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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.).
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.
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.
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.