Morning! (5:57 AM, 30°F) SPHP opened the door of the G6 to let Lupe out, and grabbed the boots left outside on the ground the previous evening in the hopes that they would dry out a little. SPHP’s boots had been soaking wet after spending much of the previous day hiking through snow drifts with Lupe on her fabulous day trip to Warbonnet Peak (9,414 ft.) and back.
Well, that didn’t work. The boots weren’t dry. They weren’t soaking wet, either. Instead, they were frozen stiff. It was chilly out. Outside, there was frost on the picnic table. SPHP turned on the engine to warm things up, with the blower blasting the boots with hot air to thaw them out. Lupe hopped back into the G6 to bask in the warmth.
SPHP studied the maps. SPHP hoped Lupe would be able to climb two more mountains today. The original plan had been to go for Buffalo Peak (9,387 ft.) and then Squaw Mountain (9,313 ft.), which were 4 or 5 miles N of the Campbell Creek campground where Lupe and SPHP had spent the night. The Peakbagger.com topo map showed a 4WD USFS Road No. 664 leaving Cold Spring Road (County Road No. 24), and leading after a few miles to a trail going between the two mountains.
However, SPHP had acquired a new map yesterday. The forest service personnel who had been reinstalling the campground sign (washed away by floods a few weeks ago), gave SPHP a “Motor Vehicle Use Map” for the Medicine Bow National Forest. It didn’t show the road and trail leading between Buffalo Peak and Squaw Mountain at all. It did show something interesting, though. There was a trailhead along Cold Spring Road, and a Twin Peaks trail No. 618 leading right to Twin Peaks (9,280 ft.).
The Peakbagger.com topo map also showed Trail No. 618, but did not agree with the Motor Vehicle Use Map. The Peakbagger.com map showed Trail No. 618 passing 0.5 mile N of the Twin Peaks summit.
By the time SPHP’s boots had thawed out enough to become sopping wet again, and pliable enough to put on, Lupe had new plan for the day. She was going to find the Twin Peaks trailhead, and take Trail No. 618 to Twin Peaks. If there was enough time left in the day after that, she would try for Squaw Mountain.
After breakfast, Lupe and SPHP left Campbell Creek campground. SPHP drove N on Cold Spring Road. Three miles N of the campground, SPHP saw a big empty parking lot next to the forest a little uphill and W of the road. There was no sign along the road, but SPHP turned in and parked anyway (8:25 AM).
A small wooden sign, in deteriorating condition, still said clearly “Twin Peaks Trail No. 618”. The sign was next to an old jeep or ATV trail heading W from the parking lot. There was absolutely no other information around. This is it, Loop! Let’s get going!
The old jeep trail went gradually up and over a low part of a ridge coming down from the SW. On the other side, a little over 0.5 mile from the trailhead, Lupe reached Roaring Fork Creek. Snow was still melting up in the mountains, so Roaring Fork Creek was living up to its name. The creek wasn’t terribly large, but big enough so that SPHP started wondering how much of a problem creek crossings were going to be on Trail No. 618.
SPHP needn’t have worried. Trail No. 618 never did cross Roaring Fork Creek even once, although it did cross a few much smaller tributaries, most of which were clearly seasonal in nature. None of the tributaries presented any problem.
Lupe trotted along Trail No. 618, sniffing here and there, and making occasional short forays into the forest to investigate points of interest to American Dingoes. The trail went W following the S side of the creek upstream, most of the time well above it. About where the trail had reached Roaring Fork Creek, the valley had narrowed and the forest had become denser. Lupe and SPHP enjoyed a shady trek, with the pleasant sound of water tumbling over rocks below.
Gradually, the trail became steeper. About 0.75 mile after reaching Roaring Fork Creek, Lupe came to an intersection. It was unmarked, of course. Here, the old jeep trail veered to the SW (L) and started climbing steeply. To the R, a single track trail led down a hill toward the creek.
Decision time. Which way Lupe? The Carolina Dog made no response. Instead, she looked expectantly up at SPHP. We better check the maps. Hang on a few minutes. SPHP already knew what they would show. The old jeep trail to the L looked like it was heading in the direction shown on the Motor Vehicle Use Map directly to Twin Peaks. The single track trail continuing up Roaring Fork Creek was the route shown on the Peakbagger.com topo map. Depending on which map one looked at, both were supposedly Trail No. 618.
Yep, that was what the maps showed alright. The Motor Vehicle Use Map showed almost no details. It was impossible to know if the jeep trail actually went up to the top of Twin Peaks or not. SPHP suspected it wouldn’t, although it must end somewhere not too far from the summit.
The Peakbagger.com map showed the Roaring Fork Creek route would ultimately leave Lupe facing at least 0.5 mile of off-trail bushwhacking going up the N slope of Twin Peaks. On the other hand, if Twin Peaks proved impossible to climb, Lupe’s alternative peak, Squaw Mountain, would be much closer.
SPHP pondered for 10 minutes. Lupe took the single track trail near Roaring Fork Creek.
After going a little way on the single track trail, Lupe reached a barbed wire fence across it. A yellow sign said “Please Close The Gate”. The sign must not have been very effective. Sterner measures had been put in place. There was no gate. Only a fence. It ended at a rock formation a foot to the L of the trail. Lupe and SPHP climbed over the rocks to get by.
A little farther on, a more serious situation developed. The trail came to a marshy area with lots of little streams running through it. Crossing the area wasn’t a problem, but following the trail was. SPHP lost it completely.
Lupe soon found the trail again a little farther upstream, but from here on, the trail seemed to be seldom used. Most of the time it wasn’t hard to follow, but every so often, it faded away. SPHP lost the trail completely several times, but Lupe always came across it again.
Trail No. 618 eventually began to climb well above the level of Roaring Fork Creek. The trail and creek started to diverge. The trail turned more to the WSW, while the creek angled NW.
For a long way up the creek valley, the only really view had been N toward Squaw Mountain on the opposite side of the valley. However, as Lupe continued gaining elevation, she now started seeing occasional glimpses of a high point to the S. A long, moderately steep, forested slope led up toward it. That high point had to be some part of Twin Peaks.
Lupe and SPHP took a break. SPHP needed to check the topo map to determine where Lupe should leave the trail. She would have to go S to start the climb up Twin Peaks. The topo map showed that Lupe was approaching a saddle in the trail. To the N of it were some contours indicating minor high points. The trail’s high point should be a good place to turn S.
The trail leveled out slowly as it approached the saddle. Some fairly impressive rock outcroppings began appearing on the N side of the trail. Lupe reached the saddle.
Lupe and SPHP went a little farther W on the trail. It started losing elevation at a pretty good clip. Yes, Lupe had made it to the saddle. No doubt about it. Lupe and SPHP went back to the trail’s high point. It was time for Lupe to leave Trail No. 618. SPHP took one more look at the topo map. Lupe would be climbing the N slopes of Twin Peaks. The map seemed to indicate the climb would be easiest going around toward the NE side of the mountain.
Lupe and SPHP left Trail No. 618 going S. The ground was almost level close to the trail, but Lupe soon reached the beginning of the long slope upward. Nothing but forest could be seen above. Just like yesterday, during Lupe’s trip to Warbonnet Peak, this forest with a N exposure was full of snow. The snow was stacked in drifts 2 to 4 feet high. The long struggle up the mountain began.
SPHP tried to angle toward the SE to get over to the NE slope of the mountain, as suggested by the topo map. The terrain didn’t want to cooperate. The easiest way up kept looking like it was farther to the W, where Lupe would be going up the NW side of the mountain. Lupe and SPHP made forays to the E where possible, but the terrain always soon started looking easier back toward the W.
Lupe was having a great time. The snow wasn’t a problem for her. SPHP made fewer attempts to go E, gradually giving in to the terrain. Lupe was destined to climb Twin Peaks from the NW.
Lupe climbed and climbed. Finally, she came to a more level area in the forest. A quick stroll led her to a rock formation. Now she could get a look at what was ahead.
From the rocks, Lupe could see the summit of Twin Peaks ahead. The rest of the climb to the top didn’t look terribly long, but it was steeper than before. A rough, stony ridge rose from the NW almost to the top of the mountain, before turning E to the summit. Lupe could try to follow that ridge. Climbing directly up the steep, snowy, forested N slope was the other option.
After a short break, Lupe and SPHP left the rock formation. Lupe lost a little elevation crossing a shallow saddle. Lupe and SPHP stayed in the forest a little to the E of the rough, stony ridge. The slope kept getting steeper and steeper, the higher Lupe went.
SPHP decided Lupe should try to get up on the rough, stony ridge. Deep snowdrifts were in the shade of the NE side of the ridge. Lupe and SPHP had to climb up over them to reach the ridgeline. Lupe made it first. SPHP followed.
SPHP wondered if the ridge would be too rough to follow. If Lupe had gotten on it a little lower down, it looked like it would have been. From where Lupe reached it, however, the ridge wasn’t hard to follow. There was little or no snow on the ridgeline. Lupe began to make rapid progress.
Soon there were cliffs to the SW. Their height increased as Lupe climbed. A huge view opened up to the S. The ridge turned E. Lupe was nearing the summit. Instead of staying up on the highest rocks, Lupe and SPHP traversed ledges slightly below and to the S of them. The ledges were 5 or 6 feet wide, and seemed safer than the rocks above, despite the cliffs along the edge.
Lupe and SPHP proceeded carefully. Just short of the summit was a gap in the rocks. Beyond the gap was a wall of rock that looked like a potential problem. SPHP could get up it, but how was Lupe going to get up there?
SPHP told Lupe to wait, and went closer to get a better look. Suddenly, a Carolina Dog appeared above! Lupe had found a way up on her own. She knew what she was doing. Now it was SPHP turn. SPHP had to pass through a crack between two big rocks. The L boulder moved slightly as soon as SPHP touched it! It wasn’t completely stable. That was unnerving!
SPHP pushed gently on the boulder again. Yes, it did move, and quite easily. It rocked back and forth. More force didn’t make it move any farther, though. It wasn’t going to fall, its range of motion was quite limited. SPHP joined Lupe on top of Twin Peaks (9,280 ft.)!
Right away, it was apparent that Lupe was at the true summit of Twin Peaks. The summit area was quite small, with cliffs to the N and S. The last part of Lupe’s climb had been from the W along the narrow rocky ridge and ledges. To the E, rocks went another 10 feet farther before reaching a drop off.
Lucky, Lupe! Purely by accident, Lupe and SPHP had come up the NW spine of the mountain. From the top, it looked like the only possible route Lupe and SPHP could have managed. Lupe had made it, though! Now she had fabulous 360° views, and a chance to rest while enjoying her peakbagging success.
Maybe Lupe didn’t like being up on the exposed rocks of the small summit area, or maybe she was simply ready for a break. After SPHP took a few photos of her on the summit, she went down to rest in a slot below the highest rocks.
The slot was a couple of feet wide and deep, 4 or 5 feet long, and protected by rock on three sides. The only opening was toward the W. There was a little grass for Lupe to lay down on, and a bit of shade. Lupe tried to close her eyes and rest, but a fly kept harassing her.
While Lupe snapped at the bothersome fly, SPHP tried to identify some of the surrounding mountains.
One of the mysteries of Twin Peaks was why it was even called Twin Peaks. Lupe was clearly at the highest point on the mountain, with unobstructed views in every direction. Yet there didn’t seem to be any other similar peak nearby to be its “twin”. There were some lower ridges of rounded rocks a little way E of the summit, but they were close enough so it was hard to consider them a separate peak.
SPHP decided High Point 9225 to the SE had to be the twin, but it didn’t look like one at all, at least not from here. High Point 9225 was a much longer, flatter, broader ridge. It didn’t resemble the true summit where Lupe was one bit.
Lupe and SPHP remained up on Twin Peaks for around 45 minutes. As lovely as the views were, the time came to think about moving on. Squaw Mountain (9,313 ft.) was next! Climbing Squaw Mountain didn’t look hard at all, but would take hours. Lupe and SPHP took a last look around from Twin Peaks, before starting a careful descent.
At first, Lupe and SPHP retraced her route up on the way down. The narrow, rocky ridge presented no other obvious options. Eventually, though, Lupe got back down to more forgiving terrain.
SPHP had seen some open ground way down in the valley to the NW of Twin Peaks. It was W and NW of the saddle where Lupe had left Trail No. 618. SPHP suspected this open ground might lead far enough N to take Lupe around to the NW end of Squaw Mountain. After Lupe passed by the rock formation where she had gotten her first good look at the summit of Twin Peaks from the NW, Lupe and SPHP continued down trying to stay toward the NW.
Somehow, it didn’t work. Much to SPHP’s surprise, Lupe arrived at Trail No. 618 again right back at the top of the saddle. Lupe needed to go N from here to get to the W end of Squaw Mountain. The big rock formation N of the trail hadn’t gone anywhere, though. It blocked the way N. Lupe could go around it to the W or E.
SPHP decided Lupe should go around to the E. She should soon be able to turn N, and eventually NW going up the Roaring Fork Creek valley. SPHP expected Lupe would find open ground somewhere on the way around the W end of Squaw Mountain. Lupe and SPHP went E a short distance on the trail, before leaving it to turn N.
Lupe and SPHP gained a little elevation working around the rock formation N of the trail. Lupe found snow N of the rock formation, not as much as on the N slope of Twin Peaks, but enough to slow SPHP down. Deadfall timber was abundant, too. Lupe was making progress through the dense forest, but not as fast as SPHP had hoped.
The forest went on and on. Lupe did not come to open ground. The W end of Squaw Mountain was getting closer and closer. Lupe lost elevation going toward it. Lupe came upon a series of small bright green openings in the forest. The bright green areas were swampy, full of shallow standing water and trickling little streams. The green openings were beautiful, crossing them was slow, as SPHP tried to avoid the wettest spots.
Lupe reached a final bright green marsh, somewhat bigger than the others. Lupe had made it back to Roaring Fork Creek, but much farther upstream than before. The creek flowed E in the forest a little beyond the N edge of the bright green marsh. Lupe went to the far NW end of the marsh.
Lupe was just S of the far W end of Squaw Mountain. It had taken longer to get here than SPHP had expected. Lupe hadn’t come to any easy open ground. Beyond the bright green marsh, damp, dank forest continued for who knew how much farther?
There were still hours of daylight left. SPHP had no doubt Lupe would be able to get to the summit of Squaw Mountain before dark. That wasn’t good enough, though. Lupe and SPHP weren’t at all equipped to spend a night on the mountain. Lupe would need enough daylight to find her way back to the trail through miles of trackless forest before dark. She wouldn’t have that much time.
Lupe stood on a rotting log at the edge of the forest. She was at her point of farthest advance. SPHP stared deeper into the forest, wistfully. Maybe Lupe would come back again some day to climb Squaw Mountain. Or maybe this was it, her only chance, a moment passing into history. Sorry, Lupe, we aren’t going to make it this time.
When Lupe reached the G6 again, it was 5:27 PM (65°F). Soon Lupe and SPHP were heading N on Cold Spring Road. Lupe’s trip to the Laramie Mountains was ending, but Lupe and SPHP were still having fun. The drive to Douglas was absolutely gorgeous. Mile after mile of unspoiled classic western scenery.
Pronghorn antelope and cows caught Lupe’s attention. Barkfest was on! Lupe sped past them all having the time of her life. In the rear view mirror, Squaw Mountain and Buffalo Peak loomed impressively high and blue.
Maybe some day.