Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 128 – Lithograph Canyon Hillside, East Hell Canyon & Signal Hill (4-25-15)

On Expedition No. 127, Lupe pretty much finished up at least one ascent of all Black Hills, SD mountains she can climb currently in the Peakbagger.com data base.  However, there was still one peakbagging goal possible in the area, which was to go to the Lithograph Canyon Hillside (5,820 ft.)  .  This hillside is not the summit of any peak, but simply the highest point in Jewel Cave National Monument.

Ordinarily the high points of U.S. National Parks and Monuments are off-limits to Lupe, because dogs are not allowed into the back country.  However, the topo map available on Peakbagger.com showed that the high point of Jewel Cave National Monument is on the border with the Black Hills National Forest close to the NE corner of the monument.  This meant Lupe could get to it by traveling through the national forest.

So at 9:30 AM on this fine morning, SPHP parked the G6 at the intersection of USFS Road No. 278 and No. 278.1E about 0.5 mile S of Hwy 16.  This point is approximately 1 mile E and 0.5 mile S of the Jewel Cave National Monument E entrance along Hwy 16.  The skies were mostly sunny with a few high clouds, there was a gentle S breeze, and the temperature was 52°F.  Conditions were perfect for a day of dingo outdoor adventures.

Still S of Hwy 16 Lupe turned N to climb this hillside in Lithograph Canyon just E of Jewel Cave National Monument.
Still S of Hwy 16 Lupe turned N to climb this hillside adjoining Lithograph Canyon just E of Jewel Cave National Monument.  Lupe’s curly tail is sticking up behind a log.
Photo looking NW taken from just SE of E entrance to Jewel Cave National Monument. Hwy 16 is visible on the left. The hillside shown is the route up to the Lithograph Canyon Hillside high point of the national monument. The actual highpoint is not shown. It is a little way above and to the right of the high ground at the right edge of this photo.
Photo looking WNW taken from just ESE of E entrance to Jewel Cave National Monument. Hwy 16 is visible on the left. The hillside shown is the route up to the Lithograph Canyon Hillside high point of the national monument. The actual highpoint is not shown. It is a little way above and to the right of the high ground at the right edge of this photo.

Lupe set off heading W along USFS Road No. 278 down into Lithograph Canyon.  This area, along with many others along her exploration route this day, had burned in the 83,000+ acre Jasper fire that was started by an arsonist on August 24, 2000.  A little before Lupe had gone a mile, Lupe turned N and went up and over the hillside to arrive at Hwy 16 at the E entrance to Jewel Cave National Monument.

Lupe at the E entrance to Jewel Cave National Monument now just a 20 feet N of Hwy 16. She is ready to head N up the E boundary to the Lithograph Canyon Hillside high point.
Lupe now 20 feet N of Hwy 16 at the E entrance to Jewel Cave National Monument.  She is ready to head N up the E monument boundary to the Lithograph Canyon Hillside high point.

Although SPHP doesn’t ordinarily like fences, in this case SPHP was hoping to find a fence marking the E boundary of Jewel Cave National Monument.  Lupe could then follow the fence line up the hillside to the Lithograph Canyon Hillside high point.

What Lupe found though, was even better.  There was no fence, but there was a series of metal fence posts showing the way.  The fence posts were anywhere from about 50 to 200 feet apart.  Some of the posts were labeled for the monument boundary and others for the national forest boundary, but it didn’t matter.  It was the same boundary.  The posts weren’t all lined up perfectly, but close enough for Lupe and SPHP’s purposes.

Shortly before reaching the top of the first rise along the hillside N of Hwy 16, Lupe found this survey marker for the corner of sections 36, 31, 6 & 1.
Shortly before reaching the top of the first rise along the hillside N of Hwy 16, Lupe found this survey marker for the corner of sections 36, 31, 6 & 1.

To get to the Lithographic Canyon Hillside high point of Jewel Cave National Monument, there proved to be two rises N of Hwy 16 Lupe had to ascend.  Shortly before reaching the top of the first rise, Lupe came across a section line survey marker at the corner of sections 36, 31, 6 & 1.  Continuing N from the top of the first rise, Lupe could see the next rise ahead.

Lupe on top of the first rise. Photo looks N towards the 2nd rise, which is beyond the dead tree near the center of this photo.
Lupe on top of the first rise. Photo looks N towards the 2nd rise, which is beyond the dead tree near the center of this photo.

Lupe passed under a barbed wire fence running E/W at the base of the 2nd rise, but what that fence signified was unknown.  It was not the Jewel Cave National Monument boundary.  SPHP spotted another boundary marker ahead to the N high up on the edge of the 2nd rise.  When Lupe got up to it, more boundary markers could be seen nearby still farther N.  From the edge of the 2nd rise, Lupe continued N along nearly level ground close to 200 feet and found a couple of Black Hills National forest boundary markers.

NE corner of Jewel Cave N. M. according to USFS markers. A dead tree has fallen right over the spot where SPHP believes the survey corner pin must be.
NE corner of Jewel Cave N. M. according to USFS markers. A dead tree has fallen right over the spot where SPHP believes the survey corner pin must be.  Photo looks a bit E of S back towards the edge of the 2nd rise.

A dead tree had fallen in between two Black Hills National Forest boundary posts right across where SPHP presumes the survey corner pin must be for the NE corner of Jewel Cave National Monument.  There were also two metal signs on bearing trees nearby with survey information on them.  One was on a tree 33 feet away to the N and slightly to the W.  The other was attached to a stump 17 feet almost due E of the corner.

Still at the NE corner of Jewel Cave N. M. as per Forest Service markers. The metal survey information sign on the "bearing stump" is visible as a yellow square 17 feet beyond the corner and Lupe's head.
Still at the NE corner of Jewel Cave N. M. as per Forest Service markers. The metal survey information sign on the “bearing stump” is visible as a yellow square 17 feet beyond the corner and Lupe’s head.  Photo is looking E.

SPHP wasn’t thinking too clearly.  At first SPHP was thinking that by finding the NE corner of Jewel Cave National Monument, Lupe had also reached the actual high point of the monument.  While looking back S along the E boundary of the monument towards the edge of the 2nd rise, SPHP suddenly realized the corner was not necessarily the absolute highest point.  Lupe and SPHP headed back S along the E boundary looking for the very highest point.

Lupe sitting near a collection of rocks with a piece of a post laying on them. SPHP thought this also looked like the very highest point along the E boundary of Jewel Cave N.M.
Lupe sitting near a collection of rocks with a piece of a post laying on them. SPHP thought this  looked like the very highest point along the E boundary of Jewel Cave N.M.  Photo looks NNW.

SPHP came across a little pile of rocks with a piece of an old post sticking out of it where the ground seemed to be the highest.  Lupe got her picture taken here, since once again SPHP was satisfied that Lupe was now at the Lithograph Canyon Hillside high point and the highest spot in Jewel Cave National Monument.  SPHP was still thinking the high point was along the E boundary.

The prettiest view was from the post near the edge of the 2nd rise along the E boundary. Photo looks SE.
The prettiest view was from the post near the edge of the 2nd rise N of Hwy 16 along the E boundary of Jewel Cave National Monument.  Photo looks SE.

Lupe and SPHP went NW up(!) to a log so SPHP could sit down and take a break while thinking about where to go next.  It hadn’t taken terribly long for Lupe to get up here.  SPHP had been thinking Lupe might spend the rest of the day exploring East Hell Canyon farther to the N, and wanted to consult some maps.  Meanwhile, Lupe had some water and a little Taste of the Wild.

Gazing S from the log, SPHP suddenly realized the ground for a little way to the W of the E monument boundary line was obviously HIGHER than the E boundary itself.  The Lithograph Canyon Hillside high point of Jewel Cave National Monument was along the N boundary, not the E boundary!

So Lupe sniffed around while SPHP went back to find the N boundary of Jewel Cave National Monument and the highest point along it.  Interestingly, SPHP found that there was a line of Jewel Cave National Monument border posts heading W, but that they did not line up with the NE corner of the monument as indicated by the national forest boundary markers Lupe had already visited.  Just pacing it off, the national monument border posts for the N boundary were about 55 feet S of where the national forest corner indicated they should be.  The first national monument border post was about 20 feet W of the E boundary and had a partially burned flat piece of wood still clinging to it.

This Jewel Cave National Monument boundary marker with a partially burned piece of sign clinging to it is the first marker W along the N boundary. It is about 20 feet W of the E boundary.
This Jewel Cave National Monument boundary marker with a partially burned flat piece of wood clinging to it is the first marker W along the N boundary. It is about 20 feet W of the E boundary and about 55 feet S of the NE corner of the monument as indicated by the National Forest survey markers.

The high point of the Lithograph Canyon Hillside was roughly 100 feet W of the E boundary along the N boundary line.  SPHP took a photo of Lupe standing on a log about 1.5 feet above the high point along the N boundary as indicated by the Jewel Cave National Monument border posts.  However, with all the detailed survey work that seems to have been done by the national forest at the NE corner (two corner posts, a bearing tree and a bearing stump, and probably a survey pin under the dead tree), SPHP suspects the real high point is 55 feet farther N.

Another Jewel Cave National Monument N border post is seen to the W of Lupe. Probably about 55 feet S of the true Lithograph Canyon Hillside high point of the monument.
Another Jewel Cave National Monument N border post is seen to the W of Lupe. Probably about 55 feet S of the true Lithograph Canyon Hillside high point of the monument.

Of course, Lupe also went to the high point 55 feet back to the N in line with the national forest survey.  This was most likely the true Lithograph Canyon Hillside high point of Jewel Cave National Monument, but SPHP did not bother to take another photo of Lupe there.  SPHP already had enough photos of the area, and this spot didn’t look much different.  Lupe was getting bored with SPHP’s obsession with marching back and forth over the same little patch of ground. None of it was all that remarkably different in elevation, views or any other aspect.  (If some reader with GPS ever gets up here, SPHP would still like to hear their opinion on the location of the true high point!)

As far as Lupe was concerned, it was mission accomplished and time to press on to the N to explore East Hell Canyon.  SPHP agreed.  Lupe headed N continuing up the now increasingly gentle slope.  The terrain made her turn first to the NNE and then back to the NNW to stay on the high ground.  After going a good 0.5 mile N, Lupe started heading down a big draw leading into East Hell Canyon from the ESE.

Lupe on her way down the draw leading into East Hell Canyon. There were at least 3 elk and a few deer in this area.
Lupe on her way down the draw leading into East Hell Canyon. There were at least 3 elk and a few deer in this area.

Lupe had a much better time in East Hell Canyon than whoever named the place.  Near the bottom of the canyon there was a big thick patch of a variety of tall thorny bushes, but that was as bad as it got.  The canyon floor looked very wild where Lupe first reached it.  Fortunately there was a remnant of a road in the canyon for SPHP to follow.  (SPHP didn’t know it at the time, but this was USFS Road No. 284.2L.)  Lupe and SPHP turned N again to explore.

Lupe entered East Hell Canyon just S (right) of this cliff on the E side of the canyon.
Lupe entered East Hell Canyon just S (right) of this cliff on the E side of the canyon.
Lupe heads N along the "road" in East Hell Canyon.
Lupe heads N along the “road” (No. 284.2L) in East Hell Canyon.
Lupe in East Hell Canyon a little way E of Short Fork Draw.
Lupe in East Hell Canyon a little way E of Short Fork Draw.

Lupe came to better roads at a canyon junction in Section 30.  Here the canyon was trending to the NE, but the way directly ahead was blocked by a canyon wall with a big crack in it.  A road going E toward Windmill Draw was marked USFS Road No. 681.  Lupe stayed on 284.2L which turned NNW.

Looking N at the cracked canyon wall where USFS Roads No. 681 and 284.2L meet.
Looking NE at the cracked canyon wall where USFS Roads No. 681 and 284.2L meet.  Lupe on the run!
Lupe just S of the cracked canyon wall near the canyon junction. Photo looks SW towards the cliffs.
Lupe just SW of the cracked canyon wall near the canyon junction. Photo looks W towards the cliffs.

So far Lupe hadn’t come to any creek or stream in East Hell Canyon, but pretty soon she did come to a round plastic livestock watering tank.  There was only an inch of amazingly clear water in it.  SPHP picked Lupe up and put her in it.  She immediately laid down and had a nice drink.  Then she spent a minute or two wading around surprised to have her own wading pool.  When she was done, she easily jumped out.  Lupe started coming to more watering tanks even though Lupe never saw any livestock in East Hell Canyon.  Lupe did not get into any of the other watering tanks.

Still no creek or stream, but Lupe did come to this round livestock water trough, which she used as her wading pool. Lupe saw no livestock anywhere in East Hell Canyon.
Still no creek or stream, but Lupe did come to this round livestock water trough, which she used as her wading pool. Lupe saw no livestock anywhere in East Hell Canyon.  Though only an inch deep, the water was remarkably clear.  Most watering tanks contain some pretty disgusting stuff.

USFS Road No. 284.2L ended at a canyon junction just W of Windmill Draw.  A sign here said it was still 3 miles to Custer Limestone Road (No. 284).  Lupe could have turned NE on No. 284.2B, but instead continued NNW on No. 284.2A.

Lupe reaches the intersection of USFS Roads No. 284.2A and No. 284.2B just W of Windmill Draw. She continued N on No. 284.2A.
Lupe reaches the end of USFS Road No. 284.2L and intersection of USFS Roads No. 284.2A and No. 284.2B just W of Windmill Draw. She continued NNW on No. 284.2A.

Maps showed that Bear Spring Creek flows through this portion of East Hell Canyon where No. 284.2A goes, but there was still no sign of any creek or stream.  As Lupe and SPHP continued on up East Hell Canyon, gradually the canyon walls had fewer and smaller cliffs.  Eventually the canyon felt less like a canyon and more like just a valley.

Lupe finally reaches Bear Springs Creek flowing across No. 284.2A just 0.25 mile S of No. 284.
Lupe finally reaches Bear Springs Creek flowing across No. 284.2A just 0.25 mile S of No. 284.

Lupe had already gone a long way when she came to a place where the dry creek bed was green with new shoots of grass.  The dark soil looked moist.  Finally Lupe came to Bear Springs Creek.  By then she was only about 0.25 mile S of County Road No. 284 (Custer Limestone Road).

Going uphill to find water is not at all uncommon in the Black Hills.  The area is semi-arid and the geology of the Black Hills region is such that the hills are surrounded by a ring of limestone and other porous rock formations.  Few creeks or steams have sufficient flow to remain above ground as they leave the Black Hills.  The entire flow of most simply sinks into the ground.  Over the ages, these underground creeks and streams have charged regional aquifers.  In some places they dissolved the limestone to create long complicated caves like Wind Cave and Jewel Cave.

When Lupe reached County Road No. 284, SPHP debated what to do next.  After checking the maps, SPHP settled on Signal Hill (6,483 ft.) .  Lupe had recently climbed Signal Hill for the first time back on Expedition No. 125, but SPHP decided it was worth doing again.  From there, Lupe could explore USFS Road No. 747 heading back to the S.

Bloodily wounded heroic dingo Lupe struggles triumphantly to the towering pinnacle of Summit Hill shortly before the onslaught of the coming storm.... actually no.. that's not blood, just mud from the stock pond. A rainstorm was coming though from the direction of Elk Mountain to the WSW.
Bloodily wounded heroic dingo Lupe struggles triumphantly to the towering pinnacle of Signal Hill shortly before the onslaught of the coming storm…. actually, no…. that’s not blood, just mud from the nearby stock pond, and Signal Hill is just a hill, no great pinnacle. A rainstorm was coming though from the direction of Elk Mountain to the WSW.

A somewhat dull 2.75 mile trudge towards the NW along No. 284, a major gravel road, ensued.  SPHP picked up some of the trash in the ditch to pack out.  At last Lupe reached No. 747 and turned S towards Signal Hill, a 10 minute hike away.  This time, instead of going directly up the N slope, SPHP circled around the NW side of the hill to an area enclosed by an 8 foot tall wire mesh fence.  Just before reaching the fence Lupe spotted a shallow stock pond with little water, but lots of dark reddish brown mud in it off to the NW.  Naturally she ran over to lay down in the mud and have a drink of mineral water.

At the S end of the fenced enclosure, SPHP turned and made the short climb from the W up Signal Hill.  A rainstorm was in progress off to the WSW at Elk Mountain.  It was almost certainly heading this way.  Nevertheless, Lupe and SPHP lingered on Signal Hill for a little while.  The air was cool and felt good.  The views were pretty nice, although also barren and forlorn.  Lupe finished her Taste of the Wild while SPHP enjoyed the moment.

Lupe props herself up on the remains of the old lookout tower foundation on Summit Hill. Lupe left Summit Hill heading SE in the direction this photo is looking.
Lupe props herself up on the remains of the old lookout tower foundation on Signal Hill. Lupe left Signal Hill heading SE in the direction this photo is looking.  The little road she went to is barely visible at the upper left.

Lupe and SPHP couldn’t stay for too long up on Signal Hill.  The storm was coming and it was many miles back to the G6 now.  SPHP had intended to have Lupe explore No. 747 on the way back to the S, but mistakenly assumed it was the little road visible to the SE from the summit.  (Actually No. 747 heads SSW from the W side of Signal Hill.)  Lupe and SPHP went SE down the hill.  Upon reaching the little road, Lupe followed it.  Before long it curved around to the NE and promptly dead-ended at another livestock watering tank.

Lupe on the little road that was not No. 747. Photo looks back to the NW at Summit Hill.
Lupe on the little road that was not No. 747. Photo looks NW back at Signal Hill.

SPHP had no clue what had happened to No. 747 and didn’t want to bother with looking at maps.  To the S was a long stretch of high ground that had burned in the Jasper fire.  SPHP decided to just head S trying to maintain elevation.  SPHP and Lupe both really enjoyed this section of the journey.  There was some deadfall timber to deal with, but it wasn’t too bad.  There were lots of animal trails to follow for long stretches.  The air was clean and cool.  There were pleasant distant views from the open high ground.

Lupe reaches the White Water Tank about 2 miles S of Signal Hill just as the rain starts.
Lupe reaches the White Water Tank about 2 miles S of Signal Hill just as the rain starts.

Long before reaching it, a white water tank was visible off to the S.  Lupe and SPHP headed for it.  The rain started about the time Lupe reached the white water tank, which was probably a bit less than 2 miles S of Signal Hill.  There was a road running E/W just N of the white water tank.  SPHP knew it could likely be followed E to County Road No. 282 (Mud Springs Road), but didn’t want to do that.  Lupe was having more fun just roaming the open lands.

SPHP and Lupe climbed the big hill just S of the white water tank.  SPHP found a piece of thin metallic foil, evidently part of a helium balloon from a child’s birthday party and picked it up.  SPHP wondered how many miles it had drifted through the sky to arrive way out here.  Another big hill came into view farther off to the S, although some of the intervening ground was forested.  Lupe and SPHP just kept wandering.  SPHP wanted to go SSE, but the terrain kept forcing Lupe back to the SSW.  There were elk and deer in the area.  SPHP heard, but did not see, wild turkeys.

The southern part of the rainbow.
The southern part of the rainbow.

The rain wasn’t very heavy.  Lupe got damp, not soaked.  Luckily, the storm had split and most of the rain had gone either N or S of Lupe.  It rained the hardest for 15 minutes as the sun came out and the last of the storm passed.  A double rainbow formed off to the E, but only the ends of the rainbow existed, there wasn’t anything where the upper portions of the arches should have been.

There was more forested land and fewer burn areas as Lupe continued S.  Lupe entered the damp gloomy forest.  Finally Lupe came to a nice valley she had to go down into before climbing up another big ridge she had seen from afar.  At the top of this ridge was a good gravel road.  Lupe followed it ESE since it was staying on the high ground.

A vehicle came along heading ESE.  With all the dang, confounded traffic, SPHP decided to leave the road and parallel it from a little way to the S.  The road eventually proved to be County Road No. 283 (Antelope Creek Road) as signs proved where it intersected No. 282 (Mud Springs Road).  Lupe and SPHP turned S on the ever-so-charmingly named Mud Springs Road.

The sun sets on Expedition No. 128 near Mud Springs Road. Lupe still has a good 6 miles or so to go before reaching the G6 again.
The sun sets on Expedition No. 128 and another fabulous dingo day.  Here Lupe is just off Mud Springs Road with a good 6 miles or more to go before reaching the G6 again.

By now it was getting quite late in the day.  SPHP hoped that with some clouds off to the W, there might be a colorful sunset.  For a few minutes the sun was a golden ball between a break in the clouds.  SPHP should have snapped a photo then.  The pinks, oranges, reds and purples never developed.  The western sky turned gray.  SPHP took a final photo as the light faded.

Lupe had more than 6 miles still to go to get back to the G6.  There was a half moon, but it was often obscured by clouds.  Lupe followed Mud Springs Road S to Hwy 16, turned E and followed Hwy 16 all the way through Jewel Cave National Monument.  At one point park personnel drove by, stopped and asked if Lupe and SPHP needed help.  No sir.  Other vehicles came along every few minutes.  A mile E of Jewel Cave National Monument, SPHP was glad to get away from the highway and turn S for the last 0.5 mile on No. 278.

Lupe was kind of tired.  She had been running around for almost 13 hours.  It was 10:18 PM and 42°F when Lupe reached the G6.  She didn’t hesitate like she often does.  She jumped right in and curled up.  On the way home she only jumped up to bark frantically whenever SPHP said “deer!”  Other than that she snoozed and dreamed dingo dreams all the way home.

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s Black Hills Expeditions Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

Nigel Pass & Panther Falls, Banff National Park, Canada (7-31-14)

On Lupe’s last full day of vacation in the Canadian Rockies in 2014, Lupe and SPHP took the trail to Nigel Pass and also stopped by nearby Panther Falls.  The Nigel Pass trail is popular with backpackers for gaining access to long distance trails in the Brazeau River canyon area.  Canadian Rockies explorer Mary Shaffer and her party first came across 60 meter Panther Falls on Nigel Creek in 1907.

The Nigel Pass trailhead is located along a gravel road on the E side of the Icefields Parkway Hwy 93.  The trailhead parking lot is tucked out of sight a very short distance from and below the highway. The turnoff for the gravel road is N of the big loop in Hwy 93 as it starts to climb out of the N. Saskatchewan River valley, and 5.5 miles S of the Banff and Jasper National Parks boundary at Sunwapta Pass. The Parker Ridge trailhead along the opposite side of the highway is a couple of miles N of the Nigel Pass trailhead access road.

Lupe set off from the Nigel Pass trailhead at 10:05 AM.  It was a pleasant 59 °F out, but the sun was already blazing high in a cloudless sky promising a very warm day for the Canadian Rockies.  The previous day on Lupe’s way to Miette Hot Springs E of Jasper, the temperature had soared to a scorching 94 degrees.  Fortunately Lupe was riding in the G6 in air conditioned comfort then, but today Lupe was destined to seek out shade, creeks and a small lake to stay cool and comfortable.

The hike to Nigel Pass is 7.2 km long and starts out with a 2.1 km walk along a gravel road heading NW.  This road gains elevation at a very steady, but relaxed pace.  It is on the SW side of the Nigel Creek valley and was pretty exposed to the sun in late morning.  Lupe and SPHP were glad when the trail left the road and turned N into the shade of the forest.  The trail soon passed to the W of a group of old buildings and then continued downhill for a short stretch to footbridges across Hilda Creek and then Nigel Creek just above their confluence.

Once on the E side of Nigel Creek, the trail made a short steep climb into the forest.  It then headed steadily N up the E side of the valley well above creek level.  As the trail continued N, the rate of climb gradually diminished to a very easy pace.  Soon the trail started approaching tree line, and the forest began to thin out.

Lupe came to stretches of open ground where there were great views of Nigel Creek down in the valley to the W and a big rocky ridge up ahead at Nigel Pass.  Lupe didn’t get too much of a chance to appreciate the view, however, since the open areas were almost entirely covered with bushes about 3 feet high.  The bushes still amounted to a forest to Lupe.

Lupe reaches the SE end of the ridge at Nigel Pass. Photo is looking NW toward the Brazeau River canyon area.
Lupe reaches the SE end of the ridge at Nigel Pass. Photo is looking NW toward the Brazeau River canyon area.

After several km, Nigel Creek turned NW to head even farther away from the trail over to the W side of the valley.  The trail itself continued N for another km and then turned NE as it climbed more steeply again through a patch of forest for the final stretch up to Nigel Pass.  A couple from Michigan and their two daughters were at the high point on the trail.  They had come to Canada to visit relatives in Edmonton, but were now on their way back from a backpacking trip down in the Brazeau River valley.

The trail continued over the ridge from this high point losing perhaps 100 feet of elevation down to where it crossed the Brazeau River, here just a swift stream not far from its source.  From there the trail turned NW climbing the S side of a mountain, the upper reaches of which looked like one huge slab of rock.  The trail actually rose to a higher point over there than where Lupe was now, before dropping a long way down into the Brazeau River valley.

The huge slab of rock on the mountain just N of the SE end of the ridge at Nigel Pass.
The huge slab of rock on the mountain just N of the SE end of the ridge at Nigel Pass.

Without a map, SPHP was not certain Lupe had actually reached Nigel Pass.  There was no sign around.  The people from Michigan had not seen any sign for the pass either.  They thought the pass was farther along the trail at the high point on the S side of the mountain beyond the Brazeau River in the valley to the N.  They weren’t sure either, though.

SPHP was pretty certain Nigel Pass was somewhere along the ridge Lupe was already on.  Leaving both the trail and the people from Michigan behind, Lupe climbed NW just a short distance up onto the top of the ridge.  The ridge was barren and rocky and extended about a km off to the NW.

This photo looks along the ridge line towards the WNW.
This photo looks along the ridge line towards the WNW, but is partially obstructed by a favorite American dingo.
The view to the S down the Nigel Creek valley towards Mt. Saskatchewan.
The view to the S down the Nigel Creek valley Lupe had just come up.  Mt. Saskatchewan (10,965 ft.) is looking glorious beyond Parker ridge in the distance.
The view towards the ESE from the ridge at Nigel Pass. The Brazeau River issues from the canyon in this direction and there are a couple of small lakes back there. If SPHP had brought a decent area map along and realized what was there, it would have been fun to explore in that direction.
The view towards the ESE from the ridge at Nigel Pass. The Brazeau River issues from the canyon in this direction and there are a couple of small lakes back there. If SPHP had brought a decent area map along and realized what was there, it would have been fun to explore in this direction.

There were several modestly higher points along the ridge farther to the NW.  It was also clear that a much better view of the lower Brazeau River canyon heading off to the N could be obtained by hiking over to the NW end of the ridge.  So Lupe headed NW up and down along the barren rocky ridge, climbing each of the high points along the way.

The highest of these points was at the far NW end of the ridge.  From there Lupe did have a great view down to the N of the Brazeau River canyon.  Back to the S was a beautiful view down the upper Nigel Creek valley with Parker Ridge and the snow covered slopes of Mount Saskatchewan beyond.

Lupe now near the NW high point on the ridge at Nigel Pass. The photo looks N down into the Brazeau River canyon.
Lupe now near the NW high point on the ridge at Nigel Pass. The photo looks N down into the Brazeau River canyon.
Looking S down the Nigel Creek valley towards Mt. Saskatchewan.
Looking S down the Nigel Creek valley towards Mt. Saskatchewan.

To the SW was a broad gap between the end of the ridge and a steep high rock wall.  About 100 feet below Lupe down in the gap was a beautiful light blue heart-shaped lake with a few trees around it.  This area looked like it might just as easily be Nigel Pass as where the trail had reached the crest of the ridge.

Lupe headed down the slope to the heart-shaped lake.  Reaching the lake, she plunked herself right down in it and had a good long drink.  A trail headed S from the lake down into the upper Nigel Creek valley.

The heart-shaped lake below the ridge at Nigel Pass. The topo map on Peakbagger.com shows the area near this lake labeled as Nigel Pass. SPHP considers the entire ridge from where Lupe met the people from Michigan on the trail to this heart-shaped lake all part of Nigel Pass.
The heart-shaped lake below the ridge at Nigel Pass. The topo map on Peakbagger.com shows the area near this lake labeled as Nigel Pass. SPHP considers the entire ridge from where Lupe met the people from Michigan on the trail to this heart-shaped lake all part of Nigel Pass.  The heart-shaped lake is actually in Jasper National Park.  The boundary between Banff National Park and Jasper National Park runs along the ridge.
A last look back along the Nigel Pass ridge towards the SE before Lupe headed SW down to the heart-shaped lake.
A last look back along the Nigel Pass ridge towards the SE before Lupe headed SW down to the heart-shaped lake.

Always enthusiastic about the prospect of being able to make a loop and see something new on the way back, SPHP led Lupe S down the trail from the heart-shaped lake.  Lupe was now heading back down the Nigel Creek valley, but on the W side of it instead of the E side.  The trail from the heart-shaped lake is apparently seldom used.  Bushes and small trees were growing up and crowding it.  In some spots SPHP lost the trail completely, but soon found it again each time.  Only Lupe’s curly tail stuck up above the bushes in many places.  The trail continued steadily on though, and eventually reached Nigel Creek.

The trail looked like it went across to the SW side of Nigel Creek, but there was no bridge.  Not wanting to get boots soaked and uncertain where the trail would end up, SPHP decided it might be best to just head back to the main trail. Fortunately, right along Nigel Creek the ground was rocky and pretty much free of trees and bushes.  So Lupe stayed on the NE bank of Nigel Creek and followed it SE downstream.  When Nigel Creek approached the E side of the valley, it turned S.  A quick scramble up a low bank into the forest just ahead led Lupe back to the main trail.  Lupe then followed the main trail the rest of the way back.

It was 4:21 PM, 85 degrees F, clear and calm when Lupe got back to the G6 at the trailhead.  Lupe’s trip to Nigel Pass was complete, but she was destined to make one more little exploration this day.  Lupe went to see Panther Falls a short distance farther downstream on Nigel Creek, first seen by explorer Mary Shaffer and her companions in 1907.

The trail to Panther Falls is located at the S end of a huge gravel pullout area on the E side of the Icefields Parkway Hwy 93 located just 1 or 2 km S from the gravel access road to the Nigel Pass trailhead.  This huge pullout area is the same one as for the Bridal Veil Falls lookout.  At the S (downhill) end of the pullout, the trail to Panther Falls leaves the pullout area and makes a couple of switchbacks down a steep canyon wall to a viewpoint for Panther Falls.

Lupe enjoyed the cool spray from Panther Falls on this hot day. The trail to this viewpoint would be quite treacherous if icy.
Lupe enjoyed the cool spray from Panther Falls on this hot day. The trail to this viewpoint would be quite treacherous on a day cold enough for the spray to freeze.  Bridal Veil Falls is not far away, but on a smaller creek, and not as impressive as Panther Falls.

The Panther Falls viewpoint is hidden in a thick forest and a bit treacherous as spray from the falls makes the narrow trail wet and slippery.  On such an amazingly hot day in the Canadian Rockies, Lupe and SPHP both appreciated the cool spray coming from Panther Falls!

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s 2014 Canadian Rockies & Beartooths Adventure IndexDingo Vacations Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 127 – Hat Mountain, Anchor Hill & Custer Peak (4-19-15)

Since discovering the site Peakbagger.com in early May, 2014, SPHP has used Peakbagger.com to record many of Lupe’s climbs and explorations.  Peakbagger helps keep track of which mountains Lupe has climbed along with various other statistics about Lupe’s climbing exploits.  Peakbagger also maintains a data base on mountains worldwide including maps and all kinds of statistical information.  Users can even add “provisional peaks” to the data base for review and possible acceptance to the permanent data base.

Even including the still provisional peaks, Lupe has already climbed nearly all of the Black Hills, SD mountains currently in the Peakbagger.com data base.  Most of the remaining ones Lupe will never climb for one reason or another.  Some of them, like the Cathedral Spires (6,840 ft.) and Peak 6920, are basically cliffs and require technical rock climbing equipment.  Others, like Mt. Rushmore (5,725 ft.), are illegal for her to climb.  A few peaks are on private property where it would be difficult to get permission from the landowner.  Thunderhead Mountain (6,567 ft.) where the Crazy Horse Memorial carving is would be an example.

However, prior to Expedition No. 127 there were still a couple of Black Hills, SD mountains in the Peakbagger.com data base that Lupe had never climbed where she might be successful.  Both are provisional peaks.  Hat Mountain (4,883 ft.) (the one NW of Norris Peak (4,982 ft.), not the one S of Deerfield Reservoir) was one.  Anchor Hill (5,720 ft.) was the other.  Lupe had already made prior attempts in 2015 to climb both of these peaks.  Hat Mountain was a secondary goal on Expedition No. 116 (1-24-15), and a primary goal on Expedition No. 117 (1-31-15).  Lupe never even got to Hat Mountain either time, since SPHP had started both of those expeditions from too far away (rain, fog and short daylight hours also played a role).

Lupe had tried to find Anchor Hill on Expedition No. 119 after climbing to the Meade County High Point (5,460 ft.) , but the approach from Hwy 385 was confusing to SPHP and led to a dead end at the old Gilt Edge gold mine.  On Expedition No. 120 Anchor Hill had been the most distant possible goal, but Lupe only reached Pillar Peak after SPHP wasted a bunch of time on another dead end down in Two Bit Creek valley.  SPHP actually thought Lupe had succeeded in climbing Anchor Hill on Expedition No. 122 only to realize later that she had really climbed a slightly higher hill (now dubbed “Fake Anchor Hill”) about 0.5 mile to the NE of Anchor Hill.

SPHP resolved that Lupe was going to find and climb both Hat Mountain and Anchor Hill, or find out why she couldn’t, on Expedition No. 127.  At last Lupe would have done all that she could do to climb all of the Black Hills, SD peaks currently in the Peakbagger.com data base.

At 10:18 AM, SPHP parked the G6 at the intersection of Norris Peak Road and Geary Blvd, a point just a little over 0.5 mile S of Hat Mountain.  This was a much, much closer starting point to Hat Mountain than Lupe had on either Expedition No. 116 or No. 117.  There were scattered little puffy clouds racing across the mostly sunny sky driven by a 25 mph NNW wind.  With the wind, the 40°F temperature seemed a bit chilly.  Fortunately, most of the time the forest provided considerable relief from the wind.

This time, Lupe had no problem getting to Hat Mountain.  A very nice brief hike along mostly level ground through a forest crisscrossed by all kinds of little roads and trails brought Lupe to the SW slope of Hat Mountain in what seemed like no time at all.  (For an even shorter hike to Hat Mountain, take USFS Road No. 721 from Norris Peak Road.  No. 721 passes just S of Hat Mountain.)

The small cliffs along the S side of Hat Mountain.
The small cliffs along the S side of Hat Mountain.

Hat Mountain wasn’t really all that much of a climb.  However, it still wasn’t certain in SPHP’s mind that Lupe could reach the top.  SPHP had seen Hat Mountain from a distance before many times.  From a distance Hat Mountain appeared round, and near the top it seemed to be surrounded by a ring of solid rock cliffs.  It remained to be seen if the cliffs extended all the way around the mountain top or not.  Lupe was soon at the base of the cliffs on the SW slope.  The cliffs were only maybe 20-30 feet high, but there was no way up them for Lupe here.

Lupe in the cleft in the small cliffs on the SE side of Hat Mountain.
Lupe in the cleft in the small cliffs on the SE side of Hat Mountain.

Lupe started scouting around the mountain near the base of the cliffs along the S and then SE side.  On the SE side was a narrow cleft in the rocks with a steep, but easy way up.  In just a few minutes, Lupe had climbed up the cleft and gone on up to the summit of Hat Mountain.  Success!  Already, only Anchor Hill remained to be conquered.

Norris Peak (L) and Thrall Mountain (R) from Hat Mountain.
Norris Peak (L) and Thrall Mountain (5,091 ft.) (R) from Hat Mountain.
Norris Peak to the SE from Hat Mountain.
Norris Peak to the SE from Hat Mountain.
Success! Lupe on the Hat Mountain summit.
Quick & easy success! Lupe on the Hat Mountain summit.

Lupe wandered around exploring on top of Hat Mountain for 10 minutes or so while SPHP checked to see if there were other easier routes down.  The cliffs went pretty much all the way around the summit, but they were highest to the S.  In many places on other sides of the mountain, the cliffs were only 10-15 feet high or even less.  There proved to be several places where there were ways up or down without any problem.

Lupe on the little cliffs at the NNW end of Hat Mountain, just above the easy way down.
Lupe on the little cliffs at the NNW end of Hat Mountain, just above the easy way down.

Lupe and SPHP took a very easy route down on the NNW side of Hat Mountain.  From there Lupe headed S along the W side of the mountain just below the cliffs.  Once completely down from Hat Mountain, Lupe headed S through the forest.  She eventually came to the edge of a small cliff perhaps 10-20 feet tall.  Lupe then headed E along the rocky rim of the cliff.  Before long the rocks and cliffs played out, but by then Lupe was already pretty close to the G6.  She reached the G6 again at 11:28 AM.

Lupe on the rim rock S of Hat Mountain. Thrall Mountain is the highest point in the distance.
Lupe on the rim rock ledge a short hike S of Hat Mountain. Thrall Mountain is the highest point seen just to the right of the tree.

Anchor Hill was quite some distance away, so Lupe enjoyed a ride through the hills while SPHP drove to Galena about 5 or 6 miles SE of Deadwood.  Back in the late 1800’s, Galena was a thriving mining camp for a few years, but eventually became a ghost town.  These days Galena is no longer a ghost town.  There are quite a few homes and cabins in the area scattered along Bear Butte Creek.  The homes and cabins vary tremendously in size, age and condition.

Lupe at Galena.
Lupe at Galena.
OK... will we even know if we hit one?
Umm …. OK …. will we even know if we hit one?  Lupe stares closely at the road trying to discern any ghosts.  If she saw any, she never told SPHP.

SPHP drove through Galena and continued on Galena Road perhaps 0.25 or 0.50 mile to a big wide spot in the road and parked the G6 at 12:35 PM.  This wide spot was a short distance from a sign indicating the end of county road maintenance.  The puffy clouds in the sky were now bigger than before, but it was still sunny out.  Surprisingly, even next to Bear Butte Creek the wind was blowing hard down through the deep canyon.  The plan was to hike from Galena up through Butcher Gulch to an area just NE of Anchor Hill.

Lupe and SPHP headed back up Galena Road.  SPHP had seen a sign along a side road crossing Bear Butte Creek to the N for public access through private land to Butcher Gulch.  Lupe took this side road to enter Butcher Gulch.  Soon the private property was left behind.  Lupe came to a sign for the Vinegar Hill cemetery, where a little road in poor condition led up a steep hill to the left (W).  Lupe had no bones to bury, so she skipped the cemetery.

Twin rock spires on the way up the narrow rocky road in Butcher Gulch.
Twin rock spires on the way up the narrow rocky road in Butcher Gulch.

The road up Butcher Gulch wasn’t that great either.  It was narrow and rather rocky.  Pretty soon Lupe reached a fork in the road.  The best part of the road swung around the hillside switch-backing above where Lupe had just been and then disappeared from view.  A very rocky and narrow road continued on straight ahead.  SPHP guessed that straight ahead was probably the correct choice, which it later proved to be.

Two of the three rock walls forming a big terrace in Butcher Gulch. Part of some old mining operation?
Two of the three limestone walls forming a big terrace in Butcher Gulch. Part of some old mining operation?

The road up Butcher Gulch is the type of road only a shocks, struts and tire salesperson could love.  Unsurprisingly, SPHP found a couple of vehicle parts for recycling along the way.  Happily, this poor excuse for a road made a great hiking trail.  Butcher Gulch was full of squirrels to bark at and Lupe had a blast.  There was absolutely no one else around, which was perfect.  In addition to squirrels, highlights along the way up Butcher Gulch included a little creek, a couple of unusual pointy up rocks, and a terrace of three limestone walls positioned one above another (probably somehow connected with some old mining operation).

The climb up Butcher Gulch was unrelenting, but Lupe did finally reach the upper end of the gulch.  Fortunately, the terrible road had gone all the way up the gulch and now intersected a better road.  Lupe and SPHP went across this new road and took a break up on a small hill.  Lupe had her usual water and Taste of the Wild.  SPHP had the usual apple and pored over maps in between scans of the nearby terrain.

Lupe near the summit of "Fake Anchor Hill". SPHP recognized this pipe with a block of wood on it from when Lupe was here on Expedition No. 122.
Lupe on “Fake Anchor Hill”. SPHP recognized this pipe with a block of wood on it from when Lupe was here on Expedition No. 122.

The highest ground nearby was a hill just to the NE.  SPHP suspected this was the same hill, now known as Fake Anchor Hill, that Lupe had climbed back on Expedition No. 122.  At the time, SPHP had believed it was Anchor Hill, but later concluded otherwise.  After the break, the first thing Lupe did was to climb this hill to see if it really was Fake Anchor Hill.  Sure enough, it was.  That meant that the real Anchor Hill was still about 0.5 mile to the SW.

Lupe and SPHP left Fake Anchor Hill and headed SW.  SPHP used topo maps and the curvature of the road encountered at the top of Butcher Gulch to navigate towards Anchor Hill.  Everything was matching up.  Anchor Hill was marked on the map as being just to the S of this same road about 0.25 mile SW of the intersection at the top of Butcher Gulch.  All along the S side of the road, however, was a barbed wire fence with frequent signs saying “Danger” and/or “No Trespassing”.  One said “EPA Superfund Site 2012”.  Peering S from the road up through the forest, SPHP could see that Anchor Hill ended abruptly perhaps 40 feet in elevation above the road.

Anchors aweigh! Lupe learned that the original Anchor Hill has moved. The top of Anchor Hill was removed by the Gilt Edge gold mine and apparently moved S to the tailings pile seen here. The tailings pile appears to be a little bit higher than Anchor Hill ever was.
Anchors aweigh! Lupe learned that the original Anchor Hill set sail and moved! The top of Anchor Hill was removed by the Gilt Edge gold mining operation and apparently repositioned S to the big tailings pile seen here. The tailings pile appears to be a little bit higher than Anchor Hill ever was.  Thus ended Lupe’s ambition to climb the original Anchor Hill.

SPHP was now certain that Lupe would never climb Anchor Hill.   The top 20 or 30 feet of elevation, at least as shown on the Peakbagger.com topo map, is no longer there.  The summit of Anchor Hill had weighed anchor and set sail to the S or SE where it is now part of a big tailings pile, helped along by the former Gilt Edge gold mining operation.  So Lupe’s quest to climb Anchor Hill, which had been a potential goal of four expeditions, had been doomed to failure all along.    There was no question of climbing the tailings pile, as it is also clearly mining property.  Interestingly enough, the tailing pile looks to be slightly higher than Anchor Hill originally was.

SPHP took consolation in the fact that Lupe had now at least climbed Fake Anchor Hill to the NE twice, which was a higher hill than Anchor Hill had ever been.  Anchor Hill was only a provisional peak on Peakbagger anyway.  It’s hardly likely to be accepted as part of the Peakbagger.com permanent mountain data base having gone AWOL.

Anchor Hill is shown on SPHP’s old USFS maps, but why remains a mystery.  There were other hills just as high or higher nearby.  What was so special about Anchor Hill?  One thing was special about it for sure, there must have been some gold there to encourage the Gilt Edge mine people to go to so much trouble.

Lupe on a rare decent stretch of the road in Butch Gulch.
Lupe on a rare decent stretch of the road in Butcher Gulch.

Lupe and SPHP headed back down Butcher Gulch again on the way back to the G6.  Lupe had lots of fun again.  She certainly was taking the decapitation of Anchor Hill in stride.  Going downhill was so easy and pleasant that even SPHP was soon in a great mood again.  It was 47°F and 4:23 PM when Lupe reached the G6.  Still hours of daylight left and time to do something else!

SPHP had been considering what else Lupe might do on the way down Butcher Gulch.   Peakbagger.com really needed a decent photo of Custer Peak (6,804 ft.).  About 0.5 mile to the WSW of Custer Peak was a 6,600 ft. high ridge from which a very nice photo of Custer Peak might be obtained.  There was even time for Lupe to climb Custer Peak for the third time.

Lupe NE of Custer Peak along the road from Brownsville.
Lupe NE of Custer Peak along the road from Brownsville (Boondocks).

So Lupe and SPHP got in the G6 and headed back through Galena.  After a little side trip for a photo of Custer Peak from the NE, SPHP wound up parking the G6 at a sharp turn in USFS Road No. 216 at 5:06 PM.  Custer Peak was now 0.5 mile to the NW, although a much greater distance along the road.  During the drive from Galena, the weather had changed.  Now big clouds covered most of the sky.  It was only 35°F and occasional snow squalls were sweeping over the area.  The wind was still roaring up in the trees.  Lupe and SPHP started hiking up USFS Road No. 216.

Approaching Custer Peak
Approaching Custer Peak

Lupe and SPHP followed USFS Road No. 216 up to a side road that goes all the way up to the lookout tower.  About 100 feet in elevation from the top, a thin sheet of ice covered about 2/3 of the ground.  The wind wasn’t too bad until the last 50 feet.  There it was a steady 30 mph gale out of the N.  Mentally SPHP thanked the Canadians for their traditional generosity with their healthy and undeniably fresh air, but Lupe wasn’t so sure.

At the lookout tower, Lupe and SPHP took shelter from the wind at the S corner of the tower.  Lupe had icicles hanging down from the fur on her belly, but that didn’t seem to bother her.  She didn’t want to stay in an extra jacket SPHP had brought along to warm her up.  She eagerly ate some Taste of the Wild.  SPHP ate the last apple.  The view was pretty awesome.  To the E of the Black Hills, the prairie was all lit up in sunlight.  Bear Butte (4,422 ft.) was glowing in the light.  The W edge of the Black Hills had some sunlight and fewer clouds too.  But all of the heart of the Black Hills was in shadow and snow showers could be seen here and there.

Lupe on the rock wall at the ranger tower on Custer Peak. Photo looks SW towards snow squalls sweeping the region. Lupe was most anxious for SPHP to get some sense and head down out of the N wind.
Lupe on the rock wall at the ranger tower on Custer Peak. Photo looks SW towards snow squalls sweeping the region. Lupe was most anxious for SPHP to get some sense and head down out of the N wind.

Lupe could only be persuaded to pose for one photo up on the N side of the lookout tower exposed to the relentless wind.  She clearly wanted to leave and head down the mountain.  Lupe is the brains in this operation, so when the wind showed no signs of giving any respite, SPHP conformed to her wishes.  The retreat down the mountain along the road was actually pretty pleasant soon after leaving the totally exposed summit.  SPHP did manage to get a couple of photos from just below the summit looking WSW toward the 6,600 foot ridge about 0.5 mile to the WSW.  SPHP was hoping to get over there for a nice photo of Custer Peak.

Still very close to the summit of Custer Peak, this photo looks WSW towards the 6,600 foot ridge. Lupe later posed for photos of Custer Peak from the snowiest high spot on the ridge seen here above and just to the left of Lupe.
Still very close to the summit of Custer Peak, this photo looks WSW towards the nearby 6,600 foot ridge. Lupe later posed for photos of Custer Peak from the snowiest high spot on the ridge seen here as a white patch above and just to the left of Lupe.

Lupe was happy going down the mountain.  The wind at the top was her whole objection.  At the saddle between Custer Peak and the 6,600 foot ridge to the WSW, she was quite happy to follow SPHP away from the road and up through the dense forest and maze of deadfall timber.  Amazingly this little trek up to the 6,600 foot ridge proved to be the most satisfying part of the day.

Little intermittent snow showers pelted the area with round mini-ice balls instead of normal fluffy snowflakes.  With the sun getting low, at times the forest seemed dark and forlorn.  But a little layer of snow on the ground brightened the setting.  Every now and then the sun made a brief brilliant appearance up on Custer Peak.  The clean fresh snow and brisk air seemed wonderful after the warm dry Expedition No. 126 just 8 days earlier.

Lupe near the top of the 6,600 foot ridge, but before reaching it. SPHP snapped this quick photo of Custer Peak not knowing if the sun would still be out by the time Lupe could get to the top of the ridge. It was!
Lupe near the top of the 6,600 foot ridge, but before reaching it. SPHP snapped this quick photo of Custer Peak not knowing if the sun would still be out by the time Lupe could get to the top of the ridge. It was!

The climb got steeper and steeper.  Near the top, Lupe and SPHP were at the edge of a little cliff along a spine of the mountain.  The sun broke through and shone on the surrounding forest.  The snow was pure white, the spruce tree needles bright green, Lupe’s fur a glowing golden brown, and the sky a clear light blue above.  The wind was fresh and exhilarating, and not so strong as up on Custer Peak.  SPHP hoped Lupe could make it to the top of the 6,600 foot ridge in time for a photo of Custer Peak before clouds hid the sun again.

Custer Peak from the top of the 6,600 foot ridge to the WSW.
Custer Peak from the top of the 6,600 foot ridge to the WSW.
Lupe in the last rays of sunlight on the 6,600 foot ridge. This was the photo of Custer Peak that SPHP chose to add to Peakbagger.com.
Lupe in the last rays of sunlight on the 6,600 foot ridge. This was the photo of Custer Peak that SPHP chose to add to Peakbagger.com.

She did!  Lupe and SPHP were in beautiful slanting sunlight for 10 minutes or so at the top of the 6,600 foot ridge.  Lupe posed for several photos of Custer Peak.  And then it was over.  The sun sank beneath the last big cloud to the WNW.  A hoped for glorious sunset never materialized.  Lupe and SPHP headed down the steep W slope off the 6,600 foot ridge.  The slope was much steeper than SPHP had anticipated, but fortunately no cliffs were encountered.  Heading S as much as possible, Lupe and SPHP worked their way down through the maze of deadfall timber on the W slope.

Big clue to SPHP that it might be time to head down from the 6,600 foot ridge and put an end to Expedition No. 127.
Big clue to SPHP that it might be time to head down from the 6,600 foot ridge and put an end to Expedition No. 127.

After losing maybe 200 or 250 feet, the ground began to level out.  SPHP continued to lead Lupe S or SSW as much as possible.  SPHP knew that USFS Road No. 216 couldn’t be too far away to the S.  Lupe and SPHP had been in the area many expeditions ago.  Soon No. 216 was found and could be followed all the way back to the G6.  It was a great hike and over too soon.  There was still some light in the sky when Lupe arrived back at the G6 at 8:04 PM.  The G6 said it was 32°F.  That didn’t stop Lupe from sticking her nose out the window to sniff the cold air for miles on the way home.

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s Black Hills Expeditions Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

 

 

 

 

Glacier Lake & Division Mountain, Banff National Park, Canada (7-28-14)

Lupe and SPHP had a great time on the easy trail to Glacier Lake and beyond.  Amazingly, although it was the height of tourist season in Banff National Park, Lupe met absolutely no one else the entire day until very close to the end of the return trip.  Perhaps a sign at the trailhead explains why Lupe and SPHP enjoyed a day of such unexpected solitude.  The sign said that since Glacier Lake is at a fairly low elevation, the trail to Glacier Lake is among the first to be snow free early in the year.  Consequently, it is a popular trail in late spring and less so later in the summer.

The turnoff for the Glacier Lake trailhead is located a short distance (less than a kilometer) NW of Saskatchewan Crossing on the W side of Icefields Parkway Hwy 93. (Saskatchewan Crossing is in northern Banff National Park at the intersection of Icefields Parkway Hwy 93 and Hwy 11 which heads E to Rocky Mountain House.)  The trailhead is at a large gravel parking area still quite close to Hwy 93 at the end of a short gravel road.

Having taken a couple of gorgeous long day hikes (Iceline Trail and Cirque Peak) with Lupe involving a lot of elevation gain on the previous two days, SPHP at least, was ready for something a bit less strenuous.  SPHP had noticed on the maps during previous trips to Canada a large lake called Glacier Lake in northern Banff National Park.  The trail to Glacier Lake did not involve much elevation gain, so SPHP decided maybe this would be a great opportunity for Lupe to explore the Glacier Lake Trail.

Lupe set out from the trailhead at 8:54 AM.  The day promised to be rather hot for the Canadian Rockies.  It was already 52 °F out with totally clear blue skies and no breeze at all.  Only one other vehicle was parked at the spacious trailhead parking lot.  The Glacier Lake Trail started out heading SW through a forest with lots of squirrels, which made Lupe quite happy right away.

Lupe a bit N of the great footbridge across the North Saskatchewan River.
Lupe a bit N of the great footbridge across the North Saskatchewan River.

The trail was level until approaching the N. Saskatchewan River where it dropped down to the high bank on the E side of the river.  At 1.1 km from the trailhead, there was a large excellent footbridge across the N. Saskatchewan.  The river was flowing strongly and a beautiful icy blue-gray color.  Before crossing the bridge, Lupe explored just a little bit to the N along the 20 foot cliffs above the E bank of the river, just to watch the water roar along over the rapids upstream of the bridge.

Looking upstream from the footbridge across the North Saskatchewan River.
Looking upstream from the footbridge across the North Saskatchewan River.

After crossing the N. Saskatchewan, the trail climbed back out of the river gorge before resuming a level trek SW through the forest.  After another 1.2 km, Lupe reached an open grassy area on a little bluff above the Howse River.  From the bluff was a wonderful view to the SW of the Howse River, a big meandering braided stream in a huge flat valley, and Mt. Outram (10,646 ft.) in the distance.

Off to the NW side of the river a low green forested ridge was in sight ahead.  Lupe would have to climb over this ridge to get to Glacier Lake.  Unfortunately, mosquitoes, which were bothersome all day, were particularly voracious and numerous at the Howse River viewpoint.  Lupe stayed only long enough for a quick photo and pressed on.

Lupe at the Howse River viewpoint. Mt. Outram in the distance.
Lupe at the Howse River viewpoint. Mt. Outram in the distance.  The Glacier Lake Trail climbs over the low forested ridge at the right to reach Glacier Lake.

The trail dropped down from the viewpoint to the N bank of the Howse River, which it followed W across a small meadow before leaving the river and heading back into the forest.  Although the trail remained quite close to the floor of the river valley and not far N of the river for a considerable distance, the Howse River stayed hidden by the forest and never came back into view.  The trail turned SW again and gradually started to climb.

Eventually Lupe came to a stream where she could cool off and get a drink.  The trail climbed steadily at a moderate pace as it followed the stream, crossing it 5 times on small plank bridges.  Even after leaving the stream, the trail continued climbing for a while.  Finally, Lupe reached the top of the low ridge, which was the highest elevation attained on this day’s entire hike.  The top of the ridge was flat for some distance.  Surprisingly, the ground was damp, even muddy in places.  Lupe barked at the numerous squirrels in the forest with great energy and enthusiasm.  She was having a wonderful time.

Having crossed the ridge, the trail started heading down towards Glacier Lake, which was not visible yet through the dense forest.  The trail wound around, still heading generally SW and lost all of the elevation Lupe had gained climbing the ridge.  (Glacier Lake itself is actually 10 meters below the Glacier Lake trailhead.)  Thousands of moths were fluttering around this portion of the forest.

Lupe reaches Glacier Lake. Division Mountain and the SE Lyell Glacier in the distance.
Lupe reaches Glacier Lake. Division Mountain (9,910 ft.) and the SE Lyell Glacier in the distance.

After a while, a sign came into view ahead at a trail intersection.  By the time Lupe reached the intersection, Glacier Lake was visible just ahead through the trees.  Lupe was now 6.6 km from the Howse River viewpoint.  The sign indicated that the trail heading S led to the Glacier Lake campground, which is located at the E end of the lake.  Another trail continued WSW along the N shore of the lake.  Despite the relative proximity of the campground, which couldn’t have been very far away, Lupe neither saw nor heard anyone.

Lupe, being a very intelligent dingo, headed straight on down to Glacier Lake and got in to cool off.  By now it was getting plenty warm out.  Moths were flying all around, and there were quite a few that had flown down and become stuck on the surface of the lake.  They were fluttering madly about desperately trying to escape.  There was no sign of any hungry fish willing to eat them.  The fish were probably all mothed out.  The lake was calm and smooth, other than the tiny ripples generated by the struggling moths.

Lupe takes a shady break shortly after reaching Glacier Lake.
Lupe takes a shady break shortly after reaching Glacier Lake.

Lupe was at the ENE end of Glacier Lake, which filled the entire broad valley ahead.  Glacier Lake is roughly 3.5 km long and almost 1 km wide.  It was a light milky blue color and somewhat opaque.  Looking ahead to the WSW, the lake was bordered by large mountains.  Division Mountain lay beyond the far end of the lake, and the SE Lyell Glacier on it drew the eye like a magnet.  Lupe rested in the shade of a low tree branch near the shore of Glacier Lake.  She snapped at flies and was bothered by mosquitoes.

Lupe was now 8.9 km from the trailhead.  A sign back at the trailhead had said that a rough trail continued 4.5 km along the N shore of Glacier Lake.  It was supposed to be possible to hike beyond the lake and reach the glacial moraines.  The valley upstream below Division Mountain and SE Lyell Glacier looked like a great place to explore, so after a brief rest, Lupe headed out along the trail on the N shore of Glacier Lake heading WSW.

Not too far along this trail, Lupe came to a place where her barking at squirrels echoed back very clearly at her from the other side of the lake.  She found the echoes quite puzzling, as she could never see this dog that barked every time she did.  SPHP seemed unduly amused by the situation, so after a few minutes, Lupe continued on to maintain her dignity.  She passed by a couple of old campfire sites along the way.  Despite being described back at the trailhead as a rough trail, this trail was actually in pretty good condition all the way to the far end of the lake.

SW beyond Glacier Lake were views to the S across the Glacier River of these splendid mountains, one of which is possibly Mt. Forbes.
SW beyond Glacier Lake were views to the S across the Glacier River of these splendid mountains, one of which is possibly Mt. Forbes (11,867 ft.).

Once Lupe got past Glacier Lake, the trail was no longer pinned back in the forest at the foot of the mountain along the N side of the valley.  Instead it went down onto the broad flat valley floor.  This was an area that was quite open, but with lots of bushes with little red berries and a few stands of trees scattered around.  There were pockets of water here and there, too, where Lupe could cool off. SPHP became more cautious as it seemed like this might be a likely place for bears, although the notion that they might well prefer higher country to avoid the heat this time of year gave some comfort.

A closer look at the mountains to the S.
A closer look at the mountains to the S.

Beyond Glacier Lake, the trail was fainter, but still easily followed, which Lupe did until it ended suddenly at an eroded bank of the Glacier River.  The Glacier River is the main water source for Glacier Lake.  It was a very pretty icy blue color, but deep and swift enough to preclude any thought of fording it.  Happily, a short stroll upstream along the N bank of the river soon led to another faint trail.

Lupe followed this new faint trail upstream for some distance, but eventually the Glacier River moved over to the N side of the valley forcing the trail back up into the woods at the base of the mountain.  At first this trail seemed to be OK, but quite soon Lupe started coming to more and more deadfall timber on the trail.  Lupe didn’t have any real problems with it, but it slowed SPHP down considerably.

Soon the deadfall became so thick that it became difficult to tell where the trail was, or if there was even still a trail to follow.  At times the main part of the Glacier River moved a bit off to the S and Lupe could get back down on the valley floor for short distances, but there were little side flows and pockets of water and mucky, marshy ground which made even that route difficult.  After trekking along for what seemed like quite a while, but couldn’t have involved much distance, the trail seemed to just completely end in a jumble of deadfall in the forest.

Lupe enjoys a rest on the moss SW of Glacier Lake where the trail vanished.
Lupe enjoys a rest on the moss SW of Glacier Lake where the trail vanished.

Lupe and SPHP stopped and had a late lunch.  Lupe rested very comfortably on some green moss and enjoyed her Taste of the Wild, while SPHP paused to consider the situation.  Perhaps 1/2 km farther upstream was a low forested ridge jutting out to the S from the mountain.  This ridge forced the Glacier River back to the S side of the valley.  It looked like once the low ridge could be reached, it was likely the rest of the trip to the glacial moraines below Division Mountain and the SE Lyell Glacier would be pretty easy.  SPHP guessed the glacial moraines were at most only 2 or 3 km beyond the low ridge.

Unfortunately, the afternoon was already wearing on.  Pretty soon it would be time to turn back.  SPHP decided to allow another 30 minutes to try to find the trail again or some other clear route to that low ridge.  Sadly 30 minutes came and went.  Lupe and SPHP had not made much headway through the deadfall timber.  The forest was nearly impenetrable.  The valley floor was blocked alternately by the Glacier River or a slow slog around deep pockets of water and mud.

Lupe near her farthest point of advance along the Glacier River. Division Mountain and the SE Lyell Glacier tantalizingly out of reach.
Lupe near her farthest point of advance along the Glacier River. Division Mountain and the SE Lyell Glacier tantalizingly out of reach.
Division Mountain & the SE Lyell Glacier and from the Glacier River.
Division Mountain & the SE Lyell Glacier and from the Glacier River.  What magnificent sights lurked around the corner just out of reach on this glorious day?

At this pace, it was going to take a another hour just to get to the low ridge.  Clearly it was too late in the day for that.  Very reluctantly, and convinced they were not far from magnificent sights ahead, SPHP informed Lupe it was time to turn back.  Lupe’s spirits were not dampened at all.  She was going to get a second shot at barking at all the squirrels she had seen along the way!

Lupe gets refreshed in Glacier Lake on the way back.
Lupe gets refreshed in Glacier Lake on the way back.

The entire return trip was along the exact same route.  At the bridge over the N. Saskatchewan River, Lupe saw the only other hikers she encountered the entire day.  A couple from Monterrey, Mexico were standing on the SW end of the bridge.  They said they had never been to Canada before.  They and their son, who was out of sight exploring the river bank somewhere below the bridge, had flown into Edmonton and they were now touring the Canadian Rockies.  The Mexicans were very impressed, both with the spectacular scenery and the annoying mosquitoes.

Good-bye to Glacier Lake, Banff National Park, Canada
Good-bye to Glacier Lake, Banff National Park, Canada

Lupe arrived back at the Glacier Lake Trailhead at 7:16 PM.  It was a still roasting 81 °F out.  The sun was still blazing like a demon in a clear blue sky, although it would soon disappear behind the mountains.  The G6 was beastly hot after being closed up all day.  Lupe and SPHP hopped in and headed N on the beautiful Icefields Parkway Hwy No. 93, cruising along with the windows partially down so our heroic dingo could enjoy the wind in her face while she and SPHP gazed happily at the magnificent Canadian Rockies.

Although the round trip to Glacier Lake and beyond had been quite a long day hike of over 10 hours, it was actually a pretty easy day until the trail beyond the lake had disappeared beneath the deadfall timber.  After two long day hikes in a row with substantial elevation gains, this less strenuous hike was a rather welcome relief to SPHP.

The sad part was that the most fantastic scenery near Divide Mountain and the SE Lyell Glacier proved tantalizingly close, yet just out of reach.  SPHP is absolutely convinced that this area merits further exploration.  It was a shame the last section of trail was such a shambles.  At Lupe’s point of farthest advance, she was only 2-3 kilometers beyond Glacier Lake.  Just being able to go just a little bit farther would have made a lot of difference.

Lupe suggests any other dingoes hoping to explore the area near Divide Mountain and the SE Lyell Glacier persuade their SPHP’s to get an earlier start.  Better yet, obtain a wilderness pass (required for overnight stays) and make a reservation at the campground at Glacier Lake.  With base camp so close, success would be ensured despite the deadfall timber.  Lupe and SPHP would love to see photos any successful adventurers who get close to the SE Lyell Glacier are willing to share.

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s 2014 Canadian Rockies & Beartooths Adventure IndexDingo Vacations Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 126 – Battle Mountain, Parker Peak & Pilger Mountain (4-11-15)

Lupe got to do a little peakbagging in the southern Black Hills on this bright, clear warm day in early April.  Her first peak was Battle Mountain (4,434 ft.) near Hot Springs, the site of a fight between the Cheyenne and Sioux tribes in 1869.  SPHP had to drive around on the streets just E of Hwy 385 where it came into Hot Springs from the N to discover that Thompson Avenue is the correct street to turn off Hwy 385.  A block or two from Hwy 385, it becomes Battle Mountain Road.  SPHP parked the G6 on Sheridan Street a block N of Battle Mountain Road.  It was 9:07 AM and 52°F out when Lupe left the G6.

Battle Mountain plaque

Lupe near the start of Battle Mountain Road.
Lupe near the start of Battle Mountain Road.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the air was totally calm.  SPHP knew it was going to get hot fast and was anxious to get up Battle Mountain before the climb became too sweaty.  The climb was a straight forward trudge up Battle Mountain Road involving an elevation gain of over 900 feet.  There were scattered trees on mostly open ground for the first part of the climb, but as Lupe got close to the top of the mountain, there was more forest and shade.  SPHP also started noticing a fair amount of trash along the road and began collecting it in a couple of extra plastic grocery bags.

The little lookout tower on Battle Mountain.
The little lookout tower on Battle Mountain.

The top of Battle Mountain had an assortment of towers and wires and sheds on it.  SPHP soon discovered that there was also a considerable amount of broken glass around too.  To prevent Lupe from slicing up her paws on the broken glass, SPHP carried her from rock to rock for a few pictures in the summit area.   The best views were to the SE towards Angostura Reservoir out on the prairie just outside of the Black Hills, and to the S towards the large hill S of Hot Springs.  There was also a view of Hot Springs, SD to the W.

Looking SE towards Angostura Reservoir from Battle Mountain.
Angostura Reservoir is near the center of the photo faintly blue on the horizon.  Looking SE from Battle Mountain.
Looking S from Battle Mountain.
Looking S from Battle Mountain.
The Golden West telephone tower from Battle Mountain.
The Golden West telephone tower from Battle Mountain.

Due to the broken glass, Lupe was not allowed to stay up at the summit of Battle Mountain for very long.  SPHP did not even attempt to pick up any glass, fearing that the longer Lupe was up there, the greater the chance she would get hurt.  However, SPHP did completely fill two plastic grocery sacks with trash on the return trip down the mountain.  These were deposited in the trunk of the G6 for sorting, recycling and disposal the next day.  Plenty more cleanup needs to be done on Battle Mountain, but at least things are a bit better than when Lupe arrived.

The town of Hot Springs, SD to the W of Battle Mountain.
The town of Hot Springs, SD to the W of Battle Mountain.
The Golden West telephone tower sits on a sub peak just W of the summit of Battle Mountain.
The Golden West telephone tower sits on a sub peak just W of the summit of Battle Mountain.

It was 11:07 AM and 62°F by the time Lupe made it back to the G6.  Although a new idea for one of her Black Hills Expeditions, Lupe graciously agreed to a short tour of Hot Springs, SD for the sake of her blog readers.  She stopped by Evans Plunge, the Kidney Springs Gazebo downtown and the Mammoth Site, all Hot Springs attractions of some merit.

Evans Plunge is one of the main attractions in Hot Springs, SD. The main facility includes a large indoor pool with a pebble bottom and a couple of water slides. SPHP loves hot springs as a place to relax, get some exercise and clean up when traveling. Evans Plunge is one of the best.
Evans Plunge is one of the main attractions in Hot Springs, SD. The main facility includes a large indoor pool with a pebble bottom and a couple of water slides. SPHP loves hot springs as a place to relax, get some refreshing exercise and clean up when traveling. Evans Plunge is one of the best!  Sadly, Lupe never gets to enjoy the hot springs.
The Kidney Springs gazebo near Fall River near downtown Hot Springs, SD.
The Kidney Springs gazebo near Fall River in downtown Hot Springs, SD.
Lupe near Fall River in downtown Hot Springs, SD.
Lupe near Fall River in downtown Hot Springs, SD.  Note the blue bison on the building at right.
Lupe at the little waterfall not far from the Kidney Springs gazebo in Hot Springs, SD.
Lupe at the little waterfall not far from the Kidney Springs gazebo in Hot Springs, SD.
Hot Springs, SD has many old buildings of sandstone architecture. SPHP didn't read the plaque until later and did not realize there was something different on side 2. Oops!
Hot Springs, SD has many old buildings of sandstone architecture. SPHP didn’t read the plaque until later and did not realize there was more info on the other side.  Oops!
A better look at the awesome blue bison which was more interesting to SPHP than the sandstone architecture.
A better look at the awesome blue bison which was more interesting to SPHP than the sandstone architecture.

Mammoth Site plaque Hot Springs, SD

Now dingoes rule the earth! At least when not blinded by the sun.
Many thousands of years ago mammoths roamed the Hot Springs area.  A few Neanderthals still do and can likely be found partying on Battle Mountain on Friday and Saturday nights.  If in the area and so inclined, you can now go there and pick up their trash or join them in their festivities.  The mammoths are long gone and despite the Neanderthals, now dingoes rule the earth! At least when not blinded by the sun.

Once her tour of Hot Springs was over, Lupe headed W on Hwy 18 towards Parker Peak (4,848 ft.), the county high point for Fall River County.  Although Parker Peak is on National Forest land, it is completely surrounded by private property.  SPHP hoped to obtain permission for Lupe to climb Parker Peak, but was unsuccessful in locating the landowner.  At least Lupe got a photo of Parker Peak to post on Peakbagger.com.

Lupe NNW of Parker Peak, the highest point in Fall River county.
Lupe NNW of Parker Peak, the highest point in Fall River county.
Parker Peak from the W. Parker Peak is on national forest land, but surrounded by private property. Lupe did not get to climb it.
Parker Peak from the W. Parker Peak is on national forest land, but surrounded by private property. Lupe did not get to climb it.

Giving up on Parker Peak, Lupe and SPHP headed NW out on dusty Pilger Mountain Road into a remote part of the SW Black Hills with the intention of reaching Pilger Mountain (4,788 ft.).  Neither Lupe nor SPHP had ever been out in this area before.  The scenery was quite interesting and western.  SPHP stopped the G6 a couple of times for photos along the way.  From Pilger Mountain Road, SPHP took Elbow Canyon Road up to its junction with USFS Road No. 319.

A western scene along Pilger Mountain Road in the SW Black Hills.
A western scene along Pilger Mountain Road in the SW Black Hills.  The sun kept Lupe squinting most of the day.
SPHP's favorite rock formation and favorite dingo along Pilger Mountain Road.
SPHP’s favorite rock formation and favorite dingo along Pilger Mountain Road.

The junction of Elbow Canyon Road and USFS Road No. 319 was up on top of a broad open ridge.  SPHP was surprised to see several pickup trucks with horse trailers parked near the junction.  No one was around, so Lupe and SPHP just added the G6 to the collection of vehicles.  It was 1:18 PM and now 73°F when Lupe and SPHP headed N on USFS Road No. 319.

USFS Road No. 319 heads NNW from the junction with Elbow Canyon Road for about 5 miles before going over Pilger Mountain.  Lupe and SPHP followed it all the way.  The road remains up on a broad ridge of open grassland for the first few miles at the S end.  There are some pine trees around, but they tend to be near the edges of the ridge or up on various knolls and high spots along the way.  The road very gradually gains elevation for most of the distance with only one drop of any significance, which is about a mile from Pilger Mountain.  As No. 319 gets closer to Pilger Mountain, the ridge narrows considerably and the road enters a forest.

Neither Lupe nor SPHP was really enthused about the heat this early in April.  Out on the exposed grassland and wearing a fur coat, Lupe was too hot to really enjoy the trek.  She plodded along right behind SPHP hoping for water breaks, which came fairly frequently.  The Black Hills are well behind normal precipitation so far in 2015.  March and April have seen virtually no moisture in the southern hills.  USFS Road No. 319 was parched and dusty.  Despite the much warmer than normal weather experienced since early March, the grass has not greened up much at all due to the lack of moisture.

At least the hike was easy, since the rate of climb heading N was so gradual.  SPHP did enjoy the views which frequently presented themselves along the ridge.  Sometimes the views were to the W or SW into Wyoming.  At other times they were to the E back towards the main body of the Black Hills.  The views weren’t the only thing attracting attention.  SPHP was also surprised by the occasional presence of people.  A red jeep came along from the S after a while.  Later on, a group of 7 or 8 ATV’s and motorcycles appeared from a minor side road and roared N along No. 319.  The jeep, ATV’s and motorcycles later reappeared heading back S while Lupe was still heading N.

As the afternoon wore on, a welcome breeze began to stir up out of the W.  It slowly gained in strength, although most of the time Lupe only heard it up in the trees.  The breeze did help some though.  It started to get a bit cooler too.  Lupe started perking up when the road finally entered the forest.  By then it wasn’t all that much farther to Pilger Mountain.

Lupe up on top of the rock SPHP decided may as well be considered the summit of Pilger Mountain.
Lupe up on top of the rock SPHP decided may as well be considered the summit of Pilger Mountain.

Pilger Mountain turned out to be just a somewhat higher spot near the N end of the 5 mile long ridge.  The summit area was a couple hundred yards wide E/W and even longer N/S, and so flat it was difficult to say where the true summit was.  Lupe and SPHP went all around the area looking for the highest point.  SPHP hoped to find a USGS Benchmark, but never did.  Finally, SPHP concluded the highest point was likely one of several rocks near the center of the area.  There was one slightly higher spot toward the forest on the E side of the mountain, but it was not natural.  You could tell it was the result of human excavations.  At any rate, it could only have been a couple of feet higher.

Lupe up on top of the largest rock formation on Pilger Mountain, near the NW end of the summit area.
Lupe up on top of the largest rock formation on Pilger Mountain, near the NW end of the summit area.

Most of the top of Pilger Mountain was grassland with scattered pines.  However, the grassland was surrounded by forest along the edges, so there weren’t many places to get a good view.  Toward the NW, Lupe found the most impressive rock outcroppings on Pilger Mountain.  A short distance beyond them was a small cliff with some pretty decent views off to the W and N.  In the distance to the NNW, SPHP saw Elk Mountain (5,669 ft.) where Lupe had been a week prior on Expedition No. 125.  There were also some pretty good views to the E from some high ground at the far SE corner of the summit area on Pilger Mountain.

Looking SE from Pilger Mountain.
Looking SE from Pilger Mountain.
Looking SE from Pilger Mountain.
Another shot SE from Pilger Mountain.

The trip back to the G6 from Pilger Mountain was more fun than the trip to the mountain had been.  The sun was getting lower and the temperatures were cooling down.  The breeze was blowing harder, but not enough to be at all annoying.  Only one more ATV appeared to disturb the serenity and seclusion.  SPHP saw a couple of pronghorn antelope bouncing away down on the grasslands near Robinson Flats near the S end of the trek.  There were some really wild looking canyons and ridges nearby to the SW and Lupe picked up the scent of something exciting over there.  She ran back and forth sniffing the ground in a state of agitation and expectation, enjoying some mystery only the dingo’s nose knew about.

This view to the NE was taken from the ridge S of Pilger Mountain.
This view to the NE was taken from the ridge S of Pilger Mountain.
Looking SE from S of Pilger Mountain.
Looking SE from S of Pilger Mountain.

Lupe reached the G6 again at 7:23 PM.  By now it was a totally acceptable 57°F out.  All of the pickup trucks and horse trailers were gone.  Only the G6 remained.  SPHP gave Lupe one more drink of water before she hopped into the G6 for the dusty ride home.  She rode with her head outside the window, with a big smile on her face and her tongue hanging out in the breeze.

It wasn’t until reaching the pavement at the highway that SPHP made Lupe get her head back inside the window.  Lupe still wasn’t done.  She stood with her paws on the dash and launched into a barking frenzy at every cow she passed until it got too dark to see them.  A few cows glanced up from the grass wondering what the heck was that?  What a great dingo day!

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s Black Hills Expeditions Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

Guilty as Charged!

Note: This post is the third and concluding post in a series that started with “How to Choose the Perfect Puppy” followed by “My Perfect Puppy – The Arrival of Lupe“.  All three posts can be found in the Dingo Tales category on the homepage main menu.

The reader may recall from an earlier post entitled “How to Choose the Perfect Puppy” that I had discouraged my spouse in January, 2011 from even getting a puppy with a rather long list of objections.  However, as related in a subsequent post “My Perfect Puppy – The Arrival of Lupe”, I was over-ruled and on February 11, 2011 became the unwilling new co-owner of Lupe, who converted me over in a single evening from not wanting a puppy at all to being delighted at becoming Lupe’s new best friend.

Despite this joyful near instant conversion to Lupe’s side, there was merit to many of the objections I originally presented to getting a puppy.  Having Lupe around made for all sorts of interesting new developments, some unforeseen and many others much as I had predicted.  My spouse had read a number of books about dogs prior to getting Lupe and worked quite diligently toward training her.  I, however, was not much interested in books and training and discipline.  I preferred to just have fun with the puppy.

Which do you prefer?  Discipline and training, or having fun?  Lupe took to my methods like a duck to water, and my spouse’s diligent training efforts suffered because of it.  Of course, some of the puppy problems were unavoidable.  It took a little while to house-break Lupe, our old cat fled to the basement and lived self-exiled in needless fear, and we had vet and other expenses associated with having a dog.  However, some problems were made worse, much worse, by my endless frolicking and rough-housing with Lupe.  I was teaching Lupe bad habits.  She loved them.

Lupe chewed.  She chewed holes in shoes and socks.  I egged her on by using old socks for games of tug-of-war with her.  As a result, anytime I carelessly left a sock on the floor, it was doomed to destruction at the enthusiastic jaws of the puppy.  Many a time I wound up trying to catch Lupe, who had just discovered a perfectly good new and unprotected sock, before she could chew a hole in it.

Lupe thought this was the best game in the world.  She raced with a mouthful of sock up and down the stairs, dashing in and out of various rooms, and leading me on a merry chase.  When I got too close, she usually disappeared under the bed where she promptly chewed a big hole in her latest victim before I could rescue it.  My brother-in-law could scarcely contain his mirth when one day I took off a shoe to unexpectedly reveal four toes sticking out of a huge hole at the end my sock.  It was about the best pair of socks I had left.

Lupe and her favorite nemesis, Mr. Woof, the pink puppy of Peace & Love.
Lupe and her favorite nemesis, Mr. Woof, the pink puppy of Peace & Love.

Lupe ate my feather-filled slippers and feathers were everywhere.  Lupe chewed my hands while we engaged in mock battles.  She grew so strong I had to get gloves, and then she shredded and devoured the gloves.  One day when Lupe was bored, I found her chewing a big chunk out of the drywall in the living room.  Lupe chewed holes in pillows which then leaked even more feathers.  Nightly she enjoyed ripping the stuffing out of the comforter on the bed and chewing holes in the blankets.  I awoke some mornings to find she had eaten embarrassing holes in my pajamas while I slept.  With great gusto, Lupe chomped and destroyed the dog toys my spouse got for her.

Chewing wasn’t all that Lupe did, though.  Dingoes are high-strung and loud.  Lupe right away understood the concept of territory.  She barked at anything that came anywhere near the house.  She barked at other dogs.  She barked at squirrels.  She ran full speed barking underneath birds flying over the yard.  She barked at our good neighbors, even though they gave her treats.  She learned to eagerly await the arrival of the mail lady, and barked in such a frenzy it seemed certain she was going to burst through the front window and go after her.

Lupe had certain fetishes that set her off too.  She was deeply suspicious of drapes and attacked them whenever someone attempted to open or close them.  She attacked shovels, rakes, the lawn mower and the garden hose.  It became impossible to get anything done in the yard when Lupe was around.

Most of the stuff Lupe destroyed was old anyway.  No one got hurt, though my hands regularly got roughed up a bit.  Through it all, I laughed and had fun playing with Lupe.  I followed her path of destruction, picking up after her when needed.  I looked on it all as just normal puppy stuff.  There was no doubt though that Lupe was guilty as charged.  She did most of the stuff I had predicted.  What I hadn’t predicted was that I would also be equally guilty right along with her.  I was her accomplice and sidekick.  Together we led a life of puppy crime and had a great time doing it.

No doubt Lupe would be a better mannered doggie today, if my spouse had been free to discipline and train her without my constant bad influence.  Nevertheless, I’m glad it all happened the way it did.  I’m pretty certain Lupe is too.

Who me? I'm innocent! What do you think I am, your sock's keeper?
Who me? I’m innocent! What do you think I am, your sock’s keeper?

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Berg Lake Trail, Mt. Robson Provincial Park, B.C Canada (7-30-13)

Mt. Robson at 12,972 feet is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies (though not in all of Canada).  Gorgeous Berg Lake lies at the base of the N face of Mt. Robson at the end of a 21 km trail which passes through the Valley of a Thousand Falls.  Although there is a campground at Berg Lake, dogs are not allowed to stay overnight.  So Lupe made the entire 42 km round trip as a long day hike.  Many other trails are located in the Berg Lake area which would be fun to explore.  At 53.11 °N, Berg Lake is as far N as Lupe has ever been.

The Berg Lake Trailhead is located on the Robson River at the end of a 3 km gravel road N of the Mt. Robson Provincial Park Visitor Center in British Columbia, Canada.  The visitor center is about 55 miles W of the town of Jasper, Alberta along the Yellowhead Highway No. 16.

This was a patchy cloudy and foggy morning in Jasper.  SPHP checked the weather forecast at the visitor center shortly after it opened, and was pleasantly surprised to learn the forecast was for sunny skies and 22 °C (72 °F).   With this encouragement, Lupe and SPHP headed W on the Yellowhead Highway to Mt. Robson Provincial Park.  Sure enough, shortly after leaving Jasper the skies cleared and the fog was left behind.  It was a perfect day – cool, comfortable and clear.

Mt. Robson and the Mt. Robson Provincial Park Visitor Center
Mt. Robson and the Mt. Robson Provincial Park Visitor Center

SPHP stopped in at the Mount Robson Provincial Park visitor center to register and get a free map of the Berg Lake trail.  From there it was a short drive to the Berg Lake Trailhead.  There were lots of people and vehicles around, but SPHP found a place to park the G6.  Sometime between 10:30 and 11:00 AM, Lupe crossed the bridge over the beautiful rushing Robson River and set off along the Berg Lake trail through a shady cedar forest.

The Robson River near the Berg Lake Trailhead.
The Robson River near the Berg Lake Trailhead.

It was an easy stroll following the river, since the elevation gain was gradual. Before too long Lupe and SPHP fell in with another hiker, a young man from Calgary named Jason.  Jason had saved up money and then gone on a 5 month trip by himself to South America from the prior December to May.  He had visited Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and the Amazon rain forest (although not Brazil).  Sometime during this trip he had taken time to fly to Fiji to see his parents, who were also traveling.

The cedar forest along the Berg Lake trail.
The cedar forest along the Berg Lake trail.

Jason intended to hike just the first 5 or 6 km of the Berg Lake trail as far as Kinney Lake (the first major trail objective), since he was actually on his way to Vancouver.  SPHP found Jason’s tales about his travels very interesting.  Lupe trotted along keeping a sharp watch for squirrels while Jason and SPHP chatted.  It seemed like Kinney Lake was reached in no time at all.  Jason turned back and Lupe and SPHP continued on following the trail, which now went up and down in the forest above the E shore of Kinney Lake.

Lupe in the cedar forest near Kinney Lake.
Lupe in the cedar forest near Kinney Lake.

Past Kinney Lake the trail continued into the Valley of A Thousand Falls.  It was all very beautiful.  SPHP enjoyed seeing Lupe crossing a fun swinging bridge over the Robson River.  The trail started rising steeply once Lupe got to the area of the three main waterfalls a few km above Kinney Lake.  Lupe came first to White Falls, then Falls of the Pool, and finally Emperor Falls.

Lupe after a successful crossing of the swinging bridge beyond Kinney Lake.
Lupe after a successful crossing of the swinging bridge beyond Kinney Lake.
Valley of a Thousand Falls from the Robson River.
Valley of a Thousand Falls from the Robson River.

The falls were all spectacular and powerful, but the hike up started seeming long and hard.  The trail was steep, it was rather warm out, and swarms of biting flies descended upon Lupe and SPHP at every stop for a breather.  SPHP swatted hundreds of flies dead, but it was no use – their numbers were endless.  The only real defense was to press steadily along.

Falls of the Pool
Falls of the Pool on the Robson River
Lupe at Emperor Falls
Lupe at Emperor Falls

The trail continued to climb after Lupe passed Emperor Falls, but not quite as steeply.  Eventually it leveled out a great deal, and the climb was much more gradual making the trek far more enjoyable again.  Lupe came to a wide valley with various streams of the braided Robson River meandering through it sparkling in the sun.  A bit farther along, Lupe came to a barren rocky landscape which was mostly dry.  By then there was a good view of Mt. Robson.  The Berg and Mist glaciers could be seen coming down the mountain.

Above Emperor Falls approaching Mt. Robson.
Above Emperor Falls approaching Mt. Robson.
Mt. Robson from the Berg Lake trail.
Mt. Robson and the Mist Glacier from the Berg Lake trail.
Lupe approaches the S end of Berg Lake. Berg Glacier is now in view.
Lupe approaches the S end of Berg Lake. Berg Glacier is now in view.

Just past the dry rocky area Lupe crested a small ridge and finally saw Berg Lake ahead.  The trail went into a stunted forest and continued N above the W shore of the lake.  At the far N end of Berg Lake, Lupe and SPHP reached the campground 21 km from the trailhead where Lupe had started.  Lupe and SPHP left the trail and went down to join others on the rocky N beach of Berg Lake.

Lupe on the N beach of Berg Lake. Mt. Robson and Berg Glacier across the lake.
Lupe on the N beach of Berg Lake. Mt. Robson and Berg Glacier across the lake.  The Mist Glacier is also at the right side of the photo.
The Berg Glacier on Mt. Robson goes right down into Berg Lake.
The Berg Glacier on Mt. Robson goes right down into Berg Lake.

The view of Mt. Robson (12,972 ft.) towering over Berg Lake was stupendous.  Lupe and SPHP had a clear view of the Berg and Mist glaciers.  Little icebergs that had calved off into Berg Lake from the Berg Glacier were floating in a line heading NW across the lake towards Lupe, driven by a breeze coming from the mountain.  Lupe posed for some photos with Berg Lake, the glaciers and Mt. Robson in the background.  She was hungry too, and eagerly devoured the Taste of the Wild SPHP had brought along for her.

Something catches Lupe's attention at Berg Lake.
Something catches Lupe’s attention at Berg Lake.  Or perhaps she is thinking of going on to the Robson Glacier in the direction she is looking.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t time for that.

SPHP would have liked to have gone on further.  A few more kilometers would have brought Lupe to the third and most impressive glacier on Mt. Robson – the Robson glacier, which fills a valley and looks like the typical image of a long flowing river of ice the word glacier conjures up.  What really would have been great was to spend the evening admiring Mt. Robson, camp out at the campground overnight, and spend the next day exploring the area.  The map showed lots of interesting trails around.

However, the reality was that dogs aren’t allowed to camp there overnight.  Pre-registration is required even for the humans.  Lupe and SPHP could not stay.  It was already late afternoon and another 21 km trek had to be made back out to the G6 to end the day.  Lupe and SPHP lingered on the N beach of Berg Lake admiring Mt. Robson for quite a while.  This was the farthest N (53.11°) Lupe had ever been and it was gorgeous!  Inevitably though, the time came to leave.

Mt. Robson, Berg Lake & the Mist Glacier.
Mt. Robson, Berg Lake & the Mist Glacier.

Reluctantly, Lupe and SPHP set off on the 21 km journey back to the G6.  The return hike was long, but very enjoyable.  Since it was getting late in the day, there were fewer and fewer people on the trails.  The scenery was even more beautiful in the evening light as the shadows of the mountains grew.  It certainly didn’t hurt that the way back was downhill either, for SPHP was feeling the effects of the long day.

Heading back. Whitehorn Mountain and the braided stream of the Robson River above Emperor Falls.
Heading back. Whitehorn Mountain (11,152 ft.) and the braided stream of the Robson River above Emperor Falls.

It was 11:18 PM and 59 °F when Lupe finally got back to the G6.  Even at that late hour, that far N there was still a faint twilight in the sky, but it had been pretty dark out in the cedar forest.  Lupe and SPHP had hardly eaten anything all day, so SPHP fixed up Lupe’s bed in the G6, let her leap in for a well deserved rest and gave her some Alpo.  She was pretty famished and devoured 3/4 of a can before she was full and ready to snooze.  SPHP had a Zone bar to get the blood sugar up.  Then Lupe and SPHP went to sleep right there in the G6 at the Mt. Robson trailhead.

The glorious 42 km round trip trek to see Berg Lake and Mt. Robson was the final really long day hike of Lupe’s 2013 Dingo Vacation to the Beartooths and the Canadian Rockies.  At daybreak the next morning, SPHP started the G6 up and began the long drive S back home to the States.  It’s always a bit sad when it’s time to turn around, although there were still a few other stops and shorter hikes to come before Lupe left Canada.

Mt. Robson 7-30-13
Mt. Robson 7-30-13

Perhaps Lupe and SPHP will return some day and get an early enough start to not only reach Berg Lake again, but press on to the Robson Glacier!  Driving S, SPHP thought about that, and about the even bigger dream of going on even further to see Alaska and the Yukon.  Lupe just sat up on her perch enjoying the ride, sniffing the air through the partially open window, and watching for the next adventure – which as far as she knew might be right around the next bend.

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s 2013 Beartooths & Canadian Rockies Adventure IndexDingo Vacations Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 125 – Atlantic Hill, Signal Hill & Elk Benchmark (4-4-15)

To start off this week’s peakbagging expedition, SPHP parked the G6 at 9:58 AM near the intersection of County Road No. 284 and USFS Road No. 284.1E, a point about 1.25 miles SSW of Lupe’s first goal of the day, Atlantic Hill (6,393 ft.).  Except for a few high thin clouds, the skies were clear.  It was a lovely 44°F out with a cool light N breeze.  Lupe was excited and ready to go!

Lupe about to start for Atlantic Hill seen in the background.
Lupe about to start for Atlantic Hill seen in the background.  She was ready for action, although looking into the sun made her squint.

Instead of heading towards Atlantic Hill, USFS Road No. 284.1E first took Lupe W for half a mile up a ravine before turning back to the NE.  As 284.1E wound around to the NE it slowly lost the elevation Lupe had just gained.  The area Lupe was traveling through was nearly all forested, with a mix of ponderosa pines and aspens.  There were interesting rock outcroppings on the hillsides that tended to be anywhere from a few feet to 10 – 15 feet tall.

Getting closer to Atlantic Hill.
Getting closer to Atlantic Hill.

As Lupe approached Atlantic Hill, she left USFS Road No. 284.1E and headed directly through the forest.  She soon came to open ground down in a valley where there was a small creek, just a foot or so wide, but with marshy ground along it.  This was Ruby Creek, and it had surprisingly good flow for its size.  Set against a rock wall was a small pond with a few ducks on it that flew off as Lupe approached.

The better to lick you with, my dear! Lupe near the rock wall pond in Ruby Creek valley.
The better to lick you with, my dear!  A big-tongued Lupe near the rock wall pond in Ruby Creek valley.

Once across the little Ruby Creek valley, Lupe headed into the forest and started the climb up Atlantic Hill.  After gaining a bit of elevation, SPHP looked back and saw two more ponds back down in Ruby Creek valley, one upstream and one downstream from the pond next to the rock wall.

Part way up Atlantic Hill was this view to the W of Peak 6740, the high ridge on the horizon at center left.
Part way up Atlantic Hill was this view to the W of Peak 6740, the high ridge on the horizon at center left.
A typical rock outcropping seen while climbing Atlantic Hill.
A typical rock outcropping seen while climbing Atlantic Hill.

Atlantic Hill was pretty easy to climb.  There were quite a few rock outcroppings to work around on the way up and they were bigger than the ones along USFS Road No. 284.1E had been.  The easiest path up was to avoid getting up on the rocks, and just keep heading up through the forest between the rocky spines of the mountain.

Lupe near the S high point on Atlantic Hill. The best views were toward Crazy Horse to the NE.
Lupe near the S high point on Atlantic Hill. The best views were toward Crazy Horse to the NE (the whitish rock up at center left).
The view to the E from Atlantic Hill.
The view to the E from Atlantic Hill.

Lupe reached a small saddle area between high points near the top of the hill.  First she went to the S high point to check things out from there.  Then she went to the N high point, and a short climb brought her up to the true summit of Atlantic Hill.  The views at the high points were mainly toward the E.  The most interesting thing to be seen was Thunderhead Mountain (6,567 ft.) where the carving of Crazy Horse is located, about 4 miles to the ENE.  Although there had been views to the N and W at various places on the climb up, the forest blocked those views near the top.

Lupe reaches the summit of Atlantic Hill.
Lupe reaches the summit of Atlantic Hill.
Looking back at the summit of Atlantic Hill.
Looking back at the summit of Atlantic Hill.

Lupe had some water and a little Taste of the Wild at the summit.  After a short rest break, SPHP led her to the N going down the mountain.  A fairly steep slope brought Lupe down to a saddle connecting Atlantic Hill to a rocky sub-peak which was perhaps 100 feet higher than the saddle area.  There Lupe turned W and headed down a less steep and mostly grassy draw with scattered trees.  A couple of cabins with blue roofs came into view to the NW, but Lupe reached a dirt road before she got too close to the cabins.

At the Atlantic Hill N saddle looking towards Crazy Horse through the aspens.
At the Atlantic Hill N saddle looking towards Crazy Horse through the aspens.

Since Lupe had gone down Atlantic Hill to the N of where she had climbed it, SPHP led her S along the dirt road until it ended.  Then Lupe headed the rest of the way down into Ruby Creek valley, which she entered just S of the northernmost pond.  There were fences on both the E and W sides of the valley here, so this may have been private land.  Lupe hurried across it and headed W back up into the trees.  Soon she found USFS Road No. 284.1E again, which she followed back to the G6, arriving at 1:42 PM.  It was now 56°F out.

The N pond in Ruby Creek valley.
The N pond in Ruby Creek valley.

Lupe and SPHP headed W on County Road No. 284 towards the next peakbagging objective – Signal Hill.  The hike to Signal Hill began at the intersection of No. 284 with USFS Road No. 747.  At the start of No. 747, Summit Hill was already in view a very short distance to the S.  It was an easy stroll with little elevation gain.

Signal Hill (6,483 ft.) apparently used to have a lookout tower on it.  However, the whole area had burned in the 83,000 acre Jasper fire back in August, 2000.  SPHP doesn’t know if the lookout tower burned in that fire or was torn down before then.  Lupe posed for a photo sitting on what little was left of the foundation for whatever had been there long ago.

The view of Signal Hill from the N close to where the G6 was parked.
The view of Signal Hill from the N close to where the G6 was parked.
Not much left of the old lookout tower foundation on Signal Hill.
Not much left of the old lookout tower foundation on Signal Hill.
The view from Signal Hill towards Elk Mountain (long ridge on the horizon) on the Wyoming/South Dakota border from Signal Hill.
The desolate view from Signal Hill towards Elk Mountain (long ridge on the horizon) on the Wyoming/South Dakota border.

Signal Hill felt quite forlorn and desolate.  A cool breeze was blowing out of the W.  Being totally exposed, there were views in all directions, but the best view was off to the SW toward the high ridge near the Wyoming border which was Elk Mountain 12-13 miles away.  Lupe and SPHP spent a few minutes looking around for a USGS benchmark, but found none.  Lupe was back to the G6 by 3:08 PM, just 29 minutes after leaving it.  The temperature was 51°F.

Lupe had now completed her two main peakbagging goals of the day – Atlantic Hill and Signal Hill, but there was still plenty of daylight left.  Lupe and SPHP headed S on USFS Road No. 282 reaching US Hwy 16 just W of Jewel Cave National Monument.  SPHP turned E on Hwy 16 and drove to the E side of the park.  SPHP was thinking Lupe might be able to go to the Lithograph Canyon Hillside (5,820 ft.) where the highest point in Jewel Cave National Monument is located just 0.33 mile N of Hwy 16 at the NE corner of the park.

There were signs along Hwy 16 at the E boundary of Jewel Cave National Monument, but there was no place to park the G6 anywhere close.  Furthermore, the terrain to the N of the Hwy was very steep.  SPHP began to reconsider.  After a couple more passes back and forth along Hwy 16, SPHP decided it might be hard to find the right spot on the Lithograph Canyon Hillside that is the true NE corner and high point of Jewel Cave National Monument without doing some more research before making the attempt.

A new idea came to SPHP, which was to drive W towards Elk Mountain on the border with Wyoming.  So Lithograph Canyon Hillside was left behind and Lupe headed W on Hwy 16.  Just a mile and a half NE of Elk Mountain (5,669 ft.), SPHP turned the G6 S on Dewey Road, County Road No. 769.  Lupe barked at cows from the G6 for a good deal of the 3 miles S to a right turn to the W on Elk Mountain Road (No. 123).  There were longhorn cattle loose on the road at this point, which sent Lupe into a joyful barking frenzy.

No. 123 climbed slowly at first and then steeply up the Elk Mountain ridge.  The road was narrow, but not too rough, so the G6 had no problem reaching the top of the ridge.  At a junction there, SPHP turned N on USFS Road No. 118 looking for a place to park.  At first there wasn’t anywhere to park, but after a mile or so there was a side road that went W or NW off No. 118.  Next to the side road was a nice open grassy level spot.  Lupe and SPHP continued on paw and foot from here.  (It was by choice SPHP stopped here, there was no reason SPHP couldn’t have driven along No. 118 all the way to the lookout tower since the road was in decent shape all the way.)

About 100 feet along No. 118, Lupe came to a new yellow sign with red lettering and a red pheasant logo on it marking the South Dakota border.  Apparently the G6 was parked just into Wyoming.  Lupe and SPHP continued N for about 0.25 mile, reaching the end of the forest and start of the big burn area that encompasses all of the N end of Elk Mountain.  It was still another 2.5 to 3 miles to the lookout tower along the road.

A look back to the S along the long Elk Mountain ridge.
A look back to the S along the long E side of Elk Mountain ridge.
The view N towards the Elk Mountain lookout tower shortly after Lupe left the forested portion of the ridge.
The view N towards the Elk Mountain lookout tower, faintly seen above Lupe’s head, shortly after Lupe left the forested portion of the ridge.
Getting closer. Hopefully it will rain soon. Elk Mountain would look better green.
Getting closer. Hopefully it will rain soon. Elk Mountain would look better green.

Although Elk Mountain itself is now rather ugly and barren, the forest fire had certainly opened up the views.  All the way to the lookout tower there was either a great view to the W into Wyoming or to the E into South Dakota.  At the very highest parts of this broad ridge there were wonderful views in both directions.  Lupe had a great time sniffing around and exploring.  She also seemed to enjoy peering over at the views from the edges of some of the cliffs.

At the base of the lookout tower, but not quite the highest point on Elk Mountain.
At the base of the lookout tower, but not quite the highest point on Elk Mountain.
The view towards the NW from close to the lookout tower. The high point in the distance is the true summit and where there are 2 USGS survey benchmarks on the rocks.
The view towards the NW from close to the lookout tower. The high point in the distance is the true summit and where there are 2 USGS survey benchmarks on the rocks.

The Elk Mountain lookout tower stands at the NE end of the ridge.  No one was around when Lupe arrived.  In fact, Lupe met no one at all during her entire time on Elk Mountain.  There was a single picnic table at the base of the lookout tower.  The lookout tower was high, but not quite on the highest ground on the mountain.  In view nearby to the W was a somewhat higher spot.  Farther away at the NW corner of the ridge is the true summit of Elk Mountain where two USGS benchmarks are located up on rocks just a few feet from each other.

Lupe on the magnificently colored boulder on top of the W high point not far from the lookout tower.
Lupe on the magnificently colored boulder on top of the W high point not far from the lookout tower.
A look back at the lookout tower from near the magnificently colored boulder.
A look E back at the lookout tower from near the magnificently colored boulder.

After prowling around at the base of the lookout tower for a few minutes and getting a couple of pictures taken, Lupe headed over to the higher ground to the W.  She was soon there.  A magnificently colored boulder about 5 or 6 feet tall was at the very top.  SPHP helped Lupe up onto it for a photo.  From there SPHP and Lupe went over to the true summit at the NW corner of Elk Mountain and found the two USGS benchmarks.  Lupe had now been to all three of the highest points on Elk Mountain.  SPHP agreed with the maps that the highest spot was at the Elk Benchmarks, although the magnificently colored rock not far W of the lookout tower was a very close 2nd.

Lupe at the Elk Mountain benchmark. The lookout tower can be seen in the distance. The magnificently colored rock is at the highest black dot on the high ground near the right of the photo.
Lupe at the Elk Mountain benchmark. The lookout tower can be seen to the SE. The magnificently colored rock is the highest black dot on the high ground near the right of the photo.  Just to the left of Lupe is one of the two USGS benchmarks.

The most interesting views on Elk Mountain were off to the NW from the Elk Benchmarks towards Newcastle, WY where the mountains looked more rugged than the high flat ridges to the E and SE.  Some fairly deep canyons could also be seen to the N.  Far away to the SSW, however, so barely visible that SPHP frequently had to stop and just stare in order to see it, was the top of Laramie Peak (10,272 ft.)  .  A few of the mountain tops S of I-25 between Douglas and Casper, WY could be just faintly seen too.

The best view from Elk Mountain was this one to the NW towards Newcastle, WY. Lupe is near the Elk Mountain benchmarks in this photo.
The best view from Elk Mountain was this one to the NW towards Newcastle, WY. Lupe is near the Elk Mountain benchmarks in this photo.

On the way back to the G6, SPHP was hoping a nice sunset would develop.  However, although there was some open sky to the SW, most of the sky had clouded up by now.  The sun sank slowly down just 5 degrees N of the clear skies.  There were a few small breaks in the clouds in that direction, but despite a few moments of promise, a colorful sunset never really developed.  Too bad, as Elk Mountain would have provided a dramatic vantage point.

The sun was still up, but must have been very low on the horizon and obscured by clouds when Lupe reached the G6 at 7:36 PM.  It was still 50°F.  Lupe had reached the summits of three new mountains during the day.  Lupe and SPHP both agreed that the most fun of all had been Elk Mountain.  SPHP loved the solitude, easy nearly level ground, and splendid views.  Lupe loved racing over the open ground sniffing and exploring through the tall grass and around the many interesting rocks.

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s Black Hills Expeditions Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

My Perfect Puppy – The Arrival of Lupe

This is a continuation of the previously published Dingo Tale post “How To Choose The Perfect Puppy

On the evening of February 11, 2011, my spouse arrived home with the puppy I didn’t want.  I was still unhappy, and did not even go look at the puppy when I first heard it was here.  After a while, I did go take a brief look at it.  I had to admit that I really liked the looks of this puppy.  My spouse had named it Lupe.

Lupe was adorable – full of energy with bright hopeful eyes, an inquisitive black nose, ears with tips that flopped over just a bit, little freckled paws, and a curly tail.  She was friendly and wanted to lick me with her pink tongue.  Lupe looked like she would only grow to be a smallish medium-sized dog.  I liked the notion that she wouldn’t be too big or too small.  In fact, I liked everything about the puppy, but still spent only a few minutes with Lupe before retreating back upstairs.

Lupe & Mr. Woof
Lupe & Mr. Woof

The confrontation came later on that evening.  It was time for bed.  My spouse had locked Lupe in her transport cage for the night.  The cage was downstairs in the dark kitchen covered with a blanket.  I went to bed.  And then it began – the whimpering, pleading, begging, crying, sorrowful tiny voice of the lonely, scared 2-month old puppy.  Torn away for the first time ever just a few hours ago from her mother, siblings, and the cats with which she had lived outside enduring the cold winter ever since being born in December, Lupe was suddenly now confused, lost and alone.  Worst of all she was trapped, a prisoner abandoned and forgotten in a strange dark cage.

Young Lupe in February 2011
Young Lupe in February 2011

Soon I could not bear to hear Lupe crying.  I wanted to go get her out of that cage and let her sleep with us.  This was not permitted.  My spouse had been reading books by famous professional “dog whisperers”.  The cage was Lupe’s “den”.  She would soon learn to feel safe and secure alone there.  In the meantime, Lupe had to cry herself to sleep.  Apparently all dog whisperers understand this is just a part of normal best practices dog training.  If I didn’t believe it, I could have a look at the books myself.

I knew if I looked at those books, my spouse would be proven right.  I did not avail myself of the opportunity.  I am not a dog whisperer.  Something in me rebelled at being told a cage was the same thing as a safe, secure den.  I really didn’t care what the dog whisperers recommended.  Mentally I speculated that if I could throw the whole lot of dog whisperers in jail every night, there might be some revised opinions on how wonderful it all was, although I didn’t dare voice such sentiments.  But, right or wrong, I was going to set the sad puppy free!

Young Lupe
My precious little sweet, Lupe

And I did!  Perhaps it was an evil thing to do, but I abandoned my spouse for the night and spent it in another room with the happiest, most grateful, little puppy ever.  Lupe licked me 10,000 times.  Lupe was not sleepy.  It was a long night of puppy love, if ever there was one.  In one evening I had gone from a sullen, resentful new puppy owner to madly in love.  From now on, it was Lupe and me against the world!

The third post in this Dingo Tales series  is Guilty As Charged!

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Cirque Peak, Banff National Park, Canada (7-27-14)

The hike up to the summit of Cirque Peak (9,820 ft.) in Banff National Park was recommended by a couple of friendly Canadians that Lupe and SPHP ran into on a different trail a couple days before.  Those Canadians really knew what they were talking about!  This is a fairly long day hike, but the scenery is absolutely wonderful.  From the summit of Cirque Peak are splendid 360° views.  The most impressive of all is the view to the SW of Bow Lake, Bow Glacier Falls, and another even higher little lake and falls all fed by the giant Wapta Icefield.

The trailhead for this hike is the Helen Lake Trailhead along the E side of the Icefields Parkway Hwy 93.  It is located directly across the highway from the pullout for viewing the Crowfoot Glacier at the S end of Bow Lake.

Lupe got off to an early start on this fabulous hike, leaving from the Helen Lake Trailhead at 6:45 AM.  The skies were totally clear, the wind non-existent, and it was a crisp 39 °F out.

The first part of the 14.5 km hike to Cirque Peak is the 6 km trek to Helen Lake, which basically consists of two parts.  On the first part, the trail starts out climbing fairly steeply through the forest.  Pretty soon the rate of climb slackens and the trail gradually works its way SSE towards the S end of the high ridge to the E.  Through occasional breaks in the forest, increasingly impressive views of the Crowfoot Glacier to the SSW, Bow Peak to the S, and Mt. Andromache and Mt. Hector to the SSE are seen as the trail gains elevation.

Bow Peak (R) and Mt. Hector (Center) from the Helen Lake Trail
Mt. Andromache (9,829 ft.) (L), Mt. Hector (11,135 ft.) (Center L), and Bow Peak (9,318 ft.) (R) from the Helen Lake Trail.

About 1/2 way to Helen Lake, the trail finally rounds the S end of the ridge to the E and the view changes.  A large deep valley heads up towards Cirque Peak now visible to the N.  Dolomite Peak, which has somewhat the appearance of the spine of a Stegosaurus with the top of the N end of the spine snapped off, lies to the E of the valley.

Dolomite Mountain to the E of the Helen Lake Trail.
Dolomite Peak (9,383 ft.) to the E of the Helen Lake Trail.
Cirque Mountain looms to the NNE shortly after the Helen Lake Trail rounds the S end of the ridge.
Cirque Peak looms ahead to the N shortly after the Helen Lake Trail rounds the S end of the ridge.

The trail is already pretty high up on the W side of the valley, near the tree line.  It heads N towards Cirque Peak, now along the E side of the ridge the trail just rounded.  The valley below to the E is heavily forested, but the trail ahead goes through stretches of open heather, stunted forests and scattered trees.  The trail is now nearly level for a fairly long stretch, and even has a few occasional drops as well.  Numerous hoary marmots whistle their alarms as one approaches, which greatly interested Lupe.

Lupe cools off in the creek near Helen Lake, Banff National Park
The creek below Helen Lake along the Helen Lake Trail, Banff National Park
Lupe gets refreshed in the creek near Helen Lake, Banff National Park, Canada
Lupe gets refreshed in the creek near Helen Lake, Banff National Park, Canada

Eventually the trail resumes its climb and rises above tree line, crossing open heather while gaining elevation at a comfortable pace.  Lupe came to a nice creek flowing through a small ravine where she was able to cool off and get a good drink.

Lupe on the Helen Lake Trail. Mt, Andromache (L) and Mt. Hector (R) to the S.
Lupe on the Helen Lake Trail.  Mt. Andromache (Center L) and Mt. Hector (Center) to the S.

Soon after crossing the creek, the trail comes over a ridge from which Helen Lake can be seen just ahead.  A headwall is visible not far to the N and E of Helen Lake.  The long rocky S ridge coming down from the summit of Cirque Peak is seen above the headwall.  Helen Lake itself seemed more like a pretty green pond than a lake.  It just wasn’t terribly big.  Something (small fish?) seemed to be hitting the surface of the still waters of Helen Lake while Lupe trotted by heading E on the trail above the S shore.

Helen Lake (R) comes into view below Cirque Peak. Banff National Park, Canada.
Lupe reaches Helen Lake below Cirque Peak.  Dolomite Pass is beyond the headwall at the right side of the photo.  Banff National Park, Canada.

Lupe met the first other hiker of the day at Helen Lake.  A fisherman looking to catch a few cutthroat trout was heading for considerably larger Katherine Lake on the other side of Dolomite Pass.  He overtook SPHP, but stopped briefly to chat and pat Lupe before continuing on.  Lupe continued on as well and followed the trail up over the headwall to the E of Helen Lake reaching the start of the Dolomite Pass area.

Cirque Peak from Dolomite Pass, Banff National Park, Canada
Cirque Peak from Dolomite Pass, Banff National Park, Canada

At Dolomite Pass, it was time to leave the trail.  The trail continued over the pass to the E, but Cirque Peak was now almost due N.  A broad rocky plain with little vegetation stretched off to the N gradually losing elevation until it got close to the S ridge coming down from Cirque Peak.  SPHP did not notice any clear trail or cairns suggesting which way to go.  So SPHP was uncertain whether to try to go up the toe of the S ridge or up the side of it a bit to the NE of the toe, but decided to head N and try the side of the ridge.

Now N of Dolomite Pass, Lupe cools off in "Gnat Pond" at the base of Cirque Peak.
Now N of Dolomite Pass, Lupe cools off in “Gnat Pond” at the base of Cirque Peak.

After a pleasant easy stroll across the rocky plain, Lupe and SPHP arrived at a very shallow pond at the base of the S ridge a bit NE of the toe.  There was water in the cracks between the rocks around the pond from which clouds of gnats swarmed up.  SPHP led Lupe around the E side of the pond and over to the S ridge.

Lupe E of "Gnat Pond" at the base of Cirque Peak. This photo looks W and shows a portion of the Crowfoot Glacier.
Lupe E of “Gnat Pond” at the base of Cirque Peak. This photo looks SW and shows a portion of the Crowfoot Glacier beneath the distant ridge at the right side of the photo.

The rocks forming the side of the S ridge looked a lot bigger than they had from a distance.  In fact, they were boulders of various sizes.  It didn’t look like too hard a climb to get up on the ridge though, so Lupe and SPHP started scrambling up the side of the ridge.  The ridge had several little false summits and near the real top there were rock walls.  However, after some false starts and various explorations, the top of the ridge was gained.

The SW ridge leading up to Cirque Peak.
The S ridge leading up to Cirque Peak.

Once on top of the S ridge, the way up Cirque Peak was obvious – just follow the ridge right on up.  The ridge was pretty broad, there were several unmaintained trails, and the rocks on top of the ridge were nearly all small – not boulders – so it was easy to just keep trudging on up the mountain.  Lung capacity was the only limiting factor.  However, lung capacity quickly came into play, as the long climb up the ridge became progressively steeper.

The small loose rocks and mud forming the ridge started to give way beneath every step.  Even Lupe was sending showers of small rocks sliding as she climbed.  SPHP felt guilty about greatly increasing the erosion rate just by struggling up the mountain.  The slope of the mountain near the top seemed to be the maximum slope that the laws of physics would allow for such a loose pile of dirt and rock to even support itself.

Near the very top of Cirque Peak, the loose rock finally met up with a 30 to 50 foot layer of dark gray solid rock.  Fortunately, the solid rock was not just a wall, and was climbable without any great difficulty.  When Lupe reached the summit, there were two people there ahead of her.  They had passed Lupe and SPHP on the steepest part of the loose rock not far from the summit a short time before, and were the first to arrive at the summit of Cirque Peak this day.  They said they were originally from Hungary, but were now living in Canada.

Lupe checks out the view to the NW towards Peyto Lake from Cirque Peak.
Lupe checks out the view to the SSW towards the Crowfoot Glacier and the S end of Bow Lake from the false summit of Cirque Peak.

The Hungarians quickly pointed out that technically Lupe and SPHP were still only at a false summit.  The true summit of Cirque Peak was a slightly higher rocky crag just a short distance to the E.  The Hungarians had already been there.  Lupe and SPHP rested and had some water at the false summit while the Hungarians were still there.

The false summit area wasn’t terribly big and was almost completely surrounded by cliffs or very long steep slopes.  Fortunately, there were some good solid rocks providing relatively comfortable and secure perches.  It felt like being up in a small plane with so much air around in every direction.

Dolomite Peak, Mt. Andromache & Mt. Hector to the S from Cirque Peak.
Dolomite Peak, Mt. Andromache & Mt. Hector (progressively more distant near the center of the photo) to the SSE from Cirque Peak.

The views from Cirque Peak were spectacular in every direction.  To the S were Dolomite Peak, Mt. Andromache, Mt. Hector, and way off in the distance was a glimpse of Mt. Assiniboine (11,864 ft.).  Far below was “Gnat Pond” at the base of the S ridge of Cirque Peak, and even farther below was Helen Lake.  Portions of Katherine Lake were visible beyond Dolomite Pass.

View to the N from Cirque Peak.
View to the N from Cirque Peak.  A portion of Peyto Lake is visible at the left side of this photo.

To the E was a broad expanse of air before reaching jagged mountains beyond a deep valley.  To the N, a snowfield or small glacier lay far, far below Lupe and SPHP at the base of the towering N cliffs of Cirque Peak.  A thin, treacherous ridge extended NW from Cirque Peak just to the W of the snowfield.  Beyond were more mountains and Peyto Lake in the distance.

Bow Lake, Bow Glacier Falls & the Wapta Icefield from Cirque Peak.
Bow Lake, Bow Glacier Falls & the Wapta Icefield from Cirque Peak.

The most magnificent view of all though lay to the SW.  Most of Bow Lake was in sight and beyond it Bow Glacier Falls.  A lake Lupe and SPHP had never seen before was above Bow Glacier Falls, and another waterfall plunged into it from the Bow Glacier extending out from the vast expanse of the Wapta Icefield.

Lupe on the true summit of Cirque Peak and the view to the E.
Lupe on the true summit of Cirque Peak and the view to the E.

Once the Hungarians started down, Lupe and SPHP worked their way over to the true summit of Cirque Peak.  This involved a climb down of maybe 20 to 30 feet, traversing a fairly narrow saddle with dizzying drops on either side, and an easy climb up a craggy knob slightly higher than the false summit to the W.

The rocky E crag that is the true summit of Cirque Peak. NOT a good place to race around chasing squirrels!
The rocky E crag that is the true summit of Cirque Peak. NOT a good place to race around chasing squirrels!

Incredibly, after reaching the true summit, Lupe found a squirrel way up here and about gave SPHP a heart attack by chasing it around the rocks oblivious to the cliffs all around her.  Lupe was quickly brought under control again and taken back to the false summit for a more secure vantage point from which to appreciate the stupendous scenery.

Conditions on Cirque Peak were near perfect.  The sky was now partly cloudy, but mostly sunny and non-threatening.  Amazingly, there was no wind at all most of the time, just a gentle breeze that came up now and then.  Temperatures were in the upper 50’s or low 60’s.  Visibility was wonderful.  Lupe remained on top of Cirque Peak as long as she and SPHP were the only ones up there, which was quite some time.

The SW ridge, the way back down Cirque Peak, as seen from the top. "Gnat Pond" (L) and Helen Lake (Center L) far below.
The S ridge, the way back down Cirque Peak, as seen from just below the solid rock layer at the top. “Gnat Pond” (L) and Helen Lake (Center L) far below.

Visible below, however, were lots of hikers strung out all along the SW ridge making their way steadily up.  When the next hikers finally got close, Lupe started down Cirque Peak just in time to get off the layer of solid rock before meeting up with the next party and their dog, Ella, at the very top of the steep slope of loose rocks.

Lupe meets Ella and her humans at the base of the solid rock layer which forms the summit of Cirque Peak.
Lupe meets Ella and her humans at the base of the solid rock layer which forms the summit of Cirque Peak.

Even more loose rocks showered down the steep upper slopes of Cirque Peak on the way down than on the way up.  Lupe had to lose a lot of elevation before reaching firm footing again.  On the way back down, SPHP learned that the proper route onto the S ridge was NOT the climb over the boulders above the shallow pond, but via an unmaintained trail heading N along the top of the headwall E of Helen Lake.

This trail eventually winds its way up onto the rocky toe of the S ridge.  There were cairns along the headwall marking the path, but SPHP had gone too far E to have noticed them on the way up.  Lupe and SPHP followed other hikers down off the S ridge via this route and saw that it was much superior to the way they’d come up in the morning.

Dolomite Peak (which SPHP thinks looks like a Stegosaurus with the N end of the spine snapped off) and Mt. Hector from the SW ridge of Cirque Peak.
Dolomite Peak (which SPHP thinks looks like a Stegosaurus with the N end of the spine snapped off) and Mt. Hector from the S ridge of Cirque Peak.

The rest of the hike back to the Helen Lake Trailhead was just retracing the hike up earlier in the day.  There were lots of people around on the way back, compared to virtually none on the way up.  Lupe arrived back at the trailhead at 4:54 PM.  It was 68 °F, partly cloudy and calm.  Lupe and SPHP headed to the picnic ground near the S end of Bow Lake for a shared evening meal of sardines.  Then it was time for a bit of relaxation soaking tired paws and feet in the cold lake while watching sunlight sparkle brilliantly on the waves.

This photo of Bow Lake showing the Crowfoot Glacier was taken on 7-25-13 on Lupe's 2013 Dingo Vacation to Canada.
This photo of Bow Lake showing the Crowfoot Glacier was taken on 7-25-13 on Lupe’s 2013 Dingo Vacation to Canada.
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The Crowfoot Glacier above the S end of Bow Lake on 7-25-13. This photo was taken not far from the picnic ground near the S end of Bow Lake on Lupe’s prior 2013 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies.

Lupe and SPHP strongly recommend the hike up Cirque Peak if conditions are good.  The fantastic views are well worth the effort.  However, under wet conditions, the hike up the S ridge of Cirque Peak is probably a horrible muddy slog to be avoided, even if visibility is acceptable.

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