Squaretop Mountain.
Oh, I’m sticking with you, SPHP. I’ll be happy if we can find some squirrels!
Lupe continued meeting people along the Lakeside Trail. They came strung out in small groups, but were all members of a youth group that had been camped at Twin Lakes. The group leaders were all concerned about an 18 year old, who had wandered off on his own and never showed up at camp last night. Their anxiety was only increased by the knowledge that his father was an attorney.
Two miles from where she’d started, Lupe reached the end of Lower Green River Lake. Another 0.25 mile brought her to a trail junction. Loop turned R on the Porcupine Trail (No. 137). She would be gaining elevation nearly all the way to Porcupine Pass, a good 6 or 7 miles away as the trail goes.
The Porcupine Trail didn’t begin climbing immediately, however. For almost another 0.25 mile it remained level until Loop reached Porcupine Creek. No bridge! Another ford. Lovely! Lupe had forded a lot of big streams on her way to Wind River Peak, but SPHP had been hoping for a bridge here. No such luck.
Actually, that wasn’t entirely true. Upstream of the ford, a log extended over the creek. A thin cable, which could be easily grabbed for support, was stretched high above it. The log’s circumference wasn’t all that large, however, especially toward the far end. Lupe couldn’t grab the cable, and might easily fall. It was a drop of several feet into Porcupine Creek. This makeshift bridge wasn’t going to do.
The near side of the ford was shallow, slow-moving water. The far side was deeper, and a great volume of water seemed to be racing by. What bothered SPHP far more than the ford itself, however, was what was right below it. Only 20 feet below the ford, Porcupine Creek made a sharp bend. This bend was clogged with sunken logs, branches and other debris. The water was over Lupe’s head. If she got swept downstream, she would be pinned with great force against the debris.
Czech Mix hadn’t come this way. The entire youth group had, however. No one had mentioned any problems crossing Porcupine Creek. SPHP didn’t like the setup, but decided to carry Lupe across.
The bottom where the creek was deepest was stony. Fortunately, perhaps due to traffic on the trail, the stones weren’t very slippery. Porcupine Creek turned out to be only knee deep, but SPHP still had a hard time maintaining balance on the uneven bottom against the force of the swift current. The Carolina Dog was glad to be let gently back down on solid ground again, when SPHP managed to struggle across safely.
The Porcupine Trail now began to climb aggressively, switchbacking SW up a steep forested slope. Partway up, Lupe could hear Porcupine Falls somewhere off in the woods to the N, but she never saw it. After gaining 800 feet of elevation, the trail gradually started leveling off. Eventually Porcupine Creek came back into view.
Shortly after leveling out, the trail turned NW and forded Porcupine Creek again. It could be seen continuing up a hillside beyond the far bank. Thinking that was just the way to Twin Lakes, SPHP skipped the turn, and led Lupe SW beyond a trail junction staying on the SE side of Porcupine Creek.
The trail Lupe was on soon disappeared in a bog. SPHP was puzzled when it couldn’t be found again on the other side. Where had it gone? No matter. Lupe and SPHP continued onward, bushwhacking through the forest up hilly terrain.
After more than 0.25 mile, Lupe did find the Porcupine Trail again! Belatedly, SPHP suddenly realized the trail to Twin Lakes hadn’t branched off until the Porcupine Trail had crossed over to the W side of the creek. To stay on the trail, Lupe should have taken the ford that SPHP had her skip.
Oh, well. No harm done. Lupe had managed to bushwhack her way through, and it was actually better this way when the creek was so high. The American Dingo’s bushwhacking had avoided 2 stream fords in the process. Puppy, ho! Onward!
The trail was in great condition where Lupe found it. It headed SW up a huge valley. Porcupine Creek was often in view flowing through wide green meadows. The trail almost always stayed out in the open, but gradually deteriorated, becoming muddy and passing through bogs in some places. Lupe had wonderful views of rugged mountains towering over the far side of the valley.
More than 0.5 mile from where Lupe had picked up the trail again, Porcupine Creek turned W to go around a small forested hill. This was an especially nice spot, and seemed like a good place to take a break. Lupe left the main trail to follow a short side spur down to the stream. Wildflowers grew in abundance. Lupe laid down for a rest. Mosquitoes were a nuisance for the first time today, but they weren’t too bad.
After a pleasant break, Lupe and SPHP continued on. The Porcupine Trail climbed the small forested hill, but soon exited the forest again. For a while the trail was wet and boggy. However, the valley eventually narrowed. The trail became rockier, steeper, and re-entered the forest. Up ahead were mountains with more snow on them than the scattered patches seen up to this point.
After a long march, the Porcupine Trail finally emerged from the forest again. It approached Porcupine Creek, closely following the E bank. As Lupe continued S, the trail disappeared straight into a huge snowbank. Efforts to pick up the trail on the far side of the snowbank failed. Sigh. What now?
Lupe had been making good progress toward the upper end of the long valley. Ahead was another stretch of forest, but it couldn’t be too much farther to open ground again. There seemed to be no choice, but to resume bushwhacking and see where it led. The American Dingo climbed back into the forest.
The forest was denser here than where Lupe had bushwhacked before. It wasn’t too hard to get around, though. Loopster soon came to two substantial tributaries of Porcupine Creek in quick succession. They were wild, whitewater streams that plunged W down from mountains on the E side of the valley.
Fortunately neither tributary was so large that Lupe couldn’t find a safe place to ford them in short order. Looper hadn’t gotten too far beyond the second stream when she reached the end of the forest. She started crossing a meadow, and came across the Porcupine Trail yet again.
SPHP didn’t realize it at the time, but the trail had once again crossed over to the W side of Porcupine Creek for a short distance before returning to the E side. So what? Lupe’s bushwhacking had avoided another 2 fordings. She was close to the end of the valley now. Porcupine Pass was less than a mile away! The trail went SE, heading straight for it.
The trail became progressively steeper and steeper. Soon Lupe was on switchbacks. The forest began to thin out. The trees became stunted. When Lupe reached treeline, Porcupine Pass was in view. It was nothing like SPHP expected.
Porcupine Pass is at 10,700 feet elevation. Yet due solely to its name, SPHP had always thought of it as being forested. Thought of it as a place one might find porcupines – not that finding a porcupine was a good idea. An encounter with one might end very badly for Lupe.
No worries, though, on that score! Only scattered trees remained in view ahead. None at all were up on the high saddle which appeared to be Porcupine Pass. Lupe was still hundreds of feet below the pass. A very long, steep snowbank led up to the top. Egads!
Lupe continued up the trail, now hidden beneath snow, until she got close to the steep final slope leading up to Porcupine Pass. Here she left the trail, and traveled E climbing a rocky hill. She got up high enough for a good look around at the terrain in most directions.
The view to the E was the critical one. It was decision time. SPHP had originally planned for Lupe to go all the way on up to Porcupine Pass. From there she would head E tomorrow for New Benchmark(11,850 ft.) and Peak11,820 on her way to Squaretop Mountain(11,625 ft.).
However, an alternate route skipping New Benchmark entirely might be possible by continuing E from here without ever going all the way up to Porcupine Pass. The topo map seemed to suggest this might be an easier route.
SPHP hesitated. The view to the E was not all that reassuring. Going E didn’t look clearly possible or impossible for Lupe. There was a lot of rough, rocky ground. Half a mile away or more was a wall of rock. From here, SPHP couldn’t see enough detail to tell for certain if Loop might be able to skirt it to the S, or not.
A significantly longer, but perhaps less rugged option was also in sight to the NE. That route all depended on whether Lupe could manage to get up on a big ridge at the end of a valley. She probably could, but she’d have to travel quite a distance to find out for sure.
Maybe all of the routes would work? Maybe none of them would. The decision on which way to go was an important one, perhaps critical if Lupe was going to have any success in reaching Squaretop Mountain. Yet the right thing to do wasn’t at all clear. Lupe could only try one approach. SPHP wasn’t carrying enough supplies for any more than that.
Only short sections of the trail switchbacking 400 feet up the steep slope to Porcupine Pass were visible. The vast majority of the trail was buried beneath a long steep snowfield. However, a lane of snow-free ground existed E of the trail. It was very steep, but Lupe could climb that slope easily enough. SPHP could probably manage it, too.
In the end, SPHP decided to stick with the original plan. Lupe began the climb up to Porcupine Pass.
It was a good thing the slope wasn’t any steeper, or SPHP wouldn’t have made it. There were places where there was nothing firm to hang onto. Traction wasn’t always good. Yet it wasn’t long before Loop and SPHP were safely up at Porcupine Pass. The views were impressive!
Porcupine Pass was beautiful, but barren. It felt cold, remote and forlorn. Lupe hadn’t seen anyone since leaving the Lakeside Trail many miles ago. It had been a long day. For hours during the afternoon there had been dark clouds off to the NW, but now that it was evening, the sky had partially cleared. There were still clouds around, but they didn’t look threatening.
Congratulations, Loopster! This is it. Porcupine Pass. You made it!
We’re staying here?
Yeah, for tonight. I’ll set up your tiny house in a minute. Want to climb that hill to the W for a look around, once it’s up? It’s Porcupine Pass Peak(10,890 ft.). Won’t take long.
Can we do it in the morning, SPHP? I’m hungry, and ready for a snooze. Mosquitoes are bugging me even up here. I’d sort of like to get in the tiny house, and call it a day.
Sure, we can do that. I’d wish for a breeze to blow the bloodsuckers away, but its probably not a good idea.
I have a feeling Porcupine Pass would be an absolute hurricane if the wind came up. We’re lucky it’s a calm evening, even if we have to put up with some bad bugs. Anyway, you’re right. Tomorrow’s our big push for Squaretop Mountain. We may as well eat and rest up for it as much as possible. Just getting to New Benchmark(11,850 ft.) might be an ordeal, and Squaretop is miles beyond it.
Are we going to have problems?
Dunno. Maybe. New Benchmark looks far more challenging than I’d expected. However, once we’re beyond it, you’ll have gained all the elevation you need to, and the terrain ought to be a lot easier. It better be, if we’re ever going to make it to Squaretop. We’ll see, though. One thing is for certain, tomorrow will be another long day.
Whatever. What’s for dinner?
For you, Alpo and Cliff bar.
Oh, that doesn’t sound bad at all! Hurry up and get the tiny house assembled, would you? I’m famished!
Christmas had come and gone. The year was almost shot, but Lupe had a final chance for adventure in 2017. Xochitl, Steve and baby Felix were flying into the Denver area from Chicago for a couple of days. They would be staying at Matt, Cassie and baby Owen’s home in Parker. Lupe and SPHP had an invitation from Joe and Andrea to come and stay in the Cowboy room at cousin Dusty’s home in Arvada.
Adventures with babies? That was something new, and a rare opportunity! Babies have a way of changing fast, and not being babies any more. SPHP told Lupe that even though it would be a quick trip, there might be time for an outdoor adventure or two as well. Even if Loop wasn’t certain about how adventures with babies might turn out, the year was going to end with bitterly cold subzero weather in the Black Hills. Nothing was going to happen these last few days here at home. So, did Loopster want to go to Colorado?
Cousin Dusty comes to visit the Black Hills every so often, so Lupe’s ears pricked up at the mention of Dusty’s name. Loop hadn’t been to Colorado, though, for a very long time – not since November, 2015. She could scarcely remember the Cowboy room at Dusty’s house, other than a vague sense that it had been a great place to stay. There hadn’t been any babies around back then, but Lupe had climbed a couple of choice Colorado county high points. That had been fun!
Babies in Colorado, with the possibility of an outdoor adventure or two? Or stay home and spend the rest of the year laying on the living room rug staring bored-to-tears out the window at a subzero polar display? Hah! Lupe knew the answer to that one!
The novel adventure began on the frosty morning of 12-28-17 (6:58 AM, 16°F) when Lupe left home in the G6 comfortably riding shotgun atop her usual pile of pillows and blankets. A Dingo Vacation in the winter was something completely unheard of up until now. Lupe had great expectations!
At first those expectations were disappointed. Hwy 471 S of Edgemont was snow-packed and slippery. The day hadn’t warmed up a bit. SPHP cancelled two possible short peakbagging breaks in the Nebraska panhandle, deciding to stay on main Hwy 18 which was clear to Mule Creek Junction in Wyoming. No consideration was given to any other significant breaks the rest of the way.
Lupe arrived at cousin Dusty’s house in Arvada before mid-afternoon (2:06 PM, 39°F). Dusty and Andrea were both home and answered the door. Lupe dashed right in all excited to see them! After the initial excitement, Loop sniffed around for a few minutes. Yes, it was all coming back to her now. The Carolina Dog did remember this place!
A lot of pent-up canine energy needed to be released. Dusty, Andrea, Lupe and SPHP set out on a favorite walk around the 100 acre field out in back of Dusty’s house.
Cousin Dusty loves to fetch sticks. The bigger the stick, the better. She ran ahead of Andrea and SPHP looking for sticks to drop in their path, hoping to entice them to throw them for her. Dusty would then zoom away after the stick, often catching it on the first bounce after a good throw.
Lupe never shows the slightest interest in chasing Dusty’s sticks. Instead, she loves to act as defense on the stick’s behalf. As soon as the stick gets tossed, she focuses entirely on barking and trying to herd Dusty. While Lupe ignores the stick, Dusty ignores Lupe. It’s a game they rarely tire of.
When the journey around the 100 acre field was over, Lupe was quick to reclaim the Cowboy room back at Dusty’s house. Even though they like to spend time in the wilderness, American Dingoes are big fans of luxury, too!
As sunset approached, Lupe, Dusty and SPHP took one more trip around the 100 acre field. There was more Dingo excitement when Joe came home after work. After dinner, Joe, Dusty, Lupe and SPHP went on a long evening walk on the bike path near Ralston Creek. Lupe went all the way past Jungle and Utah bridges.
The next day, Joe and Andrea had to work. Dusty and Lupe went on dawn patrol with SPHP around the 100 acre field to get the day off to a good start. Lupe and SPHP then drove down to Matt, Cassie and Owen’s house in Parker, arriving late in the morning.
Babies Owen (6 months) and Felix (9 months) were up looking bright-eyed and happy, but the adults were about shot. The plane Steve, Xochitl and Felix had taken last evening had been hours late, arriving in Denver after midnight. Felix had then proceeded to cry and scream until 3:30 AM. A bleary-eyed Xochitl was up, and so was Matt. Matt was probably exhausted, too, but he is always so calm natured, it was hard to tell. Cassie and Steve were both asleep.
The afternoon was spent watching, feeding, and playing with Felix and Owen. Lupe also played with Matt and Cassie’s dog, Maya. She went on a neighborhood walk with Matt, Maya and SPHP. Cassie eventually appeared, long before Steve finally regained consciousness at 3:45 PM. By then, Felix was taking a nap.
Steve, Xochitl, Matt, Cassie and Owen all went out for sushi around dinnertime. Lupe and SPHP stayed at the house with Felix. Felix is known for not sleeping much, so he was expected to wake up at any moment. Instead he was still snoozing when everyone returned from the restaurant at 9 PM. Lupe and SPHP then headed back to the Cowboy room at Dusty’s house in Arvada.
Saturday morning was Lupe’s one chance on this short Dingo Vacation for an adventure in the Colorado front range foothills. Joe, Dusty, Lupe and SPHP headed for the lower E trailhead at White Ranch Park, which was only 10 minutes from Dusty’s house.
It was a chilly 14°F when Lupe and her pack set out on the Belcher Hill trail. The trees and fields were frosty, wisps of fog and low clouds hung in the air, but the sky overhead was blue. The trail lost a bit of elevation on the way N to a low spot, then started climbing gradually as it followed the dry Van Bibber creek drainage NW.
The Belcher Hill trail starts out on an easement across private property that leads to the rest of White Ranch Park. At first there were homes not far from the trail. It wasn’t long before Lupe had gained enough elevation to be looking down on several Colorado shacks.
As shacks go, they were really quite nice. No doubt one can be had for only a few million dollars. Lupe liked the looks of them, and asked SPHP’s opinion. SPHP liked them too, but sadly checked pocket change and came up rather short.
After 1.1 mile, Lupe reached a junction with the Whippletree trail. She stayed on the Belcher Hill trail, which turned SW here. By now it was clear that a huge expanse of cold air E of the foothills was capped with a layer of low clouds. The city of Denver and all its surrounding suburbs were hidden from view. Lupe could see the top of North Table Mountain(6,570 ft.) off to the SE floating barely above the clouds.
Shortly after bypassing the Whippletree trail, the effects of a powerful inversion became evident. The temperature started changing rapidly, sometimes quite noticeably within only a few feet. Overall it was getting a lot warmer out, but Lupe came to pockets of cold air, too.
The Belcher Hill trail steepened, and made a switchback shortly before coming to another junction, this time with the Longhorn Trail.
At an intersection 1.8 miles from the E trailhead where Lupe had started, Joe and Dusty led the way onto the Longhorn Trail.
After a short steep section, the Longhorn trail leveled out and became more of an up and down affair as it headed N. After 0.4 mile, a junction with the Shorthorn trail was reached. A longer loop could be made by taking the Shorthorn trail. It was such a nice warm day this high up due to the temperature inversion, longer was definitely the better choice. Everyone hit the Shorthorn trail.
The Shorthorn trail gained a bit more elevation, but only gradually with both up and down stretches along the way. At first it headed NW. This was a unique part of the hike, because the trail went through a shady forest of large pines. Later on the trail turned NE, and wound around a series of ravines on much more exposed sunny slopes.
A 1.1 mile trek on the Shorthorn trail led to a different point on the Longhorn trail. Shortly after reaching this junction, Joe discovered he had forgotten his walking stick about 0.33 mile back while shedding layers due to the near 60°F temperatures. Everyone doubled back to retrieve it.
The walking stick successfully retrieved, it was back to the second junction of the Shorthorn and Longhorn trails. A short hike up the Longhorn trail led to a tiny creek in a ravine. At a big rock beside the little stream, it was time for a break. Lupe and Dusty shared some Taste of the Wild. Joe and SPHP had apples. Dusty enjoyed polishing off the apple cores.
After the break, it was time to head back down to the trailhead. Joe and Dusty lead the way, using the Longhorn and Whippletree trails to complete a loop back to the Belcher Hill trail. By the time Lupe arrived back at the trailhead, the air had warmed up some down here, but it was still only 30°F compared to near 60°F higher up.
The White Ranch Park adventure was over, but more good things were about to happen! Joe, Andrea, Dusty, Lupe and SPHP were soon on the way back to Matt and Cassie’s house in Parker. It was time for more fun with babies! Owen was the only baby there at first. Steve and Xochitl had taken Felix with them to visit friends. Felix hadn’t woken up until 7 AM this morning, a recent personal record of 16 consecutive hours of sleep!
Knowing that SPHP was certain to sneak her some, Lupe was especially pleased at the news that Matt was going to smoke a huge chicken and ribs this afternoon!
Lupe had fun with Maya. Eventually Steve, Xochitl and Felix showed up. Mark did, too. SPHP built towers with Owen’s blocks. Felix had a good time knocking them down.
The big chicken and ribs took a long time to smoke. Steve, Dusty, Maya, Lupe and SPHP took a walk at dusk. Upon return, the smoked chicken and ribs were nearly ready. The feast was soon served. The smoked chicken and ribs were delicious! Everyone had a great time! A certain sly Dingo feasted on both chicken and ribs.
All too soon, it was time to head back to the Cowboy room in Arvada with Joe, Andrea and Dusty. The next morning, Lupe left Dusty’s house after one last spin around the 100 acre field with Joe, Dusty and SPHP. The trip to Arvada and Parker, Colorado had been a quick one, but a fun time!
By the time the sun set for the last time in 2017, Lupe was back in her Black Hills of South Dakota. The G6 said it was 5 below zero when Lupe finally got home. 2018 was destined to get off to a frigid start.
Day 5 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Wind River Range, Wyoming & Select Peaks in Montana
The sun was up, and so was SPHP, busily engaged in breaking camp. Was Lupe OK? For once, it was the American Dingo that still seemed tired. Lupe remained relaxing in her “tiny house” until SPHP was ready to disassemble it.
Come on out of there, Loop! It’s a glorious morning, and we have a long day ahead of us.
I wish, but no, we aren’t. As much as I hate to leave such beautiful territory, it’s time to head back to civilization. The rush is that this whole trip was only supposed to take 3 days, and this is the 4th day. I’ve already had a bite to eat this morning, but now all I have left is one Cliff bar. No doubt you’ll want at least half of it.
We’re out of food!?
I am. You still have plenty Taste of the Wild. At least, until I start chowing down on it, which will happen tomorrow for sure, if we don’t get out of here. It’s a long way back to Worthen Meadow Reservoir.
What flavor did you say that Cliff bar was?
I didn’t, but it’s chocolate coconut, if you must know.
Oh, that does sound good! Let’s get going!
Only 500 or 600 feet S of base camp, Tayo Lake came into view. Most of the lake was still covered in snow and ice. What a beautiful sight it was! It really was a shame to have to leave.
Loop had just been feeling lazy back in her tiny house. There wasn’t a thing wrong with her. On the way down to Tayo Lake, she was bursting with energy. She had a great time racing across the open heather and frisking on big snowbanks.
When Lupe got close to the end of Tayo Lake, SPHP suggested leaving the ridge to go down to the shore near the Tayo Creek outlet. Loopster was in favor of that. She hadn’t actually been to the lake shore on the way to Wind River Peak. This was her last chance to see it.
The water was perfectly still. High rock ridges reflected in the silvery smooth surface. Lupe could hear the nearby gurgling of Tayo Creek starting down the valley. Beyond Tayo Lake was the big green ridge where she’d spent the past two nights in her tiny house at base camp. From there she’d been able to look down on Lake 11,145, now hidden in a cirque above Tayo Lake. Wind River Peak towered over it all. Only yesterday, Lupe had been up there.
After a few minutes lost in contemplation of the magnificent scene, Lupe reminded SPHP it was time to press on. SPHP led Loopster back up onto the ridge. She then started S down wide snowy lanes flanked by stunted forest.
As Lupe descended, SPHP kept watching for the route she had taken up to Tayo Lake 2 days ago, but never really found it. Uncertain whether the Carolina Dog was too far W or E, SPHP led her back and forth in both directions. Lupe traveled over snowfields SPHP was certain she hadn’t been to before. Gradually it dawned on SPHP that Loop was too far W. It wouldn’t really matter, though, would it? The terrain should eventually funnel all routes down to the same general area.
The first indication of a potential problem came when Lupe reached a rushing stream. Cascading swiftly down a narrow channel, the stream was large enough to be Tayo Creek, yet Lupe was W of it. How could that be? Lupe had started off E of Tayo Creek when she left Tayo Lake, and hadn’t crossed it. SPHP was also certain Looper hadn’t crossed or even seen this stream on the way up to Tayo Lake 2 days ago. The maps revealed nothing. Hmm.
Lupe followed the gushing stream down to a large clearing where it fed into a pond. A short distance below the pond, a smaller stream flowed down from the NW to join the larger one. The smaller stream almost certainly had to be Tayo Creek. Tayo Creek wasn’t particularly wide here, but was fairly deep.
Loop needed to get across Tayo Creek, but SPHP didn’t relish the idea of fording it. Near the confluence of the creeks, snow bridges extended over both streams. All the snow banks Lupe had crossed higher up had been strong enough to hold even SPHP’s weight. These snow bridges looked substantial, too.
Just below the confluence, another snow bridge went over the combined streams. If the snow bridge over Tayo Creek collapsed, Lupe might get swept under the downstream bridge where SPHP couldn’t help her.
SPHP tested the snow bridge by the edge of Tayo Creek. It seemed plenty sturdy enough. Lupe would be fine, if she went first.
Lupe dashed across the snow bridge with no problem. SPHP followed. The snow bridge held. Well, that was easy! Way easier than fording the creek would have been.
Lupe was now W of Tayo Creek. She wouldn’t have to cross it again, but knew from experience other big streams were still ahead. The American Dingo followed Tayo Creek S. She ran and sniffed happily in open green forest. Meanwhile, the stream plunged into a narrow canyon. Lupe was losing elevation much more slowly. Tayo Creek was soon far below her.
Tayo Creek disappeared from view. Lupe continued through the forest in a S or SE direction, still losing elevation. A mere 15 minutes after crossing Tayo Creek, Lupe arrived at yet another large stream. This was the stream flowing E from Coon Lake.
The stream from Coon Lake was too wild to ford where Lupe reached it. Loop and SPHP followed it upstream looking for a place to cross. After 15 minutes, SPHP saw a single flat rock that the entire stream was flowing over. The water was shallow and evenly spread. Lupe could cross there!
Lupe had other ideas. While SPHP started for the flat rock, she found some other place to cross the creek. Suddenly, there she was on the opposite S bank!
Having made it over the creek all on her own, Lupe was anxious for SPHP to follow. The big flat rock wasn’t far away, but rocks, trees and a considerable quantity of deadfall made it a struggle to get there. SPHP shouted to Lupe to stay where she was. For several minutes, she did. However, Loop became increasingly concerned as SPHP continued crashing around obstacles on the opposite shore.
When SPHP reached the flat rock, it was possible to see a good snow bridge only a little farther upstream. That would be an even better place to cross! SPHP pleaded with Lupe to remain where she was, but when SPHP turned away she couldn’t wait any longer. Suddenly she was at SPHP’s feet again, fine and dandy. She’d crossed the stream unseen a second time.
Upon reaching the snow bridge, Lupe could see she wasn’t far below a massive snowfield that extended out of sight up the slope to the W. Coon Lake must be up there somewhere, perhaps not too far away. Unfortunately, the already long day ahead meant Lupe didn’t have time for a side trip to go see it. She crossed the creek from Coon Lake for the third time on the snow bridge with SPHP.
S of the creek again, Loop headed SE through the forest. Half an hour went by before she reached another big stream. This was the stream from Mountain Sheep Lake.
Once again, Lupe had reached the stream at a poor place to attempt a crossing. She traveled upstream looking for a better spot, and soon stumbled upon Mountain Sheep Lake itself. The pretty lake was long, narrow, and tucked in a deep side valley off the main canyon Tayo Creek flows through.
A short break was taken to admire Mountain Sheep Lake. When it was over, the problem of where to cross the outlet stream still needed to be resolved. There seemed to be two choices. Not too far downstream from the lake, the creek flowed through a rocky area where it might be possible to rock hop most of the way over.
The other choice was to ford the creek right at the outlet from Mountain Sheep Lake. The stream was wide here, but relatively shallow most of the way. The current was slower, too.
SPHP thought maybe the outlet was the better choice. Convinced Lupe wouldn’t have a problem, SPHP started across, but Loop didn’t follow. SPHP made it to the opposite bank only to turn around and see poor Loop still stranded on the other side. She was intimidated by the width of the stream.
SPHP shouted encouragement to Loop. She could do this!
Lupe hesitated, clearly torn over what to do. She went back and forth along the far bank looking for an answer to her predicament. Finally, as she stood on a rock projecting into the stream, another urging from SPHP seemed to embolden her. She went back to the bank, then waded into the cold water. She had to swim, but only a little bit. Lupe made it across.
SPHP had rewarded Loop with pieces of the last chocolate coconut Cliff bar after she’d crossed Tayo Creek, and again after she’d crossed the creek from Coon Lake. Lupe looked at SPHP expectantly.
Guess, I knew all along you’d get most of this Cliff bar. Here you go, Loop.
I earned it!
Yes, I know. You did great, Looper.
Lupe wouldn’t face another major stream crossing for a long way now. The next landmark she would go by would be Poison Lake, about a mile to the NE. Lupe had a fantastic time in the forest, staying well S of Tayo Creek. The Carolina Dog displayed great energy and enthusiasm, crossing many minor streams and numerous big bogs. She frolicked and cooled off on snowbanks melting away in the soggy forest. She was back in prime squirrel territory, and spent much of her time barking happily.
Going around the SE end of Poison Lake, Lupe returned to the rock platform overlooking the lake she’d been to before on the way up. The sun was almost directly overhead. Time for another break. Lupe and SPHP sat together with a view of Wind River Peak far beyond Poison Lake. What little was left of the chocolate coconut Cliff bar met its doom.
Beyond Poison Lake, Lupe continued following the Tayo River downstream. She didn’t stay as close to it as she had on the way up, since she didn’t need to find a way across. She did see one of the two waterfalls she’d discovered on the way up, but whether it was the upper or lower falls, SPHP didn’t remember.
Lupe had a wonderful time in the forest, but she finally reached Lower Tayo Park again and came to the Middle Popo Agie River. She forded it at the S end of Lower Tayo Park just as she’d done before.
Lupe had finally made it back to a trail! SPHP was curious to see what conditions were like now back at the ford where Trail No. 707 crosses the Middle Popo Agie River below its confluence with Tayo Creek. The situation really hadn’t changed much at all. The ford was still as badly flooded as it was before.
Lupe returned to Middle Fork Trail No. 700, and followed it NE downstream along the Middle Popo Agie River. She was getting close to the junction with Stough Creek Basin Trail No. 704 when a backpacker appeared ahead. He was the first person Lupe and SPHP had seen in 75 hours – more than 3 days.
The backpacker was from Flagstaff, Arizona. He said he was on his way to Tayo Lake, but had nearly turned back at the Stough Creek ford. SPHP explained the situation he would soon face at the flooded ford in Lower Tayo Park, and also described how Lupe had bushwhacked all the way to Tayo Lake and Wind River Peak.
The backpacker went on. Lupe would never know if he made it to Tayo Lake using her bushwhacking route or not. She soon left the Middle Popo Agie River on Trail No. 704 to Stough Creek.
Until now, Lupe had been going downhill nearly all day long. Now she had to climb. The American Dingo did great. She still had plenty of energy to run around looking for squirrels in the forest. SPHP felt played out, though. Going uphill was tough. At least a lot of snow had melted since Lupe had last been here, so it was easier to follow the trail.
Lupe reached the ford at Stough Creek. The situation had not changed from 3 days ago. SPHP still didn’t like the looks of it. Stough Creek was too fast, deep and scary! SPHP was going to have Lupe cross a little upstream of the ford again, then remembered the bridge over Stough Creek near the next trail intersection higher up. Maybe Lupe could just bushwhack up to that bridge?
Loop abandoned the trail for the final bushwhacking session of her Wind River Peak adventure. She hadn’t gone far when she came to a sizable tributary of Stough Creek. Loop forded this lesser creek, and entered a lovely green field that proved to be sopping wet. Another bog! She traipsed across it, and a second one, too, before finally reaching the forest and dry land on the other side.
The off-trail climb through the forest was steep. Lupe came to another major tributary of Stough Creek. It was all whitewater where Lupe reached it.
Lupe followed the tributary upstream to where the terrain leveled out. Here she could ford the tributary without much of a problem. Shortly after crossing the tributary, she found a trail. Lupe followed the trail N. Within 300 feet she arrived at the bridge over Stough Creek. Yes!
Lupe had finally reached Stough Creek Lakes Trail No. 702. It would take her the rest of the way back to the Worthen Meadow trailhead, still a good 5 miles away. Only one major creek crossing remained, Roaring Fork Creek which would come near the end. Onward!
The Carolina Dog was now in a nearly level part of the forest. She soon came to the area where stagnant yellow and orange ponds were scattered among the trees. Up until now, the mosquitoes hadn’t been bad, but here they were terrible.
The climb back up to the high saddle N of High Point 10965 where Lupe had first seen Wind River Peak on her way in was torturous for SPHP, who was nearly exhausted by now. The plucky American Dingo was unfazed. Mosquitoes drove SPHP on. Even when Lupe reached the high saddle, they were bad enough to prevent any long delay. Lupe and SPHP did pause for a few moments, though, to gaze upon the grandeur of Wind River Peak for a final time.
It was still 3 miles back to the Worthen Meadow trailhead from the high saddle. Nearly all of it was downhill, which helped SPHP a great deal. The constant whine of mosquitoes was maddening, but all the Deet was long gone. Lupe busied herself looking for squirrels in the forest. Rest assured American Dingoes never tire of this sport.
At long last, the final ford over Roaring Fork Creek next to Roaring Fork Lake appeared. Lupe ran down to the stream and plunked herself down in the water to cool off.
Roaring Fork Creek didn’t look any different than it had 3 days ago. The water was just as high as before. No matter. In a cloud of mosquitoes, SPHP prepared to cross, then simply went for it.
This time, SPHP stayed upstream of the big rock. The water wasn’t mid-thigh deep here like it was downstream of the rock, but was still several inches over the knee. The even gravelly bottom and gentle current made this ford seem trivial now after all the streams and rivers Lupe had crossed on the way to Wind River Peak and back.
Lupe hadn’t come, though. The water was over her head for a long way. SPHP tried coaxing her from the opposite bank, but without the aid of the enticing chocolate coconut Cliff bar, Lupe stayed put. Seeing further entreaties were futile, SPHP dumped the backpack and waded back into the stream.
As soon as Lupe saw help was on the way, she plunged into Roaring Fork Creek and started swimming toward SPHP. She remembered being on the big rock SPHP had put her on before midstream and swam to it. However, the rock was steep where she reached it. She tried, but Lupe couldn’t get up on it by herself. The current carried her out of sight behind the rock.
Lupe didn’t reappear downstream. What was happening? No doubt she was still striving to get up on the rock, but SPHP couldn’t see her. Before SPHP could get there, Loop grew fearful and gave up. Suddenly she was in view again heading back to shore. SPHP continued over to get her.
SPHP picked the cold, drenched Carolina Dog up, and carried the grateful, dripping Dingo across Roaring Fork Creek. Lupe’s last adventure of her 4 day journey to Wind River Peak was over.
At Worthen Meadow Reservoir, Lupe lost no time hopping into the G6 (9:00 PM). She curled up on her pillows and blankets, licked herself clean, and devoured an entire can of Alpo. She still had room for a McDonald’s cheeseburger in Lander an hour later. The night time scene at Lander City Park was astonishing. The place was absolutely packed with tents and RV’s.
SPHP took the last parking spot available. It was right beneath a bright streetlight. For some strange reason the streetlight cycled on and off at 30 second intervals. After Lupe’s long march all the way from Tayo Lake, it was only a minor annoyance. Lupe and SPHP were both fast asleep, dead to the world, still dreaming of fabulous Wind River Peak.
Start: 9:20 AM, 36°F at the Boulder Hill trailhead of Flume Trail No. 50 on USFS Road No. 358 (Boulder Hill Road)
Going to Boulder Hill with Mark and Hillary on Expedition No. 219 had reminded SPHP that while Lupe had been to Boulder Hill half a dozen times, she had never been to nearby Storm Hill. Wasn’t it about time she went?
Of course, Lupe was in favor of any idea that would get her out of the house for another Black Hills adventure! Soon she was setting out for Storm Hill(5,192 ft.) from the same Boulder Hill trailhead of Flume Trail No. 50 where she had so recently been with Mark and Hillary.
For the first 0.33 mile, Lupe followed Flume Trail No. 50. The trail went SE up to a saddle between Boulder Hill and Storm Hill. With only an inch of snow on the ground, Lupe could have run around exploring easily enough. Instead, she nervously stuck close to SPHP. Distant gunfire could be heard coming from somewhere off to the W. Someone was doing target practice.
At the saddle, Lupe was between Boulder Hill to the SW, and Storm Hill to the NE. A spur of Flume Trail No. 50 goes all the way up to the top of Boulder Hill, but there isn’t any trail going up Storm Hill. Lupe would have to bushwhack through the forest.
Carolina Dogs love bushwhacking! Despite the distant gunfire, Lupe grew bolder after leaving the Flume Trail. She followed the saddle NE over to Storm Hill. She was going away from the gunfire, which helped her confidence.
Upon reaching the SW slope of Storm Hill, Lupe traveled right on up a rocky spine of the mountain. The climb would have been easier if she had simply avoided the rocks. However, she did get glimpses of Boulder Hill from the rocks she wouldn’t have otherwise had.
The SW spine of the mountain topped out near the S end of a broader ridge. This broader ridge was also quite rocky, but wasn’t as steep. Lupe gained elevation more slowly as she followed it N. To the E, Loop could see little but forest. However, she did come across places where she had views off to the SW or W.
The summit of Storm Hill was close to the N end of the broad ridge. A fairly large summit area, perhaps 30 or 40 feet in circumference, was the highest part of the mountain. Pine trees obscured the views in some directions. However, Lupe enjoyed a panoramic view to the N and NE from the top of small cliffs.
By moving around the summit area, Lupe found at least partial views in other directions.
Storm Hill has a double summit. Two widely separated areas contained within 5,160 foot contours are on the topo map. Lupe was at the W high point where a site elevation of 5,192 feet was shown. SPHP presumed this was the true summit of Storm Hill. It was hard to get much of a look at the E high point, but there was a spot from which it could be seen.
The E high point was a long, skinny ridge. It was steeper and more rugged-looking territory. The highest parts of the E ridge appeared to be about as high as where Lupe was, but SPHP was pretty certain they weren’t any higher. Satisfied that Lupe had actually reached the true summit of Storm Hill, SPHP didn’t make her spend the extra hour it might have taken to visit the E ridge, too.
Lupe returned to the true summit of Storm Hill, before taking a little break. Meanwhile, SPHP took a few more photos of the views.
Lupe spent 20 minutes enjoying the summit of Storm Hill before moving on. The Carolina Dog started back retracing her route S along the broad ridge. She soon left the ridge, however, veering SW to explore easier terrain in the forest below. She reached Flume Trail No. 50 again well N of the saddle where she’d originally left it.
By 11:06 AM (42°F), Loop was back at the G6. Storm Hill had been fun, but had taken her less than 2 hours. Plenty of time left in the day for more adventures! SPHP drove S. Lupe had fun barking at cows, horses, and eventually even some buffalo.At 1:52 PM (41°F), SPHP parked the G6 at the mouth of a grassy valley N of USFS Road No. 336 (Flynn Creek Road) less than a mile S of Northeast Cicero Peak(6,240 ft.). Lupe had been to Northeast Cicero Peak twice before, but her most recent ascent was now more than 2.75 years ago. For fun, she would try a new route up.
Lupe started out climbing NW up a thickly forested ridge on the W side of the grassy valley. She eventually emerged from the trees. An open hilltop was only a short distance away. Loop went to the top for a look around. She was a little S of High Point 5821. Cicero Peak(6,166 ft.) was in view not quite a mile to the SW.
Continuing onward, Lupe skirted High Point 5821 to the NE. The partially forested slope was so steep, she might just as easily have gone to the top of High Point 5821, but she didn’t. Upon reaching the saddle N of High Point 5821, the American Dingo turned N. She climbed a mostly open slope up to a high grassy area with a commanding view.
From the high grassy area, Lupe headed NE gaining elevation at a slower pace. Most of this part of her climb was in a forest containing scattered lumpy rock outcroppings. In the shade of the pines, snow was several inches deep.
The final approach to the summit from the WSW was a gentle climb up a grassy slope. A N/S running rock ledge only 2 or 3 feet high was at the top of the mountain. A lone boulder sat a short distance beyond the ledge. That boulder, which appeared to be slightly higher than the ledge, was the true summit of Northeast Cicero Peak(6,240 ft.).
The summit area was large and grassy. A few pines along the N edge blocked views to the NW, while a dense forest hid views to the S and SE. In other directions, Lupe could see big swaths of the Black Hills. The most interesting views were of higher country to the N.
A cool W breeze blew. A low, weary sun, partially obscured by a bank of clouds, dangled listlessly above the horizon. Northeast Cicero Peak felt forlorn, sad. Mid-afternoon, but it felt late. Late in the day. Late in the year. Winter solstice was only 3 days away. Christmas soon after that. A week later, 2017 would be over. Another year gone forever. A depressing thought.
Neither Lupe nor SPHP knew it yet, but Northeast Cicero Peak was the last mountain Lupe would climb in 2017.
Northeast Cicero Peak was the highest mountain this far S in the Black Hills. The views were impressive. Yet the somber mood of the mountain made SPHP restless after only 10 minutes on top. Maybe action would add some cheer? Lupe set off into the forest, intent on exploring the mountain’s S ridge on the way down.
The S ridge wasn’t a very good route. It was full of obstacles. Dense stands of young pines, slick snowy spots, rough rock outcroppings, deadfall timber, all the usual rigamarole except fences to deal with. Not much in the way of views as compensation, either. For what seemed like a long way, the Carolina Dog didn’t lose much elevation.
Lupe finally came to a rare open spot in the forest where the going was easier. Beyond it, the descent began in earnest.
Once the descent really got going, it was one steep slope after another. Lupe avoided rocky areas as much as possible, which became progressively easier the lower she went. She eventually turned SW, ultimately reaching the floor of the valley W of the S ridge. Here, the American Dingo found a faint road leading back to the G6 (4:08 PM, 36°F).
The last of 33 Black Hills, SD Expeditions in 2017 was over.
Want more Lupe adventures? Check out her Black Hills, SD & WY Expeditions Adventure Index, Master Adventure Index, or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures!
Day 4 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Wind River Range, Wyoming & Select Peaks in Montana
Lupe wanted out. SPHP unzipped the door of her “tiny house”, and she vanished into the night. A nearly full moon hung over the mountains bathing the world in a ghostly glow. It was late, very late. Hours of light rain showers were over. Fortunately, the tiny house and everything in it had escaped being drenched. The clear sky was a welcome sight.
SPHP scanned nearby terrain tying to pick out the Carolina Dog. She was nowhere to be seen. Many secrets remain concealed beyond the pale power of moonlight to reveal. SPHP listened. Nothing but a soft breeze sighing.
Ten minutes later, she came racing back all out of breath.
Out having adventures in the night without me, aye Looper?
Maybe. A short one.
Want to tell me about it?
Nope, gonna go back to sleep now.
Smart. You’ll need some of that energy for Wind River Peak in the morning.
SPHP zipped the door of the tiny house shut as soon as Lupe was in. Best get as much shuteye as possible. Dawn couldn’t be more than a few hours away.
The moon was gone the next time Loop wanted out. Sol blazed well above the horizon. Morning! This was it! Breakfast. Final preparations. Everything ready. The great moment arrived. Now or never! Wind River Peak or bust! Lupe and SPHP headed N abandoning the tiny house. Nothing but up, now! 2,000 feet should about do it.
Lupe, who had been too tired to eat yesterday evening, was chock full of energy and ambition. She ran this way and that sniffing around big rocks. No squirrels, today! The American Dingo was already above tree line. SPHP was feeling the effects of the thin air, and two long days struggling to get to base camp above Tayo Lake. At the top of the first steep rise, SPHP paused to catch breath.
The S slopes of Wind River Peak(13,192 ft.) were directly ahead. The way up seemed straightforward enough. Just keep climbing while avoiding any steep snow. Lupe would work her way NW to gain a S ridge that looked snow-free all the way to the top. It would be a long boulder hop, but that was OK. American Dingoes are great scramblers! Nothing was in view that should prevent Lupe from reaching the summit.
Lupe and SPHP continued on, pausing now and then to look around and let SPHP catch breath. The terrain grew rockier. Lupe gained elevation steadily, but reaching the rocks slowed SPHP down considerably. The Carolina Dog had plenty of time to wander, sniff and survey the tremendous views.
Looper couldn’t completely avoid the snow fields, but had no problem traversing them. She enjoyed the snow, and crossed at points that SPHP could manage. She made it above the last big snowfield, and gained the upper S ridge she’d been aiming for. The rest of the trek was just a long, long scramble up the rocks.
The morning had been breezy until now, but it was just plain windy way up here on the S ridge. A gusty 20 to 30 mph wind blew out of the W. Occasionally the air was calm for a moment or two between gusts, but most of the time the wind was powerful enough to be an annoyance. Lupe stayed E of the ridgeline for a little protection whenever possible.
After a long scramble up countless rocks, the S ridge began to level out. Loopster had to be getting close to the top! She encountered a couple of larger rock formations, but had no problem scrambling around them. Ahead the ridge broadened out to perhaps an acre or more of gently sloping jumbled rock. Was that the summit?
A rock formation at the far N end looked noticeably higher than anything else in sight. Lupe headed for it. Even before she got there, it became apparent she was indeed approaching the summit of Wind River Peak(13,192 ft.). SPHP was overjoyed! The Carolina Dog had made it! Lupe leapt up onto the rock formation. She stood proudly in the breeze atop the glorious mountain.
SPHP joined Lupe at the top of the mountain. The sky was a bit hazy, whether due to smoke or humidity was hard to say. Even so, the views were simply superlative! SPHP congratulated Lupe on her peakbagging success, and shook her paw. For 10 minutes, Loop and SPHP sat in the wind up on the highest rocks, while SPHP stroked her soft ears and fur.
It wasn’t noon yet, but seemed like time for at least a snack. Lupe and SPHP got down off the summit rocks, and took shelter from the wind next to them. While Lupe devoured Taste of the Wild, SPHP had a Cliff bar, then searched around for a survey benchmark shown on the topo map. Nothing. SPHP couldn’t find a Nalgene bottle that was supposed to contain a summit register, either.
Puzzling. Wasn’t this the summit? It seemed obvious that it was. There were a couple of competing high points that didn’t look too much lower, though. One was to the E and the other along the W edge of the summit area. Better have Loop check them out, too, just in case.
Yeah, that was a good idea. Lupe had discovered a pika living among the summit rocks and was chasing it. The pika knew its home well, and had an easy time avoiding the Carolina Dog bent on its destruction. Completely fascinated by the elusive pika, Lupe was racing and bounding around oblivious to monstrous cliffs only a few feet away. Better put a swift end to this merry chase before it was Dingo overboard and the pika scored a victory!
Lupe found nothing among the large rocks at the E high point. Since she was close to the E edge of the summit area, she went a little further to check out the views over there.
Having seen the views to the E, Lupe visited several of the highest rocks along the mountain’s W edge. No sign of any benchmark or registry turned up here, either. However, the views to the W were even more glorious, due in no small part to the eye-catching proximity of Temple Peak(12,972 ft.) and East Temple Peak(12,600 ft.).
Beyond Haystack Mountain(11,978 ft.), Lupe could see the famed Cirque of the Towers, a gorgeous area she had been to before in 2015. Closer by, a slice of Black Joe Lake was in view more than 2,900 ft. below the American Dingo’s lofty vantage point.
Unfortunately, there was enough humidity, smoke or whatever it was in the air to ruin any really distant views Loop would have had on a totally clear day. With 360° of incredibly beautiful nearby panoramic splendor to admire, though, it hardly mattered.
While Loop relaxed, SPHP took some close ups.
Loop? Loop, where are you?
The American Dingo had been resting at SPHP’s feet just a minute or two ago, but she wasn’t here now. SPHP quickly scanned Wind River Peak’s summit area. Nada. Where had she gone off to?
Suddenly there she was, leaping and scrambling madly around the rocks over at the true summit. She hadn’t forgotten that pika, and had slunk off to pursue it again. No doubt mountaintop pika hunting was great sport, but it involved an element of real danger for both pika and Dingo.
Once more, SPHP put an end to the merriment.
Lupe stayed up on the summit only a short while longer. An hour had flown by already. Maybe it was time to think of moving on? Many hours of daylight remained, but as slow as SPHP is climbing a mountain, SPHP somehow manages to be even slower going down rocky slopes like those on Wind River Peak.
Partly for the pika’s sake, and partly to get on with it, Lupe and SPHP left Wind River Peak’s true summit for the final time ambling S. Loop got up on a boulder for a last look at Temple Peak.
Lupe and SPHP continued S toward the rock formations near the start of the steeper descent down the S ridge. Of course, the views here were tremendous, too. Lupe delayed the start of her descent until SPHP had taken a few more photos of the magnificent Wind River Range.
An hour and a half after she’d arrived at the summit of Wind River Peak, Lupe began her descent in earnest. The Carolina Dog did lots of exploring, sight-seeing and waiting around as SPHP slowly clambered down the long rocky slopes. Two hours passed before Lupe was below the big snowfields again.
Another two hours passed before she arrived back at her “tiny house”. Although Wind River Peak didn’t look 2,000 feet higher from here, it most certainly was. Lupe and SPHP could both vouch for that now. At least 4 hours of daylight remained, but it had been another strenuous long day already. Lupe joined SPHP inside her tiny house for a needed nap.
It was evening by the time Lupe emerged again feeling refreshed. The rest had done SPHP some good, too. SPHP proposed a stroll over to Lake 11,145. Lupe was enthusiastic about the idea, but she never made it all the way to the lake. Streams and marshes blocked the final approach, and SPHP didn’t want to get wet feet.
Loop circled around to the S end of the big ridge her tiny house was pitched on. For a long time, Lupe and SPHP sat together on a rock overlooking Tayo Lake watching the evening light fade from the mountains.
When the mosquitoes got bad, it was time to return to the tiny house. Lupe remained outside while SPHP arranged things inside for the coming night. When all was ready, SPHP went back out.
N farther up the ridge, more than 100 feet away, Lupe was all alone. She rested on the ground, still scanning the vast darkening wilderness. She saw SPHP, but didn’t come. For 10 minutes Lupe and SPHP watched each other from a distance. Loop didn’t move a muscle. What was she pondering all by herself?
Hard to say. SPHP would never really know, but if a guess had to be made, she may have been thinking about the elusive pika she would never see again that lives at the very top of towering Wind River Peak.
Start: 12:24 PM, 58°F at the intersection of Song Dog Road & USFS Road No. 373
Lupe hopped out of the G6. 20 expeditions and almost 8 months ago, she had come here to climb the Twin Sisters Range High Point(4,980 ft.). She’d made it to the top easily enough, but when she’d gone farther E to explore more of the area, the buzz of an unseen rattlesnake had put a quick end to that notion.
Even though it was an incredibly warm day for December, rattlesnakes weren’t likely to be stirring now. Lupe should be able to do all the exploring she wanted to today. The Carolina Dog started out heading E on USFS Road No. 373.
A mile from the G6, Lupe left the road and started the short, but steep climb up a SW slope to the W end of the Twin Sisters Range. Despite a few brief stops for SPHP to catch breath, Looper was soon at the top.
A dangerous, rusty barbed wire fence was laying on the ground. SPHP made certain Lupe didn’t get into it. A 20 mph wind blew out of the NW. Normally, it would have been frigid here in December with a wind like that. Today, though, it was so warm out the wind was only a nuisance.
Much of this area had burned in a forest fire years ago. As a result, Lupe had sweeping views of barren, forlorn vistas. Dull, dry, dead grass covering the land did little to add any cheer.
The actual high point of the Twin Sisters Range was still another 0.25 mile E. After enjoying the views from the W end of the ridge, Lupe and SPHP set off for the cairn at the summit.
The stroll to the summit was easy. Lupe had great views the whole time from the open ridge. It wasn’t long before Loop was at the summit cairn. Of course, the NW wind was blowing here, too. Not enjoying the wind, Lupe stayed only long enough at the summit for photos by the cairn, and a fairly quick look at the sights.
Loop and SPHP left the Twin Sisters Range High Point continuing E down to a lower part of the ridge. Loop regained some lost elevation climbing up to High Point 4872. High Point 4872 was windy, too, but Lupe paused briefly for a few photos.
At High Point 4872, Lupe was already well beyond where she’d been back in April on Expedition No. 199. The topo map showed another lower hill a mile off to the SE known as Elk Knob(4,752 ft.).
Elk Knob became Lupe’s next objective. She started down High Point 4872’s S slope, and was quite happy when she finally reached a valley where the wind was barely stirring.
The trip up Elk Knob was easy. Lupe first went to a saddle N of the hill, then followed the N slope up. The hill was heavily forested, until she got near the top. Lupe liked being in the forest on Elk Knob a lot better than on the bare, windy Twin Sisters Range ridge. She had a good time racing around sniffing and exploring.
The summit of Elk Knob proved to be a big, flat grassy area rimmed with pines. The pines were dense toward the N, but more sparse elsewhere. For a fairly low hill in this area, Elk Knob had some pretty good views. The wind wasn’t too bad, either, except near the more exposed W end.
Lupe took a break on Elk Knob. The usual water and Taste of the Wild, with an apple for SPHP. Then it was time for more exploring. Loop went NE down off Elk Knob, before turning E and SE. She wandered along several dirt roads. Only one had a sign, which said she was on USFS Road No. 373.1D.
The Carolina Dog ventured down into a fairly deep canyon. She followed a faint remnant of a road at the bottom, but it eventually ended. Loop climbed up the NE side of the canyon, and reached a ridge she took SE. The sun was getting low by the time she reached a big fence. This had to be the fence along the W side of Wind Cave National Park.
The fence was as far E as Lupe could go. It was getting late enough so she needed to start back anyway. On her return trip she avoided the canyon by staying farther N. She eventually passed back over the saddle N of Elk Knob heading NW.
The sun wasn’t quite down yet as Lupe neared the Twin Sisters Range again. Why not return to the summit? Well, there was the wind, for one thing. It wasn’t bad at all down here, but was still blowing up there. However, seeing the sunset from a mountaintop seemed more important. Up Lupe went.
The last bit of the sun was disappearing behind High Point 5017 when Lupe reached the Twin Sisters Range High Point(4,980 ft.) again. The sky was almost completely clear, with only a few small clouds to the W. With so few clouds, the sunset never really got a chance to develop into anything special.
For a little while, Lupe and SPHP sat together in the wind on the barren, forlorn mountaintop, watching the light fade until hopes for a colorful sky died old and gray. Time to go.
Being on the move again felt good. It was fun picking a way down the steep rocky slope, and marching across a field back to the road. Next came a mile of shared silence and solitude beneath a darkening sky. At the G6, a few stars glittered above. Water, a little more Taste of the Wild, and Lupe was homeward bound. (5:03 PM, 46°F)
Day 3 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Wind River Range, Wyoming & Select Peaks in Montana
Lupe hadn’t seen the stars all night. In the wee hours, SPHP woke to the sound of raindrops on her “tiny house”. Not good. The rain cover had been lost years ago. If it rained hard at all, everything would get soaking wet. Lupe wanted out to sniff around in the darkness. SPHP unzipped the door and let her go.
The Carolina Dog returned before too long, content to lay down on her red sleeping bag again. SPHP folded it over her for warmth. Light rain continued intermittently for hours. A gray dawn finally heralded the new day. Everything was damp. Better get going nonetheless.
After a brief bite to eat, it was time to find out what fate had in store.
May as well leave things here while we do a quick reconnaissance, Loop. This might all be over before we even get started.
Over! Last night, you said you had a plan!
Yes, two plans actually. The first one is no doubt doomed from the start. We’ll know for certain in a few minutes. The second plan might well suffer the same fate. Maybe, though, it will leave us with some hope, at least for a while.
Oh! Doesn’t sound too good. Are we going back soon, then?
Yes, Looper, if neither plan works, we won’t have any choice. Our Wind River Peak dreams will be kaput. Come on! Let’s go down to the river, and get this over with.
The Middle Popo Agie River was only a couple minutes away from the tiny house. Surprisingly, the river had actually dropped an inch or two overnight. It wasn’t enough, not nearly enough. Plan A was a failure. Lupe would still have to traipse 80 feet or more through a shallow lake just to get to the river channel where the ford was. No way! The river was way out of its banks, and far too dangerous.
That was Plan A, SPHP? You’re kidding, right? You knew the river would still be flooding!
Of course, but yeah, hoping that the river had gone down enough to ford it was Plan A. We at least had to come and take another look, didn’t we? Thought maybe it would look more possible this morning than when I was tired last night. It doesn’t. Let’s go check out Plan B.
Plan B had better be a doozie compared to Plan A!
Lupe had spent the night camped only 0.25 mile away from the intersection of Trails No. 707 & 706 up in Tayo Park. From there, she would have had two possible routes to Wind River Peak(13,192 ft.). She could have taken No. 706 N to Deep Creek Lakes, or No. 707 W to Tayo Lake.
The original idea was to make a nice loop up via Deep Creek Lakes and down by Tayo Lake. SPHP had seen trip reports where others had done it that way. However, the Wind River Range still had tons of snow in the high country. Snow melt was flooding the Middle Popo Agie River. Loop couldn’t even get to the ford on Trail No. 707, never mind across the river.
Lupe and SPHP returned to her tiny house, then took a shortcut S to Middle Fork Trail No. 700. On the way, Lupe could see Tayo Creek on the opposite side of the valley roaring down a hillside to join forces with the Middle Popo Agie River only a little upstream of the ford. That sight was what had given SPHP hope yesterday evening. Maybe Loopster wasn’t totally thwarted yet in her efforts to get to Wind River Peak?
Lupe reached Middle Fork Trail No. 700 a little S of where she’d left it yesterday evening to take Trail No. 707 to the flooding Middle Popo Agie River. A small wooden sign along No. 700 read simply “Tayo Park”.
Hey, Loop, look at that! We’re already at Tayo Park! Lower Tayo Park, that is. The topo map only shows Tayo Park on the other side of the Middle Popo Agie River 120 feet higher than where we are now. Guess there’s an Upper and a Lower Tayo Park? At least now we can say you did make it to Lower Tayo Park, if not the upper one.
Nothing’s really changed, though? We’re no better off than we were?
Not yet, sweet Dingo! We’ll know soon if there’s any hope of improvement.
Lupe and SPHP followed Middle Fork Trail No. 700 going S toward Sweetwater Gap. The Middle Popo Agie River snaked through flooded Lower Tayo Park just W of the trail.
The S end of Lower Tayo Park was only 0.2 mile away. When Lupe got to it, SPHP led her off Trail No. 700 over to the Middle Popo Agie River.
Hey, you’re in luck Looper! It’s on! Let’s go back and get the tiny house and rest of the gear.
Plan B is going to work?
Well, at least at the start. We’ll just have to see how far we can get. No guarantees at all.
So what is Plan B exactly?
Divide and conquer.
Meaning we’re coming back to cross the Middle Popo Agie right here. Most of the flow at the ford comes from Tayo Creek, which is actually by far the larger of the 2 streams above their confluence in Lower Tayo Park. After crossing the Middle Popo Agie, we’ll still be on the wrong side of Tayo Creek. You will have to keep following it upstream until either there’s a way across, or some impassable obstacle blocks the way forward. The farther we can make it upstream, the more tributaries we’ll get by, the smaller Tayo Creek will be, and the better our chances of reaching the trail again somewhere.
So in the meantime, we’re going to let the waters divide, and conquer them one smaller stream at a time?
Precisely, dear Dingo!
So there won’t be a trail?
Nope, a total bushwhack for miles, probably.
Oh, I love bushwhacks, SPHP! Plan B sounds like a great adventure!
Doesn’t it, though?
What are we waiting for? Let’s run!
Lupe streaked back to Trail No. 700. Of course, SPHP was much slower, so Loop had to keep returning to bark encouragement. It wasn’t too long, though, before SPHP had retrieved the tiny house and all the gear. Once again, Lupe stood on the E bank of the Middle Popo Agie River at the S end of Lower Tayo Park.
The Middle Popo Agie River was still a good-sized, fast flowing stream, but much smaller here than farther downstream where Tayo Creek added its torrential flow. SPHP forded the river first. Loop followed close behind. The waters were still pretty deep for her, but she managed to get across without any help. Plan B was underway!
Loop headed N along the W side of Lower Tayo Park. The whole bottom of the valley was a bog or worse. Lupe climbed a little up onto drier ground along the valley’s edge. She passed over a small forested ridge and came to a field on the other side, much of which also proved to be boggy. Loop crossed the wet field, and again climbed to drier ground in the forest.
The roar of Tayo Creek could be heard ahead. Lupe continued climbing steadily through open forest toward the noise. The terrain wasn’t bad at all. Mosquitoes were, though. Those miserable blood suckers were awful again today. 0.25 mile N of where Lupe had crossed the Middle Popo Agie, she reached a rock where she could see Tayo Creek rushing down a narrow channel below a steep bank. A small island was surrounded by whitewater.
Somewhere not too far away on the other side of Tayo Creek was Trail No. 707 to Upper Tayo Park. As fully expected, Lupe had no way to cross the raging stream yet. Lupe and SPHP turned W staying in the forest and following Tayo Creek upstream.
After gaining only a little over 100 feet of elevation, the terrain began to level out. Lupe had reached the S side of Upper Tayo Park. The surface of Tayo Creek was calm here, though ripples showed the water was still moving fast. A bog full of bushes prevented the Carolina Dog from getting anywhere close to the creek, which looked deep. On the far side, the bog extended hundreds of feet beyond the stream.
The American Dingo continued WSW following Tayo Creek. Beyond Upper Tayo Park, she started gaining elevation again. Tayo Creek reverted to a whitewater torrent. Though most of the ground in the open forest was dry, Lupe and SPHP crossed many snowdrifts. Despite the mosquitoes, Loop was having a fantastic time! Squirrels were everywhere! The Carolina Dog’s incessant yipping and yapping echoed through the valley.
SPHP’s promise, recently made back at Jack Squirrel Peak(8,942 ft.) in the Laramie Range, to bring Loop to higher mountains where there would be squirrels galore was being fulfilled!
Tayo Creek was becoming even more wild as Lupe continued upstream. SPHP feared it would eventually flow right up against cliffs, or other obstacles on the S side of the valley that Lupe couldn’t get past. So far, though, it hadn’t. Instead of finding herself blocked, Lupe discovered a lovely waterfall.
Lupe came to two separate waterfalls on Tayo Creek. They weren’t far apart. The lower falls were the largest. Staying in the forest, the American Dingo had no problem continuing upstream beyond them.
Loop didn’t have to travel very far beyond the waterfalls before the valley began to open up more. The American Dingo could now see some of the high country ahead.
Loop had been making good progress. SPHP realized that the valley opening up meant the Carolina Dog was fast approaching Poison Lake. If she couldn’t get around it, Poison Lake would spell the end of Plan B’s success.
Poison Lake! You never said anything about a Poison Lake, SPHP!
Oh, don’t worry about it Loopster. I can’t imagine it’s actually poisonous.
Ridiculous humans! Then why on earth would it be called Poison Lake?
How should I know? Someone once had a poor experience, I suppose.
Well thanks so much for the heads up, SPHP! Think I’ll just keep eating snow and drinking from these smaller streams, if you don’t mind.
Suit yourself, Loop. I think you could drink gallons from Poison Lake and be none the worse for the wear, though.
Lupe went over the crest of a little saddle, and there it was. Charmingly named Poison Lake, dead ahead! Loop went right on down to the shore, but did not wet her whistle. The view was reassuring. Yeah, Loopster shouldn’t have any problem getting around the S side of the lake. That was welcome news! Poison Lake had been a potentially serious obstacle.
Lupe headed S through the forest close to the E shore of the lake. The steepest terrain was near the SE end of Poison Lake. Lupe had to climb some distance above the shoreline. She came upon a big rock platform with a great view of the lake. Loop could even see Wind River Peak from here!
The sky was finally clearing. The day was brighter, more cheerful, and pleasantly warm. The mosquitoes, which had been bad until now, were less troublesome on the big rock. Plan B was going well, much better than SPHP had feared. Time for a break to celebrate Lupe’s success in reaching this lovely spot!
Lupe and SPHP lingered on the big rock overlooking Poison Lake for close to half an hour, enjoying the views and successful execution of Plan B to this point.
When break time was over, Lupe and SPHP continued the rest of the way around the S side of Poison Lake to the W shore. Lupe then began following Tayo Creek farther upstream. SPHP had hoped Loop would find a way across the stream beyond Poison Lake, but those hopes were quickly dashed.
The whole valley was boggy anywhere near Tayo Creek. The creek was smooth surfaced again as it flowed through nearly level terrain. The stream was so wide, it was hard to tell where Poison Lake ended and Tayo Creek began.
Eventually Tayo Creek narrowed down enough so it was clear Loop was beyond Poison Lake. She finally came to a place where relatively dry ground went almost all the way to the creek’s edge. Loop and SPHP both made it onto a big white rock where it was possible to peer down into the water.
Good heavens! The water was very clear, but remarkably deep. It was easily over SPHP’s head, and perhaps twice that depth.
Since crossing Tayo Creek was still totally out of the question, Lupe pressed on. She had to stay quite a distance from the stream channel due to surrounding bogs. Looper traveled mostly in the forest or along its edge. The Carolina Dog was making progress, but even the hillsides were soaking wet now. Rivulets of snow melt ran down every ravine, and pooled in every low spot.
Often it was advantageous to travel over huge snowdrifts at the forest’s edge. Usually the drifts held even SPHP’s weight. For Lupe, they were Dingo super highways. As SPHP marched onward, Lupe dashed about the forest in a relentless search for the next squirrel to annoy, frequently enjoying success.
Nearly a mile from Poison Lake, Lupe finally reached a major obstacle. A stream much larger than any other tributaries of Tayo Creek she had come to so far cascaded down rocky rapids from the S. This had to be the stream from Mountain Sheep Lake.
Crossing the tributary from Mountain Sheep Lake was an absolute necessity. Success would be a huge step forward in the divide and conquer plan. Failure meant defeat plain and simple – Lupe would have to turn back without ever having reached Wind River Peak.
Loop had reached the tributary at a bad spot. It didn’t look safe to cross here. The search began for a better place. The American Dingo needed to find one fast. The map showed that Mountain Sheep Lake probably wasn’t any more than 0.1 mile away. If Lupe reached the lake without finding a decent ford, it was all over.
The luck of the Dingo was with her! Going upstream, Lupe soon came to a place where the rocks were smaller. The creek spread out widely and evenly without deep spots. She could do this!
Lupe had no problem fording the stream from Mountain Sheep Lake all by herself. This success was a huge boost to her chances of reaching Wind River Peak. Once across, Loop and SPHP turned NW. Tayo Lake wasn’t much more than 1.5 miles away now!
Before long, Lupe could see a signpost sticking up out of a snowbank ahead. She’d reached a trail junction! Both trails were hidden beneath the snow, but one sign pointing W was for Trail No. 705 to Coon Lake. The other sign was for Trail No. 707 to Tayo Lake!
Beyond the snowbank, Lupe found the actual trail to Tayo Lake. She quickly lost it again beneath more snow, and was almost immediately confronted with another big stream. This was the tributary of Tayo Creek coming down from Crow Lake to the W. After searching around in a bog not far from the trail intersection, Lupe found a way across this relatively large stream, too. More progress!
A steady climb NW through the forest began as Loop forged ahead looking for the trail to Tayo Lake. It took a while to find it again. Even once it was found, it was hard to keep it that way. The trail was a fairly minor single track here. It kept disappearing beneath more snow, or disguising itself as a small stream.
About 0.5 mile from the trail intersection, the terrain leveled out. Trail No. 707 hardly existed here, but cairns showed Lupe was still on the right track. She was getting close to the final big creek crossing. Fording Tayo Creek could be delayed no longer.
Trail No. 707 was nowhere in sight when Lupe reached Tayo Creek again. A cairn on the opposite N shore showed that this was the ford, though. The creek was greatly reduced from the torrent it had been miles downstream. Divide and conquer had worked! SPHP waded across.
Even though Tayo Creek was greatly reduced, the water was still over Lupe’s head by the S bank where she reached it. An icy plunge into the swift stream was still intimidating. SPHP encouraged her to come, but Looper sat forlornly on the far bank looking worried.
Poor Loopster was afraid. How many scary, icy river crossings did she have to make in a single day, anyway? SPHP decided to go help her, and turned around momentarily to drop the backpack. Even more afraid of being abandoned than she was of Tayo Creek, Loop plunged in and crossed all by herself. What a trooper!
Lupe’s climb resumed up a forested hill. Once again, the terrain soon leveled out. Up ahead, beyond a boggy plain, Loop saw a snowy saddle. That saddle was where Tayo Creek flows out of Tayo Lake. Lupe was almost there!
After crossing the bog, Lupe started climbing. She stayed NE of the snowy saddle following avalanche tracks through a stunted forest. Views behind her improved rapidly as Loop gained elevation. The view of Mt. Nystrom(12,356 ft.) was particularly impressive.
Finally, 250 feet above the boggy plain, Lupe saw her objective – Tayo Lake! Plan B – Divide & Conquer had worked! Despite what SPHP had thought were poor odds, Lupe had made it. She was really here!
Tayo Lake was absolutely gorgeous! A layer of snow and ice floated on most of its surface. Impressive rock walls guarded the S and W shores. Two miles N, and nearly 2,500 feet higher, Wind River Peak(13,192 ft.) beckoned. Tomorrow Lupe would have a chance to climb it. For the first time, her prospects for success suddenly seemed bright!
To the N & E of Tayo Lake, a long, broad ridge rose steadily toward the NW. Parts of the ridge were covered with stunted forests, but most of it was open ground. To further improve the chances of a successful ascent of Wind River Peak tomorrow, Lupe and SPHP started up the ridge.
From the broad ridge, Lupe could soon see a large waterfall plunging into a canyon to the E.
Lupe climbed more than 400 feet above Tayo Lake to a flat part of the ridge straight N of the lake. Although the afternoon had been mostly sunny, rain showers were now threatening. SPHP didn’t put up Lupe’s “tiny house” right away. Instead, Lupe and SPHP took a tour of the ridge to see the sights. An even higher mini-Tayo Lake, Lake 11,145, was in view to the W.
It was early evening and had been another long day. Lupe and SPHP were weary. Both curled up together beside a big rock where there was a grand view of Tayo Lake 400 feet below. The rock had an overhang offering partial protection from any rain showers. Drowsiness set in. Before long, Lupe and SPHP were completely out it.
The nap was helpful. When it was over, the sky was clearer. Lupe and SPHP set off to the N on top of the ridge looking for a place to pitch Lupe’s “tiny house”. A good spot was hard to find. Although it looked grassy, the ridge was actually rather rocky and dotted with boulders. Finally Lupe came to a place at around 11,250 feet elevation where the ground was lumpy, but not rocky. This would do.
SPHP put up the tiny house. Lupe had a great view of Lake 11,145 to the W from here. She could see Wind River Peak to the N. It was supposed to be more than 2,000 feet higher, but didn’t look that high. No doubt that was an illusion. Tayo Lake wasn’t in sight, but a 500 or 600 foot stroll to the S was all it took for a grand view.
What a day it had been! Lupe had tons of fun racing around the woods barking at squirrels. She had forded 4 major streams, countless small creeks, crossed numerous soggy bogs and huge snow drifts, climbed on rocks, and traveled many a mile. Divide and Conquer had worked! The Carolina Dog was now in position for an ascent of Wind River Peak tomorrow.
She’d had hardly anything to eat all day, though. Part of a Cliff bar and a single bowl of Taste of the Wild. Didn’t matter. Lupe was too tired to eat. The sun wasn’t down quite yet, but Loop was ready to go inside her “tiny house” and curl up on her sleeping bag.
Outside, clouds were gathering. A few raindrops struck the tiny house. SPHP pulled some of her sleeping bag over the exhausted Carolina Dog.
So far, so good, Loopster. You did great again today, sweet Dingo! Just hope we don’t get drenched tonight.
Lupe didn’t hear it. She was already in Dingo dreamland still barking happily at all those lovely squirrels.
A mile N of Hazelrodt picnic ground, SPHP parked the G6 off USFS Road No. 341 at a pullout by French Creek (10:28 AM, 50°F). Lupe leapt out. She ran down to the creek for a look. Even though the last 3 weeks of November had been very warm and dry, the edge of the stream was rimmed with ice.
Mt. Coolidge(6,023 ft.) was Lupe’s peakbagging goal for Expedition No. 218. She’d been there once before, but it had been a very long time ago. Lupe had only been 15 months old when she’d climbed Mt. Coolidge for the first time way back on Expedition No. 13.
Today Lupe was trying a new route. She would explore the mountain’s SW ridge. The Carolina Dog started out traveling ENE on the S side of French Creek. At first, she was in a forest of large pines that had been thinned out. This was easy ground, but didn’t last long. Soon Loop was leaving French Creek and the large pines behind.
The climb up the SW ridge began in earnest on a steep slope crowded with young pines. After gaining close to 150 feet of elevation, Lupe reached a small rocky ridge. Off to the SW, she could see the NE face of Northeast Cicero Peak(6,240 ft.).
Beyond this first small ridge, Lupe passed through a forest of larger pines again. She emerged from the forest at the edge of a big meadow. Ahead was a sparsely forested hill.
Looper headed for the hill. When she reached the top, she got her first look at Mount Coolidge ahead. Behind her, the view of Northeast Cicero Peak was better than before.
Lupe turned E following a ridgeline. Much of the area had burned at some point, which opened up views in various directions.
The irregular ridge wound E and N. Lupe came to a succession of high points, each one higher than the last. The high points were separated by shallow saddles where Looper lost a bit of elevation, but she always regained it quickly.
It was too bad this was such an overcast day. A little blue sky and sunlight would have made some of the views far more striking.
Lupe had a good time sniffing and exploring. She was making progress, too. Each time Mt. Coolidge came into view, she was closer than before.
After more than a mile on the winding, partially burnt ridge, Lupe finally reached the end of the burn area. The last couple of high points she came to were far more heavily forested. On one slope, spindly dog hair pines grew so thickly, it was slow going trying to force a way through.
After passing through the dog hair pine forest, Lupe arrived at the bottom of the deepest saddle of her whole trek to Mt. Coolidge. She came across a dirt road here, but followed it only a little way. She left the road to start the longest, steepest part of the climb up Mount Coolidge. The forest had been thinned here, and the slope was full of leftover slash.
Near the top of the long slope, the slash gave way to jumbled rocks. The rocks were easier to deal.
The rocky part led to a larger rock outcropping at the SW end of a nearly level ridge. Loop was now so close to Mt. Coolidge that she could see the road that leads to the lookout tower on top.
Loop headed for the access road. Once she reached it, she stayed on it the rest of the way. It circled around to the N clear over to the opposite side of Mt. Coolidge. Lupe ended up approaching the summit from the NE, even though she had spent nearly all her time coming up the SW ridge.
The access road is closed this time of year. There wasn’t a soul around when Lupe and SPHP reached the top of Mount Coolidge(6,023 ft.). The first thing Loop did was check out the lookout tower.
Lupe went up to the observation deck. A sign said no Dingoes allowed. Hmmph! Loop didn’t stay long before retreating, since that’s the way they wanted to be about it.
Lupe and SPHP went over to the NW side of the summit area. Some of the highest territory in the Black Hills was in sight. After a few photos, it was time for a break.
Lupe drank some water, then curled up on the ground next to her silver bowl. She ate a little Taste of the Wild, but not too much. There hadn’t been much of a breeze at all on the way up, but now a chilly wind blew out of the SW, moaning in the trees and antenna wires. In solitude, Lupe and SPHP gazed out across the hills.
Lupe was last here 205 Expeditions ago. More than 5.5 years had gone by. The first time she’d come, Loop was still basically a puppy. SPHP sat petting Lupe, stroking her soft fur. Her birthday was coming soon. Not long afterwards, 2017 would draw to a close. Time marches on. Best not to think about it too much.
C’mon, Looper! Guess we’ve seen what there is to see up here today. Too bad the sun didn’t come out. Mt. Coolidge is a sweet viewpoint, but the light just isn’t what it might have been. All our photos are kind of faded and washed out. I feel kind of the same way for some reason.
Loop was ready. One more photo before going, then the Carolina Dog took off down the mountain. She went SW, skipping most of the winding route the access road takes, and headed directly for the SW ridge.
It felt good to be on the move again. Going back down Mt. Coolidge’s long SW ridge with all its ups and downs, twists and turns, was fun. Lupe had a blast sniffing and investigating whatever caught her attention.
The G6 was only 2 miles away. SPHP was surprised at how late it was when Lupe got back (3:37 PM). Less than 1.5 hours of daylight remained. Still time enough to do a little something, but not what SPHP had originally intended.
Half an hour’s ride in the G6 brought Lupe to a trailhead (4:11 PM, 52°F). The sky had finally started clearing off, but sunset was imminent. As light faded, Lupe enjoyed a mile long trek. At first she followed a creek, but most of the way was over a rolling prairie with views. Clouds brightened, then darkened again as the sun abandoned the Black Hills.
Loop reached a minor high point, only a small hill, but a peakbagging goal nonetheless. By now it was so dark, the flash had to be used. No dawdling! This was it for Expedition No. 218. Lupe turned and started back. SPHP hurried, trying to keep up, as the Carolina Dog headed for home (5:23 PM).
Note: Most visitors to Mt. Coolidge drive to the summit on a wide, gravel access road which originates along Hwy 87 in Custer State Park. The access road is closed during the off-season.