Start 10:06 AM, 67°F, USFS Road No. 304 near the lower end of Tree Draw, about 4 miles S of Deerfield Road
Well, this was it! Lupe trotted happily along the road leading up Tree Draw. At least there was some shade. It was already warm out. Only a few little white clouds dotted the sunny blue sky. Lupe’s pink tongue dangled so far out of her mouth, it looked like it ought to belong to a considerably larger Dingo.
Lupe was destined to spend a good deal of the day panting. Summer was here! Due to the heat, Expedition No. 207 would be her last Black Hills Expedition until cooler weather arrives in the fall.
The road went W for 0.5 mile, then turned S for 0.375 mile. Lupe was now approaching the upper end of Tree Draw. The road angled SW and started climbing more steeply. It faded away entirely at a barbed wire fence. Lupe ducked under the fence, and quickly reached a minor pass. This was the saddle NNW of Peak 6720, her first peakbagging destination for the day.
A broad, gently rounded ridge led SSE up to the top of the mountain. On the way, Lupe dodged scattered deadfall timber. Near the summit, the deadfall was worse and had fallen over the barbed wire fence, which unfortunately came up here, too. SPHP lifted Lupe over the dangerous downed fence.
At the N end of the first sizable rock outcropping she came to, Lupe reached the true summit of Peak 6720.
The summit ridge sloped gradually down toward the SSE. Beyond a gap of relatively level ground were more rock formations. Lupe left the true summit to explore them, too.
Fewer trees grew around the rock formations S of the true summit. Lupe enjoyed better views from here, even though she wasn’t quite as high on the mountain as before. She could see Sylvan Hill (7,000 ft.) off to the SE where she’d been only a week ago on Expedition No. 206.
It hadn’t taken long to get to Peak 6720, so Lupe wasn’t ready for much of a break yet. She remained on the summit ridge only 20 minutes. That was long enough to get a drink, scramble around on the rocks some, and see the views.
Medicine Mountain (6,878 ft.), 2 miles to the SSW, was next on the Carolina Dog’s peakbagging agenda. Lupe left Peak 6720 heading straight on down the SW slope. Progress was slow at first. SPHP had to navigate a band of loose rock directly below the spine of the mountain. This was followed by a much longer band of deadfall timber. The deadfall was considerably worse here than on the way Lupe had gone up.
Loose rocks and deadfall were left behind, though, well before Lupe reached the floor of the valley to the W. A dirt road in the valley headed straight for Medicine Mountain.
Loop had about a mile to go to reach USFS Road No. 297 down by Negro Creek, but the dirt road she was on veered off onto the W (R) slope of the valley after only half that distance. The Carolina Dog left the road to remain in the valley instead. Following an old cow path, she went around the E side of a large fenced area on the valley floor.
When a spring and small creek appeared, Lupe made good use of them.
Lupe reached USFS Road No. 297. She was halfway from Peak 6720 to Medicine Mountain. Negro Creek, a small stream, but much larger than the tiny tributary in the valley she’d just come through, was flowing through an interestingly shaped pond on the other (SW) side of the road. The pond was home to a family of Canadian geese.
Lupe and SPHP trudged S on USFS Road No. 297 far enough to get past a barbed wire fence before leaving the road to cross Negro Creek. While SPHP jumped across, Lupe hopped right in the creek and laid down. She then got up, and strolled up and down the creek a few times while drinking the cold water. When the Carolina Dog felt sufficiently refreshed, she leapt out of the creek to start climbing Medicine Mountain.
The day was hot. At least, it was hot for climbing mountains. Despite her revitalizing dip in Negro Creek, Lupe’s tongue was soon hanging out again. The heat sapped SPHP’s energy. Most of the mountain was forested, but Lupe came to a few sunny fields on the way up, too. Lupe and SPHP made numerous short rest stops in shady places.
Lupe explored the forest while SPHP kept chugging slowly up Medicine Mountain. There wasn’t much deadfall until almost to the top. Lupe arrived at the base of a narrow rock outcropping after coming up the N ridge. The outcropping looked only 20 feet high. A route existed where SPHP might be able to scramble directly up.
No problem with the little scramble, but the first 20 feet led only to a false summit. However, Lupe didn’t have much more to go. Loop and SPHP worked a little higher along the E side of a rocky ledge, while proceeding S. In a couple of minutes, Lupe was at the top of Medicine Mountain’s N summit. A line of rocks of roughly equal elevation along the ledge provided terrific views to the N.
This time, break first – then views. Lupe had water and Taste of the Wild. An apple, as usual, for SPHP. Lupe curled up in the shade of a tree, surrounded by delicate white wildflowers. Medicine Mountain was a busy place. Flies buzzed, bees hummed, butterflies chased each other in dizzying circles.
After a 10 minute rest, Loop and SPHP were ready for a look around. From the rocks of the N ledge, Lupe could see in every direction except S. The best views were toward the N & W.
So far, Lupe had only made it to the lower N summit of Medicine Mountain. If she wanted to see the views to the S and complete her peakbagging goal, she would have to go to the mountain’s true summit. A saddle with considerable deadfall timber led over to the higher S summit, which wasn’t far off. Lupe could be there in minutes.
Once she was across the saddle, Lupe found a short, faint trail leading up the NW side of the S summit. The highest point on Medicine Mountain (6,878 ft.) proved to be occupied by a young aspen tree.
The best views from the S summit were toward the rugged country around Black Elk Peak (7,231 ft.) to the SE.
Looper could see a long way to the S.
Lupe spent a little while near the true summit of Medicine Mountain. However, if she wanted to have enough time to actually get to Peak 6680 and Copper Mountain, she couldn’t dilly dally too long. Disappointingly, a little sniffing around revealed no medicine on Medicine Mountain, so Lupe moved on. She took the faint path leading back to the saddle, and began a descent down the mountain’s W slope.
The W slope was moderately steep and full of deadfall timber. Lupe was nearly down to a huge field in the next valley before she was out of it. She continued W across the field, and headed for a saddle ESE of Peak 6680. The saddle and much of the rest of the way up were covered with a forest of dense young pines 10 to 15 feet high.
The young pine forest would have been difficult to travel through, but fortunately, a series of lanes free of trees existed by which it was possible to weave up the mountain mostly unhindered. As Lupe approached the summit of Peak 6680, she came to an older forest and started seeing rock outcroppings.
Lupe had been to Peak 6680 once before, way back on Expedition No. 96 on 9-20-14. It had been so long ago, SPHP couldn’t remember what the summit was like. Lupe rediscovered a 150 foot long summit ridge oriented E/W with large rocks scattered along the N edge where the slope below was steepest. This whole ridge was forested, but a few spots offered Loop glimpses of distant views.
Lupe had come up at the E end of Peak 6680’s summit ridge. The ridge was roughly level, but with slightly higher points at each end. Lupe could see a rock at the far W end which looked like it might be the true summit.
Naturally, the American Dingo had to go check it out.
Although it wasn’t really clear if the E or W high point was the true summit of Peak 6680, Lupe had now been to both. She could now claim peakbagging successes at 3 different mountains today. SPHP was pretty certain she still had time to get to Copper Mountain, too.
Copper Mountain was 2 miles due N. Loop wasted no time getting started. She went E back a little beyond the rocks at Peak 6680’s E high point, before turning N. She traveled down to a very wide saddle leading to the long S ridge that would take her to Copper Mountain. It was a bushwhack all the way through the forest until she came to a dirt road upon attaining the S ridge.
Now Lupe and SPHP could make good time. The dirt road followed the top of the ridge to Sixmile Road (USFS Road No. 301), a major gravel road. Lupe crossed No. 301 continuing N before eventually turning E. The sun was getting low, but would still be up for another hour or so, when Lupe reached the cliffs at the SE end of Copper Mountain (6,920 ft.).
The last time Lupe had been here was 14 months ago, when she’d first met her mountaineering friend Jobe Wymore. Jobe had used Lupe’s Black Hills scouting services, and come all the way from the west coast to visit Odakota Mountain. Lupe and SPHP had then gone with Jobe all the way to the Wildcat Hills of Nebraska.
Fun times, and it was fun to think about them again now! Neither Lupe nor SPHP had ever met a real mountaineer before. Jobe had turned out to be such a great guy with so many interesting tales to tell! Lupe hadn’t seen Jobe since that day, but it was possible she was going to see him again on one of her 2017 Dingo Vacations this summer!
The evening views from Copper Mountain were beautiful. Lupe and SPHP stayed a little while admiring them, talking about Jobe, and remembering. The sun was getting lower, though, and Lupe had a bit of a bushwhack ahead of her to get back to the saddle above Tree Draw near Peak 6720.
Lupe’s return trip went fine. The heat of the day was gone. Lupe and SPHP were both energized. Lupe saw many deer, a few squirrels, and one giant deer (elk) on the way. She had a blast! She made such good progress, she even had time for a quick side trek back up to the top of Peak 6720 to see the sun set.
Expedition No. 207 marked the end of Lupe’s Black Hills expeditions for a while. The first of her splendid Summer of 2017 Dingo Vacations full of more distant adventures would be starting soon! (9:11 PM, 52°F)