A little before 7:00 AM on Day 19 of Lupe’s great Summer of 2015 Dingo Vacation, things weren’t looking too promising. The G6 was all wet. It must have rained during the night. Low gray clouds hid the sky. It looked like it might rain all day.
Within 20 minutes, though, a patch of blue sky appeared. It started spreading rapidly. By the time Lupe and SPHP reached the trailhead near Spirit Lake Lodge, half the sky was already blue. It was going to be a great day to climb Walk Up Peak(12,365 ft.), after all!
At 7:34 AM (48°F), Lupe started along the Tamarack Lake trail through the still damp forest. By the time she reached Tamarack Lake, the clouds were almost all gone. Tamarack Lake was gorgeous. Brightly lit mountains reflected on the smooth, calm surface. The NE ridge leading to Walk Up Peak was in view across the lake.
Lupe followed the trail heading W through the forest. The trail stayed pretty close to the N shore of Tamarack Lake. By the time she reached the W end of the lake, a breeze had picked up. There were little waves on the lake now.
The trail had gained only about 200 feet of elevation in the 1.5 to 2 miles from the trailhead to Tamarack Lake. Once the trail got past the W end of the lake, it quickly gained another 300 feet going up a forested ridge. Up on the higher ground, the trail continued W through the forest until it broke out into the open. The trail headed across grasslands straight for a big pond.
Lupe circled around the N and W shores of the big pond. SPHP named it Walk Up Pond, since it was the largest of several ponds to the N of the big ridge leading to Walk Up Peak. Lupe headed S towards the forest at the base of the big ridge. Along the way, she came to a much smaller pond half full of reeds. SPHP cleverly named this Reed Pond.
Lupe reached the forest S of the ponds. Her climb up the big ridge to Walk Up Peak now began in earnest. She liked the forest, and spent her time there looking up hoping to find squirrels to bark at in the trees. The forest really didn’t go very far up the mountain, though. Soon SPHP was through the forest. Lupe entered a narrow band of small bushes. When Lupe got above the bushes, there was only heather, rocks, and a brisk N breeze.
The highest part of the big ridge Lupe was climbing from the N went for many miles in an E/W direction. The high country was all open and gently rolling. There were numerous peaks spread out along the ridge. The peaks weren’t particularly impressive. They just looked like really big round hills. Even so, the views from the high country were vast and splendid.
Walk Up Peak was another really big hill, similar to the others along the ridgeline. Lupe had to make a long trek to the W from where she came up the ridge to get to the top of Walk Up Peak.
There was no marker at the high point on Walk Up Peak. The top of the mountain was just a barren field of rocks and heather like the rest of the ridge. Lupe did find a cairn just a little way to the NW, though, where the views were best.
It was windy up on Walk Up Peak. The wind had been blowing ever since Lupe reached the high country. Puffy white clouds raced across the sky heading S or SE. Lupe doesn’t really like wind, but it wasn’t too bad. She was willing to go onward and climb another peak. Taylor Peak(12,600 ft.) was next in line to the W. Lupe and SPHP headed off in that direction, leaving Walk Up Peak behind.
Down at the lowest part of the saddle between Walk Up Peak and Taylor Peak, Lupe discovered an odd looking little tower. It looked like some kind of weather station to SPHP. Lupe wasn’t sure, she was more suspicious. It just didn’t look right to her. She investigated it cautiously at first, before deciding it was nothing to worry about.
The summit of Taylor Peak was a huge jumble of purple-gray rocks interspersed with heather. Lupe found a summit cairn in the midst of the sea of rocks. The cairn was so far from the edge of the mountain that the only interesting view was off to the WSW. There were some high mountains in that direction. SPHP wondered if the highest one might not be Kings Peak, the highest point in all of Utah. It was in the right direction, so maybe it was Kings Peak, but SPHP was not certain.
Lupe wasn’t worried about the view. She was tired of the wind and ready for a rest. After some water and Taste of the Wild, a comfy bit of heather near the summit cairn on Taylor Peak served as a Dingo bed. She wanted SPHP to scratch her belly. It must have felt good. After a few minutes she was asleep. Lupe and SPHP stayed at the cairn for a good long while. It was a great place to be. Lupe and SPHP hadn’t seen another soul all day, and wouldn’t see anyone on the way back either.
After a while, it was time to go. There were more peaks farther W along the ridge, but the puffy white clouds seemed to be getting more and more numerous. It was afternoon, and a long way back to the G6. The N wind wasn’t all that strong, but it was relentless. It was probably best to head back, rather than go any farther.
The way back was just a retracement of Lupe’s journey to Taylor Peak. On the way, she visited the summit of Walk Up Peak again for another look.
By the time Lupe started heading down the N side of the big ridge, the weather was starting to look a bit ominous. The clouds to the NW looked bigger and darker than before. Maybe it was going to rain?
The wind grew stronger. Dark clouds sailed by. It rained, but only a few drops. There was no thunder or lightning. By the time Lupe was down to the forest near the base of the big ridge, it was all over. The clouds were gone, the wind had died down, and it was a beautiful day again.
Lupe was glad to get back to the forest. There was no wind! There were squirrels! It was fun! Lupe explored the forest with enthusiasm. In hardly any time at all, she was back to Tamarack Lake.
Near the E end of Tamarack Lake, there was a side trail that went 1/3 mile S to Jessen Lake. It seemed like a fun thing to do. There was time and the weather was now lovely, so Lupe took the side trail. It went through the forest just E of Tamarack Lake.
Jessen Lake was smaller than Tamarack Lake. It was tucked more closely beneath the big ridge to the S. Forests surrounded the entire lake. Lupe followed the trail E along the N shore.
At the NE corner of Jessen Lake, a stream left the lake flowing NE. The Jessen Lake trail paralleled the stream, making a loop back to the main trail. Lupe was now less than 0.5 mile from the trailhead at Spirit Lake. The fun wasn’t over quite yet, though! The pines along the main trail were full of squirrels trying to enjoy the evening. The joyous high-pitched barking of an American Dingo echoed through the forest.
The skies were overcast on the first morning Lupe ever spent in the state of Utah. They remained so all day. After the hot drive across NW Colorado on the way to Utah the previous day, Lupe and SPHP were glad. Day 18 of Lupe’s great Summer of 2015 Dingo Vacation was beginning up in the Uinta Mountains under much more tolerable conditions.
Lupe’s day started out with a visit to the Flaming Gorge dam on the Green River.
Near the E end of the dam, there is a winding paved access road down to the Green River below the dam. SPHP had been there before, years ago, and taken a half day raft trip down the Green River to Little Hole about 6 miles downstream. SPHP remembered the raft trip as a pleasant, easy float with only a few small rapids. The Green River itself had been beautiful, cool and clear as it passed through the lower end of Red Canyon. Juniper-dotted red cliffs rose as much as 1,000 feet above the river.
Lupe wasn’t going to get to go river rafting, but SPHP thought she would enjoy the Little Hole Trail alongside the Green River. Things had changed since SPHP had been here before, though. It used to be free to just drive on down to the boat launch next to the river. Halfway down there is now a parking lot and a fee booth. It costs $5.00 to park or go down to the river.
After parking the G6, Lupe and SPHP left the parking lot along the Little Hole Trail. The first thing Lupe came to was a big sign with a bunch of bureaucratic regulations, a couple of which neither Lupe nor SPHP had ever encountered anywhere else before.
The first short section of the Little Hole Trail wound its way down the steep hillside. There was a lot of cactus around, so Lupe had to be careful. Soon Lupe was down next to the Green River.
Once down to the river, Lupe and SPHP followed the Little Hole Trail downstream. No one was rafting on the river, but there were lots of boats with people fly fishing from them.
Lupe didn’t follow the Little Hole Trail all the way to Little Hole. She only went a couple of miles downstream at most. SPHP thought it might be fun to take Lupe upstream to the boat launch area below Flaming Gorge Dam.
Lupe waded in the shallow waters of the Green River near the boat launch. She had a good drink. She watched big birds circling up in the sky near the dam. She watched fishermen getting ready to launch their boats. Then she was ready to go.
Lupe seemed content with her visit to Flaming Gorge dam and the Green River below it. Now it was time to complete her Flaming Gorge experience by taking a look at the reservoir from the cliffs above. Lupe and SPHP left the Little Hole Trail. After a picnic at a pond called West Green Lake, where there were ducks and a heron, Lupe arrived at the Red Canyon Visitor Center & Lookout. Lupe couldn’t go in the visitor center, but she could go take a look at Flaming Gorge reservoir from the high cliffs at the lookout.
The views of Red Canyon and the Flaming Gorge reservoir were impressive from way up on the high cliffs. The cliff tops were interesting, too. There were big cracks and deep fissures in the rocks. It wasn’t hard to imagine some pretty big chunks of the cliff crashing to the bottom some day.
After seeing Red Canyon from above, Lupe was ready to move on. Her next destination was Spirit Lake on the N side of the Uintas. Lupe and SPHP took Hwy 44 to the Sheep Creek Geological Loop. At the SW corner of the loop was a turn off onto gravel USFS Roads. It was a fairly long drive, somewhere close to 20 miles from the pavement, to get to Spirit Lake.
Lupe and SPHP stopped first at the N end of Spirit Lake at a pullout near the outlet stream. Lupe enjoyed getting out and exploring the area. SPHP was more relaxed about letting her enjoy herself, too. There weren’t any big cliffs around, just the lake, stream and the forest.
The sky grew darker and the wind started blowing. Pretty soon it started to rain. The wind hadn’t bothered Lupe, but Carolina Dogs know enough to come in out of the rain. She hopped in the G6 and took a nap, while SPHP read. After about half an hour, the rain quit. Although the wind and rain were over, the sky was still leaden. Before it got too late, SPHP thought it might be a good idea to check out Spirit Lake Lodge and the trailhead at the S end of the lake.
The Spirit Lake Lodge had a number of very rustic looking cabins. Each cabin had its own name taken from an early western explorer. Only one or two of the cabins appeared to be rented out for the night. From outside, most of the cabins looked like they needed maintenance. The lodge was open, though, and a sign said they were serving meals.
Lupe went down to check out the dock on Spirit Lake. There were a few small boats available for rent there.
On the way back from the dock to the G6, a moose wandered through between the cabins, apparently quite at home here. It headed out across a field in front of the Spirit Lake Lodge. How cool is that?
Lupe was injured on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 148 back on 12-5-15, probably due to becoming impaled on a sharp broken branch on one of the hundreds of dead trees she jumped over. By 12-18-15, she had recovered to the point where she had her stitches taken out. Although the wound itself is healing nicely, she still has some swelling. The swelling doesn’t seem to bother her at all, though, and after 2 weeks of mostly resting, Lupe was pretty dang bored.
The weather the day after Lupe’s stitches came out was forecast to get way up to 50°F, before turning significantly colder. This one warm day was clearly Lupe’s opportunity to resume her adventures, but where should she go?
SPHP wanted to be extra careful to avoid any chance of re-injury before Lupe is completely healed. The problem was, the vast majority of the Black Hills is heavily timbered with Ponderosa pines, which have suffered enormous damage from pine-bark beetles over the past 5 – 10 years. It’s hard to go very far anywhere in the Black Hills without encountering significant amounts of deadfall timber.
SPHP’s solution was to take Lupe to South Dakota’s Centennial Trail No. 89. Centennial Trail No. 89 is a 111 mile long trail developed to celebrate 100 years of South Dakota statehood. (South Dakota joined the union back in 1889, hence the trail No. 89.) Centennial Trail No. 89 starts at Bear Butte(4,422 ft.) in the N, and goes through the eastern Black Hills down to Wind Cave National Park at its S end.
Although nearly all of Centennial Trail No. 89 is up in the Black Hills, a 4.5 mile section from the Ft. Meade trailhead to the Bear Butte Lake trailhead is out on the prairie NE of Sturgis, SD. There wouldn’t be any danger of Lupe becoming impaled on broken tree branches. That made this section of the trail ideal for Lupe, while she finishes healing up.
Lupe was ecstatic, barking and jumping for joy, when she realized she was finally going to get to go on an adventure again! At 9:59 AM, SPHP parked the G6 near Ft. Meade. It was a balmy 41°F out, with some snow on the ground, when Lupe crossed over to the N side of Hwy 34 to begin her day’s trek on Centennial Trail No. 89.
Lupe enjoyed sniffing around in the trees near Bear Butte Creek. This was the only forested area she would go through during the day. Lupe wouldn’t have to go very far through the woods to reach the prairie. Lupe quickly reached the footbridge over Bear Butte Creek.
After crossing Bear Butte Creek, the woods ended just N of the creek. There are two large ridges on the way to Bear Butte Lake. The first one was now in sight dead ahead to the N. Lupe could already see the top of Bear Butte sticking up over the ridge.
Lupe gained only about 175 feet in elevation going from Bear Butte Creek up to the high points on the top of the first big ridge. She was soon there. Once up on this first ridge, Centennial Trail No. 89 turns ENE and runs along the top of the ridge for more than a mile. Bear Butte is visible off to the NE the entire way.
Lupe followed Centennial Trail No. 89 ENE along the first big ridge, getting closer to Bear Butte. Lupe kind of missed the forests of the Black Hills, and looking for squirrels. It was a little dull on the snowy prairie, but at least she wasn’t going to get impaled on anything. Sometimes she tromped along right behind SPHP. Sometimes she trotted along off the trail sniffing the cold ground.
There had been plenty of tracks in the snow in the short distance between Hwy 34 and Bear Butte Creek. However, by the time Lupe was up on the first big ridge, there were no tracks in the snow at all. No other American Dingoes or humans had been up here since the snow fell four days earlier. Lupe and SPHP saw absolutely no one on the trail all day long. The sound of traffic on Hwy 34 was mildly annoying, but Lupe and SPHP were alone.
Before starting down off the first big ridge, SPHP took a few pictures to show Lupe’s progress toward Bear Butte, and the expanse of prairie Centennial Trail No. 89 would cross to get to the second big ridge.
Centennial Trail No. 89 goes down off the first big ridge at a small gap in the ridgeline. Although part of the ridge continues on to the E, the trail doesn’t go there. Instead, the trail drops down into the gap, and then turns NNE to cross more than a mile of lower ground on the way to the second big ridge.
Near the base of the first ridge, there is a patch of bushes and small scattered trees where birds take shelter. Lupe enjoyed sniffing around in the bushes for a few minutes.
The entire area between the ridges is open grassland. There was nothing remarkable along the way, except the solitude, which was somewhat marred by the sound of traffic on Hwys 34 & 79. At least the traffic couldn’t be heard quite as clearly along in here.
Although the beauty of the prairie isn’t as dramatic as that of the mountains; the solitude, big sky and long unbroken views are all enjoyable, too. Peaceful, if somewhat bleak scenes stretched off in every direction on this snowy December day. Lupe and SPHP trudged along, and eventually reached the top of the second big ridge.
The Bear Butte Lake trailhead for Centennial Trail No. 89 is a short distance off Hwy 79 near the SE end of the lake. Lupe and SPHP went around the S side of Bear Butte Lake to the trailhead. The trailhead features a big gravel parking lot, a few old picnic tables, and a small grove of trees.
SPHP stopped at one of the picnic tables, and had some banana bread and an apple. Lupe wasn’t really hungry yet, she just had a little Taste of the Wild. She didn’t even want any water, since she’d been eating snow along the way. She sniffed around the parking lot, but didn’t find anything of interest. When SPHP offered her some banana bread, she took it and stashed it in a safe place, just in case she needs it later. Carolina Dogs like to plan sensibly for the future!
After the brief rest break at the Bear Butte Lake trailhead, Lupe and SPHP decided to circumnavigate Bear Butte Lake. Lupe went a short distance E to Hwy 79, which she followed N to Bear Butte Lake Road. Bear Butte Lake Road is a major gravel road, and had some traffic on it. Lupe followed it W along the N shore of Bear Butte Lake to a campground.
Lupe and SPHP left Bear Butte Lake Road, and went through the campground to a little road along the NW side of the lake. There Lupe saw a rare sight! A bald eagle was sitting high up in a tree some distance away near the W end of the lake. SPHP managed to get a picture of it with the telephoto lens before it flew away.
A little way W of Bear Butte Lake, Lupe and SPHP returned to Centennial Trail No. 89 again. Lupe had been clear around Bear Butte Lake. Now it was time to head back to the G6. On the return trip, Lupe and SPHP got to enjoy Centennial Trail No. 89 heading in the opposite direction, going SW toward the Ft. Meade trailhead.
Despite a rather leisurely pace taken on Expedition No. 149, Lupe was back at the G6 by 3:01 PM (37°F). With winter solstice just 2 days away, the sun was already quite low in the sky, but it was still up. Lupe paid a visit to Ft. Meade, which was a cavalry outpost during the late 1800’s.
Fort Meade was established during the winter of 1878-1879. Here, the 7th Cavalry was re-formed after it’s disastrous defeat under General George A. Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn (Custer’s Last Stand) in Montana, in June 1876.
Comanche, a 7th Cavalry horse, and sole surviving member of the cavalry found on the Little Bighorn battlefield, was retired at Ft. Meade with military honors. Ft. Meade survived as a military installation until 1944, when it became the site of the current Veteran’s Administration Hospital.
After visiting Ft. Meade, Lupe and SPHP drove over to Bear Butte. At a pullout along Hwy 79, Lupe and SPHP stopped to take a look at Bear Butte from the NW.
Lupe didn’t get to bark at any squirrels on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 149, but she did get to spend the day outdoors wandering the prairie with SPHP. Most importantly, she didn’t get hurt again, and continues to get better. Lupe is back in action. She will return again soon with more American Dingo adventures in the Black Hills and beyond!
Lupe was born on December 14th, 2010 in the little town of Vale, SD (population 136 in the 2010 census). Vale is less than a mile S of the Belle Fourche River, and about 10 miles N of Bear Butte, which is a few miles NE of the much better known town of Sturgis, SD, home of the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in early August every year.
SPHP knows next to nothing about Lupe’s family, except that Lupe did have some brothers and sisters in the same litter. As a tiny puppy, Lupe and her mother and siblings all lived outside in the cold South Dakota winter. SPHP has no idea if they had a dog house, or some other kind of shelter provided for them. They did have some outside cats as companions, and perhaps because of this, Lupe has always been friendly to all cats.
Lupe’s 5th birthday started out crisp and clear. There wasn’t any snow, but the grass in the back yard was all frosty. Lupe still had stitches where her left rear leg and abdomen meet, but she felt pretty good. During the day, Lupe and SPHP periodically played some squeaker ball in the back yard.
In the afternoon, SPHP went to the grocery store to buy some things for Lupe’s birthday party. The store was absolutely packed with people. School was cancelled for the next day due to a snow storm in the forecast, even though not a flake had fallen yet, and wouldn’t until afternoon the next day. SPHP finally got home, and baked Lupe a birthday cake.
The lines at Safeway had been so long, there wasn’t even time for SPHP to frost Lupe’s birthday cake before it was time to head out to Lupe’s Grandma’s house. Every birthday since she has been born, Lupe’s birthday party has been at Grandma’s. SPHP frosted Lupe’s birthday cake there, and the party was ready to begin!
Grandma had made chili and cornbread for dinner. Lupe, Lanis, SPHP and Grandma all had chili. Lupe likes to let her chili cool some before she eats it, but she had at least a couple of helpings. After dinner, Lanis, SPHP and Grandma sang “Happy Birthday” to Lupe, being sure to include the part about “and many more!”
After hearing “Happy Birthday” sung to her, Lupe was ready to go outside. Lupe and SPHP took their traditional walk up to the cul-de-sac at the end of the road. Near the cul-de-sac is the Most Beautiful Christmas tree in the neighborhood. Lupe and SPHP paused to admire it, before returning to Grandma’s house.
When Lupe and SPHP got back to Grandma’s house, it was time for birthday cake and ice cream! Dingoes love birthday cake and ice cream! SPHP and Grandma even drank a whole bottle of wine, too. Lupe had plenty of cake and ice cream, but she didn’t get any wine. Lupe’s favorite presents this year were a new blue squeaker ball from Grandma, and a rawhide chew stick from SPHP.
Since The (Mostly) True Adventures of Lupe blog didn’t get started until February, 2015, its time to share some photos from Lupe’s previous birthdays, too!
After two huge climbs on the previous two days up to Mount Elbert and Mount Massive, the highest peaks in Colorado, it was time for Lupe to move on. It was 8-25-15, already Day 17 of Lupe’s great Summer of 2015 Dingo Vacation. SPHP gassed up the G6 before leaving Leadville, CO, and then headed S on Highway 24. A short time later, Lupe achieved another personal first: Lupe reached the southernmost point she has ever been to at the junction of Highways 24 and 82.
SPHP turned W on Highway 82. Soon Lupe was at Twin Lakes, which she and SPHP had seen for the first time from up on top of Mount Elbert two days before.
After a wonderful time in the mountains of N Central Colorado, Lupe was on her way out of the state. She would see quite a bit of scenic NW Colorado on the way. Highway 82 went over 12,095 ft. Independence Pass. Lupe and SPHP took the short walkway there to a viewpoint overlooking more beautiful mountains of the Colorado Rockies.
Once over Independence Pass, Hwy 82 lost a great deal of elevation on its way to Aspen. From Aspen, Hwy 82 continued losing elevation, although at a reduced rate, all the way to Glenwood Springs. Lupe and SPHP stopped at a park next to the highway for a picnic. SPHP would have liked to have gone to the hot springs in Glenwood Springs, but it was near noon. It was hot, approaching 80°F – too hot to leave Lupe unattended for any length of time in the G6.
It got hotter as the day wore on. Until now, Lupe and SPHP had spent the vast majority of Lupe’s great Summer of 2015 Dingo Vacation at 8,000 to 12,000 feet. At these lower elevations, the heat was oppressive. In the G6, however, Lupe rode in air conditioned comfort as the miles clicked by. Lupe and SPHP headed W from Glenwood Springs on I-70. It wasn’t too far to Rifle, where SPHP stopped at a McDonald’s to buy Lupe a hot fudge sundae.
From Rifle, Lupe went N on Highway 13. SPHP soon turned W onto Piceance Creek Road. Piceance Creek Road was interesting. It went 40 miles down a valley that gradually turned to the N. It was 10 miles before Piceance Creek had any water in it. Piceance Creek never became a very big stream. The valley grew wider as it lost elevation. It was bordered by low juniper and sage-brush covered mountains. There were cows and horses near the creek in the valley, which kept Lupe entertained for miles.
Lupe reached the White River again when Piceance Creek Road reached Highway 64. Lupe had seen the North Fork of the White River before. It flows out of Trappers Lake in the Flat Top Mountains. The scenery heading W on Highway 64 was interesting, but not inviting. Lupe was heading into increasingly barren territory. By the time she reached Rangely, even the sagebrush was sparse and struggling. It was 97°F in Rangely.
Beyond Rangely everything was hot, thirsty, white and barren. Late August was no time to be visiting here. At Dinosaur, though, SPHP did stop to get a picture of Lupe with a cool, colorful Stegosaurus.
SPHP would have loved to take Lupe to Echo Park in Dinosaur National Monument. Echo Park is located at the confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers. It is a beautiful spot down in a big canyon with vertical rock walls, and very worth seeing. However, SPHP knew the G6 might have trouble with the road there, which is best traversed with a high clearance vehicle. (SPHP once put a hole in a Chevy Corsica’s oil pan on that road – not an experience SPHP was eager to repeat.)
So Lupe missed out on Echo Park. Instead she turned W on Highway 40 at Dinosaur. A big event was only a short distance away. Lupe was going to enter the state of Utah for the very first time. It had been nearly 2 years since Lupe last visited a new state, so it was an event worthy of note. Soon Utah became Lupe’s 11th state!
Near Jensen, Utah, Lupe stopped by the sign for the Dinosaur National Monument Fossil BoneQuarry. The quarry features quite an amazing exhibit of dinosaur bones. The partially exposed bones are on display in their original locations on a hillside which has been enclosed with a building. The Quarry Exhibit Hall serves both to protect the fossils and as a visitor center.Of course, Lupe could not go into the Quarry Exhibit Hall, so there was no point in even going all the way to it. Instead, Lupe got to go see the Green River just below the Highway 40 bridge.
It was almost 5:00 PM by the time Lupe reached Vernal, Utah. SPHP had hoped to get some pictures of Lupe with some dinosaurs outside the Dinosaur Museum. It had been years since SPHP had been to Vernal, though. The Dinosaur Museum (officially the Utah Field House of Natural History Museum) had moved. It is now housed in much fancier quarters. Unfortunately, the museum closed at 5:00 PM. Although there were dinosaurs outside the building, they were all behind walls and fences.
SPHP had to settle for taking a picture of Lupe and the profusion of petunias along the street.
Lupe and SPHP toured Vernal, Utah. It looked like a thriving place with lots of new stores and development. It was like an oven there though, at 98°F when Lupe arrived. It was still 91°F at sunset when Lupe left town heading N on Highway 191. Up in the Uinta Mountains, it was 59°F when SPHP parked the G6 for the night. So much better!
The days aren’t very long in November. Lupe and SPHP should have gotten off to an earlier start. The plan was for Lupe to climb Buffalo Peak(11,589 ft.), the high point of Jefferson County, Colorado. With no trail and over 3,000 feet of elevation gain involved, it was a fairly ambitious plan for this time of year.
SPHP had intended to park the G6 up at Stoney Pass, but just past Wellington Lake there was a creek running across the road. The creek wasn’t very large. It was about a foot deep, and maybe 6 feet wide, as it crossed the road. SPHP stood peering into the clear water. The creek bottom looked flat and smooth and firm. But, what if it wasn’t really? The G6 didn’t have much clearance. If it sank another foot into mud and the engine got wet, Lupe and SPHP were in for an adventure of the wrong sort.
It would probably have been fine to ford the creek with the G6, but SPHP wasn’t going to chance it. Not way out here. SPHP found a place nearby to park. Lupe and SPHP were just going to have to walk the 1.5 miles up the road to Stoney Pass. The only real problem was the time it took. It was already 9:42 AM when Lupe and SPHP left the G6 behind.
It was a beautiful, clear and calm day as Lupe crossed the little creek, and started up the road for Stoney Pass. It was already 45°F. Back in Arvada, where Lupe was staying with cousin Dusty while on vacation in Colorado, it was supposed to get into the low 60’s. It wouldn’t get that warm out here, though, not way up on Buffalo Peak. Even so, at least weather wasn’t going to be an issue.
SPHP reached Stoney Pass after a trudge up the road. Lupe had already been busy racing around in the forest sniffing everything of interest. Now it was time to leave the road together and plunge into a dense forest. The plan was to reach the summit of Buffalo Peak by following a ridge from the NE. SPHP already knew there was no trail, that the mountain was heavily forested, and that the ridge wasn’t all that distinct.
The topo map showed the climb up would be pretty relentless, although there were some flatter areas near the top. SPHP wondered if there would be any viewpoints along the way. It would sure help to be able to catch a glimpse of the summit every now and then, just to make certain Lupe was going the right way.
Despite the possible obstacles, SPHP felt pretty confident Lupe was going to reach the top. Lupe showed no concerns, whatsoever. It was just another big, fun romp in the woods to her. As Lupe started the climb, SPHP wondered what the summit would be like. Would it even be worth the effort to get there? From a distance, Buffalo Peak had looked like just a big forested hump. Would there be any place from which to get a view? Or would Lupe’s efforts just end at a high spot in a forest that looked like the entire rest of the mountain?
There hadn’t been any snow at Stoney Pass, but as Lupe climbed, she started encountering a thin layer of snow. SPHP worried that Lupe was going too far to the W instead of heading SW. Lupe didn’t really seem to be up on a ridge. The blue sky seen between the trees above was always hundreds of feet higher than where Lupe and SPHP were. There was little deadfall timber at first, but as Lupe went on, gradually there was more. Most of it was pretty small stuff, though, so it wasn’t much of a hindrance.
Lupe climbed a very long way before she finally came to a big rock outcropping. SPHP was eager to see what could be seen from the other side. Lupe and SPHP found a way through to the SW side of the rock outcropping. The view wasn’t all that encouraging. Farther off to the W than SPHP had been hoping was what might be a part of Buffalo Peak near the summit. To the SW was a little valley, and beyond it another ridge. Now SPHP wasn’t even sure Lupe had been following the correct ridge up.
To the S of the first big rock outcropping, Lupe passed through a nearly level area. She headed for the next ridge that SPHP had seen ahead. She climbed several hundred feet up it to find a 2nd big rock outcropping. The views from here were a little more encouraging. What SPHP believed was the summit area was now at least in clear view.
Lupe had to head S down into another valley from the 2nd big rock outcropping. When the land started rising again on the other side of the valley, Lupe and SPHP faced another long climb. The snow got deeper. Maybe SPHP was just getting tired, but the climb seemed to go on and on. Except at the rock outcroppings, it was difficult to have much sense of where one was in the snowy forest.Finally, Lupe reached a viewpoint on the N side of the mountain. SPHP isn’t certain about it, but this may have been the high point marked on the Peakbagger.com topo map as point 10,778. Wherever Lupe was, there were some impressive views to the N from this high point.
If Lupe was at point 10,778, there was still another 800 feet of elevation left to be gained. Lupe and SPHP headed SW still climbing, but the mountain was no longer as steep as it had been. The going was easier. The main concern was the time. SPHP knew that Lupe had to hurry if she was going to make it to the summit of Buffalo Peak, and still have enough daylight to make it back down to the road at Stoney Pass.
After climbing and heading SW for a considerable distance, Lupe emerged into a little open area where the ground was flat. Here it was possible to catch a glimpse of mountains to the S between the trees. Lupe had to be getting close to the summit of Buffalo Peak. There couldn’t be an awful lot of elevation left to gain.
Lupe and SPHP turned W from the little clearing. Lupe hurried onward, but it was still farther to the summit than SPHP realized. Lupe would have to gain more elevation and cover more ground, if she wanted to reach the top. At a bigger opening in the forest, the summit area was still ahead and higher up.
SPHP knew it was decision time. Although the sun wouldn’t set for close to 2 hours yet, Lupe would need all that time, plus any twilight, to get back down to Stoney Pass. Continuing onward clearly meant breaking the rule. The rule is that Lupe and SPHP are supposed to turn around in time to be able to reach a road or trail before dark from which SHPH knows for certain the way back to the G6.
As far as complying with the rule goes, it doesn’t matter if the road or trail to the G6 is a long one. It’s perfectly fine if Lupe has to spend a few hours of the night getting back to the car. Darkness isn’t the problem. Not knowing the way to go in the darkness is….
Buffalo Peak is a big mountain. It is heavily forested, and the forest offers few views even in the daytime. There is no trail. Except near the top, the mountain sides are fairly steep. It was November. There were a lot of good reasons for Lupe to abandon the attempt on Buffalo Peak and turn around.
On the other hand, the summit of Buffalo Peak wasn’t much farther. Lupe was very close to it compared to all the distance she had already come. SPHP decided to break the rule.
SPHP reasoned that even though it was going to get dark before Lupe reached Stoney Pass, she would have enough daylight and twilight to retrace most of the way back to the road. Once darkness descended, Lupe could just head directly for Green Mountain. She would inevitably reach the road, even if she didn’t hit it right at Stoney Pass. In a sense, the route was known. It just wasn’t a trail or road.
Lupe continued onward. The snow was 6″ deep in the forest near the summit. At first, SPHP wasn’t even certain this was the summit of Buffalo Peak. SPHP was surprised by what Lupe found in the forest. Ahead was a 30 or 40 foot high ridge of rounded red rocks and boulders. To the NE, the forested ground was steeper than expected. To the SW, there was – nothing? SPHP couldn’t get a clear view over there, but it seemed like there might be a cliff.
The ridge ran SE/NW. There was no easy way up it from the SE end where Lupe first reached it. Lupe and SPHP worked around to the NW along the NE side of the ridge. Before long there was a place where Lupe could climb up. When SPHP got up there, the view was both fantastic and concerning.
From the narrow, rocky ridge, there were fabulous views in every direction except to the NE, which was hidden by the forest. SPHP’s earlier concerns that Lupe would climb all the way up Buffalo Peak to see nothing but trees was totally unjustified. The top of Buffalo Peak offers splendid views.
The object of concern was to the NW. In that direction there was clearly a break in the ridge. Beyond the break, the ridge continued. What concerned SPHP was that the ridge was clearly a little higher beyond the break. Lupe was not yet at the true summit of Buffalo Peak. It was going to take more time for Lupe and SPHP to work their way back down and around through the snow, deadfall and boulders to reach the true summit.
Well, there was nothing to do, but spend the time necessary to reach the true summit. Lupe and SPHP carefully climbed back down to the NE off the ridge. It only took 10 minutes or so even with the snow, deadfall, and rocky terrain to get over to the higher NW part of the ridge. Lupe and SPHP were soon up on top of it. SPHP was very happy to find a register and a USGS Benchmark. Lupe had made it to the very top of Buffalo Peak!
Lupe and SPHP were soon signed in on the registry. It was fun to see that Lupe’s blogging and peakbagging acquaintances Beth & Sprocket from 3UpAdventures had been here over a month earlier on 10-2-15. (Those two peakbagging maniacs had also signed the Thunder Butte registry the same day!) Lupe had the good fortune to briefly meet Beth & Sprocket in person (in Dingo?) back in the Flat Top Mountains in August, 2015.
After registering, it was time for a little break. Lupe gobbled up most of the Taste of the Wild supply. SPHP hadn’t bothered to bring any human food along. SPHP eyed the remaining Taste of the Wild, but decided to save it for later. At least there was plenty of water. Lupe wasn’t drinking much since she prefers to eat snow. After a short rest, it was final summit photos time. The Carolina Dog was quite willing to add a little canine interest to some of the shots.
After all the time and effort it took to get up here, it was a shame to have to leave so soon, but it was important to get as far down the mountain as possible before the light was all gone. SPHP was glad the snow was around on the way down. Lupe and SPHP followed their tracks back down the mountain for a long way, before SPHP lost them for the final time.
The sun went down. The twilight faded. The mountain and the forest went on and on. The deadfall, which hadn’t seemed too bad on the way up, seemed more prevalent, larger and troublesome on the way down. The slopes seemed steeper in the darkness. Still, Lupe succeeded in losing a tremendous amount of elevation before it was so dark the flashlight had to come out. By that time, SPHP thought Lupe must already be getting close to Stoney Pass.
SPHP was wrong. Down, down, down went the dingo in the dark. Lupe and SPHP headed for the black outline of Green Mountain against the stars. It was the only thing that showed the way. Once SPHP distinctly heard voices. SPHP must have been losing it. There was no one out here. Suddenly a big bird flew away with a great deal of noisy fluttering. Lupe had passed beneath its perch.
Finally the steep slopes grew less steep. Lupe and SPHP emerged from the forest into a small grassy and level valley. A low dark ridge loomed ahead. There didn’t seem to be a road. Green Mountain was out of sight. Just great! No telling which way to go. It didn’t make sense. SPHP shone the little flashlight around.
A small patch of light similar to others on the aspen trees nearby looked a little different. It looked a little like it was reflective. Lupe and SPHP headed toward it. Soon it was clear that it was indeed reflective. There was some kind of sign. Before SPHP even reached it, Lupe found the road. A little wandering around in the grassy valley brought Lupe to a familiar spot. She had come down the huge mountain in the darkness to arrive just 150 feet NW of Stoney Pass.
No worries now. Everything was cool. Lupe and SPHP headed NW down the road. Although it was only 1.5 miles back to the G6, it seemed to take a longer than it should. Time always seems to go by very slowly in the dark. Lupe crossed the little creek that had prevented the G6 from reaching Stoney Pass. In just a couple of minutes, she was at the G6. It was 7:17 PM and 30°F.
It was after 9:00 PM by the time Lupe and SPHP were back at cousin Dusty’s house in Arvada. SPHP served up some Alpo for Lupe and Dusty. Andrea had a roast, potatoes, carrots, and onions ready and waiting in the crock pot. SPHP wasn’t going to have to finish Lupe’s Taste of the Wild after all.
The Black Hills experienced a cold snap over Thanksgiving and the following long weekend. Several nights there was light snow. At the very end of November, there was about 4″ of additional new snow overnight at Lupe’s house. Then it started to warm up. SPHP decided to wait for a few days to let some of the snow melt before Lupe’s next expedition.
Finally, on December 5th, Lupe and SPHP headed out for adventure again. Lupe was excited. She could hardly wait. At 9:29 AM, SPHP parked the G6 at the Newton Lake trailhead. It was 37 °F and overcast. Lupe leaped over SPHP to get out of the G6 at the first possible moment. She was expecting great things!
SPHP had 4 peakbagging goals in mind for Lupe. The first was Smith Mountain(5,897 ft.), which was very close at hand. Soon Lupe and SPHP were heading up the fairly steep NE slope. It was very slow going. There was still some snow on the ground, which made it a bit slippery. The real problem, though, was the terrible condition of the forest. There were lots of dead trees, killed by the pine bark beetles, that had fallen over.
For SPHP, it was a struggle getting over, under or around all the deadfall timber. At one point, SPHP lifted Lupe over a dangerous barbed wire fence that was partially collapsed by the dead trees. Lupe only needed to gain a little over 600 feet of elevation to get up on the ridge, but it was taking SPHP a long time to get up there. Finally, the ground began to level out a bit, and there was somewhat less deadfall around.
Once Lupe and SPHP were up on the ridge, the going was a bit easier. The deadfall wasn’t quite as bad, and the ground wasn’t so steep. Lupe and SPHP reached the ridgeline near the N end of Smith Mountain. There was a series of rock outcroppings spaced out along the ridge as Lupe headed S toward the summit.
The Smith Mountain ridge runs N/S for about a mile. The ridge was all forested, and provided only occasional glimpses of distant hills. It was pretty easy going along the ridge, since it was plenty wide. Although it went up and down some, it was overall pretty level. Lupe found the true summit of Smith Mountain at a big rock outcropping a bit S of the mid-point along the ridge.
With her Smith Mountain peakbagging goal accomplished, Lupe continued S along the Smith Mountain ridge. It was easier going along in here, since there wasn’t nearly so much deadfall. This part of the forest seemed to have been thinned by loggers some years ago. Whatever the reason, the forest was in better condition. SPHP was a bit surprised to find some big rock outcroppings near the S end of the mountain, but is pretty certain they weren’t quite as high as the rocks farther N.
Lupe’s 3 remaining peakbagging goals were all mountains along a line S of Smith Mountain. Her next goal was Flag Mountain(5,896 ft.). To get to Flag Mountain, Lupe went down the S end of Smith Mountain, and crossed Patterson Creek. Patterson Creek isn’t very large, and didn’t have much flow at this time of year. Lupe and SPHP had no problem crossing it. S of Patterson Creek, Lupe started climbing the N slope of Flag Mountain.
The last part of the climb up Flag Mountain was the steepest. There was snow again on the N slope, but only a couple of inches. The situation on Flag Mountain was the reverse of what it had been on Smith Mountain. Most of the deadfall timber was up on the highest slopes. The first part of the climb went fast, but the last part was slow.
Despite the deadfall, Lupe and SPHP reached the top of Flag Mountain. Lupe had accomplished her 2nd peakbagging goal of the day. It was time for a break. Lupe had some water and a bit of Taste of the Wild. She licked herself for a few minutes, and laid down to rest, but SPHP didn’t think a thing of it.
The top of Flag Mountain is pretty flat. Unlike Smith Mountain, Flag Mountain is not a long ridge. There is no chance of mistaking the summit. Toward the E is a spacious open grassy area. The actual highest point is over at some slightly higher rocks toward the W.
There are trees around the summit, some of them dead, which effectively block the views from Flag Mountain in most directions. However, there were really nice open views to the SE toward Harney Peak(7,242 ft.) from the grassy area. There was also a pretty good view to the NW, from the highest rocks at the W end of the summit area.
Lupe had now completed 2 of her 4 peakbagging goals of the day. Her next goal wasn’t very far away. Just to the S of Flag Mountain is Campaign Hill(5,800 ft.). Campaign Hill isn’t quite as high as Flag Mountain, so it didn’t look like a very impressive goal. Due to the trees, it was hard to get a very good look at it, except from the very SE edge of the summit on Flag Mountain.
Since the sun stays pretty low this time of year, even at mid-day it always feels like sunset isn’t very far off. Lupe and SPHP enjoyed a little time up on Flag Mountain, but didn’t linger up there too long before Lupe began descending the SW slope. She only had to lose a few hundred feet of elevation to get down to the saddle between Flag Mountain and Campaign Hill.
Down at the saddle, there was a USFS road junction. USFS Road No. 727 passes through the gap between the two mountains. No. 727.1F branches off to head N on the W side of Flag Mountain. Lupe crossed No. 727, and started climbing directly up the N slope of Campaign Hill. It was fairly steep, especially near the top. Again there was some snow, but SPHP was glad that this time there wasn’t much of the pesky deadfall timber. Lupe was soon up on the highest rocks at the E end of Campaign Hill.
There were too many trees near the rocks at the E end of the Campaign Hill ridge to really see much. It proved not to be the true summit anyway. Lupe headed W along the ridge, which soon turned SW, and came to a big rock that was clearly higher. Beyond it was a grouping of rocks that were even higher yet. This was the true summit of Campaign Hill.
SPHP had to lift Lupe up to get her up on top of the true summit. The entire Campaign Hill ridge, which wasn’t terribly long, was all pretty heavily forested. There weren’t really hardly any views. There was a glimpse of Harney Peak, though, from where Lupe was up on top.
Usually Lupe just jumps down off rocks, when SPHP says it is OK after taking photos. The rocks up on Campaign Hill were a bit high, however. Lupe waited for SPHP to come back up to help get her down off the rocks. She was reluctant to jump down. Again, SPHP thought nothing of it.
Lupe’s 4th and last peakbagging goal of the day was Peak 6048, about a mile to the S of Campaign Hill. The sun was definitely getting lower, so Lupe was soon on her way. She enjoyed running around in the slanting sunlight filtering through the forest, as she and SPHP continued S along the ridge. Near the lowest saddle on the way to Peak 6048, there was a little opening with a glimpse of Peak 6048 ahead. It wasn’t going to be long before Lupe would be up there!
Except Lupe never made it to Peak 6048. Lupe raced ahead of SPHP into a thick forest of small trees at the low point of the saddle. When she came out again, suddenly SPHP saw red. There was blood between Lupe’s hind legs! SPHP made Lupe stop and lay down. SPHP lifted up a hind leg. There was a gash at least 2 inches long where her left hind leg and abdomen meet. A big area of flesh was exposed where the skin was peeled back.
Fortunately, it didn’t look like anything other than the skin had been pierced or torn. Lupe wasn’t bleeding much, and she could still walk and run around. In fact, if SPHP hadn’t seen the blood, there wasn’t anything at all alarming about her behavior. She showed no sign of pain or distress. She didn’t want SPHP to touch the wound, though. It had to hurt!
Expedition No. 148 was essentially over. There would be no continuing on to Peak 6048. The only thing left to do was to get Lupe back to the G6. She needed to see a veterinarian ASAP. It was 5 miles back to the G6 along the only road SPHP was certain about. Before heading for the G6, though, it was time for first aid! Lupe had been hurt back on Expedition No. 135. Since then SPHP has been carrying bandages and gauze in case of an emergency.
SPHP tried a bandage first. Lupe was cooperative and let SPHP work on her, but the bandage was of no real use. Lupe’s fur was kind of long where her wound was, and the bandage wouldn’t stick to the wound. It stuck to her fur, but hung below her belly. The bandages were going to be useless without a way to shave the fur off around the wound.
SPHP tried using gauze wrapped up over Lupe’s back to hold the bandage in place closer to the wound. This would have worked, but it didn’t feel right to Lupe. She took a few steps and sat down. She just looked piteously at SPHP and refused to move. Maybe it hurt. Maybe it just felt weird. Probably both. Whatever. It was clear Lupe would not go on under her own power with the gauze wrapped around her like that. SPHP took the gauze off.
What had happened to Lupe? SPHP didn’t see the injury occur, but it is almost certain she was impaled by a sharp broken limb sticking up from one of the hundreds of deadfall trees she had jumped over. It is a constant threat in the Black Hills these days. Perhaps the original injury was small, but once the wound was opened, it would have been easy for the edges of the broken skin to get caught on other sticks and twigs and tear further each time.
Thinking back, SPHP wondered if Lupe hadn’t been injured coming over the deadfall timber while climbing Flag Mountain. She had licked the area where the wound was up on top of Flag Mountain during her break. Up on Campaign Hill, she hadn’t wanted to jump down off the rocks like she usually does. Perhaps the poor injured Carolina Dog had been putting on a brave front for quite some time.
She was still putting on a brave front. Once the gauze was off, she was ready to go again. With nothing to protect her belly where the wound was, though, it was vitally important to stay away from any more deadfall timber. The last thing she needed was to get the broken skin caught on anything else and torn some more. Lupe needed to get to a road.
Lupe and SPHP headed down through the forest to the W of the saddle. Fortunately, USFS Road No. 727 wasn’t very far away. Lupe and SPHP reached the road very quickly. Lupe followed it N. She took No. 727.1F at the intersection between Flag Mountain and Campaign Hill, staying W of Flag Mountain.
No. 727.1F ended before reaching Patterson Creek. Lupe and SPHP had to continue off-road down to the creek. Fortunately, there wasn’t much deadfall in this area. N of the creek was another road, USFS Road No. 386.1B. Lupe and SPHP had explored No. 386.1B once before heading around the W side of Smith Mountain on a prior expedition. Upon reaching the road, SPHP stopped and looked at the map.
It was still close to 4 miles back to the G6 by the route around the W side of Smith Mountain. The map showed No. 386.1B also curled around the E side of the mountain, though, too. It didn’t show the E route going all the way to the highway, but it looked like it got pretty close. The E route would be less than half as long. It might easily save 1.5 hours, if it worked.
It was hard to know what to do. If the E route ended in a tangle of deadfall, Lupe and SPHP would have to come all the way back. She would then still have go clear around the W side of Smith Mountain. On the other hand, time was of the essence. Just because Lupe seemed happy enough didn’t mean things were fine. With nothing protecting the open wound, no doubt infection was setting in. The longer it took to get to the vet, the worse it would be for Lupe.
The road to the E looked pretty good. SPHP hesitated only a minute or two, before Lupe and SPHP took it. Thankfully, the shortcut worked. At 4:10 PM, Lupe was back at the G6. SPHP drove her directly to the Emergency Veterinary Hospital in Rapid City. Emergency veterinarian Dr. David Christensen saw Lupe almost right away. She was soon led away for wound cleaning, anesthesia, and stitches.
SPHP waited for Lupe to return. And waited. And waited. The clinic staff and Dr. Christensen were busy early on a Saturday evening. A woman brought in a black and white dog that was trembling all over. She thought her dog had been poisoned. A man brought in a little white dog that had a badly abscessed tooth. One side of its face was all bloody.
Eventually, a staff member told SPHP that Lupe was waking up from the anesthesia, and it would be another 5 or 10 minutes. Nearly an hour passed, though, with no further word. Finally, Lupe returned. She was walking, but looked dazed from the experience. Her fur on her chest was all wet from drooling. She was all stitched up, though! She was going to be fine!
Lupe was on a roll! After 2 days in the Black Hills with Moose and Squirrel, (and joined on the 2nd day by Lanis, too), Lupe and SPHP were heading out for yet another adventure, this time on their own again. The weather forecast was for a high in the upper 40’s, followed by days of much colder temperatures. This time of year, it’s important to plan flexibly and just go when the opportunity arises.
Lupe had two peakbagging goals in the central Black Hills. The first was Silver Peak(5,810 ft.), and the second was Old Bald Peak(6,130 ft.). Lupe had been to both mountains before, but it had been more than 3 years since Lupe last stood on Old Bald Peak, and nearly that long since she had been up on Silver Peak.
SPHP parked the G6 at a wide spot along County Road No. 251 about a mile S of Silver City. Silver City is a cabin community located a bit upstream along Rapid Creek to the W of Pactola Reservoir. Lupe left the G6 near No. 251’s intersection with USFS Road No. 249. It was 10:11 AM, and 40°F under overcast skies when Lupe set out for Silver Peak.
Instead of following the road, Lupe and SPHP went right through the forest. Almost immediately, Lupe came to a small creek which was running low. She crossed the creek, and climbed over a little ridge to the S. The same creek, with better flow was on the other side of the ridge. Lupe had to cross the creek again to reach USFS Road No. 249 on the other side.
Lupe and SPHP followed USFS Road No. 249 upstream as it wound around generally toward the W. There were a number of creek crossings. Even though the water flow was significantly better at most places upstream than it had been near the G6, Lupe always found a way across.
Under the cloudy skies, down in the narrow canyon of Nugget Gulch the mood was dark and quiet. Most places there was some snow on the road, which lent a wintery feel to the situation. It was really quite pretty. Nugget Creek bubbled along, breaking the otherwise almost total silence.
It wasn’t total silence, because at intervals Lupe was having a little success at finding squirrels in the trees. Then the canyon echoed with excitement and enthusiasm.
After Lupe had gone nearly a mile upstream along the road, Nugget Creek reached its point of greatest flow. The creek was down below the road in an area of large rocks. A short distance farther upstream, Lupe came to a place where the creek was up close to road level again. Here there was a little stretch of the creek with some still green moss growing in it. SPHP cleverly named this area Mossy Spot.
Almost immediately after passing by Mossy Spot, Lupe came to a junction with USFS Road No. 249.3B. Lupe left the main road to follow No. 249.3B up a side canyon to the NW. No. 249.3B is essentially an abandoned road. There were small trees growing undisturbed on it in places. It still provided a very good path for Lupe and SPHP, however.
No. 249.3B climbed steadily at a fairly good clip. After more than 0.5 mile, it finally just dead-ended. By that time, Lupe had already gained quite a bit of elevation. The crest of a ridge to the W of Silver Peak was visible just a little bit higher up ahead. Lupe and SPHP finished the climb up onto the ridge.
The ridgeline was fairly narrow, and the other side of the ridge was pretty steep. Lupe could see quite a distance to the W and NW from the ridge. In some places, there were rocks jutting up along the ridgeline. Lupe climbed up onto one of these outcroppings for a look around.
Lupe had actually come up from much farther S & W along this same ridge the first time she climbed Silver Peak way back on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 48 on 2-23-13. From here, all Lupe had to do to reach the summit of Silver Peak was continue E following the ridge.
It was a lot harder now than it had been back in early 2013. Pine bark beetles had killed many trees. There were now lots of fallen trees blown over by the wind along the ridge. Most of them were laying perpendicular to the direction Lupe needed to go.
Of course, Lupe wasn’t the one with a problem – SPHP was. All the deadfall timber repeatedly forced SPHP down below the ridgeline to get around the worst of it. The summit of Silver Peak really wasn’t all that far from where Lupe had reached the ridgeline, but it took SPHP considerably longer than it had on Expedition No. 48 to get there.
By the time Lupe and SPHP reached the top of Silver Peak, it was time for a break. Lupe had water and Taste of the Wild. SPHP just had water and a rest. The rock cairn with a post sticking out of it that SPHP remembered from Lupe’s first ascent in 2013 was still there. Lupe was soon posing for a couple of photos at the cairn.
Even though there were quite a few dead trees that had fallen over, the summit of Silver Peak was still forested enough to effectively block the views. There were glimpses between the remaining trees of what was out there, but that was about it. The best of what views there were was provided by a small opening back to the NE toward Silver City.
Lupe’s first peakbagging goal for the day was accomplished. Since Silver Peak offered little in the way of inspiring viewpoints, there wasn’t much reason for Lupe to dilly-dally up here. Soon Lupe and SPHP were heading back down the mountain, again following the W ridge.
Even though USFS Road No. 249.3B would have provided an easy route back down to No. 249 again, Lupe didn’t go that way. Instead, Lupe and SPHP retraced the 2013 route. Lupe continued following the W ridge. The ridge turned S, and eventually brought Lupe to Peak 5732 about 0.5 mile to the SW of Silver Peak.
The ridge continued S from Peak 5732, but started losing elevation rapidly. Lupe and SPHP eventually wound up in a deep ravine. The ravine was rather inconveniently choked up with lots of dead trees that had fallen down the steep slopes. There was evidence of a side road off USFS Road No. 249 that had once led through the ravine to Stewart Gulch, but the road was utterly impassible by any vehicle now.
Lupe explored up and down both sides of the deep ravine, while SPHP slowly worked through the tangle at the bottom. Finally, SPHP reached USFS Road No. 249 again. Lupe and SPHP took No. 249 heading S up a valley, the first part of which was a portion of West Nugget Gulch. This far up the valley there was no sign of Nugget Creek.
Old Bald Peak, Lupe’s next peakbagging goal, is about 3.5 miles as the crow flies due S of Silver Peak. Lupe’s route was somewhat longer than a crow’s. No. 249 eventually leveled out at a saddle, and then started heading down. There was a mountain ahead that SPHP thought was Old Bald Peak.
It wasn’t long though, before SPHP realized this mountain wasn’t Old Bald Peak. It was Peak 6043, about 0.75 mile to the ESE. Long ago, Lupe had been up on Peak 6043. Way back on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 3, Lupe and SPHP had tried to find and climb Old Bald Peak, but SPHP didn’t know the area back then. Instead of climbing Old Bald Peak, Lupe had climbed Peak 6043.
There wasn’t going to be any such mistake today. When Lupe reached the tiny stream at the intersection of USFS Roads No. 249 and No. 677, SPHP led Lupe off the road and W up into the forest. There wasn’t much deadfall in the forest here, and the slope of the terrain was pretty gentle. Lupe had a blast racing around this way and that.
When Lupe had gone almost 0.5 mile W, she reached the White Forest. Soon the terrain became considerably steeper. It was time to turn S, and follow the ridge up to the summit of Old Bald Peak.
There was a little bit of snow in the forest on the N side of the mountain, but it was still a pretty easy climb. Before long, Lupe was back on top of Old Bald Mountain for the first time since Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 33 on 11-4-12.
Old Bald Peak may have been bald back when it got its name, but it isn’t bald now. There were quite a few trees around. Even so, there were still some open spots here and there along the summit ridge. By moving around a bit, it was possible to see quite a nice variety of views.
Lupe’s Black Hills Expeditions just aren’t as long this time of year, since the sun goes down so early. Even though it really wasn’t all that late yet, the sun was already getting low in the W. It was time to think about heading back to the G6. SPHP thought the slanting rays of the sun were doing a rather nice job of lighting up Lupe’s fur, though. She was looking especially beautiful!
Lupe and SPHP headed down the N slopes of Old Bald Mountain. Surprisingly, there were some views that opened up here and there along the way.
Lupe and SPHP wandered through the forest heading N. Lupe found a small road for SPHP to follow. It eventually curved E and connected with USFS Road No. 249 again.
Lupe and SPHP could now follow No. 249 N, and then E all the way back to No. 251. A short stroll N along No. 251 would bring Lupe back to the G6. SPHP trudged along the road, while Lupe alternately followed along, or checked things out in the forest near the road. The light was fading fast.
At one point, Lupe wanted to stop for a little break. She had some more water and Taste of the Wild. She rested on the ground for a few minutes. Then she was ready to go again.
It grew dark as Lupe and SPHP entered the lower reaches of Nugget Gulch. The sky must have been clouding up. SPHP saw only a couple of stars. Lupe and SPHP navigated the creek crossings by flashlight. Lupe reached County Road No. 251. A couple minutes later, she was at the G6. It looked like it could have been midnight, but it was only 5:44 PM. It was 35°F. The air was calm and still.
Somewhere off to the S, a bird was calling, but it didn’t sound like an owl. Lupe wanted to stay and listen. Lupe and SPHP sat on the ground, and listened to the night. After 5 minutes, the bird was heard no more. The only sound was a faint trickling coming from Nugget Creek, which wasn’t far off. A plane with blinking lights flew by.
After 15 minutes, Lupe was ready. She hopped into the G6. She was probably hoping for a nice bowl of Alpo back home. She wasn’t disappointed.
After Xochitl and Steve’s successful visit to Cheyenne Crossing and Roughlock Falls with Lupe the day before, Xochitl had intended to wait another day before venturing out with Lupe again. However, Lanis wanted to join the fun, and he couldn’t get his day off work changed. So the very next day, Xochitl, Steve, and Lanis showed up at Lupe’s house to join her next Black Hills, SD Expedition.
Since Lanis didn’t have the entire day off, and Xochitl was still acclimating to the Black Hills elevation, Custer Peak(6,804 ft.) was chosen as a suitable objective. It’s a pretty easy hike along a USFS road up to the lookout tower, but does involve over 800 feet of elevation gain. Prior to heading out, Xochitl prepared for the adventure by fortifying her biological systems with a sip of Macadamia Nut Oil.
About 2 miles from Hwy 385, Xochitl parked the G6 at an intersection along USFS Road No. 216 a bit over 0.5 mile SE of Custer Peak. Lupe led her pack of humans NW up No. 216, eventually following a spur road off it that winds entirely around the mountain before almost reaching the summit. A short single track trail completed the route up.
Even with the winding route the road takes, it was only a mile or so to the lookout tower on top of Custer Peak. Lupe and her pack were soon there. Custer Peak is the dominate peak of the N central Black Hills and features 360° views.
After enjoying the views up on Custer Peak, everyone started down from the lookout tower. It was time to head back to the G6. Lanis didn’t really have the entire day off. He needed to get back to Blue Room Studios to spend at least some time mixing and mastering music that was due for completion.
Lupe and SPHP lingered on the mountain for a few more photos.
Xochitl had no problems climbing or returning from Custer Peak. Clearly, fortifying her biological systems with a sip of Macadamia Nut Oilhad worked.
Still, Lupe preferred Xochitl’s prior day’s method of fortifying her biological systems with a buffalo burger and carrot cake. After the hike, Lupe missed fortifying her own biological systems with a big helping of Cheyenne Crossing carrot cake from a Dingo box.
Lupeo – “Carrot Cake or Macadamia Nut Oil, that is the question: Whether ’tis more fortifying for the biological systems to suffer the oiliness and slipperiness of outrageous Macadamia Nut Oil, or to take fangs against an entire Dingo box of caramel-drizzled Carrot Cake, and by devouring it, end it?”
On 8-23-15, Lupe climbed Mount Elbert, the highest peak in Colorado, second highest peak in the 48 contiguous United States, and quite possibly the highest mountain she will ever climb. What could she possibly do for an encore the next day? Why, climb the second highest peak in Colorado, of course!
Mount Massive(14,421 ft.) is conveniently located just 5 miles NNW of Mount Elbert(14,433 ft.). Only 12 feet lower than Mount Elbert, Mount Massive is the third highest peak in the 48 contiguous United States. So on 8-24-15, Day 16 of her Summer of 2015 Dingo Vacation, Lupe set out from the Mount Massive trailhead near Halfmoon Creek at 9:32 AM (57°F).
It was another beautiful day. It was also Monday. The weekend crowds had disappeared. SPHP had been able to park the G6 in the TH parking lot. Only a few other vehicles were there. Although the elevation gain would be very similar, only slightly less than she had gained climbing Mount Elbert the day before, climbing Mount Massive was going to be a more peaceful experience.
The trailhead was actually a TH on the Colorado Trail. The Colorado Trail climbed fairly steeply at first, and then leveled out with both up and down sections. Lupe followed the Colorado Trail for about 3 miles. It wound its way around some, but generally towards the N. After 3 miles on the Colorado Trail, Lupe reached the Mount Massive Trail No. 1487. Mount Massive Trail No. 1487 heads W for about 2.5 miles to reach a ridgeline S of the summit.
Going up Mount Massive, there were similarities with Lupe’s climb up Mount Elbert the previous day. The Colorado Trail and the first part of the Mount Massive Trail were all in the forest. There weren’t any views until Lupe reached tree line along the Mount Massive Trail. Once on the Mount Massive Trail, it was a steady climb all the way up the mountain. The steepest, hardest parts of the climb were near the top.
Lupe didn’t meet many people on the trail at first, but this time it wasn’t due to a late start. There just weren’t that many people on the mountain. After a while, Lupe did meet some people and a few dogs who were coming down the mountain, as she climbed up, but far fewer than the day before.
Once again, the views started at tree line. There were far more bushes above tree line than on Mount Elbert. Lupe likes bushes. She sought their shade whenever SPHP had to stop to rest.
Most of Trail No. 1487 seemed less steep than Trail No. 1184 up Mount Elbert. It did get steep as it approached the ridgeline leading to the summit. As Lupe approached the ridgeline, there were a couple of mountain goats up ahead. People and a dog were on their way down, so the goats had to make a decision on which way to go. They disappeared around the W side of the ridge.
Trail No. 1487 reaches the top of the ridgeline between Mount Massive – Southeast Peak and the true summit. When Lupe reached the ridgeline, she followed the trail NW toward the true summit.
The trail to the top stayed mostly along the NE side of the mountain a bit below the ridgeline until quite close to the summit. There were some pretty huge drops to the SW on the other side of the ridge. Some scrambling was required along the way. Nothing serious, but this last leg up Mount Massive was certainly more challenging than the easy stroll along a ridge Mount Elbert had been. It was pretty fun! Lupe was happy climbing among the rocks.
A few people had been coming down as Lupe worked her way up, but by the time Lupe reached the ridgeline and final approach to the true summit, Lupe and SPHP were alone. Once again the weather was wonderful. There wasn’t even a breeze. The views all around were gorgeous.
It is possible to make a trek known as the “Tour de Massive” by visiting all five of the high points along the huge Mount Massive ridge. SPHP had been thinking Lupe could do the Tour de Massive. She could have, too, but the reality up on the summit of Mount Massive was that SPHP could not. Not after climbing up Mount Elbert the previous day. The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak.
A look at the high points (Green, Northwest and Far Northwest) off to the NW revealed that it might well involve considerably more than an easy stroll up and down along a ridgeline to get over to those peaks. Climbing the Southeast Peak, on the other hand, was clearly pretty easy, but in the end, SPHP was content to just call it a day – another wonderful day spent with Lupe.
Lupe and SPHP lingered quite some time up on Mount Massive. No one else appeared. Lupe and SPHP had Mount Massive entirely to themselves. It was a grand time. SPHP and Lupe both enjoyed the tremendous views. Lupe also found a snowbank to frolic on.
Going up to the summit along the ridgeline had been really fun. Going back down was a good time, too. Lupe scrambled quickly among the rocks. SPHP scrambled slowly. The route was rough enough to be interesting and engaging, without being difficult. The views, of course, remained simply splendid.
Once below the ridgeline, and heading E on Mount Massive Trail No. 1487, the long trek back to the G6 began in earnest. Lupe had lots of wide open territory to explore. She had a wonderful time. A little later on, the light faded in the forest while Lupe followed the Colorado Trail. Between the trees, the light of a huge bonfire could be seen to the E of the trail.
Lupe met a couple of guys intending on camping on Mount Massive up above tree line. They were from Florida. One of them had seen Lupe on the trail, and thought she was a wolf! (Quite a few people have said she resembles a fox before, but never a wolf!) They were carrying sleeping bags, but seemed to have no backpacks or other gear. SPHP wondered if they weren’t heading for a bit of a shock. It was conceivable that a night above tree line (around 12,000 feet) on Mount Massive, even in August, might not be much like camping out on a Florida beach.
Lupe met no one else the entire way back. At 8:45 PM (52°F), Lupe reached the G6. For Lupe and SPHP, it had been a fabulous day together on Mount Massive. Fortunately for the Floridians, it looked like it was going to be a fabulous night, too.