A Quick Trip to Casper, Wyoming (May 1-4, 2015)

Late in the afternoon on Thursday, 4-30-15, SPHP’s spouse called and asked if Lupe and SPHP would come to Casper, WY for the weekend.  SPHP said sure!  Shortly before noon the next day, Lupe and SPHP were in the G6 and pulling out of the driveway.  Lupe knew something big was up, because SPHP had piled up luggage, pillows and blankets on Lupe’s passenger side watch-dingo seat so she was nearly level with the dashboard, something that only happens before Dingo Vacations.

Lupe’s route took her through Custer, SD over to Newcastle, WY, then on to Wright, Edgerton and Midwest before reaching Casper shortly after 4 PM.  It was a nice drive through wide open high plains country.  Lupe had a great time barking frantically at cows, horses, sheep, an occasional pronghorn antelope, and suspicious looking bushes and buildings.  When there was nothing to bark at, she stuck her nose out the partially open window to sniff the breeze.

Lupe at the apartment complex in Casper, WY.
Lupe at the apartment complex in Casper, WY.

SPHP’s spouse wasn’t at the apartment yet when Lupe arrived.  That didn’t stop the dingo fun, though.  Lupe soon discovered a small field out behind a row of garages where there were rabbits to chase.  This was great sport, although the rabbits very soon made themselves scarce.  All weekend long, every time SPHP left the apartment or G6, Lupe made a habit of running over to the little field to check on the bunny situation.  She was seldom disappointed.

Lupe and buddy Cloud in the Casper apartment.
Lupe and buddy Cloud in the Casper apartment.

Lupe and SPHP went to gas up the G6, and by the time they got back to the apartment, SPHP’s spouse had arrived.  Lupe got to see the apartment for the first time.  She was very surprised to see two cats, Cloud and Shoko, but not as surprised as they were to see Lupe!  Cloud was an old buddy of Lupe’s she hadn’t seen for almost two years.  Cloud soon seemed to remember that Lupe was a friend of cats and no threat.  Shoko, however, kept a wary eye on Lupe for the first day or so.

Lupe at home with Cloud back in July 2013.
Lupe at home with Cloud back in July 2013.

On Saturday morning, May 2nd, Lupe got to do a little sight-seeing in the Casper area.  She went to see Bridal Veil Falls on Garden Creek at the base of Casper Mountain.  The falls were easily accessed via a short path.  Lupe enjoyed sniffing around and wading in the creek.  It wasn’t a very long outing, though.

Lupe at Bridal Veil Falls on Garden Creek at the base of Casper Mountain.
Lupe at Bridal Veil Falls on Garden Creek at the base of Casper Mountain.

In the afternoon, Lupe and SPHP went on a four hour peakbagging quest in search of the summit of Casper Mountain (8,200 ft.).  SPHP was not familiar with the area.  Despite having a topo map printed out from Peakbagger.com, SPHP had some trouble finding the summit.  Roads on the map only somewhat agreed with what was actually there.

The view of Casper looking N from the lookout pullout along Casper Mountain Road.
The view of Casper looking N from the lookout pullout along Casper Mountain Road.

The biggest problem was that SPHP had been expecting Lupe would be free to roam on National Forest land, but the whole area seemed to be private property with a wide variety of homes, cabins and RV’s scattered through the forest.  Private property, no trespassing, keep out and similar signs abounded.  Lupe and SPHP stuck to the roads as much as possible, but in some places even the roads seemed to be off limits.

Another problem was that the Peakbagger.com topo map showed that the summit of Casper Mountain was just NE of a radio tower.  Easy enough, but what it didn’t show was that there are multiple towers on Casper Mountain.  At first SPHP thought Lupe had reached the summit of Casper Mountain after finding the first big tower.  However, the road continued S and it didn’t look like it was losing much elevation.  SPHP decided to check it out.

The first (N) tower on Casper Mountain.
The first (N) tower on Casper Mountain.

Lupe was soon gaining elevation again and came upon another big tower.  The road turned SE there and clearly went uphill even from the second tower.  So Lupe and SPHP continued SE on the road to another high point in the forest.  It seemed like this might be the high point of Casper Mountain, but there wasn’t any tower close at hand to the SW, so SPHP was suspicious.

The 2nd (middle) tower on Casper Mountain.
The 2nd (middle) tower on Casper Mountain.

The road continued on to the S, but was starting to lose elevation.  Lupe and SPHP followed it anyway.  It soon turned E where it looked like Lupe was nearing the S end of Casper Mountain.  A big ridge could now be seen several miles off to the SE.  Lupe and SPHP left the road to trek off to the SW to see what was in that direction. Lupe soon came to a little clearing full of sagebrush where there was a narrow break in the surrounding forest that gave a view of some beautiful territory and distant mountains off to the S.

Lupe at the sagebrush clearing near the S end of Casper Mountain.
Lupe at the sagebrush clearing near the S end of Casper Mountain.  The views to the S didn’t turn out in this photo.

After checking out the view, SPHP turned around and suddenly saw a third tower off to the NW.  It wasn’t nearly so large as the other two towers, but it was still sizeable and not very far away.  Lupe and SPHP headed for it, and were soon there. The whole area around the tower was fairly level, but the highest ground did seem to be just a little way off to the NE.  The tower was near the SW end of Casper Mountain, which was right according to the map.

The 3rd tower. This one was just SW of the summit of Casper Mountain.
The 3rd tower. This one was just SW of the summit of Casper Mountain.

This did indeed seem to be the true summit of Casper Mountain.  Lupe had made it!  It was kind of an anti-climax though; there were no views from the summit of Casper Mountain.  The summit area was nearly level ground in the middle of the forest, with a not-so-impressive tower close by off to the SW.

Lupe at the summit of Casper Mountain.
Lupe at the summit of Casper Mountain.

After getting back to the G6, Lupe and SPHP went over to another high hill just NE of Bear Trap Meadow County Park.  From there it was easy to see that Lupe had been to the right spot.  The towers Lupe had visited were all in view.  The third and smaller tower, was seen poking above the trees at the highest part of Casper Mountain.  SPHP also saw that there were even more towers on Casper Mountain than the ones Lupe had found.  Overall, SPHP was just happy that Lupe could claim a successful ascent of Casper Mountain on Peakbagger.com.

On Sunday, May 3rd, Lupe got to go down to Morad Park in Casper.  Morad Park is an off-leash dog park right next to the North Platte River.  It is a pretty popular spot.  There were plenty of dogs and people around, but the park was easily big enough to give everyone space.  The park is on level ground, but has a mixture of vegetation.  In most places there are bushes and trees next to the river.  Away from the river is more open land including some swampy stuff, little streams, and scattered trees and bushes.  A nearly 8 mile long bike path that follows the river goes through the park.  Lupe had such a good time sniffing around Morad Park in the morning, that she got to come back again for a 2nd visit later in the afternoon.

Lupe also paid a visit to Casper College on Sunday.  She couldn’t go in to see the Casper College Tate Geological Museum, but she did visit the T. Rex outside.

Bad news, Rex! Dingoes rule the earth now!
Bad news, Rex! Dingoes rule the earth now!
Casper College 5-3-15
The T. Rex at Casper College

The weekend in Casper flew by and soon it was Monday morning, May 4th.  Lupe was up at 5:00 AM.   She made one of her last rabbit run checks shortly before moonset of the full flower moon.  SPHP’s spouse had to go to work.  SPHP packed up the G6 again.  An hour before leaving town at 7 AM, fog and drizzle rolled in.  This was much to SPHP’s disappointment, since the plan had been for Lupe to climb Laramie Peak (10,272 ft.) as a side trip on the way home.

However, just 10 or 15 minutes E of Casper on I25, Lupe and SPHP drove out of the fog.  There were still quite a few clouds around, but there were patches of blue sky too.  SPHP decided it was worth taking a chance on Laramie Peak.  At Douglas, Lupe left I25 and SPHP drove S towards Esterbrook.  Ultimately, it was a long drive to Laramie Peak over gravel roads that weren’t great, but there weren’t any really bad spots either.  The scenery in the Laramie Range was beautiful and had a rather wild and remote look to it.

Laramie Peak in the clouds as seen from the N.
Laramie Peak in the clouds as seen from the N.

The G6 made it as far as a junction with USFS Road No. 671 about 4 miles from Friend Park Campground.  Within a 0.25 mile of starting up No. 671, the way ahead was blocked by a huge snow drift.  SPHP had to back the G6 back down to the intersection.

SPHP paused to consider the situation.  It was 42°F out with a chill S wind blowing a big fog bank up and over Laramie Peak from that direction.  The top of Laramie Peak was nearly always in the fog.  When it wasn’t, snow was visible on the upper slopes.  With snow blocking No. 671, it was a 4 mile trek to Friend Campground where the hiking trail up Laramie Peak started.  The climb would involve about 2,500 feet of elevation gain from where the G6 would have to be abandoned.  There was a 50% chance of rain in the forecast, which would likely be snow near the summit.

SPHP had to tell Lupe she wasn’t going to get to climb Laramie Peak.  SPHP just wasn’t prepared for these conditions, which probably wouldn’t have been any fun for Lupe anyway.  A glorious view of fog wouldn’t have been too exciting for SPHP either.

Just because Laramie Peak wasn’t in the cards, it didn’t mean Lupe couldn’t still find a fun place to explore.  Down at this elevation, at about 7,800 feet, conditions were perfectly fine.  SPHP started the G6 and headed back N.

Lupe SE of Buzzard Peak and ready for a romp.
Lupe ready for a romp SE of Buzzard Peak seen in the distance.  Oh, yes, and the better to lick you with my dear!

Before long there was an interesting rocky mountain off to the NW, which was very likely Buzzard Peak.  Lupe didn’t get to climb Buzzard Peak either, but she did enjoy a 45 minute romp up to a rocky ridge to the SE of it where there was a splendid view of some higher peaks of the Laramie Range to the SW.  Lupe and SPHP both enjoyed the break.  Although the whole side trip to Laramie Peak took four hours, it was a good scouting trip.  Lupe hopes to come back and climb Laramie Peak another day.

Lupe SE of Buzzard Peak in the Laramie Range. Photo looks W.
Lupe SE of Buzzard Peak in the Laramie Range. Photo looks W.
Looking S from SE of Buzzard Peak.
Looking S from SE of Buzzard Peak.
The clouds lift momentarily as Lupe leaves Laramie Peak behind.
The clouds lift momentarily as Lupe leaves Laramie Peak behind.

SPHP and Lupe continued to explore new or seldom visited areas on the rest of the way home.  E of Lusk, WY was the little town of Van Tassell just before crossing the border into Nebraska.  There were interesting rock formations at Van Tassell.  According to Wikipedia, Van Tassell is the least populous town (15 according to the 2010 census) in the least populous county in the least populous state.

At Harrison, NE, Lupe and SPHP turned N onto a road that soon turned to gravel and wound around for many miles through scenic ranching territory.  Lupe had a time again barking at cows (including a few longhorns) and horses all the way to Ardmore, SD.  Lupe’s last stop before home was at Cascade Falls S of Hot Springs, SD.  At Cascade, Lupe got in the warm water stream, had a long drink and waded around for a while.

Lupe in the warmish mineral waters just upstream of Cascade Falls.
Lupe in the warmish mineral waters just upstream of Cascade Falls.
Cascade Falls S of Hot Springs, SD. The swimming hole beneath the little falls is surprisingly deep.
Cascade Falls S of Hot Springs, SD. The swimming hole beneath the little falls is surprisingly deep.

Cascade Falls overview 5-4-15Lupe didn’t arrive home until about 5:30 PM.  She and SPHP had spent 10.5 hours to get from Casper to home, a trip that had only taken 4 hours on Friday.  So what? Lupe and SPHP had a great time wandering and seeing some new territory.  In the evening SPHP went to Safeway and bought some fried chicken.  Lupe volunteered to help devour it.  With a tummy full of chicken, suddenly Lupe was pretty tired.  It had been a long day of barking at cows, horses and pronghorn antelope, plus all the running around near Buzzard Peak and other little stops along the way.

Lupe’s four day weekend trip to Casper, WY was over.  She was soon snoozing soundly while SPHP read a book about the Canadian Rockies.  It wasn’t long before SPHP was out like a light too.

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