Lupe started Expedition No. 135 on USFS Road No. 259.2A about 0.25 mile W of Nahant Road. Nahant Road leaves the W side of paved County Road No. 17 about 5 miles N of Rochford in the west central Black Hills of South Dakota. Both Nahant Road and USFS Road No. 259.2A are marked. No. 259.2A leaves Nahant Road about 0.5 mile S of County Road No. 17. There is a small corral near the intersection and two barbed wire gates to go through to gain access to No. 259.2A.
After the traumatic finish to Expedition No. 134 a week earlier, Lupe had been reluctant to even take her nightly walks for a few days. When no more lightning, thunder and hail storms made an appearance, towards the middle of the week Lupe regained her confidence and enthusiasm for the outdoors. Although the forecast was for the mid-80’s in the lower Black Hills, Saturday was supposed to be clear weather all day long. SPHP thought Lupe might be ready for another expedition in the higher western Black Hills, where it should at least be a bit cooler out.
Early Saturday morning, Lupe expressed great enthusiasm for “hiking in the mountains”. She was eager to go. Soon Lupe and SPHP were in the G6 and underway. It was a very pleasant 60°F when SPHP parked the G6 at 8:29 AM along USFS Road No. 259.2A just 0.25 mile W of Nahant Road. Lupe and SPHP have been here before on at least a couple of prior expeditions, so it was familiar territory. SPHP’s plan was to let Lupe enjoy a romp along Tillson Creek in Swede Gulch and then do some peakbagging with Peak 6820 and Crooks Tower (7,137 ft.) as goals.
Before too long, USFS Road No. 259.2A basically comes to a dead end where the road reaches Tillson Creek in Swede Gulch. A remnant of the road continues on upstream, but is in poor to non-existent condition in a lot of places. Many pine bark beetle-killed trees have fallen across the route. The main problem this morning though, was that there was a lot of marshy, mucky wet ground. (The Black Hills have received nearly 3 times their normal rainfall for the month of June in 2015!) Getting around the soft areas meant frequent detours into the forest up on the sides of the valley and picking a way through the deadfall timber.
Lupe had fun in Tillson Creek and exploring around Swede Gulch, but Lupe and SPHP weren’t making great time. It didn’t really matter. Despite being a very busy dingo, Lupe has no deadlines to meet. SPHP was really hoping Lupe would get as far as Crooks Tower though, before it got too late in the day.
About 2 miles from the end of the good road, Lupe reached the confluence of Tillson Creek and a good-sized tributary coming in from the W. Shortly after passing the confluence, it became necessary to cross Tillson Creek. While on past occasions, SPHP had always managed to cross Tillson Creek without getting wet boots, this time there was so much flow in the creek nothing could be done except to just wade right in and ford it.
The creek had to be forded several more times as Lupe progressed up Swede Gulch. Lupe loved the fords, and frequently waded into Tillson Creek to cool off and drink even where it wasn’t necessary. SPHP was now resigned to marching soggily along in wet boots. SPHP splashed right on into Tillson Creek at each ford without hesitation.
Eventually Lupe heard a great deal of mooing going on up ahead. Where USFS Road No. 234 crosses Tillson Creek, there was a herd of cattle out on the road. Beyond the road is some private land, but these cattle were outside of the fence in the Black Hills National Forest. This is not uncommon as grazing permits are available in the national forest. Lupe and SPHP took a little break near No. 234, while the cattle decided maybe it would be best to mosey on along, since they preferred their own company to that of dingoes.
Lupe and SPHP left Tillson Creek and headed S on No. 234, which started climbing the hillside. After a bit, the road leveled out and then curved SW. A high point became visible ahead. SPHP stopped to check the maps and give Lupe a little water and Taste of the Wild. Lupe rested in the shade of a spruce tree and snapped at flies.
The topo map SPHP had printed out from Peakbagger.com showed that Peak 6820 was about 1 mile due W of Lupe’s location. A draw heading WNW would be the least steep approach. Lupe could curve back to the SW for the last little bit of the climb. Lupe and SPHP backtracked just a little bit to go through a gate up into the draw. There was a faint remnant of a road heading up the draw. Lupe and SPHP followed it. SPHP repeatedly lost the remnant road and then found what looked like what might be it again.
The plan worked. Lupe and SPHP had been to Peak 6820 once before, back on Expedition No. 99 on 10-08-14. Arriving on flat terrain that seemed to be the top of the mountain, SPHP recognized a particular mud puddle toward the W end of the summit area. Lupe happily went over to lay down in it and have a drink of mineral water. A cool, wet, muddy dingo is a happy dingo!
Although a high point, Peak 6820 is all forested and there aren’t really any decent views, since they are blocked by all the trees. The top of the mountain is very flat. There is a fairly large summit area rather than any discernable peak or highest point. Lupe and SPHP explored around for just a few minutes before SPHP was satisfied there really wasn’t much more to be done up here. Then it was time to continue on to Crooks Tower where the views would be better.
Lupe and SPHP went back to the mud puddle and then down an old road heading SW from the W end of the summit area of Peak 6820. The first time Lupe had climbed Peak 6820, she had come up this road. SPHP remembered it as being pretty choked with deadfall timber along most of its length near the top. Things really hadn’t changed. It still was. Lupe and SPHP were off the road more than on it.
SPHP was hoping to find again a strange little area in the saddle between Peak 6820 and a ridge to the SW. Lupe had found it on Expedition No. 99. There was a big water tank and a tall deteriorating wooden tower, plus a nearby opening in the forest completely fenced in and covered by metal sheeting just 6″ off the ground. SPHP thought the metal sheeting might serve as a safety cover for a large open mine shaft, but wasn’t sure. In any case, Lupe didn’t find it again this time. SPHP wasn’t sure it was worth spending extra time looking for it either. If the metal sheeting did cover a mine shaft, it might just be best for Lupe to stay away from it.
Lupe and SPHP crossed the saddle area and climbed a ridge SW of Peak 6820. Lupe headed W along the ridge and came to a high spot. Lupe’s immediate goal was to get to South Rapid Creek Road (USFS Road No. 231). The terrain seemed to push Lupe and SPHP farther N than SPHP really wanted to go despite crossing a couple of ridges. SPHP didn’t want to go too far S either. The topo map showed some pretty steep terrain and even small cliffs to the S. With no views and no roads or paths to follow, it was hard to know just where Lupe would come out.
It took quite a while, but Lupe eventually emerged from the forest just E of the intersection of USFS Road No. 231 and Besant Park Road (No. 206). Lupe had been here quite a few times before. From the intersection, Lupe and SPHP headed S near the edge of the forest W of No. 231. The grass was so tall in the big meadow, Lupe had a hard time seeing over it. She bounded along to see where she was going. The meadow eventually narrowed. Lupe and SPHP walked on No. 231 for the last part of the distance to USFS Road No. 631.1.
The start of No. 631.1 was the low elevation point on Lupe’s journey from Peak 6280 to Crooks Tower. From here on, the rest of the way was up, although mostly at a moderate pace. Lupe went W up No. 631.1 until reaching No. 631.1B. She followed No. 631.1B NW up a side gully, but after gaining some elevation left the road to travel W through the forest. Loggers had stacked a big pile of tree trunks up near the top of the ridge. Once there, Lupe followed the logging trail heading generally WSW. The logging trail was pretty flat and easy, but gained a little elevation as it went along.
Perhaps a mile or less N of Crooks Tower is a flat ridge that extends out to the WNW. At the end of the ridge from some small cliffs is a very nice overlook with good views off to the NW. Lupe has been to this viewpoint on several occasions before. As SPHP expected, the logging trail passed just to the SE of this ridge and Lupe was able to trot on over to the WNW for another look.
Lupe and SPHP took a break in the shade of a small tree at the end of the ridge. Lupe had a bit more Taste of the Wild. Both Lupe and SPHP enjoyed the views. Miles off to the NW was a high ridge which might be Cement Ridge. Far off to the N a sharper peak stuck up above the rest of the Black Hills. This might be Crow Peak W of Spearfish. SPHP wasn’t certain in either case.
Lupe went back to the logging road and followed it S a short distance farther. The logging road started turning to the W and losing elevation. Lupe left it before it lost any elevation and continued S through the forest. At times there were remnants of roads to follow, and at other times there weren’t. Crooks Tower could sometimes be seen ahead at openings in the forest. It was now only a couple hundred feet higher than where Lupe was. Lupe came to a road, which was probably USFS Road No. 189.4F. She crossed it continuing S.
As Lupe got closer to Crooks Tower, the terrain became steeper. Lupe and SPHP worked their way on up the forested slope. Upon gaining the top of the ridgeline, Lupe followed the ridge SE still gaining elevation. When SPHP saw some 15 foot tall limestone outcroppings ahead, SPHP thought Lupe was practically at the summit. Lupe skirted around the W side of the outcroppings and found an easy way to the top. Nothing was familiar to SPHP. This wasn’t the true summit of Crooks Tower.
The question was, since this wasn’t it, where was it? It couldn’t be too far away, but there were no views through the forest. Lupe was either too far E or too far W. SPHP decided to head SW hoping to find USFS Road No. 189.4A, which passes just S of the summit of Crooks Tower. (You can practically drive to the summit of Crooks Tower, if you want to. USFS Road No. 189.4A comes in from the W.) Within just a minute or two, SPHP knew where Lupe was. She was just NE of Crooks Tower.
A platform of limestone about 20 feet high forms the summit of Crooks Tower. A path leads to the top from the W side. Lupe headed around the S side of the summit passing a couple with two young children picnicking in the shade of a spruce tree below the summit. In just a few minutes Lupe was at the top of Crooks Tower. She had completed both her peakbagging goals of the day!
A forested ridge nearly as high as Crooks Tower itself lies not far away to the E. (Lupe had initially climbed up to the N end of this ridge.) The ridge blocks any views farther to the E. Similarly, to the W the forest blocks any views in that direction where the land is nearly as high as Crooks Tower. There are nice views to the N, though, and even better views to the S. Harney Peak (7,242 ft.) can be seen in the distance to the SE.
Crooks Tower (7,137 ft.) is the highest point in Lawrence County, SD, and the 4th highest ranked peak in the Black Hills of South Dakota on Peakbagger.com. [Green Mountain (7,164) feet is actually the 4th highest point, but unranked since it lacks the required 280 feet of prominence. Lupe had been to Green Mountain twice just a week ago on Expedition No. 134.]
Lupe and SPHP stayed up on Crooks Tower for a little while. SPHP ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Lupe helped out with the sandwich and had some Taste of the Wild, too. The young couple left with their children in tow heading W on USFS Road No. 189.4A. Soon SPHP heard their vehicle start up and move away. Lupe and SPHP had Crooks Tower to themselves. The sun was still high in the sky. While there were still some hours of daylight left, SPHP knew most of the day had already shot on by. It was a long way back to the G6. Lupe couldn’t stay up on Crooks Tower too long.
SPHP thought it was unwise to try to head back to the G6 the same way Lupe had come to Crooks Tower. It was going to get dark long before Lupe could be back. SPHP did not like the idea of trying to go back down Swede Gulch through all the mud and deadfall timber in the dark. Instead, Lupe would go down Trebor Draw to South Rapid Creek Road. Lupe could follow South Rapid Creek Road SE past the turn for Black Fox Campground, and then miles more to the E until reaching USFS Road No. 259. No. 259 would take Lupe N through Telegraph Gulch a few miles to Nahant and the G6.
At first, it all went fine. Lupe left Crooks Tower following No. 189.4A around the S end of the ridge to the E. E of the ridge, it headed N for longer than SPHP had remembered, but finally did turn SE winding steeply down the mountain to No. 631.2. A short jog to the S on No. 631.2 brought Lupe to a virtually abandoned USFS road (signed as an administrative road only) at Trebor Draw. Lupe and SPHP headed NE down into Trebor Draw.
Trebor Draw was in the shade of the mountain. The grass was thick, tall and green. Lupe could not see over it, so it was like a complete jungle to her. The administrative road went on for some distance, then faded to a single track before disappearing altogether. The valley narrowed and led into a thick forest to the E. Lupe had been here once before, but that time SPHP had not taken her through the forest, instead leading her up over the high ridge to the N.
South Rapid Creek Road was to the E. This time Lupe had to continue on down Trebor Draw through the dense forest. At least it couldn’t be much more than 0.5 mile further to the road. The going was very slow. A lot of deadfall timber had fallen down into the narrow valley. It was bad, but Lupe and SPHP have dealt with worse. Lupe steadily made progress down Trebor Gulch. A very narrow cow trail appeared. (What cows would have been doing in this mess, SPHP had no clue, but the trail was there with an occasional cow pie to prove it.) Lupe was able to run along the cow trail.
SPHP saw the danger just before tragedy struck. An old barbed wire fence had fallen over the trail. Five strands of barbed wire lay in wait for Lupe who raced right into them. SPHP called out to Lupe and heard her hit the fence. A moment later SPHP saw Lupe standing on the trail. The barbed wire had cut a big bloody gash across the whole front of her left front leg. Her fur was hanging open to reveal the bare flesh beneath the skin. SPHP was horrified.
Fortunately, the barbed wire had only just nicked the muscle beneath the fur. At first Lupe didn’t even seem to realize anything really bad had happened. She could still walk, even run. It wasn’t bleeding much, but it looked ghastly and had to hurt. Quickly SPHP dug through the whole backpack. Matches, plastic bags, flashlight, extra batteries, gloves, hat, sunscreen, gloves, toilet paper and a plastic raincoat were all there. But not the little first aid kit. Major mistake! It had been a long time since SPHP had even thought about checking on the first aid kit. No telling now how long it had not been in the pack. Probably removed and forgotten during a cleaning months ago. The kit wouldn’t have had much to treat such a large wound in any case.
Lupe needed to get to a veterinarian and soon. SPHP picked her up and started to carry her. It was hard on the uneven ground with obstacles. SPHP carried her part of the time and she walked part of the time. Fortunately, within 10 minutes or so, Lupe reached South Rapid Creek Road. As much as possible, SPHP carried Lupe, but she walked as much as she was carried and probably more. She occasionally seemed to realize something was wrong with her bloody leg and would pause to lick it. SPHP stopped her from doing that. She must not have felt too horrible. She still sometimes wanted to run off into the forest, or up a hillside off the road to bark at a squirrel. SPHP didn’t permit that either.
Black Fox Campground was about 2 miles from where Lupe reached South Rapid Creek Road. It really didn’t take too long to get there, but it seemed endless to SPHP. Fortunately there were people camping at Black Fox. SPHP asked for help for Lupe. Four people with two dogs (Achilles and Lily – naturally SPHP has forgotten the kind people’s names) had a first aid kit. Lupe got a generous dose of antibacterial gel. Then her leg was wrapped with a gauze bandage and taped up. Another kind man named Jim, who lives in the Wonderland Homes subdivision near Black Hawk and Piedmont, SD gave Lupe and SPHP a ride in his Ford pickup truck all the way back to the G6.
Lupe liked Jim’s Ford pickup. She didn’t want to get out. Maybe she was just afraid SPHP was going to make her walk some more. SPHP thanked Jim for the ride, gathered Lupe up and got her in the G6 as fast as possible. It was 8:30 PM. Without Jim’s help it would have been well after midnight before Lupe could have gotten back to the G6, even if she had been totally well.
Somewhere around 10:00 PM, SPHP brought Lupe into the Animal Clinic of Rapid City, also known as the Emergency Veterinarian Hospital. The Emergency Veterinarian Hospital has a veterinarian on duty 24/7. Even though it was late on a Saturday night, lead emergency veterinarian Dr. Erin Brown was on duty. Soon Lupe was being anesthetized in preparation for stitches. Dr. Brown stitched Lupe’s leg up and put a drain in to help prevent serious infection. An hour after disappearing into the operating room, Lupe walked back to SPHP. There were tears in her eyes, but she was smiling.
Many thanks to Jim and the other good people who helped Lupe at Black Fox campground, and especially to veterinarian Dr. Erin Brown. Lupe is going to be OK! She is on pain medication and antibiotics, but less than 48 hours after seeing Dr. Brown, she is back to running around and barking at the garbage truck, recycling truck and Lupe’s long-suffering mailman.
There will be no more new Black Hills, SD Expeditions until Lupe is fully healed up (and a new much beefed up first aid kit is in SPHP’s pack). While Lupe recuperates, The (Mostly) True Adventures of Lupe will continue in July with new posts on some of her previously unpublished prior adventures in the Canadian Rockies, Beartooth Mountains and Bighorn Mountains.