Jack Squirrel Peak, Laramie Range, Wyoming (6-19-17)

Day 12 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range in Wyoming & Beyond!

Lupe could hardly believe her big soft Dingo ears!  Her spine tingled with excitement.  She stared at SPHP in wide-eyed wonder and disbelief.  Was it true?  Was she really on her way to fabled Squirrel Mountain?  Oh, joy!

Not Squirrel Mountain, Loop – Jack Squirrel Peak.

Mountain, peak, what difference did it make?  Loop didn’t know and didn’t care.  She was certain Squirrel Peak would be every bit as fabulous as Squirrel Mountain.  How could it not be?  In fact, the notion that there might be both a Squirrel Mountain and a Squirrel Peak was an exciting idea she’d never even thought of before.

I’m not even certain what a jack squirrel is, Looper.  Maybe a jack squirrel is just larger than ordinary squirrels with a super long bushy tail?  Kind of like a jack rabbit is bigger than ordinary rabbits and has longer ears and legs.

The American Dingo’s eyes grew even bigger.  This was too good to be true!

Oh, I hope you’re right, SPHP!  This is going to be the best mountain ever!  I never should have doubted you.  Your the best friend a Dingo ever had!  This is going to make up for when you forgot the whiskey on Whiskey Peak, and then some.

Well, maybe it would, and maybe it wouldn’t.  SPHP parked the G6 on the S side of County Road No. 710 where it turned W near Silver Tip Creek (10:43 AM, 62°F)Jack Squirrel Peak (8,942 ft.) was only 1.5 miles SSE from here at the S end of the long Eagle Mountain ridge.

Several log and wooden structures were on the other (N) side of County Road No. 710 from where SPHP parked the G6. They all seemed to be abandoned. Photo looks N.

Most of the territory E of here, including Jack Squirrel Peak, was all national forest land.  However, by far the easiest way to the mountain was to head S across a big field N of the confluence of Silver Tip and Bear Creeks.  Though this field was private property, signs on the fence said this land was open to the public for hunting.

We’re hunting jack squirrels, right Loop?

Of course!  We’ll be back soon with passels of ’em!  We’re entirely legit.

I’m not even sure if it’s jack squirrel season.  You’ll vouch for me if anyone objects?

Don’t be ridiculous, SPHP!  It’s always squirrel season, jack or not.  We Dingoes are experts on the subject.  Carry on!  Just point me to Squirrel Peak!

Loop ready to depart for Jack Squirrel Peak (L). Photo looks S.

As excited as she could be, Lupe crossed the big field sniffing madly trying to pick up a scent.  Nearing Silver Tip Creek, she found a dirt road that got her over to the E side of the creek.  Once across, Loop followed the road S beyond Silver Tip’s confluence with Bear Creek.

Lupe heading for the promised land of Jack Squirrel Peak! She’s E of Bear Creek here, and will go up the L side of the low hill directly ahead to enter Hidden Gulch. Photo looks S.

A low hill was up ahead.  Loop left the road to climb it.  Reaching the top, she had a view of Hidden Gulch.

Hidden Gulch from the top of the low hill. High Point 8608 looms above the upper end of Hidden Gulch on the R. Photo looks E.

Hidden Gulch was part of the planned ascent route up Jack Squirrel Peak.  Lupe left the low hill heading E.  She stayed N of a tributary of Bear Creek flowing down the valley.  The intention was for Loop to go all the way up Hidden Gulch to the main N/S ridgeline at a saddle just S of High Point 8608.  At the saddle she would turn SW and follow the ridgeline to the summit.

Things started out OK, but Lupe soon came to a thick forest down by the stream.  The valley was already increasingly rocky, full of boulders and deadfall timber.  The forest appeared impenetrable.  It looked far easier to avoid the forest entirely.  Lupe and SPHP crossed over to the S side of the stream, and began climbing.

The forest had burned on the S side of the valley.  The slope was fairly steep and quite rocky, but the rocks were good-sized and mostly stable.  It wasn’t hard scrambling up among them.

A forest fire had burned the slope on the S side of Hidden Gulch. Though the area was very rocky, the rocks were mostly stable and easy enough to scramble up. Photo looks SE.

The new plan was to keep proceeding ESE up Hidden Gulch as Lupe gained elevation.  She might not have to go all the way to the main ridgeline S of High Point 8608.  Maybe she could manage a more direct route up Jack Squirrel Peak from the N or NW.

The American Dingo climbed and climbed.  The mountain kept getting steeper.  Despite what the topo map showed, the easiest way up always seemed to be more toward the W slope.  Lupe was already quite high by the time SPHP realized how far around to the W she’d gotten.

Lupe was already pretty high up by the time SPHP realized how far she’d drifted around onto Jack Squirrel Peak’s W slope. Huge rocks were everywhere, and the mountain was getting steeper with no relief in sight. Photo looks NW.
On Jack Squirrel Peak’s W slope. The Bear Creek valley is seen on the R. Photo looks S.
Looper looking in vain up Jack Squirrel Peak’s W slope for signs of any jack squirrels. Photo looks E.

Lupe started coming to massive rock formations separated by wide chutes of loose rock and boulders.  She went around the first one or two staying toward the SW.  However, the SW side of the mountain was becoming more intense.  Lupe was finally forced to climb NE up a long chute full of boulders.  Near the top she reached less difficult terrain.

Passing around the SW end of one of the massive rock formations, with another one directly ahead beyond a field of boulders. Photo looks ENE.
Near the upper end of the long chute, Lupe finally escapes the worst of the steep W slope. Photo looks NE.

Lupe was certainly getting up in the world!  Off to the NNE she now had a tremendous view of Eagle Peak (9,167 ft.) at the opposite end of the long Eagle Mountain ridge.  Only 10 days ago, Loop had nearly made it to the top of Eagle Peak, but had failed to find a route up onto a vertical rock wall at the top of the mountain.

Lupe was certainly getting up in the world! Off to the NNE she had a tremendous view of Eagle Peak.

Unfortunately, the American Dingo’s ability to get to the top of Jack Squirrel Peak was fast becoming a concern, too.  Although most of the terrain ahead was much easier than where Lupe had just been, a rock formation higher than anything else in sight sat perched high above the opposite side of the long chute she’d just come up.

Was that rock formation Jack Squirrel’s summit?  SPHP hoped not, but feared it might be.  The formation wasn’t all that large, but was at least 20 or 30 feet high.  The part of it in view from here had nearly vertical sides.  Unless the unseen side was a lot easier to climb, Lupe didn’t stand a chance of getting to the top.

On the opposite side of the long chute full of boulders Lupe had just come up, a knob of rock (L) sat perched higher than anything else around. Was that the summit? Failure loomed, if it was. Lupe wouldn’t be able to get to the top of that thing! Photo looks ENE.

Loop and SPHP headed for the rock formation.  When Loop got there, it turned out that the knob of rock was actually more like a narrow ridge.  It was long and skinny, not round.  The E side looked virtually the same as the W side Lupe had seen first.  Loop got up within 20 or 25 feet of the top, but that was as far as she could go.

When Lupe got there, the knob of rock turned out to be more like a narrow ridge. Lupe could get within 20 feet of the top, but no higher. Photo looks SW.

Fortunately, Looper didn’t need to get to the top of this rock formation.  It was only a false summit.  Beyond it, not too far away, was even higher ground.  The Carolina Dog could keep climbing!

Fortunately, the rock formation Lupe had reached was only a false summit. Higher ground was in view ahead. The Carolina Dog could keep climbing! Photo looks ENE.

The higher ground nearby was it!  Just like that, Lupe was at the summit of Jack Squirrel Peak (8,942 ft.).  It hadn’t been all that hard to get here after all.  The last part of the climb had been easy!

SPHP was ecstatic.  Loop seemed shocked by the news.  This was it?  The summit of Jack Squirrel Peak?  She got up on the highest rock for a photo as requested, but her heart didn’t seem to be in it.

Loopster at the top of Jack Squirrel Peak! Photo looks SSE.

The views were enormous, but the first to capture SPHP’s attention was an impressive wall of rock SSE of the summit.  It towered hundreds of feet above surrounding terrain, and looked virtually as high as the summit where Lupe stood.  In fact, parts of the wall appeared slightly higher.  Wasn’t Loop at the true summit of Jack Squirrel Peak?

The first view to capture SPHP’s attention was a towering wall of rock SSE of the summit where Lupe stood. It looked as high as where Lupe was, maybe even a little higher. Photo looks SSE.

SPHP checked the topo map.  Lupe was at the point where a site elevation of 8,942 ft. was shown within the larger of two 8,940 foot contours, the smaller contour being located along part of the rock wall to the SSE.  No site elevation was shown in that contour.

Well, Loop, I could convince myself there are parts of that gigantic rock wall that are higher than we are here, if I wanted to.  It kind of looks that way.  On the other hand, having terrain at some distance falsely appear higher is a pretty common optical illusion, too, as we’ve seen on other peaks.  The highest elevation shown on the topo map is right where you are now.

In any case, we’re claiming a peakbagging success for you!  If some purist wants to risk their neck to possibly gain 6″ or 2 feet more, or whatever it may actually be over on that rock wall, they are welcome to it.  It’s way too dangerous over there for us.  It may not be any higher anyway.  So this is it!  Good enough for Dingo work!  Congratulations, Looper on reaching the top of Jack Squirrel Peak!

SPHP shook Lupe’s freckled paw.  She smiled weakly, but said nothing.  She looked despondent.

Whether or not this giant rock wall was any higher than the 8,942 foot site elevation Lupe had reached was difficult to tell. In any case, it was way too dangerous for Lupe and SPHP to go over there. Loop was at the highest elevation actually indicated on the topo map. She was claiming a peakbagging success! Photo looks SSE.
Even after SPHP congratulated Loop on her Jack Squirrel Peak success, she looked a little down. The false summit Lupe had gone by on the way up is in view to the L of her head. The high peak in the distance seen straight up from her head is Windy Peak (9,080 ft.). Photo looks NW.
A closer look with help from the telephoto lens. The false summit Lupe went by is in the foreground on the L. Windy Peak is in the distance on the R. Photo looks NW.

Time for a break.  Lupe got down off the summit rock, and curled up near the backpack.  SPHP munched an apple, but Looper refused her Taste of the Wild.  She drank only a little water.

You OK, Loop?  What’s wrong?

Lupe stood up, gazed sadly at SPHP, then lowered her head.


SPHP gave her a pat.

It’s terrible!  Simply awful, SPHP!  Just ….. sickening!

What is, Loop?

Lupe puked.  Three times.  It took her a moment to recover.

Jack Squirrel Peak!  Don’t you pay any attention, at all, SPHP?  Practically the whole mountain has burned.  The forest is ashes.  All the jack squirrels are dead and gone.  We haven’t seen a single one!  It’s horrible!  I thought we were coming to a squirrel paradise, but everything’s in ruins.  We’ve come all the way to the top, and it’s clear we aren’t ever going to see a jack squirrel.  My hopes are nothing but ashes now, too!

SPHP hugged Lupe, then sat with her stroking her soft fur.

Oh, Loop!  I’m sorry you feel so bad!  You’re right, the forest has all burned.  We haven’t seen any squirrels, jack or otherwise, at all.  It must be terribly disappointing to you.  You know what, though?  Since there weren’t any jack squirrels here, I’ll take you to some other mountains where there will be plenty of  squirrels.  They may not be jack squirrels, but you’ll still have fun!

Really?  I thought we were just going home after this.  Isn’t my Dingo Vacation almost over now?

Yes, we are going home after this.  Only for a little while, though.  Your Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Mountains is about done, but in July you’re going on another Dingo Vacation to even bigger mountains.  You’ll see lots of squirrels, and other animals, too!  Plus I’ll have a big surprise for you before it’s over!

Really?  Promise?

Promise!  You can count on it.  You’re going to be one busy, lucky Dingo this summer!  Say, you’re looking a little better.  Listen, now.  The forest and the jack squirrels may be gone, but Jack Squirrel Peak is still quite a mountain.  The views are stupendous here.  Let’s look around a bit, get some photos, then we can head down.  Whad’dya say?

OK, sure.  I do feel a little better.  Thanks, SPHP!

Lupe got up on several different high rocks for photos.  Then she curled up to rest a bit longer, while SPHP took a few more pictures.

Laramie Peak (10,272 ft.), the highest mountain in the Laramie Range from Jack Squirrel Peak. Photo looks NE.
Looking NNE at Eagle Peak. High Point 8608 is the massive block of rock seen straight up from Looper’s rump. Photo looks NNE.
Windy Peak is on the L. South Sawtooth Mountain (8,723 ft.) is the distant high point at Center. Photo looks NNW.
Eagle Peak and the long ridge leading to it from Jack Squirrel Mountain. Photo looks NNE with help from the telephoto lens.
Laramie Peak. Photo looks NE.
View to the SSW from the summit of Jack Squirrel Peak.
The Laramie Mountains, where Lupe had such a good time on her 1st Dingo Vacation of 2017. Photo looks WNW.

On the way back, Lupe took a much different route.  Instead of going down the W slope, she tried heading NNE to the saddle near High Point 8608, but it was tough going and Loop didn’t stay the course very long.  She ended up descending the N face of Jack Squirrel Peak.  It was steep with lots of rocks, deadfall timber, and some live trees as well.  For a while, SPHP was afraid the Carolina Dog might cliff out, but she didn’t.

It took a long time for Loop to work her way down to the upper reaches of Hidden Gulch.  The forest had all burned here, but the forest floor sported a grand profusion of green plants with showy yellow flowers.  Lupe was feeling better by now.

By the time Lupe made it down to the upper reaches of Hidden Gulch, she was feeling much better.
Exploring Hidden Gulch.

Lupe made her way to the tributary of Bear Creek.  Staying to the N, she followed it W down Hidden Gulch.  When Loop finally got out of Hidden Gulch, the rest was easy.  Soon she could see the G6 parked across the green meadow near County Road No. 710.  On the other side of the road, the old wooden barns and outbuildings sat quietly at the foot of Jaybird Peak.

This was it.  The final stroll of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range in Wyoming & Beyond lay before her.  She’d had a great time on this trip, and more Dingo Vacations and adventures would be coming soon, but they didn’t matter yet.  It was still June, and a gorgeous evening.

The Carolina Dog ran down to Silver Tip Creek for a drink of cold water, then trotted into the big green field.  Sniffing and exploring happily, she played a little longer in the evening’s glow before heading home (7:03 PM, 65°F).

Looking N toward Jaybird Peak, Laramie Mountains, Wyoming, 6-19-17

Related Links:

Eagle Peak, Laramie Range, Wyoming (6-9-17)

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s 2017 Laramie Range, Wyoming & Beyond Adventure IndexDingo Vacations Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

Independence Rock & Mine Benchmark, the Natrona County High Point, Wyoming (6-18-17)

Day 11 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range in Wyoming & Beyond!

On the way to Casper, Lupe was going to go right by a famous landmark from the days of the early pioneers – Independence Rock (6,028 ft.) in the Sweetwater River valley.  She had been by it before a time or two, but had never stopped to take a look around.  Today she had the time, and it seemed like just the sort of thing an adventurous American Dingo ought to do!

Lupe drops by Independence Rock State Historic Site in S central Wyoming.

Independence Rock was once an important landmark on the Oregon, California & Mormon Pioneer trails.  Hwy 220 goes right past it now.  Just off the highway, there’s a rest area with bathrooms, water fountains, and shaded picnic tables.  A sidewalk leads to displays detailing the history and importance of this site to the pioneers, and on to Independence Rock itself.  Lupe and SPHP set off on the short stroll.

SPHP stopped to read some of the displays along the sidewalk, but the Carolina Dog had limited patience with that.  She wanted to get there and experience Independence Rock for herself!

Loop on her way to check out Independence Rock.

One of the dangers the early pioneers faced here so long ago was still around.  Near the base of Independence Rock a man was sitting on a bench where the sidewalk divided to make a loop around the rock.  He said he had just seen a 4 foot long rattlesnake slither across the sidewalk only a few minutes ago.  The rattler appeared to be hunting the numerous gray rabbits hopping about all over the place.

That rattlesnake had the right idea!  Lupe was also keenly interested in hunting rabbits!  Sadly, party-pooper SPHP didn’t think racing around in the tall grass among rabbits and rattlesnakes was such a hot idea.  A very disappointed Lupe was forced to stay on the leash.The good news was that it was permissible to climb right up onto Independence Rock!  The best way up was from the NW.  Used to climbing mountains, getting to the top was easy for Lupe.  She was there in practically no time.

Lupe on top of Independence Rock. Thousands of pioneers had stood on this very rock more than 150 years ago. Photo looks ESE down the Sweetwater River valley.

Also known as the Great Register of the Desert, thousands of pioneers had painted or chiseled their names on Independence Rock by various means.  Only the names actually carved into the granite still remain.Lupe saw some names carved in the rock, but as SPHP read them off, it turned out that Loop didn’t personally know any of these pioneers.  The Carolina Dog lost interest.  She wanted to look and sniff around.  A view of a herd of delicious black cows grazing down by the Sweetwater River was especially interesting.

Lupe was more interested in the views from Independence Rock than the pioneer names carved into it. Photo looks SE from the summit. The hills along the ridge in the distance are the Sentinel Rocks.
Looking SW at the Sweetwater River and Hwy 220. The Charlie Brown Range where Lupe had such a good time climbing Ferris Mountain (10,037 ft.) yesterday is on the horizon on the L. Devil’s Gate, another pioneer landmark, is closer by somewhere in the lower hills on the R.
Lupe’s favorite view from Independence Rock was this one of the herd of black cattle grazing down by the Sweetwater River. Their mooing held her attention. If rabbit wasn’t on the menu, maybe steaks could be? Photo looks SSW.

The view to the E was disappointing.  Loop couldn’t see any horses or covered wagons on the way.  Apparently she wasn’t going to be lucky enough to meet any pioneers at Independence Rock this morning.  She’d thought her chances were pretty good, since it was such a beautiful day for pioneering.  Oh, well!  When she’d seen enough of the views, the American Dingo decided she may as well head back down.

More people who were coming up reported that they’d just seen the 4 foot long rattlesnake again down below, still on the prowl for rabbits.  Loop thought that if she were a rabbit, she’d probably hit the trail W like the pioneers.  Independence Rock was a dangerous place!

On the sidewalk on the way back to the rest area, Lupe kept a pretty good eye and keen nose out for the rattlesnake, but she didn’t see it.  SPHP dawdled again looking at displays.SPHP wanted to do one more thing here, which was to walk down to the Sweetwater River.  Lupe thought that might not be such a bad idea, since those black cows were somewhere along the river.

Lupe and SPHP followed an old abandoned road near Hwy 220.  Unfortunately, it ended at some fences before Loop got all the way to the river.  She never did get close to the black cows, but at least SPHP got a photo of Independence Rock and the Sweetwater River from this angle.

Independence Rock (L) from near the Hwy 220 bridge over the Sweetwater River. Photo looks NE.

Time to move on.  Lupe still had a long way to go today.  After a brief stop for supplies in Casper, SPHP drove W on Hwy 20/26.  A R turn at Waltman onto Natrona County Road No. 104 (Buffalo Creek Road) got Lupe headed NNW toward the small community of Arminto.  Arminto was located N of some railroad tracks 8.5 miles from the highway.

On the way to Arminto. The S end of the Bighorn Mountain Range is in view. Photo looks NNW.

Arminto was a pretty quiet place.  The pavement ended a mile N of town.  Buffalo Creek Road continued on, though, now as Natrona County Road No. 105.  Lupe had a good time barking at scattered herds of cattle as the G6 climbed steadily through classic western scenery.

N of the sleepy community of Arminto, Buffalo Creek Road turned to gravel and began climbing through classic western scenery. Photo looks N.
Western scenery along Buffalo Creek Road. Photo looks NNE.

Lupe was on her way to Mine Benchmark (9,121 ft.), the high point of Natrona County.  Once again, SPHP was using a trip report by famed peakbagger Edward Earl for directions.  15 miles N of Arminto was a 4-way intersection.  Mr. Earl’s instructions said to turn L on Bighorn Mountain Road (Natrona County Road No. 109).  No. 109 wound W & N for a few miles, then began to climb more steeply.

How far the G6 might be able to get along Bighorn Mountain Road wasn’t clear.  Edward Earl had a Nissan pickup truck, and had reported slipping on a steep uphill section, then having to stop soon afterward at a very muddy spot.  He’d had to walk half a dozen miles from there, just to get to where he’d originally intended to park.

The road was a bit damp and muddy, but the G6 made it to the top of the steep section just fine.  Lupe had an advantage being here in mid-June.  Edward Earl’s trip report was for an ascent of Mine Benchmark dated 5-26-2009.  With nearly a month extra of warm, sunny weather to dry things out, there was at least some hope the G6 would be able to get farther than the Nissan had.

The next test came soon.  Beyond the steep climb, the road leveled out and reached a small stream 4 or 5 miles from the turn onto Bighorn Mountain Road.  From Mr. Earl’s description, this was likely the muddy point where he’d had to park the Nissan and continue on foot.  The topo map showed this stream as First Waters Creek.

Lupe and SPHP got out of the G6 for a look.  First Waters Creek was only 4 or 5 feet wide and a foot deep, but the bottom appeared rutty.  Hmm.  It ought to be OK.  Lupe stayed outside while SPHP gave it a go.  The G6 hit bottom lightly in one of the ruts, but made it across undamaged.  Lupe waded over and hopped in.  Onward!

Edward Earl mentioned two more streams ahead, still several miles away.  Bighorn Mountain Road resumed a steady climb.  After a few miles, Lupe reached a high point at a 8,300 foot saddle.  So far so good, but soon the South and Middle Forks of Buffalo Creek would have to be crossed.  This saddle wouldn’t be a bad place to park the G6, though, if it became necessary.

At the 8,300 foot saddle. Bighorn Mountain Road is in view. Photo looks NW.

Only 0.25 mile N of the 8,300 foot saddle, Lupe arrived at the South Fork of Buffalo Creek.  Once again, Loop and SPHP exited the G6 to assess the situation.  The creek crossed the road in two separate little streams.  The streams were stony, but only a few inches deep.  Yeah, the G6 could do this!  SPHP drove slowly across.  It went fine.  Puppy, ho!

Loop by the sign for the South Fork of Buffalo Creek. The G6 has already made it across. Photo looks WNW.

Another 2 miles.  The G6 confronted the last stream, the Middle Fork of Buffalo Creek.  The Middle Fork was wider and deeper than the South Fork, but still only 6 inches deep.  Stones were the only worry.  Slowly, carefully, the G6 inched across and triumphed again.  Hah!

The Middle Fork of Buffalo Creek. High point 8751 in is view ahead. Photo looks NE.

Lupe was less than 1.5 miles from the 8,450 foot saddle where Edward Earl had intended to park his Nissan pickup.  With no more streams to cross, the G6 was going to get there.  However, on the way up to the saddle, the road passed by a huge purple slope covered with lupines.  Lupe had to get out of the G6 for this!

Lupe among the lupines W of High Point 8751 (L). Photo looks E.
Ah, they smell divine, especially when you have a super sensitive Dingo nose like mine!

After a romp through the lupines, Lupe returned to the G6.  At the 8,450 foot saddle, SPHP parked along a side road leading E toward High Point 8509.  It wasn’t yet 4 PM, and Mine Benchmark (9,121 ft.) was only a couple miles away now at most.  Plenty of time to get there and back!

Lupe was certainly out W.  Perhaps there was a wicked witch around?  The lupines had the same effect on Loop and SPHP as the poppies had on Dorothy and Toto in the Wizard of Oz.  Instead of setting out promptly for Mine Benchmark, both were soon fast asleep.

Perhaps there was a wicked witch around? American Dingo, Toto, snoozes the afternoon away under the influence of lupines.

More than 2 hours went by before the spell was broken.  After 6 PM!  Loopster had better get going!  The topo map showed a survey benchmark at 8,463 foot elevation on the W side of Bighorn Mountain Road.  The marker ought to be near the start of the side road Lupe was supposed to take to Mine Benchmark.  Leaving the G6, Loop and SPHP set out in search of the 8,463 foot benchmark (6:21 PM).

Sure enough, the American Dingo found the survey marker right about where the map showed it.  Until now, she hadn’t even noticed the road she was supposed to take to Mine Benchmark.  It could be seen from here, though, grassy and faint, heading SW toward a forest.

This 8,463 foot survey benchmark is only a little W of Bighorn Mountain Road.
Lupe stands near the 8,463 ft. survey benchmark, which is seen on bare ground at the lower R. The faint, grassy road Lupe would take in search of Mine Benchmark is in view beyond her heading for the trees. Photo looks SW.

Lupe and SPHP struck out on the faint grassy road for Mine Benchmark.  Once in the forest, SPHP began to worry about the possibility that the road would deteriorate beyond recognition.  It seemed abandoned.  Deadfall timber blocked it in places.  Lupe reached a locked gate in a barbed wire fence, but went under it.

Half an hour after Loop left the 8,463 foot survey benchmark, she emerged again from the forest.  Suddenly she was out on open ground where it was possible to see.  There wasn’t much left of the road most places, but it hardly mattered now.  Lupe could see a big hill to the W.  That had to be it!  Getting to the Mine Benchmark was going to be easy!

This was just the type of high, open territory Lupe loves.  The lupines had lost their effect.  The Carolina Dog was energized now!  She raced away to explore this beautiful place.

After emerging from the forest, Lupe took off running! She loves this kind of high open territory. Mine Benchmark is up the slope on the R. Photo looks WSW.
An elk was surprised to see Loop and SPHP.
Lupe on a better portion of the road again. This road would take her W and pass only a short distance S of Mine Benchmark. The route was all out in the open from here, and the views were beautiful! High Point 9,109 (Center) is in view. Photo looks SW.

Lupe soon reached a slope immediately S of Mine Benchmark.  Large boulders were scattered here and there.  It wasn’t far to the top.  A little bird, probably the same one that tells all sorts of news and rumors, watched Lupe with curiosity as the Carolina Dog began the final part of her ascent.  The easiest way up was from the SE.

This little bird watched Loop with curiosity. No doubt it intended to spread the news of Lupe’s success as soon as she reached the top of the mountain.
Loop on one of the scattered boulders on Mine Benchmark’s SE slope. The summit isn’t far away. It’s right up there on top of the rock formation on the R. Photo looks W.

The scramble to the top took only a few minutes.  The summit area was roomy and fairly flat.  The highest, rockiest parts were toward the SW end.  Big rocks along the S and W edges of the summit area sat above cliffs of modest height.  Many of the big rocks were separated by sizable gaps that had eroded out between them.

Loop got out on the big rocks for a look around.  Panoramic views of beautiful, rolling Bighorn Mountain meadows spread out before her!  It was the kind of territory that made you want to wander forever.

Loop on one of the big rocks along the SW edge of Mine Benchmark’s summit area. A typical big gap between the large rocks here is seen on the L. Gorgeous rolling meadows of the S Bighorn Mountains are in view. Photo looks WSW.
Lupe among the rocks near the W end of Mine Benchmark’s summit area. Photo looks NW.
High Point 9109 is on the far ridge beyond Lupe. Photo looks SSW.
Lupe along the S edge of the summit area. Photo looks SSW with help from the telephoto lens.
Looking WSW.

Pieces of an old wooden structure were laying around the summit area, and some smooth wire was draped among the rocks.  These were reminiscent of what Lupe had found up on Squaw Mountain (9,313 ft.), the Shirley Mountains High Point (9,151 ft.), and Quealey Benchmark (9,150 ft.) earlier on this Dingo vacation.  Lupe also found the actual Mine survey benchmark nearby.

The actual Mine survey benchmark.

Although a couple of big rocks looked almost equally high, SPHP thought a large slanty one toward the N was clearly the highest.  Lupe needed a boost to get up on top, which SPHP was glad to give her.

After a boost from SPHP, Loop stands on top of the large slanty rock that appeared to be the true summit of Mine Benchmark. Photo looks N.
Still on the true summit. The forested top of High Point 9065 is in view just above the highest part of the slanty rock Lupe is on. Photo looks N.

The Carolina Dog let SPHP help her get down from the true summit, though she had appeared imminently ready to leap off all on her own.  Once down, Lupe did some more exploring of the summit area.

More of the Mine Benchmark summit area is seen here. Part of the old wooden structure is in view. (It wasn’t anything very large.) In the distance, High Point 8509 is in sunlight a little to the L of Lupe. The G6, where Lupe had started here from, was parked in the meadow below it. Photo looks NE.
Lupe also discovered this white tube tucked between big rocks. SPHP didn’t mention it in notes, and no longer remembers what it contained. Maybe a registry was in there? Maybe the contents were soaking wet? If you go to Mine Benchmark yourself, take a look inside and let Lupe know if her name is on a registry inside or not! Photo looks N.
The summit area curved from the W around to the NE. The W part was highest. The NE part somewhat lower, but also scenic. Here Loop is in between the W and NE ends. Photo looks NNE.
Loop a little farther NE along the summit ridge. A chilly breeze was blowing out of the NW. High Point 6509 is seen on the R. Photo looks NW.

A chilly NW breeze kicked up while Lupe was exploring some of the NE part of the summit ridge.  Loop and SPHP left the ridge to get out of the wind.  Loop circled back around to the SW side of the Mine Benchmark summit formation.

After leaving the Mine Benchmark summit ridge to get out of the wind, Loop circled around to the SW. Photo looks NNE back up toward the highest part of the Mine Benchmark summit formation.

It was a gorgeous evening.  The sinking sun would be down within the hour.  Although Lupe had successfully completed her Mine Benchmark peakbagging objective, maybe sunset was worth sticking around for?

Lupe and SPHP hung around S of the high point for 20 minutes to see what might develop.  Loop was greatly entertained watching several nervous pronghorn antelope.

While waiting to see if a colorful sunset might develop, Lupe was entertained watching a few nervous pronghorn antelope.

The chilly NW breeze was still blowing when Lupe returned to the Mine Benchmark summit.  The sun would be down pretty soon now.  Quite a few clouds were off to the W.  Hope existed for a brilliant display, but maybe the sun would just disappear behind the clouds.

The sun was sinking fast when Lupe returned to the Mine Benchmark summit. Hopes existed for a brilliant display.
Loop back up on Mine Benchmark resting and waiting eagerly for news from SPHP on how the sunset was progressing.

Day’s end was beautiful, but the eagerly anticipated spectacular display never developed.  Though Lupe waited hopefully, clouds ultimately swallowed the sun.  It was gone.  The sky darkened.  Everything began fading to gray.  Night was coming.  Time to go.

Two stars, or perhaps planets, twinkled above by the time Lupe made it back to the G6.  She had dinner, then rested outside on the ground watching, listening, and sniffing the air.  Meanwhile, two lonely stars were joined by 2,000 more in the black void above.

Awaiting sunset on Mine Benchmark, the Natrona County high point, Bighorn Range, Wyoming 6-18-17.


Edward Earl’s 5-26-2009 ascent trip report for Mine Benchmark

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s 2017 Laramie Range, Wyoming & Beyond Adventure IndexDingo Vacations Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

Ferris Mountain, Charlie Brown Range, Wyoming (6-17-17)

Day 10 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range & Beyond!

As you drive along I-80 through Rawlins WY, you can see in the distance about 35 miles north a mountain range with a very striking feature: a zigzagging white cliff band running nearly the entire length of the range from left to right.  That band is the Madison formation, an upended layer of limestone which has subsequently been eroded into a series of V-notches by a succession of streams coming down from the crest above.  I first noticed this mountain range in the late 1980s, and that zigzagging line reminded me of the zigzagging line across the bottom of the shirt that Charlie Brown wears.  For this reason, I personally dubbed the range the “Charlie Brown Mountains”.  – excerpt from Edward Earl’s trip report on his 9-5-2014 ascent of Ferris Mountain on Peakbagger.com

Rain!  Not good.  If it rained too hard, the dirt road would turn to mud.  The G6 might get stuck way out here NW of Bairoil.  Better get back to pavement, now!

It was still dark out, but Lupe was already awake.  SPHP had just come to.  In pre-dawn rain and fog, SPHP drove back to Bairoil.  The rain had already let up to a light sprinkle, by the time Lupe reached the pavement on Hwy 73.  May as well keep going.

Eight miles E of Muddy Gap, SPHP turned S off Hwy 220 onto Carbon County Road No. 499.  The rain and fog were gone, but dark clouds still hid the Charlie Brown Range.  It was light out now, but still very early.  Lupe was ready for action!  SPHP wasn’t.

Gimme a few more hours snoozing time, Loop.  Need to wait a bit to see what the weather’s going to do anyway.  And with that, SPHP parked the G6 and went back to sleep.

A few hours later, SPHP was ready.  Time for Lupe to take on dreaded Ferris Mountain (10,037 ft.), high point of the entire Charlie Brown Range!  Of course, that was provided she could even get close enough to make an attempt feasible.

The first part of the way ought to be easy enough.  Lupe could follow directions in peakbagging hero Edward Earl’s trip report.  She was already at the first place Mr. Earl mentioned, the sign for Pete Creek Road & Cherry Creek Road at the turn off Hwy 220.

The BLM sign off Hwy 220 at the turn onto Carbon County Road No. 499. Whiskey Peak (9,225 ft.) (L), which Lupe had good time climbing yesterday, is in view. Photo looks SW.

Mr. Earl’s trip report contained detailed instructions on how to get to Ferris Mountain.  The next thing to look for was 0.9 mile from Hwy 220 along Carbon County Road No. 499, where a road branching off to the R was marked only by an unreadable sign.  This intersection quickly came into view.

The intersection 0.9 mile from Hwy 220 (L) where an unmarked road branches to the R off County Road No. 499 quickly came into view. Photo looks SE.

Mr. Earl’s instructions said to go straight at this first intersection, avoiding the R turn on the unmarked road.  2 miles from Hwy 220 was another R turn, this time onto Cherry Creek Road, which was also to be avoided.  Lupe and SPHP stayed on Carbon County Road No. 499 both times, and came to the Handcart Ranch sign 2.5 miles from Hwy 220.

Lupe by the unreadable sign at the first turn to the R, which is the wrong way to go. The G6 is parked along Carbon CR No. 499, which is the correct way.
Stay straight on Carbon County Road No. 499. Loop is on the correct route here.
At the 2nd turn to the R, which goes to Cherry Creek. Lupe did not take this side road either.
Lupe at the Handcart Ranch sign mentioned by Edward Earl as being 2.5 miles from Hwy 220. There was no turn off Carbon County Road No. 499 here.
These pronghorn antelope got Lupe excited!

Edward Earl mentioned a fork in the road 4.3 miles from Hwy 220.  The R branch goes to a ranch, while Carbon County Road No. 499 continues to the L.  Lupe arrived at this fork just as Mr. Earl said.

At the fork in the road 4.3 miles from Hwy 220. Carbon County Road No. 499 goes L here. The road to the R goes to a private ranch headquarters.

Edward Earl also said that the condition of Carbon County Road No. 499 worsened beyond this intersection.  He cited frequent mud holes which were dry when he was here, but correctly surmised they were mud puddles during wet weather.

SPHP had scarcely made the L turn at the fork, when there was trouble ahead.  A large mud puddle fed by a small stream completely blocked the road.  Lupe and SPHP got out for a look.

Lupe inspects the mud puddle and small stream blocking Carbon County Road No. 499.

Nope!  Not gonna try it!  This mud puddle was as far as the G6 was going.  Mr. Earl’s trip report indicated that it wouldn’t be much farther before high clearance would be needed anyway.  Even though the base of the Charlie Brown Range where Mr. Earl had parked his Nissan pickup truck was still 6.5 miles away, it was going to be paw and foot for Lupe and SPHP from here.  Loopster was in for a very long day!

SPHP parked the G6 in the field next to Carbon County Road No. 499, and proceeded to get ready for Lupe’s long march.  The ranch headquarters was in sight from this location, not too far away.  Soon a vehicle was seen leaving HQ.  A couple minutes later, Lupe and SPHP met Kyra Torgensen and her son.  The G6 was parked on the ranch Kyra and her husband own.  Naturally, she wanted to know what was going on.

The Torgensen’s ranch HQ was in view from where the G6 was parked. Kyra Torgensen and her son soon drove up wanting to know what was going on.

SPHP explained that Lupe was here to climb Ferris Mountain.  It was only another 0.2 mile to BLM land.  SPHP would have parked over there, but the G6 couldn’t get past the mud puddle.  Did she mind if the G6 was parked here for the day?

Mrs. Torgensen was a little reluctant at first.  However, Carbon County Road No. 499 had to be a public right-of-way, which she must have known.  SPHP didn’t mention this fact, though, hoping to avoid an argument.  In the end, while she may not have been thrilled with the idea, Kyra Torgensen was fine with the G6 where it was.  Before she drove away, she warned SPHP not to stay out too late, and to beware of wolves.

A few minutes later, Lupe and SPHP jumped the little stream, and began the long trek to Ferris Mountain (10:17 AM, 68°F).  Only 0.2 mile farther, the Carolina Dog went through a gate onto BLM land.  The road forked again.  Following Edward Earl’s instructions, Lupe took the road to Pete Creek.

After leaving the Torgensen’s ranch, Lupe took BLM Road No. 3148 to Pete Creek. The Charlie Brown Range was still more than 6 miles away.

Lupe and SPHP weren’t worried about wolves.  However, Ferris Mountain had long been the most dreaded peakbagging goal of this entire Dingo Vacation.  The mountain itself wasn’t the worry.  Distance wasn’t either.  Forewarned by Edward Earl’s trip report, SPHP had realized all along that Lupe would likely have a 6+ mile trek just to get to the Charlie Brown Range.

The problem was the sagebrush prairie Lupe would have to cross.  Two of Lupe’s nemeses might well be out there – cactus and rattlesnakes.  If Lupe became scared of cacti, she would refuse to move.  Rattlesnakes, of course, would be far worse.

For these reasons, SPHP encouraged Lupe to stay very close, preferably right on the road.  Most of the time she did.

A few cacti did grow out on the high prairie. Fortunately, they weren’t too abundant.
On the way to the Charlie Brown Range on Pete Creek Road.
Wildflowers blooming on the normally arid prairie.

Fortunately, Lupe saw only a few cactus and no rattlesnakes.  Meanwhile, the weather remained questionable.  Dark clouds hung around.  Sometimes they obscured virtually the entire Charlie Brown Range.  Other times, they lifted to reveal the mountains.  A significant storm was brewing off to the SE.  For a while it came closer, but eventually it sailed off to the NE.

Roughly 4 miles from the G6, Lupe came to a cairn on the L side of Pete Creek Road.  Edward Earl mentioned 3 cairns in this area, but the Loop only saw 1.

Lupe on the only cairn she saw on the L side of Pete Creek Road. Ferris Mountain, her ultimate goal, is straight up from Lupe’s head. Photo looks S.
Lupe at the wire gate described by Edward Earl 9.2 miles from Hwy 220. The view of the mountains ahead shrouded in clouds wasn’t too encouraging at this point.

6.5 miles from the G6, Lupe finally reached the base of the Charlie Brown Range on a grassy ridge E of the mouth of Pete Creek Canyon.  A white pickup truck was parked here near the edge of the forest, right about where Edward Earl must have parked his Nissan pickup.  Pete Creek Road, which had been going due S for miles, turned SE here.

Lupe at the base of the Charlie Brown Range close to where Edward Earl must have parked his Nissan pickup truck in 2014. Pete Creek Road (No. 3148) (R) heads SE from here. Photo looks SE.

Lupe still had another 0.5 mile to go on Pete Creek Road along the base of the mountains.  On the way, she lost 120 feet of elevation crossing the Rush Creek drainage, where she saw a salt lick noted by Edward Earl.  By the time she reached a green metal gate near the mouth of Pole Canyon, she had regained all of the lost elevation and a good deal more.

Beyond the green metal gate, Loop finally left Pete Creek Road.  She headed into Pole Canyon, and quickly came upon a different faint road heading up the valley.

A pronghorn antelope near Pole Creek, which is hidden in the trees. Photo looks E.
Lupe reaches the green metal gate after crossing the Rush Creek drainage on Pete Creek Road. The mouth of Pole Canyon is seen beyond her. Loop left Pete Creek Road near this point. Photo looks S.
Starting up Pole Canyon. Photo looks SW.

Edward Earl had followed this same road up Pole Canyon.  His trip report mentioned fallen trees and a few marshy spots, but Mr. Earl had been here in September when conditions are much drier.  Pole Creek was no occasional marshy spot in the middle of June, but a clear running stream.  It was easy enough to wade across, however, and Lupe enjoyed the cold water.

Lupe at the first crossing of Pole Creek.

The road crossed Pole Creek more than once.  Lupe also came to marshy glades, where the road hardly existed, but she could usually find it again a little higher up.  After a while the road completely disappeared, lost for good.

At another Pole Creek crossing.
Loop cools her paws in Pole Creek. By now, the road she had been following had faded away. So far, it was still pretty easy traveling up the R (NW) side of the canyon. The easiest routes usually weren’t right down by the creek.

At 8,450 feet, Loop arrived at the place where Pole Canyon splits.  When Edward Earl had been here, only the R (W) branch had flowing water.  Both branches had flowing water now.  Like Edward Earl, Lupe stayed L (E).  As she continued gaining elevation, the creek was increasingly hidden beneath snow.

Loop (behind the tree on the right) reaches the 8,450 foot level where Pole Canyon and the stream divide. She would follow the stream seen on the L here up the E branch of the canyon. Photo looks S.
As Lupe continued to gain elevation, the creek was increasingly hidden by snow. Photo looks S.

Lupe stayed to the W (R) of the creek, but it started getting harder to make progress.  The forest was dense, and the American Dingo came to more and more rocks and deadfall.  The canyon sides steepened, becoming more difficult to traverse.  SPHP decided Loop might have an easier time up on the ridge W of the creek.

For a while, leaving the canyon seemed like a good decision.  Lupe had no problem reaching the ridgeline.  It went straight S rising relentlessly at a pretty good clip, but there was less deadfall to deal with.  Sometimes there was even some open ground.  When she did come to rock formations, they usually weren’t much trouble to get around.  Lupe gained elevation rapidly.

After abandoning the canyon to get up on the ridge to the W, Lupe gained elevation rapidly. Here she is perched on the largest rock formation she had to maneuver around in the early going. Photo looks N.
Terrain like this open spot on the ridge was a lot easier to deal with than all the rocks and deadfall in the canyon Loop had left behind. Photo looks S.

It was a long way up.  Lupe gained lots of elevation, but the ridge started getting ever steeper and rockier.  Huge rock formations appeared above.  Looper ended up on steep slopes of broken rock interspersed with spruce trees.  This was challenging terrain.  SPHP began to fear there wouldn’t be a way to the top.

Lupe had gained a lot of elevation, but the ridge route became increasingly challenging. Lupe found herself on steep slopes of broken rock interspersed with spruce trees. This was slow going. Photo looks SSE.

The ridgeline had basically disappeared.  Lupe now seemed to be going straight up the N face of a mountain.  She needed to get to easier terrain.  SPHP led her up a very steep rocky chute toward a forested saddle between two massive rock formations.

Loop never made it to the saddle.  Everything got so steep, progress ground to a halt.  At the top of a long, narrow snow bank, SPHP realized that even if Loop could get up to the saddle, she probably didn’t stand much chance of getting over or around the giant rock formations towering above.  She would be trapped between them.

Lupe at the top of the snow bank where SPHP realized she needed to down climb and go around this part of the mountain. Photo looks N.

Lupe had to down climb.  She needed to get farther E.  She didn’t have to lose all that much elevation, but it took a lot of time.  Fortunately, it wasn’t terribly far around the huge rock formation above her.  Once she managed to get around it, things became easier.  The Carolina Dog was still on steep, rocky stuff, but the route up was more manageable.

Once Lupe worked her way around to the E of the massive rock formation that had towered over her, this route up was much more manageable. Photo looks SSE.

Loop climbed and climbed.  She was very high, and getting close to the top of something!  Her luck needed to hold only a little longer.  It did.  Suddenly she was there!  Lupe stood next to a wooden pole at the top of a big cairn.  The views were spectacular!

Lupe climbed and climbed. SPHP could see she was getting close to the top of something. Suddenly she was there, standing on top of a big cairn next to a wooden pole! Photo looks NE.

Had Lupe arrived at the top of Ferris Mountain (10,037 ft.)?  The grand views, and presence of the big cairn with the pole sticking out of it made SPHP think so.

A more careful look at the views and a glance at the topo map revealed this wasn’t the case.  Lupe was already nearly as high as the true summit, but she was actually on Ferris Mountain’s most westerly sub-peak over 10,000 feet.  The true summit was in view from here, still 0.5 mile away to the SE.

Although SPHP initially thought Lupe might have reached the top of Ferris Mountain here, the true summit (R), which wasn’t much higher, was actually still 0.5 mile away. Photo looks SE.

Clearly, the vast majority of the work of climbing Ferris Mountain (10,037 ft.) was done.  Getting over to the true summit didn’t look hard.  This appeared to be the 2nd highest point on the mountain, and an amazing place.  Lupe had time to take a rest break and enjoy the views.

Looking NW along the Charlie Brown Range from the westernmost 10,000+ ft. subpeak of Ferris Mountain.
The rocky crag seen below on the L is Ferris Mountain North (9,740 ft.). Far beyond it out on the prairie, part of Pathfinder Reservoir is in view. Photo looks NE.
Another look NW with help from the telephoto lens.
Looking down on Lupe’s route up. Pole Canyon divides near the center of the photo. Lupe had started up the R (E) branch, but soon got up on the forested ridge between the divided canyons. After that it was mostly straight on up, with a short down climb to get a bit farther E. Pole Canyon empties out onto the prairie on the R. Photo looks N.
Lupe takes a break on Ferris Mountain West. Photo looks NW.

After relaxing on fabulous Ferris Mountain West, it was time to move on.  The ridge Loop had to follow wasn’t difficult.  Her first objective along it was a slightly lower subpeak only 0.1 mile E.  She was soon there, looking down on the 9,900 foot saddle where Edward Earl had first reached the ridgeline.

The route along the ridge leading to the true summit of Ferris Mountain (R) didn’t look too difficult. Lupe’s first objective, a slightly lower subpeak 0.1 mile E of Ferris Mountain West is seen on the L. Photo looks ESE.
Heading toward the 9,900 foot saddle. Ferris Mountain’s true summit (Center) is seen straight up from Lupe. Ferris Mountain Middle (10,000 ft.) is across the saddle toward the R. Photo looks SE.

Loop went down to the 9,900 foot saddle and crossed it.  Edward Earl hadn’t gone all the way up to Ferris Mountain West, but the American Dingo was back on his trail again here.  She was now approaching Ferris Mountain Middle (10,000 ft.), the next high point along the ridge.

Looking down on Ferris Mountain North, the rocky crag on the R, from the 9,900 ft. saddle. Photo looks NNW.
Lupe approaches Ferris Mountain Middle, the next 10,000+ ft. high point along the ridge. Lupe went around the N (L) side of it before climbing up to the top from the E. Photo looks SE.

The Carolina Dog stayed high as she went around the N side of Ferris Mountain Middle looking for a way to the top.  She had to get E beyond the high point before she found a route.  Ferris Mountain Middle (10,000 ft.) was another rather dramatic place to be!

After circling around the N (R) side of Ferris Mountain Middle, Lupe found a route to the top from the E. This was a rather dramatic place to be! Photo looks NW.
At the top of Ferris Mountain Middle. Photo looks NW.
Ferris Mountain West, where Lupe had first come up, is seen in the distance slightly L of Center. Photo looks NW.

Ferris Mountain’s true summit was now no more than 0.25 mile away.  A lot of time had gone by.  Lupe and SPHP were anxious to get there.  The terrain wasn’t difficult, so Loop made great progress.

Approaching the true summit. Photo looks ESE.

Near the very end, everything was rocky.  Fortunately, it still wasn’t too hard getting around.  Lupe seemed to be running out of mountain, when suddenly the summit appeared ahead.  Right below the highest rocks, a metal sign said “Ferris Peak, Continental Divide, 10,037 ft.”  Lupe had made it!

This what we’ve been looking for, SPHP? …. Yes, ma’am, that’s it, sweet Puppy!
On Ferris Mountain at the top of the Charlie Brown Range. Photo looks S.
Ferris Mountain summit. Photo looks S.

What a tremendous mountain!  The views were superb.  The weather was vastly improved from what it’d been this morning.  Beauty shone forth in every direction in the early evening light.  A glorious day!  SPHP congratulated Lupe on her grand success, shaking her freckled paw.

Scrambling the short remaining distance to the highest rocks, Lupe came across two survey markers.  At the very top, tucked among rocks near the metal sign, she found a plastic jar.  Inside was a registry.  SPHP was eager to have a look at.

Was it there?  Yes, it was!  Happy day!  SPHP found the entry by Edward Earl.

One of two survey markers Lupe found on Ferris Mountain.
Survey marker No. 2.
The plastic jar containing the registry in its hiding place behind the metal sign.
Edward Earl’s 9-5-2014 entry in the Ferris Mountain registry.

Seeing that Edward Earl had written about the Charlie Brown Mountains made SPHP smile.  Lupe had been to quite a few mountains with assistance from Mr. Earl’s detailed trip reports.  Once again, she was at the top of a mountain Edward had been to before her.  Sadly, Lupe would never get to meet him.

Edward Earl had perished tragically nearly 2 years ago on 6-19-2015, drowned in the rushing Jago River in the Brooks Range in NE Alaska following two failed attempts to climb Mount Isto (8,976 ft.).

Others appreciate Edward Earl’s excellent route descriptions, too. John Stolk of Redmond, WA mentioned Edward in his registry entry dated 8-21-16.
Lupe’s entry in the Ferris Mountain registry.
Lupe taking it easy in the least uncomfortable spot she could find on Ferris Mountain while waiting for SPHP to finish with the registry. The registry showed that 4 other people had been here earlier today, but Loop never saw anyone.

Lupe rested among the rocks, while SPHP fiddled with the registry.  When SPHP was finally done, it was time to spend a while contemplating the tremendous views.

Lupe looking beautiful in the evening light up on Ferris Mountain. Photo looks N.
View to the SE.

Looking S. Edward Earl was once where Lupe was now.
Final moments at the top.
Looking NW from the summit. Ferris Mountain’s westernmost 10,000+ foot high point where Lupe came up is in the distance on the L.
Lupe had seen these same dome-like hills from Whiskey Peak (9,225 ft.) a day earlier. Photo looks NW with help from the telephoto lens.
Pathfinder Reservoir from Ferris Mountain. Photo looks NE with help from the telephoto lens.
The Pedro Mountains rise on the far side of the southern end of Pathfinder Reservoir. Photo looks E with help from the telephoto lens.

All too soon, the angle of the sun insisted it was time to move on.  Lupe left Ferris Mountain starting back the way she’d come up.  SPHP figured the American Dingo still had some time to spare.  She revisited the summit of Ferris Mountain Middle.

Lupe returns to the top of Ferris Mountain Middle. On the way back the plan was to visit Ferris Mountain North, the rocky knob on the R, too. Photo looks NW.
Ferris Mountain North (R) from Ferris Mountain Middle. Photo looks NW.
Ferris Mountain West (L) from Ferris Mountain Middle. Lupe wasn’t going all the way back over there on her way down.

From Ferris Mountain Middle, Lupe went down to the 9,900 foot saddle.  She was about to leave the mountain’s main ridgeline.  Before continuing down, she took a last look at the huge expanse of prairie S of the Charlie Brown Range.

Before leaving the 9,900 foot saddle, Lupe took a final look at the huge expanse of prairie S of the Charlie Brown Range. Photo looks SW.

She then turned her attention to her final peakbagging objective of the day, Ferris Mountain North (9,740 ft.).

Looking down on Ferris Mountain North from the 9,900 foot saddle. Photo looks N with help from the telephoto lens.

Looper headed down to the 9,700 foot saddle leading to Ferris Mountain North.  She went N toward the high point.  As she got close, she circled around to the E where it wasn’t as steep.  Lupe quickly found a rocky route to the top.

Approaching the top of Ferris Mountain North from the SE.

To the S, were the forested upper N slopes of Ferris Mountain leading to the ridge where the Carolina Dog had spent the last several hours atop the Charlie Brown Range.  To the N, thirsty sagebrush prairie stretched away to distant hills.  Shadows of ridges made the land look like ripples on a sea.

Lupe on Ferris Mountain North with a view of the NE side of the Charlie Brown Mountains. Photo looks NW.
Ferris Mountain (L), Ferris Mountain Middle (Center), and the 9,900 foot saddle (R) from Ferris Mountain North. Photo looks SE.
Looking down on the 9,700 foot saddle from Ferris Mountain North. The 9,900 foot saddle is seen up on the ridge on the L. Ferris Mountain Middle is the high point on the far L. Photo looks S.
A commanding view to the N.
Looking NNW.

Lupe couldn’t linger long on Ferris Mountain North.  She was 2 miles from the green metal gate near the mouth of Pole Canyon.  Another 7 miles to the G6.  After a good look around, and a little time spent in contemplation, Lupe headed back to the 9,700 foot saddle.

Downhill all the way now!  The Carolina Dog plunged N down into the E branch of Pole Canyon.  The forest was a maze of 3 to 5 foot high snow drifts and deadfall timber, but this route was easier than the way Lupe had gone up.  The terrain was only moderately steep, and not too rocky.

Loop soon discovered that the roughest ground was at the bottom of the canyon.  For a long way, she stayed E and higher up, sometimes more than 100 feet above the creekbed.  The snowbanks shrank and became less numerous, as she lost elevation.

By the time Lupe was low enough so most of the snow was gone, the deadfall wasn’t as bad either.  She now made fast progress, which was a good thing.  The sun, though still up, was hidden behind the mountains.  Sunset couldn’t be too far off.

As Lupe drew near the point where both branches of Pole Canyon converge, the terrain changed.  Lupe made her way to the bottom of the canyon, and leapt over to the W side of the creek.  She soon came to the stream confluence, and had to make one more crossing.  For a while she traveled down Pole Canyon staying W or NW of the stream.

To avoid the larger stream crossings and swampy ground closer to the mouth of Pole Canyon, Lupe eventually got up on the side of the ridge to the NW.  Nearing the base of the Charlie Brown Range, she reached the ridgeline.  The sun was down, the land dark.  Thin clouds glowed brilliantly orange in a pale sky.

The colorful display faded to gray.  Lupe managed to reach the green metal gate before it was too dark to see.  Still 7 miles to go, but Loop had made it to Pete Creek Road.  After crossing the Rush Creek drainage, the road turned N.  All gently downhill from here.

Lupe and SPHP marched away from the Charlie Brown Range, never looking back.  Only blackness was behind.  Ahead, distant headlights on Hwy 220.  The infinite universe glittered above.

Every now and then Lupe heard something, and went racing away into the night.  Antelope?  Rabbits?  No telling.  Fortunately, the luck of the Dingo held.  She always came streaking back, panting happily.  No cactus had stabbed her.  No rattler had bit her.  No wolves had devoured her.

Ferris Mountain had been a fabulous day!  Yet, things don’t always go one’s way.  Luck can run out.  Perhaps weariness, or the silent black night was to blame, but during the long trek back it was hard not to think about another adventurer who had come this way.  An adventurer who ultimately helped make this day a success for beloved Lupe, but whose luck had run out nearly 2 years ago.

It was hard not to ponder the life and times, and tragic fate of Edward Earl.  (12:05 AM)

Sunset in the Charlie Brown Range, 6-17-17.


Edward Earl on Peakbagger.com

Edward Earl’s trip report on his 9-5-2014 ascent of Ferris Mountain

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s 2017 Laramie Range, Wyoming & Beyond Adventure IndexDingo Vacations Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

Whiskey Peak, Wyoming (6-16-17)

Day 9 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range & Beyond!

Though shown on the road map, Lamont didn’t even seem to be a town.  Sagebrush, a few cattle, and a highway intersection was about it.  After turning W off Hwy 287, SPHP found a place to park.  Lupe got out for a look around.  Off to the NW, she could see her next peakbagging objective, Whiskey Peak (9,225 ft.), the highest point in the Green Mountains.

Whiskey Peak from Lamont, Wyoming. Photo looks NW.

The view was encouraging.  Whiskey Peak looked like an easy climb for the Carolina Dog.  The big question was access.  If Lupe could get to Whiskey Peak, SPHP was certain she could climb it.  The only roads into the area that the G6 might be able to manage were NW of the town of Bairoil.  Even those roads might quickly deteriorate to high clearance or 4WD vehicles only.

Hwy 73 was paved all the way to Bairoil.  So far, so good.  Bairoil didn’t really seem to be much of a town either, but there was a lot more here than at Lamont.  Bairoil appeared to be more of an energy-related industrial center.  Metal buildings, industrial equipment, and vehicles were widely scattered along a network of dirt and gravel roads.  There didn’t seem to be a whole lot going on right now.  Maybe because energy prices were still relatively low in 2017?

A pronghorn antelope in the thriving industrial metropolis of Bairoil, Wyoming.

The street layout in Bairoil didn’t seem to match up very well with what was shown on the old topo map.  SPHP drove NW through town, staying mostly to the L at turns, and continued this same practice once Lupe was N of town.  A number of gravel roads headed out this direction, none marked in any way that meant anything to SPHP.

After bumping along for 2 or 3 miles, SPHP parked the G6 near an intersection on relatively flat, sparsely vegetated ground.  There hadn’t been any signs indicating private property or prohibiting public access on the way here.  Close enough!  Situation excellent!  This was about as far as SPHP had dared hope the G6 would be able to make it, anyway.  Lupe could start for Whiskey Peak from here.  (10:35 AM, 62°F)

Lupe a few miles NW of Bairoil about to start out for Whiskey Peak. Part of the Abel Creek drainage is seen in the foreground. Photo looks NE.

A strong breeze was blowing out of the W as Lupe set out.  She didn’t head straight for Whiskey Peak, which was now to the NE, but followed a road leading NW from the intersection.  This road, which was in such good condition the G6 might easily have followed it farther, appeared headed for a ridge a few miles away.  The ridge was mostly bare, but dotted with scattered pines or junipers.

A fairly strong W wind was blowing as Lupe began following this road. The road headed toward Whiskey Ridge, but Lupe didn’t follow it very far. Photo looks NW.

A fence ran parallel to the road, not too far off to the R (NE).  Lupe stuck with the road only until the fence ended.  Staying on the road would have taken Loop up to Whiskey Ridge, but a more direct route to Whiskey Peak appeared to be an option.  Up on more heavily forested slopes along a higher part of Whiskey Ridge straight N from here, another road could be seen.

Lupe followed the road she started out on only to this point where the fence turned. A different road, which was a much more direct route to Whiskey Peak, is seen at upper L going up the ridge. Lupe headed for it from here. Photo looks NNE.

Lupe abandoned the road she’d been following, and headed NE avoiding the fence.  She crossed the Abel Creek drainage, which was dry and fairly shallow here.  A faint, grassy road led out of the drainage to a better road that headed for Whiskey Ridge.  Loop followed it N across high prairie toward the forest, gradually gaining elevation all the way.

On the way N to Whiskey Ridge. The high ridge on the L is Stratton Rim. The small high point seen straight up from Lupe’s back is Stratton Rim North (8,740 ft.). The less uniform ridge on the R is part of Whiskey Ridge. Photo looks W.

The road Lupe was on led right to the road she’d seen from a distance high up in the forest on Whiskey Ridge.  As she got near the trees, the slope began to increase dramatically.  Soon Lupe was climbing steeply.  The road up was in bad shape.  For a long way, it was deeply eroded and full of loose rocks.  As a road, it was nothing but a disaster, though it still made a good trail.

By now, it was quite warm in the sun.  The steepness of the route caused SPHP to stop many times to rest.  Lupe was eager to escape the heat.  She curled up in the shade whenever SPHP stopped, and frequently accepted water.

By and by, Lupe finally reached the top of the ridgeline.  The remnant of the road she’d been following went right on over the saddle where she came up.  Oddly enough, what appeared to be a large electrical service box was close by.

Lupe reaches the top of Whiskey Ridge at this saddle. She’s standing on the faint remnant of the road she’d been following. This road went right on over the saddle past the unexpected electrical service box seen beyond Loop. Photo looks N.

Not realizing how much of a shortcut Lupe had taken, SPHP was puzzled to find no other roads around.  The topo map showed a road following closely along the top of Whiskey Ridge for nearly 2 miles from a pass NE of Stratton Rim North.  The plan had been for Lupe to follow this road all the way to Whiskey Peak.  However, it was nowhere in sight.

SPHP failed to realize Lupe had arrived at the 8,730 foot saddle at the E end of the 2 mile stretch where the road to the summit abandons the ridgeline.  Very close to where Looper was, it jogged N going downhill a short distance before turning SE to head for Whiskey Peak.  If Lupe had just stuck with the road she’d been on a bit farther, she would soon have come to it.

Instead, Loop and SPHP turned E, and began climbing a grassy slope which led to a forested high point.  It seemed like the most reasonable thing to do, since it was clear Whiskey Peak was still well to the E from here.  As Lupe went up the grassy slope, she started getting her first look at some impressive views.

As Lupe climbed the grassy slope, she got her first look at this wild looking territory N of Whiskey Ridge. Photo looks NNW.
Looper coming up the grassy slope. Whiskey Ridge leads toward Stratton Rim in the distance on the L. The road Lupe had just missed coming to that winds along Whiskey Ridge, is seen on the R. Lupe had arrived at the saddle below coming up through the trees on the L. Photo looks WSW.

Loop entered the forest above the grassy slope, and continued on up to the high point.  The high point itself wasn’t heavily forested.  Lupe could see a tower up on Whiskey Peak from here.

SPHP was surprised by how close Lupe was already.  She was over 9,000 feet, and the summit was only a mile away.  Getting there would be a cinch!  A long grassy slope went all the way to the top.

Lupe reaches the first high point over 9,000 feet. SPHP was surprised by how close she was to the top of Whiskey Peak already. The tower (L) was only a mile away.

A small ridge led E from the first high point Lupe had reached to another slightly higher one no more than 0.25 mile away.  (High Point 9041 on the topo map)  Loopster started for the next high point following this little ridge.

Lupe following the small ridge leading to High Point 9041. Whiskey Peak is dead ahead. Photo looks E.

Lupe never got to High Point 9041.  Instead, she spotted a small pond to the N at the bottom of a short slope.  The pond looked refreshing!  Naturally, the American Dingo had to go check it out.

Before she got to High Point 9041, Lupe spotted this small pond. Photo looks N.
Oh, yeah! Lupe doesn’t like to swim, but wading in the pond was fun and refreshing.
The ridge Lupe had been following is seen on the L. Photo looks W.

After wading around to cool off and drinking her fill, Lupe left the pond.  She traveled E through an open forest where yellow wildflowers grew in sunny glades.

Among the yellow wildflowers.

Beyond the forest, Lupe reached the long grassy slope that went the rest of the way up to the top of Whisky Peak.  As she approached, a small herd of 5 horses watched with concern.  These horses seemed to be wild, and living up on Whiskey Peak permanently.  They were curious, but gave Lupe and SPHP a wide berth.

This small herd of horses watched the Carolina Dog’s approach with a mix of concern and curiosity. They gave Lupe a wide berth, but never left the broad grassy slopes W of the summit. They seemed to be wild and living on Whiskey Peak on a permanent basis.

Lupe reached the summit of Whiskey Peak (9,225 ft.).  The highest point was near the S end of a long, spacious ridge.  Pink, orange, tan and white rocks and boulders were plentiful.  The biggest, most eye-catching view was off to the ESE toward Ferris Mountain (10,037 ft.).

Lupe at the summit of Whiskey Peak. Ferris Mountain (Center) was the most eye-catching view from here. Photo looks ESE.
Ferris Mountain from Whiskey Peak. Photo looks ESE with help from the telephoto lens.

Whiskey Peak featured plenty of impressive views in other directions, too.  Lupe and SPHP hung out around the summit quite a while taking it all in.

The W wind hadn’t been bad most of the way up, but was practically a gale on top of Whiskey Peak.  Loop took little breaks now and then between photo sessions.  She usually sought out the lee side of rocks, or sat next to SPHP for shelter.

Mighty breezy up here, SPHP!  Is this it?

Sure is, Loop.  Is this what?

The top of the mountain, silly.   Is this it?

Oh, yes, of course!  Yeah, this is the top, alright.  Look at those views!

Yes, yes, quite splendid.  And windy.  So it’s time to celebrate, right?

Oh, sure!  Congratulations, Looper, you’ve climbed another magnificent mountain!  All the way to the top.  Great job, Loop!

Thanks for shaking my paw and all, SPHP.  I do appreciate your sentiments, but I was hoping for a bit more actually.  This is sort of a special place, right?

Yes, I suppose it is special.  What were you hoping for?  Water, Taste of the Wild?  I brought plenty of both.

Umm, no.  Those are fine usually, but I was hoping for something a little more appropriate for the occasion.

Huh, like what?

You’re a bit slow as usual SPHP.  Where are we after all?

Whiskey Peak.


Ruh, roh!  Lupe gazed expectantly up at SPHP, her eyes shining merrily with a big smile on her face.  The wind ruffled her fur, but she was momentarily unperturbed.

For a moment, not knowing what to do, SPHP did and said nothing.  Gradually, the smile began to fade from Looper’s face.  As SPHP began to pet her, Loop’s ears drooped.  Gone was the look of a 4 year old on Christmas morning.  Tears glistened in her always trusting light brown eyes.

Sorry, Loop.

So, there’s nothing else in the pack for me, for us, then?

No, sorry Loop.

No Glenfiddich?  Not even a little Jack Daniels?

Not a drop.  Guess, I didn’t think.  I didn’t realize you might be expecting anything like that.

Lupe blinked back the tears.

Oh, it’s OK.  I suppose I should have known.  We’ve been to Elk Mountains and there haven’t been any elk.  Deer Mountain and there weren’t any deer.  Bear Mountain and there weren’t any bears.  I never will understand you humans.  I just thought that this time, after all the mountains we’ve been to, maybe this one was a really special place.  Maybe this time you really were planning a special celebration for me.  I got my hopes up.

Sorry to have disappointed you, dearest Dingo.  I’ll make it up to you somehow, before too long.  Whiskey Peak is a really special place.  Just like all the other mountains we’ve been on.  There are countless mountains in the world, and we will only ever see the world from a tiny fraction of them.  Seeing these fabulous views, even if for only a little while, and even if we never ever come back to see them again, makes this place special.  And what makes it really special is that we are both here to share it together, sweet Dingo of mine!

Lupe sighed, then smiled weakly.

I know you’re right, SPHP.  But promise me one thing.  If we ever do come back to Whiskey Peak, you won’t disappoint me again.  Deal?

Deal!  Shake?

Lupe lifted her freckled paw and let SPHP shake it.

OK, SPHP.  Let’s go see what else there is to see from here before I get blown off clear to the next county.

Looking S toward the little community of Bairoil. The views were terrific, but Loopster was not enjoying the gale out of the W.
Hiding out from the wind. Photo looks SE.
Much of Whiskey Peak’s summit ridge is in view here. Loop is on some of the very highest rocks. Lupe found no cairns, but Whiskey Peak did sport the fairly sizeable stone fort seen beyond her. Photo looks NNW.
View to the WNW.
Looper in the stone fortress. Photo looks WNW.
Looking NE toward Muddy Gap.

After taking a break and spending a while near Whiskey Peak’s true summit, Lupe went N along the summit ridge toward the tower close to the N end.  The ground near the tower was definitely lower than where she’d already been, but this area provided a different vantage point for another look around.

Nearing the tower at the N end of Whiskey Peak’s long summit ridge. Photo looks N.
Ferris Mountain from the N end of the summit ridge. Photo looks ESE.
Lupe found the Rapid survey benchmark on a rock N of the tower.
View to the NNW.
Looking W from near the tower.
Looking S along Whiskey Peak’s summit ridge. The stone fort near the true summit is in view on the L.
Another look at the interesting dome-like hills to the NNW.
Looking NW.

Lupe still had a long way to go, so she couldn’t stay up on Whiskey Peak too long.  The wind being what it was, she was glad of that.  From the tower, she started down the huge grassy slope to the W.  The wild horses saw her coming again, and circled back around the S side of the slope up towards the true summit to stay out of the Carolina Dog’s way.

The wild horses circled away from Lupe back up toward the true summit.

On the way down, Loop stuck to the road that came up the center of the grassy area for a considerable distance.

Lupe stuck to the road coming down the center of the grassy area for a while, but eventually headed back to the pond she’d passed in the forest on the way up. Photo looks E.
Purple wildflowers on Whiskey Peak.

Lupe eventually left the road to go back to the pond she’d gone wading in on the way up.  From the pond she went NW through the forest, hoping to avoid having to climb the high point W of the pond again by staying N of it.

This turned out to be the worst possible route back to the saddle where she’d first reached Whiskey Ridge.  Either staying on the road from the tower, or climbing from the pond back up to the high point would have been better.  The forest NW of the pond was full of deadfall timber, plus a steep drainage that was a bother to cross.

Nevertheless, Loop made it back to the grassy slope leading down to the saddle where she’d first reached Whiskey Ridge.  The shortest route back to the G6 would have been to leave the saddle going S right back down the steep rocky road she’d come up earlier in the day.  However, by now, SPHP had seen the road following Whiskey Ridge farther WSW, and understood where Lupe was on the topo map.

Instead of going straight back to the G6, following the road along the ridge would eventually get Lupe to where she could peakbag Stratton Rim North (8,740 ft.) today, too.  This was a long detour, but Loop still had time enough to do it.  It seemed like a fun idea, and she wasn’t likely to ever have another chance like this one.

So from the saddle, Lupe followed the ridge road.

Following the road winding WSW along Whiskey Ridge. Lupe’s next peakbagging goal, Stratton Rim North, is the little high point at Center. Photo looks SW.
Orange wildflowers growing near the road on Whiskey Ridge.

After 2 miles on the winding road traversing Whiskey Ridge, Lupe reached Low Pass.  Several roads intersected here.  Stratton Rim North was still another 0.75 mile away.  Only an ATV trail went the remaining distance to it, but that was plenty good for Loop.

After following the road along Whiskey Ridge for 2 miles, Lupe arrives at Low Pass.
Several roads intersected near Low Pass. The one seen here heads down into a valley to the N. Loop wasn’t going this way.
Only this ATV route continued the remaining 0.75 mile to Stratton Rim North from Low Pass, but it was a great trail for Lupe to follow. Photo looks W.
Almost there! Approaching Stratton Rim North. Photo looks SW.

The ATV trail didn’t go quite all the way to the top of Stratton Rim North, passing N of the high point only a short distance below it.  The wind was howling here, even worse than it had been up on Whiskey Peak.  Lupe wasn’t thrilled with the idea, but she did manage to climb to the top of Stratton Rim North (8,740 ft.).

SPHP was glad she did.  The views were really terrific!

Loop arrives at the summit of Stratton Rim North. Whiskey Peak (L), where she’d just come from, and more distant Ferris Mountain (R) are in view. Photo looks E.
Ferris Mountain from Stratton Rim North. Lupe wasn’t enjoying the wind at all. It was much gustier here than it had been earlier in the day. Periods of relative calm existed between sudden blasts. Photo looks E with help from the telephoto lens.
The rest of Stratton Rim from Stratton Rim North. Photo looks SW.
High Point 8729 is the small bare hill L of Center ringed by a few trees near the top. A long snow bank is seen below the E lip of Stratton Rim’s long N ridge. Photo looks NW.
Looking N.
Ferris Mountain (R) with help from the telephoto lens. Photo looks ESE.
Whiskey Peak (R of Center) with help from the telephoto lens. Photo looks ENE.

Lupe’s journey to Whiskey Peak and Stratton Rim North had been a success!  However, the American Dingo was anxious to escape the powerful blasts of the gusty W wind.  SPHP briefly considered the possibility of going straight on down Stratton Rim North’s E slope, but decided it was too steep to be worth the trouble.  May as well take the ATV trail back to Low Pass.

Before she got all the way back to Low Pass, though, Loopster did take a shortcut.  She left the ATV trail descending E down a minor ridgeline into a valley.  She intercepted a road going S down the valley from Low Pass.  The road gradually curved SE.

Lupe was still high enough to have panoramic views to the S and E, but far enough down so Stratton Rim sheltered her from the wind.  The evening trek back to the G6 was easy, beautiful, and fun.  Lupe saw a larger herd of wild horses, and several pronghorn antelope on the way.

Happy times out of the wind on the way back to the G6. Ferris Mountain (L) is in the distance. Photo looks ESE.
View to the S on the way back from Stratton Rim North.
Red wildflowers.
On the way back, Lupe passed this sign. It understated the distance to Whiskey Peak (at least following the road) by a good mile. Photo looks NW.
Lupe passed by this larger herd of wild horses, too.
Pronghorn antelope

It was still light out when Lupe got back to the G6 (7:42 PM, 65°F).  After having her evening Alpo, she wanted out again.  She wandered around sniffing for a bit, then found a place to curl up.  This far from Stratton Rim, the W wind swept over her, though not nearly so strongly as up on the ridge.

And there Lupe stayed, listening and watching, as clouds swept past overhead and light of day faded away.  Whiskey Peak disappeared from view as the world turned black.  And if SPHP had had any Glenfiddich or Jack Daniels, Lupe surely would have gotten a shot or two before bed, but alas, the poor doggie had none!

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s 2017 Laramie Range, Wyoming & Beyond Adventure IndexDingo Vacations Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

Pine Mountain, the Sweetwater County, Wyoming High Point (6-15-17)

Day 8 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range & Beyond!

Colorado!  For pity sake!  Edward Earl’s trip report had warned that the sign for the turnoff to Pine Mountain was difficult to see from the highway.  Supposedly, SPHP had been watching carefully for it.  Not carefully enough, apparently!  SPHP turned the G6 around.  Lupe headed N back into Wyoming.

After leaving Prior Flat and the Shirley Mountains this morning, most of the day had been spent traveling.  The afternoon drive S from Rock Springs on Hwy 430 had been gorgeous.  High, remote ridges and hills stretched to the horizon, separated by dusty oceans of undulating sagebrush prairies.  Classic Wyoming!

On the way S, Lupe had finally seen a mountain SPHP figured might well be Pine Mountain (9,550 ft.).  Even with this advance warning that Lupe must have been getting close, the turnoff had been missed.

30 or 40 miles S of Rock Springs on Hwy 430, this mountain came into view to the SSW. Maybe it was Pine Mountain? Photo looks SSW.
Getting closer. SPHP never really figured out if this was actually Pine Mountain, or another one close by. Photo looks SW.
This road leading into a scenic valley W of Hwy 430 looked intriguing, but Lupe didn’t get to explore it. It turned out this road wasn’t far from the Colorado border. Lupe had already missed the turn to Pine Mountain by the time she reached this point. Photo looks W.

The turnoff to Pine Mountain was supposed to be about 5 miles N of the Colorado border.  Of course, Edward Earl had been here way back in July, 2002.  Maybe the sign at the turn he referred to in his trip report was damaged, no longer existed, or had fallen over?  SPHP drove slowly N staring down each dirt road leading W from Hwy 430.

Maybe SPHP was just driving super slow, but it seemed like Lupe had gone well over 5 miles from the Colorado border.  Still nothing.  SPHP was considering turning around again for another pass at it going S, when at the top of a rise, there it was!  A BLM sign in perfectly good condition said “Pine Mountain 12”.  How had SPHP missed that?  Didn’t matter, Lupe was on her way!

The BLM sign at the turnoff was small, but in perfectly good condition. The turn is at the top of a rise on the W side of Hwy 430 between mile markers 49 & 50. Photo looks WSW.

It remained to be seen how far Lupe would get, however.  Edward Earl mentioned several sharply eroded ruts across the road within the first couple of miles.  Maybe the G6 wouldn’t be able to get past them?  That would be bad news.  A hot, dry 10 mile one-way march just to get to Pine Mountain wasn’t going to happen.

Fortunately, the sharply eroded ruts no longer seemed to exist.  Most encouraging!  The road was supposed to be good the rest of the way.  The next landmark Mr. Earl said to watch for was a fork in the road 4 miles from the highway.  A BLM sign on the L would say 8 miles to Pine Mountain.

At 3 miles, and again at 4 miles, Lupe came to unsigned 4-way intersections at minor crossroads.  Hmm.  Edward Earl hadn’t mentioned these.  SPHP drove straight at each one.  5 miles from the highway, Lupe did come to a fork in the road.  A BLM sign near the L fork said “Red Creek Basin, County Road #71, Titsworth Gap”.  No mention of Pine Mountain, or any clue as to where the road to the R went.

Pine Mountain was nowhere in sight.  The sign looked fairly new, but even if it had been replaced since Edward Earl was here, why didn’t it mention Pine Mountain?  None of the places listed meant anything to SPHP.  Still, the road to the L was going the right general direction.  It was probably the way.  Maybe best, though, to go a little farther on the road to the R, just to make certain another fork wasn’t coming up soon?

A 0.5 mile jaunt down the R fork revealed nothing other than that the road deteriorated rather quickly.  No other turns to the L could be seen for at least another 0.5 mile.  That settled it.  Lupe returned to the “Y” and took the road to the L.

A stuffed monkey hangs for no obvious reason from the new BLM sign at the “Y” about 5 miles from Hwy 430. Pine Mountain is nowhere in sight, but the road to the L, seen here winding off to the SW, is the right way to go!

Six miles later, SPHP parked the G6 at the base of Pine Mountain’s long NE ridge in a saddle just S of High Point 8510, a small butte mentioned by Mr. Earl.  It was getting late in the afternoon (5:17 PM), and the 9,550 ft. summit was still more than 4 miles away.

After being cooped up in the G6 most of the day, Lupe was ready for action!  A road goes all the way to the top of Pine Mountain, so getting to the summit would be a cinch.  The sun stays up late in June, so even on paw and foot Lupe and SPHP would have plenty of time.  Maybe Loop would even get to enjoy a nice sunset up there?

The trek had barely started, when SPHP nearly stepped on a baby pronghorn antelope hiding on the ground.  It was very much alive.  Lupe was already off racing around the fields, so she hadn’t seen it.  Best that she didn’t.  SPHP hurried over to the road leading up the mountain.  Lupe never did see the baby pronghorn.  No doubt she would have loved to, but it wouldn’t have been a good thing.

Lupe never did see this baby pronghorn antelope hiding on the ground.
The G6 is parked in the saddle S of High Point 8510 (L), the small butte mentioned by Edward Earl. The road on the R goes all the way to the top of Pine Mountain. It was fairly steep in places, and had one rough section at the end of a big switchback, but overall it was quite good. Even the G6 might have made it to the top. Where’s the fun in that, though? Photo looks NNW.

Despite its woodsy name, only the N side of Pine Mountain turned out to be forested.  Most of the mountain was bare or sported only scattered trees.  The road to the top never entered the forest.  Consequently, Lupe had big sweeping views all the way up the mountain.  They only got better as she gained elevation.

Only the N slopes of Pine Mountain were forested. Lupe never entered the forest. She enjoyed huge panoramic views all the way up the mountain. The road to Hwy 430 is seen below. Photo looks NE.

The first 1.5 miles were by far the steepest.  Near the end of it, the road made a single giant switchback followed by a short rocky section.  After that the slope of the mountain decreased steadily.

Looking up the steepest part of the climb. Not bad at all, really! Beyond the high point seen above, the slope of the mountain decreased steadily. Photo looks SSW.
Yellow wildflowers like these dotted the slopes of Pine Mountain.
Still early in the climb. The tan tank in the distance may be the water tank Edward Earl referred to in his trip report. The main road to the top of Pine Mountain used to go by it, but has been rerouted. The mountain in the distance is Diamond Peak (9,640 ft.) in Colorado. Photo looks SSE.
View to the NE in early evening light.
Four J Basin from Pine Mountain’s NE ridge. Photo looks ESE.

Once past the steep part, the road headed SW up a wide, grassy, but otherwise barren slope.  The view from the road would remain boringly the same for more than 2 miles.  Far to the R was the edge of the forest.  Far to the L was the SE edge of the mountain.

Yes, that’s right! The view along the road was like this for more than 2 miles. Boring! That’s why I went L over to follow the edge of the mountain. Great views over there! Photo looks SW.

After trudging nearly half of this dull distance on the road, even SPHP began to realize this trek would be a lot more fun over by the edge where Lupe could see the big views to the SE.

The edge of the mountain provided splendid views the entire way.  The only disadvantage was that the higher Lupe went, the windier and colder the edge became.  Loop didn’t care for the wind, but it wasn’t unbearable.

The wind makes Lupe squint, but she had a fantastic view of Middle Mountain (9,559 ft.) (R) and Diamond Peak (9,640 ft.) (Center in the distance) to the SE.
Loopster along the SE edge of Pine Mountain. Photo looks SW.

The highest part of Pine Mountain forms a huge crescent pointing SW.  The terrain features mostly small rocks, small plants, and is otherwise barren and flat.  The topo map shows two high points near the S edge.  At the far SE end, the former site of an old radio tower is shown as having an elevation of 9,546 ft.  Nearly half a mile to the WNW is the official summit with an elevation of 9,550 ft.

Lupe arrived at the SE high point first.  A small concrete platform only 3′ x 3′ was all that seemed to remain of the radio tower.  The platform was located next to the start of a long fence which swept around to the W from here near the S edge of the mountain.

At the SE end of Pine Mountain, Lupe reached this concrete platform, apparently all that remains of an old radio tower installation. As near as SPHP could tell, this was High Point 9,546 on the topo map. Photo looks W.
Near the old radio tower site looking SSE. The mountains in the distance are all in Colorado. Lupe is less than 2 miles from the border here.
The snow-capped peaks barely visible on the far horizon on the L are likely part of the Uinta Range in Utah. Photo looks WSW.

A two track dirt road ran along the N side of the fence close to the edge of the mountain.  Since she still hadn’t made it to Pine Mountain’s official summit, Lupe followed this road W, continuing on it as it curved gradually to the WNW, then NW.

Following the road N of the fence, Lupe came to several piles of old fence posts along the way. Photo looks N.

Edward Earl had mentioned that each of the two spot elevations on the topo map appeared higher when viewed from the other.  In Mr. Earl’s opinion, HP 9546 near the old radio tower site was likely the true summit, not HP 9550 which was the true summit according to the map.

Like Mr. Earl, Lupe visited both of these points.  In the end, SPHP had no firm opinion where the true summit actually was, only that Lupe must have reached it somewhere along the way.  No matter where Lupe was along the rim of the mountain, the terrain in the distance always looked definitely somewhat higher!

Perhaps the American Dingo knew exactly when she reached the true summit, but she maintained silence on the point.  Dingoes don’t fret about such things.  As far as Lupe was concerned, she’d done her peakbagging job and reached the top of Pine Mountain (9,550 ft.).

Near the SW end of the mountain, not too far from the official 9,550 ft. summit on the topo map, Lupe came to a green gate in the fence.  She went through the gate, and started a little down the slope before stopping near the edge of the steepest part.  A fairly strong wind still blew out of the SW, making things rather chilly on the totally exposed edge.

As far as the Carolina Dog could see, unspoiled open territory stretched past grand valleys and hills to distant mountains, some snow-capped, on the far horizon.

Lupe enjoying tremendous views along the SW edge of Pine Mountain. Photo looks W.
Barely visible snow-capped peaks are on the horizon. Perhaps part of the Uinta Range in NE Utah? Photo looks SW.
The same snowy peaks with lots of help from the telephoto lens. Photo looks SW.
The forested hill in the foreground is Kleins Hill (9,048 ft.) in Colorado. Photo looks S.

Nearly an hour remained before sunset.  Other than the wind, which seemed to be gradually weakening as the sun sank, there wasn’t a reason in the world why Lupe shouldn’t stay to enjoy the show.  Seldom has she had such a tremendous vantage point near the end of a day, plus a great route back to the G6 that would be easy to follow even after dark.

Lupe had water and Taste of the Wild, then curled up in the breeze to see how the evening would turn out.

Loop waits for sunset from her great vantage point on Pine Mountain. Photo looks NW.

For a while, the already splendid scene didn’t change much.  The sun was still too far above the horizon.  Lupe and SPHP sat huddled together against the breeze, gazing off toward Colorado and Utah, enjoying the solitude.

For a while, the views didn’t change much. The sun was still too far above the horizon. Enough clouds were around, though, to encourage the notion that the sunset might be a good one. Photo looks SW.

Slowly, the sun’s rays slanted more sharply.  A golden glow crept over the land.  Contrasts deepened between light and shadow, highlighting features of the terrain.  In the distance, outlines stood out, sky now easily differentiated from mountains and ridges.

Slowly a golden glow spread over the land highlighting features of the terrain. Photo looks W.

Lupe bathed in the golden glow, too.

Looking SSW.

The light intensified rapidly in the final brief moments before sunset.  Lupe was transformed to a brilliantly illuminated Dingo goddess!

Lupe stands brilliantly illuminated during the final brief moments before sunset. Photo looks S.
The Dingo goddess.

The golden glow faded.  Shadow spread over the earth.  Sunlight retreated to the realm of sky and clouds.

Sunlight retreated to the realm of clouds and sky. Photo looks SW.
Looking NNW.

The show wasn’t over yet, though.  Not until the sun disappeared completely did the evening sky rise to its colorful peak of glory.

Not until the sun disappeared completely did the evening sky rise to its most colorful peak of glory. Photo looks WNW.

And then it was over.  Colors collapsed.  The sky turned gray, the earth black.  Lupe had remained to the end.  Now the former Dingo goddess started the long trek back, traveling in deepening shadow the barren, breezy surface of this lofty dark underworld.

The sky grew black.  So black, the ancient dim light of stars and galaxies blazed above, a shining echo from the edge of infinity of what once was eons ago.  Miles to the E, a single small grouping of bright electric lights.  On the far N horizon, a faint glow that must have been Rock Springs.  Elsewhere, the pitch black unbroken reign of night.

On the move, heading down, the beautiful, quiet evening slipped by.  The dying breeze brought the only news, subtle hints from the wild, to a still curious, quivering nose on Pine Mountain.  (10:52 PM)

Lupe on Pine Mountain, 6-15-17

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The Shirley Mountains High Point & Quealey Benchmark, Wyoming (6-14-17)

Day 7 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range, Wyoming & Beyond!

S of Casper, roughly a mile W of Hwy 77, the wide, dusty gravel road (County Road No. 105) came to a “Y”.  Off to the SW, beyond an expanse of prairie, rose an isolated mountain range.  Although reaching more than 9,000 feet in elevation, these mountains didn’t appear particularly high, rugged or striking.  The Shirley Mountains looked more like a collection of big forested ridges.

The isolated Shirley Mountains weren’t particularly rugged, appearing more like a collection of big forested ridges. Photo looks SW.

Lupe was coming to visit the Shirley Mountains High Point (9,151 ft.), but SPHP knew next to nothing about this place.  Copies of an old topo map showed a long dotted road winding 7 miles or so in from the N that passed near the high point.  A 4WD road?  Probably.  In that case, the G6 wouldn’t be able to do it.

That wasn’t the real issue.  The Carolina Dog could travel the 7 miles on her own easily enough.  Two other questions loomed larger.  First, was there even access?  This might be all private land.  In that case, some landowner would have to be sought out, and permission obtained to even enter the area.

Second, even if access was available or could be obtained, did the road shown on the map exist in good enough condition so Lupe could follow it?  If not, the American Dingo might end up lost in the forest, as SPHP tried to make sense of a multi-mile bushwhack based solely on the old topo map.  These mountains didn’t appear to have many prominent features to orient by.  Wandering around up there might prove confusing.

A sign at the “Y” was somewhat encouraging.  Left was BLM Road No. 3115 (E end).  Right was the way to BLM Road No. 3115 (W end) in 6 miles, County Road No. 291 in 19 miles, and Miracle Mile in 25 miles.  A BLM road going up into the Shirley Mountains at least meant there was public access!

SPHP took a L driving S toward (on?) BLM Road No. 3115 (E end).  Lupe rode with her head out the window.  She was loving this!  Herds of pronghorn antelope were out on the prairie.  Unlike cows and horses, the antelope paid attention to the yippy-yappy Dingo.  Racing across the prairie, they inspired even more vigorous, frantic Dingo antics.  No doubt about it, as far as Loop was concerned, the day was off to an exciting, exhilarating start!

SPHP wasn’t nearly as thrilled.  The whole trip S on BLM Road No. 3115 (E end) was a fiasco.  After exploring 3 more “Y’s”, including a useless trip W partway into the impressive Creek Land & Livestock Company ranch, a road could be seen going W up into the Shirley Mountains.  The stony, rutted remnant of a road the G6 was on appeared to link up to it a few miles farther on.

No way!  The G6 was getting beat to death on this miserable excuse for a road.  Continuing without high clearance and a rugged suspension system was a disaster waiting to happen.  Disaster wasn’t likely to hold off much longer, either.  SPHP did the prudent thing and turned around.

Another jarring, nerve-wracking, exciting ride back past the antelope ensued.  To SPHP’s great relief, Lupe reached the first “Y” again.  This time, SPHP drove W on County Road No. 105.  This road did not deteriorate, and some 6 miles farther on Lupe reached another intersection.  A sign indicated that a side road going S was Shirley Mountains Loop Road No. 3115.  Prior Flat Campground was 0.4 mile away.

Hmm.  It was a bit odd that BLM Road No. 3115 (West End) apparently entered the Shirley Mountains from the N instead of W, but whatever.  No point in quibbling.  SPHP was actually rather pleased.  This might be the same road shown on the topo map, in which case Lupe would have public access all the way to the Shirley Mountains High Point.

SPHP made the turn S.  0.4 mile up a grassy slope, Lupe arrived at Prior Flat Campground.

Lupe arrives at Prior Flat Campground. The campground is tucked up against the trees at the N end of the Shirley Mountains, and features an expansive view of Prior Flat, a huge open prairie to the N.

Prior Flat Campground was awesome!  Two loops with campsites were tucked up in or near the trees at the base of the N end of the Shirley Mountains.  To the N was an expansive view of Prior Flat, a broad prairie.  Beyond were thirsty-looking low mountains, ridges and hills.

The whole place felt remote, abandoned.  Not a soul seemed to be around, and apparently the campground was free!  No mention of fees or registrations required anywhere.  A most excellent situation!  Lupe and SPHP grabbed a spot along the W loop, backing the G6 into the shade of aspen trees near a picnic table.

Lupe on open ground within the rail fence serving as the N boundary of Prior Flat CG. On the R, Country Road No. 105 winds away off to the W. In the foreground, Shirley Mountain Loop Road No. 3115 goes right through the CG. Photo looks W.

After a quick bite to eat, Lupe and SPHP left the G6 at the campground, and started up Shirley Mountain Loop Road No. 3115 (11:04 AM, 52°F).  For nearly a mile, the road went steadily SW up a forested valley.  SPHP was quickly convinced this was Prior Draw.  Lupe was on the exact same road on the old topo map that would lead her close to the Shirley Mountains High Point.

At the upper end of Prior Draw, the road turned E near a saddle on a ridge to the S.  Lupe left the road and climbed up to the saddle.  She had a view to the SW, but was more interested in a lone snow bank back in among the trees.  After frolicking and cooling off on the snow, Loop returned to the road.

At the upper end of Prior Draw, Lupe was more interested in this nice, cold snow bank than the view. Photo looks SSW.

No. 3115 now went 0.5 mile SE, then 1.0 mile S.  Lupe gained elevation the whole time.  The forest sometimes gave way to large, open meadows.  A high, distant mountain could be seen off to the W, but SPHP was uncertain what mountain that might be.  After passing by driveways to a couple of cabins in a more wooded area, Lupe reached flatter, open ground.

The Carolina Dog was getting fairly high up now.  Ahead she could see a tower at the top of a ridge.  This tower was at High Point 8712 on the topo map.

Approaching the tower at High Point 8712. Photo looks SE.

Lupe followed No. 3115 to the top of the ridge.  Two side roads, not far from one another, led off in different directions.  The first road went NE to the tower, which was now close at hand.  The second road disappeared into a forest to the WSW.  Instead of going to the tower, Loop took the road into the forest.  This had to be the way to Peak 8720.

Peak 8720 was a Brian Kalet peak, meaning simply that Brian Kalet, a prolific peakbagger, had entered the mountain into the Peakbagger.com database that Lupe also uses to track her ascents.  Early in 2017, Lupe had visited quite a number of Brian Kalet peaks in the southern Black Hills.

Since the Peak 8720 summit was only a 0.5 mile side trip, Lupe might as well visit this Brian Kalet peak, too!  She’d already basically climbed it.  The top of the mountain was no more than 40 to 60 feet higher than where she was now.

The side road going through the forest brought Lupe to a humongous snow drift.  The road disappeared beneath it.

The side road going WSW through the forest brought Lupe to this humongous snow drift!

The giant snow bank was just inside the W edge of the forest.  The snow must have drifted in last winter driven by winds sweeping over a huge flat meadow that was directly ahead beyond the trees.  Since the road disappeared beneath the snow, Lupe had no choice but to go right over the drift, a task she thoroughly enjoyed.

On the other side of the snow bank, the road reappeared.  Lupe followed it as it emerged from the forest and continued through the meadow.  The terrain was flat as a pancake.  The meadow extended all the way to the edge of a canyon, but the road turned N halfway there.  Lupe left the road to go find out what could be seen from the meadow’s edge.

A strong W wind swept across the meadow.  Lupe was traveling right into the teeth of it.  The wind grew stronger and stronger as she neared the edge of the meadow.  By the time she got there, Loop was standing in a gale.  She had a good view of the Cave Creek valley below, and mostly forested mountains and ridges beyond.

Looking W across Cave Creek valley from Peak 8720. The W wind coming from behind Lupe was a gale here near the edge.

The view was nice, but Lupe didn’t want to linger in this gale any longer than she had to.  According to the topo map, the true summit of Peak 8720 was somewhere in the nearby forest to the N.  Among the trees and away from the edge, it wouldn’t be nearly so windy over there.  Lupe was more than happy to go looking for the summit.

As the map indicated, the terrain was somewhat higher in the forest than in the meadow, but not by an awful lot.  This whole area varied very little in elevation.  Lupe and SPHP marched around for a while looking for a clear high point, but found nothing obvious.  Close enough for Dingo work!  Lupe posed for a photo at a point that seemed to be about as high as anywhere else, and called it good.

At the official Dingo summit of Peak 8720! Calling it good, right here!

No more time to waste on this!  Lupe still had miles to go to get to the Shirley Mountains High Point.  She left Peak 8720’s official Dingo summit heading back out of the woods and across the big, windy meadow.

After visiting Peak 8720’s Dingo summit, Lupe heads back across the windy meadow. The humongous snow drift is still ahead out of sight on the L at the edge of the line of trees in the distance. Photo looks SE.

Lupe returned to BLM Road No. 3115 again near the tower at High Point 8712.  No. 3115 had been quite a good road all this way.  SPHP might easily have driven the G6 this far.  This would have been about it, though.  As Lupe continued SE on No. 3115, the road lost elevation steadily and became rougher than the G6 would have liked.

More than a mile S of the tower, No. 3115 bottomed out where it crossed a small, clear stream only a few feet wide.  This was Cave Creek.  Lupe took a little break here for water and Taste of the Wild.  She had lost more than 450 feet of elevation since leaving Peak 8720, and was about to have to regain all of it and more.

Break time done, Lupe crossed Cave Creek.  A long, dull, dusty road trek ensued.  No. 3115 went SW for 0.80 mile, ultimately climbing a good way up a steepish hill.  It then turned and went S more than a mile before bending to the SE.  Most of the terrain was forested, but Lupe came to scattered meadows, too.  A few brief downhill sections broke an otherwise steady grind higher.

Lupe passed a few minor side roads, which went who knows where?  None of these roads, including No. 3115, had any traffic at all.  Signage was missing or meaningless.  No. 3115 eventually topped out at a large, tree-rimmed meadow.  The road turned E here, then began losing elevation.  Lupe quickly came to what appeared to be a more significant intersection.

A sign at the intersection meant nothing to SPHP, but less than a mile off to the SE Lupe could see a forested hill a couple hundred feet higher than where she was now.  The Shirley Mountains High Point?  Although certainly ready to get there by now, SPHP hoped that wasn’t it.  It didn’t look like Loop would see anything but trees from there.

This sign at the intersection meant nothing to SPHP, but Lupe could see a higher forested hill from here less than a mile to the SE. SPHP suspected that hill might be the Shirley Mountains High Point. Photo looks N.

Lupe stayed on No. 3115 going E from the intersection.  The road dipped a little more, then angled SE climbing the forested hill she had seen.  When No. 3115 looked like it was about to start losing elevation again, Lupe left it.  If this hill was really the Shirley Mountains High Point, the summit ought to be only a couple hundred yards to the SW from here.

A small meadow sloped up toward open forest.  In the forest, Loop found several rock outcroppings higher than anything else around.  The two highest were separated by 200 feet.  A big snow bank was melting quietly away on part of the ground between them.

The rock formation to the S, a short ridge of white rocks 15 feet taller than the surrounding terrain, was clearly the highest point on this hill.  Lupe scrambled up.  Ten feet S of the highest rocks at the N end of the little ridge, Lupe found what she was looking for – a survey benchmark stamped “Shirley”.

This was it, the Shirley Mountains High Point (9,151 ft.)!

Lupe discovered this survey benchmark 10 feet S of the highest rocks in the Shirley Mountains. Either the benchmark was placed in 1951, or a dyslexic surveyor stamped the wrong elevation on it. According to the topo map, the high point is 9,151 feet, not 1,951.

Old pieces of wood and long strands of smooth wire no longer serving any discernable purpose were scattered around the summit ridge near the benchmark.  Odd.  Lupe went and stood on the highest rocks at the N end of the little ridge to claim her peakbagging success.

Sadly, after coming all this long way, Lupe had no views of anything other than the forest from the Shirley Mountains High Point.  Unsurprising after seeing this forested hill from the NW, but still disappointing to SPHP.  Lupe seemed happy enough, though.

Lupe on the highest rocks of the Shirley Mountains. This view was about what SPHP expected after seeing this forested summit from the NW. Lupe seemed happy enough to be here, though! Photo looks NW.
On top of the Shirley Mountains! Photo looks SW.
Some of the smooth wire is seen draped around the rocks below Loop. What purpose it ever served was unclear. Photo looks SW.
Still on top. Photo looks NNW.

Lupe’s last rest break back at Cave Creek had been a while ago.  Now that she’d made it to the Shirley Mountains High Point, it was time for another one.  Loop went NNW from the summit over to the snow bank closer to the 2nd highest rock formation.  Here she had some Taste of the Wild and relaxed in the shade.

Lupe rests in the shade (lower L) near the melting snow bank. The N rock formation, which was the 2nd highest point on the mountain, is seen on the R beyond the snowbank. Photo looks NW.

Lupe had followed No. 3115 a good 7 miles to get here.  Yes, it was great that Loopster had reached the Shirley Mountains High Point, but SPHP remained dissatisfied with the lack of any significant views.  From the top of an entire mountain range, you’d think you would see something.  Not here.  Even on the long trek, Lupe hadn’t seen too much of interest.

Hours had gone by and it was a long way back, but maybe Lupe wasn’t done yet?  The map showed another benchmark on another mountain 1.25+ miles to the SE as the crow flies.  Quealey Benchmark (9,150 ft.) was only 1 foot lower than the Shirley Mountains High Point.  Maybe Lupe could see something from over there?

Going to Quealey Benchmark actually meant another mile E on BLM Road No. 3115, plus a 0.67 mile bushwhack S of the road.  By the time Lupe reached Quealey Benchmark, she would be nearly 9 miles from Prior Flat Campground.  Worth it?  Unknown.  Now or never, though.  When her break was done, Lupe returned to BLM Road No. 3115 and headed E.

A long forested ridge came into view.  Not too promising.  Somewhere near the S end of it was Quealey Benchmark.  The road lost 250 feet of elevation before starting to climb the ridge.  Instead of following the road all the way to its next high point, Lupe cut SE through the forest to save a little distance.

Once the American Dingo reached the ridgeline, she turned S.  The broad ridge sloped gradually upward.  This was easy terrain.  At first, Loop was in open forest.  She eventually came to meadows, but even at the meadows, forest always prevailed along the edges of the ridge.  No views.

Exploring a snow bank (of course!) on the Quealey Benchmark ridge. Photo looks S.

At the first big meadow Lupe came to, a rocky high point was in view not too far away.  She went to it and scrambled to the top.  No sign of the actual benchmark.

On top of the first high point in the first big meadow. Lupe found no sign of the actual Quealey Benchmark here. Photo looks SSE.

Onward!  Continuing S, suddenly there was movement!  Close by, a coyote emerged from the forest heading E across the meadow.  When Lupe saw it, she trotted toward the coyote wagging her tail.  She recognized it as another canine and was hoping to make a new friend.

The coyote didn’t want to be friends with Lupe, and most certainly didn’t want to be friends with SPHP.  As Lupe approached, the coyote fled.  Instantly, the emboldened American Dingo gave chase!

Loop (R) dashes after the fleeing coyote (L). Photo looks SE.

It was an exhilarating moment, but the coyote was gone in a flash.  Lupe returned to SPHP.  She continued S finding more rock formations, each one higher than the last.  Lupe investigated them all, but turned up nothing.

Lupe investigates another big rock formation on the Quealey Benchmark ridge. Still nothing. Photo looks WNW.

The big meadow ended.  Forest was ahead.  Lupe plunged right into it.  She was still gaining elevation, so it was no wonder she hadn’t found the Quealey Benchmark yet.  She emerged from the forest at a second big meadow.  Another rock formation, largest of any she’d come to so far wasn’t far off.

As Lupe drew near it, SPHP could see some wood and smooth wire up there.  Oh, that was promising!  Lupe led the way up.

Lupe at the top of the first large rock formation of the second big meadow. This was the highest rock formation so far. The wood and smooth wire seen here gave SPHP hope the Quealey Benchmark might be up here. Photo looks SW.

When SPHP joined Lupe at the top, it was clear in an instant that this was the highest point on the ridge.  Another substantial high point off to the SW wasn’t quite as high as this one.  Everywhere else, the terrain was sloping down.  Best of all, Lupe had a sweet view of a big snow-capped mountain far to the S from here.

Lupe was at the true summit of this whole long ridge!  The Quealey Benchmark had to be around here somewhere, didn’t it?

A shiny metal hubcap was hidden under a juniper bush.  Moving the hubcap aside revealed – yes, a survey benchmark!

Hidden beneath a low juniper bush almost at the top of the rock formation was this shiny metal hubcap. When moved aside, the survey benchmark was revealed.

To SPHP’s surprise, the benchmark was not stamped “Quealey” as shown on the old topo map.  Instead it was stamped “Que Ley”, Spanish for “What Law?”.

To SPHP’s surprise, the survey benchmark was not stamped “Quealey” as shown on the topo map. Instead it was stamped “Que Ley”, Spanish for “What Law?” Now that was cool!

Quealey or Que Ley, which was right, the map or the survey benchmark?  No telling.  Lupe and SPHP preferred Que Ley!  What Law? was a cool name for a mountain.  It conjured up images of outlaws hanging around in this territory back in the days of the Old West.  Maybe a really Old West, if the Spanish had named this place.

At any rate, Que Ley Benchmark (9,150 ft.), though officially one silly foot lower than the Shirley Mountains High Point, was everything the Shirley Mountains High Point was not.  Coyotes roamed this place.  The Que Ley name was cool.  The view of the distant snow-capped peak was awesome.  The summit was farther from the road, and felt even more remote.  SPHP was glad Lupe had come here!

Yes, Que Ley Benchmark was worth the extra effort!

At the top of Que Ley Benchmark. Photo looks SSW.
On the summit of Que Ley. Coming here was worth it, and felt like it had really made the day, even though Lupe had already made it to Peak 8720 and the Shirley Mountains High Point as well.
The big view to the S from Que Ley Benchmark. Elk Mountain (11,156 ft.) (Center) is the snow-capped peak on the far horizon. The even more distant ridge on the L is the Snowy Range in the Medicine Bow National Forest. Binoculars would have been nice to have up here.
Elk Mountain as seen from Que Ley Benchmark with help from the telephoto lens. Photo looks S.
Lupe remained at the top of Que Ley Benchmark while SPHP climbed down and circled around to the S to get this shot. Photo looks N.
Lupe’s success at Que Ley Benchmark felt like the high point of the day.

After enjoying the views up on Que Ley Benchmark, Lupe went to visit the other high point to the SW.  Just to make absolutely certain it wasn’t higher, you know.  It wasn’t, but also offered some decent views.

Looking S toward Elk Mountain (Center) on the far horizon again, this time from the SW high point.
Looking SE.
At the top of the SW high point. Photo looks WSW.

And that was that.  Except for the long trek back, nearly all of it retracing her route here, Lupe’s big adventure in the Shirley Mountains was over.

Of course, the Carolina Dog made the most of the return trip!  She ran, explored, and sniffed.

She rolled in snow banks.

Enjoying a snow bank on the Que Ley Benchmark ridge on the return trip.

She sniffed and examined beautiful flowers.

One of hundreds of natural floral arrangements growing right along BLM Road No. 3115.

She returned again to the Shirley Mountains High Point (9,151 ft.).

Back at the Shirley Mountains High Point for a second ascent after her journey to Que Ley Benchmark. Photo looks S.

Loop even made the 0.5 mile side trip back to look for Peak 8720’s Dingo summit again. The sun was down by the time she got to the big, flat meadow.  The wind, which hadn’t been much of an issue up on the Shirley Mountains High Point or Que Ley Benchmark, was still blowing here, though not nearly as powerfully as earlier in the day.

Back on the big, flat meadow on Peak 8720. The wind was still blowing, but not nearly as strongly as it had been earlier in the day. Photo looks E.

Lupe and SPHP searched around for the same Dingo summit as before, but couldn’t find it.  Light was fading and the forest was getting gloomy, so a new Dingo summit had to be selected.  Naturally, this still counted as an official ascent as far Lupe and SPHP were concerned!

At the 2nd Dingo summit of Peak 8720. This wasn’t the exact same spot Lupe was at earlier in the day, but that high point couldn’t be found. The whole area was so flat, this place had to be about the same elevation anyway.

Once Looper was back at BLM Road No. 3115 following her 2nd visit to Peak 8720, it was all downhill the remaining 2.5 miles to Prior Flat campground.  The Carolina Dog was still on high ground, but twilight was fading fast, when she saw the distant high peak to the W again.

What peak was that?  No telling.  The sky grew black, then lit up with stars.  SPHP still pondered the question as Lupe arrived back at Prior Flat campground (10:12 PM).  To this mystery remains an unresolved mental souvenir of Lupe’s long, happy day spent high in the remote Shirley Mountains of Wyoming.Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s 2017 Laramie Range, Wyoming & Beyond Adventure IndexDingo Vacations Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

Buffalo Peak & Twin Peaks in the Laramie Mountains of Wyoming (6-12-17 & 6-13-17)

Part 2 of Day 5, plus Day 6 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range, Wyoming & Beyond!

Reluctantly, Lupe left the huge old squirrel tree at the edge of the beautiful green glade.  She quickly forgot about squirrels, sniffing her way NNE.  The Carolina Dog came to a burned forest, passed through it, and entered another section of live forest where she crossed a dirt road. By the time she reached the W side of the Meadow Creek valley, Loop was back in burned out forest again.

Lupe reaches the burned out forest in the Meadow Creek valley on her way to Buffalo Peak. Photo looks N.

After having a great time climbing nearby Squaw Mountain (9,313 ft.) earlier in the day, Loop was on her way to Buffalo Peak (9,387 ft.).  The summit was now less than a mile to the NE.  Unfortunately, the weather was deteriorating.  Clouds were moving in.  A sudden wind arose, and distant thunder could be heard.  Better take cover, but where?

Glancing around, SPHP spotted a square recess in a big rock formation.  The opening appeared to have a bit of an overhang.  The recess was 70 feet higher up a moderately steep slope to the SW.  Lupe could hide out there until this squall passed.

No other option was readily available.  Loop and SPHP climbed the slope up to the square recess.  The opening was large enough to accommodate both Lupe and SPHP, with sufficient overhanging rock to provide decent protection from rain or hail.  Sweet!

Lupe at the square recess in the rock where she would take shelter from the storm. Photo looks W.

While the American Dingo watched from the safety of the square recess in the rock, storm clouds swept across the sky from the SE.  Only a small patch of blue sky remained to the N.  Lupe saw a single bolt of lightning miles to the E.  An eerie, angry buzzing or humming sound filled the whole valley.  The peculiar noise went on and on.

The wind blowing among the dead trees must be making that strange sound!  From here, Lupe could see nothing but burnt forest in Meadow Creek valley.  On the other side of the valley, the entire SW face of Buffalo Peak had burned, too.

Thunder rumbled constantly.  While Lupe waited for the storm to hit, SPHP had plenty of time to check maps and study the SW face of Buffalo Peak.  The plan had been to go N up the Meadow Creek valley, gradually turning NE.  When Lupe got high enough she would turn SE, approaching the mountain from the NW.  The topo map seemed to suggest this would be the easiest way up.

However, the SW face of Buffalo Peak didn’t look all that bad.  It appeared Lupe might be able to go right on up a long, wide slope between two large rock ridges.  Above this wide chute, she would need to turn E to reach the top of the mountain, but that looked feasible from down here, too.

From her square recess in the rocks, Lupe could see the whole SW face of Buffalo Peak. SPHP thought she could probably climb the mountain from this direction, instead of circling around to the NW as originally planned. Photo looks NE.

After a huge, suspenseful buildup, nothing happened.  No hail, no rain – not even a drop.  The distant thunder and the odd buzzing sound both faded away as storm clouds sailed off to the NW.  Blue skies returned.  Buffalo Peak was in sunshine.  More than 40 minutes had gone by.  This was her chance!  Lupe had better get going!

The American Dingo headed NE down into the valley.  She crossed Meadow Creek, which was only a small stream.  Soon she reached the base of the long slope up the SW face of Buffalo Peak.  Even from here, it didn’t look bad.

Lupe began climbing.  The long chute was very wide, bordered by large rock formations on both sides.  At first, Looper encountered quite a lot of deadfall timber.  Higher up, less deadfall existed.  The slope was steep, but not at all scary.  Lupe traversed a mix of bare ground, scattered yellow flowers, and numerous small to medium-sized loose rocks.

The American Dingo made great progress, especially after SPHP got above the worst of the deadfall.  Lupe made it up to the top of the long chute.  She now needed to angle more to the E.  What appeared to be Buffalo Peak’s summit was still a good 300 feet higher.  Getting up there looked somewhat more complicated from here than it had appeared from below.  However, Lupe was able to gain elevation traveling ENE below a high ridge of rock.

Lupe near the upper end of the long steep slope she climbed from the SW. From here, she gained elevation traveling ENE (R) through more complicated rocky terrain than expected. Photo looks N.

Shortly after reaching the upper end of the SW chute, it became clear another squall was on the way.  More clouds were approaching rapidly, blown in on a strong SE breeze.  No lightning was seen, but initially faint thunder grew steadily louder.  Time to seek refuge again!

A great many large rocks were in the area, but places to hide beneath an overhang were scarce.  Lupe and SPHP scouted out possibilities with increasing urgency.  A couple of tight spots were all that could be found.  SPHP stuffed the backpack beneath a small overhang.  Loop and SPHP jammed together into a different barely large enough space under a big rock nearby.

As another squall approached, Lupe and SPHP searched for a place to take shelter. Lupe and SPHP wound up jammed together in the small space under the rock seen to the L of Lupe. Photo looks SSE.

Wind blew.  Thunder rumbled, but no lighting was seen.  A series of threatening clouds raced by.  From the cramped space, SPHP had a glimpse of wild-looking clouds and blue sky far to the S.

Ho hum.  Dullsville.  Lupe had gotten used to this routine.  She dozed on SPHP’s lap, waiting for the squall to pass.

In cramped quarters under a large rock, Lupe dozes on SPHP’s lap, while waiting for the storm to pass.

Eventually, the distant blue sky to the S appeared to be heading this way.  Once again, not a drop of rain, despite all the sound and fury!  When thunder could no longer be heard, and sunshine reached Squaw Mountain 1.5 miles away, Lupe and SPHP clambered out from under the boulder.

With skies starting to clear again, Lupe emerged from beneath the boulder she’s standing on to resume her ascent of Buffalo Peak. Photo looks NE.

Another 30 minutes had been lost.  The summit of Buffalo Peak was still 200 feet higher.  Lupe resumed her ascent.

Within 10 minutes, the American Dingo had scrambled up enough boulders to reach a large amphitheater where the ground sloped toward the NW.  The amphitheater contained burnt trees, quite a few large low rocks, and a fair amount of bare earth with little vegetation.  Around the perimeter were 3 large ridges of rock, with openings to the SW and NW.

Lupe reaches the amphitheater near the top of Buffalo Peak. The true summit is unseen a short distance beyond the high rocks on the L. Photo looks N.

Of the 3 high points on the rocky ridges around the amphitheater, the lowest was clearly the one to the SW.  From below, the one to the SE had appeared to be the mountain’s summit.  However, from the amphitheater it looked fairly certain the large ridge to the N was actually highest.

Lupe went to check out the SE ridge first, in case part of it was hidden from view.  The possibility that the true summit was over here hadn’t been completely ruled out yet.  As soon as Loop got up on top, though, it was clear this was not the true summit.  Nevertheless, the views were awesome!

Loop reaches the top of Buffalo Peak’s SE high point. This turned out not to be the true summit. Photo looks NE.
Retreating clouds make for a dramatic scene from Buffalo Peak’s SE high point. Photo looks NNE.
Squaw Mountain (9,313 ft.) (Center) is the high burnt ridge to the R of Lupe. The much more distant high point seen above her rump is Warbonnet Peak (9,414 ft.). Photo looks SE.
The lower SW ridge is in view on the R. The territory Lupe had come up through to reach the amphitheater from the SW is seen on the R. Photo looks SW.
The summit of Buffalo Peak as seen from the SE high point. Photo looks NNW.

From the high point on the SE ridge, the true summit of Buffalo Peak was clearly seen off to the NNW.  Lupe had to get over there to claim her peakbagging success.  Off Lupe went.  A scramble up from the SE was easily accomplished.  The mighty Carolina Dog stood at the very top of Buffalo Peak (9,387 ft.)!

Loop stands on the true summit of Buffalo Peak. Photo looks NW.
Lupe’s odd summit stance makes the situation look much more precarious than it actually was.
Looking N from the true summit.
Buffalo Peak’s SE high point is seen beyond Lupe. Squaw Mountain is the long, high burnt ridge even farther away. The plastic jar by the summit rock on the R contained a registry. Photo looks SSE.

A plastic jar tucked next to the two highest rocks on the mountain contained a registry.  Six people ranging from 10 to 64 years old had made the trek up Buffalo Peak and started the registry on Memorial Day, 2013.  Since then, only one other person had signed in on 7-12-16.  Naturally, Lupe’s name got added.

The Buffalo Peak registry had gotten off to a good start on Memorial Day, 2013, but had seen little use since then.

It was a good thing Lupe made it to the top of Buffalo Peak when she did.  Before long, the weather was deteriorating again.  The entire sky grew dark.  Distant peaks disappeared in a soft, gray haze.  Nearby peaks could still be seen clearly, except when wisps of fog streamed by on the relentless SE breeze.  Thunder roared threats from afar.

SPHP started down first.  At the top of Buffalo Peak, Lupe stood alone in the wind waiting for the signal to come.

Alone on Buffalo Peak waiting for the signal to follow SPHP down. Photo looks NW.

The signal was given.  Lupe bounded down.  Now it was a race against the storm!  She scrambled down to the amphitheater of dead trees, crossed it heading S, and started descending the mountain’s SW slope.  Loop hadn’t lost much elevation before it was necessary to hide again.

Another overhanging rock was found to squeeze in beneath.  This time there was room for the backpack, too.  Lupe and SPHP waited.  No blue sky could be seen, only a light band of weird yellow sky on the SW horizon.  The wind picked up. Sprinkles of rain dashed against the rocks.

Under the rock, waiting out the latest storm threat on the descent.

Thunder echoed closer than before, but Lupe remained calm.  She dozed while SPHP stroked her warm fur and soft ears.  It rained harder.  Water began dripping into Lupe’s refuge, ultimately becoming a steady stream.  The Carolina Dog curled up on SPHP’s lap, comfortable and dry, while SPHP sat on increasingly muddy ground.

Half an hour passed with no changes.  How long was this going to go on?  The Carolina Dog might be fine here, but SPHP was not looking forward to a long night crammed under a rock.  That was what it would come down to if the storm didn’t let up.  Getting drenched didn’t seem like a good plan either.  Better stay as dry as possible.  No reasonable choice other than to wait it out.

An hour went by.  It began to hail.  Nothing major.  Pea-sized hailstones ricocheted off nearby rocks.  A few struck stinging glancing blows, but did no real damage.  Fun, fun!

After 10 minutes, the hail let up.  It had been the storm’s last hurrah.  A SE breeze remained, but now the sky was clearing again.  Not a moment too soon, either.  The sun was getting low.  Better make tracks.  Lupe and SPHP set off down Buffalo Peak, retracing the Carolina Dog’s earlier route up.

A profusion of yellow wildflowers like these grew on the slopes of Buffalo Peak.

The sun was still up when Lupe reached the top of the long, wide SW chute leading down to the Meadow Creek valley.  By the time she reached the worst of the deadfall timber at the lower end of the slope, sunlight remained only high up on Squaw Mountain.

The sun was still up as Lupe began her descent of the wide, SW chute leading to the Meadow Creek valley. Photo looks SW.

Puppy, ho!  Onward!  No time to lose.  Lupe crossed Meadow Creek again, and turned S.  As twilight weakened, she passed through the burnt forest and reached the live forest.  A dark, shady gloom prevailed.  Lupe kept going.  Across the dirt road, out of the gloom, and into another burnt forest.

Little light remained by the time Lupe made it back to the gnarled old squirrel tree.  The tent and sleeping bags hung in it were only slightly damp.  At least that had worked.  In almost total darkness, SPHP pitched Lupe’s “tiny house” beneath a starry sky.  What a day it had been!  Sweet success!  Lupe had managed to climb both Squaw Mountain (9,313 ft.) and Buffalo Peak (9,387 ft.).

Once safely inside her “tiny house”, Lupe was ravenous.  She gobbled down her Alpo, before curling up on her red sleeping bag.  In no time, she was out like a light.  (End of Day 5)

It was a cold night.  The wind blew for hours, yet the American Dingo hardly stirred.  When she did, SPHP kept wrapping the red sleeping bag over her for warmth.  She must have snoozed well, much better than SPHP.  When dawn arrived, Loopster was ready for action.  She demanded to be let out!

No problem.  Loop wouldn’t run off, not with a giant squirrel tree right outside.  SPHP unzipped the tent door.  Out she went.  An excited yipping and yapping commenced immediately.  The squirrel tree hadn’t failed her.  An annoyed squirrel scolded the Carolina Dog for rudely breaking the early peace and tranquility of the new day.  The scolding only egged her on.

The excitement finally died down and became an occasional thing.  SPHP dozed fitfully for another 2 hours, checking on Looper every so often.  She was always there, waiting and watching beneath the huge squirrel tree.

The sun was well up by the time SPHP managed to spring back to life.  A stroll out in the sunny green glade to take off the morning chill was in order.  The warm sunlight felt good.

Lupe next to her “tiny house” at the edge of the green glade. The huge squirrel tree is beyond her. Photo looks N.
In the warm sunshine of the green glade. Photo looks S.

The original plan had been for Lupe to climb Buffalo Peak today, but she’d already done it.  Fortunately, there was something else fun to do on the way back to the G6.  Looper could climb Twin Peaks (9,280 ft.) again.  Twin Peaks was the mountain Lupe had climbed a year ago where she’d first spotted Squaw Mountain and Buffalo Peak.

Lupe stood guard at the base of the squirrel tree while SPHP packed everything up.  When all was ready, Loop had to leave the squirrels in peace.  She didn’t mind.  By now she was ready for more exploring.  She crossed the green glade heading S and entered the forest.

Back in the forest.

It was 2 miles back to the minor pass S of the big rock formation close to where Lupe had left Twin Peaks Trail No. 618 yesterday.  On the way, Loop stayed W of the route she had taken to Squaw Mountain.  Much of the time she was in forest, but a brighter, more open forest than she’d been in before.

Loop made it back to the minor pass.  SPHP ditched the tent and sleeping bags near some rocks.  The Twin Peaks summit was only 0.5 mile S from here.  Lupe crossed Twin Peaks Trail No. 618 and took off into the forest again, starting her ascent. At first, she had only the forest and deadfall timber to contend with.  Higher up, she reached rock formations, much steeper ground, and even some snow.

On the way up Twin Peaks, Lupe reaches rockier territory and even some snow. Photo looks SSW.

The Carolina Dog came to a rocky high point SPHP recognized from last year.  As she continued higher, the mountain seemed more and more familiar.  For the most part, Lupe took a more direct route straight up from the N this time.  She didn’t scramble up onto the same NW ridge she had approached from last year until very near the summit.

On the way up the N slope, the NW ridge protected Loopster from the weather.  Upon attaining the summit, however, she was exposed to the full force of a gale blowing out of the SW.  Puffy white clouds floated swiftly by.  The sky was mostly blue, and the day sunny, but it wasn’t warm or relaxing up here.

Lupe detested the wind.  She stood on the summit long enough for a short photo session.  After that, SPHP could gaze at the views without her.  Loop hid down in a grassy slot between some of the highest rocks where she was at least partly sheltered from the relentless, stiff breeze.  The American Dingo had some sense, even if SPHP did not.

Lupe stands on the tip top rock on Twin Peaks (9,280 ft.) again for the first time in a year and 12 days. It was windy! Squaw Mountain (9,313 ft.), which Lupe had climbed yesterday is seen on the L. Photo looks NE.
Part of Squaw Mountain (Center) is seen near Lupe’s forehead. Buffalo Peak (9,387 ft.) is the barren rounded peak a little to the L. Photo looks NE.
Laramie Peak (10,272 ft.) (Center) is the most distant high point. Warbonnet Peak (9,414 ft.) is the highest point closer by on the R. Photo looks SE.
A Carolina Dog leans into the stiff SW gale up on the summit of Twin Peaks. Photo looks E.
Loopster takes shelter from the roaring SW wind in the slot between Twin Peak’s summit rocks. The open end of the slot faces W, so the protection wasn’t perfect, but it was a lot better than standing up on top of these same rocks. Photo looks E.

The views from Twin Peaks were fabulous!  Seeing them again was great fun, especially looking over at Squaw Mountain and Buffalo Peak now that Lupe had been to both.  While Lupe hid out, SPHP endured the gale a little longer.

Looking W. The very last part of Lupe’s ascent was from this direction.
It was especially fun seeing Buffalo Peak (L) and Squaw Mountain (R) from Twin Peaks again now that Lupe had climbed both! Photo looks NE.
The valley Lupe would travel through on her way back to the Twin Peaks trailhead is seen below. Squaw Mountain is on the L. Photo looks ENE.
Buck Peak (9,061 ft.) is the conical mountain at Center. Photo looks NNW.

It was a shame it was so windy up on Twin Peaks, but SPHP was glad Lupe had returned.  Still, 20 minutes of this gale, and even SPHP was ready to retreat.  Lupe was more than happy to start the descent.  She definitely preferred roaming the forest to the conditions at the top.

Heading down the N slope of Twin Peaks. Lupe much preferred the forest where she was sheltered from the wind. Finding hidden snowbanks like this one was an added bonus!

Looper returned to the minor pass N of Twin Peaks.  SPHP retrieved the tent and sleeping bags.  Together, Lupe and SPHP started E back down Twin Peaks Trail No. 618.

At 2:19 PM, Loop arrived back at the trailhead.  After a bite to eat, both Lupe and SPHP were overcome with weariness.  Adventuring can take it out of you!  Nothing wrong with taking a nap, is there?

Naptime lasted nearly 3 hours.  When she awoke, Lupe’s adventures in the Laramie Mountains were about over for now.  During the last 6 days, she’d had peakbagging successes and failures, spent countless hours sniffing and exploring, seen many beautiful things, and even faced some dangers.  As wonderful as it had all been, the moment had come to move on.

On the way back to Douglas, Lupe rode with her head out the window of the G6, barking vigorously and happily at everything she saw along the way.  SPHP stopped at several scenic spots. The SW wind still blew hard, but that didn’t detract from the beautiful western scenery.

Near Bear Rock along Cold Springs Road, Lupe faces into the sun and SW wind. Photo looks NE.
Lupe on her way back to Douglas, WY. She’s leaving behind adventures in some truly beautiful territory. Bear Rock (L), Squaw Mountain (Center) and Buffalo Peak (R). Photo looks SW.
Bear Rock seen through the telephoto lens. Photo looks SW.
A pronghorn antelope dashes away across the rolling high plains. Lupe loves watching antelope run!
Lupe stopped by the fancy entrance to the gorgeous Powderhorn Ranch. Buffalo Peak (Center) is in the distance. Photo looks SW.
The Powderhorn Ranch SW of Douglas, WY. Buffalo Peak (L) in the distance. Photo looks SW with help from the telephoto lens.

Upon reaching Douglas, WY, Lupe and SPHP headed W on I-25.  A side trip S to Ayer’s Natural Bridge ended in disappointment.  A sign said the park closes at 5 PM, and it was more than an hour later than that.  Didn’t matter.  The sign also said no pets allowed.  Oh, well.

Lupe was happy anyway, barking at the buffalo she saw from the G6 in a big field along the gravel road.

Buffalo near the road to Ayer’s Natural Bridge.

Back at I-25, SPHP drove W.  Bright-eyed Lupe rode up even with the dash, comfy on her pile of pillows and blankets.  With the Laramie Mountains to the S, and high plains to the N, the sinking sun shone upon her eager face.  Loop was on the road to adventure once more!  Tomorrow she’d be in unexplored territory beyond the Laramie Range.


Part 1:  Squaw Mountain, Laramie Range, Wyoming (6-12-13)

Twin Peaks, Laramie Mountains, Wyoming (6-1-16)

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s 2017 Laramie Range, Wyoming & Beyond Adventure IndexDingo Vacations Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

Squaw Mountain, Laramie Range, Wyoming (6-12-17)

Day 5, Part 1, of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range in Wyoming & Beyond!

What a glorious day!  Spirits were soaring as Lupe and SPHP left the Twin Peaks trailhead on Trail No. 618 (7:14 AM, 59°F).  The lucky American Dingo was setting off on a 2-day trek to a couple of fabulous peaks she’d seen for the first time a year ago when she’d taken this same trail and climbed Twin Peaks (9,280 ft.).

A lucky American Dingo about to set off on Twin Peaks Trail No. 618 for a couple of beautiful peaks in the Laramie Range.

Trail No. 618 started off as an old jeep trail that headed W up a rise.  The E end of Lupe’s first peakbagging goal, Squaw Mountain (9,313 ft.), was soon in sight ahead.

Squaw Mountain (Center) came into view shortly after Lupe left the trailhead. Photo looks NW.

Even though the summit of Squaw Mountain was less than 2 miles WNW of the trailhead, Lupe was going to have to travel a lot farther than that to get there.  According to the topo map, the easiest way up was from the NW.  The plan was to circle more than halfway around the mountain to approach it from those NW slopes.

Loop wasn’t the least bit worried about how far it was to Squaw Mountain.  She was just looking forward to a fun time exploring.  On this long day in early June, the Carolina Dog would have plenty of time to get to the top of the mountain.

The jeep trail passed over the small rise, then dipped down close to Roaring Fork Creek.  Lupe couldn’t resist going in for a cool drink.

Looper cools her paws off in Roaring Fork Creek.

Although there were a few muddy areas along Trail No. 618, it never did cross Roaring Fork Creek.  Instead, the trail went W up a deep, forested valley staying a little S of the creek.  After a mile or so, the jeep trail turned SW heading up a steep slope.  At the base of the slope, Trail No. 618 veered off to the R, becoming a single track going down a much smaller slope almost to the edge of Roaring Fork Creek again.

Lupe stayed on Trail No. 618, continuing W up the valley.  Now that the wider jeep trail had been left behind, it really did seem like Lupe was in a wilderness.

On Trail No. 618 after it left the much wider jeep trail behind. Now it really did seem like Lupe was in the wilderness!

Lupe knew what to expect, though.  She had been this far before.  Lupe continued along No. 618, which stayed relatively close to Roaring Fork Creek.

Before long, Lupe arrived at a fence with a sign saying “Please! Close the Gate”.  A year ago, SPHP hadn’t seen a gate to close, just the fence, which ended right over the trail next to some rocks.  Puzzled, Lupe and SPHP had climbed up onto the rocks to get around the end of the fence.

Not a thing had changed, but this time SPHP had a hunch.  Doh!  Yes, the entire fence across the trail was a gate.  It swung open without much effort.

How about that, Loop?  Learn something new every day!

Having a year to think about it helped, aye?  Glad you passed the intelligence test this time around, SPHP!

Just call me Einstein and keep going, smart-alecky Dingo.

Lupe on the rocks at the site of SPHP’s intelligence test success.

Eventually, Trail No. 618 moved farther away from Roaring Fork Creek and began to fade.  A few cairns helped show the way.  Sometimes sticks had been placed across what otherwise might have looked like the route.  The surest way of being certain Lupe was still on the trail was to watch for blazes on the trees.  Generally there were two blazes, a small upper one with a larger blaze below.

Trail No. 618 eventually began to fade. A few cairns like this one helped show the way.
Blazes on the trees, like the ones on the tree on the R, became the most reliable way of following seldom-used Trail No. 618.

About a mile after it became single track, Trail No. 618 angled SW leaving Roaring Fork Creek behind.  SPHP expected it to continue SW to a minor pass about 0.6 mile farther on.  A year ago, Lupe had followed this same trail to that pass.

However, after going SW for 0.25 mile, this time the trail turned SE and kept going that way.  Something was wrong.  SPHP kept expecting the trail to bend back around to the W, but it didn’t.  Hmmm.  SE was definitely the wrong way.

SPHP had been watching for, and caught a glimpse of, a tall rock formation that SPHP remembered was immediately N of the minor pass.  May as well head straight for it.  Lupe left whatever trail she was on, going W through the forest.  She soon came across another trail, which must have been No. 618, because it went the right way.

Lupe made it to the minor pass.

Lupe arrives at the minor pass. The tall rock formation just N of Trail No. 618 is in view. A year ago, Lupe had gone 0.5 mile S from here to climb Twin Peaks (9,280 ft.). This time she needed to go N around the W end of Squaw Mountain. Photo looks N.

A year ago, Lupe had gone S from here to climb Twin Peaks, the summit of which was only 0.5 mile away.  After a successful ascent, Lupe had come back down to this pass, crossed over No. 618, and proceeded N around the E side of the tall rock formation.  She’d gone quite a distance bushwhacking through forests and bogs, but had never made it to the W end of Squaw Mountain before she ran out of time and had to turn back.

Last year’s march through the forests and bogs had been intriguing, but maybe there was an easier way?  From up on Twin Peaks, Lupe and SPHP had seen large meadows in the valley W of this pass.  SPHP didn’t remember how far N they went, but looking for the meadows seemed like a good idea.

Lupe followed No. 618 going W over the minor pass.  The topo map showed the trail continuing W, but Lupe needed to start turning N.  Once she’d lost a little elevation, the Carolina Dog left No. 618 heading NW through the forest.  From here on, she wouldn’t have any roads or trails to follow the rest of the way up Squaw Mountain.

That suited Looper just fine.  American Dingoes love exploring off trail!  Lupe raced through the forest sniffing like a Dingo possessed.  She soon sniffed her way far enough NW to arrive at one of the big meadows she had seen a year ago from the top of Twin Peaks.

Lupe arrives at one of the big meadows she had seen a year ago from the summit of Twin Peaks. Photo looks SW.

The big meadow meant easy traveling, much easier than going through the forest.  SPHP had hoped the meadow would extend a long way N, but was disappointed to see it didn’t go much farther that way.  A short stroll brought Loop to the NE corner of the meadow.

Squaw Mountain wasn’t even in sight, but there was no other choice.  Without the slightest hesitation, Lupe plunged headlong back into the forest.  She traveled N or NNE through rolling terrain slowly gaining elevation along the way.

For close to a mile, there was no sign of Squaw Mountain.  Looper had never been here before, and it seemed like she had been wandering the forest for a long time.  Presently, though, she saw a creek to the E at the base of an embankment.  She scrambled down, leapt over the little creek, and found herself on the W side of another meadow of bright green grass.

To the ENE was another tall rock formation.  That had to be the W end of Squaw Mountain!  Lupe had just crossed Roaring Fork Creek, which was much smaller up here.  Hah!  Progress!

After a mile long trek through the forest, Lupe crossed Roaring Fork Creek and arrived at this meadow of bright green grass. The rock formation seen ahead is the W end of Squaw Mountain. Photo looks NE.

The meadow of bright green grass was only a few hundred feet wide, but extended NNE for a long way.  Perfect!  Just the direction Lupe needed to go from here.

Actually, it wasn’t so perfect.  The bright green meadow quickly proved to be mostly bog.  The ground was soft, wet and mucky.  Standing water was here, there and everywhere.  Not good!

SPHP led Lupe across the bog the shortest and driest way possible.  Back into the forest!  The forest on the E side of the bog was dense, but without much deadfall, so it wasn’t too bad to go through.  Lupe had a blast!  She thought this place was great.  She explored this way and that.  Whenever she felt like it, she wandered over into the bog for a drink.

Sniffing around in the dense forest somewhere between the W end of Squaw Mountain and the bog E of Roaring Fork Creek. Photo looks N, but the view was the essentially the same in all directions.
A very busy Carolina Dog passes by again. Loopster loved this place!

The dense forest was nearly level near the bog, but Lupe eventually got far enough N to where she needed to start angling NE.  Once she left the bog behind, the terrain started rising and became rougher.  Lupe continued on until she was NW of Squaw Mountain.

This was supposed to be the easiest side of the mountain to go up.  Lupe turned SE to begin her ascent, but soon faced a jumble of large boulders on a still densely forested and now much steeper slope.  Deadfall timber was more abundant here, too, creating more obstacles.  How tough was this going to get?  For a while, progress was slow.

After gaining a couple hundred feet, Lupe found the terrain wasn’t as steep as before.  Fewer large boulders were in the way.  The forest wasn’t as dense, either.  SPHP found it much easier to maneuver around.

The topo map showed there was no rush to reach Squaw Mountain’s main E/W ridgeline.  Reaching the top of it too far W meant Lupe would have to go over a couple of potentially rough high points.  The Carolina Dog would likely have an easier time angling gradually up the N side of the mountain traveling ESE.  If she could reach the ridgeline about halfway to the E, that should be perfect.  From there, it shouldn’t be too hard to get to the summit at the far E end.

Lupe went E for a little while climbing more slowly, and unexpectedly arrived at the edge of the living forest.  Ahead the entire forest had burned.  The vast majority of the dead trees were still standing.  The burnt forest wasn’t pretty, but it was certainly easier to see the terrain.  Loop didn’t care for the dead forest nearly as much as the living one, but it made the trek easier for SPHP.

Coming up from the NW, Lupe discovered that most of the forest on the N slopes of Squaw Mountain had burned. The American Dingo didn’t like the burnt forest as much as the living one, but it was easier for SPHP to traverse and see what was ahead. Photo looks ESE.

Lupe arrived at what seemed to be the ridgeline a little E of a tall rock formation.  There were a few live trees here.  The forest hadn’t burned at all on a nearby slope to the SE which rose steeply toward an unseen high point still far above where Lupe was.

Lupe near the base of the tall rock formation. This point seemed to be somewhere up on the main E/W ridge, but still too far W. A forested slope to the SE rose steeply to much higher terrain. Photo looks WNW.

A patch of ground E of the tall rock formation was level and not rocky.  Lupe was going to have to camp somewhere tonight.  Maybe this wasn’t such a bad place?  After pondering for a couple minutes, SPHP decided against leaving the tent and sleeping bags here.  It might be hard to find this place again, and it was still quite early in the day.

Lupe pushed on, continuing E or ESE through the burned forest.  She did not climb through the living forest leading to the much higher point to the SE.  Instead she stayed to the N until she was past it, trying to avoid gaining too much elevation too soon.

The American Dingo was still steadily gaining some elevation, though.  After a while, Looper was clearly getting quite high on the mountain.  Shortly before reaching the main summit ridge, Lupe found something that delighted her – snow!

Nearing Squaw Mountain’s summit ridge, Lupe was delighted to find these snow banks on the N side of more large rock formations.

Lupe did a little slipping, sliding and sledding on the soft, deliciously cold snowbanks.  No doubt it was refreshing.  Loop was clearly pleased with the experience and somewhat re-energized.

Squaw Mountain’s main E/W ridge wasn’t far off now.  Beyond the snowbanks, Lupe turned SE climbing more aggressively.  Reaching the ridge was easy, and she was soon there.

Lupe had reached the main ridge at a great point.  She was well past the high point she had skirted to the N.  It’s rocky summit was now in view a little off to the W.  Lupe had saved some unnecessary elevation gain by going around it.  Squaw Mountain’s true summit was still unseen somewhere off to the E, but the path to it looked open and easy.

The main ridge was level and several hundred feet wide here.  Toward the N, the trees had burned.  However, the S half of the ridge was all living forest.  This was a good place to take a break.  Lupe found a spot in the shade to lay down.  She had her usual fare of Taste of the Wild and water.  SPHP dropped the tent and sleeping bags.  This place would be easy enough to find again.  Maybe Lupe should camp here?

Loop takes a break in the shade up on Squaw Mountain’s main E/W ridge. Photo looks E in the direction of the still unseen summit.

When her break was over, Lupe traveled E along the broad ridge staying near, but not in, the living forest.  She soon came to a N/S running line of boulders.  Up ahead a much larger rock formation was in sight.  Was that the summit?  Lupe pressed on toward it.

Heading E along the main ridge, Lupe reaches a line of boulders. Beyond it, a much larger rock formation was in sight. Was that the summit? Photo looks ENE.

The Carolina Dog climbed a broad, thinly forested slope between the big rock formation and a smaller one to the S.  The high point she had seen from the line of boulders wasn’t the summit, but part of a ridge of solid rock that went even higher.  Lupe got up on the smaller rock formation for a better look.

A path led toward a wall of rock roughly 40 feet high.  The wall appeared to extend NW/SE across the entire main ridge.  The high point on the wall might well be Squaw Mountain’s summit, but was there even a way up onto it?  Who knew?

No one yet, but Lupe was about to find out!  She took the path leading to the wall of rock.

After coming up the slope on the L, Lupe got on this smaller rock formation for a better look at the 40 foot high rock wall ahead. A path led toward it. Lupe took the path to go see if she could find a way up. Photo looks NE.

The path ended at the base of the rock wall.  There was certainly no way up that Loop or SPHP could manage from here.  Lupe headed SE along the wall, looking for some sort of a break providing a route to the top.  She came to a place where a big knob of rock sat up on top of the wall.  It looked like there was a place right next to it where Lupe could scramble up with a little help from SPHP.

After following the rock wall SE, Lupe arrived here. If SPHP would give her a boost, it looked like she could get up on top of the wall right next to the large knob of rock seen on the R. Photo looks ENE.

Lupe climbed as high as she possibly could.  SPHP then gave her a boost up the last few feet.  She’d made it!  Lupe was up on the rock wall.  SPHP scrambled up after her.  A quick look around revealed a couple of surprises.

Lupe stands near the big knob on top of the rock wall. A couple of surprises were immediately evident up here. Photo looks SE.

First of all, SPHP had expected Lupe might be able to simply walk NW back along the top of the rock wall to the highest rocks to claim a peakbagging success.  She could go that way, alright, but Squaw Mountain’s summit wasn’t over there.  Lupe could now see the summit, but it was some distance away off to the ENE.  She still had farther to go.

You mean we still have to go way over there? …. Afraid so, Looper, looks like that’s the true summit of Squaw Mountain. Come on, it’s not that far. You’ll be there in a jiffy! Photo looks ENE.

The second surprise was that if Loop had only gone a little farther SE along the base of this rock wall, there was an opening where she could have easily gotten past it without having to climb up on top.  Oh, well!  At least that was news she could use on the way back.

There didn’t seem to be any reason to dilly dally around on the rock wall.  It was easy to get down off the NE side of it.  Once down, Lupe trotted through the forest heading ENE toward the summit.  She discovered a couple of fun things to do along the way.

She dug furiously at the base of a tree for several minutes.  She didn’t turn up anything, but the American Dingo left the freshly undermined tree looking quite cheerful.  Apparently, digging like that had been a good time.  Loop also found a few more small patches of snow.  They were melting fast, even in the shade.  Lupe availed herself of these opportunities to cool off again.

It really wasn’t that far from the rock wall to the true summit, only a few hundred yards.  A short, easy scramble up white rocks brought Lupe to the summit of Squaw Mountain (9,313 ft.).  At the very top, a white rock about 3 feet high leaned at a steep angle.  Loop bounded up in a single leap.  Sweet success!

Lupe on the highest rock on Squaw Mountain. Another peakbagging success! Photo looks NE.

The trek up Squaw Mountain had been really fun!  The views at the top were rewarding, too.  A few trees existed around the summit area, but not enough to block the views.  By moving around a bit, it was possible to get a clear view in any desired direction.

Climbing Squaw Mountain had been fun! Lots of off-trail exploration and a few challenging spots, but nothing too difficult. Great views from the top, too! Photo looks NE.
Looking back along Squaw Mountain’s main ridge. The rock wall Lupe had climbed over from the other side is in view above her head. The big knob she had gotten up next to is seen on the L. Other lower high points along the main ridge are seen farther off to the R. Photo looks WSW.
Another look at Squaw Mountain’s main E/W ridge. Photo looks WSW with a bit of help from the telephoto lens.

A small wooden structure a couple feet NW of the summit rock had collapsed long ago by the looks of it.  There was some smooth wire around, too.  However, the one man-made thing SPHP hoped to find up here was nowhere to be seen.  A search for the Squaw Mountain survey benchmark yielded nothing.  Where was it?  The entire summit area was only 15′ x 10′.  It should have been easy to find.

Nope, nada.  SPHP eventually gave up the search.

The small collapsed wooden structure a couple feet NW of the summit rock is seen on the R. Photo looks W.
A short distance E of the true summit, Lupe stands on a rock shaped like an elongated chair. SPHP promptly dubbed it “the Dingo Throne“. The views from the Dingo Throne were fantastic! Photo looks ENE.
Still on the Dingo Throne, this time looking NW at Buffalo Peak (9,387 ft.) (R).
Buffalo Peak was Lupe’s next peakbagging goal after Squaw Mountain. Looks like fun, doesn’t it? Photo looks NW.
Buffalo Peak (Center) is 1.5 miles NNW of Squaw Mountain.

After spending a little time gazing at the tremendous views, Lupe was ready for another break.  Even up here, the day was getting kind of hot for wearing a fur coat.  Loopster took shelter in the shade of a couple of small trees SE of the summit rock.  SPHP gave her water and Taste of the Wild again.  She would have preferred steak and ice cream, but at the top of a remote mountain in the Laramie Range, even an American Dingo has to take what she can get.

After dining, Lupe looked ready to doze off.  However, some pesky flies arrived and wouldn’t leave her alone.  She spent her time snapping instead of napping.  Meanwhile, SPHP went back to looking around.

A large bird swooped by.  No doubt some loyal reader of this blog will once again suggest the bird was both a vulture and an evil omen.  Fortunately, with all the snapping at flies going on, and SPHP apparently still conscious, the evil omen did not yet feel confident enough about the situation to drop in for a meal.

Lupe takes it easy in her fly-snapping spot.
A large bird swooped by. Fortunately for Lupe and SPHP, even if it was a vulture, it was premature in it’s thinking. Photo looks up.
A year ago, Lupe had also climbed Warbonnet Peak (9,414 ft.), the highest point seen L of Center. That had been a great adventure, too! Photo looks SSE.
Warbonnet Peak is the Converse County, Wyoming high point. Photo looks SSE with help from the telephoto lens.

A rare moment arrived.  SPHP had an idea!  Peering down among cracks between the rocks under the collapsed wooden structure, there it was!  The Squaw Mountain survey benchmark.  Hah!  SPHP had to wait until the angle of the sun illuminated it better before taking a photo.

The Squaw Mountain survey benchmark is hidden down in cracks between rocks beneath the collapsed wooden structure next to the summit rock. Photo looks down.

Lupe had been up at the summit of Squaw Mountain for half an hour now.  Unfortunately, the weather to the SW seemed to be deteriorating.  It looked like rain showers might move in from that direction.  Maybe it was time to think about moving on?

Loop was fine with that.  Snapping at flies had grown old.  Before leaving, though, she returned briefly to both her Dingo Throne and the true summit for a last look around.

Lupe back on her Dingo Throne for a final look around. Buffalo Peak is seen on the L. She would be headed there next! Photo looks NNW.
Looking N from the Dingo Throne.
Final moments on the summit rock. Photo looks ENE.

SPHP started down first.  Lupe waited for the signal to follow.

Waiting for the signal to come down. Photo looks N.

Still waiting at the same spot. Photo looks WNW.

From the summit, the rock wall Lupe had climbed up earlier had looked equally high.  A quick check of the topo map revealed that the highest part of the wall was also enclosed by the 9,280 foot contour.  So the rock wall was conceivably just as high or higher.  SPHP didn’t really believe the rock wall was higher, but she may as well tag this “W summit” on her way back, too.

Even including time spent frolicking in the snow again, it only took Looper 10 or 12 minutes to get back to the rock wall.

Ahh, so nice and cool!
Dingo ecstasy!

Coming from the E, it wasn’t hard to get up on the highest rocks of the rock wall.  In the short time it had taken to get here, though, clouds had spread across a large portion of the sky.  A cool breeze blew out of the SW.  Lupe better not stay up here long.

Lupe reaches the highest rocks of the rock wall. It had only taken 10 or 12 minutes to get here from the summit, but clouds had already spread over a large part of the sky. Warbonnet Peak is the high point at Center. Photo looks SSE.
Looking NE from the rock wall back toward the true summit. The sky was still mostly blue in this direction.
Looking W.
Looking E.

After a good look around from the top of the rock wall, Lupe circled down around to the SE, passing through the break in the wall she had discovered earlier.  With the weather clearly deteriorating, she made a beeline W back to the place where SPHP had left the tent and sleeping bags on Squaw Mountain’s main ridge.

Too bad the weather was threatening.  It would have been fun for Lupe to spend the night up here and get some sunset photos.  However, considering the situation, it seemed better to get down off the mountain.  SPHP grabbed all the gear.  Lupe left the main E/W ridge going NW down Squaw Mountain’s N slope.

Looper lost elevation faster than she’d gained it coming up.  She was somewhere N of where she’d been before, but she was still angling W, too.  It seemed to take a long time to get through the burned forest.  The sky became so threatening, it became prudent to look for a place to take shelter.  Widely scattered big raindrops started falling.  Lupe finally found a place to hide under a small overhanging rock formation.

The rain shower didn’t amount to anything.  It was over only a couple of minutes after Lupe took cover.  Figures.  When nothing further happened for another 10 minutes, the Carolina Dog went on.  Down, down, down, trying to go WNW now.  Lupe was aiming for relatively level ground SW of Buffalo Peak and the Meadow Creek valley.

Lupe finally reached the living, unburned forest.  She liked this better, but now it wasn’t possible to see much at all.  SPHP was surprised when Lupe came across a logging trail or some kind of road not long after reaching the living forest.  First she followed it SW, the direction where she ought to run into the bright green bog and Roaring Fork Creek again.  Before long, though, the road simply dead-ended.

Oh, well.  Other than to get re-oriented, there wasn’t much reason to return to the bog anyway.  May as well turn around and see where this road came from.  At first, it took Lupe NE, but soon began curving N, then NW, and finally clear around to the W.  N was fine.  NW was fine.  W into unexplored territory was not.  Lupe didn’t need to go any farther that way.

On the logging road somewhere NW of Squaw Mountain. Photo looks W.

Even so, the road was a nice luxury.  After all the bushwhacking, SPHP was reluctant to leave it.  Maybe it would curve back N again?  It did, but only for a short stretch, then it curved W again.  Gah!  Who knew where it went?  SPHP was about to abandon the road to head N when it briefly curved SW.  Ahead beyond a huge gnarled tree with 3 trunks was a sunlit meadow.  A squirrel chattered.  Lupe streaked over to bark at it.

An omen!  A good one, too!  To heck with buzzards and vultures!  Lupe needed a place to camp tonight, and a beautiful green meadow next to a giant squirrel tree would be perfect!

Lupe arrives at the beautiful green meadow. She needed a place to camp tonight. This secluded meadow fully equipped with a giant squirrel tree nearby was perfect! Photo looks SW.

The rain shower had passed on by.  Clouds remained in the sky, but the meadow was sunny and bright.  The sun was still high, looking like it would be up for another 5 or 6 hours.  Twilight would linger for another hour after that.  Buffalo Peak (9,387 ft.) couldn’t be much more than a mile away to the NE.

Why wait until tomorrow?  Lupe had time.  The tent and sleeping bags could be left here.  In case it rained again, SPHP hung them up in the ancient squirrel tree.  Less surface area would be exposed to the sky that way.

Lupe wanted to linger at the old tree and watch squirrels.  For a few minutes, SPHP indulged her.  Then it was time for the next big thing.  Lupe and SPHP left the grand old squirrel tree heading N for Buffalo Peak.

(End of Part 1 of Day 5)Links:

Part 2: Buffalo Peak & Twin Peaks in the Laramie Mountains of Wyoming (6-12-17 & 6-13-17)

Twin Peaks, Laramie Mountains, Wyoming (6-1-16)

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Muddy Mountain, Laramie Range, Wyoming (6-11-17)

Day 4 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range, Wyoming & Beyond!

SPHP got the spare pair of Realtree shoes out of the trunk of the G6.  They were old and in bad shape.  SPHP muttered while putting them on.

Should have brought these along yesterday, and none of this would have happened!

None of what?

Oh, you know Loop, losing my new boots in La Bonte Creek.  The whole purpose of bringing these old Realtree shoes on this trip had been to use them as water shoes for creek crossings.  Instead, I forget all about them, then yesterday I manage to lose my brand new 3 day old boots in the creek while trying to be clever and keep them from getting wet.

Well, at least you still have shoes.  We’re still going mountain climbing, right?

Nope.  Blacktail Peak (8,675 ft.) is out.  Not going to risk these old shoes completely disintegrating on me, and having to saunter back barefoot again.  Besides, I’m no longer in any mood to ford La Bonte Creek.  It looks easy, but the water is too high.  You nearly got swept away yourself yesterday.  Twice!

So what are we going to do?

Get water at Curtis Gulch campground, then head for Casper so I can buy another pair of boots.  Don’t worry, you’ll have a riot barking at all those cows, horses, and antelope again on the way out of here.  Come on, let’s get going!

On the drive to Casper, SPHP realized Lupe actually could go mountain climbing today, just not to Blacktail Peak as originally planned.  S of Casper was the huge, long ridge of Casper Mountain (8,200 ft.).  Lupe had already been to the summit of Casper Mountain once before.  However, on the other side of Casper Mountain was another big ridge the American Dingo had never been to – Muddy Mountain  (8,300 ft.).

SPHP hadn’t expected Lupe would get to Muddy Mountain (8,300 ft.) so soon on this trip.  However, the unforeseen need for new boots was bringing her to the vicinity, so why not do it now?  She’d have plenty of time to visit the mountain this afternoon.

After new boots were procured, and lunch was consumed in Washington Park, Lupe and SPHP drove S over Casper Mountain on Casper Mountain Road.  The long, partially forested ridge of Muddy Mountain came into view.

The long, high ridge of Muddy Mountain comes into view from the S slope of Casper Mountain. Photo looks S.

SPHP had seen on the topo map that a road went all the way to the top of Muddy Mountain.  Driving to the summit wasn’t the plan, however.  Too easy.  So lame for a peakbagging Carolina Dog!  To enjoy the trek and get to really experience Muddy Mountain, Lupe would climb it from the low point in the valley between Casper and Muddy mountains.

This way, Lupe would get to enjoy a remote, lonely backroad trek up Muddy Mountain while gaining over 1,000 feet of elevation.  At least, that was what SPHP expected.  Reality was rather different.  Driving down the S slope of Casper Mountain, SPHP was surprised by how much traffic there was.  Casper Mountain Road turned to gravel and became Circle Drive, yet vehicles still passed by at regular intervals.

Not good.  The wind was blowing.  Getting a face full of dust every time a vehicle went by wasn’t the least bit appealing.  The gravel road was no minor backcountry lane, either.  Big, wide, and busy, it wasn’t a terribly charming place for a stroll.  Lupe was going to have to leave the road and wander up Muddy Mountain through the fields and forests, if this was going to be much fun.  No worries, though, that looked easy enough.

SPHP parked the G6 at the low point between the big ridges.  A few other vehicles were parked here, too, but no one was around.  Nearby, Circle Drive turned W, while Muddy Mountain Road continued S on up Muddy Mountain’s N slope.  As SPHP got everything ready to go, more vehicles streamed by raising clouds of dust (2:34 PM, 67°F).

Lupe and SPHP crossed over Muddy Mountain Road entering a giant green field full of purple lupines.  The sun was shining.  The lupines danced in a lively breeze.  Loopster took the lead, sniffing happily.  Her destination was 4 or 5 miles away, somewhere along the N rim of the long ridge.  Muddy Mountain was going to be fun after all!

NO, IT WASN’T!  That sound!  Lupe must have passed within 4 or 5 feet of where it was coming from.  She was scarcely 25 feet from Muddy Mountain Road when an angry buzzing started as she went by.  SPHP looked cautiously around for the deadly source.  Oh, yeah.  There it was, still rattling down in a small depression, ready to strike.  A fairly big one.

Lupe had scarcely started on her way up Muddy Mountain when she passed close by this fairly large rattlesnake hidden in a small depression.

Lupe was already a good 15 feet beyond the rattler.  She was fine.

Loopster!  STAY, SIT!  Don’t move!  Good girl!  Stay right there!

Lupe waits for SPHP to come and guide her safely back around the rattlesnake. Her trek up Muddy Mountain was over almost before it began. This was as far as she got, not much more than 40 feet from Muddy Mountain Road. Photo looks SE.

SPHP sounded so serious, Lupe obeyed instantly.

Umm, what’s up?  What’s wrong?

A rattlesnake, a pretty big one, you just went right by it.  This hike is over, sweetheart!  Wait there, I’ll lead you back around the evil serpent.  It’s poisonous and very dangerous, even for an American Dingo.

We’re not going to Muddy Mountain?

Yes, yes we are.  But suddenly I’ve been seized with a desire to drive every inch of the way to the top.  Easy, squeezy-like, and hopefully serpent-free.

Only 10 minutes after starting out, the Carolina Dog was back at the G6 (2:44 PM, 67°F).  A nice dusty drive clear to the top of Muddy Mountain ensued.  To SPHP’s great surprise, a campground was right at the summit, complete with a big deck overlooking the view to the N.  It turned out there was a fairly extensive trail system in the area, too.  No wonder the road was so busy!  The old topo map hadn’t shown all this.

Lupe and SPHP checked out the view of Casper Mountain from the observation deck.

Although not shown on the old topo maps, Lupe discovers Rim campground at the summit of Muddy Mountain. SPHP had expected Muddy Mountain to be lonely and remote. Instead it’s a popular spot!
Near Rim campground, right along the N rim of Muddy Mountain, is this big observation deck with a view of Casper Mountain to the N. Photo looks NNW.
Part of the huge Casper Mountain ridge as seen from the observation deck. (Summit not pictured to the L of this photo.) Photo looks NNW.
The observation deck was sunny and bright.

A couple of large rocks sat a short distance E of the observation deck.  They appeared to be the absolute highest point around.  The American Dingo strolled over for a super easy peakbagging success.  Peakbagging Muddy Mountain turned out to be scarcely any more effort than Prairie Dog Hill (6,400 ft.) had been yesterday.

Another cheap peakbagging success. Lupe stands on the natural summit of Muddy Mountain. Part of the observation deck is seen on the L. Photo looks NW.
Hey, it wasn’t a cheap peakbagging success! I braved a huge rattlesnake to get here!
Wildflowers near the summit rocks.

Checking out the view from the observation deck and tagging the summit hadn’t taken long.  Lupe still had one more task to perform up on Muddy Mountain, though.  She could go look for the Muddy Mountain survey benchmark.  The topo map showed it wasn’t actually at the summit, but at another slightly lower high point about 0.75 mile W.

SPHP drove over that way, parking the G6 along the road slightly E of where it seemed the survey benchmark ought to be.  Lupe hopped out.  She headed W exploring a narrow strip of open ground between the road and N rim of the mountain.  SPHP followed, nervously keeping an eye out for rattlesnakes, while searching for the benchmark.

As Lupe sniffed her way along, she came to a nice view to the WNW.

While searching for the Muddy Mountain survey benchmark, Lupe came to this pretty view to the WNW. Circle Drive is seen on the R.

Lupe went about 600 feet from the G6.  No sign of the survey benchmark.  The terrain was gradually dropping now, too.  The benchmark wouldn’t be any farther W than this.  Might as well turn around.

The Carolina Dog headed back E.  Again SPHP followed, trying to search more thoroughly.  Nothing.  Lupe arrived back at the G6.  Now what?  SPHP checked the topo map again.  It was possible the benchmark was a bit E of here.

SPHP had parked the G6 a little W of a few pine trees close to the N side of the road.  Beyond them to the E was a nearly level field rimmed by pines to the N.  The field, which was full of purple and yellow wildflowers, widened out to the E in the shape of a long triangle.  Better go look over there, too.

Lupe scarcely got past the first few pine trees when she found it!  The survey benchmark was right there, fixed in concrete, barely 50 feet from the G6 and only 10-12 feet N of the road.  Sweet!

This what you’re looking for SPHP? …… Oh, yeah! That’s it Looper. Good job!
The Muddy Mountain survey benchmark is only 10-12 feet N of the road about 0.75 mile W of Rim campground.

Well, that was that.  What now?  Maybe it would be fun to go take a look at the map of the trail system on Muddy Mountain.  The main trailhead was nearly 0.5 mile E at an intersection on the S side of the road.  Lupe was fine with going back to check it out, so SPHP drove over to the trailhead.  A large map was on display.

This map of the trail system on Muddy Mountain is on display at a trailhead on the S side of the road about 0.25 mile W of the turn for the Rim campground.

The trail system map revealed that Muddy Mountain Road made a big loop from here.  A little S of this trailhead was another campground, Lodgepole campground.  Several different trails offered a variety of possible loops between Lodgepole and Rim campgrounds.  The trails were all relatively easy.  None involved more than a couple hundred feet of elevation change, if that.

No doubt there was little danger, but that rattlesnake was still too fresh on SPHP’s mind.  Loop was going to skip any exploration of the Muddy Mountain trail system.  More challenging things would soon be in store for the Carolina Dog, anyway.  In the meantime, she could stop and look at some of the views from Muddy Mountain on the way back to Casper.

Loop along the N rim of Muddy Mountain on the way back to Casper. Photo looks NW.
At another rock along the N rim. Photo looks NE.
Checking out some rocks S of Muddy Mountain Road. Photo looks SW.
Rockin’ Muddy Mountain

On the way up Casper Mountain (8,200 ft.), Lupe stopped for a final look back at Muddy Mountain (8,300 ft.).  In the late afternoon sun, the views were beautiful.  Off to the SW, light rain showers were seen in the distance.  More mountains could be seen beyond the Laramie Range.

Lupe would eventually be headed that way, but not quite yet.

The lower W end of the long Muddy Mountain ridge is seen on the L. Beyond it are mountains of the Shirley Range. Photo looks SW.
A final look back at Muddy Mountain from Circle Drive on the lower S slopes of Casper Mountain. Photo looks SE.

In Casper, SPHP grabbed a couple of cheeseburgers.  Lupe shared in the cheeseburger feast on the drive E back to Douglas along I-25.  Day ended with a gorgeous evening drive once again SW of Douglas on Hwy 91.  Ahead Lupe could see where she would be adventuring next.

Tomorrow Lupe would try to climb both Squaw Mountain (9,313 ft.) and Buffalo Peak (9,387 ft.).  Hopefully it was going to be a fabulous day!

Approaching La Prele Reservoir on Hwy 91 SW of Douglas, WY. Photo looks WSW.
Squaw Mountain (9,313 ft.) (slightly L of Center) and Buffalo Peak (9,387 ft.) (R) come into view SW of La Prele Reservoir.
Loop on the way to her next adventure in the Laramie Range. Photo looks N.
Adventure dead ahead! Squaw Mountain (L) and Buffalo Peak (Center). Photo looks SW.
Squaw Mountain (L) and Buffalo Peak (R) from Cold Springs Road. Bear Rock in the foreground. Photo looks SW.

Lupe’s visit to Muddy Mountain hadn’t been long or hard, but it had been plenty exciting.  Too exciting, actually!

Muddy Mountain rattlesnake, Laramie Range of Wyoming 6-11-17


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

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South Sawtooth Mountain, Laramie Range, Wyoming (6-10-17)

Day 3 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range, Wyoming & Beyond!

SPHP drove slowly.  Ahead Eagle Peak (9,167 ft.) was lit up by the early morning sunshine.  The E face of the mountain looked tough.  Not that it mattered now.  Yesterday Lupe had come close to reaching the top of the mountain from the SE and SW sides.  She hadn’t quite made it, though, and there wasn’t going to be another attempt today.

Eagle Peak in the early morning sunshine. Yesterday Lupe had nearly reached the top of the mountain, but failed to find a way up the last few tens of feet. She wasn’t going to make another attempt today. Photo looks WNW.

I hope we have better luck today at South Sawtooth, Loop.

SPHP spoke without much conviction.  Those contours on the topo map were as tight near the top of South Sawtooth Mountain (8,723 ft.) as they were at Eagle Peak.  Success was far from guaranteed.

Success was guaranteed at Prairie Dog Hill (6,400 ft.) a mile N of Esterbrook.  County Road No. 5 went practically right over the top of it.  Lupe sniffed her way through a nearly flat field.  Elevation gain to what seemed to be as much the high point as anywhere else was trivial, less than 10 feet.  Whoop-de-doo!  At least there was a bit of a view.

Lupe on Prairie Dog Hill, a trivial peakbagging accomplishment. It was so flat it was hardly even a hill. At least she had a distant view of Laramie Peak (10,272 ft.) (L) and Eagle Peak (9,167 ft.) (R). Photo looks SW.

Although South Sawtooth Mountain is only 9 miles NNW of Eagle Peak as the crow flies, it was many times that far by road.  Lupe first had to go clear to Douglas, WY.  While in town, SPHP picked up a few supplies.  At very small Locomotive Park where the Douglas Railroad Interpretive Center is located, Lupe got to visit a very large Jackalope.

Lupe visits the giant Jackalope at Locomotive Park in Douglas, WY. Douglas is the Jackalope capital of the world!

Lupe was disappointed to find that the Jackalope was merely a statue, but as large as the Jackalope was, perhaps that was for the best.  In any case, the Carolina Dog was soon ready to move on.

The long drive out Hwy 91 SW of Douglas is one of SPHP’s favorites for gorgeous western scenery.  Lupe likes it for all the cows and horses to bark at along the way.  The highway eventually ends and turns to gravel.  Many more miles of dusty road eventually brought Lupe to the Curtis Gulch campground along La Bonte Creek.

SPHP parked the G6 near the campground entrance.  Lupe set out for South Sawtooth Mountain (10:36 AM, 68°F) heading SW on USFS Road No. 658.  On the way in, SPHP had seen a sign for Big Bear Canyon about 0.33 mile away.  Lupe soon reached this side road (USFS Road No. 657.01), which almost immediately led to a ford of La Bonte Creek.

Almost as soon as Lupe reached USFS Road No. 657.01 to Big Bear Canyon, the road led to this ford of La Bonte Creek. Photo looks SW.

The water was high this time of year.  Although the surface looked calm, La Bonte Creek was wide at the ford, and over Lupe’s head.  Upstream and downstream, the current was clearly strong.  American Dingoes like wading, not swimming, but SPHP knew Lupe could swim if necessary.  She ought to be able to manage this crossing.

Still, SPHP wasn’t thrilled to see the ford.  Only 3 days ago, SPHP had bought new boots for this Dingo Vacation, and they weren’t waterproof.  To keep from getting the new boots soaking wet, SPHP decided to take them off and wade the stream barefoot.  SPHP stuffed a sock inside each boot, laced them together, and draped a boot over the back of each shoulder with the knotted laces across the throat.

While Lupe watched from shore, SPHP waded into La Bonte Creek.  The current was fairly strong, and the water as much as thigh deep.  Rocks on the bottom were loose and sometimes slippery.  Concentration was required to maintain balance, but SPHP managed to get most of the way across uneventfully.

Was Lupe following?  Yes and no.  SPHP turned around to see the Carolina Dog still near the opposite shore.  She wanted to come, and had waded chest deep into La Bonte Creek, but was reluctant to go any deeper.

Lupe waded chest deep into La Bonte Creek, but was afraid to go any deeper.

Loopster was going to need some encouragement.  SPHP waded the rest of the way across, then turned around again to call to her.

Meanwhile, desperate not to be left behind, all on her own Lupe had decided to try crossing La Bonte Creek on the downstream side of the ford.  The water wasn’t as deep here, but the current was powerful.  SPHP was alarmed to see Lupe neck deep struggling to cross without being swept downstream.  Fortunately, her legs were just long enough for her paws to touch bottom.  Lupe clawed her way forward despite the current.

In a flash, Lupe was past the moment of danger.  She reached much shallower water, and came trotting across just fine.

Lupe trots the rest of the way across La Bonte Creek after clawing her way past a dangerous deeper part on the downstream side of the ford. Photo looks NE.

Glad that’s over with Loop!  Good girl!  You did great, but maybe we can find a safer way across on the way back?  Not looking forward to doing that again.

SPHP put socks and boots back on again.  The trek along USFS Road No. 657.01 resumed.  Lupe reached two more creek crossings in quick succession.

Lupe in lower Big Bear Canyon between creek crossings. The rocky mountain seen in the background is on the N side of La Bonte Canyon close to Curtis Gulch campground. Photo looks NE.

Fortunately, La Bonte Creek had already forked by the time these next stream crossings were reached.  Flow was less than half of what it had been at the first ford.  Lupe had no problems crossing now.  SPHP again crossed barefoot each time, the creek still being too large to leap over.

USFS Road No. 657.01 now went steadily SSE up Big Bear Canyon.  Lupe came to no more creek crossings for more than 0.5 mile.  When she did reach more crossings, the creek was considerably smaller than before.  SPHP could now leap across, avoiding the tedious necessity of removing the precious new boots each time.

The day was sunny and warm.  Lupe was now enjoying cooling off and getting drinks from the stream.

Lupe enjoys cooling off in the diminished stream on the way up Big Bear Canyon.

Big Bear Canyon was heavily forested most of the way.  Sometimes there were views of large rock formations hundreds of feet higher up along the E side of the canyon.  Farther on, high forested mountainsides were visible on the W side of the canyon, too.  Mostly though, the views were only of the forest along USFS Road No. 657.01.

Lupe on her way up Big Bear Canyon on USFS Road No. 657.01. Photo looks SSE.
About halfway up Big Bear Canyon, Lupe reached this pond. The creek flowed through it. Photo looks SW.

Lupe followed USFS Road No. 657.01 for more than 3 miles all the way up Big Bear Canyon.  The road gained elevation more quickly toward the end.  About the time the rate of climb began to diminish again, SPHP spotted a mountain off to the NE.  The view was partially obstructed by trees, but what could be seen was concerning.

Was that South Sawtooth Mountain?  If so, Lupe wasn’t likely to have much luck reaching the summit.  The rocky upper slopes looked nearly vertical.  Sigh.  Not another defeat!  Nothing to do, though, but carry on.  Maybe that wasn’t South Sawtooth, or there actually was a way up.  Hard to tell from here.  The mountain was still a couple miles away.

The terrain completely leveled out as the road left the upper end of Big Bear Canyon.  Lupe soon arrived at a 3 way junction.  A sign identified the road Lupe needed to take as Sawtooth Road.  On the topo map it was USFS Road No. 615, which started out heading ENE from here.

Lupe reaches a 3 way junction at the flat, forested saddle beyond the upper end of Big Bear Canyon. USFS Road No. 615, which Lupe would need to take partway to South Sawtooth, is seen winding away into the forest. Photo looks E.

Before taking No. 615 toward South Sawtooth, Lupe explored another road leading a short distance SW to USFS No. 610.  She passed a sunny meadow full of lupines along the way.

Lupe among the lupines.

Lupe went far enough to have some views of mountains off to the SW and NW before turning around.  She then returned to the first junction, and started along USFS Road No. 615.

Before long, No. 615 emerged from the forest.  The road began climbing steadily up a draw which was mostly meadow.  At the upper end of the draw, Lupe re-entered the forest.  The road wound around to the E and NE, but after a mile or so, turned N.  The topo map showed that right after reaching a crest, No. 615 would turn W and start losing elevation.  Ultimately it would dead end in a canyon.

Lupe reached the crest of USFS Road No. 615.  Time to leave the road!  Lupe and SPHP turned NE, and started climbing a heavily forested hillside.  Little could be seen except trees until Loop reached the top of a broad ridge.  Here there were big rocks and some open ground.  From one of the higher rocks, the American Dingo had a view of the mountain SPHP had seen earlier.

Yes, that was it.  That had to be South Sawtooth Mountain (8,723 ft.)!

From a rock on the broad ridge, Lupe catches sight of South Sawtooth Mountain! Photo looks N.
Lupe reaches the broad ridge at a perfect point! She had arrived up on the ridge just far enough NE to avoid having to go over High Point 8401, seen behind her. The open ground on the gently sloping ridge was easier to traverse than going through the forest. Photo looks SSW.

Up on the broad ridge, there was enough open ground to make travel much easier than in the dense forest Lupe had left behind.  Lupe and SPHP continued NE, skirting a series of rock formations along the NW side of the ridge.

Another large ridge could soon be seen.  It trended NW to join the ridge Lupe was on.  Beyond the junction, the combined ridge went N and narrowed somewhat.  Lupe came to a rock formation larger than any of the others she had passed to this point.  South Sawtooth Mountain was now less than a mile away.

Beyond the ridge junction, Lupe came to a larger rock formation (L of Center) than any of the others she’d been passing by. She got around the SW (L) side of this one. South Sawtooth Mountain is seen in the distance now less than a mile away. Photo looks N.

Beyond the first large rock formation, Lupe came to some beautiful open ground leading to a second, even grander rock formation.

Approaching the 2nd, even larger, rock formation (R). South Sawtooth Mountain is now on the L. Photo looks N.

From the W side of the second rock formation, Lupe had the best view of South Sawtooth Mountain she’d seen yet.  However, the sight caused SPHP to lose all hope that Lupe would succeed in reaching the top.  The mountain was simply too vertical and rough.  Most disappointing!

Maybe Lupe could still reach the top of the high point on the lower W ridge, though?  That looked easy enough.  At least the Carolina Dog had a new objective to pursue.  Who knew, maybe things would look different from up there?

At the second and largest rock formation Lupe reached on the ridge, she had her best view yet of South Sawtooth Mountain. The daunting S face crushed hopes that Lupe could reasonably expect to reach the top. The high point of the lower W ridge (L), became Lupe’s new reduced objective. Photo looks N.

Lupe and SPHP tried to get around the E side of the second rock formation, but a long wall of rock blocked the way.  Lupe was forced to retreat back to the W.  What could be seen of the rest of the ridge leading to South Sawtooth looked forbidding.  The ridge dropped sharply beyond this rock formation, before rising again and continuing N as an impossibly rough series of huge rock outcroppings.  No way!

A grassy opening was visible to the W down at the bottom of a valley about 150 feet lower than where Lupe was now.  Time to abandon the ridge.  Lupe and SPHP started W down a fairly steep forested slope.  As the ground began leveling out near the bottom, there was movement.  Instantly, Lupe dashed away in hot pursuit!

SPHP never had a clear view of what she was after.  Whatever it was had a huge lead, and bounded S through the forest at very high speed.  Loop never got anywhere close, and soon gave up.  SPHP got only tree-broken glimpses.  The creature was gray and bounded like a rabbit, but it was far, far larger than any rabbit.  Even Lupe was tiny by comparison.

A bear?  Are bears still found in the Laramie Mountains?  SPHP didn’t know.  Maybe.  Lupe returned with a huge grin on her face, panting hard.  That was fun!

So what was it, Loop?  A bear, or one of those giant jackalopes?

Lupe kept smiling, but didn’t say.  Hardly mattered now.  It was gone.  Puppy, ho!  Onward!

Lupe and SPHP reached the meadow at the bottom of the valley, crossed it to the W, and went over a small rise to another valley.  This valley was mostly forested, and looked like it would take Lupe up to the saddle between South Sawtooth Mountain and the high point on the ridge to the W.  Lupe turned N and began to climb.

Lupe on her way up the valley leading to the saddle between South Sawtooth Mountain (R) and the high point on the ridge to the W (L). Photo looks N.

Lupe made it up to the saddle with no problem at all.  The whole W face of South Sawtooth Mountain was now in view.  Unfortunately, no matter what route SPHP considered from here, there just didn’t appear to be a way for Lupe to reach the top.  She could have climbed somewhat higher, but every possible path to the summit looked blocked by boulders or vertical rock walls somewhere along the way.

Defeat again!  First at Eagle Peak, now here.  No use fretting about it.  The sky was clouding up.  Rain showers looked like a possibility in some directions.  If Lupe was going to reach the high point on the mountain’s W ridge, she had better get there before the weather deteriorated.

The W face of South Sawtooth Mountain. Although Lupe could have climbed partway up, SPHP couldn’t see any safe route to the top. There were too many large boulders and vertical rock walls. Photo looks E.

Piece of cake!  Lupe was soon up on the W shoulder of South Sawtooth Mountain.  A half acre of relatively flat ground contained two distinct high points.  They were so close to each other in elevation, Lupe would have to climb both to be certain she’d reached the highest one.

Before Lupe climbed up on either high point, she took a general look around at some of the views available from various other vantage points.

South Sawtooth Mountain from a rock on the W shoulder. Photo looks E.
Laramie Peak (10,272 ft.) is seen beyond Lupe. Photo looks SE from the same rock.
Blacktail Peak (8,675 ft.) is the highest mountain seen straight up from Lupe’s head. Photo looks WSW.
View to the NW. Warbonnet Peak (9,414 ft.) is the high point on the horizon L of Center. Also on the horizon straight up from Lupe are Squaw Mountain (9,313 ft.) (L) & Buffalo Peak (9,387 ft.) (R).

Although not as good as they would have been if Lupe had been able to reach the summit of South Sawtooth Mountain, the views from the W shoulder were really quite nice.  Lupe could see a lot of territory from up here.

After looking around some, Lupe got up on top of the N high point first, since it seemed easiest.

Loop climbed up on top of the N high point of South Sawtooth Mountain’s W ridge first. Photo looks NW.
South Sawtooth Mountain from the N high point. Photo looks ESE.

The best views of Middle and North Sawtooth Mountains were from rocks near the N high point.  Though equally rugged, neither mountain was as high as South Sawtooth.  Even here on South Sawtooth Mountain’s W shoulder, Lupe was higher than either Middle or North Sawtooth.

Lupe had a great view of Middle Sawtooth (R) and North Sawtooth (L). Neither of them looked like anything Lupe could climb, but she was already higher than either one right here. Photo looks NE.
Middle Sawtooth Mountain (8,502 ft.). Photo looks NE with help from the telephoto lens.
North Sawtooth Mountain (8,306 ft.) (R). Photo looks NNE.
South Sawtooth Mountain (8,723 ft.) is the highest of the 3 Sawtooths in the area. Photo looks E.

Shortly after visiting the N high point, Lupe went and climbed the S one.  Even after being up on both, it wasn’t clear which was the highest.

Lupe completes her peakbagging for the day up on the S high point. Photo looks SSW.
South Sawtooth Mountain from the W ridge’s S high point. Photo looks E.
Another look from the S high point.
American Dingoes can occasionally be spotted in the Laramie Mountains of Wyoming.

Lupe and SPHP lingered up on South Sawtooth Mountain’s W Ridge for 30 or 40 minutes before starting back.  The plan was to retrace the same route, except Lupe would try to cut through the forest and find USFS Road No. 615 again without getting up on the broad ridge S of South Sawtooth Mountain.


High Point 8401 on South Sawtooth Mountain’s long S ridge is seen straight up from Lupe. She had followed the broad ridge from there over to the meadows seen on the L on the way to the mountain. On the way back S, she would stay down in the forest on the near (W) side of the same ridge. Photo looks S.

Loop left the W ridge going down to the saddle next to South Sawtooth Mountain.  She then turned S traveling down the same valley she had originally come up.  This valley would turn and take her too far W before long, so she soon had to make a jog to the E over a minor ridge into the next valley over.

Lupe starts back down the same valley she had come up on the way to South Sawtooth Mountain. She had a great time exploring the forest again. Photo looks SSE.

After losing considerable elevation, Lupe gradually started regaining some as she traveled S through the forest.  She was somewhere not too far W of the broad ridge she had reached N of High Point 8401 on the way to South Sawtooth, but it was hard to tell exactly where she was, or how much farther it might be to the road.

After a while, the terrain became a little rougher and rose more steeply.  Some things looked vaguely familiar.  Lupe continued S and eventually reached a meadow up on the ridgeline again.  Now it was possible to see that Lupe was only a little SW of High Point 8401.  That was good news!  It meant that USFS Road No. 615 was close by.

Lupe headed SW down a forested slope.  She soon reached No. 615.  Now all she had to do was follow the road back to No. 657.01, which would take her back down Big Bear Canyon.

Lupe finds USFS Road No. 615 again SW of High Point 8401. All she had to do now was follow this road back to No. 657.01, which would take her back down Big Bear Canyon. Photo looks S.

The sun had set and light was fading by the time Lupe made it all the way back down Big Bear Canyon.  She was now approaching the last big creek ford across La Bonte Creek.  As promised earlier, SPHP searched upstream of the ford for an easier place for Lupe to cross, but found nothing.  Lupe was going to have to brave the ford one more time.

Once again, SPHP went barefoot with boots tied together and dangling behind the neck.  Lupe wanted to cross the same downstream side of the ford where she had made it across before.  SPHP went with her to keep a better eye on how she was doing.  The water wasn’t as deep here as in the main part of the ford, but the current was far stronger.

Once again, it was alarming to see how close the Carolina Dog came to being swept downstream.  As Lupe fought and clawed her way across La Bonte Creek, barely able to hang on against the swift current, SPHP started having problems, too.  The creek bottom was covered with larger, slippery rocks here.  They weren’t visible in the dim light.  One of the rocks moved unexpectedly.

SPHP gyrated wildly trying to maintain balance.  The American Dingo had made it!  She stood safely on the opposite shore.  SPHP recovered and avoided a fall, but out of the corner of an eye saw something hit the water.  The new boots were bobbing away downstream!  In seconds, they vanished from view.

Gone for good.  Sheesh!

It was a good thing there wasn’t more gravel on USFS Road No. 658.  The 0.33 mile barefoot trek back to the G6 was slow and painful enough as it was.  Lupe ran back and forth on the road wondering what was wrong with SPHP?  She was hungry!  C’mon, hurry it up!  Stars were shining by the time Alpo was served.  (9:43 PM)

Although Lupe initially seemed tired out from the long trek to South Sawtooth Mountain, the Alpo soon revived her.  She couldn’t sleep.  SPHP finally let her out of the G6.  She sniffed around in the night for a while, then laid down on the ground near the G6.

For a long time the Carolina Dog stayed out there alone, bathed in moonlight beneath the starry sky, watching the dim forest and listening to the soothing sound of the flowing waters of boot-eating La Bonte Creek.

Sometime after midnight, a tuckered out Dingo finally snoozes peacefully in the G6 after her South Sawtooth Mountain adventure.

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