Xochitl flew in from Chicago to spend nearly a week in the Black Hills over Thanksgiving. Naturally, she wanted to spend a little time adventuring in the hills with Lupe. Steve had some time off, so he wanted to come along, too. So Lupe had quite a pack along with her when she set off on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 146(a) on 11-22-15.
Since Xochitl needed a little time to acclimate to the elevation, Lupe started her off easy. Real easy – the first stop was at Cheyenne Crossing in Spearfish Canyon for buffalo burgers and dessert. Lupe got to sit waiting patiently in the G6 while Xochi, Steve & SPHP dined acclimated in cozy warm comfort.
The buffalo burgers disappeared, and there wasn’t much left of Steve’s mountain medley berry pie and ice cream when the meal was over. However, Xochi had ordered carrot cake for dessert. It arrived drizzled with caramel, which she doesn’t really care for, so about 2/3 of the carrot cake was left over. The patient American Dingo was in luck! A big piece of carrot cake went into a Dingo box for later on.
From Cheyenne Crossing, Lupe’s pack headed N for Savoy farther downstream in the heart of Spearfish Canyon. Savoy is the site of the Latchstring Inn & Restaurant. Near Savoy are two waterfalls. From opposite ends of the Latchstring Restaurant parking lot, there is a short (0.5 mile?) loop trail that goes down to Spearfish Falls. Little Spearfish Creek enters Spearfish Creek at the base of the falls.
Lupe wasn’t going to Spearfish Falls, though. Instead, Lupe and her pack of humans were taking the trail to Roughlock Falls. Roughlock Falls is up the side canyon Little Spearfish Creek flows through. The trailhead is near the Latchstring Inn parking lot.
The Roughlock Falls trail is no more than about a mile long, and involves very little elevation gain. It was going to be a nice stroll, with views of the creek and limestone cliffs along the way.
Lupe was just happy to be on a snowy trail again.
In the summer, the Roughlock Falls trail is popular and busy. On this cool day in late November, Lupe & company had the trail to themselves. When Lupe reached the falls, it was time for some pictures with Xochitl and Steve.
The Roughlock Falls trail continued on across a bridge over Little Spearfish Creek, and up to a picnic ground just above the falls. Various little walkways with railings led to a number of viewpoints along both sides of the falls and creek. Lupe, Xochi and Steve checked them out.
At the picnic grounds upstream of Roughlock Falls, a dramatic love scene was re-enacted starring Lupeo & Xochiet.
Lupe and Xochitl had two different impressions of the Roughlock Falls picnic grounds. To Lupe, the place was a frozen wilderness full of exciting smells, danger and mystery. Here she conveys a feeling of being lost and alone in the 1.2 million acre Black Hills National Forest:
Although Xochitl makes a good living as a computer engineer in Chicago, she is always ready to explore new opportunities. To her, the time spent in a different setting at Roughlock Falls along Little Spearfish Creek brought new possibilities to mind. She practiced auditioning for Vanna White’s job on Wheel of Fortune.
Down in the canyon, the sun disappears from view pretty early this time of year. Soon it was time for Lupe, Xochitl, Steve & SPHP to take the snowy trail back to the G6.Much later, back at home, SPHP offered Xochitl’s uneaten Cheyenne Crossing carrot cake to Lupe. Turns out Carolina Dogs love carrot cake AND caramel! A few nanoseconds later, Lupe was licking the Dingo box clean of any remaining morsels.
On Sunday afternoon, 11-8-15, Joe and Dusty were free to join Lupe and SPHP for a little adventure in the mountains W of Arvada, Colorado. Joe suggested hiking some of the trails in upper White Ranch Park, which wasn’t too far away. Unlike the trails in the lower part of the park, the trails in upper White Ranch Park don’t lose or gain an awful lot of elevation. It would be a pleasant, relaxing afternoon outing.
Naturally, Lupe and cousin Dusty were both eager to go. Everyone piled into the G6. Even though the Broncos were playing, it was such a nice afternoon for November that lots of people were already at the park when Lupe and Dusty arrived. The parking lot closest to the old ranch headquarters was completely full. Luckily, Joe did find an empty spot for the G6 in the parking lot near the Belcher Hill trail.
The first, and longest, trail that Lupe, Dusty, Joe and SPHP took was a clockwise circuit of the entire Rawhide trail, which makes a loop. At the far N end of the trail is a bench with a little roof over it. There was a view toward a high snow-capped peak far to the N from the bench.
Joe and SPHP sat on the bench contemplating the view and munching apples, while water from a bit of melting snow on the roof dripped in front of them. Lupe and Dusty shared some Taste of the Wild, which Dusty devoured with special relish since she doesn’t ordinarily get it. Dusty polished off the apple cores, too, when they became available. As far as Lupe was concerned, Dusty could have the apple cores.
The E section of the Rawhide trail stayed more in the forest than the W part of the trail had. Along the NE section of the trail, there were occasional views across the deep Ralston Creek valley toward the high rocky ridge to the E. Lupe passed by another bench commemorating a visit by Princess Anne. Trees had grown up to mostly obscure the view from there.
A little way S of the Princess Anne bench was a nice view to the SE toward North Table Mountain(6,566 ft.).
Except near the N end, the Rawhide trail was pretty busy. There were hikers, runners, dogs, and especially mountain bikers. By the time Lupe was getting close to the parking lots again, though, the crowds were beginning to thin out.
When Lupe reached the parking lot again, the sun was starting to get low in the W. Since it would still be up for at least another hour, SPHP suggested taking the trail to Belcher Hill(7,949 ft.). Joe, Dusty and Lupe were all up for it. From the parking lot near the old ranch headquarters, Lupe took the Sawmill trail to the Belcher Hill trail. There were views of the ranch headquarters and North Table Mountain along the way.
From the Sawmill trail, the Belcher Hill trail headed WNW up a forested ridge. The trail eventually leveled out near the high point on the ridge. Lupe climbed up on the highest rocks on the ridge to claim another peakbagging success.
These highest rocks were in the forest, so there wasn’t much of a view from the top. However, back closer to the trail, there were some lower rocks along more open ground. From these lower rocks were pretty views from the S around to the W.
From the high point on the ridge, it was a short pleasant stroll through the forest to the junction with the Mustang trail.
From the junction with the Mustang trail, the Belcher Hill trail headed N down the ridge to the parking lot. There was just enough packed snow on the trail on the N side of the ridge to make things a bit slippery. It didn’t take long to reach the parking lot, but the sun was down behind the mountains by the time Lupe and Dusty got there.
Back at Dusty’s house in Arvada, it turned out that Lupe, Dusty, Joe & SPHP had a better afternoon at upper White Ranch Park than the Denver Broncos had in Indianapolis. The Colts defeated the previously unbeaten Broncos 27-24.
After climbing Flat Top Mountain(12,354 ft.) the previous day, August 22nd was a rest and repositioning day for Lupe. SPHP drove down to Leadville, CO. The very dusty G6 got taken to a car wash. SPHP got cleaned up, too. Lupe dined on roasted chicken from Safeway and an ice cream bar. She seemed quite content to spend a significant portion of the day snoozing in the G6.
Later in the day, there was a scouting trip down to a couple of trailheads in the Halfmoon Creek area SW of Leadville. (The gravel roads were fine, but very washboardy. It was Saturday, and the place was simply overrun with people and vehicles.) Lupe also visited Turquoise Lake.
August 23rd, Day 15 of Lupe’s great Summer of 2015 Dingo Vacation, began as a complete disappointment. SPHP had planned for Lupe to get an early start on climbing Mount Elbert(14,433 ft.), the highest mountain in Colorado. (Only Mt. Whitney(14,498 ft.) in California is higher in the 48 contiguous United States.) When morning came, however, Mount Elbert was nowhere to be seen. The sky was completely overcast. Mount Elbert was lost in the clouds.
There was no point in Lupe climbing Mount Elbert just to see fog. A leisurely breakfast ensued. After a little while, though, it looked like there wasn’t as much fog as there had been. The trend continued. Suddenly SPHP realized the clouds were going to simply dissipate. It wasn’t going to be foggy for long. It was going to be a gorgeous day!
Lupe got a late start. It was Sunday. The weekend crowds were still here. The Mount Elbert trailhead was absolutely totally and completely full. Apparently SPHP had been the only one deterred by the early morning fog. It was 10:12 AM (54°F) by the time SPHP parked the G6 at a little pullout along USFS Road No. 110 in the Halfmoon Creek area. Lupe had to trot 0.25 mile along No. 110 just to get to the trailhead.
The first part of the climb up Mount Elbert was all in the forest, so there really weren’t any views. From the Mount Elbert TH, a short spur trail (0.50 mile?) leads up to the Colorado Trail. Lupe followed a somewhat longer segment of the Colorado Trail S to an intersection with the Mount Elbert Trail No. 1184.
Although the topo map on Peakbagger.com doesn’t show the Mount Elbert Trail No. 1184 going all the way up to the summit, it actually does. The trail works its way up the NE ridge and gets heavy use. Its route is unmistakable, except when covered with snow.
Other than a portion of the Colorado Trail which was close to level, Lupe’s entire route to Mount Elbert was a steady climb. Some parts were steeper than others, especially approaching the summit, but it was nearly all just going up.
Even though the Mount Elbert TH parking lot was full, at first there weren’t too many other people and dogs around. Only Lupe, SPHP and a few other stragglers were starting up the mountain this late in the day.
After a couple of hours, Lupe and SPHP started meeting the early birds coming back down the mountain. Some had started up in darkness as early as 4:00 AM. By the time Lupe reached tree line, a flood of people and dogs were coming down the trail. Not all had made it to the summit of Mount Elbert, but most of them had. There were social opportunities galore for Lupe, who sniffed the many dogs, and allowed herself to be petted by some of the friendlier people.
The passing parade included lots of dogs wearing backpacks. (American Dingoes don’t go in for that kind of drudgery, they bring human porters.) Some wore booties on their paws. (Carolina Dogs climb rocky mountains regularly, and aren’t a bunch of greenhorn tenderpaws.) There were large dogs and small ones representing a great variety of breeds.
The people were almost as varied as the dogs. Children under 10 years old had made it to the summit. There were tall, short, thin, and fat people. There were a few clearly in their 70’s. There were quite a number of nationalities and languages represented. The most unusual people, though, were three who came down the mountain riding unicycles. SPHP greatly regrets not having the presence of mind to take a couple of pictures of the unicyclists. The whole concept seemed suicidal, but there they were, having a great time.
In fact, everyone was having a good time. The weather was great. Only the ever-present smoke haze from distant wildfires dimmed the marvelous views above tree line.
Only near the summit were there any difficulties at all climbing Mount Elbert. Near the very end, the trail climbed pretty steeply to reach the ridgeline that was the final leg to the summit. Many people reported being a bit scared of the loose rock and slippery hard-packed ground on the steep trail.
When Lupe and SPHP got there, it was as they said, but not anything Lupe hadn’t encountered many times before on other mountains. It was really more of a problem going down than going up. Taking it slowly and cautiously was all that was required. Of course, that applied only to SPHP. The Dingo romped around as usual, confident of her footing every inch of the way.
After gaining nearly 4,500 feet of elevation, Lupe was there – the summit of the highest mountain in Colorado, the state most famous for its high peaks. Lupe stood surveying the world from the top of Mount Elbert.
Since the weather turned out to be perfect, there was a huge advantage to Lupe’s late start up Mount Elbert. By the time she reached the summit, there were fewer than a dozen people there. Most of those soon left. In the end, there was only one other group on Mount Elbert. There were two brothers and an uncle. They were waiting for a brother-in-law, who was still struggling up the mountain on the South Mount Elbert Trail No. 1481 (which actually approaches Mount Elbert from the E).
The brother-in-law was thinking about giving up, but the rest of the family was in contact via smart phones. They urged him onward. He came into view below, and was eventually greeted by the family as he approached the summit.
When all four men reached the summit, Lupe joined them for a photo op. This was the brother-in-law’s first trip up Mount Elbert, but the rest of the family had made multiple trips up the mountain. The brother in the blue jacket and jaunty blue hat had been here six times.
Lupe and SPHP remained up on Mount Elbert for a while longer after Edgar’s arrival. No one else came up the mountain. It looked like Edgar was going to be the last man up this day. SPHP was curious about a high mountain off to the SE far beyond the Twin Lakes. No one knew its name.
By climbing Mount Elbert, both Lupe and SPHP set personal records for the highest mountain ever climbed. Unless Lupe and SPHP make it out to Mount Whitney in California some day, it’s likely Mount Elbert is the highest mountain Lupe and SPHP will ever climb.
Prior to Lupe’s great Summer of 2015 Dingo Vacation, Lupe’s personal best was Lonesome Mountain (11,399 ft.) on 8-3-14 in Montana, which she climbed during her 2014 Dingo Vacation. She had already set new records three more times during her 2015 Dingo Vacation: Medicine Bow Peak (12,013 ft.) on 8-10-15) in Wyoming, Mount Zirkel (12,180 ft.) on 8-17-15 in Colorado, and Flat Top Mountain (12,354 ft.) on 8-21-15 in Colorado.
SPHP hadn’t set a new record for highest mountain climbed in years. Until this day with Lupe on Mount Elbert, Cloud Peak(13,167 ft.) in Wyoming, a peak SPHP has climbed twice, was the highest mountain SPHP ever stood on.
So seeing the world from up on Mount Elbert was kind of a big deal. Before Lupe headed down, SPHP took a few extra photos of the view from the top of Colorado.
And then it was time to start down. It turned out that Edgar Flores was not going to be the last one to reach the summit of Mount Elbert this beautiful day. Lupe met several small groups of people still heading up on her way down. Maybe they were going to enjoy sunset on Mount Elbert. They certainly could have. The weather was ideal. It hadn’t even been breezy on top.
The big crowds that had been present on the trail earlier in the day were gone. Nearly the entire trek down Mount Elbert, Lupe and SPHP were alone.
It was getting pretty dark by the time Lupe reached the G6 again at 8:19 PM (50°F). She wasn’t going to climb any mountains higher than Mount Elbert on the rest of her Summer of 2015 Dingo Vacation, or maybe ever. That doesn’t mean Lupe’s adventures are over though! She encourages you to subscribe to The (Mostly) True Adventures of Lupe for news of more Dingo Adventures coming soon!
Heading S on Hwy 67, SPHP saw a sign that said Teller County. Lupe was too far S! SPHP must have missed the turn for Westcreek. SPHP turned the G6 around, and headed back N looking for it. Between mile markers 91 and 92, SPHP found two turns to Westbrook. Both had green street signs, but there was no other evidence of a community along the highway.
Abbey Road was the first turn, and led a short distance down a hill to Westcreek Road (County Road No. 73), which left Hwy 67 about 0.5 mile farther N. A left turn on Westcreek Road took Lupe past a few buildings, which comprised what there was of the tiny community of Westcreek. Less than a mile after getting on Westcreek Road, there was a junction with County Road No. 68 near a little lake and the Mountain Communities Volunteer Fire Department.
County Road No. 68 was what SPHP had been looking for. Lupe was on her way to climb Thunder Butte(9,836 ft.) , the high point of Douglas County, Colorado. In a couple of miles, No. 68 would lead Lupe past Sheep Nose(8,894 ft.) to 9-J Road. About 1.5 miles in on 9-J Road, there was supposed to be a place to park at a sharp bend where the road turns NW. From there, Thunder Butte would be just a couple of miles to the NNE.
At 10:24 AM, SPHP parked the G6 at the bend in 9-J Road. There wasn’t any trailhead or real parking lot, but there were at least a couple of places to pull off the road. It was only 33°F, with a light NW breeze. There were a few small snowflakes in the air. Lupe would get lightly snowed on a few times during the day, but the snow squalls stayed mostly off to the N.
Thunder Butte was in clear view to the NNE. Lupe was going to have a great time climbing it! There was no trail up Thunder Butte, but it looked like a pretty easy trek.
The first part of Lupe’s journey to Thunder Butte was very easy. She just had to follow a nearly level ridge heading NE. When she got to the edge of Shrewsbury Gulch, she turned N staying on the ridge. It was easiest to just stay to the W of Shrewsbury Gulch until Lupe could get around the N end of it without losing elevation.
Partway N along the W edge of Shrewsbury Gulch, Lupe came to Pedestal Point – a rock carved by nature over millions of years for the sole purpose of serving as a pedestal for the display of an adventurous Carolina Dog with Thunder Butte in the background. Since Lupe was the only Carolina Dog available this day, she hopped right up on Pedestal Point rock.
The ground along the W edge of Shrewsbury Gulch undulated up and down a little bit, but with little net elevation change. Towards the N end of Shrewsbury Gulch, Lupe started turning slowly E towards Thunder Butte. In some places she found a faint trail, but it quickly disappeared again each time. Lupe worked her way through the forest over to the N side of the ridge. The forest was full of interesting rock formations along the way.
Over on the N side of the low forested ridge, there was a little meadow with views to the NW. Here Lupe turned to the E and headed directly up toward the Snout. On the way, she emerged from the living forest and climbed up through young aspens growing in a previously burned area.
This seemed to be the easiest way up. There was some deadfall timber, but it wasn’t too bad. There were quite a few dead trees still standing, however. At some point in the future when more of them fall over, the easiest route up will likely be through the living forest.
When Lupe got pretty close to the base of the Snout, she stayed to the S of it. She was now above the living forest in an area that had been pretty thoroughly burned back in 2003. Although that meant the immediate surroundings weren’t too pretty, it also meant there were some terrific views off in the distance.
The terrain near the Snout was fairly steep, but not dangerously so. Lupe sniffed around, while SPHP trudged slowly up the mountain. Lupe and SPHP arrived at a rocky outcropping to the SSE of the Snout. From here, Lupe could get a clear view of the saddle area between the two summits of Thunder Butte. The lower summit was to the S. The true summit was to the N.
Lupe and SPHP did a bit of exploring around the rocky high point SSE of the Snout. SPHP wanted to see if there was an easy way up here from the lowest part of the saddle between the two halves of Thunder Butte. It turned out there was a break in the rocks with a wide grassy pass between them. The pass led down to the saddle. It looked kind of steep, but was certainly a feasible route up or down.
In this pass, Lupe and SPHP also discovered the Most Interesting Rock of Thunder Butte. The Most Interesting Rock stuck out over part of the pass from the W. SPHP liked the unusual shape of the rock and its overhanging positioning. Lupe agreed to strike a dramatic American Dingo pose on the Most Interesting Rock.
From the Most Interesting Rock, Lupe and SPHP started the climb to the N up to the true summit of Thunder Butte. Shortly before getting there, Lupe reached a ridge that led the last little way to the NW up to top. Soon Lupe was sitting on the highest rocks on Thunder Butte next to a registry. SPHP entered Lupe’s name on the registry for her, and signed in as well.
After registering, it was time for a break. Lupe chowed down on some Taste of the Wild, while SPHP consumed an apple. Then there was plenty of time for admiring views, and taking some pictures. There were great views to the SE, S, W, and NW. A small area of living forest mostly hid the views to the N, NE and E.
Lupe and SPHP had a fun time up on the summit of Thunder Butte. The views were magnificent, and the solitude complete. Sadly, eventually, it was time to go. On the way down, SPHP tried to get some pictures of the views to the NE which weren’t available from the summit.
Lupe and SPHP retraced their route up back down Thunder Butte. Once down to the low forested ridge, Lupe did some sniffing around in the forest among the interesting rock formations. The sun was starting to get low in the W. However, there was still plenty of time to get back to the G6. Lupe and SPHP had some fun among the rocks.
Lupe found her way to the G6, but SPHP called her away again. It was so nice out, SPHP wanted to go a little closer to Sheep Nose for a better look. Earlier in the day, SPHP had ruled out trying to climb Sheep Nose, which looked like it might require some technical climbing skills and equipment. Sheep Nose was still an interesting looking peak. Maybe it looked less troublesome from closer up.
Lupe and SPHP returned to the G6 at 4:00 PM exactly. It was 35°F, and a beautiful calm late afternoon. Lupe’s trek to Thunder Butte had been a fun day, and a great success!
There had been easy parts on nearly level ground near Shrewsbury Gulch, and harder parts climbing steeply up the mountain. Lupe had seen and/or explored cool rock formations like Pedestal Point rock, the Snout, the Most Interesting Rock, and the boulders along the low forested ridge. There had been great views from the top of the mountain, and at many points on the way up.
Lupe did have one complaint, though. She never found a single squirrel in the forest the whole day long.
SPHP had been thinking about taking Lupe on an expedition to the Bear Lodge Mountains in Wyoming for a couple of months. Checking the weather forecast early on 11-15-15, SPHP saw that it was going to be an extraordinarily warm day for mid-November in the Black Hills. It was probably now or never, if Lupe was going to go to the Bear Lodge Mountains in 2015.
Lupe was soon on her way, barking enthusiastically at cows and horses along I-90 who were too far away to even notice her passing by. Shortly after reaching Wyoming, Lupe and SPHP made a quick stop at a very nice information center just N of I-90. Lupe got out of the G6 for a few pictures to commemorate the occasion.
Although it hadn’t been windy at all back home, it was plenty windy here in Wyoming. A pretty stiff breeze was blowing out of the W across the high prairie. Lupe took shelter behind the Wyoming welcome sign.
The Bear Lodge Mountains are a small mountain range in NE Wyoming separated from the main body of the Black Hills of South Dakota by no more than 15-20 miles of grasslands. The Bear Lodge Mountains are part of the Black Hills National Forest. Lupe was going to get to climb a couple of mountains in the range, and visit a couple more as part of Expedition No. 145.
Lupe’s first goal was to climb Sundance Mountain(5,824 ft.) located just S of I-90 and the town of Sundance, WY. It was 10:04 AM, 54°F and windy out of the W, as Lupe set off to climb Sundance Mountain from the SE. She soon reached a 4WD jeep trail that took her all the way up to the top of the mountain. There were plenty of towers and various small buildings up at the summit.
Although there were some pretty nice views of Sundance, WY and Green Mountain(5,283 ft.) from the summit, the view SPHP liked best was hidden by the forest. Somewhat below the summit, a short dead-end side road covered with weeds provided an expansive view to the S toward Inyan Kara Mountain(6,360 ft.).
Lupe faced two dangers on Sundance Mountain. The first one was a patch of cactus growing on a grassy ridge just below where Lupe first reached the jeep trail. The second danger was a cliff on the N side of the mountain. The cliff was situated just below a tree Lupe ran down a very steep bank to, in order to bark at a squirrel. Fortunately, Lupe returned to the G6 unscathed by either cacti or cliffs.
After climbing Sundance Mountain, Lupe’s next stop was Warren Peak(6,650 ft.), the highest mountain in the Bear Lodge range at 6,656 feet. Lupe had been up on Warren Peak(6,650 ft.) once before on the first day of her 2014 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies and the Beartooths.
Getting to the top of Warren Peak 7 miles NNW of Sundance, WY is super easy. A short gravel road off USFS Road No. 838 (Warren Peak Road accessed off Hwy 14 a mile from I-90) winds its way up to a lookout tower at the top. It was 12:16 PM and 50°F with a gale blowing out of the W, when Lupe reached the top of Warren Peak. The views were great, but the wind was really annoying. Lupe stayed on Warren Peaks only long enough for a few quick photos.
Just N of the turn to the US Government property, USFS Road No. 838, which had been paved, turned to gravel. Shortly after turning to gravel, there was a bend in the road where there was a glimpse of an intriguing view to the NW. There was a large pullout along the side of the road at this point, so Lupe and SPHP stopped to get a photo.
After checking out the awesome, but distant view of Devils Tower and Missouri Buttes, Lupe and SPHP continued onward. Lupe’s next peakbagging goal was a peak neither she nor SPHP had ever been even close to before. It wasn’t even in the Peakbagger.com data base. Peakbagger.com’s topo maps showed it simply as Sheep Mountain. SPHP’s old USFS maps showed it as Sheep Nose Mountain(5,829 ft.). It lies about 4 miles ENE of Warren Peak on the E edge of the Bear Lodge Mountains.
Winding USFS roads led Lupe and SPHP to a trailhead that SPHP almost missed. Driving by, SPHP just caught a glimpse of a small sign saying “Sheepnose Trail”. There was a roomy parking area, and a map posted at this remote trailhead. The map showed two Sheepnose Trails. One was trail “M” (2.3 miles long), which led to the mountain. The other was trail “L”, which was longer (5.8 miles), branched off from trail “M”, and did not actually quite reach the mountain.
There was no obvious “trail”, just an old unmarked USFS road that headed E from near the posted map at the trailhead. Lupe and SPHP set out on this road, which appeared to be seldom used. A mile from the trailhead, it turned SE where Lupe found it was still marked as USFS Road No. 831.1C. There was an odd-shaped metal gate blocking the way to motorized vehicles. Markers from here onward showed that this was indeed Sheepnose Trail “M”.
The trailhead and Sheep Nose Mountain are at about the same elevation. Most of the way to Sheep Nose Mountain, the terrain was quite level. Old USFS Road No. 831.1C did dip down almost 250 feet, though, partway to the mountain. At a saddle there was a small clearing, and an intersection with the longer Sheepnose Trail “L”. Sheepnose Trail “L” was another old USFS Road, which branched off from Trail “M” heading W.
Of course, Lupe had to regain all of the elevation lost going down to the trail intersection. Sheep Nose Mountain trail “M” wound around on the N side of the mountain regaining elevation. It turned back to the W side of the mountain, and then headed S. There was a big canyon to the W, but it couldn’t be seen through the forest from the trail.
The rocky little ridge at the summit of Sheep Nose Mountain came into view up a sparsely treed slope to the E. Lupe and SPHP left the road to climb straight up to it. It later turned out that the road doesn’t go all the way to the summit (although it gets close). The road and Sheepnose Trail “M” end at cliffs SE of the summit.
The summit of Sheep Nose Mountain felt lonely and remote, just the way Lupe and SPHP like it. It looked like an area very few people (or American Dingoes) ever see. Warren Peak could be seen to the WSW. Other than forest, not much could be seen to the N, but there were wonderful views to the S and E.
Lupe posed for some pictures. Then Lupe and SPHP took an apple and Taste of the Wild break on top of the mountain. Fortunately, the strong W wind Lupe had experienced up on Warren Peak was greatly diminished by now. Only a gentle breeze remained.
After the break, Lupe and SPHP left the summit of Sheep Nose Mountain going SE down a gradual slope to where old USFS Road No. 831.1C (Sheepnose trail “M”) had headed. Shortly after reaching the road again, Lupe found it ended at scenic cliffs.
After seeing the views from the S cliffs, SPHP was almost certain the following photo taken earlier in the day from just N of I-90 is a view of Sheep Nose Mountain from the S.
Lupe and SPHP both enjoyed the return trip along the same route from Sheep Nose Mountain back to the G6. There were squirrels and deer in the woods. There was silence and solitude. The whole trip to Sheep Nose Mountain and back took only 2 hours and 14 minutes. It was the best part of the day.
It was 3:18 PM and still 52°F when Lupe got back to the G6. There was still a little time left before sunset for more fun in the Bear Lodge Mountains. Lupe and SPHP took a drive through the mountains, exploring down toward Hulett, WY on USFS Road No. 849.
No. 849 followed Blacktail Creek out of the Bear Lodge Mountains. Once the road was out of the Black Hills National Forest, it passed through private ranch lands where the creek valley was wide and grassy. The slanting rays of the sun lit up the rocky edges of the low forested hills on the NE side of the valley. In the shadow of the hills to the SW, down in big fields near Blacktail Creek, deer were grazing.
Lupe could hardly believe her eyes. There wasn’t just a deer or two or three over there by the creek. There were herds of them. There were more deer than Lupe, or even SPHP, had ever seen before in one place. Every field had at least 50 deer grazing in it.
As SPHP drove along, Lupe must have barked at 1,000 deer or more. Some of the deer heard her, and dashed off across the fields into the trees. Others just continued grazing. By the time Lupe reached Hwy 24 S of Hulett, she was desperately thirsty and worn to a frazzle.
One of the deer Lupe and SPHP saw along the way had come to a bad end, though it wasn’t because of Lupe. A hunter was busy trying to pull a dead deer he had just shot up into the back of a pickup truck, as SPHP drove by. No doubt the hunter was happy and within his rights, but seeing the beautiful deer which had lost its life only minutes ago just felt terribly sad.
The last rays of the sun were about to fail by the time Lupe reached her last stop of the day. Devils Tower loomed in stony silence as the gloom of night approached. The big convenience store and KOA campground just E of the entrance to Devils Tower National Monument were both closed and deserted.
SPHP parked the G6 at the store. Lupe and SPHP wandered out onto the lawn for a quick photo of Lupe and Devils Tower. Before SPHP could take it, a loud shot rang out from somewhere not very far to the N. Lupe raced for safety back toward the G6. It took SPHP a few minutes to convince her she wasn’t going to wind up like the poor dead deer.
It had been breezy all day, even down in the valley. The breeze whipped up waves on the Stillwater Reservoir. To get to Flat Top Mountain, Lupe was going to follow Trail No. 1122. The trail went across the Stillwater Reservoir dam, dropped down a bit to cross a valley, and then climbed up a ridge to the S to a pass. From the pass, Lupe would leave the trail and climb the long, reasonably gentle SW slope leading to the summit of Flat Top Mountain.
SPHP stopped to register Lupe’s trip into the Flat Tops Wilderness Area at the registry station along Trail No. 1122. Although there were quite a few pages in the registry book, they all seemed to be completely filled in already.
SPHP flipped back to the first page to start looking for room to place an entry, and received a bit of a shock. For there, in big bold handwriting in the margin on page one, was a name SPHP recognized. Furthermore, the entry bore today’s date, 8-21-15, noted Flat Top Mountain as the destination, described the party as 1 person and 1 dog, and concluded with “Out!”
Beth Lakin had already climbed Flat Top Mountain earlier in the day with her black lab, Sprocket! Lupe and SPHP didn’t really know Beth and Sprocket at all, but SPHP recognized the name.It all started in early May, 2014, when SPHP happened across the website Peakbagger.com. Peakbagger.com is a site for people (and American Dingoes!) interested in mountains, and like recording data about their hikes and climbs. The site has a large database on mountains worldwide including locations, elevations, various maps, photos and trip reports submitted by users, etc. Registration for a Peakbagger.com account is free, so SPHP registered an account for Lupe. Click here to visit Lupe’s homepage on Peakbagger.com.
In general, anyone can view data submitted by registered account holders on Peakbagger.com – including what mountains they’ve climbed, trip reports they’ve submitted, etc. One day in September or October, 2014, SPHP happened to click on Beth Lakin’s account on Peakbagger.com. Her homepage had a link to her blog at 3UpAdventures.com. Beth blogs about her adventures in life with her black lab, Sprocket.
Beth is a prolific and talented blogger, likes climbing mountains with Sprocket (who is close to the same age as Lupe), and has an incredibly wide variety of interests and adventures. She is a member of Columbia Sportswear’s #Omniten program. During the #OmniGames in early 2014, Beth won a place on a Columbia Sportswear sponsored trip later that year to the nation of Jordan in the Middle East (click the Jordan link to see the video on that trip). She is also an ambassador for other company brands.
SPHP first became interested in blogging while reading 3UpAdventures. It’s fair to say that The (Mostly) True Adventures of Lupe at least partially owes its existence to Beth Lakin, Sprocket and 3UpAdventures.com. Check on what Beth & Sprocket are up to any time from The (Mostly) True Adventures of Lupe by using the drop down menu under the category “Favorite Blogs”.
So, by now, SPHP had been a regular reader of Beth’s 3UpAdventures blog for nearly a year. As Lupe climbed Trail No. 1122 up to the pass, SPHP thought how fun it would be for Lupe to meet Beth and Sprocket. It was Friday, so they were probably around for the weekend. SPHP knew one of Beth’s climbing priorities has been to climb as many county high points in Colorado as possible. SPHP guessed Beth and Sprocket might be heading for the Rio Blanco County HighPoint tomorrow, the same Rio Blanco County High Point that Lupe had been to just yesterday.
About the time Lupe was reaching the pass on Trail No. 1122, SPHP suddenly realized the weather was deteriorating. While SPHP had been thinking about Beth & Sprocket, a squall line had approached out of the W. For a few minutes, a combination of rain and little tiny snowballs fell out of the sky. Then the squall line headed E. The weather cleared, but another bigger squall line was visible off to the W. It was still far off, but headed this way.
Lupe needed to make fast tracks up Flat Top Mountain! She left Trail No. 1122 and started heading NE up the long ridge to the summit. Along the way, she arrived at an intermediate high point called Flat Top Mountain West(11,685 ft.), a minor peakbagging goal. There was still a big climb left up to the main summit.
As Lupe climbed the rest of the way up Flat Top Mountain, SPHP kept an eye on the still approaching 2nd squall line to the W. It spread out and became a long inescapable wall of rain heading straight for Lupe. However, there was no sign of any lightning or thunder. Lupe could keep going, but she and SPHP might just have to grin and bear it for a while at the top. It looked like the squall would hit right about the time Lupe got there.
The luck of the Dingo held. As the squall line, which had been strengthening, drew closer, it changed and started to dissipate. Lupe reached the top of Flat Top Mountain. The squall hit, but it was only a shadow of its former self just 10 minutes earlier. The wind blew pretty hard, but the rain was lighter than expected. For 10 minutes, the top of Flat Top Mountain wasn’t a great place to be. And then it was again.
Climbing 12,354 foot Flat Top Mountain set a new personal elevation record for Lupe! Flat Top Mountain broke the record of 12,180 feet she had achieved by climbing Mount Zirkel(12,180 ft.) just 4 days earlier on 8-17-15. Although Flat Top Mountain was higher, Mount Zirkel had been more of a challenge.
It was time to head back down the mountain. On the way, Lupe took time for more photos near Flat Top Mountain West and a few other points.
Lupe reached the G6 down at the Stillwater TH at 7:36 PM (52°F). Her adventure to Flat Top Mountain was over, but a new adventure was about to begin. Lupe and SPHP were going to look for Beth & Sprocket! SPHP knew Beth would likely be driving an easily recognizable vehicle – her red 1977 Jeep Cherokee FSJ. There couldn’t be too many of those hiding out around the campgrounds and trailheads between Stillwater Reservoir and Yampa!
So the search began, but it didn’t go well. There was no vehicle around that even slightly resembled a 1977 Jeep Cherokee FSJ. The FSJ was the only clue Lupe and SPHP had to go by. There was no telling where Beth & Sprocket might be, or if they were really still even in the area – it made sense, but was only a hunch.
The light faded fast. Night was coming on. Soon the stars would be out. Lupe and SPHP returned to where the G6 had been parked the prior two nights. And then, there it was. Parked in the exact same spot, was a red 1977 Jeep Cherokee FSJ!
SPHP wound up startling poor Beth out of a deep sleep. After introducing Lupe, SPHP piteously pled to be allowed to take a picture of Lupe with Beth & Sprocket. Despite any annoyance Beth may have felt, she very graciously consented. SPHP seldom takes pictures of Lupe in the mountains at night, and at first could not remember how to use the flash. In a few minutes, the problem was solved and the prized picture was taken.
At first, Sprocket seemed puzzled by the whole turn of events. Why are we getting up? Why is this Dingo here? What is going on? Beth allowed SPHP to give Sprocket a few Cheesy Barkin’ Beggin’ Strips. Although it was still all rather confusing, Sprocket clearly hoped events would continue along this trend. Beth permitted SPHP to stretch Sprocket’s quota by one more Cheesy Barkin’ Beggin’ Strip.
Beth and SPHP had an amiable chat. Beth and Sprocket were indeed planning to head up to the Rio Blanco County High Point in the morning. On August 8th, they had been to Mount Zirkel. Had Lupe been there? SPHP confirmed that Lupe had climbed Mount Zirkel, too, on the 17th. And so it went for a little while. Soon it was time to let Beth & Sprocket get back to sleep.
It had been a great day! Lupe climbed Flat Top Mountain setting a new personal elevation record. She saw beautiful places she had never been to before along the way. She met Beth Lakin, whose 3UpAdventures had at least in part inspired The (Mostly) True Adventures of Lupe. She sniffed with the tall, dark and handsome Sprocket. She had her souvenir photo with Beth & Sprocket, the Celebrity Adventuring & Blogging Duo of 3UpAdventures.com – both as awesome and friendly in real life as they are on the internet.
By 2:45 AM on 11-3-15, Lupe and SPHP were up and about. Erik and Ana were flying to California. They needed a ride to the Denver International Airport, 400 miles away. That meant Lupe was about to set out on a week long Dingo Vacation! It was getting close to 2 years since Lupe had gone to see her cousin, Dusty in Arvada, Colorado. Now she and SPHP were going to get to spend a week with Joe, Andrea and Dusty, while staying in the cowboy room at Dusty’s house.
The drive across the western Nebraska panhandle was uneventful. Lupe and SPHP dropped Erik and Ana off at the Denver International Airport at 10:40 AM. Then it was off to Dusty’s house in Arvada! Lupe was soon bored with the drive through Denver. (Not a single cow or squirrel in sight!) Less than a mile from Dusty’s house, though, she suddenly picked her head up and started sniffing the air. Could she have known? Did she still remember, after all this time? She acted like she did.
A couple of minutes later, a very surprised and happy Dusty greeted her cousin Lupe and SPHP at the door. Andrea was back from the chiropractor 15 minutes later. In the meantime, Lupe and SPHP had already established themselves in the cowboy room. Andrea had to work, but Lupe, Dusty and SPHP got the fun started by taking a walk around the 100 acre field.
In the evening, Joe was back from work. Joe and SPHP went to the nearby Apex Center for a little workout and swimming. Lupe hung out at home with Dusty, Misty (the cat) and Andrea. Dusty snuck into the cowboy room, and ate an entire banana bread that SPHP had brought with. It was a bit much. Dusty was sick all night.
The next morning, Lupe and SPHP set out for Elk Meadow Park near Evergreen, Colorado. Way back on 12-23-13, Lupe, Dusty, Joe and SPHP had gone to Elk Meadow Park intending to climb Bergen Peak. Unfortunately, a mile from the summit Joe hadn’t felt well, so that attempt was called off. Now Lupe and SPHP were going to try again.
Bergen Peak(9,708 ft.) was already in sight from the trailhead. Lupe and SPHP started off heading WNW on the Sleepy S trail. Soon SPHP mistook an old road across the big field to the N as part of the trail system. Lupe and SPHP followed the old road until it started turning E. SPHP hoped to find the Too Long trail, but unknowingly wound up on the Meadow View trail instead. Eventually, SPHP realized the error as the Meadow View trail turned back to the S.
The Meadow View trail went mostly through the forest. SPHP’s mistake in missing the Too Long trail made the route longer than it need have been. It really didn’t matter. Lupe was having a good time exploring the trail. Lupe and SPHP followed the Meadow View trail past an intersection with the Elk Ridge trail. Shortly after that, Lupe reached the junction with the Bergen Peak trail.
The Bergen Peak trail was nearly all in the forest, too. Lupe did come to one place with some open views to the SW. Even though it was a Wednesday in November, there had been a surprising number of hikers, runners, and mountain bikers on the Sleepy S and Meadow View trails. Lupe encountered far fewer people and dogs up on the Bergen Peak trail, as it steadily switch-backed its way up the mountain.
Lupe reached an intersection with the Too Long trail well up on the mountain. She stayed on the Bergen Peak trail to the summit. This last mile of the Bergen Peak trail was easier, since it gained less elevation. It was also more interesting, too, as it wound around the N side of Bergen Peak. The trail leveled out as it curled around the mountain to the W and then S.
Lupe hadn’t encountered any snow before reaching the junction with the Too Long trail, but there was a little up on the shady N side of the mountain. The snow made her very happy. After a fun frolic on the snow, Lupe proceeded on the trail around Bergen Peak to the S of the summit. Here there were some big rock outcroppings. The rocks offered views to the E, S and W.
Lupe wasn’t quite at the summit yet. She turned N and followed the last bit of the trail to the top. On the way was a high point where there was a little tower and a rusty old shed. The actual summit was just a couple hundred feet farther N. Lupe reached the Bergen Peak sign at the top of the mountain – successfully achieving her first peakbagging goal of her November, 2015 Dingo Vacation to Colorado!
With her peakbagging goal successfully completed, Lupe returned to the rock outcroppings S of the summit to check out the views.
After taking in the views, Lupe and SPHP explored just a little bit off the trail before leaving the summit area of Bergen Peak.Snow showers were due to move in from the W. The clouds started spitting a little snow. It amounted to almost nothing at all, really, but it was time to head back down anyway.
On the way back, Lupe did get to take the Too Long trail from where the Bergen Trail reached it. Going down the mountain, it didn’t seem too long at all. In fact, since there was still plenty of time, Lupe and SPHP took a long route back to the G6 by retracing the Meadow View trail back to the Elk Ridge trail, and following it back to Sleepy S again.
Lupe’s successful ascent of Bergen Peak was a great start to her November, 2015 Dingo Vacation to Arvada, Colorado, but it was only a start. Lupe was just getting warmed up. More mountains of fun and adventures were still to come!
After a long day and late night return from Big Marvine Peak (11,879 ft.) in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area on 8-18-15, a day of rest was in order for both Lupe and SPHP. Lupe spent the morning enjoying a ride in the G6 from the Trappers Lake area back E over Ripple Creek and Dunckley passes along the Flat Tops Scenic Byway. Lupe got to see a hawk flying over the road with a gopher in its talons along the way.
Near Phippsburg, Lupe and SPHP turned S to Yampa. Lupe spent a little time in Yampa, and then headed SW along Hwy 7. Seven miles from Yampa, the pavement ended where Hwy 7 became USFS Road No. 900. Lupe explored the area by G6, coming first to the Yamcolo Reservoir. Next was the Bear Lake Reservoir, and finally, at the end of the road, the Stillwater Reservoir.
Lupe spent the rest of the 19th resting and recuperating from Big Marvine. The 20th was going to be another big day! Lupe was ready even before the 20th arrived. She kept wanting to go exploring in the night. Finally dawn came. Day 12 of Lupe’s great Summer of 2015 Dingo Vacation was here!
At 7:39 AM (36°F, clear and calm), Lupe and SPHP left the Stillwater TH on Trail No. 1119. Well above Stillwater Reservoir’s NW shore, the trail headed SW paralleling the reservoir for about half its length. There it reached a junction with Trail No. 1120, which continued on to the SW. Trail No. 1119 turned NW and started to climb. Lupe’s first objective for the day was the Devil’s Causeway. She left Stillwater Reservoir behind, staying on Trail No. 1119 as it climbed up towards the E end of the Devil’s Causeway.
Once Trail No. 1119 reaches the saddle or pass just to the NE of the Devil’s Causeway, it continues NW on over the ridge. A separate trail heads SW up to the Devil’s Causeway itself.
The Devil’s Causeway is simply a high, relatively flat, narrow ridge connecting two large areas of high ground. However, the Devil’s Causeway has one special characteristic: the connecting ridge becomes very, as in terrifyingly, narrow. On both sides there are sheer drops of hundreds of feet. One section of the Devil’s Causeway narrows to as little as 4 feet wide. Along this short section, much of the soil has eroded away to expose a line of uneven boulders and large rocks as the only way across.
What could be more fun? Lupe and SPHP headed up to take a look.
Well, some things are just Darwinian by their very natures. Carolina Dogs are survivors. They aren’t going to fail this simple test! Lupe had a good look at the Devil’s Causeway. It was very worth seeing, but not really worth crossing. Lupe turned around. Lupe and SPHP took a break back at the high point of the trail with a view to the N towards her next peakbagging goal, Peak 12,008.
After the break enjoying the scenery from the high point at the NE end of the Devil’s Causeway, it was time for Lupe to head N to the high point of the huge broad ridge which is Peak 12,008. The high point was 4 miles away near the N end of the ridge. Lupe headed back down to the pass, crossed Trail No. 1119 and headed N.
After going about 0.5 mile N, Lupe came over a rise and saw a large flock of sheep ahead. A big white Livestock Protection Dog, just like the two Lupe had seen near Mount Zirkel a few days before, was on duty. The Livestock Protection Dog started barking, but was outnumbered and approached Lupe and SPHP warily.
Lupe liked the looks of the whole setup. She was suddenly seized with the desire to go into the sheepherding business herself. She was most anxious to get started right away. Only the leash prevented her from doing so.
Lupe was reluctant to leave her newly adopted flock. She played Moses, parting the sheep into W and E flocks as she passed through heading N. A great deal of baaing went on as sheep fled in one direction or the other. The white Livestock Protection Dog followed Lupe barking from a safe distance to make certain Lupe wasn’t really going into the sheepherding business, or intending to put on sheep’s clothing and sneak back.
Once the sheep had been left behind, Lupe came to Dead Mexican Gulch. To stay on the high ground, Lupe had to head over to the E side of Peak 12,008, where something most intriguing was in the ground. For a few minutes, Lupe tried her luck in the earth excavating business.
Disappointingly, Lupe’s mining operations yielded no tangible results, although her enthusiasm was not dimmed. From the E side of Peak 12,008 on a high point just N of Dead Mexican Gulch, there were some big views.
From Dead Mexican Gulch, it was still nearly 2 miles N to the highest point on Peak 12,008. Lupe and SPHP proceeded N looking for it. The terrain gained elevation ever more slowly. Along the way, Lupe came to a big cairn. It didn’t seem to be the summit, though, so Lupe continued on and eventually reached the N end of Peak 12,008. From there she saw another peakbagging goal, the high point of Rio Blanco County.
The views from the N end of Peak 12,008 were great, but where was the summit? Lupe and SPHP headed SE trying to find the highest ground. The Browns Peak (11,722 ft.) effect came into play again. Although Lupe seemed to be climbing continuously, everywhere Lupe went looked lower than where she had just been, and lower than practically everywhere else too.
Eventually Lupe found something. A little post was leaning sadly from a small cairn of rocks. About a foot away was a coffee can. SPHP opened it up. Inside was a small glass jar with a very rusty top. Nevertheless, it opened right up when SPHP twisted the lid. Inside were 3 pieces of paper, one of them a piece of a map. Buried treasure?! Lupe certainly hoped so! She was ready to put her earth excavating skills right back to work.
Alas, the map and both of the other two pieces of paper proved to be a simple registry. There were about 20 entries between all 3 pieces of paper. The latest entry was from 2014. The oldest was from 2001. The coffee can also contained a pencil. Amazingly, the tip of the pencil was still pretty sharp. SPHP added Lupe to the registry on the piece of paper with the most recent entries. SPHP had a little notebook that would have served as a greatly improved new registry, but sadly it was back at the G6.
SPHP put all of the pieces of paper back in the little glass jar, and put the lid back on. The jar and the pencil went back in the French Market coffee can. SPHP straightened up the little post, and propped it up better with more rocks. After a few photos of Lupe at the little cairn, which SPHP now regarded as the summit of Peak 12,008, SPHP decided to put some more rocks around the coffee can to better hold it in place.
After all this, Lupe and SPHP were satisfied that Lupe had reached the summit of Peak 12,008. Her first peakbagging goal of the day was met. Her next peakbagging goal was the Rio Blanco County High Point(12,027 ft.), which lay on the other (N) side of Mandall Pass.
It proved easy to go NE down into Mandall Pass. The only bad part of it was the wind. Although the day had started out with no wind at all back down at the Stillwater Reservoir, once Lupe had gotten up on Peak 12,008, there had been a constant W breeze. Down in Mandall Pass, the wind was really blowing. Lupe headed N from Mandall Pass up to the Rio Blanco County High Point. She found a cairn, big cliffs, and big views there.
From the cairn on the Rio Blanco County High Point, two other high points could be seen a bit farther NW along the ridge. They looked to be about as high as where the cairn was. It appeared they might even be a bit higher. Lupe went over to both of them to investigate and make certain she really had successfully completed her 2nd peakbagging goal of the day.
Looking back at the summit cairn from both of the two high points to the NW, it was very clear that the cairn was really at the true Rio Blanco County High Point. Lupe had successfully completed her 2nd peakbagging goal!
The sun was high in the sky. There was plenty of time for Lupe to do more. Orno Peak(12,133 ft.) was the 3rd peakbagging goal SPHP had in mind for Lupe, but the first sight of Orno Peak from Peak 12,008 had made SPHP wonder if she could actually climb it. The S slope looked very steep. More importantly, it wasn’t clear if the E end of the long ridge leading to Orno Peak from the W could be safely traversed.
The view of the N slope of Orno Peak from the Rio Blanco County High Point was more encouraging. The N slope was steep, but definitely friendlier than the S slope. Maybe there was a way.
Only one way to find out! Lupe headed ESE along the big ridge from the Rio Blanco County High Point. Orno Peak was more than two miles away. SPHP was certain Lupe could safely at least get close to it.
Not far from Orno Peak, the broad ridge leading to it ended. Only a much narrower ridge continued on to the peak. SPHP could see Orno Peak had two blocks of rock near the summit. The first block was smaller, closer and a little lower. The second block a bit farther to the E was the true summit.
It looked like Lupe would have no problem getting up on the first block. A trail headed toward it. However, cliffs could be seen around the second block, and a small cliff might be on the other side of the first block. From a distance, without binoculars, it was hard to tell if Lupe could get safely past the first block and climb the second one. Was there a safe way up to the second block and true summit?
Lupe followed the path along the narrow ridge up to the first block of rocks. SPHP had intended for her to climb it, but it looked really easy to just go around the N side of it instead.
When Lupe got around the first block of rocks, the second one was in view just ahead. SPHP was happy with what was there. It was going to be easy for Lupe to climb up on the second block to reach the summit of Orno Peak! In just a few minutes she was there. A cairn near the E end of the second block marked the summit.
Of course, there were fabulous views all around from Orno Peak. The annoying ever-present smoke haze marred the views to some extent, but they were still very impressive.
Even though the sun was still well up in the sky and there were hours of daylight left, Lupe was a very long way from the G6 at Orno Peak. It was soon time to start back. Lupe could have simply retraced her route, but instead she was going to head down into Mandall Creek basin from Mandall Pass. This would add some miles to the already long return trip, but also let Lupe explore new territory.
The upper portion of Mandall Creek basin was very beautiful. There were small lakes and streams. Lupe had fun all day racing around up on the barren high ridges at 12,000 feet, but she had even more fun down in Mandall Creek basin. Why, there were trees down here! Trees meant squirrels! The basin echoed with the happy barking of a Carolina Dog. Except for the squirrels themselves, no one was around to care.
The trail down to USFS Road No. 900 at the Mandall Creek TH was a bit hard to follow. It hardly existed at all in the upper basin, but it didn’t really matter there, because there was still lots of open ground. Farther down where it was all forested, a better trail would have helped. Lupe came to a place on a steep hillside where the trail had collapsed. Maybe SPHP hadn’t found the official trail, or the best route, but Lupe eventually did arrive at the Mandall Creek TH.
By now the sun was down. Twilight was setting in. It was still 3 miles uphill along USFS Road to the Stillwater TH where the G6 was parked. SPHP figured no one would be headed up to the TH at the end of the road at this time of day, so it wouldn’t be possible to hitch a ride. No one did come along. Lupe and SPHP marched in silence up the road as the light faded.
It had been an exhilarating, but very long day. The fun was over. The road hike was dull. Lupe wanted to stop, curl up, and go to sleep. SPHP permitted several short rest stops along the road. When it grew so dark the flashlight came out, Lupe was more willing to continue onward. Nearly 14 hours after she had left, Lupe returned to the G6 at 9:31 PM (39°F). Maybe her next adventure tomorrow could be a bit less fanatical? SPHP agreed.
Lupe left the Mount Zirkel(12,180 ft.) area early on 8-18-15, Day 10 of Lupe’s great Summer of 2015 Dingo Vacation. SPHP drove down to Steamboat Springs, and a few miles S of town turned onto Hwy 131. Hwy 131 went SW through pleasant open country with mountains in the distance in almost all directions. Lupe liked it, because there were plenty of cows and horses to bark at along the way. She was having fun.
At Phippsburg, SPHP followed a road heading SW. It was marked with a sign that just said “Forest Service Access”. In two or three miles, this paved road led to an intersection with the Flat Tops Scenic Byway, which heads 82 miles W to Meeker. Lupe was only going to go about half that far before turning SE to get to Trappers Lake in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area.
The eastern half of the Flat Tops Scenic Byway that Lupe got to see was all gravel road. She went over Dunckley Pass (9,764′), past Vaughan Lake, and over Ripple Creek Pass (10,341′).
A few miles beyond Ripple Creek Pass was the turn to head SE to Trappers Lake. The road went up a large valley, through an area where the trees were nearly all dead. SPHP drove all the way to the very end of the road. There was a big gravel parking lot, and trailhead for a trail around Trappers Lake. Nearby was a picnic ground, if it can be called that. The entire picnic ground seemed to consist of a single picnic table overlooking Trappers Lake. Lupe and SPHP immediately laid claim to the picnic table, and had lunch with a beautiful view.
After lunch, the plan was for Lupe to head up to either Trappers Peak(12,002 ft.)or Big Marvine Peak(11,879 ft.). SPHP was leaning toward Big Marvine Peak, since the topo maps showed a trail to a lookout at the top. Trappers Peak was closer, but there wasn’t any trail to it. Lupe set out from the nearby Wall Lake Trailhead at 12:36 PM. It was 60°F, clear (except for a smoky haze from distant forest fires), and breezy.
As Lupe started on the Wall Lake Trail, there was a strange high-pitched wailing or whistling sound. It soon turned out that it was the sound made by thousands of dead trees in the wind. SPHP immediately dubbed this portion of the Wall Lake Trail the Ghost Trees Trail instead. Lupe, being a fearless, strong Carolina Dog, showed not the slightest concern about the possibility of meeting any tree ghosts, even if there were thousands of them.
The Ghost Trees Trail went E of Anderson Lake heading S. Past Anderson Lake, the trail lost elevation until it reached an intersection near the lower end of a large canyon to the SSW. At the intersection, Lupe stayed on the Wall Lake Trail. Soon the trail led Lupe up into a living forest, marking the end of what SPHP could reasonably call the Ghost Trees Trail.
The Wall Lake Trail went through the forest heading SSW up the canyon. Eventually it started climbing the canyon’s W wall. Once Lupe had gained enough elevation to get above most of the forest, there were some pretty nice views, marred only by the persistent smoky haze. The trail reached the high ground above the cliffs at the S end of the canyon.
Lupe had gained about 1,400 feet of elevation, and was now at 11,000 feet. She came to a junction in the trail almost immediately. Wall Lake Trail went to the left (E) and Oyster Lake Trail went to the right (W). SPHP’s maps showed that she needed to go to the right on the Oyster Lake Trail to get to Big Marvine Peak.
The high ground was gently rolling with lots of open heather. There were scattered forests and ponds, too. A big mountain was in view to the S. This was Trappers Peak. SPHP had gotten so fixated on Lupe going to Big Marvine Peak, that at first SPHP thought Trappers Peak was Big Marvine Peak. After about 30 minutes, when the Oyster Lake Trail seemed to be heading continually away from the mountain, SPHP realized the mistake.
So where was Big Marvine? SPHP knew it was some distance away to the W, but it wasn’t even in sight yet. Lupe wasn’t worried, she loved running around on the heather and exploring the forests. She drank from the ponds. Lupe was pretty much in Dingo Paradise.
The Oyster Lake Trail wound around to the SW, passing near a series of small ponds. From one of the ponds, SPHP spotted Big Marvine Peak for the first time.
Yikes! Big Marvine Peak looked like it was a very long, long way off. SPHP suddenly wished Lupe had gotten a much earlier start. At least following the trail along the gently rolling high country went pretty fast. Lupe and SPHP hurried onward.
The last of the ponds Lupe passed was also the largest. It was the southernmost of the Twin Lakes. Although Lupe had clearly made progress towards Big Marvine, it still looked like quite a trek remained.
After passing the Twin Lakes, SPHP started looking for a junction with the East Marvine Trail. The East Marvine Trail would head NW to pass a bit to the E of Big Marvine, while the Oyster Lake Trail would continue SW on to parts unknown. (Oyster Lake might be a good guess.)
Suddenly, SPHP heard someone shouting. A woman was hailing SPHP from S of the trail. Lupe ran over to investigate. It turned out there were two women there, along with a 12 year old brown dog named Aquila. Aquila was easy to spot wearing a red jacket. There wasn’t any trouble. The women were just being friendly. They were on the 3rd day of a 5 day backpacking trip, and hadn’t seen another soul all day.
Lupe and Aquila sniffed. SPHP chatted with the women. Their tents were pitched partway up a forested ridge to the S of the trail. The tents could be seen just above a scar on the ridge. The women seemed surprised that Lupe still intended not only to go climb Big Marvine, but then return all the way to the Wall Lake Trailhead near Trappers Lake. It was already late afternoon.
As nice as Aquila and the two women were, Big Marvine was calling. Lupe had to go. Everyone said goodbye. Then Lupe and SPHP were off. Before long, Lupe reached the junction. She turned NW on the East Marvine Trail. The East Marvine Trail featured a long line of big rock cairns with posts sticking out of them, a good thing since the trail itself soon faded away. For quite a distance, the ground was all open and treeless, so it was easy to follow the cairns. And Big Marvine was always in view. Lupe was getting steadily closer.
The maps showed a trail heading WSW to Big Marvine Peak from the East Marvine Trail. Lupe didn’t stay on the East Marvine Trail long enough to reach the junction. Instead she left the East Marvine Trail heading directly for the NE end of Big Marvine. There were small forested ridges to cross along the way and many bushy areas. Lupe liked exploring the maze of pathways through the bushes. To her, the bushes were practically a forest themselves.
As Lupe got close to Big Marvine Peak, SPHP ran into segments of the trail heading WSW toward it from the East Marvine Trail. There were some more big rock cairns with posts sticking out of them, but not many. SPHP followed the intermittent trail where it was present, and just headed for Big Marvine when it wasn’t clear where the trail went. Lupe ran this way and that, just excited to be roaming such wonderful territory.
When Lupe arrived at the NE end of Big Marvine Peak, SPHP saw no sign of a trail. The topo map showed a trail here switchbacking its way up the mountain to gain the ridgeline, and then continuing all the way to a lookout at the far W end of the peak. SPHP saw nothing, but a steep grassy slope. It definitely looked like this was the easiest, and perhaps only way up. Lupe and SPHP started going straight up the slope.
Things always seem steeper when you are really there. SPHP had to keep stopping to rest, but hadn’t gotten too far up the slope when suddenly SPHP ran into a switchback. There was a trail after all! It was faint, narrow, and evidently seldom used, but it was there. The trail was easy to follow, and did make things a lot easier for SPHP.
Lupe didn’t need to use any trail. She ran all over the place exploring this and that while SPHP trudged up along the switchbacks. Lupe frequently came over to check on SPHP’s progress and offer encouragement. “See, it’s easy, just do this” and she would bolt off in some new direction to play wild Dingo.
The switchbacks ended when the trail reached the ridgeline at the extreme E end of the mountain. At first the view to the W was blocked by the rising ridge, stunted trees and rock outcroppings. It didn’t take long, though, to head W past all that far enough to see what lay ahead – the broad ridge sloping up to the western summit of Big Marvine Peak.
This was the easy part, a more gentle slope up to the other end of the mountain where the summit was. Lupe only needed to gain another 200 to 300 feet of elevation, and she would be there! When Lupe started getting close to the top, it started getting breezy. Up on top, it was just plain windy. Lupe didn’t care for it. Her stay on Big Marvine Peak was going to be short.
The annoying smoke haze was still around, but other than that, there were some fabulous views from Big Marvine Peak. The surrounding territory featured big canyons, distant peaks of similar height, and lots of open high ground with scattered trees and ponds at about 11,000 feet elevation. On top of Big Marvine, Lupe and SPHP were nearly 900 feet higher at 11,879 feet.
After SPHP had spent 20 minutes enjoying the views from Big Marvine Peak, Lupe wanted to get out of the wind. It was time to go. There was maybe a little over an hour left before sunset. Lupe headed down off the windy peak. She was soon out of the worst of the wind and having a good time again.
Lupe had to retrace her entire route to Big Marvine to get back to the G6. The sun was down by the time Lupe reached the Oyster Lake Trail. The two women backpackers with their dog, Aquila, were sitting up on the ridge near their tents when Lupe and SPHP came by. They shouted down to SPHP, asking if Lupe had enough food, water, and a source of light. SPHP assured them everything was fine.
Lupe went on. Soon it was dark. The flashlight came out. Lupe wanted to stop. She was hungry. In addition to Taste of the Wild, SPHP shared a Cliff bar with her. Stars now shone above. The meal re-energized Lupe, and she pressed on.
Time passes slowly and trails seem longer in the black of night. Finally Lupe reached the Wall Lake Trail. She led the entire way down the big canyon, still sniffing and exploring everything, but now staying on or very close to the trail. It was 11:04 PM and 52°F out when Lupe reached the G6.
Maybe it would have been better to have just gone to Trappers Peak, it certainly would have been quicker and easier, but SPHP was glad Lupe had visited Big Marvine.
What better way for a lucky American Dingo to celebrate Halloween than a day spent exploring the Black Hills? Lupe was certainly in favor of it. When she saw SPHP getting the backpack ready to go, she quickly grew impatient for SPHP to head out the door. Finally, the great moment arrived.
For Lupe’s Black Hills Expedition No. 144, SPHP selected Five Points(6,221 ft.) as her peakbagging goal. Rather than being a single mountain, Five Points is actually a series of small mountains close together along a line running N/S. Five Points is located just a few miles NNE of Hill City in the central Black Hills. Its highest peak is the highest mountain N of Hill City for quite a few miles.
At 10:30 AM, SPHP parked the G6 just off Horse Creek Road (USFS Road No. 243). It was 48°F already, and was going to be quite a warm day for this late in the season. A breeze could be heard up in the trees, but the air was pretty calm down on the ground. Lupe and SPHP headed S on an access road that leads to USFS Road No. 669. Lupe crossed Horse Creek twice along the access road. Horse Creek isn’t a very big stream, but it had more water in it than other times Lupe has been in the area.
The access road is less than 0.5 mile long, so Lupe was soon at the junction with USFS Road No. 669. There is a small stock pond near the junction. In keeping with the theme of slimy ponds like Hidden Slew from Lupe’s Expedition No. 143, here is a photo of the pond:
Lupe and SPHP headed W on No. 669. The road went up a small, mostly forested valley at an easy pace. There were quite a few aspen trees at the bottom of the valley, but the slopes were mostly pine-covered. There would be no traffic on the road; it was blocked in quite a few places with deadfall timber. Most of the road, however, was open for easy hiking. Lupe explored here and there, just glad to be out running around. The deadfall didn’t bother her.
Up ahead, SPHP saw something odd dangling from an aspen tree. From a distance, it looked like the size of a human head. That would fit in with a Halloween theme, but upon reaching it, SPHP saw that it was an old wasp’s nest. The bottom of it had deteriorated so there was quite a large hole in it. SPHP thought maybe the nest was abandoned, but upon closer inspection, there were still a couple of wasps flying around and entering it.
Even though the hive wasn’t very active, SPHP figured nothing good could come from hanging around it. There was no reason to stay there anyway. Lupe and SPHP went on up the road. Lupe passed several more little ponds. Toward the upper end of the little valley, the tiny stream that fed the ponds was running right down USFS Road No. 669 beneath an archway of aspen trees.
The road had turned SW by the time Lupe reached the area where the tiny creek was flowing on it. Eventually the road turned S and left the bottom of the valley. Lupe stayed on a path that continued up the valley. Before long, the path turned W and climbed more steeply up to a saddle along a ridge running N/S. There was lots of deadfall timber on the climb to the saddle, so it was slow going for SPHP.
USFS Road No. 249 was not very far W of the saddle, but Lupe did not go to the road. Lupe and SPHP turned S and followed the ridge. From the top of a small high point along the way, a considerably higher hill with a rocky top could be seen ahead. Lupe and SPHP climbed it. There was quite a lot of rock as Lupe drew near the summit.
From the top there were really nice views all around from the SW to the W, N, and NE. This high up, the wind was really roaring in the trees. The big rocks at the top were an effective barrier against the wind, which was coming out of the SW. Lupe liked it down out of the wind, but SPHP persuaded her to go up on top for a few photos.
Lupe had been here before, but quite a long time ago. Her first trip here had been on her first Black Hills expedition of 2013 on New Year’s Day. (Expedition No. 42, 1-1-13) Back then, SPHP had thought Lupe was up on the northernmost summit of Five Points. Accordingly, SPHP had named this mountain North Point.
Lupe had returned to the same area just 5 days later on Expedition No. 43 on 1-6-13. She had actually climbed up to the highest point of Five Points on Expedition No. 43. SPHP realized then that this mountain was not part of the Five Points grouping. This mountain was too far to the NNW. So SPHP changed the name to False North Point. The topo maps on Peakbagger.com show its elevation as 6,130 feet.
The view to the SSE from False North Point toward Five Points was partially blocked by the forest. SPHP snapped a quick photo in that direction, and then Lupe was ready to get out of the wind.
Lupe and SPHP headed back to the NE end of the summit area on False North Point, which looked like the easiest way down to the saddle over to the ridge N of Five Points. Before Lupe lost much elevation, there was a place where an opening in the forest permitted a look to the E toward Boulder Hill(5,331 ft.).
Lupe and SPHP headed down from False North Point. SPHP led Lupe down a bit farther N than would have been ideal. She had to go S climbing up through an aspen forest just to reach the saddle over to the ridge N of Five Points. Instead of climbing up onto the ridge, Lupe and SPHP stayed W of it, gaining elevation slowly. SPHP was hoping to arrive at the saddle along the ridge just N of the real North Point. That’s exactly where Lupe did arrive, too.
The climb up the N face of the real North Point was the most challenging of the day. Near the top was a big boulder field. It was fairly steep. Lupe and SPHP went straight on up it, but repeatedly came to false summits. Each time it looked like Lupe was about to come out up on top, another set of rocks going 20 feet higher appeared.
The roaring wind made the climb seem more daunting than it really was. SPHP climbed slowly and carefully. Lupe wished SPHP would move in a more lively fashion. She had no trouble maneuvering among the rocks.
Finally, Lupe and SPHP were within 10 or 12 feet of the top of the boulder field. The last part of the climb was a rock wall. It looked like there were plenty of hand holds, but SPHP decided against it. Lupe had to go back down about 20 feet to get to a shelf that led around to the W side of the mountain. Over there she came to an easier way up.
The actual summit of North Point was still a bit S of where Lupe and SPHP came up. Before going over there, though, Lupe and SPHP went N to the top of the rock wall which SPHP had decided against climbing. There was an excellent clear view back to the NNW of False North Point where Lupe had just come from.
After taking a look back at False North Point, Lupe and SPHP went to see what the true summit of Five Points to the S looked like from North Point. Lupe also visited the summit of North Point.
The summit of North Point was along the W side of the mountain where the highest ridge of rock provided a commanding 180° view to the W. North Point also featured a slightly lower and wider ridge that extended out to the E. Lupe and SPHP explored this lower ridge to its eastern end.
The E ridge was forested, but there were some openings in the forest. Several rock outcroppings provided great views. Most views were to the N, but it was possible to see to the SE in a couple places, too. There was even a clearer view to the S toward the true summit of Five Points than Lupe had found near the summit of North Point.
After exploring North Point, it was time for Lupe to head over to the True Summit of Five Points. Although the way initially looked steep, it really wasn’t hard going down North Point into the saddle to the S.
SPHP expected another rocky climb up to the True Summit. Lupe stayed mostly to the E of a spine of rock heading up the N slope. The way up was pretty steep, but Lupe didn’t have to climb any big boulder fields to get up on top. It was an easier climb than going up North Point had been.
Up on top of the True Summit of Five Points was a rocky ridge oriented N/S, just like on the other peaks Lupe had already climbed. The rocks toward the S end were much larger than at the N end. Lupe had to pass just below the big rocks on the E side of the mountain to work her way over to the S end of the ridge. Near the S end, she found a steep grassy ramp that led right on up to the very top of the mountain.
Separated by less than 100 feet, there were two high clusters of rock. The grassy ramp brought Lupe up between them. Lupe went first to the S rock cluster. It had a great view toward Harney Peak(7,242 ft.). The N rock cluster was the very top of the mountain, and the True Summit of Five Points. It was only a few feet higher than the S cluster. There were views to the W, N, and E from here.
Since the most impressive view was to the S toward Harney Peak(7,242 ft.), Lupe and SPHP returned to the S rock cluster to take a break. SPHP had carrots and apple crisp. Lupe had Taste of the Wild and plenty of water. She got to lick the remaining apple crisp sauce out of the plastic container, too. Carolina Dogs like apple crisp!
It was still windy out while Lupe and SPHP were taking the break on the True Summit of Five Points. However, the wind had shifted a bit and was now coming out of the W. It finally seemed to be weakening a bit. After eating, Lupe curled up for a few minutes in a spot where the rocks protected her from the wind.
Lupe had now climbed North Point and the True Summit of Five Points to achieve her peakbagging goal for the day. There were still 3 of the Five Points unclimbed. False North Point didn’t count, since it wasn’t really part of the official group. The sun was starting to get low. SPHP debated whether or not Lupe should climb any more of the Five Points mountains.
The 2nd highest mountain of the Five Points group was separated from the True Summit by a saddle extending off to the SE. SPHP was calling this mountain South Point, even though there were two lower points of the Five Point group farther S. South Point really wasn’t very far away.
The saddle to South Point didn’t lose much elevation, but there was a lot of deadfall timber and some pretty big rock outcroppings visible along the way. If Lupe could get by the rocks and deadfall, it wouldn’t take long for her to reach the summit of South Point.
As always, Lupe was willing to try it. So Lupe and SPHP went back down the steep grassy ramp and headed SE toward the saddle to South Point. It really wasn’t hard to cross the saddle area. The deadfall timber was more of a problem than the rocks were. Lupe succeeded in reaching the top of South Point. She found the highest rocks near the SE end of the ridge. The best views were from a rock platform at the very SE end.
When Lupe reached the summit of South Point, she had climbed the 3 highest mountains in the Five Points group, plus False North Point. It was time to start heading back to the G6. Somewhat surprisingly, it wasn’t difficult to just continue down off South Point continuing to the SE.
Lupe was losing a lot of elevation. As soon as the terrain permitted, SPHP led Lupe to the SW and then W. Lupe was going to go clear around to the W of the True Summit and North Point. It was a fairly long march through the forest, made longer by the steepness of the slope, deadfall timber, and big patches of thistles and thorny plants. Lupe had a great time, though. There was now room to run around in the forest. She sped around, happy to not be so confined up on high rocky places.
When Lupe had gone quite a long distance to the W, she came to a big square-shaped rock outcropping, which SPHP promptly dubbed Block ‘O Rock. Not too long after reaching Block ‘O Rock, the terrain leveled out and Lupe was able to head N. She was far enough W to see USFS Road No. 249 down the hill to the W, but she did not go down to the road.
Lupe continued N through the forest until she was just S of False North Point again. There a faint road went almost all the way up to the saddle she had crossed earlier in the day heading for North Point. Lupe continued N over the saddle and descended into an aspen filled valley. At first there was a path, but as Lupe continued on, the path became choked with deadfall timber.
It really wasn’t terribly far (0.5 mile?) to reach another saddle NE of False North Point that would take Lupe back to USFS Road No. 669. The forest was a mess, though. The deadfall was so thick it even slowed Lupe down. The sun disappeared. A little later, the last sunlight remaining on the peaks disappeared. It wouldn’t be good to be stuck out in this tangle at night. The moon wasn’t due to rise for several hours.
SPHP was confident, though. Lupe made it to the saddle while there was still twilight. She picked up USFS Road No. 669 again. Once on No. 669, it was easy to just retrace the early part of the day’s journey back to the G6. The stars were out by the time Lupe got there at 6:39 PM. It was 38°F. The wind was almost gone. A slight breeze was heard in the treetops.
Lupe and SPHP stood under the stars for a few more minutes. Then it was time for Lupe to go to her Grandma’s house for Halloween. When she got there, Lupe raced into the house, and up the stairs wagging her tail and whining in excitement. Grandma was very happy to see her! Time for ice cream!