The sign said “Lunney”. This was it! Beyond a gravel parking area, SPHP opened a wire gate, then drove the G6 down a steep little slope, parking it next to an old building (8:49 AM, 48°F). SPHP closed the gate again. Lupe could come out now. She bounded out of the G6 expecting great things!
Lupe was in the Black Hills of Wyoming, about 5 miles S of the junction of Highways 85 & 585 at Four Corners. She had just seen Red Butte on the E side of Hwy 85 less than a half mile to the N. SPHP had been watching for the Lunney place, mentioned in a May, 2009 trip report by Edward Earl on Peakbagger.com.
The Lunney place was important as an access point to rancher Lauris Tysdal’s land and Mount Pisgah (6,380 ft.). Mount Pisgah was one of two peakbagging goals Lupe had in this vicinity. She already had Mr. Tysdal’s permission to cross his land to climb Mount Pisgah. Later in the day, Lupe and SPHP would be looking for the owner of the ranch where Sweetwater Mountain (6,440 ft.) was, hoping to get permission to climb it, too.
First things first, though. Before climbing Mount Pisgah, Lupe was going to go see Red Butte, a fin of red clay topped with a layer of limestone. Lupe and SPHP went N through a field just E of US Hwy 85. Red Butte was soon in view.
After a good look at Red Butte, Lupe and SPHP returned to the G6 where a dirt road on the Tysdal Ranch headed SE. This road would take Lupe all the way up to the top of Mount Pisgah.
The road took Lupe SE past an old, low building, then turned NE before reaching the trees. Lupe soon came to a fence across the road. The fence wasn’t mentioned in Edward Earl’s report. The Carolina Dog slipped under the fence. She stayed on the road, as it entered the forest and wound its way up a small canyon.
Coming out into more open ground again, Lupe could see the same rock formations Red Butte was made of evident along the NW side of the canyon.
Now and then, side roads left the road Lupe was following. She didn’t take any of the side roads, per Edward Earl’s advice. The main dirt road slowly turned ENE as it went up the canyon. For a while, the road looked like it was heading for a minor pass to the E. Instead, it made a sweeping curve to the S before reaching the pass.
The road grew steeper, and wound around quite a bit, but was generally heading S. Suddenly, Lupe dashed ahead. She was looking up into the forest to the SE. SPHP saw it, too. Not too far away, a large coyote was watching Lupe! As soon as it made eye contact with SPHP, it fled E into the forest. Lupe was disappointed that the wild dog didn’t want to be friends, but it was probably for the best.
Lupe reached an orange well pump mentioned by Edward Earl. By now, Lupe could see a tall tower up on the NW end of the huge Mount Pisgah summit plateau. Edward Earl’s trip report had mentioned that a tower shown on the topo map at the N end of Mount Pisgah was not there, but Lupe most definitely saw one. It was in plain sight.
By now, Lupe was fairly high up on the NW slope of Mount Pisgah. There were tree-broken views off to the N and W, but Lupe hadn’t come to any clear views.
From the orange hydrant, the road leveled out. It turned sharply E, passing below the steep N face of the mountain. Within a few minutes, Lupe came to a fetid brown pond in a depression S of the road. The pond was shrunken by drought. Hoof prints showed thirsty cattle had churned up the mud around the pond. Apparently, cattle aren’t overly concerned about water quality.
Beyond the nasty pond, the road swung toward the NNE before rounding the end of a narrow ridge extending in that direction from the summit plateau. The road then turned S along the less steep E face of Mount Pisgah. The forest was left behind. Lupe was out in grasslands. Here, she had a clear view to the E of the Black Hills in South Dakota across a valley several miles wide.
Another tower was visible ahead on top of the mountain, as Lupe followed the road S along the upper E slope. The road re-entered the forest, made a couple of switchbacks, and emerged on open ground up on the E side of the huge summit plateau.
Most of the plateau was grassland, but the N end was pine forest. Pines also ringed the edges of the plateau, cutting off the views, which was a little disappointing. Not just one, but three large towers were visible to the S, a little W of a stand of pines where the true summit of Mount Pisgah was hidden from view.
The road led toward the three large towers. Lupe went that way, but her top priority was to find the true summit of Mount Pisgah. Edward Earl had reported that the highest ground was somewhere under a cluster of young evergreens, along with no fewer than 8 concrete slabs with anchor bolts. The concrete footings were likely part of a structure that was started, but never completed.
W of the towers, Lupe slipped under a barbed wire fence running E/W that Edward Earl hadn’t mentioned. Not too far S of the fence, she found the concrete slabs with anchor bolts. The ground in this area was all quite level. There was no clear, exact, high point, but Lupe had reached the true summit of Mount Pisgah.
The cluster of young evergreens, wasn’t as young as it had been when Edward Earl was here nearly 7.5 years ago.
The true summit of Mount Pisgah wasn’t too exciting, really. Although the highest ground was quite close to the E edge of the summit plateau, there were too many trees around to see much of anything. With Lupe’s peakbagging goal accomplished, she left the summit to take a closer look at the towers.
To the SSE of the three towers was a battered old blue and yellow school bus. Due to broken glass on the ground, SPHP wouldn’t let Lupe get too close to it. SPHP gathered up a number of Lupe treasures someone had carelessly discarded near the bus.
Edward Earl had only mentioned one tower W of the summit, but now there were three. The two farthest to the N had new-looking concrete slabs for support, and new outbuildings near them. The N towers must have been installed after Mr. Earl had been to Mount Pisgah.
It doesn’t take a Carolina Dog long to look at a few towers! Lupe was soon ready to move on. Of course, she still had one tower left to check out, the one at the NW end of the summit plateau that she had seen from down by the orange hydrant.
Lupe and SPHP went N along the E edge of the summit plateau, hoping to catch an open view, but found none. Lupe then went NW to the road again on her way to the NW tower. A side road off the main dirt road went N into the forest. Near the N edge of the plateau, it turned W and took Lupe to the lone tower Edward Earl had somehow missed.
The NW tower had broken wires hanging off of it. Paint had peeled off much of the old shack next to it. However, a heater or air-conditioner on the NE side of the shack was running. How had Edward Earl missed this tower? It must have been here, as old as it appeared to be. Strange.
SPHP went over to the N edge of the summit plateau, hoping for a view. Lupe didn’t come. She was standing frozen near the shack. She looked like she does whenever she steps on a cactus. SPHP went back to her. Lupe held up a little front paw, pleading to be carried.
SPHP carried Lupe over to the edge of the plateau. Lupe rolled over on the ground, so SPHP could check her paws for cactus spines. Nothing. SPHP hadn’t seen any cactus anywhere on Mount Pisgah, either. Maybe Lupe had stepped on something else sharp? Ever since her bad experience with cactus in the Wildcat Hills of Nebraska, Lupe tends to assume cactus is everywhere any time her paws hurt.
Apparently, Lupe would have liked SPHP to carry her all the way back to the G6. She stopped several times on the way down the mountain. There really wasn’t anything wrong with her that SPHP could see. She always came running when SPHP got too far ahead.
Instead of taking the road back, Lupe and SPHP went down Mount Pisgah’s NW slope. A power line went down this way, too. Most of the time Lupe stayed within sight of it.
Surprisingly, although Lupe hadn’t found any clear views from the edge of the summit plateau on top of the mountain, coming down the NW slope, she did! Red Butte and Sweetwater Mountain (6,440 ft.), Lupe’s next peakbagging objective, were both in view from several spots on the way down.
The NW slope was steep until Lupe reached a road after losing 200 to 300 feet of elevation. Lupe took the road SW a short distance to the edge of a small meadow where it looked like there might be a view.
The meadow turned out to be part of a much more extensive grassland. Lupe did have a great view to the SW.
Lupe went through the grassland, and continued on down the NW slope of Mount Pisgah. Down here, it wasn’t so steep. Most of the time Lupe was in forest, but a forest full of small openings and glens. Lupe’s route down was an easy one.
The American Dingo eventually reached the road she had followed to the top of Mount Pisgah down in the canyon. She followed it back to the Lunney place, which was only 10 or 15 minutes away (12:25 PM, 55°F).
The G6 was already up on the gravel parking area on the Lunney place with Lupe in it, and SPHP was just closing the gate to Lauris Tysdal’s land, when a jeep drove up. Mr. Lunney was in it, somewhat surprised, no doubt, to find Lupe and SPHP on the property.
SPHP explained how Lupe had come to be here. Mr. Lunney seemed satisfied with the explanation. He began to tell SPHP a little bit about the history of the Lunney place. His grandparents had bought the property, which includes over 8 acres of land with the house and outbuildings, back in the 1940’s. In recent years, it had belonged to his mother, but she passed away earlier this year.
Mr. Lunney has another home, so this Lunney property is eventually going to be sold, although exactly when wasn’t clear. There was no big rush to sell it. Having been in the family so many decades, Mr. Lunney has a lot of fond memories of this place.
Lupe still had another peakbagging objective today. After SPHP’s pleasant chat with Mr. Lunney, it was time to go look for the owner of the ranch that Sweetwater Mountain is on. The ranch wasn’t far away, but the owner didn’t seem to be home. Without permission from the owner, Lupe couldn’t climb Sweetwater Mountain.
SPHP was writing a note to leave on the door of the rancher’s home, when the owner drove up on an ATV. SPHP had a conversation with him. The upshot of it all was that Lupe was refused permission to climb Sweetwater Mountain. However, when hunting season is over at the end of November, she is welcome to come back to climb it in December.
Well, that was that. No Sweetwater Mountain today. Lupe still had a few hours of daylight to do something with. In the end, it was decided she might just as well climb Laird Peak (6,906 ft.) N of O’Neil Pass in South Dakota. Laird Peak wasn’t a hard climb at all, and was on the way home.
Lupe and SPHP left the G6 parked S of a corral about 0.33 mile N of Hwy 85 along USFS Road No. 106 (2:35 PM, 48°F). Lupe took a dirt road E up a shallow valley past Tom Spring. The road reached an intersection at the upper end of the valley. From there, Lupe bushwhacked E along the N side of a fence to a small forested rise. She found the Laird Peak survey benchmark on top of the rise.
Climbing Laird Peak had been quick and easy. Lupe had no more peakbagging to do. It was only around 3:00 PM, but the November sun was already quite low. It would be dark in another 2 hours.
Since it would only take half an hour to get back to the G6, Lupe had some free time to roam and sniff. She had no real purpose other than to enjoy life as a free-roaming Dingo in the woods. Lupe and SPHP wandered through the forest. The Carolina Dog made a big loop to the N, before returning to Laird Peak’s summit. She then made a big loop to the S, getting fairly close to US Hwy 85.
Sharply slanting pine-filtered rays of sunlight announced the imminent arrival of sunset. Time to start back to the G6. Lupe’s Black Hills Expedition No. 182 was drawing to a close. Happily, she’d made it to Mount Pisgah in Wyoming, one of her two main peakbagging objectives, and Laird Peak in South Dakota, but Sweetwater Mountain had eluded her.
Hopefully, sweet Lupe will see the world from the top of Sweetwater Mountain sometime in December, but life’s uncertain, and that’s another adventure for another day.