Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 116 – Green Mountain, Northern Rainbows & High Point 5219 (1-24-15)

SPHP almost chickened out.  Even though the forecast was for an unseasonably warm 52°F, it was supposed to be windy with possible rain showers.  Rain showers are almost unheard of in the Black Hills of South Dakota in late January, but that was what the forecast said.  The rain showers were supposed to end by noon, but a little rain was not the problem.  The 35 mph NW wind in the forecast was.  Up on a mountaintop, 52°F, if it even reached that, might be less than wonderful when combined with a 35 mph gale.

Lupe was bored and restless, though.  She stared expectantly at SPHP with eager, pleading puppy eyes.  She knew SPHP had been considering taking her into the mountains, due to preparations that had been underway before checking the forecast.  Lupe was ready for action.  She was expecting to go, eager to go, and doing her Carolina Dog best to demand to go!

Well, it would probably be alright.  Lupe won out!  At 9:46 AM, Lupe and SPHP left the G6 parked along Duran Road (USFS Road No. 679.1) just across Box Elder Creek from Nemo Road.  It was already a very balmy 46°F.  There wasn’t any rain yet.  It was only partly cloudy, but those clouds were making good time across the sky.  The wind was roaring in the trees.  Fortunately, the breeze wasn’t too bad down at ground level.

Lupe had two peakbagging goals for the day.  The first one was Green Mountain.  No!  Not the Green Mountain (7,164 ft.) along the E edge of the limestone plateau country of the western Black Hills, but the Green Mountain (5,240 ft.) located a little under 2 miles S of better known Steamboat Rock.  Lupe’s second goal was Hat Mountain.  No!  Not the Hat Mountain (6,779 ft.) S of Deerfield Reservoir, but a much more diminutive Hat Mountain (4,883 ft.) located about 3 miles SE of Lupe’s Green Mountain goal.

USFS Road No. 679.1 was covered with snow and ice.  It wound around a lot, but steadily gained elevation while working its erratic way W.  After Lupe had gone nearly 2 miles along the road (just 1 mile as the crow flies), she came to a huge pile of logs.  A couple of loggers were there getting ready to go to work.  The loggers had the interesting news that they had seen a mountain lion right there the previous day.

Lupe on the pile of logs along USFS Road No. 679.1 on her way to Green Mountain.
Lupe on the pile of logs along USFS Road No. 679.1 on her way to Green Mountain.
Approaching the loggers.
Approaching the loggers.

Lupe had scarcely passed the loggers when the ridge to Green Mountain came into sight to the SW.  Lupe and SPHP left the road to head up through an area where the forest had been greatly thinned to reach the top of the ridge.  The top of the ridge was still forested.  Lupe followed a faint path SE along the ridge.

Lupe on the forested ridge leading to Green Mountain. Photo looks SE the direction would take to the summit.
Lupe on the forested ridge leading to Green Mountain. Photo looks SE the direction would take to the summit.

As Lupe got close to the summit of Green Mountain, she started to encounter rock outcroppings.  At the summit, there was a small area of limestone jutting sharply up above the surrounding terrain.  The limestone formation was about 20 – 25 feet high.  It was pretty easy to climb almost all the way to the top.  In order for Lupe to reach the very top, though, SPHP had to lift her up onto the highest rock.

Lupe didn’t like it up on the highest rock on Green Mountain.  It was high enough to be a little scary.  Mostly, though, she didn’t like the wind.  The wind hadn’t been much of a problem, so far, but up on top of Green Mountain, Lupe felt its full force.  SPHP wanted Lupe to stay up on the highest rock long enough for SPHP to climb down and get a good picture of her sitting up there.

The only picture SPHP got of Lupe on the very top of Green Mountain was one taken while still right beside her.  As soon as SPHP moved away, despite SPHP’s protestations, Lupe leaped down.  She wasn’t staying up there in that gale!  No way!  American Dingoes have lots better sense than that!

Lupe started to encounter limestone rock outcroppings as she got close to the summit of Green Mountain.
Lupe started to encounter limestone rock outcroppings as she got close to the summit of Green Mountain.
Lupe sitting up next to the highest rock on Green Mountain. SPHP had to climb up there, too, in order to lift a reluctant Lupe up to the very top.
Lupe sitting up next to the highest rock on Green Mountain. SPHP had to climb up there, too, in order to lift a reluctant Lupe up to the very top.
Lupe was fine sitting next to the highest rock on Green Mountain. It was to her N and shielding her from the strong wind.
Lupe was fine sitting next to the highest rock on Green Mountain. It was to her N and shielding her from the strong wind.
This is the only photo SPHP would get of Lupe on the highest rock on Green Mountain. She did not like it up there in the wind! She jumped down at her first opportunity.
This is the only photo SPHP would get of Lupe on the highest rock on Green Mountain. She did not like it up there in the wind! She jumped down at her first opportunity.

SPHP knew it was pointless to lift Lupe back up onto the top rock again.  She would just jump down again.  The 30+ mph N wind was just too annoying.  Instead, Lupe and SPHP retreated maybe 20 feet down to the SE of the summit, where it wasn’t so breezy.  There were some nice views to the S and E from here.

Lupe likes it better here. She's just SE of the summit of Green Mountain, but much better protected from the wind. Photo looks SE toward forested High Point 5136.
Lupe likes it better here. She’s just SE of the summit of Green Mountain, but much better protected from the wind. Photo looks SE toward forested High Point 5136.
Looking E toward a burned area E of Nemo Road from Green Mountain.
Looking E toward a burned area E of Nemo Road from Green Mountain.

The views were great from Green Mountain from the E around to the S, and all the way over to the WSW.  SPHP tried to spot Hat Mountain, Lupe’s next objective, which was about 3 miles off to the SE.  There was a clear view of a lot of territory in that direction, but SPHP had no success identifying Hat Mountain.

SPHP persuaded Lupe to go back up toward the summit of Green Mountain again.  Lupe agreed to cooperate, but only if she didn’t have to sit way up on top getting blasted by the wind.  She was fine with being just a little below the summit, sheltered from the wind by the rocks.

Lupe just below the summit of Green Mountain. There was a considerably larger drop off on the other side of the rocks. Photo looks NW.
Lupe just below the summit of Green Mountain. There was a considerably larger drop off on the other side of the rocks. Photo looks NW.

Lupe on Green Mountain, 1-24-15

Looking W from Green Mountain.
Looking W from Green Mountain.

To get to Hat Mountain, Lupe’s next peakbagging goal, she needed to go SE.  However, Green Mountain dropped off very steeply in that direction.  The easiest way down was to go back to the NW along the ridge far enough to where the sides of the mountain weren’t so steep.

Lupe and SPHP were about to leave Green Mountain heading NW, when a series of squall lines started moving in from the N.  Blown by the strong N wind, they came fast and left just as fast, spitting rain as they passed over.

Lupe caught a glimpse of the first of several rare Northern Rainbows that she would see during the day as she left Green Mountain.  All the rainbows that SPHP could remember had always been in the E or the W, when slanting rays of the sun shone through raindrops in the air.  These rare Northern Rainbows were due to the date, time, and unusually warm weather.

The January sun just isn’t all that high above the S horizon, even during the middle of the day.  Ordinarily any precipitation this time of year would have been in the form of snow, not rain.  The combination of the sun’s rays coming slanting in from the S, and shining through the rain squalls blowing in from the N, caused the Northern Rainbows.

Some of the rainbows were quite brilliant for a few moments, but they didn’t last long as the wind pushed the squall lines through quickly.  Unfortunately, Lupe and SPHP were never where there was a clear view to the N when the rainbows formed.  It was still fun to catch glimpses of them now and then.

Lupe caught a glimpse of this Northern Rainbow as she left Green Mountain. She saw several others during the day, too, but never had a good clear view of them.
Lupe caught a glimpse of this Northern Rainbow as she left Green Mountain. She saw several others during the day, too, but never had a good clear view of them.

As soon as the sides of Green Mountain’s NW ridge were less steep, Lupe and SPHP started heading S down off the ridge.  When the ground eventually leveled out, Lupe turned more SE in the direction of Hat Mountain, still 3 miles away.

Soon Lupe and SPHP found themselves at the edge of a long limestone cliff above the Bogus Jim Creek valley.  Even if there had been a way down, the land below was nearly all privately owned.  Homes on acreages were scattered sparsely in the valley below.

Lupe and SPHP searched for a way down and around the private land.  Finally, Lupe found a way, but it involved a long detour to the W.  Lupe reached USFS Road No. 201.2J, and eventually made it to the main gravel road near Bogus Jim Creek.  Now down in the valley, Lupe headed E on the main road.  SPHP kept an eye out for USFS Road No. 201.1B.

Lupe trots along USFS Road No. 201.2J. This detour to the W took a lot of time, but did ultimately lead Lupe on down to County Road No. 270 (Bogus Jim Road), the main gravel road near Bogus Jim Creek.
Lupe trots along USFS Road No. 201.2J. This detour to the W took a lot of time, but did ultimately lead Lupe on down to County Road No. 270 (Bogus Jim Road), the main gravel road near Bogus Jim Creek.

When Lupe finally made it to USFS Road No. 201.1B, SPHP was still optimistic that Lupe would find and climb Hat Mountain.  A lot of time had been lost on the detour way around to the W, but all Lupe had to do was follow No. 201.1B up over a big ridge on the S side of the Bogus Jim Creek valley, and then turn ESE until she came to Hat Mountain.

Lupe takes a break 100 yards from USFS Road No. 201.1B on the S side of the Bogus Jim Creek valley. Green Mountain, where Lupe had been just a couple hours ago, looms to the N. Only a few minutes earlier, there had been a bright Northern Rainbow, but by the time Lupe and SPHP got to this opening in the forest for a photo, the sky clouded over and the rainbow disappeared.
Lupe takes a break 100 yards from USFS Road No. 201.1B on the S side of the Bogus Jim Creek valley. Green Mountain, where Lupe had been just a couple hours ago, looms to the N. Only a few minutes earlier, there had been a bright Northern Rainbow, but by the time Lupe and SPHP got to this opening in the forest for a photo, the sky clouded over and the rainbow disappeared.

It sounded easy, but it wasn’t.  No. 201.1B turned E before it got up over the ridge.  Lupe and SPHP tried a side road, which may have been No. 201.1H, but it soon turned W.  Lupe and SPHP abandoned the roads to climb directly up the slope, and ultimately succeeded in reaching flatter ground above.  There Lupe and SPHP encountered a maze of little roads in the forest.  Some of the roads were marked with ATV Trail Numbers, but they meant nothing on SPHP’s old USFS map.

Lupe and SPHP had by now crossed over the S ridge, and out of the Bogus Jim Creek drainage area.  Hat Mountain was likely no more than 1.5 miles away, and probably less, but the weather was deteriorating.  The sky was clouded over nearly all the time now.  Although the rain showers were supposed to have ended by noon, the rain was really just getting going.  The wind continued to roar in the trees.  Occasionally the sun still made a brief appearance, but increasingly the low clouds and rain were closing in.

Without being able to see the sun, orientation became difficult.  The relatively level forest provided no views.  SPHP led Lupe on a series of little roads heading SE, but Hat Mountain did not appear.  Finally, through the forest, SPHP saw a small rocky high point that looked like it would offer a view.  Lupe and SPHP were soon there.

Lupe arrives at High Point 5219.
Lupe arrives at High Point 5219.

The little rock outcropping yielded a view alright, but not the view SPHP was expecting.  SPHP expected to see Hat Mountain, or perhaps Norris Peak (4,982 ft.) or even Thrall Mountain (5,091 ft.).  Hat Mountain was nowhere to be seen.  Neither was Norris Peak.  Much farther off to the E than it should have been, was a mountain that looked like it might be Thrall Mountain.  It was hard to tell in the rain and clouds.

Just a glance was enough.  SPHP knew instantly that Lupe was nowhere near Hat Mountain.  Lupe and SPHP had been heading SW instead of SE.  Far below, SPHP could see a short stretch of Hwy 44W that looked familiar.  Lupe was well W of Johnson Siding, or even Pine Cliff.  Miles off to the SW was a mountain that SPHP recognized.  The Seth Bullock Lookout Tower was barely visible on Scruton Mountain (5,922 ft.).

Looking SW from High Point 5219. This view, which disappeared in the clouds minutes later, enabled SPHP to quickly figure out where Lupe was.
Looking SW from High Point 5219. This view, which disappeared in the clouds minutes later, enabled SPHP to quickly figure out where Lupe was.

Time to look at the maps.  Lupe sat uncomfortably on the rocks while SPHP tried to pinpoint where Lupe might really be.  The wind continued blowing.  It was raining, not hard, but enough so Lupe was gradually becoming a pretty soggy doggie.  SPHP glanced up for another look at the view to the SW.  It was gone.  Now there was just fog.

Lupe sat uncomfortably on the rocks getting wetter and more miserable looking as SPHP checked the maps.
Lupe sat uncomfortably on the rocks getting wetter and more miserable looking as SPHP checked the maps.
A rather soggy doggie Lupe at High Point 5219. Why she chose to sit perched so strangely is a mystery.
A rather soggy doggie Lupe at High Point 5219. Why she chose to sit perched so strangely is a mystery.
"Come on, SPHP, figure it out! You told me we were going to Hat Mountain. If this isn't it, where in the world are we?"
“Come on, SPHP, figure it out! You told me we were going to Hat Mountain. If this isn’t it, where in the world are we?”

It was OK.  SPHP had seen enough.  From the maps, the only thing that made sense was that Lupe and SPHP had inadvertently arrived at High Point 5219.  Hat Mountain was now nearly 2 miles to the ENE.  No way Lupe and SPHP were going to find it today.  There wasn’t time, even if the weather had been better.

It was late, the weather wasn’t so hot, Hat Mountain had eluded Lupe, and it was a long way back to the G6.  Time to start making tracks!  Actually, time to start following tracks back the way Lupe and SPHP had come.  It was a good thing there was some snow on the ground.  SPHP set off from High Point 5219 at a lively pace retracing Lupe’s path in the snow.  SPHP was making great progress until…..

Until SPHP turned around.  Lupe wasn’t there!  She wasn’t following, and SPHP hadn’t seen her up ahead for a few minutes either.  SPHP was alone in the windy, rainy, almost foggy forest.  Raindrops on SPHP’s glasses made it difficult to see clearly.  Where had Lupe gone?  She always stays close.  She never runs off for more than a few minutes, without coming back to check on SPHP.

SPHP went back.  Soon SPHP spotted Lupe.  She was at the end of a dead tree trunk, digging furiously.  Clouds of reddish brown dirt and rotten wood went up around her.  SPHP was amazed to see her start ripping the old tree trunk apart with her teeth.  Clearly, Lupe was convinced something mighty interesting was in that old log.

Lupe had forgotten all about SPHP and was digging furiously at the end of a hollow log.
Lupe had forgotten all about SPHP and was digging furiously at the end of a hollow log.

Clouds of rotten wood flew; Lupe ripped big chunks of the old log off with her teeth.  Lupe kept hard at it.  When Lupe loosened a particularly big piece of wood, SPHP helped her break it off.  She continued digging like a Dingo possessed.

Suddenly a bunny streaked out of the other end of the log, and made a mad dash through the forest.  Lupe yipped and was after it.  They were both out of view in a flash.  SPHP ran after them.  Lupe’s frustrated yipping led SPHP to her.  The bunny knew this forest, and every hollow log in it.  It was now hiding in Hollow Log No. 2.  No telling how many hollow logs that rabbit was familiar with!

Lupe hadn’t lost an ounce of enthusiasm.  She was digging furiously again, now at the end of Hollow Log No. 2.  Well, this couldn’t go on.  Time to leave the bunny alone.  Lupe was plenty disappointed when SPHP made her leave.  No doubt the American Dingo thought SPHP had absolutely no idea how to fend for oneself in the wild.  Here was a perfectly good fresh rabbit dinner being passed up for a long trek in the wind and rain on an empty stomach.  Humans have no instincts worthy of the name!

It was a long way, hours, back to the G6.  Lupe and SPHP made it back to the main gravel road in the Bogus Jim Creek valley while there was still some light.  The rain had stopped.  The wind even died down somewhat.  The sky partially cleared.  Lupe and SPHP trudged onward.

Along USFS Road No. 679.1, the darkness came.  It should have been easy to follow the road back, but SPHP got lost.  More than once.  Several times SPHP took wrong side roads, not realizing they were side roads.  Lupe waited patiently while SPHP stopped to study maps with a flashlight each time it became clear something wasn’t right.

Orion was blazing brightly in the night sky by the time Lupe and SPHP reached the G6 again.  It was 7:54 PM, and still 36°F when Lupe hopped into the G6 for the ride home.  Back home, Lupe and SPHP feasted on spaghetti and chocolate cake.  It was good, but SPHP suspected Lupe would have much preferred rabbit.

Near High Point 5219, Lupe rips apart Hollow Log No. 1 with her teeth in her anxiety to get at the bunny hiding inside!
Near High Point 5219, Lupe rips apart Hollow Log No. 1 with her teeth in her anxiety to get at the bunny hiding inside!

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Spotted Horse, The Giant Mushroom & Shell Creek, Wyoming (8-8-12)

Day 1 of Lupe’s 2012 Dingo Vacation to the West Coast.

Something different was happening.  Lupe didn’t know what it all meant.  She was 1 year and 7 months old, so the world was still pretty new.  A couple days before, Lanis had arrived from Indiana in his Honda Element.  Now Lanis and SPHP were carting the rear seats out of the Element, and into the living room.  Lots of gear got stuffed into the back of the Element.

Lupe wondered what was going on.  She had no idea what was coming.  She didn’t know she was about to set out on her first ever Dingo Vacation.  Even Lanis and SPHP had only a vague idea where Lupe was ultimately going to go.  For starters, the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming, then probably to the Beartooths, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Park.  After that, well, who knew?  It was an adventure!

Shortly after 10:00 AM on 8-8-12, Lupe, Lanis & SPHP headed out.  Lanis drove, SPHP was navigator, and Lupe was perched on a pile of camping gear and supplies covered with blankets and pillows.

When Lupe was a little puppy, she hated riding in the car.  It made her sick.  Her ears drooped at just the mention of the car.  It took a long time, but Lupe had outgrown her car sickness.  She finally realized riding in the car meant that something fun was about to happen.  Still, SPHP wondered how she would fare on a long trip.

Lupe sets out on her first ever Dingo Vacation in Lanis' Honda Element perched comfortably on a pile of blankets.
Lupe sets out on her first ever Dingo Vacation in Lanis’ Honda Element perched comfortably on a pile of blankets.

Lupe did great in the Honda Element!  She was getting attention, and having a good time looking out the windows.  Soon Lupe was in Wyoming heading W on I-90.  She was going to the big mountains for the first time ever.  Her first big mountain range would be the Bighorns in north central Wyoming.

At Gillette, WY, Lupe left I-90.  She went N to Spotted Horse on Hwy 14/16.  This was a slightly longer route than just staying on I-90, but SPHP was curious to see what was there.  Spotted Horse turned out to be just a wide spot in the road.  However, there was a little store.  More importantly, there actually was a spotted horse!

Lanis went into the store to see what they had.  Meanwhile, Lupe met a white and black dog.  Lanis returned with ice cream bars, the first treat of the trip.  Lupe was quite enthusiastic about this turn of events.  She eagerly helped SPHP out.

Lanis at Spotted Horse, WY. Lupe met a white and black dog here, and helped SPHP devour an ice cream bar. Her first ever Dingo Vacation was off to a good start.
Lanis at Spotted Horse, WY. Lupe met a white and black dog here, and helped SPHP devour an ice cream bar. Her first ever Dingo Vacation was off to a good start.

By the time Lupe reached Sheridan, WY, it was getting to be time for something a little more substantial than an ice cream bar.  Lanis and SPHP stopped, and got Subway sandwiches.  Lupe would have her Taste of the Wild.  At Dayton, WY, there was a park on the Tongue River.  Lupe, Lanis and SPHP stopped at the park for a peaceful picnic along the clear running stream.

At least it started off as a peaceful picnic, but after a few minutes, there was the sound of machinery.  It seemed to be coming from upstream.  It got louder.  In a couple of minutes, the source of the noise appeared – a front end loader came right down the middle of the stream carrying a boulder.  Back and forth it went.  The front end loader was busy retrieving and rearranging boulders in the Tongue River.  Apparently nature had placed them in the wrong spot.

Lanis was rather amazed and amused by the front end loader charging up and down through the river.  Somehow it just didn’t seem right.  Lupe, Lanis and SPHP went farther downstream to escape the noise, but the clear running river wasn’t clear any more, at least not during the picnic.

A front end loader moving boulders around in the Tongue River attended Lupe's picnic in Dayton, WY.
A front end loader moving boulders around in the Tongue River attended Lupe’s picnic in Dayton, WY.  Even Lupe looks like she thinks it’s funny.

From Dayton, Lupe headed up into the Bighorn Mountains on Hwy 14.  SPHP suggested going to Dead Swede campground, which is situated in a beautiful location on the Tongue River.  At Dead Swede, Lupe and SPHP stayed at a campsite to claim it, while Lanis went to get a registration slip.  Campground hosts came by patrolling on an ATV.  They saw Lupe and SPHP standing at the empty campsite.

Right away they stopped and launched into a speech about how Lupe couldn’t be off leash, we had to pay within 30 minutes, we couldn’t do this and couldn’t do that.  We had to do this and had to do that.  The campground hosts claimed to be here to help us enjoy OUR national forest and wilderness experience.  Then they left.

Yeah, right!  SPHP has no use for Washington bureaucrats, and certainly doesn’t need them to enjoy a “wilderness” experience.  Lanis was back within a few minutes with the registration slip.  SPHP told him to forget it – Lupe was leaving!

Looking NE out at the high plains from one of the turnouts along Hwy 14 heading up into the Bighorn Mountains.
Looking NE out at the high plains from one of the turnouts along Hwy 14 heading up into the Bighorn Mountains.

Lupe, Lanis and SPHP went on to check out the Giant Mushroom area.  There were some nice views from up on a ridge there to the SE toward Cloud Peak (13,167 ft.), the highest mountain in the Bighorns.  There were interesting dolomite rock formations, including the Giant Mushroom.  Lupe had fun exploring.  The ground was pretty lumpy for camping, though.  Lupe, Lanis and SPHP went on to Shell Creek campground.

Lanis at the giant mushroom in the Bighorn Mountains.
Lanis at the giant mushroom in the Bighorn Mountains.

SPHP had a chat with the campground hosts at Shell Creek.  They were pretty cool and laid back.  They didn’t care too much what happened, as long as no one complained and everyone acted responsibly.  That was fine.  Lanis and Lupe also approved of Shell Creek campground, which was in a beautiful spot in the upper end of Shell Canyon.

So Lanis and SPHP reserved site No. 11.  Like all the other sites, it was right next to Shell Creek.  Lanis and SPHP set up the tent, or Lupe’s “tiny house”.  Lupe, Lanis, and SPHP all went for a walk along Shell Creek.  For the first time ever, Lupe saw a moose.  The moose had a calf.  Mama and baby were down along the creek getting a drink.  They soon sauntered off into the woods.

The moose at Shell Creek, Bighorn Mountains, WY.
Mama moose at Shell Creek, Bighorn Mountains, WY.

Back at the campsite, Lanis and SPHP made a late dinner.  Lupe had some Alpo.  By the time dinner was done and cleaned up, it was 10:00 PM.  Lupe, Lanis and SPHP all piled into the tent.  Lupe was pretty excited.  She was going to spend the night out here?!  This was new and different.  It took her a while to settle down.  She finally fell asleep to the soothing sound of the rushing waters of Shell Creek.

Now and then as she dreamed, she still twitched in excitement.

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Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 172 – Elk Mountain, Ragged Top Mountain & Twin Peaks (5-14-16)

A little downstream (N) of the sign for the cabin community of Elmore in Spearfish Canyon, SPHP stopped the G6 on a small pullout next to Hwy 14A.  USFS Road No. 215.1 was supposed to be around here somewhere.  Finding it was critical to Lupe being able to complete her peakbagging goals for the day.

SPHP checked the maps again.  Either No. 215.1 wasn’t much farther ahead, or SPHP had already missed it.  Let’s go a little farther Loop, if we don’t see it, we will have to turn around and make another pass.

The G6 had hardly gotten going back on Hwy 14A again, when a street sign saying Annie Creek Road appeared on the R next to a very rocky side road.  That was it!  Very carefully, SPHP crawled the G6 up the first little hill.  This wasn’t G6 territory!  As soon as the terrain flattened out, the G6 got parked along a wide spot in the dirt road (10:33 AM, 41°F).

Lupe and SPHP started off heading N on Annie Creek Road.  It was narrow, kind of rocky, but almost level.  An easy hike to start the day!  Last weekend, Lupe had found a similar road leading out of Spearfish Canyon farther N on her way to Little Crow Peak (5,885 ft.).  That road had been steep for over a mile, though.  This was a piece of cake!

The thick haze that had persisted all day on Expedition No. 171 was gone.  The air was a crisp, crystalline blue.  Not a cloud was in the sky.  Lupe and SPHP were both in high spirits, making good progress along the road.  The first point of interest came as the road angled NE.  A cold, clear rivulet poured down the steep hillside SE of the road between mossy banks.

The mossy-banked rivulet next to Annie Creek Road. Lupe wasn't thirsty yet.
The mossy-banked rivulet next to Annie Creek Road. Lupe wasn’t thirsty yet.

Lupe wasn’t thirsty yet, so she just went on.  She was surprised when a big mud puddle covering most of the road turned out to have a thin coat of ice.  Lupe passed several big iced-over puddles.  Near one of them, SPHP spotted a Lupe Treasure.  The aluminum beer can turned out to be heavy.  It was full of ice, too.  SPHP decided to move it from the ditch into a sunnier spot where the ice would melt.  Lupe could claim her treasure on the way back to the G6 at the end of the day.

Annie Creek could now be heard down in the deep forested valley to the NW.  Lupe was more than 1.5 miles from the G6 by the time the road curved N, and went over a high embankment above Annie Creek.  Lupe saw Annie Creek, which had surprisingly good flow, but did not leave the road to run down to it.

The road divided on the NW side of the creek.  The main road went NE following Annie Creek upstream.  A lesser, but still good road went W.  The topo map showed that this road would gain elevation slowly while working around the W end of a big hill to the N.  Eventually, it would turn E, arriving after 2 miles at a point less than 0.5 mile S of Lupe’s first peakbagging goal, Elk Mountain (6,422 ft.).  Lupe and SPHP left the main road heading W on the lesser road.

Lupe on the lesser road after leaving Annie Creek Road. Photo looks W.
Lupe on the lesser road after leaving Annie Creek Road. Photo looks W.

Everything was going great!  It was all so easy.  The lesser road started curving around to the NW.  Suddenly it ended.

Lupe reaches the sudden end of the lesser road. Photo looks NW.
Lupe reaches the sudden end of the lesser road. Photo looks NW.

Looking down into the steep ravine ahead, it was possible to see a couple of big old cement foundations and some collapsed timbers.  The road didn’t use to end here, there must have been some kind of trestle bridging the gap.  Trees kind of hid the other side, but it did look like the road still continued NW on the other side of the gap.

Going down the S end of the gap seemed easy enough, but climbing up the N end looked pretty steep.  It didn’t appear too bad, though.  Lupe and SPHP went down into the gap to get a closer look.

Lupe on one of the cement foundations down in the gap. Photo looks N up the steep slope Lupe would have to climb to get to where the road would continue NW.
Lupe on one of the cement foundations down in the gap. Photo looks N up the steep slope Lupe would have to climb to get to where the road would continue NW.
Looking WNW from the bottom of the gap.
Looking WNW from the bottom of the gap.

Lupe and SPHP climbed up the steep N side of the gap.  It wasn’t too bad going up, and less than a 50 foot climb, but SPHP hoped there weren’t any more gaps in the road ahead.  SPHP didn’t relish the prospect of going back down this way, if Lupe had to turn around.

The road did continue NW from the N side of the gap, but the view wasn’t entirely encouraging.  This part of the road was full of rocks and boulders that had fallen down the steep slope to the NE.  Trees were growing on the old roadbed.  It didn’t look like this part of the road got used at all any more.

The road continued on N of the gap, but didn't look very encouraging. Photo looks NW.
The road continued on N of the gap, but didn’t look very encouraging. Photo looks NW.

Lupe didn’t have to go very far N before SPHP’s fears were confirmed.  Another gap was dead ahead.  This one was even bigger, steeper, deeper and wider.  One look at it, and SPHP knew Lupe couldn’t continue on this way.

The 2nd, even bigger gap wasn't far N of the 1st one. No way Lupe and SPHP could get across this one!
The 2nd, even bigger gap wasn’t far N of the 1st one. No way Lupe and SPHP could get across this one!

SPHP didn’t want to back down that N slope of the 1st gap, but crossing the 2nd gap wasn’t an option at all.  Lupe and SPHP had to turn around.  SPHP searched the steep slope to the NE.  Was there a way up there?  It was the only other possibility.

The NE slope was steepest down right next to the road where part of the hillside had been carved out during road construction.  About 50 feet up, the slope wasn’t quite as steep.  Only one spot offered a possible reasonable route up.  From the very top of the steepest part of the bank, a fallen tree slanted down at an angle for about 30 feet.  The upper end of the trunk was wedged against a big living pine.  The lower end was firmly wedged between big rocks.  This tree trunk looked very stable, and getting to the lower end of it appeared relatively easy.

So, Lupe and SPHP tried going up the steep NE slope using the fallen tree for support.  No problems!  It worked just fine.  SPHP still had to crawl up the higher slope for quite some distance.  Very gradually, it became less steep.  Near the top, SPHP was able to walk again.  After gaining 200-300 feet of elevation, the ground finally leveled out.  Whew!  Lupe and SPHP took a breather at a rock outcropping at the edge of the slope.

Lupe at the rest point after climbing up the long steep slope unseen just beyond the edge of the rocks behind her. SPHP was quite glad to reach this point. Photo looks WSW.
Lupe at the rest point after climbing up the long steep slope unseen just beyond the edge of the rocks behind her. SPHP was quite glad to reach this point. Photo looks WSW.

Lupe had some Taste of the Wild and water.  SPHP checked the topo map.  From here Lupe needed to keep climbing while following the sweep of the ridge.  However, it wouldn’t be nearly as steep from here on.

SPHP had not planned for Lupe to ever be on this ridge, but now she was.  Everything went fine, though.  At first Lupe went SE climbing the now gently sloping ridge.  Before long, the ridge turned NE.  Lupe continued gaining a little elevation.  Somewhere far below to the SE was Annie Creek.  Lupe was so high above it, SPHP couldn’t even hear the creek.

Close to a mile from where Lupe and SPHP had reached the top of the steep slope, Lupe could see a huge pile of mine tailings up ahead.  It looked like a completely barren mountain.

Lupe draws near a mountain of mine tailings up ahead. Photo looks NE.
Lupe draws near a mountain of mine tailings up ahead. Photo looks NE.

Lupe reached a dirt road as she got closer to the mine tailings.  Lupe followed the dirt road N.  The top of Elk Mountain was now in view up ahead.

The top of Elk Mountain came into view. Photo looks N.
The top of Elk Mountain came into view. Photo looks N.

The dirt road quickly dead-ended.  Lupe continued NNE through the forest.  Elk Mountain looked like it would be easiest to climb from the E.  Lupe reached a fence at the edge of the mining property.  She stayed W of it, still trying to head NNE.  A constant sound of machinery in operation was getting louder and louder.

A big area covered with a black liner came into view.  A small pond of water was at the lower end.  Trucks could now be heard.  The mine was definitely in operation.  Lupe and SPHP stayed away from it in the forest.  Lupe had to cross a little valley to get to where she could start climbing Elk Mountain.  There were a few unmarked roads along in here, but Lupe didn’t follow any of them very far.  She climbed Elk Mountain (6,422 ft.) from the S and then E.

Lupe at the summit of Elk Mountain. Photo looks SE toward the mine and Terry Peak (7,064 ft.) in the distance.
Lupe at the summit of Elk Mountain. Photo looks SE toward the mine and Terry Peak (7,064 ft.) in the distance.

Although SPHP’s old USFS map showed Elk Mountain to be in the Black Hills National Forest with private property nearby, there were plenty of signs of human habitation near the top.  At the summit, a tall post stuck up out of a small pile of rocks.  Nearby was a short building with windows.  The building was shaped like it might house a hot tub.  SPHP peered inside.

Lupe near the strange little building on Elk Mountain. SPHP thought it might contain a hot tub, but it didn't. It appeared to be a child's playhouse. Photo looks SSW.
Lupe near the strange little building on Elk Mountain. SPHP thought it might contain a hot tub, but it didn’t. It appeared to be a child’s playhouse. Photo looks SSW.

There was no hot tub.  The strange little building appeared to be a child’s playhouse.  In a way, it was sort of a glorified tree fort with the lofty summit of Elk Mountain substituting in lieu of a treetop.  Sadly, it looked like no child had played here in a long time.

Lupe and SPHP took another rest break up on Elk Mountain.  SPHP had an apple.  Lupe had Taste of the Wild.  Water for all, of course.  Lupe shared a peanut butter granola bar with SPHP.  American Dingoes love granola bars!

There were clear views toward the S.  The most impressive view was SE toward the nearby mine.  Terry Peak (7,064 ft.) and Deer Mountain (6,652 ft.) were both in view farther off in the same direction.  Trees blocked most of the views to the N and W, although it was possible to get a glimpse of Cement Ridge (6,674 ft.) in Wyoming to the W.

The mine was kind of pretty in a devastated human way from the top of Elk Mountain. Terry Peak (L) and Deer Mountain (6,652 ft.)(Center) were in clear view beyond it. Photo looks SE.
The mine was kind of pretty in a devastated by humans way from the top of Elk Mountain. Terry Peak (L) and Deer Mountain (6,652 ft.) (Center) were in clear view beyond it. Photo looks SE.

Lupe’s next peakbagging goal, Ragged Top Mountain, was about a mile away to the NW as the crow flies.  Lupe and SPHP had to go farther than that to get there.  Lupe went down the NE slope of Elk Mountain.  On the way she spotted the greatest hoard ever of Lupe Treasures!  It was a veritable aluminum mine!  SPHP left the vast glittering riches where they were.

Ragged Top Mountain (6,200 ft.) has two high points of nearly equal elevation. The E high point is seen here from Elk Mountain. Photo looks NW.
Ragged Top Mountain (6,200 ft.) (L) has two high points of nearly equal elevation. The E high point is seen here from Elk Mountain. Photo looks NW.

Farther down the mountain, Lupe came to a road.  She followed it NW down to Preston, where there were a couple of decaying buildings.  From Preston, Lupe and SPHP headed back into the forest, and up the SE ridge to the top of Ragged Top Mountain (6,200 ft.).

A forlorn old building at Preston, SE of Ragged Top Mountain. Photo looks N.
A forlorn old building at Preston, SE of Ragged Top Mountain. Photo looks N.

Ragged Top Mountain has two highpoints, both areas enclosed by the 6,200 foot contour.  The topo map showed the E high point had a much larger area enclosed by the contour.  SPHP consequently expected the true summit would probably be found here.  Lupe reached the E high point first.  She found a ridge of rock that dropped steeply off to the S.

Lupe on top of the E high point of Ragged Top Mountain. This might have been the true summit. Photo looks ESE.
Lupe on top of the E high point of Ragged Top Mountain. This might have been the true summit. Photo looks ESE.

Lupe on the E high point of Ragged Top Mountain, 5-14-16

Lupe on another high rock, though not the highest one, in the area of the E high point on Ragged Top Mountain. Photo looks WNW.
Lupe on another high rock, though not the highest one, in the area of the E high point on Ragged Top Mountain. Photo looks WNW.

SPHP had caught a glimpse of the W high point from Elk Mountain.  It looked far more rugged, or perhaps “ragged” than the E part of Ragged Top Mountain.  After visiting the E high point, Lupe and SPHP enjoyed an easy stroll most of the way over to the W high point.

Actually getting to the top of the W high point involved a steeper, more peak-like climb.  It was still an easy scramble, but left both Lupe and SPHP more impressed with the W high point than the E one.  The W summit also featured a rock ledge dropping steeply off to the S.  However, the W high point had superior open views from the SE around to the W.  Right away, Lupe found a survey benchmark on a rock next to the very highest one.

This survey benchmark saying "Ragged" was located up on the W high point of Ragged Top Mountain. The W high point was certainly more impressive and a better viewpoint than the E one. However, even after Lupe visited both, SPHP remained uncertain which high point is actually the true summit.
This survey benchmark saying “Ragged” was located up on the W high point of Ragged Top Mountain. The W high point was certainly more impressive, and a better viewpoint than the E one. However, even after Lupe visited both, SPHP remained uncertain which high point is actually the true summit.
Lupe on the W high point of Ragged Top Mountain. The survey benchmark is underneath her just in front of her rear paws. Cement Ridge in Wyoming is seen in the distance on the L. Photo looks W.
Lupe on the W high point of Ragged Top Mountain. The survey benchmark is underneath her just in front of her rear paws. Cement Ridge (6,674 ft.)  in Wyoming is seen on the horizon on the L. Photo looks W.
Elk Mountain (Center) and more distant Terry Peak (L of Center) from the W high point of Ragged Top. Photo looks SE.
Elk Mountain (Center) and more distant Terry Peak (L of Center) from the W high point of Ragged Top. Photo looks SE.
Forest generally hid the views to the N, but SPHP caught this glimpse between the trees of Crow Peak (5,787 ft.) (L) W of Spearfish, SD. Photo looks N.
Forest generally hid the views to the N, but SPHP caught this glimpse between the trees of Crow Peak (5,787 ft.) (L) W of Spearfish, SD. Photo looks N.  Taken with the telephoto lens.
Lupe tried to get comfortable here while taking a rest break up on the W high point. It was rather rocky, though, and not entirely suited to Lupe's purpose. Photo looks W.
Lupe tried to get comfortable here while taking a rest break up on the W high point. It was rather rocky, though, and not entirely suited to Lupe’s purpose. Photo looks W.

The views were so nice, the sky so clear, and the temperature so pleasant, that Lupe and SPHP spent quite a while relaxing up on the W high point.  Lupe had her Taste of the Wild, and part of another peanut butter granola bar.  SPHP polished off the orange.  Lupe tried to doze in the sun, but didn’t look too comfortable on the rocks.

Eventually, it was time to press on toward Twin Peaks (6,000 ft.), Lupe’s final peakbagging goal of the day.  On the way down the W high point of Ragged Top, there was a spot where SPHP could see the two peaks Lupe had climbed a week ago on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 171 – Little Crow Peak (5,885 ft.) and Spearfish Peak (5,800 ft.).

Lupe lingers up on the W high point of Ragged Top Mountain. Photo looks WSW.
Lupe lingers up on the W high point of Ragged Top Mountain. Photo looks WSW.
Little Crow Peak (5,885 ft.) (L) and Spearfish Peak (5,800 ft.) (R) from Ragged Top. Photo looks N using the telephoto lens.
Little Crow Peak (5,885 ft.) (L) and Spearfish Peak (5,800 ft.) (R) from Ragged Top. Photo looks N using the telephoto lens.

Lupe and SPHP returned briefly to the E high point of Ragged Top Mountain.  From there, Lupe continued E to the edge of the high ground.  Twin Peaks is about 1.5 miles NE of Ragged Top as the crow flies.  SPHP wanted to get an idea what it looked like before leaving Ragged Top, but forest partially blocked the view.

Located at the N end of a ridge almost as high, Twin Peaks didn’t really stand out.  SPHP checked the topo map pretty carefully, comparing it to what could be seen of the view.  SPHP still wasn’t entirely certain which forested bump out there was Twin Peaks.  Well, Lupe, it isn’t that far away, and the intervening ground isn’t all that rugged.  We may as well just head NE.  We will find it!

After a little trek N along the E edge of Ragged Top, Lupe headed E down into the forest.  Reaching the valley floor, she crossed the road in the grassy field N of Preston.  Lupe went ENE up the next forested ridge and crossed it, too.  Down into another small valley, which had to have been Long Valley, and up the next ridge.  A road led E to a better dirt road where Lupe turned N.  Twin Peaks could now be seen up ahead.  Even this close, it wasn’t very impressive, just a comparatively small hill on the ridge.

Lupe came to the S peak first.  The top was covered with low bushes.

Lupe reaches the top of the S peak of Twin Peaks. Photo looks N.
Lupe reaches the top of the S peak of Twin Peaks. Photo looks N.

There wasn’t much to see on the S peak.  Lupe paused there only long enough for her summit photo before continuing on to the N peak, which was only a few minutes hike away.  The N peak was more interesting, and definitely a little higher than the S peak.  This was the true summit of Twin Peaks (6,000 ft.).

The views would have been better from the N peak, but it was buried in a dense forest.  Once again, Lupe remained only long enough for her summit photo and a few minutes of sniffing around.  SPHP had seen a rather nice view back to the S toward Elk Mountain while walking up the S peak.  Lupe and SPHP went back there for another look.

Lupe on top of the N peak and true summit of Twin Peaks (6,000 ft.). Photo looks S.
Lupe on top of the N peak and true summit of Twin Peaks (6,000 ft.). Photo looks S.
Elk Mountain (R) from the upper slopes of the S peak of Twin Peaks. Photo looks S.
Elk Mountain (R) from the upper slopes of the S peak of Twin Peaks. Photo looks S.

Lupe had now achieved all of her peakbagging goals for the day.  It was already early evening, but the sun would still be up for a while longer.  It was time for Lupe to start back toward the G6.  Lupe and SPHP went S from Twin Peaks, and got on the dirt road heading that direction.  Lupe started regaining elevation slowly, but steadily.

Off to the NE, there was a view of a big hill that SPHP had earlier thought might be Twin Peaks.  Now SPHP knew it wasn’t.  Lupe and SPHP stopped briefly to take a photo of it.  A check of the maps later revealed it had to be Richmond Hill (6,040 ft.).  Lupe had never been there.  Maybe she will some day!

Richmond Hill (6,040 ft.) from near the road S of Twin Peaks. Photo looks NE.
Richmond Hill (6,040 ft.) from near the road S of Twin Peaks. Photo looks NE.

The sun was getting sort of low, but it looked like Lupe should have time to return to the top of Elk Mountain one more time.  SPHP hoped the road Lupe was on would eventually turn SW toward Elk Mountain, but it didn’t.  Instead the road came to a high point where it turned sharply E.

Well, E was no help at all.  Lupe and SPHP left the road going WSW toward Elk Mountain.  Lupe lost quite a bit of elevation again crossing a valley.  On the other side of the valley, she started regaining it.  Lupe and SPHP climbed up the ENE side of Elk Mountain, making it to the top for the 2nd time.  The views were even prettier in the evening light.

Lupe returns to the summit of Elk Mountain. The views were even prettier in the evening light. Photo looks SSW.
Lupe returns to the summit of Elk Mountain. The views were even prettier in the evening light. Photo looks SSW.
Lupe near day's end on Elk Mountain. Photo looks SSE at some of the nearby mine tailings, which resembled ancient pyramids.
Lupe near day’s end on Elk Mountain. Photo looks SSE at some of the nearby mine tailings, which resembled ancient pyramids.

Lupe and SPHP couldn’t stay very long.  The sun was getting low, and Lupe had to find a new route back to the G6!  There was no way she was going back by way of the steep terrain she had to climb on her way to Elk Mountain the first time.  There was one more thing to do, though, first.

On the way down Elk Mountain, Lupe and SPHP stopped by the big hoard of Lupe Treasures!  SPHP stuffed three plastic grocery bags full of them.  Five times the amount SPHP could carry had to be left behind, but there wasn’t any choice.  One of the bags got stuffed in the backpack.  SPHP found a stick to use as a handle for carrying the other two.

By the time Lupe was down in forest W of the big mining operation again, a fiery orange sun was glowing on the horizon.  Lupe reached the road N of the Annie Creek valley as twilight was already starting to fade.  SPHP hoped the road would take Lupe down into Annie Creek valley, but didn’t bother to check the maps when the road forked.

One branch of the road went E.  The other went S.  SPHP took the road S, since it was the most direct route to Annie Creek.  Wrong move!  After losing modest elevation, the road dead-ended at the edge of a steep slope.  Annie Creek could be heard, but not seen far below.

SPHP scouted around.  There was a glimpse of Annie Creek Road down below!  It wasn’t far away, but a lot of elevation had to be lost to get to it.  The forested slope was steep, but looked reasonable.  Lupe and SPHP started down, hoping cliffs weren’t hidden below.

The slope got steeper, but Lupe didn’t come to any cliffs.  SPHP did have to go ever more slowly and carefully.  Lupe wandered this way and that.  She had no problems traversing this kind of stuff.  She was having a good time sniffing around.  Meanwhile, twilight was fading fast.  With each step, SPHP sent little showers of rocks cascading down the mountain.  The terrain forced SPHP toward a steep ravine.

Suddenly, one of the sacks full of Lupe Treasures caught on something, ripping loose from the stick.  Lupe Treasures spilled out as the sack tumbled 20 feet down before coming to rest.  Just lovely!  SPHP went carefully down to the damaged sack, gathering the Lupe Treasures back up again.  The loose sack was too badly damaged to be used now.

SPHP pulled the sack in the backpack out, and attached it to the stick.  All the Lupe Treasures from the damaged sack went directly in the backpack.  By the time SPHP had gathered up all the scattered Lupe Treasures, it was dark enough to have to use a flashlight.  Lupe and SPHP resumed the steep trek down.  SPHP had to stay in the ravine navigating through loose rocks, juniper bushes, trees and occasional deadfall.

In the darkness, Lupe trotted easily back and forth across the ravine, her tail waving happily, as if to show SPHP how to do it.  SPHP couldn’t.  Advantage, Carolina Dog!  Finally, however, the ravine got a little less steep.  Looking down, SPHP saw Lupe standing on Annie Creek Road.  Sweet!  SPHP joined her in just a couple of minutes.

The rest of the way back was easy, or should have been.  All Lupe and SPHP had to do was follow nearly level Annie Creek Road the entire way.  However, carting all of the Lupe Treasures, while holding the flashlight, plus trying to keep the camera from swaying wildly on its strap with each step, took both of SPHP’s hands.

Thoughtlessly, SPHP rubbed an itchy right eye with a finger, cleverly placing three molecules of sunscreen in the eye.  The result was a stinging sensation, and subsequent release of a cascade of tears from the offended right eye which insisted on closing tight.  One-eyed SPHP lost all depth perception of the faintly lit road.  It didn’t help that the left eye wanted to close in sympathy with the right one, too.

Lupe trotted happily on ahead in the darkness.  SPHP trudged slowly along Annie Creek Road, weeping from the right eye and trying to avoid the big mud puddles, while still managing to hang on to everything.  When Lupe found the aluminum can that had been full of ice where SPHP had left it to melt in the morning, SPHP stopped to add it to Lupe’s Treasure collection.

Unfortunately, draining the water out of the can released a ghastly, putrid odor.  As Uncle Peanut used to say, it was “enough to gag a maggot”.  SPHP almost abandoned the can right then and there, but thought better of it and managed to stuff it in one of the sacks on the stick.  Yuck!  SPHP didn’t like the idea of putting it in the G6, even in the trunk.

Lupe and SPHP continued on in the darkness – Lupe sniffing along as happy as ever; SPHP carting a clanking collection of dreadfully stinking Lupe Treasures, weeping from one eye, and trying not to stumble on rocks on the road due to a lack of depth perception.

When Lupe raced ahead, SPHP knew it was finally over.  She had seen the G6 (10:02 PM, 32°F).  SPHP was busy loading all the gear into the G6, and Lupe’s stinking treasure hoard into the trunk, when suddenly an owl hooted close by.  Lupe reacted like she had seen (or heard) a ghost, immediately leaping into the safety of the G6.  To SPHP, though, the owl just seemed to be laughing.

Lupe on the W high point of Ragged Top Mountain.
Lupe on the W high point of Ragged Top Mountain.

Lupe Treasures collected: 2 glass bottles, 2 plastic bottles & 204 aluminum cans.

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

Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 171 – Little Crow Peak & Spearfish Peak (5-7-16)

The patio was damp, but that was all.  It must have sprinkled overnight.  Plenty of clouds were still around.  Normally, even a little rain would help clear the air.  Not this time.  It was hazy.  Very, very hazy.  Otherwise it was a beautiful day in early May.  SPHP hoped the haze would burn off before too long.  Lupe didn’t care whether it did or not.  She was charged up and ready to roll!

A couple miles before reaching the starting place for her peakbagging efforts, Lupe and SPHP made a quick stop to see Bridal Veil Falls in Spearfish Canyon.  Later in the season Bridal Veil Falls often slows to a trickle, but the falls were beautiful this morning.

Lupe visits Bridal Veil Falls in Spearfish Canyon.
Lupe visits Bridal Veil Falls in Spearfish Canyon.

Bridal Veil Falls, Spearfish Canyon 5-7-16Bridal Veil Falls was looking great!  The falls were probably near maximum springtime flow, barring a thunderstorm.  Only 6 days ago on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 170, Lupe had found several inches of snow up on Kirk Hill (5,345 ft.) and Tetro Rock (5,562 ft.).  The weather had really warmed up since then, especially the last 3 days which were near 80°F.  Lupe loves the snow, but she wasn’t likely to find any remaining today.  Bridal Veil Falls wasn’t going to get any more of a boost from melting snow, either.

After admiring the falls, Lupe and SPHP continued S on Hwy 14A going up Spearfish Canyon.  SPHP was looking for USFS Road No. 186.2A, but doubted it would be marked as such.  A little less than 2 miles from Bridal Veil Falls, there was a road to the E with a street sign that said Cleopatra.  Right away, SPHP knew this was it!  The little parking area close to Spearfish Creek was full, but SPHP found another place to park nearby (10:50 AM, 61°F).

SPHP knew this place.  Lupe was at the confluence of Spearfish and Squaw Creeks.  (“Maurice” on the Peakbagger.com topo map.)  A trail goes up Squaw Creek perhaps a mile from here to the Devil’s Bathtub, a pool of water fed by a small waterfall.  A hiking trail to the Devil’s Bathtub is popular with local residents, but is not marked and not well known to tourists.

Lupe wasn’t going to the Devil’s Bathtub today, however.  Instead she was heading for Little Crow Peak (5,885 ft.), a nearby peak along the E rim of Spearfish Canyon.  At least, that was the plan.  SPHP had to find USFS Road No. 186.2 first.  The Peakbagger.com topo map showed No. 186.2 winding E up out of Spearfish Canyon from somewhere above Squaw Creek.

Lupe and SPHP crossed the bridge below the confluence of Spearfish and Squaw Creeks. Lupe then started out on the low road leading to the Devil’s Bathtub trail.  After just a few hundred feet, the trail left the road to cross Squaw Creek for the first time.  Lupe didn’t cross the creek.  If USFS Road No. 186.2 was still in existence, it would be somewhere higher up on this side of the canyon.

SPHP scanned the forest above to the E.  It did look like there might be some terrain a short distance higher up that could be level enough for a road.  Lupe was just past the last private cabin near Squaw Creek.  Time to find out if USFS Road No. 186.2 was actually still up there somewhere or not, and if so, what kind of condition it was in.  Lupe and SPHP started climbing up the steep forested slope.

Lupe didn’t have to climb far at all!  She popped out of the forest onto a very nice little road.  The road was rocky and narrow.  Heading SE, it climbed steadily up the side of the canyon.  There was no marker, but that wasn’t surprising.  This almost had to be USFS Road No. 186.2.  Lupe and SPHP started following it up.

Lupe on USFS Road No. 186.2 on her way to Little Crow Peak.
Lupe on USFS Road No. 186.2 on her way to Little Crow Peak.

No. 186.2 wound around some, but generally worked its way E for more than a mile.  It was a rather steep climb the entire way.  Lupe came to several grassy side roads, but she always stayed on the main road.  The rocky road went relentlessly up and up.  Lupe followed at SPHP’s heels much of the time.  Lupe found the road a bit dull.

The map showed a power line crossing the road, but Lupe didn’t come to one.  After Lupe had gone more than 0.75 mile, SPHP looked back down to the W.  A swath of the forest had been cut in a straight line leading to the road.  The old power line must have been here at one time.  By now, Lupe was high enough to see a high forested hill off to the NW.  That had to be Little Crow Peak (5,885 ft.)!

Lupe and SPHP stayed on No. 186.2 until it finally quit gaining elevation.  As soon as the road leveled out, Lupe left it heading N into the forest.  As Lupe reached the top of a broad forested ridge, she came to another road.  The road was faint, but its existence was good news.  It was going WNW toward Little Crow Peak.

The faint road didn’t go all the way up Little Crow Peak, but it did bring Lupe to a point just E of the final rise.  The climb through the forest was pretty easy.  As Lupe got higher up on the mountain, she encountered quite a bit of deadfall timber, but by then Lupe didn’t have much farther to go.

Fairly large rock outcroppings started appearing about the time the terrain began leveling out.  Lupe was getting close to the summit of Little Crow Peak.  Suddenly, SPHP spotted a cairn up on some high rocks a short distance ahead.  Lupe was almost there!

Lupe up on a rock outcropping on Little Crow Peak featuring a cairn. The true summit was still another 150 feet farther W. Photo looks S.
Lupe up on a rock outcropping on Little Crow Peak featuring a cairn. The true summit was still another 150 feet farther W. Photo looks S.

Lupe scrambled up onto the rocks next to the cairn.  Initially, SPHP thought this might well be the summit of Little Crow Peak.  Peering to the W through the forest, though, it looked like there might well be a higher point not too much farther away.

The true summit proved to be roughly 150 feet W of the cairn.  Lupe climbed up a larger rock formation there to claim her Little Crow Peak peakbagging success!

Lupe at the true summit of Little Crow Peak. Photo looks W.
Lupe at the true summit of Little Crow Peak. Photo looks W.
Another look at Lupe on the summit. This photo looks N.
Another look at Lupe on the summit. This photo looks N.
A Carolina Dog surveys the situation from her vantage point at the E end of the summit rock formation. Photo looks W.
A Carolina Dog surveys the situation from her vantage point at the E end of the summit rock formation. Photo looks W.

Forest hid the views in almost every direction.  It hardly mattered.  The entire sky remained very hazy.  If the air had been clear, there was quite a nice view toward Terry Peak (7,064 ft.) to the SSE.  As it was, the camera could barely detect Terry Peak in the haze, although it was visible to the naked eye.  Lupe and SPHP took a rest break up on Little Crow Peak before continuing on.

When it was time to leave, Lupe went back E down the mountain, a little S of the way she had come up.  This route avoided some of the deadfall timber, and brought Lupe to more interesting rock formations.  It proved to be a somewhat easier way back to the faint road.

These plants with little yellow flowers were common on Little Crow Peak.
These plants with little yellow flowers were common on Little Crow Peak.
Forest blocked the views in most directions from Little Crow Peak. Lupe did find this one hazy glimpse of Spearfish Peak (5,800 ft.) on her way down the mountain. Spearfish Peak was Lupe's next peakbagging goal. Photo looks NE.
Forest blocked the views in most directions from Little Crow Peak. Lupe did find this one hazy glimpse of Spearfish Peak (5,800 ft.) on her way down the mountain. Spearfish Peak was Lupe’s next peakbagging goal. Photo looks NE.  Taken with the telephoto lens.
Lupe near some of the rock formations she passed by on her way down the E side of Little Crow Peak. Photo looks S.
Lupe near some of the rock formations she passed by on her way down the E side of Little Crow Peak. Photo looks S.

Lupe and SPHP followed the faint road ESE all the way until it reached USFS Road No. 186.2 some distance E of where Lupe had left it to climb Little Crow Peak.  At least SPHP thought Lupe was back at No. 186.2, but she really wasn’t.

Lupe’s next peakbagging goal was Spearfish Peak (5,800 ft.).  The original plan was to follow No. 186.2 E and then SE from Little Crow Peak.  The Peakbagger.com topo map showed that No. 186.2 would reach an intersection with another road that wound its way several miles N along the top of a long ridge.  That road would bring Lupe to a point close to Spearfish Peak where she should be able to climb it easily enough from the SE.

As Lupe and SPHP headed ENE along No. 186.2, it didn’t take too long for SPHP to realize something was wrong.  The road should have gone almost due E just S of a slightly higher ridge to the N, but it didn’t.  Lupe passed several side roads, but they didn’t look as well traveled as the road Lupe was on.  They didn’t seem right either, and SPHP was reluctant to take them.

Lupe reached an intersection with a grassy road that continued NE.  An ancient small bus was rusting away next to this side road.  The main road turned E and started climbing again.  SPHP pondered for only a moment.  Lupe took the main road E.

The ancient decaying bus about 0.67 mile ESE of Little Crow Peak. Lupe thought this was a stupendous Lupe Treasure, but SPHP was too weak to cart it back to the G6 to secure her prize. This photo was taken later in the day on Lupe's return from Spearfish Peak. Photo looks NW.
The ancient decaying bus about 0.67 mile ESE of Little Crow Peak. Lupe thought this was a stupendous Lupe Treasure, but SPHP was too weak to cart it back to the G6 to secure her prize. This photo was taken later in the day on Lupe’s return from Spearfish Peak. Photo looks NW.

The main road Lupe was following E led up onto some high ground.  SPHP soon realized Lupe was on the ridge N of USFS Road No. 186.2.  She was traveling the section line between Sections 10 & 15.  There was supposed to be a power line here, according to the map, but none was present.  The road was level at times, and at other times went up and down steep ravines.

As Lupe reached the E end of the high ground along the ridge, she came to a misspelled sign for the Carbonate Camp Cemetery.  Lupe found 5 old gravesites here.  Each grave was marked with a ring of small stones.  There were no headstones, only a wooden board sticking up at the head of each grave.  The boards were so old and weathered, any information that might have been on them about the deceased had long ago worn away.

This misspelled Carbonate Camp Cemetery sign was near 5 graves. Online research later revealed that these graves would all have dated back to the late 1800's.
This misspelled Carbonate Camp Cemetery sign was near 5 graves. Online research later revealed that these graves would all have dated back to the late 1800’s.
Lupe sits on the best preserved gravesite at the Carbonate Camp Cemetery. Originally there were at least 11 graves, but Lupe & SPHP only saw evidence of 5. Carbonate Camp was a mining camp back in the 1880's.
Lupe sits on the best preserved gravesite at the Carbonate Camp Cemetery. Originally there were at least 11 graves, but Lupe & SPHP only saw evidence of 5. Carbonate Camp was a mining camp back in the 1880’s.  Photo looks E.

E of Carbonate Camp Cemetery, the road soon wound steeply down into the upper reaches of Rubicon Gulch.  Continuing E, the road went up and down over several steep hills.  Lupe was delighted and SPHP was amazed, when she found several patches of snow still melting on the road.

Lupe found several patches of snow on the road in the upper reaches of Rubicon Gulch. This one was the largest of all. Photo looks E.
Lupe found several patches of snow on the road in the upper reaches of Rubicon Gulch. This one was the largest of all. Photo looks E.

At the final low point on the E side of Rubicon Gulch, a small stream flowed out to the NW from a culvert under the road.  This stream eventually goes over Bridal Veil Falls, but it was much smaller up here.  On the S side of the road was a slew, which SPHP naturally dubbed Rubicon Slew.  The surface of Rubicon Slew was almost entirely thickly covered with gray-green duckweed.  The water’s surface was scarcely visible.

Lupe at Rubicon Slew. Photo looks SSW.
Lupe at Rubicon Slew. Photo looks SSW.

Close by to the SE of Rubicon Slew was a metal building, and a fence with a No Trespassing sign.  The land to the S was likely part of the Richmond Hill mining operations.  It was now clear that if Lupe had actually returned to No. 186.2 after leaving Little Crow Peak, it would have taken her into that private property.  It was a good thing Lupe came the way she did.  This route was a shortcut, too!  Lupe had saved more than a mile coming via Carbonate Camp Cemetery and Rubicon Slew.

From Rubicon Slew, a very rocky road went NE up a ridge.  Lupe and SPHP followed it.  Near a power line at the top of the ridge, another road came in from the SSE.  This was the road that would wind N following the long ridge to Spearfish Peak.  It intersected the road from Rubicon Slew just S of a small private cabin.

Lupe near the little cabin on the ridge NNE of Rubicon Slew. Photo looks E.
Lupe near the little cabin on the ridge NNE of Rubicon Slew. Photo looks E.

A couple of Private Property signs near the little cabin had been spray painted over with black paint for some reason.  Lupe continued N on the road, which SPHP now believed was USFS Road No. 220, although Lupe and SPHP never saw any marker for it.  The road went past some other private property.  At a fork in the road, Lupe stayed to the NW.  She passed by some land for sale.

From the land for sale, the road went downhill and passed beneath the power line again.  Spearfish Peak was now visible to the N.  Lupe had come clear around the upper end of Rubicon Gulch, and was finally getting closer.

Spearfish Peak is in view to the N. The power line really helped SPHP stay oriented so Lupe was able to remain on the correct road instead of wandering off on one of the possible side roads on the way to Spearfish Peak, which often was not in view until Lupe got close.
Spearfish Peak is in view to the N. The power line really helped SPHP stay oriented so Lupe was able to remain on the correct road instead of wandering off on one of the possible side roads on the way to Spearfish Peak, which often was not in view.

USFS Road No. 220 wound around to the W of the power line, but generally headed N toward Spearfish Peak.  The road stayed up on the ridge.  Sometimes Lupe could see Little Crow Peak to the SW.  Eventually Spearfish Peak came into view.  It wasn’t much farther N now!

Beautiful new light green aspen leaves were sprouting.
Beautiful new light green aspen leaves were sprouting.

USFS Road No. 220 eventually crossed under to the E side of the power line again, but Lupe did not.  Instead, she followed a road going N beneath the power line for a little way.  When a side road turned NW toward Spearfish Peak, Lupe took that one.  It soon ended at the edge of the forest.  A faint single track trail went up the SE ridge of Spearfish Peak.  Lupe was able to follow it all the way to the top.

Lupe on the highest rock on Spearfish Peak. Photo looks WNW.
Lupe on the highest rock on Spearfish Peak. Photo looks WNW.
Lupe's paw next to the survey benchmark on Spearfish Peak.
Lupe’s paw next to the survey benchmark on Spearfish Peak.

The rock formation at the top of Spearfish Peak was only a few feet high.  Lupe immediately claimed her second peakbagging success of the day!  Lupe found a survey benchmark right next to the highest rock.

Like Little Crow Peak, Spearfish Peak was heavily forested.  Once again, the only open views were to the S.  Unfortunately, the haze hadn’t dissipated at all yet.

A very hazy view of Bald Mountain (6,617 ft.) and Terry Peak (7,064 ft.) from Spearfish Peak. Photo looks S.
A very hazy view of Bald Mountain (6,617 ft.) (L) and Terry Peak (7,064 ft.) (R) from Spearfish Peak. Photo looks S using the telephoto lens.
Little Crow Peak from Spearfish Peak. Photo looks SW.
Little Crow Peak from Spearfish Peak using the telephoto lens. Photo looks SW.

It seemed like it had taken a long time to get to Spearfish Peak from Little Crow Peak.  Lupe and SPHP were both ready for another break.  SPHP ate the last apple.  Lupe had Taste of the Wild.  Water was the only other available provision.  Lupe curled up to rest at SPHP’s feet.

Apparently, this haze was going to hang around all day.  Strange, and a little frustrating.  Approaching Spearfish Peak, there had been some big views evident off to the NE, but it had been impossible to actually see much.  It was too bad, but there was nothing to be done about it.

When the rest break was over, Lupe posed for a few more summit photos.  Then it was time to go.

Lupe on the summit rock. Photo looks E.
Lupe on the summit rock. Photo looks E.

Lupe on Spearfish Peak, 5-7-16

Lupe next to the survey benchmark.
Lupe next to the survey benchmark.

On the way down again, the faint trail up the SE ridge was so faint that SPHP lost it entirely.  It turned out Lupe was coming down well to the N of the trail.  Lupe finally reached it again, not too far from the road.

The same type of flower common on Little Crow Peak was flourishing on Spearfish Peak, too.
The same type of flower common on Little Crow Peak was flourishing on Spearfish Peak, too.

Once Lupe was back on the road, all she had to do was retrace her earlier route back to Little Crow Peak.  The return trip seemed to go considerably faster.  SPHP didn’t have to keep stopping to check the maps anymore.

Lupe and SPHP were taking another break in the forest near the start of the faint road to Little Crow Peak when an ATV roared up the main road from the W.  Surprisingly, the ATV stopped at the intersection.  The driver spotted Lupe and SPHP right away and waved.  SPHP waved back.  Lupe growled.  Within a minute, another ATV roared up and stopped.  The two drivers got on their cell phones.

The first driver got off his ATV and came to talk to SPHP.  Did SPHP know where the road to the Cleopatra Mine was?  Not really, although the Cleopatra Mine was somewhere up Squaw Creek beyond the Devil’s Bathtub.  The ATV’s weren’t that close to it here.  The Cleopatra Mine was on a hillside, but a lot lower down than this.

SPHP mentioned how hazy it was.  The ATV driver said the haze was smoke from the huge wildfire going on up near Ft. McMurray in Canada.  SPHP was surprised, but it made some sense.  That would explain why the haze hadn’t dissipated all day long.  On the other hand, Ft. McMurray was an extremely long way N, way up in northern Alberta.

The ATV’s roared off.  Lupe smiled.  It was evening now.  American Dingoes like this time of day.  There was still time to go back up Little Crow Peak one more time.  So, Lupe did.  The cool evening air energized her.  She raced through the forest sniffing.  She found a few squirrels to bark at.  She heard wild turkeys gobble in the woods.  She climbed Little Crow Peak again.

Lupe returns to the summit of Little Crow Peak. Photo looks W.
Lupe returns to the summit of Little Crow Peak. Photo looks W.

Lupe and SPHP lingered on Little Crow Peak.  It was cooler out now, and getting a little chilly.  Finally, SPHP was ready.  Lupe headed back down the mountain.  SPHP had been collecting Lupe Treasures since leaving Spearfish Peak.  SPHP resumed collecting along No. 186.2 on the way back to the G6.  Lupe stayed on the alert for squirrels.

The way down seemed very long, steep, and rocky.  No wonder it had been tough going up in the morning!  Lupe stayed on No. 186.2 all the way down.  At the bottom, SPHP wanted to see where No. 186.2 joined Cleopatra Road.  It came out between private cabins just N (downstream) of the bridge over Spearfish Creek.

It had been a pretty long day.  The light was fading.  Someday Lupe would have to return to go see the Devil’s Bathtub.  It was way too late to do that now.  Time to go home (8:37 PM, 52°F).

For miles, Lupe rode in the G6 with her head out the window.  She was hoping to see a deer, but there weren’t any down in Spearfish Canyon.  Finally, Lupe gave up.  She pulled her head back inside, curled up on the seat, and heaved a great sigh before falling asleep.  At least there would be Alpo at home!

Crow Peak (5,787 ft.) in the evening as seen through the haze and branches of trees on Little Crow Peak. Photo looks NW.
Crow Peak (5,787 ft.) in the evening as seen through the haze and branches of trees on Little Crow Peak. Photo looks NW.

Lupe Treasures collected: 4 glass bottles, 4 plastic bottles, 30 aluminum cans.

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

Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 170 – Kirk Hill, Tetro Rock & Custer Peak (5-1-16)

April in the Black Hills ended with 5 straight days when Lupe never saw the sun.  Sometimes it rained, sometimes it snowed, sometimes it didn’t do anything except blow.  The one thing that didn’t change was the unrelenting gloom.  Lupe stared out the window for hours.  She dozed when the boredom got to be too much to bear.

The clouds were breaking up and the sun was shining, though, on the first morning of May.  Was Lupe ready for a Black Hills expedition?  Was she ever!  Impatiently she urged SPHP to action.  Let’s go this very second!  That didn’t happen, but as soon as the usual preparations were complete, the Carolina Dog got her wish.

Within moments of when SPHP parked the G6 near the intersection of USFS Roads No. 180 and No. 541.1, Lupe was even happier!  After spending all of her April expeditions in cactus country in the southern or SW Black Hills, she was now much farther N.  Lupe instantly seemed to realize there was no danger of encountering any of the hated cactus here.  She ran with abandon through the fields and pine forests.  This was more like it, as far as the American Dingo was concerned!

Lupe near the start of USFS Road No. 541.1. She was very happy to be up in the hills again, and even happier to be out of cactus country! Photo looks S.
Lupe near the start of USFS Road No. 541.1. She was very happy to be up in the hills again, and even happier to be out of cactus country! Photo looks S.

Lupe’s first peakbagging goal, Kirk Hill (5,345 ft.), was only a little more than a mile SSE of the G6.  Lupe and SPHP started out following USFS Road No. 541.1, which gained elevation steadily as it headed SE up a small valley.  A tiny stream soon appeared just W of the road, but Lupe was more interested in the delightful patches of cool, wet snow in the forest.

Lupe on USFS Road No. 541.1. Photo looks SE.
Lupe on USFS Road No. 541.1. Photo looks SE.

After following No. 541.1 uphill for a mile, Lupe arrived at a flat stretch of road at a pass just E of Kirk Hill.  Lupe had already gained hundreds of feet of elevation.  Here the forest had several inches of heavy wet snow, not just scattered patches.  That didn’t bother Lupe in the slightest.  She left the road heading W up the mountain.

Lupe left USFS Road No. 541.1 here to climb Kirk Hill from the E. Photo looks W at her way up.
Lupe left USFS Road No. 541.1 here to climb Kirk Hill from the E. Photo looks W at her way up.

Lupe didn’t have to go very far through the snowy forest before she found another road.  That made things real easy.  Lupe and SPHP followed this new road N.  As SPHP hoped, it soon curved W and took Lupe all the way to the summit near the SW end of Kirk Hill.

Lupe arrives at the summit of Kirk Hill. The summit area was broad, flat and mostly forested. Photo looks W.
Lupe arrives at the summit of Kirk Hill. The summit area was broad, flat and mostly forested. Photo looks W.

The very highest rocks were in a sunny little meadow, but the much larger summit area was broad, nearly flat and mostly forested.  Some of the forest had been thinned, but although Lupe and SPHP wandered around the mountaintop quite a bit, it was hard to find any really good viewpoints.  The very best view was of Custer Peak (6,804 ft.) to the SW, which looked quite snowy and rather dramatic.

The best view Lupe could find from Kirk Hill was this look at Custer Peak (6,804 ft.). Photo looks SW. Taken with the telephoto lens.
The best view Lupe could find from Kirk Hill was this look at Custer Peak (6,804 ft.). Photo looks SW. Taken with the telephoto lens.
Lupe sniffing around on Kirk Hill. Photo looks NW.
Lupe sniffing around on Kirk Hill. Photo looks NW.

After exploring much of the W end of Kirk Hill, Lupe returned briefly to the highest rocks at the summit one more time.  Then she and SPHP started back E on the road.

After exploring the W end of the mountain, Lupe returns to the summit for the last time. Photo looks NE.
After exploring the W end of the mountain, Lupe returns to the summit for the last time. Photo looks NE.

Toward the middle of the mountain, Lupe and SPHP left the road to scout out the S rim.  It was thinly forested, snowy, and sunny.  The forest still interfered with the views to a significant degree, but it didn’t matter.  The area to the S was pretty, but not dramatic.  Lupe and SPHP returned to the road.

Just to find out if this road was marked in any way, Lupe and SPHP stayed on it all the way until it reached No. 541.1 again.  There was a marker at the intersection.  The road to the top of Kirk Hill was No. 541.1G.  If Lupe and SPHP had stayed on No. 541.1 just a little longer on the way up, Lupe would have reached this junction within a few minutes.

Lupe and SPHP returned to the G6 on No. 541.1, this time following it downhill to the NW (12:04 PM, 50°F).  Before leaving the area, Lupe went to get a drink out of the tiny stream nearby.  The little stream has no name on the maps, but is a seasonal tributary of Park Creek.

Looking down USFS Road No. 541.1 on the way back to the G6. Photo looks N.
Looking down USFS Road No. 541.1 on the way back to the G6. Photo looks N.
Lupe got a drink out of this little seasonal tributary of Park Creek before leaving the Kirk Hill area. It was nice to be in a place where there was a stream of any size after spending all her April expeditions in parched cactus country!
Lupe got a drink out of this little seasonal tributary of Park Creek before leaving the Kirk Hill area. It was nice to be in a place where there was a stream of any size after spending all her April expeditions in parched cactus country!

Lupe’s journey to Kirk Hill had been a success, but her next peakbagging mission was quite some distance away.  She was going to climb Tetro Rock (5,562 ft.) located 6 miles SSE of Spearfish, SD.  Lupe took a rest break while SPHP drove.

Tetro Rock was only 1.5 miles SSE as the crow flies from where SPHP parked the G6 at the intersection of Maitland Road and USFS Road No. 195.2A (12:53 PM, 52°F).  Before heading out to Tetro Rock, however, Lupe and SPHP went to take a quick look at False Bottom Creek.

False Bottom Creek was flowing along quite nicely due to runoff from melting snow. False Bottom Creek tends to dry up to a large extent in late summer.
False Bottom Creek was flowing along quite nicely due to runoff from melting snow. False Bottom Creek tends to dry up to a large extent in late summer.

With snow melting up in the nearby hills, False Bottom Creek was looking good.  What wasn’t looking so good were some Lupe Treasures scattered around both banks.  SPHP collected some of them before Lupe left for Tetro Rock following USFS Road No. 195.2A.

No. 195.2A started off heading NNE away from Tetro Rock.  It gained a little elevation heading out of the Black Hills National Forest and then leveled out as it turned E, passing by a couple of large homes up in the forest S of the road.  The road soon jogged to the S a bit, turned E again, and then went SE back into the National Forest.

The original plan had been to follow No. 195.2A as it wound around crazily for well over a mile.  At a point about 2 miles NNE of Tetro Rock, the Peakbagger.com topo map showed some kind of faint road leaving No. 195.2A a little to the W of Tetro Creek.  This road snaked S up a ridge about halfway to Tetro Rock.  Lupe would then have to bushwhack the rest of the way trying to follow the high ground to the summit.

The original plan might have worked just fine, but shortly after No. 195.2A entered Section 6, an unmarked side road appeared on the SE side of 195.2A.  It was just the sort of private, secluded little road that Lupe and SPHP love.  A hump of dirt near its start looked likely to discourage any low-clearance vehicles.  Lupe and SPHP went up onto the hump to get a better look at where this side road was going.

Lupe up on the hump of dirt near the start of the side road off USFS Road No. 195.2A. Photo looks SSW.
Lupe up on the hump of dirt near the start of the side road off USFS Road No. 195.2A. Photo looks SSW.

Past the hump of dirt, the little side road turned W gaining elevation gradually.  The grassy road looked inviting.  SPHP checked the topo map again.  This road wasn’t shown, but if it were to turn S, it might actually be a shortcut to Tetro Rock.  The terrain seemed to favor the notion that it would at least turn and head SW for a little while.

Well, so much for the original plan!  Lupe and SPHP abandoned No. 195.2A to follow the side road.  It went W for a little way, but as anticipated, gradually bent around to the S.  SPHP became quite enthused with the way things were working out.  The side road was staying on the E side of a drainage near the E side of Section 1.  Although it wasn’t in view yet, Lupe and SPHP were heading almost directly toward Tetro Rock.

Lupe and SPHP made great progress for a little while on the grassy road.  That is, until it ended.  Suddenly, that was it.  No more road.  It really wasn’t surprising, but still a little disappointing that it hadn’t gone further.  Lupe was still at least a mile N of Tetro Rock.  The snow covered slopes of the mountain ahead looked fairly steep.

The choice was either to bushwhack on up the mountain and try to follow the high ground to Tetro Rock, or double back to No. 195.2A and go back to the original plan.  SPHP checked the topo map again.  It looked like Lupe ought to be able to continue following the high ground easily enough, if the way didn’t get too steep.  Yeah, Lupe could do this!

The first part of the climb up the snowy slope was filled with a tangle of the branches of small trees and large, slender bushes.  It didn’t take very long to get up above the worst of it.  The rest of the climb was steep, but not steep enough to prevent Lupe from continuing onward.  Lupe had fun exploring, while SPHP plodded slowly upward.  Lupe reached a rock outcropping at the top of this first big climb.

Lupe on the rocks at the top of the first steep climb up from where the grassy road dead-ended.
Lupe on the rocks at the top of the first steep climb up from where the grassy road dead-ended.

SPHP paused for a breather and another map check.  The worst was over.  It looked like the way S from here had to be less steep.  Lupe should be able to stay toward the W side of a ridgeline and just keep climbing.  There would be a couple of minor high points along the way, but it ought to be possible to find and climb Tetro Rock.

So Lupe and SPHP continued on S through the trackless forest.  As Lupe gained elevation, there was even more snow in the woods.  Happily, as the topo map showed, the way forward wasn’t as steep as what Lupe had just come through.  After climbing for a while longer, Lupe and SPHP took a break near another rock outcropping.  SPHP ate an apple.  Lupe had some Taste of the Wild.

Off to the WNW, the top of Spearfish Peak (5,800 ft.) could be seen between the trees.  Across the valley to the W was a ridge at least as high as where Lupe was.  SPHP checked the topo map again.  Yes, it looked like Lupe was on the right track, but Tetro Rock was still 0.75 mile farther S.

Lupe at the break area near more rocks. Another high ridge can be seen between the trees. It helped confirm Lupe's position on the topo map, but Lupe didn't have to go over there. Photo looks W.
Lupe at the break area near more rocks. Another high ridge can be seen between the trees. It helped confirm Lupe’s position on the topo map, but Lupe didn’t have to go over there. Photo looks W.

Suddenly, Lupe growled.  Her hackles raised up.  She stood at attention looking W at the nearby rocks.  Lupe growled several low threatening growls over the span of a few minutes.  She detected something out there.  SPHP stared W wondering what was approaching.  SPHP detected nothing unusual.

Whatever it was never appeared.  Lupe relaxed.  So did SPHP.  SPHP wondered what Lupe had sensed.  Maybe it was better not knowing.

What was out there? Only Lupe knew.
What was out there? Only Lupe knew.

It was time to get going again.  A little farther S, Lupe should come to the first, and highest, of a couple of minor high points near the SW corner of Section 6.  Maybe Lupe would be able to see Tetro Rock from there?

Lupe and SPHP continued a gradual climb to the SE through the snowy woods.  Sure enough, Lupe came to a high point.  There were a number of nice rock formations here, but the biggest one with the best view was toward the SW end of the high ground.

Lupe on the rock formation at the SW end of the high point N of Tetro Rock. Photo looks SW.
Lupe on the rock formation at the SW end of the high point N of Tetro Rock. Photo looks SW.

Ahead to the S was a higher forested hill where Tetro Rock was supposed to be.  SPHP shouldn’t have been disappointed, but this first view of Tetro Rock was a bit of a letdown.  Of course, the topo map showed that Tetro Rock was not steep when viewed from the N.  The SW slope is much steeper and probably far craggier and more impressive, but the SW slope wasn’t in view from this angle.

Tetro Rock, the high forested hill on the L, as seen from the minor high point. SPHP wasn't too impressed from this angle. Photo looks SW.
Tetro Rock, the high forested hill on the L, as seen from the minor high point. SPHP wasn’t too impressed from this angle. Photo looks SW.
Lupe among the interesting rock formations at the SW end of the highest minor high point N of Tetro Rock. Photo looks NW.
Lupe among the interesting rock formations at the SW end of the highest minor high point N of Tetro Rock. Photo looks NW.
This chipmunk was curious about Lupe and SPHP. Lupe was interested in it, too! The chipmunk wisely hung out at the very edge of the rock formations where Lupe couldn't get close, as much as she would have liked to.
This chipmunk was curious about Lupe and SPHP. Lupe was interested in it, too! The chipmunk wisely hung out at the very edge of the rock formations where Lupe couldn’t get close, as much as she would have liked to.

Tetro Rock was still 0.5 mile away.  Lupe and SPHP left the minor highpoint continuing S.  Now Lupe was losing elevation.  She soon came to another lower high point.  It featured less impressive rock formations and no views.  The forest was too dense.

S of the second high point, Lupe entered a small meadow created by heavy logging.  Slash was on the ground everywhere, along with numerous big long tree trunks that had been cut into 2.5 foot long pieces left to rot on the ground.  Lupe and SPHP had come to lots of similar areas where loggers had been busy along the way, but none as big as this one.  It was slow going picking a route through all the debris.

At the bottom of the saddle between the last minor high point and the start of the climb to Tetro Rock, Lupe found a logging road.  It was pretty snowy, but it helped speed things up considerably.  The road took Lupe S to a point 0.25 mile E of the summit of Tetro Rock.  At the high ground there, another logging road branched off to the W.  SPHP suspected it would take Lupe right to the top of Tetro Rock.

The logging road going W was blocked in quite a few places by dead trees, but it did go to the summit area on Tetro Rock.  The road ended in a snowy clearing surrounded by forest.  Gah!  No views at all.  With a name like Tetro Rock, SPHP had been expecting, or at least hoping for something more exotic.  Well, viewed from the SW it probably was, as the topo map indicated.  Coming from the N or E, it was just another high spot in the forest.

Lupe at the edge of the snowy clearing on Tetro Rock where the logging road ended. Photo looks WSW.
Lupe at the edge of the snowy clearing on Tetro Rock where the logging road ended. Photo looks WSW.

The snowy clearing was nearly level.  There was no obvious high point or summit.  It looked like there might be higher ground off to the N, and maybe some places scattered in the nearby forest that were a little higher than the snowy clearing.  Nothing looked like it was more than a few feet higher, though.  Lupe was basically at the top of the mountain.

Before going to check out the possible rise to the N, Lupe and SPHP headed SW to see what the steep SW face of Tetro Rock looked like from above.  From the edge of the level ground, the mountain sloped off increasingly steeply.  There were too many trees to see the views from the high ground, although it looked like it might be possible to see something from some of the rock formations below.

Someone had dumped this red pickup truck bed over the SW edge of the flat summit area on Tetro Rock. The pickup bed wasn't very far down the slope. It would have made a stupendous Lupe Treasure, but SPHP wasn't up to the task.
Someone had dumped this red pickup truck bed over the SW edge of the flat summit area on Tetro Rock. The pickup bed wasn’t very far down the slope. It would have made a stupendous Lupe Treasure, but SPHP wasn’t up to the task.

A little cautiously, Lupe and SPHP went over the SW edge of Tetro Rock.  The slope wasn’t bad, but looked like it was going to get steeper.  In fact, this looked like the kind of place that might easily end in some dramatic cliffs.  Not too far below, there were rock formations that looked like the tops of cliffs.

Lupe and SPHP went down to check out the view from the most promising one nearby.  Lupe was treated to a beautiful view of Terry Peak (7,064 ft.) to the SSW.

Terry Peak (7,064 ft.) (Center) from the top of cliffs on the SW slope of Tetro Rock. The ski runs on Terry Peak were plainly visible. Photo looks SSW.
Terry Peak (7,064 ft.) (Center) from the top of cliffs on the SW slope of Tetro Rock. The ski runs on Terry Peak were plainly visible. Photo looks SSW.
Terry Peak using the telephoto lens.
Terry Peak using the telephoto lens.

Lupe and SPHP were satisfied.  At least Tetro Rock had yielded a lovely view of Terry Peak.  Lupe and SPHP climbed back up to the rim of the flat ground.  It was time to go check out the possible higher ground N of the snowy clearing.  Lupe passed through the snowy clearing again on the way.

It wasn’t too far to the high ground to the N.  It took longer than it should have to get there.  The loggers had been busy here, too.  There were lots of big tree trunks cut into sections on the ground.  Slash was everywhere.  As Lupe drew near the highest rocks, it was possible to see a long way off to the NE.  Unfortunately, there were still enough standing trees to mar the view for the camera.

A collection of fairly big rocks among all the debris of the logged trees seemed to be the highest point on Tetro Rock.  This was probably the true summit.  It did seem a little higher than the snowy clearing had been, though SPHP wouldn’t swear to it.  Several rocks looked about equally high.  SPHP encouraged Lupe to get up on the most impressive looking of these rocks for her Tetro Rock summit photo.

Lupe on the rock SPHP designated the true summit of Tetro Rock. Photo looks NE.
Lupe on the rock SPHP designated the true summit of Tetro Rock. Photo looks NE.

It didn’t look like there was any higher ground farther N, but it did look like there were some bigger rock formations not too far away in that direction.  Lupe and SPHP went over to check them out.  The true summit definitely wasn’t over here, but the rock formations were certainly more impressive than those at the actual summit.

Lupe up on rock formations near the NW end of Tetro Rock. Photo looks N.
Lupe up on rock formations near the NW end of Tetro Rock. Photo looks N.

By now Lupe and SPHP were near the NW end of Tetro Rock.  Lupe’s explorations of the summit area were complete.  The sensible thing to have done would have been to just go back S to the snowy clearing and take the logging roads back to the saddle S of the minor high points N of Tetro Rock.

However, it seemed more enticing to explore a shortcut by simply heading NE down the mountain.  This route might not be any faster than taking the logging roads, but it went through still unexplored territory.  The topo map indicated it should work.  So off Lupe and SPHP went, heading NE down off Tetro Rock.  At first it was kind of steep, and Lupe passed by more big rocks.

Lupe on rocks encountering coming down the N slope of Tetro Rock. The area E of Spearfish, SD can be seen in the distance. Photo looks N.
Lupe on rocks encountering coming down the N slope of Tetro Rock. The area E of Spearfish, SD can be seen in the distance. Photo looks N.

The shortcut worked!  It was slow going over the snowy rough ground, and Lupe eventually had to turn more to the E to maintain elevation, but Lupe found the same logging road again a little S of the two minor high points.

From here, the trek back was easy.  Lupe and SPHP just followed their tracks in the snow.  SPHP was happy that Lupe had made it to Tetro Rock.  Lupe enjoyed exploring the woods.  Once Lupe reached the dead-end of the grassy side road again, the rest of the way back to the G6 was just a pleasant late afternoon road hike.  Lupe and SPHP spent a little time collecting more Lupe Treasures at False Bottom Creek before leaving the area (5:56 PM, 55°F).

What now?  Lupe already had a successful peakbagging day behind her.  She could have gone straight home.  The American Dingo didn’t seem at all tired, though.  SPHP still had some energy reserves left, too.  There were still a couple of hours of daylight left.

Custer Peak (6,804 ft.) had looked snowy and impressive from Kirk Hill earlier in the day.  Why not go there?  It was an easy road hike.  Lupe could reach the top before sunset.  The dominant peak of the N central Black Hills would provide impressive views in every direction.  Lupe had been there before, but it sounded like a good way to end the day.

About 0.5 mile SE of Custer Peak, SPHP parked the G6 at an intersection along USFS Road No. 216 (6:41 PM, 42°F).  It was chillier up here.  There was a N breeze blowing.  Lupe and SPHP started the familiar road hike to the top.

Custer Peak from the road to the top. Photo looks ENE using the telephoto lens.
Custer Peak from the road to the top. Photo looks ENE using the telephoto lens.

A lot of snow must have melted during the day.  There wasn’t nearly as much around as SPHP expected.  It was an easy trek, but the N breeze felt quite cool as Lupe and SPHP neared the summit.  The road up the mountain ends a little short of the summit.  From there, a trail goes up to the lookout tower.  Lupe was already beyond the end of the road and on the trail’s switchbacks, when SPHP was very surprised to see a vehicle driving up the road.

Lupe on the trail just below the top of Custer Peak. The sun was getting close to the horizon.
Lupe on the trail just below the top of Custer Peak. The sun was getting close to the horizon.
Lupe on the rock wall around the lookout tower. This was Lupe's 5th ascent of Custer Peak! Photo looks E.
Lupe on the rock wall around the lookout tower. This was Lupe’s 5th ascent of Custer Peak! Photo looks E.

Lupe reached the lookout tower to complete her 5th ascent of Custer Peak.  The sun wouldn’t set for another 15 minutes or so.  SPHP expected people from the vehicle that had driven up the mountain would be coming up to see the sunset, but no one came.  Lupe and SPHP wandered around the lookout tower and the surrounding area while waiting for sunset.

The E side of Custer Peak was still snowy, but the afternoon sun had melted nearly all the snow on the W side. These trees near the lookout tower still had snow and ice clinging to their NE branches.
The E side of Custer Peak was still snowy, but the afternoon sun had melted nearly all the snow on the W side. These trees near the lookout tower still had snow and ice clinging to their NE branches.
Looking SW.
Looking SW.
Lupe waits for the sun to set on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 170 at the top of Custer Peak.
Lupe waits for the sun to set on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 170 at the top of Custer Peak.

The sky was almost completely clear.  There were no clouds in the W to make the sunset glorious.  Lupe and SPHP watched a golden-orange fireball sink below the horizon.  Except for the trek back to the G6, Lupe’s Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 170 was over.

On the way down the switchbacks, suddenly there were two dogs!  Two people appeared right behind them.  Lupe sniffed with Ansel and Fern.  SPHP chatted briefly in the cool breeze with Aaron Ploog and his girlfriend, Kelsey.  It was already near freezing out, but Aaron, Kelsey and 3 dogs (there was a husky still in the car) were going to car camp on Custer Peak!  They were on their way up to the top, so Aaron could decide what to shoot.

Ansel (L) and Fern (R).
Ansel (L) and Fern (R).

Aaron said he was with Awake At Night and lived in Spearfish.  Later on at home, SPHP looked up Awake At Night Photography on the internet.  Aaron is a Noctographer, taking photos after dark and selling them.  Pretty cool stuff!

Lupe seldom meets anyone on most of her adventures.  Every now and then, though, Lupe meets some very interesting people (and dogs) out on adventures of their own!  (8:54 PM, 33°F)

The sun sets on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 170.
The sun sets on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 170.

Lupe Treasures collected: 6 glass bottles, 3 plastic bottles, 8 aluminum cans.

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

Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 169 – Boulder Hill (4-22-16 & 4-23-16)

Joe and cousin Dusty were in town!  That meant another Black Hills Expedition was in the cards for Lupe.  Joe was in the mood for a nice, easy trail hike where the dogs could romp around in the forest.  SPHP suggested taking the loop N of Boulder Hill on Flume Trail No. 50.  The loop was only a few miles long, and much of it was nearly level.  Joe thought that sounded fine.

A short time later, Joe was parking the G6 at the Boulder Hill trailhead (4-22-16, 2:00 PM, upper 70’s °F).  Lupe, Dusty, Joe and SPHP all piled out.  Although there were maps posted at the trailhead, only the W part of the Flume Trail loop was shown.  SPHP didn’t think it mattered.  Lupe and SPHP had explored the entire Flume Trail, including the loop, back in 2012.  The loop was a piece of cake!

SPHP led everyone SE on Flume Trail No. 50, going almost 0.5 mile up a long steady rise to a saddle area between Boulder Hill (5,331 ft.) to the SW and Storm Hill (5,192 ft.) to the NE.  Boulder Hill had been visible from the trailhead, and SPHP had mentioned to Joe that a spur of Flume Trail No. 50 went up to the top.  Although Joe hadn’t initially seemed too interested in Boulder Hill, when the junction with the spur trail was reached just over the saddle, Joe asked about it again.

When SPHP said the spur trail to the top was only 0.25 to 0.375 mile long, and the route up involved only minor exposure/scrambling, Joe wanted to try it.  Dusty and Lupe were both game, too, of course!

It had been nearly 4 years since Lupe was last here on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 19 on 5-13-12.  SPHP’s memory was less than perfect.  The spur trail was more like 0.5 mile long, and SPHP lost it for a while taking a short cut.  Nevertheless, the trail was soon found again near the end of a spur road to Boulder Hill off USFS Road No. 358.  From here, the scramble up the rocky path to the summit began.

The path started at the SW end of the mountain.  It wasn’t long, although it was longer than SPHP remembered.  The little bit of scrambling and exposure involved were easily navigated.  Only partway up, Joe was already becoming impressed with the views.

Joe and Dusty partway up Boulder Hill. Photo looks SW.
Joe and Dusty partway up Boulder Hill. Photo looks SW.

The only problem encountered on the way to the summit was a considerable amount of broken glass on the trail, evidence of the existence of a local band of Neanderthals.  Fortunately, Lupe and Dusty made it past all the broken glass without incident.

The path approached the summit from the W between two high points roughly equal in elevation.  Dusty, Lupe, Joe and SPHP went to check out the S summit area first.  The S area is mostly level, open and pretty much solid rock.  It features concrete blocks and a concrete step that must have once been part of a previously existing lookout structure.

Success! Joe, Dusty & Lupe arrive at the summit of Boulder Hill. Photo looks SSW at Silver Mountain (5,405 ft.)
Success! Joe, Dusty & Lupe on the old concrete steps at the summit of Boulder Hill. Photo looks SSW at Silver Mountain (5,405 ft.).
Joe & Lupe. Silver Peak is seen beyond Joe. Harney Peak (7,242 ft.) is in the distance on the R. Photo looks SW.
Joe & Lupe. Silver Mountain is seen beyond Joe. Harney Peak (7,242 ft.) is in the distance on the R. Photo looks SW.
Dusty toward the slanting N end of the S summit area. Photo looks NNW.
Dusty toward the slanting N end of the S summit area. Photo looks NNW.
Lupe near the N end of the S summit area. Part of the N summit area is visible over by the trees. Photo looks NW.
Lupe near the N end of the S summit area. Part of the N summit area is visible in the trees. Photo looks NW.

After looking around the S summit, everyone went over to the N summit area to check it out, too.  The N summit area was more wooded, uneven and natural looking.  There was another lower high point a little farther N, but no one went over to it.  The views were fine from on high.

Lupe on the N summit area. Photo looks NNW.
Lupe on the N summit. Photo looks NNW.
The Boulder Hill survey benchmark was on one of the high rocks of the N summit area.
The Boulder Hill survey benchmark was on one of the high rocks of the N summit area.

When Joe and SPHP were done looking at the views, it was time to head down.  There was still plenty of time remaining to go around the loop back at Flume Trail No. 50.

Lupe perches high up on a rock of the S summit area close to where the trail heads down.
Lupe perches high up on a rock of the S summit area close to where the trail heads down.
Joe and Dusty shortly after starting down. This photo looks W from close to the top of the mountain.
Joe and Dusty shortly after starting down. This photo looks W from close to the top of the mountain.
Dusty goes down the path on the W side of Boulder Hill. Photo looks S.
Dusty goes down the path on the W side of Boulder Hill. Photo looks S.

Once down off the rocky path to the summit, Lupe, Dusty, Joe and SPHP followed the Flume Trail spur back to the main trail.  From the junction, SPHP led everyone E on the main trail, which lost elevation steadily.  The trail soon appeared to follow an old road.

The road went past a strange, decaying structure a little way off to the SE in the forest.  This proved to be an odd water collection device.  A “V” shaped metal roof sloped down to a water trough in the middle.  A sign said it was supposed to help provide a source of water for wildlife.  Well, maybe for short wildlife.  The roof over the trough was only 1.5 feet high.  The whole thing was fenced in, neglected and falling apart.  Very strange.

Lupe, Dusty, Joe and SPHP returned to the road/trail.  Before long it came to a dead end.  There was no sign of the Flume Trail continuing beyond the end of the road.  Hmm.  Mysterious.  It was time to backtrack.  The spur trail to Boulder Hill was in view again by the time Joe found where SPHP had missed a turn earlier.  Finally back on the correct route, everyone headed E again.

Flume Trail No. 50 lost elevation steadily.  SPHP kept expecting it to level out and curve around to the N.  It didn’t.  Finally, part of the old man-made rock foundation that supported the flume back in the early 1880’s came into view on the N side of the valley.  The trail didn’t go toward it.  Instead it continued E on the S side of the valley.

This just didn’t seem right.  Lupe and SPHP left the trail to go over to the man-made rock foundation, hoping to find the loop trail.  Joe and Dusty stayed on the main trail, exploring it a little farther E.  Lupe and SPHP found no sign of the loop trail, but Joe and Dusty almost immediately came to a map posted along the main trail.  The map explained everything.

SPHP had led Lupe, Dusty and Joe completely astray.  This was Flume Trail No. 50 alright, but this part of the trail was going to the trail’s E end at Coon Hollow near Rockerville.  The loop trail actually turned N way back at the E edge of the Boulder Hill trailhead where the G6 was parked!

Well, that was that!  There was nothing to do, but return to the G6.  Lupe, Dusty, Joe and SPHP turned around and were back by 5:15 PM.  Sure enough, there was the start of the Flume Trail loop, just a few paces E of the trailhead parking lot.  From the very start, there had been no reason to head toward Boulder Hill.

Except, of course, that everyone enjoyed Boulder Hill.  Joe liked it so much, he proposed coming back the next day to hike the Flume Trail loop and climb Boulder Hill again!

So that’s what happened.  The next afternoon, Lupe, Dusty, Joe and SPHP returned to the Boulder Hill trailhead (low 80’s °F).  Perhaps to prevent another fiasco to the E, Joe suggested taking the trail W toward the Baker Park area to hike the loop clockwise.

Going W worked just fine.  It was a bit warm out, but everyone except Lupe enjoyed the pleasant, easy stroll around the Flume Trail No. 50 loop.  Lupe would have liked it, too, but the sound of distant target practice gunfire concerned her.  She was in no danger despite her worries.  Dusty paid no attention to the gunfire at all.

Dusty takes a break along the Flume Trail No. 50 loop.
Dusty takes a break along the Flume Trail No. 50 loop.

Dusty on the Flume Trail No. 50 loop, 4-23-16After completing the loop, everyone hopped back in the G6.  Joe still wanted to climb Boulder Hill again.  The rest of the gang was in favor, too.  By repositioning the G6 0.75 mile farther S up at the high point on USFS Road No. 358, the hiking distance up Boulder Hill was considerably reduced.

Lupe, Dusty, Joe and SPHP followed a rough spur road off No. 358 up to the path at the start of the scramble to the top.

Lupe WSW of Boulder Hill. Photo taken from close to the spur road off USFS Road No. 358 that ends near the path to the top.
Lupe WSW of Boulder Hill. Photo taken from close to the spur road off USFS Road No. 358 that ends near the path to the top.

This time, SPHP was better prepared with a couple of plastic grocery bags for collecting broken glass and other Lupe Treasures.  Joe helped with the cleanup efforts.  There was quite a lot of broken glass not only on the trail, but up on top, too.  The cleanup job wasn’t perfect by any means, but at least there weren’t any large, sharp pieces of glass on the trail by the time Joe and SPHP finished.

Dusty on one of the rock ledges that are part of the path to the top.
Dusty on one of the rock ledges that are part of the path to the top.
Joe & Dusty return to the summit of Boulder Hill for a 2nd day in a row!
Joe & Dusty return to the summit of Boulder Hill for a 2nd day in a row!
Joe & Dusty up on the S summit area. Photo looks SE.
Joe & Dusty up on the S summit area. Photo looks SE.
Lupe and Joe on the S summit area. Four-lane Hwy 16 (Center) is seen in the distance. Part of Storm Hill (5,192 ft.) is on the L. Photo looks ENE.
Lupe and Joe on the S summit. Four-lane Hwy 16 (Center) is seen in the distance. Part of Storm Hill (5,192 ft.) is on the L. Photo looks ENE.

After a good time picking up broken glass and admiring the views from both the N and S summit areas, it was time to head down again.  On the way back, SPHP intended to gather up Lupe Treasures discarded in the ashes of a big campfire ringed by stones.  The campfire was in the middle of the turn-around loop at the end of the spur road.

Apparently, it hadn’t been long since the Neanderthals’ last celebration.  The campfire ashes were still quite warm!  Lupe Treasures were scattered all over the place, way more than fit in two little plastic grocery sacks.  Joe and SPHP picked up what could be carried, but far more had to be left behind.

Joe, Dusty, Lupe and SPHP returned to the G6, and headed to grandma’s house.  Lupe’s Expedition No. 169 to Boulder Hill twice in two days had been a success!  Joe and Dusty proclaimed Boulder Hill one of their favorite short hikes in the Black Hills.  Best of all, Lupe had left the mountain in a little better shape than she found it.

Joe, Dusty & Lupe on Boulder Hill, 4-23-16
Joe, Dusty & Lupe on Boulder Hill, 4-23-16

Lupe Treasures collected: 5 plastic bottles, 6 glass bottles, 10 aluminum cans, lots of broken glass and other assorted trash.

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

Black Hills, SD & WY Expedition No. 168 – Wildcat Peak, Fanny Peak & Summit Ridge (4-21-16)

Every time SPHP woke up, there they were.  Big soft Dingo ears bathed in moonlight stood erect, listening.  Lupe was too excited to sleep, instead she was watching – fascinated by whatever was going on in the darkness outside on Elk Mountain.  Now and then, SPHP let her out of the G6.  The excited American Dingo wandered back and forth between moonlight and shadows, sniffing the night air.

Finally, the nearly full moon hung low in the W.  Dawn was coming soon.  SPHP dozed a while longer.  The sun was up when SPHP came to again.  Lupe, of course, was wide awake, still watching events on Elk Mountain from her pile of gear, blankets and pillows.  She was glad when she realized her long watch was over.  It was time for action!

SPHP repositioned the G6 a mile farther SW, at the junction of USFS Roads No. 118 & No. 123 (6:21 AM, 41°F).  Lupe was 0.25 mile across the border into Wyoming.  She would start her journey to Wildcat Peak (5,500 ft.) from here.  Although Wildcat Peak was less than 2 miles away back in South Dakota, to get there Lupe had to cross an equally high un-named ridge first.  Lupe and SPHP set off following a faint old jeep trail SE.

The morning was cool, clear and bright.  It was great getting off to an early start!  The old jeep trail wound around, but stayed very close to the E edge of the ridgeline, gaining elevation steadily.  Lupe got pretty high up on the ridge.  Elk Mountain was in view just to the N.  Lupe could see the Elk Mountain Lookout Tower (5,662 ft.) at the far NE end of the mountain, but the true summit at the Elk Benchmark (5,669 ft.) remained out of sight to the NW.

Lupe on a big rock outcropping partway up the N end of the un-named ridge. Photo looks N at Elk Mountain. Lupe had just been to the Elk Benchmark (5,669 ft.) at the far NW end of Elk Mountain on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 167 the day before.
Lupe on a big rock outcropping partway up the N end of the un-named ridge. Photo looks N at Elk Mountain. Lupe had just been to the Elk Benchmark (5,669 ft.) at the far NW end of Elk Mountain on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 167 the evening before.

The jeep trail didn’t go all the way up to the top of the un-named ridge.  It got quite high, but then took a more level route through a thin forest on the W side of the ridge.  Lupe and SPHP stayed on the jeep trail until it virtually disappeared.  Then Lupe abandoned it to resume a slow, steady climb while continuing S.  She eventually reached the top of the ridge well S of its highest point.

Lupe and SPHP followed the un-named ridge to its S end, where Lupe’s first peakbagging objective, Wildcat Peak (5,500 ft.), was now in view.

Wildcat Peak from the S end of the un-named ridge. Lupe had already lost some elevation by the time she reached this point. Photo looks SE.
Wildcat Peak from the S end of the un-named ridge. Lupe had already lost some elevation by the time she reached this point. Photo looks SE.

Wildcat Peak was less than 0.75 mile away now, but to get to it, Lupe had to go down into a big intervening saddle area.  On the way, she had to lose virtually all of the elevation she had just gained coming up the un-named ridge.  There was no choice, though, but to just go ahead and do it.

Lupe in the saddle area NW of Wildcat Peak. Photo looks SE.
Lupe in the saddle area NW of Wildcat Peak. Photo looks SE.

After crossing the saddle area, Lupe and SPHP started the climb up the NW slope of Wildcat Peak.  There weren’t any old roads or jeep trails here, but the climb wasn’t particularly steep or difficult.  Lupe found the true summit of Wildcat Peak up at the very NW end of a rocky summit ridge.  A big boulder, clearly higher than any of the others, was the very top of the mountain.

Lupe reaches the top of Wildcat Peak! The big boulder next to her was the very highest rock on the mountain. Photo looks NNW.
Lupe reaches the top of Wildcat Peak! The big boulder next to her was the very highest rock on the mountain. Photo looks NNW.
Lupe and the Wildcat Peak summit boulder.
Lupe and the Wildcat Peak summit boulder.
Lupe proclaims this mountain American Dingo Peak! Bring it on wildcats!
Lupe proclaims this mountain American Dingo Peak! Bring it on wildcats!

From the highest boulder on Wildcat Peak, the rocky summit ridge extended off to the SE for at least several hundred feet.  Most of it wasn’t much lower than the big boulder crowning the NW end of the ridge.  A lot of deadfall timber strewn around the rocks made the terrain considerably more difficult to navigate than it should have been.  Lupe and SPHP went to the SE end of the summit ridge to check out the view.

The view was awesome!  Lupe could see Sullivan Peak (4,967 ft.), Red Point (4,680 ft.), and Twin Buttes (4,949 ft.) where she had been on Black Hills SD, Expedition No. 166 just 11 days before.  It was fun to see them all again from Wildcat Peak!

Looking SSE from Wildcat Peak. Sullivan Peak is the highest of the most distant of the barren ridges located just R of Center. Red Point is the small forested hill at Center seen right below a barren ridge coming down to the L from Sullivan Peak. Twin Buttes are the two most distant barren ridges visible near the R side of the photo. Lupe had visited all 3 of these mountains only 11 days ago on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 166.
Looking SSE from Wildcat Peak. Sullivan Peak is the highest of the most distant of the barren ridges located just R of Center. Red Point is the small forested hill at Center seen right below a barren ridge coming down to the L from Sullivan Peak. Twin Buttes are the two most distant barren ridges visible near the R side of the photo. Lupe had visited all 3 of these mountains only 11 days ago on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 166.

After taking a little break while admiring the views to the S, Lupe and SPHP returned to the big boulder at the NW end of the summit ridge.  Lupe went out on a rock ledge sticking out just below it to the NE for a final look around.

Lupe on a rock ledge near the summit boulder. Photo looks N. The part of Elk Mountain where the lookout towers sits is the barren ridge on the L.
Lupe on a rock ledge near the summit boulder. Photo looks N. The part of Elk Mountain where the lookout towers sits is the barren ridge on the L.

Climbing Wildcat Peak had been fun, but SPHP had several more peakbagging goals in mind for Lupe before the day was over.  Lupe and SPHP left the summit of Wildcat Peak heading back down the NW spine of the mountain.

Lupe starts back down the NW spine of Wildcat Peak. The big summit boulder looms above her. Photo looks SE.
Lupe starts back down the NW spine of Wildcat Peak. The big summit boulder looms above her. Photo looks SE.
The un-named ridge (L) and part of Elk Mountain (R) from Wildcat Peak. Photo looks NNW.
The un-named ridge (L) and part of Elk Mountain (R) from Wildcat Peak. Photo looks NNW.

Lupe’s route back to the G6 was essentially the same one she took to Wildcat Peak.  The only significant variation was that on the way back, she went all the way up to the very top of the un-named ridge NW of Wildcat Peak.

Lupe stands next to the summit boulder on top of the un-named ridge NW of Wildcat Peak. This summit boulder sure didn't measure up to Wildcat Peak standards, but the view of Wildcat Peak was very nice. Photo looks SE.
Lupe stands next to the summit boulder on top of the un-named ridge NW of Wildcat Peak. This summit boulder sure didn’t measure up to Wildcat Peak standards, but the view of Wildcat Peak was very nice. Photo looks SE.

The day had warmed up considerably by the time Lupe reached the G6 again (10:12 AM, 59°F), but it was still very pleasant out.  Before departing, Lupe and SPHP sat in the shade of a big tree and ate brownies, a pure nutritious health food snack Carolina Dogs love.  Re-energized, Lupe and SPHP headed out in the G6 toward Lupe’s next peakbagging goals.

Near the junction of Boles Canyon Road and Roby Canyon Road (USFS Roads No. 117 & No. 264 respectively), SPHP parked the G6 again (10:49 AM, 61°F).  Lupe’s next objective was Fanny Peak (5,884 ft.) more than 2 miles to the NNW.  SPHP’s old USFS map showed USFS No. 264.1A leaving Boles Canyon Road somewhere nearby.  If Lupe and SPHP could find it, No. 264.1A would lead Lupe NNW to a point a short distance E of Fanny Peak.

Lupe and SPHP backtracked a little S along Boles Canyon Road looking for No. 264.1A.  Just N of a short bridge over a ravine, Lupe found a rough track heading N.  It was blocked to vehicles by boulders and unmarked, but this was almost certainly No. 264.1A.  Lupe and SPHP followed the road N beginning a long, gradual climb.

Almost right away, there was trouble.  No. 264.1A went up a long sunny dry hillside.  Scraggly bushes and a few juniper trees dominated the parched landscape.  And cactus.  There was very little cactus right on the rocky road, but all around on both sides cacti grew in great spiny profusion.

Whether Lupe stepped on a small cactus somewhere along the way, or whether she could smell the cacti, SPHP didn’t know.  Her paws looked fine.  What was certain was that Lupe didn’t want to go this way.  She stood on the road and wouldn’t move.  SPHP put her leash on her to encourage her, and help make certain she didn’t get into the cactus.  This time, the leash barely made any difference to Lupe.  Her ears drooped.  She hated this place!

What to do?  Part of the problem was that Lupe had started from less than 4,800 feet of elevation down on Boles Canyon Road.  If Lupe could gain enough elevation, she would probably get above “cactus line” at some point.  SPHP decided to keep encouraging and helping Lupe, believing she could make it to Fanny Peak.

It was a long, slow process.  Lupe stopped again and again on the road.  Sometimes her ears drooped, and she resisted the tug of the leash.  Sometimes she just stood there in the bright sunshine smiling at SPHP, but not budging.  Now and then she was willing to go onward for a little way.  SPHP carried her for short stretches again and again.

Lupe stands smiling in the hot sun on No. 264.1A. Due to all the cactus growing in this parched landscape, she didn't want to be here at all. Photo looks S at Elk Mountain.
Lupe stands smiling in the hot sun on No. 264.1A. Due to all the cactus growing in this parched landscape, she didn’t want to be here at all. Photo looks S at Elk Mountain.

It was sunny.  SPHP felt hot totally exposed to the sun.  Wearing a fur coat, Lupe must have felt that much hotter.  Repeatedly, Lupe and SPHP took temporary shelter in the shade of occasional large juniper trees next to the road.  Lupe drank a lot of water.  This really wasn’t much fun, but it wasn’t terrible either.  Despite the long, slow grind, Lupe was making progress and gaining elevation.

Somewhere around 5,600 feet, it turned out that a “cactus line” really did exist!  SPHP didn’t notice exactly where it happened, but suddenly the cactus was gone.  Ponderosa pines were growing among more prosperous looking juniper trees.  There was more shade.  Lupe started to perk up.  For a little while, SPHP kept Lupe on the leash, but it wasn’t too long before it was apparent the leash was pointless.  There wasn’t any cactus anywhere.  Hallelujah!

Lupe raced happily through the woods.  She was making great progress.  The road started leveling out as it entered a more purely pine forest.  Fanny Peak couldn’t be much farther away now!  SPHP stopped again to carefully study the topo map.  Without the topo map, it would have been very hard to find Fanny Peak.

The topo map showed that the road was supposed to pass along the E side of a 5,840 foot high un-named hill.  Less than 0.5 mile N of High Point 5840, there should be a couple more slightly higher hills to the W of the road.  The high ground formed an arc curving around to the S.  Fanny Peak was the high point at the S end, less than 0.33 mile from the road.

Soon the road did pass along the E side of a forested hill.  SPHP figured this must be the 5,840 foot high un-named hill.  Lupe continued on.  The road again passed along the E side of another hill.  SPHP was thinking Lupe must be getting very close to where she would need to turn W, when suddenly there was a hissing and thrashing noise coming from the hillside right next to the road.  A snake!

Snakes aren’t terribly common in the Black Hills, at least not in the upper elevations Lupe usually frequents.  Despite all her many adventures in the hills, Lupe has only encountered snakes on a very few occasions.  Lupe didn’t quite know what to make of this one.  She stood motionless a few feet away, simply staring at the strange unpleasant creature.

The snake was at least a few feet long, making it the biggest one Lupe had ever seen.  It wasn’t the least bit happy to see Lupe and SPHP.  The snake was hissing, coiling and thrashing around trying to look as scary as possible.

This unhappy bull snake along USFS Road No. 264.1A E of Fanny Peak was the largest snake Lupe had ever seen!
This unhappy bull snake along USFS Road No. 264.1A E of Fanny Peak was the largest snake Lupe had ever seen!

A glance at the snake’s head told SPHP there was nothing to fear.  It wasn’t poisonous.  The only poisonous snakes in the Black Hills region are prairie rattlers, and this wasn’t a rattlesnake.  It was almost certainly some sort of bull snake.  The snake was an exciting find, but it was harmless.

Of course, where there’s one snake, there may be more!  Lupe wasn’t as high up in the Black Hills as she normally is, and snakes are much more common at lower elevations in this territory.  Just the fact that the bull snake was out and about indicated that Spring had progressed far enough along to encourage the reptiles to slither out of their holes.

The bull snake was still having a hissing fit when Lupe and SPHP left it behind.  Somewhere pretty soon, Lupe needed to turn W.  When she came to an intersection not shown on the maps, SPHP decided this was the place.  Three slender pale blue posts stood near the intersection.  There were no other markers, and no road numbers.  One of the roads went W.  Lupe and SPHP followed it.

Lupe hadn’t gone very far on this new road when it started to lose elevation.  Rather than lose elevation, Lupe and SPHP climbed up a forested hill close by to the S.  There were so many trees, it wasn’t possible to see much, but SPHP did see that there was another forested hill about the same height a short distance to the W.  Lupe and SPHP headed over to it.

Lupe was soon up at the top of the 2nd hill.  The summit featured a collection of red rocks.  SPHP looked warily around for snakes, but saw none.  Trees again blocked the views, but it was possible to determine that there was an even higher hill somewhat farther off to the SSW.  Looking at the maps one more time, SPHP was almost certain that hill had to be Fanny Peak!

Lupe at the top of the closest little hill NE of Fanny Peak. Photo looks N.
Lupe at the top of the closest little hill NE of Fanny Peak. Photo looks N.

Lupe and SPHP pressed on from the 2nd hill toward Fanny Peak, losing only minor elevation.  As Lupe got closer, she reached a barbed wire fence.  SPHP’s old USFS map showed Fanny Peak right on the South Dakota/Wyoming border, but the Peakbagger.com topo map showed the summit a short distance into Wyoming.  The fence was probably right on the border, which made sense.

Since the Black Hills National Forest ends at the border, Fanny Peak might well be on private property.  In any case, there weren’t any “No Trespassing” signs, and Lupe wasn’t going to harm anything.  Fanny Peak was only a short stroll to the SW from where Lupe went under the fence.  Lupe passed through a little meadow, before climbing a small forested hill to two large rocks at the summit.  The views left no doubt that Lupe really was on Fanny Peak (5,884 ft.)!

Despite all her travails getting here, Lupe attains the summit of Fanny Peak, Wyoming! Photo looks E.
Despite all her travails getting here, Lupe attains the summit of Fanny Peak, Wyoming! Photo looks E.
Loopster stands on the money rock on Fanny Peak!
Loopster stands on the money rock on Fanny Peak!

SPHP soon noticed that one of the two big pink rocks at the top of Fanny Peak contained a treasure!  It was a money rock!  In a small depression on top of the rock was a 1999 dime.

The 1999 dime in a depression on top of the money rock at the summit of Fanny Peak.
The 1999 dime in a depression on top of the money rock at the summit of Fanny Peak.

Lupe didn’t really need a dime.  As treasures go, she would have preferred a rawhide chew, ice cream, T-bone steak or a lot of other things instead.  Lupe and SPHP decided to leave the dime where it was.  No doubt some other bold peakbagger will be willing to brave cacti and snakes to claim it someday!

Forest pretty much hid any views toward the N from Fanny Peak.  The best view was to the S back at Elk Mountain where Lupe had visited the Elk Benchmark (5,669 ft.) yesterday evening and spent a long restless moonlit night.  Lupe could also see the 5,840 foot hill 0.33 mile to the SE where SPHP first realized Lupe was getting close to Fanny Peak.

The best view from Fanny Peak was to the S toward Elk Mountain. Lupe had been at the Elk Benchmark (5,669 ft.) there yesterday evening.
The best view from Fanny Peak was to the S toward Elk Mountain. Lupe had been to the Elk Benchmark (5,669 ft.) there yesterday evening.
Looking SE at the forested 5,840 ft. hill where SPHP first realized Lupe was getting close to Fanny Peak.
Looking SE at the forested 5,840 ft. hill where SPHP first realized Lupe was getting close to Fanny Peak.
This photo shows most of the summit area on Fanny Peak, which wasn't very big. Photo looks W.
This photo shows most of the summit area on Fanny Peak, which wasn’t very big. Photo looks W.

By reaching Fanny Peak, Lupe had accomplished her 2nd peakbagging goal of the day!  Having braved cacti and snakes to get here, naturally she was quite proud of her accomplishment.  However, the view from the top was not at all encouraging as far as her chances of successfully completing her next goal went.

Lupe’s 3rd peakbagging goal was Frannie Peak (5,340 ft.), more than a mile to the W.  Between the trees, SPHP could catch a glimpse of it.  The view was discouraging.  Frannie Peak appeared to be a jagged ridge of red rock.  From this far away it was hard to know for certain, but the rock formations along the jagged spine of Frannie Peak looked too steep for Lupe and SPHP to climb.

SPHP believes this jagged red rock ridge is Frannie Peak, WY. At least from this perspective, it looked too steep for Lupe to climb. Photo looks W from Fanny Peak using the telephoto lens.
SPHP believes this jagged red rock ridge is Frannie Peak, WY. At least from this perspective, it looked too steep for Lupe to climb. Photo looks W from Fanny Peak using the telephoto lens.

Even if the rock formations on Frannie Peak weren’t insurmountable, there were other problems, too.  There was no road SPHP knew of to Frannie Peak, which at 5,340 ft. was well below cactus line.  Although it wasn’t that far away, even a mile over rough ground through cactus country didn’t sound like any fun.  Getting back would double the distance, too.

A lot of time had already been lost due to cactus just getting to Fanny Peak.  A million cacti would seriously slow down any attempt to get to Frannie Peak, too.  Furthermore, there might be rattlesnakes!  SPHP pondered all these negative factors.  It would have been fun to find out if Lupe could climb Frannie Peak, but all SPHP truly expected was failure to reach the top, even if Lupe did manage to get over there.

Fanny Peak would have to suffice.  Frannie Peak was out!  As a consolation 3rd peakbagging goal, Lupe could continue N 2 more miles to the lookout tower on Summit Ridge (6,096 ft.).  Roads would take Lupe all the way there.  She wouldn’t be hindered by cacti or unclimbable rock formations.  Lupe hadn’t been to Summit Ridge for over 3.5 years.  It would be fun to go see it again.

Right or wrong, the decision was made.  Lupe and SPHP left Fanny Peak going back the way they had come.  Lupe returned to the intersection along USFS Road No. 264.1A where the three slender pale blue posts were.  Instead of turning S back to the G6, Lupe went N toward Summit Ridge.

Lupe about to begin her descent from Fanny Peak. Photo looks SSW.
Lupe about to begin her descent from Fanny Peak. Photo looks SSW.
Lupe in the little meadow just NE of Fanny Peak. The summit is in the trees. Photo looks SW from near the fence on the South Dakota/Wyoming border.
Lupe in the little meadow just NE of Fanny Peak. The summit is in the trees. Photo looks SW from near the fence on the South Dakota/Wyoming border.
The 3 slender blue post intersection 0.33 mile NE of Fanny Peak along USFS Road No. 264.1A. Straight ahead No. 264.1A goes to Summit Ridge. To the right, back S through snake and cactus country to the G6 at Boles Canyon Road. Coming toward the camera is the route W to Fanny Peak. Photo looks NE.
The 3 slender blue post intersection 0.33 mile NE of Fanny Peak along USFS Road No. 264.1A. Straight ahead No. 264.1A goes to Summit Ridge. To the right, back S through snake and cactus country to the G6 at Boles Canyon Road. Coming toward the camera is the route W closer to Fanny Peak. Photo looks NE.

Except for one short off-road shortcut, Lupe followed No. 264.1A all the way N to the intersection with No. 264 in the upper reaches of Roby Canyon.  No. 264 took her the rest of the way up to the Summit Ridge lookout tower.  No snakes, cactus, rock formations or anything else bothered Lupe along the way.

However, as Lupe got close to the old cabin near the Summit Ridge lookout tower, 2 big dogs came running over to bark at her and sniff.  They seemed a bit aggressive, and Lupe didn’t like them.  She growled, and became snappy.  SPHP picked her up.  The owners of the 2 big dogs came over to retrieve them.

SPHP was surprised to see anyone around, but the dog owners said they were renting the old USFS cabin here for a few days.  Relatives were staying in a 5th wheel trailer nearby, too.  After a pleasant brief chat, Lupe and SPHP left the dogs and their owners to go check out the lookout tower.

Lupe arrived at the base of the lookout tower to find the stairway padlocked shut.

Lupe arrives at the Summit Ridge lookout tower. The last time she was here was over 3.5 years ago way back on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 30 on 10-14-12. Lupe wasn't even 2 years old yet back then.
Lupe arrives at the Summit Ridge lookout tower. The last time she was here was over 3.5 years ago way back on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 30 on 10-14-12. Lupe wasn’t even 2 years old yet back then!
It really wasn't too surprising to find the stairway to the tower padlocked shut. It had been locked back on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 30, too. Back then a sign had said the tower hasn't been manned on a consistent basis since 1972.
It really wasn’t too surprising to find the stairway to the tower padlocked shut. It had been locked back on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 30, too. Back then a sign had said the tower hasn’t been manned on a consistent basis since 1972.

Although the tower provides a great vantage point, from down below there weren’t any views.  Lupe and SPHP wandered off to the NW a little way, but there were too many trees to see much.  Lupe returned to pose in front of the cool old cabin, but that was about all there was to do.

The USFS cabin at Summit Ridge. There is only one cabin here. A sign said it was available for rent at $35 per night. No running water or electricity! Except for the occasional wandering American Dingo, though, you will enjoy complete solitude in this remote location practically on the Wyoming border.
The USFS cabin at Summit Ridge. There is only one cabin here. A sign said it was available for rent at $35 per night. No running water or electricity! Except for the occasional wandering American Dingo, though, you will enjoy complete solitude in this remote location practically on the Wyoming border.

One of the big dogs (Stevie) kept barking at Lupe, and wanting to come over to confront her.  The owner prevented that from happening, but it was time to go and let the people enjoy the peace and solitude they bargained for.  Lupe and SPHP returned to USFS Road No. 264 and went S.

When Lupe came to the intersection with No. 264.1A again, this time she stayed on No. 264.  She followed it all the way through the entire length of Roby Canyon.  It was easily 4 miles, probably closer to 5, before Lupe reached Boles Canyon Road.  The Roby Canyon trek was secluded, pleasantly scenic, and downhill or level all the way.  Best of all, there weren’t any cactus down in the canyon.

Lupe had a good time running around in Roby Canyon.  She found a few squirrels to bark at.  SPHP collected Lupe treasures.  When Lupe finally got back to the G6, it was 5:54 PM (68°F).  Earlier, before Lupe left to go to Fanny Peak, SPHP had noticed Lupe Treasures down in the ravine under the bridge near the start of USFS Road No. 264.1A.  Now Lupe and SPHP went back there to collect them.

On the way home, Lupe continued having a good time.  She barked at lots of deer, as she sped by in the G6.  She stopped briefly at Ditch Creek campground where she got to lay down in beautiful, clear, cold Ditch Creek to cool off.  She drank deeply.  Ditch Creek was the only stream she had seen in two whole days of Black Hills Expeditions.  She rolled and frolicked in big patches of snow still melting at the campground.

At home, after milk and a big bowl of Alpo, Lupe drifted off to more adventures in Dingo Dreamland.  What she does there, even SPHP can’t relate.  However, it was clear SPHP wouldn’t be seeing those big soft Dingo ears standing at attention in the moonlight all night tonight!Intersection of USFS Roads No. 264 & 264.1A S of Summit Ridge in Roby Canyon.Lupe Treasures collected: 9 glass bottles, 3 plastic bottles, 39 aluminum cans, plus miscellaneous non-recyclables.

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

Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 167 – Surveyor’s Hill, Red Butte, Yellow Butte & the Elk Mountain Benchmark (4-20-16)

SPHP wasn’t very well organized.  It took longer than it should have to get going.  Finally, at noon, Lupe and SPHP were on their way in the G6.

Lupe was already expecting great things!  She was riding up high on a small mountain of gear, blankets and pillows, as if she was starting off on one of her Dingo Vacations.  That wasn’t what was happening, but this was going to be a special overnight outing.  Lupe was going to get to do two Black Hills, SD Expeditions in a row!

Lupe’s peakbagging goals were all clustered in the SW Black Hills, not too far from the Wyoming border.  First up was an easy one, Surveyor’s Hill (5,640 ft.).  SPHP parked the G6 at a curve in USFS Road No. 668 down in Hay Draw (1:48 PM, 58°F).  All Lupe had to do to get up to Surveyor’s Hill was follow a side valley NW for 0.375 mile.  Surveyor’s Hill was a minor hill sitting up on a larger ridge that lost elevation as it went SW.

Lupe started off doing just fine, following an animal trail at the bottom of the side valley.  However, when SPHP left the animal trail to start gaining elevation faster on the NE side of the valley, Lupe hesitated.  She remembered all the cactus around on her recent trip to the Wildcat Hills of Nebraska with mountaineer Jobe Wymore.  There had also been cactus around on her last couple of Black Hills, SD Expeditions, too.

Lupe didn’t want to leave the safety of the animal trail.  Even though SPHP didn’t see any cactus, it took some persuading to convince Lupe to keep going.  Lupe repeatedly sat down and lagged behind.  She only came when SPHP got too far away, or stopped to sit down and “check the maps”.  A few times, SPHP had to carry her.

Fortunately, it wasn’t far to Surveyor’s Hill, and there really didn’t seem to be any cactus around.  Lupe gradually regained her confidence.  Once she was up on the ridge at the base of Surveyor’s Hill, she started feeling secure enough to lead SPHP the rest of the way up.

Lupe nears Surveyor's Hill. Photo looks WNW.
Lupe nears Surveyor’s Hill. Photo looks WNW.

For such a small hill, the scenic rewards when Lupe reached the top were very nice.  The forest on Surveyor’s Hill completely burned away in the Jasper Fire in August, 2000.  As a result, Surveyor’s Hill has a commanding 360° view.  Some of the best views were off to the SW.

Lupe reaches the summit of Surveyor's Hill. Her next 2 peakbagging goals are in sight. Red Butte (5,500 ft.) is the partly forested hill L of Center. Yellow Butte (5,460 ft.) is the little knob seen straight above Lupe's tail. Wyoming is on the far horizon. Photo looks W.
Lupe reaches the summit of Surveyor’s Hill. Her next 2 peakbagging goals are in sight. Red Butte (5,500 ft.) is the partly forested hill L of Center. Yellow Butte (5,460 ft.) is the little knob seen straight above Lupe’s tail. Wyoming is on the far horizon. Photo looks W.
Two more of Lupe's peakbagging goals are seen here. Wildcat Peak (5,500 ft.) is on the L. Elk Benchmark (5,669 ft.) is the high point on the R closest to Lupe's ear. Photo looks SW.
Two more of Lupe’s peakbagging goals are seen here. Wildcat Peak (5,500 ft.) is on the L. Elk Benchmark (5,669 ft.) is the high point R of Center. Photo looks SW.
Red Butte from Surveyor's Hill using the telephoto lens. Photo looks W.
Red Butte from Surveyor’s Hill using the telephoto lens. Photo looks W.
Yellow Butte from Surveyor's Hill using the telephoto lens. Photo looks WNW.
Yellow Butte from Surveyor’s Hill using the telephoto lens. Photo looks WNW.

Lupe liked it up on Surveyor’s Hill.  She really didn’t want to follow SPHP down the S slope when it was time to go.  She still suspected she was being lured back down into dangerous cactus country.  SPHP went a long way down before Lupe finally decided she didn’t want to risk being left behind.

Lupe felt better remaining high up on her Surveyor's Hill vantage point. When SPHP got too far away, she reluctantly decided to come down. Photo taken looking NNW using the telephoto lens.
Lupe felt better remaining high up on her Surveyor’s Hill vantage point. When SPHP got too far away, she reluctantly decided to come down. Photo taken looking NNW using the telephoto lens.

On the short trek back to the G6, Lupe’s confidence continued to build.  Instead of encountering cactus, she saw a squirrel!  All the painful thoughts of cactus disappeared, wiped out in an instant by the exciting squirrel.  With the squirrel’s help, by 2:34 PM (58°F) Lupe was back at the G6, and on her way to Red Butte (5,500 ft.).

SPHP parked the G6 again down in Gillette Canyon, at the junction of USFS Roads No. 281 & No. 281.1V.  Red Butte was only a little over 0.5 mile WNW as the crow flies.  On the first part of the journey, Lupe and SPHP followed No. 281.1V.  Red Butte was soon in sight across a big field.

Red Butte from near USFS Road No. 281.1V. Photo looks WNW.
Red Butte from near USFS Road No. 281.1V. Photo looks WNW.

Lupe and SPHP stayed on No. 281.1V as it crossed a big field heading for Red Butte.  When the road reached the trees, it started gaining elevation.  Lupe and SPHP stayed on the road only until it started curving NE, then Lupe left it climbing NW directly up the forested ridge.

Once again, Lupe was reluctant to follow SPHP off the road.  Her fear of cactus returned.  Again and again, she stopped and watched while SPHP plodded away.  When SPHP got too far ahead, she waited for SPHP to stop and look back at her.  Then she ran to catch up.  In this manner, Lupe and SPHP progressed steadily, though more slowly than normal.

When Lupe reached the top of the ridgeline, she turned WSW following the ridge toward the summit of Red Butte.  SPHP still saw no cactus around.  Lupe’s confidence grew.

The steepest part of the climb came at the end.  The summit of Red Butte was up on top of a hill thickly covered with 3 foot high bushes.  Lupe liked the bushes, and the many pathways between them.  She forgot all about cactus, sniffing her way through the bush maze.  For SPHP, the bushes were more of a pain to navigate, but soon both Lupe and SPHP stood on the summit of Red Butte.

Lupe at the summit of Red Butte. Wildcat Peak (5,500 ft.) (L) and the Elk Benchmark (5,669 ft.) (seen above Lupe) are in view to the SW.
Lupe at the summit of Red Butte. Wildcat Peak (5,500 ft.) (L) and the Elk Benchmark (5,669 ft.) (seen above Lupe) are in view to the SW.
The highest parts of Red Butte were covered with a thick maze of bushes. Lupe liked them! Photo looks NE.
The highest parts of Red Butte were covered with a thick maze of bushes. Lupe liked them! Photo looks NE.
Lupe stands at the top of a small limestone outcropping on the E side of Red Butte. Photo looks N.
Lupe stands at the top of a small limestone outcropping on the E side of Red Butte. Photo looks N.

The true summit of Red Butte was near the ENE end of the short summit ridge close to where Lupe initially reached the top.  However, there was another high point off to the WSW.  After visiting the true summit, Lupe and SPHP headed over to this second high point to take a look at things from there.  On the way, SPHP suddenly spied a large patch of cactus ahead.

Right away, SPHP stopped Lupe and put her leash on.  Lupe had been so engrossed with exploring the maze of bushes, she didn’t yet realize there was any cactus around.  To make certain Lupe didn’t have a bad experience, SPHP carried her over the cactus patch to reach the second high point.

Lupe on the slightly lower WSW high point of Red Butte. Photo looks ENE back toward the true summit. The only cactus Lupe and SPHP came to all day was a big patch located between these two high points.
Lupe on the slightly lower WSW high point of Red Butte. Photo looks ENE back toward the true summit. The only cactus Lupe and SPHP came to all day was a big patch located between these two high points.

With cactus around, Lupe and SPHP didn’t stay long on the WSW high point.  It was quite close to the true summit, so the views weren’t much different anyway.  SPHP carried Lupe back over the cactus patch to the true summit again.  A break between the trees provided a look at nearby Yellow Butte (5,460 ft.), where Lupe would be headed next.

Yellow Butte from Red Butte using the telephoto lens. Photo looks N.
Yellow Butte from Red Butte using the telephoto lens. Photo looks N.

Lupe and SPHP left Red Butte heading back down the way Lupe had originally come up.  Lupe followed the ridgeline NE back to USFS Road No. 281.1V.  Lupe came to no more cactus, and although SPHP kept a careful lookout, SPHP saw no more cactus the rest of the day.

Crocuses were blooming on the ridge ENE of Red Butte.
Crocuses were blooming on the ridge ENE of Red Butte.

When Lupe reached USFS Road No. 281.1V again, she followed it N for about 0.33 mile.  She then came to an intersection where she turned W.  She soon passed by No. 281.1A coming up Hop Draw.  From this point, No. 281.2Y led Lupe W the rest of the way to Yellow Butte.  In this manner, Lupe effectively went around the E end of Hop Draw coming from Red Butte.

Although Yellow Butte is a little lower than either Surveyor’s Hill or Red Butte, it is a much craggier, and therefore more interesting peak.  In fact, SPHP wasn’t at all certain that Lupe would find a way up to the summit.  As Lupe approached Yellow Butte, there appeared to be a reasonably safe way up near the S end of the E face, but SPHP didn’t really like the looks of it all that much.

Approaching the E face of Yellow Butte on USFS Road No. 281.2Y. It looked like it might be possible to climb up the big cracks on the L, but SPHP preferred to look around for an easier route up.
Approaching the E face of Yellow Butte on USFS Road No. 281.2Y. It looked like it might be possible to climb up the big cracks on the L, but SPHP preferred to look around for an easier route up.

Instead of heading toward the big cracks in the rocks toward the S end of the E face, Lupe and SPHP went to check out the N end first.  The N end of the E face wasn’t encouraging at all.

The N end of the E face of Yellow Butte gave Lupe no encouragement at all. She could only get up this part of the mountain with Dingo Wings, which she didn't happen to have on her at the time. Photo looks WSW.
The N end of the E face of Yellow Butte gave Lupe no encouragement at all. She could only get up this part of the mountain with Dingo Wings, which she didn’t happen to have on her at the time. Photo looks WSW.

Yellow Butte was certainly well named!  The entire mountaintop appeared to consist of a massive very yellow rock outcropping with near vertical, and in some places overhanging, walls.  The narrow N end of the mountain featured beautiful yellow, overhanging cliffs.

Lupe perches on rocks beneath the yellow overhanging cliffs at the narrow N end of Yellow Butte. Photo looks S.
Lupe perches on rocks beneath the yellow overhanging cliffs at the narrow N end of Yellow Butte. Photo looks S.

The northern portion of the W face of Yellow Butte was a towering, vertical yellow rock wall.

The northern part of the W face of Yellow Butte was a continuous yellow cliff. Photo looks N.
The northern part of the W face of Yellow Butte was a continuous yellow cliff. Photo looks N.

It was starting to look like Lupe and SPHP might have no choice.  The large steep cracks in the rocks on the E face might be the only possible way up.  However, as Lupe drew near the S end of the W face, suddenly there was a break in the sheer cliff wall.  A ramp of relatively easy terrain led all the way up to the top of the massive rock formation.

Surprisingly, the first rocks Lupe encountered on top were not yellow at all.  The true summit, which is closer to the S end of the mountain, consisted of a very different, but interesting gray-pink rock full of holes, lines and pockets.

Lupe on a dead tree very close to the summit of Yellow Butte. Red Butte (Center) is seen beyond Lupe. Photo looks SSE.
Lupe on a dead tree very close to the summit of Yellow Butte. Red Butte (Center) is seen beyond Lupe. Photo looks SSE.
Lupe at the very top of Yellow Butte. Surprisingly, the rocks at the summit were not yellow at all. Instead, they were an interesting pink/gray stone full of holes, lines, and pockets. Photo looks NW.
Lupe at the very top of Yellow Butte. Surprisingly, the rocks at the summit were not yellow at all. Instead, they were an interesting pink-gray stone full of holes, lines, and pockets. Photo looks NW.
Lupe at the top of Yellow Butte. This photo clearly shows the unusual pink gray stone at the summit, and part of the broad flat top of the yellow rock toward the N end of the mountain. Photo looks N.
Lupe at the top of Yellow Butte. This photo clearly shows the unusual pink gray stone at the summit, and part of the broad flat top of the yellow rock toward the N end of the mountain. Photo looks N.

After visiting the summit, Lupe went to explore the flat top of the yellow rocks toward the N end of the mountain.  Exposed rock covered most of a fairly large area, but scattered trees and bushes grew here and there, too.  Cliffs were to the W, N and E.

Lupe out on the relatively flat top of the yellow rocks at the N end of Yellow Butte. Photo looks S toward the summit.
Lupe out on the relatively flat top of the yellow rocks at the N end of Yellow Butte. Photo looks S toward the summit.

Yellow Butte was quite an interesting place.  SPHP was glad Lupe had found an easy way up.  Before departing, Lupe briefly returned to the summit one more time.  Then she headed back down the relatively easy ramp near the S end of the W face.

A closer look at the interesting pink-gray rocks forming the summit. Photo looks ESE.
A closer look at the interesting pink-gray rocks forming the summit. Photo looks ESE.
A final look at the yellow cliffs on the W face of Yellow Butte on Lupe's way down. Photo looks N (and up!).
A final look at the yellow cliffs on the W face of Yellow Butte on Lupe’s way down. Photo looks N (and up!).

Lupe returned to USFS Road No. 281.2Y.  She followed it E to No. 281.1V again, which she stayed on all the rest of the way back to the G6 (5:49 PM, 55°F).

SPHP’s original plan had been for Lupe to head on over to Wildcat Peak (5,500 ft.) next, but the very late start earlier in the day meant it was already too late now for that adventure.  Lupe would get a chance to climb Wildcat Peak tomorrow.  In the meantime, Lupe had another fun alternative close to Wildcat Peak.  She could go to the Elk Benchmark (5,669 ft.).

Lupe had been to the Elk Benchmark once before, a little over a year ago on Black Hills SD Expedition No. 125.   Both Lupe and SPHP had a great time there then.  The Elk Benchmark is located at the NW corner of Elk Mountain, a high ridge on the border with Wyoming.   The ridge runs N/S for several miles.  The S end of the ridge is heavily forested, but years ago a forest fire burned virtually all the trees off the N end.

USFS Road No. 118 passes very close to the true summit at Elk Benchmark on its way to the Elk Mountain Lookout Tower (5,662 ft.), so it’s possible to drive almost right to it.  However, a year ago Lupe and SPHP had found it much more fun to travel the broad treeless portion of the ridge on paw and foot.  Lupe enjoyed chasing the numerous rabbits, and SPHP loved the big sweeping views.

Since USFS Road No. 118 traverses the entire length of Elk Mountain, Lupe and SPHP could stay out long after dark without worrying about getting lost.  Repeating Lupe’s prior journey to the Elk Benchmark would be a perfect way to end the day!  So when Lupe reached the G6 again after her visit to Red and Yellow Buttes, it was time to press on to Elk Mountain.

By 6:30 PM (54°F), SPHP was parking the G6 at the junction of USFS Roads No. 118 and No. 118.1C.  This junction was up on top of the Elk Mountain ridge at the S end of the burned area.  Elk Benchmark was still at least 2 miles N.  Before heading N, Lupe and SPHP made a short trek over to the E side of the ridge for a look at Wildcat Peak to the S.

Wildcat Peak is seen in the sunlight straight above Lupe. She would get a chance to climb it the next day. Photo looks S from Elk Mountain.
Wildcat Peak is seen in the sunlight straight above Lupe. She would get a chance to climb it the next day. Photo looks S from Elk Mountain.

After a good look at Wildcat Peak, Lupe and SPHP went back to No. 118 to start following it N.  Lupe quickly rediscovered the existence of rabbits up on Elk Mountain.  The enthusiastic Carolina Dog bounded away.  She was off and running!  Fortunately, there didn’t seem to be any cactus to worry about.  Even though the rabbits had all the advantages on their home ground, Lupe had an exhilarating time sniffing excitedly for them and giving chase.

Meanwhile, SPHP was enjoying the tremendous views.  To the W, a broad swath of eastern Wyoming could be seen.  To the E, the southern Black Hills of South Dakota.  Far away, almost indiscernibly faintly on the SSW horizon, SPHP could even see Laramie Peak (10,272 ft.).

Lupe at the E edge of the Elk Mountain ridge. The Elk Mountain Lookout Tower is faintly visible in the distance just to the R of Lupe's head. The Lookout Tower is just 7 feet lower than the Elk Mountain's true summit at the Elk Benchmark (5,669 ft.). Photo looks N.
Lupe along the E edge of Elk Mountain. The Elk Mountain Lookout Tower is faintly visible in the distance just to the R of Lupe’s head. The Lookout Tower is just 7 feet lower than Elk Mountain’s true summit at the Elk Benchmark (5,669 ft.). Photo looks N.
Lupe now on the W side of Elk Mountain. Photo looks N toward the true summit at the Elk Benchmark (L of Center). USFS Road No. 118 is seen on the R.
Lupe now on the W side of Elk Mountain. Photo looks N toward the true summit at the Elk Benchmark (L of Center). USFS Road No. 118 is seen on the R.
Looking N at Elk Benchmark. There are two USGS markers on the rocks at the top. The one toward the S has an arrow pointing NNW toward the one with the elevation stamp, which is just a few steps away.
Looking N at Elk Benchmark. There are two USGS markers on the rocks at the top. The one toward the S has an arrow pointing NNW toward the one with the elevation stamp, which is just a few steps away.

Lupe and SPHP barely made it to the Elk Benchmark summit before sunset.  The world was all aglow with a soft yellow-orange light.  Off to the SE, the Elk Mountain Lookout Tower stood on another high point almost as high as where Lupe was.

Lupe reaches the Elk Benchmark just before sunset. One of two USGS markers is right below her near her front paws. (This is the S one with the arrow on it.) Slightly lower Elk Mountain Lookout Tower is seen in the distance. Photo looks SE.
Lupe reaches the Elk Benchmark just before sunset. One of two USGS markers is right below her near her front paws. (This is the S one with the arrow on it.) Slightly lower Elk Mountain Lookout Tower is seen in the distance. Photo looks SE.
The S USGS marker with the arrow on it pointing toward the N marker a few paces away.
The S USGS marker with the arrow on it pointing toward the N marker a few paces away.
The N USGS benchmark with the 5,669 foot elevation stamp.
The N USGS benchmark with the 5,669 foot elevation stamp.
Lupe on Elk Benchmark at sunset. The N USGS benchmark with the elevation stamp is seen near her. A metal post sticks up out of the ground to its R. Photo looks S along the W side of the Elk Mountain ridge.
Lupe on Elk Benchmark at sunset. The N USGS benchmark with the elevation stamp is seen near her. A metal post sticks up out of the ground to its R. Photo looks S along the W side of the Elk Mountain ridge.

Lupe and SPHP took a break at the Elk Benchmark while the sun sank below the horizon.  On Lupe’s trip here more than a year earlier on 4-4-15, Lupe and SPHP had gone on to see the Elk Mountain Lookout Tower, and another nearby high point featuring the Most Colorful Rock.  This time, it would have gotten dark before Lupe could get over there, so there wasn’t any point in going.

Lupe and SPHP just relaxed enjoying the glorious view until the light started fading from the clouds.

Sunset from Elk Benchmark.
Sunset from Elk Benchmark.

Lupe and SPHP didn’t start back toward the G6 until 10 or 15 minutes after the sun disappeared.  Then Lupe led the way, resuming her futile, but enormously entertaining rabbit hunts.  Darkness grew in the E.  The orange glow in the W faded.  Gradually it became harder and harder for SPHP to see the happily roaming Carolina Dog.  She became a phantom of the night, disappearing and reappearing at will.

A huge, white moon obliterated most stars and cast ghostly shadows.  Tomorrow the moon would be full.  The long trek back was marvelous.  At 9:08 PM, it was over.  Lupe and SPHP were back at the G6, but to Lupe’s delight, she wasn’t going home.  Together, Lupe and SPHP would spend this night on Elk Mountain!Lupe on Elk Benchmark at sunset, 4-20-16Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s Black Hills Expeditions Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.