By the time Lupe and SPHP arrived at grandma’s house, Joe and Dusty were ready and waiting. Joe had already entered an alert on Summits on the Air! Joe, Dusty, Lupe and SPHP lost no time leaving for Boulder Hill(5,331 ft.).
At 8:19 AM (71°F), Joe parked the G6 at the high point of the saddle on USFS Road No. 358 near the Boulder Hill access road. A cool N breeze could be heard in the pines. Lupe and Dusty were soon racing through the shady forest. Joe and SPHP took the access road.
Rain had finally arrived the day before – the real deal with thunder, lightning, small hail and at least an inch of moisture. Lupe found big tan mud puddles on the access road. She plunked herself down in several of them. She emerged with cool, tan mineral water streaming from her fur.
The access road was only 0.375 mile long. It ended at the base of the big rock outcropping at the top of Boulder Hill(5,331 ft.). A spur of Flume Trail No. 50 wound up among the rocks to a small, shallow saddle between the N and S high points at the summit of Boulder Hill. Good! No one was around. Joe would have his choice of sites to set up his ham radio equipment.
Two days earlier, Joe had had such a good time with his first Summits on the Air (SOTA) experience “activating” Custer Peak(6,804 ft.), that he wanted to try activating another peak in the Black Hills before he and Dusty had to head home to Arvada, Colorado. SOTA is “an award scheme for radio amateurs that encourages portable operation in mountainous areas”. Naturally, Lupe, Dusty, and SPHP had all wanted to come along again, too!
Joe decided to set up the radio equipment at the N end of the N high point. He taped a 12 foot fishing pole supporting an antenna wire as high up in a pine tree as he could. SPHP then helped Joe set up 4 lateral wires near the base of the antenna. Lupe and Dusty supervised, while guarding against intruders.
Pretty soon, the radio was ready. This time, Joe had a much better idea of what to expect once the radio was on. Before “activating” Boulder Hill, Joe gave SPHP the log book and a pen. SPHP received a 5 minute crash course on how to log the contact call signs, and other data Joe would call out while operating the radio.
Set up had gone smoothly. AA0Q was ready to go on the air 5 minutes before the alert time Joe had posted on the SOTA website. As soon as Joe started transmitting, the same thing happened as at Custer Peak two days earlier. Within seconds of turning the radio on, a contact “spotted” AA0Q on Boulder Hill on the SOTA website. Moments later, Joe told SPHP that it was another “pileup”. Joe said it sounded like 30 hams were trying to contact him at once.
It was impossible to respond to them all, but Joe was better prepared than last time. SPHP logged the contacts, while AA0Q “worked” them using Morse Code. Joe recognized some of the contacts as repeats from his SOTA activation of Custer Peak. Others were new. The most distant contact was in Great Britain, which Joe said was very good for transmitting only 4 watts.
Lupe and Dusty helped, too. At one point, three hikers arrived up on Boulder Hill while AA0Q was still transmitting. Both Lupe and Dusty barked a warning. SPHP stopped logging long enough to point out the lateral antenna wires, so they wouldn’t trip on them. SPHP also took a couple of group photos for the hikers using their camera.
Once again, Joe was rather amazed at the terrific response. His Summits on the Air activation of Boulder Hill was a big success. In roughly an hour, AA0Q worked 33 contacts by Morse Code, and one by voice. By activating Boulder Hill, AA0Q had earned 6 more points toward the SOTA “Mountain Goat” award. Including the 8 points earned on Custer Peak, he was now up to 14 points. SOTA was fun and added a whole new dimension to AA0Q’s amateur radio hobby!
When Joe was done transmitting, it was time to take down the antenna and pack up all the radio gear. When that was complete, Joe, Dusty, Lupe & SPHP went to explore a slightly lower high point a short distance to the N.
Of course, the peakbagger in Lupe wasn’t about to leave Boulder Hill without a visit to the S summit area, too!
By noon, Joe, Dusty, Lupe and SPHP were back at grandma’s house. Joe logged in all the QSO’s (contacts) he had made on the Summits on the Air website. All the contacts earned points toward the SOTA “Shack Sloth” award.
After lunch, Joe & SPHP went with other family members off into the hills again. SPHP wound up at Rushmore Cave, and Joe wound up at an antique shop in Keystone.
Lupe, Dusty and Maya (another dog in the family) were left behind with grandma. SPHP had given all three dogs water and a Beggin’ Strip before leaving. Grandma later reported that all the dogs spent the entire afternoon snoozing on the soft carpet in front of the fan. Being a “Radio-Active” Carolina Dog can be a tough life, but someone’s got to do it!
Light out. Looked like for a while already. Ugh! Loopster, you awake? Of course, she was, but even Lupe wasn’t looking too lively yet, still content to snuggle down on her sleeping bag. Lupe gazed sleepily back at SPHP. Is it time?
Uncharacteristically, Lupe had only wanted to go outside her “tiny house” once during the night to prowl around. The scene, the mood, had been magical. A full moon flooded Paint Rock Creek valley with ghostly light. Close by, but out of sight below the grassy ridge on which Lupe’s tiny house was perched, came the soothing sound of Paint Rock Creek gushing over a 15 foot high waterfall. Otherwise, silence prevailed beneath the night sky. Nothing stirred. Lupe and SPHP were utterly alone.
Now it was light out. Yes, it’s time, Loop. I wish it wasn’t – I’m not feeling it. Sheesh, why do I always do this? Bomber Mountain after Cloud Peak, indeed – what a joke! I must be delusional. Now I’ll be lucky to drag myself up Cloud today. I hope you’re more ready for this than I am. SPHP started preparations for the day’s climb. Lupe watched, but didn’t move. She made no comment.
Yesterday, Lupe and SPHP had made it from the trailhead at West Tensleep Lake to the junction of the Misty Moon Trail (No. 63) and the Solitude Trail (No. 38) SW of Misty Moon Lake in good time. The sun had still been high overhead. Lupe and SPHP could have made it to base camp on the ledge near Paint Rock Creek falls with many hours before sunset to relax and recuperate for the climb up Cloud Peak(13,167 ft.) today.
Hah! That would have been too easy. Instead, full of enthusiasm, SPHP had led Lupe E on the Solitude Trail off on a side excursion to see the Fortress Lakes and Gunboat Lake. Lupe even left the trail to climb a minor high point, Peak 10,860. From there, SPHP had seen what looked like a good route up Bomber Mountain(12,840 ft.) from the Florence Pass area. Wouldn’t it be fun for Lupe to climb Bomber Mountain, too, the day after climbing Cloud Peak?
The side excursion was fun and beautiful, but also chewed up lots of time. More importantly, it used up a lot of energy. As a result, Lupe and SPHP had dragged into base camp on the low ridge NW of Paint Rock Creek falls only an hour and a half before sunset. By then, the Bomber Mountain daydream was shattered. SPHP was played out. Even Lupe seemed tired. As soon as Lupe’s tiny house was pitched, Lupe and SPHP had crawled inside and crashed.
OK, Loop, let’s go! Yeah, yesterday’s side excursion may have been a mistake, but so what? You’re gonna make it to the top, sweet puppy! We still have lots of advantages. We are starting from the best and closest possible base camp, the weather is ideal, and we saw yesterday that there’s almost no snow left up there to stop us.
Not gonna set any speed records, unless it’s for the slowest ascent ever, but who cares? No one. It’s just us. We have all day. We can rest as often and long as we want to. There’s a reason for this SPHP tag, you know. Even so, this is still going to be a glorious day. Promise!
Lupe was ready! She grabbed a big stick and chomped it. She snarled and barked. She leaped around encouraging SPHP to please, finally, get on with it. And then she was off, tearing NE along the trail up Paint Rock Creek valley above the falls.
The unmaintained trail was good, at first. It paralleled Paint Rock Creek from a short distance to the NW. Lupe and SPHP went down to the creek, so Lupe could get a drink. Bluebells were growing in profusion along the banks.
Lupe and SPHP returned to the trail. Almost immediately, it veered N, leaving the creek behind. Gradually, the trail became more intermittent and harder to follow. Sometimes there were cairns to show the way. There was no reason to worry. It was just about impossible to get lost. To the N was a giant ridge of solid stone sweeping up to the NE toward Cloud Peak’s summit.
Lupe and SPHP came to several big rock formations that had to be traversed. Between the formations was much more level grassy ground. SPHP grew careless about following the trail, losing it several times. Lupe kept coming across it again. Once, at one of the formations, Lupe came to a rock wall that was too high for her to scramble up. SPHP lifted her up, but that was the only time she needed help.
Sometimes Lupe had to lose a little elevation leaving the rock formations to reach the next grassy section, but the elevation loss was never significant. The last grassy section was the largest of all. Several ponds were scattered around. Directly ahead, beyond the grass, was a headwall. Above it was a higher valley leading toward Cloud Peak.
After crossing the last big grassy area, Lupe was delighted to discover a big patch of snow in a cleft in the headwall. She frolicked, slid, and rolled on it. SPHP was happy for her. Down on the sagebrush prairies surrounding the Bighorns it was supposed to be 100°F, but here was Lupe having a blast in the snow!
Above the headwall, the long upper valley stretched ahead. There was a fair amount of grass in the center of the valley. A tributary of Paint Rock Creek cascaded down from above.
SPHP hadn’t really bothered to look for the route the intermittent trail took up over the headwall, but realized Lupe was probably SE of it. The center of the valley near the creek looked like the easiest way up. Unfortunately, instead of immediately working over to the middle, SPHP chose what looked like the easiest route from where Lupe had arrived on the headwall, which stayed SE of the valley center.
The route was full of boulders, but now and then there were short stretches of grass or dirt. They all led higher up on the SE side of the valley. Gradually, Lupe was getting farther away from the middle of the valley, instead of closer to it. Lupe didn’t seem to mind all the rock-hopping too much, but for SPHP it was time consuming and exhausting. Frequent stops were necessary to let heart and lungs catch up.
Eventually, Lupe was a long way up on the SE side of the upper valley. By now, even short stretches of grass or dirt were non-existent. Ahead was a seemingly endless boulder field. Somewhere up there, SPHP knew Lupe would arrive at the edge of massive cliffs to the SE.
From below, the boulders above repeatedly gave the impression that Lupe was nearing the top of the ridge. As Lupe scrambled ever higher, SPHP urged her to be careful. However, each time Lupe reached the apparent ridgeline, all that was revealed beyond were more boulders and an even higher ridge.
Slowly, Lupe and SPHP pressed onward and upward. There was no other reasonable choice. The floor of the upper valley was now much too far below to consider going back down looking for a better route. Sorry, Lupe, looks like I’ve really screwed this up again. We’re still going to make it, though. This can’t go on forever. On the way back down, we will find a better way.
By now, even Lupe was getting sick of all the rock hopping. Each time SPHP stopped for a breather, she curled up at SPHP’s feet as best as she could. SPHP tried to stop at tiny patches of grass, so she could be somewhat comfortable, but often there wasn’t anything resembling “comfortable” around.
Despite the horrible route SPHP had selected, there were still cairns scattered around here and there. They were utterly meaningless. SPHP did derive a little comfort from them. Well, Loop, looks like we aren’t the only suckers to ever come this way!
Over time, SPHP could see Lupe was making progress. She was gradually gaining on Elk Mountain (11,321 ft.), far off to the SW. After a while, she was even with it. Eventually, Elk Mountain was clearly below Lupe’s elevation.
At last, Lupe reached the edge of the cliffs! Across a chasm to the ESE was an impressive view of Bomber Mountain(12,840 ft.). To the NNE was Lupe’s first relatively close up view of “The Bridge”. It was farther away than SPHP had hoped. The entire intervening distance was still nothing but more boulders. Beyond “The Bridge”, boulder fields rose 1,000 feet above Lupe’s current position.
What SPHP refers to as “The Bridge” is a narrow band of rock connecting much wider portions of the long SW ridge leading up to the summit of Cloud Peak. If “The Bridge” didn’t exist, Cloud Peak would be a technical climb, the summit attainable only by those with genuine mountaineering skills and equipment. Casual day hikers and backpackers like Lupe and SPHP would have no way to ever reach the summit.
Lupe and SPHP had no choice, but to continue on to “The Bridge”. Lupe went N over the boulders along the edge of the chasm to the E. As she got closer to the narrowest part of “The Bridge”, Lupe turned NE to cross it. There were huge drop offs on both sides, with spectacular views, but “The Bridge” is plenty wide enough so that crossing it under favorable conditions isn’t a terrifying experience.
While crossing “The Bridge”, Lupe gained little net elevation, if any. The crossing was still slow, since “The Bridge” is all boulder field, just like the rest of the terrain. There appeared to be a somewhat easier route toward the S side, but naturally, SPHP had led Lupe along the N edge to see the views in that direction. Was it possible to go any slower? It was hard to see how.
Beyond “The Bridge”, Lupe resumed her climb. Only another 600 or 700 feet of elevation gain to the top! Only? SPHP was fading. Lupe wasn’t, though! There were many places where SPHP thought the Carolina Dog might need help over huge boulders. Each time SPHP offered to lend her a hand, though, all on her own she appeared a moment or two later grinning down at SPHP from above. Show off!
This high on the mountain, Lupe started coming to more snow. The snow actually helped. SPHP was able to trudge right on up it, where the snow wasn’t too steep. Although it was warm out and the snow was melting at a good clip, it didn’t give way. Crossing the snow was much faster than trying to negotiate the boulders.
Finally, less than 500 feet below the summit during one of SPHP’s innumerable rest breaks, SPHP saw something that had been expected for hours. Below, and not terribly far away, someone was coming! Two people and a white dog! They were moving fast. Soon they would overtake Lupe and SPHP. Until now, Lupe and SPHP had been totally alone on the mountain.
Before long, Lupe and SPHP met Garrett, Ariel, and their dog Apollo! They were from Casper, WY. After a pleasant few minutes chatting, Lupe and SPHP were left behind. Garrett, Ariel and Apollo blazed ahead, eventually disappearing high above. Lupe and SPHP plugged along slowly. At long last, from the SW, Lupe reached the summit area.
The summit area was quite large – a few hundred feet across or more. The whole area was still all boulder fields, but they sloped much less dramatically. There was a high point to the W, which had been visible at times on the way up. The true summit was a large boulder with a cairn on it off toward the E edge of the mountain. Huge precipices were to the E and S near the true summit, and W of the W high point.
Garrett, Ariel and Apollo were still at the true summit when Lupe and SPHP finally arrived. Lupe was more than a little ill-mannered toward poor unoffending Apollo. Apparently, SPHP had been moving so slowly, Lupe had spent enough time on Cloud Peak on the way up to start thinking of the mountain as her own territory. Lupe repeatedly growled warnings at Apollo. This mountain isn’t big enough for the two of us!
Come on now, Lupe, of course it is – behave!
This was it! Success! Despite the perfect weather, no one else was coming to climb Cloud Peak today. Garrett and Ariel said it was already 3:15 PM. (Good grief, had it really taken SPHP 8.25 hours to struggle up this mountain? A lousy 3,000 feet of elevation gain from base camp? Apparently so. Record crappy ascent time secured! No matter, it was still a successful ascent.) Time for everyone to celebrate with a few photos!
Garrett and Ariel stayed up at the summit talking with SPHP. They were trail runners, and spent quite a bit of time in the mountains when they could. They had only 2 days off work, and had come up to the Bighorns just to tag Cloud Peak. Amazingly, they had hopes of being down off the mountain and back to Pizza Hut in Buffalo, WY before it closed at 10 PM!
It seemed impossible! SPHP would be thrilled with stumbling back into Lupe’s base camp before it was pitch black. SPHP talked with Garrett and Ariel so long, they probably never stood a chance of enjoying that pizza. It was after 4 PM by the time Garrett, Ariel and Apollo took their leave, and disappeared off to the SW.
Alone again, Loop! What a glorious place! We did make it, didn’t we? Lupe panted happily at SPHP. Sure did! You knew we would! You’re with an American Dingo. It was in the bag all along. SPHP sat petting Lupe on the summit boulder for a while. Yeah, but you gotta remember, I’m no American Dingo. Lupe sighed and rolled over, paws in the air. Good! You can scratch my belly, then. SPHP complied, while surveying the world from 13,167 ft.
It must have been approaching 5 PM, by the time Lupe and SPHP started back down. Going down was easier, but still ridiculously slow. SPHP did improve on route selection, which in some places made virtually no difference, but in others helped tremendously.
The big improvements came below “The Bridge”. This time, Lupe stayed much farther to the N, heading W from “The Bridge”. This eventually brought Lupe down to a big, nearly flat area that swept off to the S and then down around to the SW. There were so few boulders here, that Lupe was free to run around exploring as she pleased. It was like a Cloud Peak super highway compared to the way Lupe and SPHP had struggled up earlier!
Better route selection hardly mattered at first. It took a long time just getting down to “The Bridge”. The scenery was spectacular, though!
By the time Lupe reached the Cloud Peak super highway, the sun was already very low, and the light was beginning to fade. It was still a very long way back to Lupe’s base camp. Fortunately, Lupe and SPHP could now make rapid progress for a while.
The big flat area gradually steepened, and eventually led down into the upper end of the valley above the headwall where the tributary of Paint Rock Creek was flowing. There were lots more boulders again here, but Lupe was able to avoid most of them. Successive trails marked by cairns went down long stretches of narrow, boulder-free paths of dirt or grass.
As Lupe got close to the stream, she found a lot more grass, plus big areas of relatively smooth exposed bedrock. Staying on the SE side of the stream, but close to it, was a lot better than Lupe’s tortuous climb among the boulders higher up on the SE side of the valley in the morning.
As fast as Lupe’s progress was, by the time Lupe and SPHP managed to get down the headwall to the biggest grassy area with scattered ponds, the sun was long gone. Twilight was fading fast. Beyond the grass, SPHP had a hard time finding a decent route over the first of the rock formations that had to be traversed. Once on the other side, nothing looked familiar, not that it was possible to see much.
SPHP brought out the flashlight and a headlamp. Ahead to the SW, a wide valley of exposed bedrock sloped down into a deep dark hole. Off to the SE was the outline of a dark ridge, but it wasn’t nearly high enough to be the ridge S of Paint Rock Creek. Confusion set in. SPHP couldn’t see much, but what was in view seemed wrong.
Did the map show the dark ridge to the SE? SPHP didn’t remember it from earlier in the day. A look at the topo map didn’t seem to show it either. Was it possible to miss going right by Lupe’s base camp by simply continuing down the canyon? Both the map and what SPHP could remember seemed to indicate that was impossible, yet the yawning black hole ahead looked totally unfamiliar.
Lupe, let’s go back up a way, maybe we are supposed to be on the other side of this dark ridge to the SE? Lupe was fine with that. For a few minutes, Lupe and SPHP headed back up to the NE. Reason soon set in again. SPHP stopped. Let’s have another look at the topo map.
Little bulges to the SW in the topographic lines probably indicated the presence of the dark SE ridge. SPHP probably hadn’t paid any attention to the ridge in the morning, because it wasn’t really as big as it looked in the dark.
Loop, we are turning around again to go back down into the dark hole. If we persist in trying to reach the other side this SE ridge, we may find ourselves in a real jumble down along Paint Rock Creek way before it reaches the trail. Keep an eye out for the trail, and sniff around for it, too. We need to find it!
Cautiously, SPHP headed back down toward the dark abyss. Lupe sniffed around. She found the trail! It was faint, but here was a little cairn. This had to be it. Across the grassy areas and over the rock formations, Lupe helped SPHP stay on the trail. It had been intermittent and kind of hard to follow in the day. In the dark, it was really tricky.
Whenever the trail disappeared, SPHP watched Lupe, in a minute or two she was usually on it again. Several times SPHP disagreed with Lupe on which way to go. Lupe was soon proven right almost every time.
The rock formations seemed much steeper and rougher in the darkness than during the day. The way back seemed much longer than expected, too. Darkness does that. Time passes much more slowly than one thinks. SPHP went on and on in the darkness, but with growing confidence. The little cairns were helpful. Lupe was helpful. The trail gradually improved.
Finally, Paint Rock Creek could be heard not too far away. The trail still didn’t go toward it for what seemed like a long time. Eventually it did, though, and not long afterward, Lupe arrived back at her tiny house. Ta da! That was quite a day, Lupe! Thanks so much for your help! We are going to remember Cloud Peak for a long time. Hungry?
Lupe was hungry. Famished, actually. She had hardly eaten anything all day. She inhaled her Taste of the Wild. Then she was ready to curl up on her sleeping bag. SPHP pulled part of it over her. Keep the puppy warm! Lupe was asleep in no time. SPHP was too weary to eat. Out like a light.
Suddenly, it was morning again. Bright and beautiful, but not a cloud in the sky. It was going to be a scorcher, even way up here. Now it was SPHP’s turn to eat. Lupe hardly stirred, happy curled up on her sleeping bag. SPHP wrapped it around her a little better again. Hope you weren’t too cold in the night Loop, I never regained consciousness to check on you.
Well, Loopster, Cloud Peak was your toughest peakbagging success yet, but it’s time to go home today. We are low on water, and even if we had gallons of it, I am totally out of energy to climb Bomber Mountain. That was pure fantasy for this trip. Not going to happen. It wasn’t in the original plan, anyway. Would you like to explore the ridge to the W for a little way, though, before we leave?
Lupe was fine with sniffing around to the W. She climbed some low hills. She saw a beautiful unnamed lake. She drank from a tiny stream. SPHP admired Paint Rock Creek valley, and all the wonderful sights in and around it.
Lupe and SPHP returned to base camp. It was time to go. SPHP took down Lupe’s tiny house. Away went Lupe and SPHP, S across Paint Rock Creek valley, up the other side to the Solitude Trail, and over the pass. Lupe went by Misty Moon Lake, reached the Misty Moon Trail, and proceeded S past Lake Marion and Lake Helen.
At 4:14 PM (81°F), Lupe’s 3 day/2 night adventure to Cloud Peak was over. She was back at the trailhead at West Tensleep Lake ready to bark at cows and horses from the comfort of the G6 on her air-conditioned ride home to the Black Hills.
A couple days later, Lupe had an email from her mountaineer friend, Jobe Wymore, congratulating Lupe on her ascent of Cloud Peak. By sheer coincidence, Sam Grant, a mountaineer buddy of Jobe’s had climbed Cloud Peak on 7-21-16, the day after Lupe did! Had Lupe run into Sam by any chance? Sam would have made the entire trip as a day hike in one day!
SPHP saw on Peakbagger.com that Sam had taken the Misty Moon Trail from West Tensleep Lake, too. Lupe and SPHP almost certainly passed by Sam somewhere along the trail on the way back to the G6. Jobe was soon able to confirm that Sam thought he might have actually talked to SPHP for a few minutes! Fun stuff! Too bad Lupe and SPHP hadn’t realized who Sam was. Lupe could have gotten her picture taken with him, and added another genuine mountaineer to her collection of friends.
Just think, Lupe! Sam Grant can do in one day what took me 3 days and 2 nights! Maybe Garrett, Ariel and Apollo did get to Pizza Hut in Buffalo in time, after all? I’m clearly holding you back. Maybe you better consider an upgrade from SPHP? You could get a lot more accomplished!
Aren’t we going on my wonderful, most stupendous ever Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation in less than a week?
Well then, I’m stuck with you, SPHP, at least for the time being.
Good thing, Lupe! I’d sure miss you, if you ever left. Now you are going to help me pack all this stuff, right?
Start without me SPHP, I’m kind of busy resting up for all the adventures I have to star in ahead!
Editor’s Note: Looking for Part 1 of Lupe’s adventure to Cloud Peak? It sort of hasn’t been published yet. Mostly because it hasn’t been written yet. Of course, it will be. Someday. Maybe even soon. Or maybe not until Lupe is back from her Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation. Lupe has her priorities, you know?
Day 4 of Lupe’s 2012 Dingo Vacation to the West Coast
The clouds were gone and the rain had stopped when Lupe woke SPHP up in the Honda Element. Despite having slept sitting up, SPHP felt pretty good. Lupe, of course, felt great. She’d slept very comfortably on a pile of pillows and blankets in the back of the Element. Lanis was still asleep in the driver’s seat getting his beauty rest.
Lupe and SPHP got out to greet the day, and take a look at the fabulous view of Pilot(11,699 ft.) and Index(11,240 ft.) Peaks from the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River. Despite the cloudless sky, there was a haze in the air that kept the view from being as crisp as it might have been. Only days later did SPHP realize that the persistent haze was due to huge wildfires burning in Idaho.
While Lanis continued getting 40 winks, Lupe and SPHP went across to the S side of the Beartooth Hwy and took a stroll up a very grassy little valley. Lupe was happy barking at squirrels in the forest along the edges of the valley.
Returning to the Element, Lupe and SPHP woke Lanis up. Time to get a move on! New adventures and explorations awaited! Lanis drove E on the Beartooth Highway. E of the junction with the St. Joseph Scenic Byway, the Beartooth Hwy wound up to an overlook with a view toward the huge canyon to the S.
It turned out that in the few minutes Lanis and SPHP were admiring the view, Lupe had found another way to entertain herself. She was very industriously, though unsuccessfully thus far, trying to dig marmots out of their holes in the ground. It was hard work, but Lupe was pursuing it with great vigor and enthusiasm. SPHP had to hustle her into the Element before there was trouble.
A little over a mile E of the Top of the World Store was a turn to the N to the Island Lake campground. Breakfast was enjoyed at a picnic ground overlooking Island Lake. At over 9,500 feet elevation, Island Lake was already in alpine territory. It was going to be a great starting point for Lupe’s first exploratory trek into the Beartooth Mountains.
After breakfast, Lupe, Lanis, and SPHP took the Beartooth High Lakes trail heading N along the W side of Island Lake. There were gorgeous wildflowers everywhere. The trail was in good shape and easy to follow. There wasn’t much elevation gain or loss. Around each bend was another delightful scene of alpine splendor. The trail went past Island Lake, Night Sky Lake, and then a series of smaller lakes.
After a while, the trail turned S and went down a hill to Beauty Lake. The intention hadn’t been to come here. Somewhere just upstream, SPHP had lost the Beartooth High Lakes trail and wound up on the Beauty Lake trail. It really didn’t matter. Lupe was on a first time exploration of the area. Everything was new and exciting no matter which way she went.
Beauty Lake was large, and looked deep compared to most of the other lakes Lupe had been by so far. It was in a very pretty setting. Lupe, Lanis and SPHP climbed up on a rocky knob along the NE side of the lake that provided a nice viewpoint. By now, it was time for a lunch break. Lupe played among the rocks and trees.
Soon it felt so warm out, SPHP considered taking a dip in the lake. The water felt pretty cold, though. Only Lupe was actually brave enough to enter the water. Even she just waded around close to the shore.
The only map of the area that Lanis and SPHP had was a very simple tourist map called “Wayfinding on the Beartooth All-American Road” that Lanis had picked up at a visitor center in Cooke City. It showed that the Beauty Lake trail would take Lupe back to the Beartooth Highway close to Beartooth Lake, which was miles from the Honda Element. SPHP didn’t want to go that way.
The map also showed that the Beartooth High Lakes trail continued NW across a stream near the N end of Beauty Lake. Lupe, Lanis and SPHP went a short distance back N to where a very lovely stream flowed down to Beauty Lake. Searching for the Beartooth High Lakes trail on the other side of the stream revealed nothing. There were lots of beautiful wildflowers, but no continuation of the trail was in sight.
Not ready to give up, Lupe, Lanis and SPHP followed the stream for a little way up a small canyon. There were more rocks and wildflowers, but again, no trail was found. The going got progressively more difficult. Lanis had an exciting time chasing a water bottle he dropped in the creek back a considerable distance downstream before he was able to retrieve it.
Hmm, maybe the tourist map wasn’t terribly accurate? Lupe, Lanis and SPHP left the stream, and followed the Beauty Lake trail farther back up the hill looking for a junction with the Beartooth High Lakes trail. As it turned out, there was a trail junction up there!
Lupe, Lanis and SPHP headed N on this new trail. None of them realized this wasn’t the Beartooth High Lakes trail either. Again it didn’t matter. The new trail was in good shape, and went into even more beautiful country!
The new trail went N, passing by a couple of ponds. Then it went down a short hill to go between two lakes (Mutt & Jeff) that were very close together. A broad stream flowed gently between the lakes, and required some rock hopping to get across. Beyond the stream, the trail went across a boulder field on the NW side of Jeff Lake, before continuing up a hillside to a relatively low gap between mountains.
In the gap was a mucky pond and some boulders to work around. The trail then went gradually downhill. Before too long, there was a view of the S end of a gorgeous lake. Unknown to Lupe, Lanis and SPHP at the time, this was Becker Lake.
Becker Lake is a fairly large, long lake extending N/S. The S end is the largest, and tucked in against big rock walls and hills. The N end is narrower, and more out in the open. The trail did not go down to Becker Lake, but stayed well above it to the E. For a while, the trail went completely out of sight of the lake, but the lake eventually came into view again farther N.
Lupe, Lanis and SPHP followed the trail N past Becker Lake. The trail was now passing along the E side of a creek coming down through a broad grassy valley. A woman coming down the trail said this part of the trail was in Montana!
Lupe, Lanis and SPHP continued on a little way, but it was close to 5:00 PM now. It was soon time to turn around and head back to the Honda Element at Island Lake, before it got too late. Lupe’s route back included everything except the side trip to Beauty Lake again. She had a wonderful time sniffing and exploring the entire way back.
Going to Beauty and Becker Lakes was one of the most glorious days Lupe had ever spent in the mountains anywhere. This day was a real highlight of her 2012 Dingo Vacation!
Lupe and SPHP returned on subsequent Dingo Vacations in 2013 & 2014 to explore farther into Montana N of Becker Lake. Click on the red links below to view Lupe’s other posts about this stunning part of the Beartooth Mountains:
Lupe was very surprised – and enthusiastic, when on the very first day of 2015, SPHP suggested another Black Hills, SD Expedition. Just yesterday, Lupe and SPHP had gone on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 112 to New Year’s Eve Peak(6,046 ft.), Lupe’s last expedition of 2014.
However, the weather was cooperative, and SPHP figured nothing helps break the sadness of the passing of another year like a good start to the next one. So, on New Year’s Day 2015, at 11:02 AM (38°F), SPHP parked the G6 at the Pactola Reservoir Visitor Center along Hwy 385 near the S end of the dam.
Lupe’s peakbagging goal for the day was Thrall Mountain(5,091 ft.). Thrall Mountain didn’t seem like a very ambitious goal, since it lies just a little over 2 miles E of Pactola near Johnson Siding. Even on a short winter day, Lupe should have plenty of time to romp in the snow, and still make her goal.
Lupe and SPHP started out crossing Hwy 385 to the E. Right away, Lupe turned S to climb a forested ridge, which soon ended near McGurdy Gulch. Lupe and SPHP came down off the ridge to follow USFS Road No. 165.1B heading SE up McGurdy Gulch to a saddle at the highest point on the road. From there, Lupe left the road and turned NE, still climbing through a snowy forest to reach a couple of minor high points of similar elevation.
Wandering NE, Lupe and SPHP came to a Centennial Trail No. 89 marker. With the trail hidden under up to 6″ of trackless snow, if it hadn’t been for the marker, SPHP wouldn’t have known the trail was there. Lupe and SPHP were somewhere in the saddle area between Tamarack Gulch to the N, and Gold Standard Gulch to the SE. Thrall Mountain was still close to 2 miles to the NE.
Lupe and SPHP crossed Centennial Trail No. 89 intending to continue NE, but soon steep terrain in that direction forced Lupe more to the E in order to stay on relatively high ground. The going was somewhat slow in the snowy forest for SPHP, so when Lupe came to a road heading ESE, Lupe and SPHP took it, even though it was losing elevation slowly.
SPHP didn’t immediately realize the road was USFS Road No. 727.1A. It was taking Lupe down into Gold Standard Gulch. It wasn’t until a little later on when SPHP noticed another Centennial Trail No. 89 marker off in the forest about 25 feet S of the road, that SPHP realized Lupe was in Gold Standard Gulch.
Lupe was actually not far from where she needed to go to reach Thrall Mountain. She just needed to get across the ridge to the NE and over to the upper end of Powerhouse Gulch, which wouldn’t have been hard to do. However, SPHP made a major mistake and did not check the maps. Lupe and SPHP continued on down Gold Standard Gulch, which gradually turned more to the S, taking Lupe farther away from Thrall Mountain.
When Prairie Creek entered Gold Standard Gulch from a side valley, the going got tougher. The road forded Prairie Creek 4 or 5 times. Prairie Creek isn’t very big, just a few feet wide and only a foot or two deep most places. Ordinarily, crossing it is easy, but the creek was lightly frozen over. It wasn’t possible to see where or how deep the water was, and the banks were slippery and hidden by snow.
The ice over Prairie Creek barely supported Lupe’s weight. At one of the crossings, she almost got dunked twice before she could leap to safety, as the ice cracked and sank beneath her. SPHP had to search for particularly narrow sections of the creek in order to cross without getting wet. Tromping through the snow with soaking wet feet wouldn’t have been a good thing in January.
When Prairie Creek reached Brush Creek at USFS Road No. 772.2, SPHP finally checked the maps. A lot of time had gone by, and Lupe was still nearly 2 miles away from Thrall Mountain, which was now almost due N. Lupe was hardly any closer to Thrall Mountain than she had been at the very start of the expedition at the Pactola Reservoir Visitor Center! SPHP now realized what an error it had been to follow Gold Standard Gulch so far. Lupe and SPHP went E a short distance toward gentler terrain before leaving the road to turn N.
Lupe and SPHP wandered NNE through the forest. Along the way, Lupe came to a couple of unidentified minor roads which she followed for short stretches before they turned off in wrong directions. The terrain wasn’t very steep, and Lupe had fun roaming the snow-filled forest. Lupe and SPHP crossed another mysterious snowy road (probably No. 772.1E) to reach the top of a small ridge. On the other side, the land dropped off steeply. There was a view to the NE. Nothing in that direction looked high enough to be Thrall Mountain.
Lupe and SPHP followed the small ridge NW. Occasionally there was a glimpse through the trees of a high point to the N that barely stuck up over some intervening hills. That high point was probably Thrall Mountain, but it was hard to tell for certain. The ridge ended. Lupe and SPHP had to backtrack a little bit, and turn SW to start dropping down into a draw. The draw led Lupe NW and then N, losing elevation the whole way.
Down in the draw, there were faint signs of an old abandoned road. A tangle of dead trees greeted Lupe at the lower end of the draw. Once past the tangle, the faint road continued until it met up with a better road in a much larger valley the draw fed into. Time for a break. Lupe and SPHP shared a chocolate granola bar. It only made Lupe realize how famished she was. She followed up the granola bar by devouring most of the Taste of the Wild supply.
SPHP checked the maps. This big valley was almost certainly Powerhouse Gulch. In that case, the better road Lupe had just found here was USFS Road No. 772.1. Lupe and SPHP followed the road NW. Pretty soon No. 772.1 turned S at an intersection with USFS Road No. 772.1B. Although No. 772.1 was unmarked at this intersection, there was a marker for No. 772.1B, which continued NW up Powerhouse Gulch.
Lupe was now only 1 mile S of Thrall Mountain! However, there was a new problem. The sun, seen only as a faint glow in the overcast sky, was getting lower. Sunset was at most 2 hours, more likely just 1.5 hours, away. Although SPHP was confident that there was still plenty of time for Lupe to find and climb Thrall Mountain, it would almost certainly get very dark well before she could get back to the G6, even by the most direct route.
SPHP checked the maps again. Although they showed No. 772.1B going NW up Powerhouse Gulch, and then continuing on to Tamarack Gulch not too far from Pactola Reservoir, SPHP and Lupe had never been on this road before. Lots of minor roads in the Black Hills aren’t really as shown on the maps. It’s not uncommon for them to dead end, be blocked or nearly impassable due to deadfall timber, or have lots of confusing side roads.
There was no sense starting New Year 2015 off by getting lost on a cold, dark winter night. Expedition No. 112 was just going to have to be chalked up as an exploratory one. Lupe had gotten close, but she wasn’t going to get to climb Thrall Mountain today after all. Lupe and SPHP continued NW on up Powerhouse Gulch on USFS Road No. 772.1B.
As it turned out, it was a good decision. In daylight, Lupe and SPHP didn’t get off on No. 772.1C by mistake where No. 772.1B unexpectedly dropped over an embankment at the intersection, which would have been very easy to do in the dark. Even with the advantage of daylight, a little farther on SPHP managed to lead Lupe onto a side road. It eventually dead ended high up on a steep rocky slope. In the light, it was easy to go back and find the right road.
Up ahead, the Pactola Reservoir dam came into view. Lupe and SPHP crossed Centennial Trail No. 89 again, not far from the Tamarack Gulch trailhead. Lupe pressed on to McGurdy Gulch road, this time farther N than where she had reached it early in the day. Soon she was climbing up the S end of Pactola Reservoir dam. She reached Hwy 385 at the top of the dam. The Pactola Reservoir Visitor Center and the G6 were in view right across the road.
The sun was just setting. A small break in the clouds allowed the colored rays of sunset to burst through for just a few minutes. The first day of 2015 was ending. From a peakbagging standpoint, Lupe’s first expedition of 2015 was a failure. She never even really saw Thrall Mountain.
But Lupe had a wonderful day roaming the Black Hills. She explored many pretty places in the quiet snowy woods she had never been to before, some of which she might never see again. Best of all, Lupe and SPHP had spent the day together, doing what American Dingoes love to do. And, of course, Lupe would return to climb Thrall Mountain another day!
Day 3 of Lupe’s 2012 Dingo Vacation to the West Coast.
Lupe was somersaulting again against the door of her “tiny house”. She still hadn’t figured out that she couldn’t go through the tent door when it was zipped shut, but it had only been her second night ever in a tent. A squirrel was chattering away in a tree outside. Lupe wanted to go bark at it, but it was very early. Lanis was still asleep in the Honda Element, after his gear got soaked in a sudden downpour the previous evening.
Lanis isn’t much of a morning person. SPHP figured he would sleep for several more hours. This was an opportunity for Lupe to return to Bald Mountain(10,042 ft.). Lupe, Lanis and SPHP had climbed Bald Mountain the evening before, only to be almost immediately chased off of it by a brief intense rain shower. It wasn’t going to rain now, though. Lupe and SPHP left the squirrel and the campground in peace, and climbed Bald Mountain again.
After searching around on top of the mountain, SPHP had almost given up. Then, suddenly, there they were. Lupe had found the names that had been up there for a quarter century or more now. The names were just made out of loose rocks, but they were still easily recognizable. SPHP spent a little time repairing them.
SPHP wanted to add Lupe’s name to the mountain, but so much time had been lost looking around, it was probably best to get back down to the campground before Lanis awoke to find himself alone. It would take too much time to search around for some rocks to use. So Lupe and SPHP went down Bald Mountain enjoying the panoramic views, sunshine and fresh air.
SPHP needn’t have worried. Lanis was still sound asleep when Lupe returned. After having been responsible for getting Lanis’ gear wet the night before, SPHP wasn’t eager to further aggravate him by waking him up. Lupe and SPHP stayed busy in camp. Lanis eventually came to on his own. He was in a better mood than when he’d gone to sleep in the Element.
It was time for Lupe to leave the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming and head farther W. The sun was much higher now. Lanis and SPHP dried things out while Lupe sniffed around. Pretty soon things were dry enough to pack them back in the Honda Element, and Lupe, Lanis and SPHP were underway.
Lanis drove W out of the Bighorns on steep, windy Hwy 14A. The route continued through Lovell, Powell and Cody, WY. From Cody, Lupe went N on Hwy 120 to Hwy 296, the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway lived up to its name. The road wound high up over a lofty pass. At a pullout on the W side of the pass, Lupe, Lanis and SPHP got out for a look.
The view was most impressive, but there was a chilly wind. It looked rather stormy on the W side of the pass. Lupe hadn’t been at the pullout long when a cold rain began to fall. American Dingoes do have the good sense to come in out of the rain. Lanis and SPHP quickly joined Lupe in the Honda Element. Lupe’s journey continued down the winding highway on the W side of the pass.
The rain eventually stopped, but it was still pretty cloudy out. The St. Joseph Scenic Byway led to the Beartooth Hwy (No. 212). The Beartooth Highway goes NE over spectacular Beartooth Pass on its way to Red Lodge, MT, but Lupe wasn’t going that way yet. Instead Lupe, Lanis and SPHP headed W on the Beartooth Highway toward Cooke City, MT.
Lanis and SPHP were looking for a campsite along the way. There were some campgrounds, but SPHP was picky and found nothing that looked quite right before reaching Cooke City, MT. Along the way, Montana became the 3rd U.S. Lupe state!
Cooke City, MT is basically a one street tourist town strategically situated 5 miles from the NE entrance to Yellowstone National Park. After looking around town just a little bit, it was time to get more serious about finding a campsite. Lupe, Lanis and SPHP headed back E on the Beartooth Hwy. This time Lanis was driving slower to allow for a more complete reconnaissance of the possibilities.
Not long after entering Wyoming again, Lanis and SPHP saw a turn to a little parking lot just N of the highway. A pickup truck with a camper was parked there close to a bend in a very beautiful river just 200 feet from the highway. It looked like a great dispersed camping site. Lanis pulled in off the highway. Everyone piled out of the Element to check things out.
Unknown to Lupe, Lanis and SPHP at the time, the river was the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone. This gorgeous site would become home base for the entire time Lupe spent in the Beartooths on her 2012 Dingo Vacation. The bend in the river offered a terrific view of the dramatic spire of Pilot Peak(11,699 ft.) and its neighbor Index Peak(11,240 ft.) to the NW. Just downstream of the bend, was a small waterfall or rapid with a nice pool of clear, cold water below it.
The reconnaissance downstream quickly met with the approval of Lupe, Lanis and SPHP. A walk upstream through a wooded area to a field next to the river followed. After being cooped up in the Honda Element a good part of the day, Lupe was so stirred up by the wild river and glorious surroundings, she got a crazed look in her eye. She pranced and growled and demonstrated just how ferociously prepared American Dingoes are for life in the wilderness.
Returning to the bend in the river, SPHP had a chat with the other campers there, who already occupied the best site right next to the river. They told SPHP about a waterfall worth seeing just a mile or two to the E. The falls were up a short trail on the N side of the Beartooth Hwy. Why not check that out, too? Lupe, Lanis and SPHP hopped back in the Element to go find the waterfall.
As promised, a short, but steep hike up a trail led to a roaring torrent on Crazy Creek. The stream was strewn with logs. The falls were large, but this wasn’t really a classic straight down over an edge type of waterfall. It was too steep to be just rapids either. A better name is Crazy Creek Cascade. Lupe, Lanis and SPHP followed the trail all the way up to the top of the falls.
Lupe, Lanis and SPHP played around on the rocks next to Crazy Creek just above the cascade until it started getting dark. Time to head back to the Element, and the great campsite on the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone.
When Lupe returned, the sky was still overcast. In fact, the clouds were darker and denser than before. It looked like it would almost certainly rain overnight. It didn’t seem to make any sense to set up the tent, which would surely leak if it rained hard enough. Tonight, Lanis was going to have company in the Element. Outside the rain began.
Lupe returned from her grand adventures in the Laramie Mountains of Wyoming on June 1, 2016. Naturally, she expected to resume her explorations of the Black Hills in short order, but it didn’t happen.
May and June are normally the wettest months of the year in the Black Hills, but May had been very dry with temperatures running much above normal. By early June, the sun was blazing day after day in cloudless skies. Temperatures frequently soared to near record-breaking levels. Almost no rain fell. SPHP may as well have planted saguaros in the garden. For Lupe, climbing mountains in a fur coat would have been miserable. The Black Hills just aren’t high enough.
So Lupe’s adventures in June were mostly along the line of adventures in watering the lawn. She fought with the old garden hose, converting it into a sprinkler hose in the process. She chewed foot-long pieces off the end. She played tug-of-war with SPHP, won most of the time, and became a very soggy (and cool!) doggie in the process, as the leaky hose sprayed water in every direction.
When she wasn’t a soggy doggie, Lupe licked ice cream from the freezer and consumed cold Alpo from the refrigerator. A whole lot of panting and dozing went on the rest of the time. Whenever the temperature got close to 100°F, SPHP would finally break down and turn on the AC in the bedroom, so Lupe could hide from the heat.
Nothing really changed until July 1st. That morning, Lupe and SPHP woke up to rain! It wasn’t raining hard, but at least the air was much cooler and clouds covered the sky. Within a couple of hours, Lupe had another surprise. Andrea called! She was in town with Joe and Dusty! Did Lupe want to come over to grandma’s house and play?
When she heard the news, Lupe was ecstatic! She barked and leaped to hurry SPHP along. Soon she was racing up the steps into grandma’s house to welcome everyone to South Dakota in her most enthusiastic Carolina Dog style. Grandma had Beggin’ Strips for Lupe and Dusty. The two dogs got to play ball and Frisbee with Joe and SPHP in the yard, go for walks, and lay on the deck with a view of the canyon. There was ice cream, too. July was off to a good start!
Joe is a ham radio operator. He started telling SPHP about Summits on the Air, “an awards scheme for radio amateurs that encourages portable operation in mountainous areas”. Peaks are assigned a point value. Ham radio operators can earn points toward the SOTA “Mountain Goat” award by meeting certain criteria while operating from a peak, or points toward the “Shack Sloth” award for contacting those operating on a peak from home.
Joe had never tried the SOTA system before, but wondered if Lupe and SPHP would like to serve as guides to a suitable peak in the Black Hills? Since Summits on the Air combines Lupe’s peakbagging interests with Joe’s amateur radio hobby, it sounded like fun! Following the rain, the next day’s weather was supposed to be good, too, with highs only in the 70’s. The question was, where to go?
Joe and SPHP looked over the SOTA website. All of the Black Hills in South Dakota is included in two SOTA regions with a total of 181 listed peaks. Most of these peaks have never been officially “activated” in the Summits on the Air system by anyone operating a portable radio from the peak. After considerable discussion, Joe and SPHP selected Custer Peak(6,804 ft.) for Joe’s first SOTA attempt. Joe created a free Summits on the Air account for himself.
The next morning, Joe posted a notification (called an “alert”) on the SOTA website that Joe (call sign AA0Q) would be operating his portable radio from Custer Peak. The alert included the frequencies he would be using, and an estimated start time. Once the alert was posted, Lupe, Dusty, Joe and SPHP dashed off to Custer Peak!
At 10:58 AM (72°F), Joe parked the G6 at Lupe’s usual starting point at the junction of USFS Road No. 216 (Custer Peak Road) and USFS Road No. 216.2A. Although Lupe was only a little over 0.5 mile SE of the summit, the road to Custer Peak was nearly 2 miles long. Lupe, Dusty, Joe and SPHP started the trek to the top along No. 216.2A.
Although Joe and Dusty had never been to Custer Peak before, this was Lupe’s 6th ascent. Based on prior experience, SPHP had been telling Joe not to expect to see anyone at all on Custer Peak. SPHP couldn’t have been more wrong! SPHP’s pronouncement quickly became a joke. First, Lupe and Dusty started coming to vehicles parked along the road. Then dozens of people began to appear, most of them arriving in caravans of 4 or 5 ATV’s.
ATV’s roared up and down the dusty road. As Lupe, Dusty, Joe and SPHP got higher on the mountain, Lupe also encountered groups of people coming down on foot. SPHP was totally amazed! What SPHP had failed to consider was that Lupe normally goes on very few expeditions in the Black Hills during the hot summer months, when everyone else is out and about. Apparently, Custer Peak is a far more popular summer destination than SPHP ever realized.
Another surprise was in store at the top of the mountain. The ranger station was manned! The hatch door to the balcony around the station was unlocked and open. Lupe, Dusty, Joe and SPHP went up on the balcony for a look around.
Joe found the ranger on duty to tell him that he would be operating a portable ham radio using 4 watts from the summit for an hour or so. He just wanted to make certain it wouldn’t interfere with the ranger’s equipment.
The ranger didn’t think there was any equipment the radio would interfere with. However, that didn’t mean there wasn’t a problem. The American people declared independence and proclaimed freedom nearly 240 years ago, but times have changed. The Land of the Free and Home of the Brave is now the Land of the Over-Regulated and Home of the Bureaucracy. The ranger was cordial, but insisted that Joe contact the headquarters of the Spearfish district of the Black Hills National Forest to get official permission to operate the ham radio.
Neither Joe nor SPHP had a phone along, but the ranger allowed Joe to use his phone. Naturally, since it was Saturday on the 4th of July holiday weekend, all Joe got was a recording. The headquarters of the Spearfish district of the Black Hills National Forest wouldn’t be open until Tuesday. Joe reasoned with the ranger inside the station. Meanwhile, SPHP stayed out of it with Lupe and Dusty on the balcony.
It turned out the ranger’s concerns had to do with the ranger station being part of a designated historical site of some sort. The ranger thought operating a ham radio might somehow break the historical site regulations. Fortunately, the ranger had a map of the historical site area. It covered only a relatively small part of the summit area surrounding the ranger station.
Joe and the ranger finally agreed that the NE side of a jagged rock outcropping a little way NW of the ranger station was outside the boundary of the historical site delineated on the map. The ranger was OK with Joe setting up the ham radio operation over there. That was a relief! Lupe, Dusty, Joe and SPHP left the ranger station to go set up the antenna and other equipment.
Joe made a perfect toss of a large metal nut tied to fishing line up over the very top of a tall tree situated near the spine of the jagged rock outcropping. The fishing line was then used to pull up a thin antenna wire. Joe instructed SPHP on how to help deploy 4 lateral wires at the base of the antenna.
The ground on the NE side of the ridge was quite steep and rocky, so it took a little time to maneuver around and get set up. Lupe and Dusty supervised operations from the most comfortable vantage points they could find.
The ranger’s concerns, and the rough ground where Joe was forced to set up the radio, slowed things down. By the time Joe was ready to try his very first Summits on the Air peak activation, it was more than half an hour after the time Joe had posted on the SOTA website. Would any other ham radio operators still be listening for AA0Q on Custer Peak? Joe had no idea what to expect.
Joe turned on his radio. AA0Q was on the air on Custer Peak! Almost immediately, another ham radio operator made contact with Joe. (A contact is apparently referred to as a QSO.) The contact told Joe that he would “Spot” him on the SOTA website. Although Joe has many years of experience with ham radio, he wasn’t prepared for what happened next.
Almost instantly, there was a “pileup”. Joe shouted out to SPHP that it sounded like 20 people were trying to contact him all at once!
Joe had a frantic time trying to respond to the enormous demand. Mostly he was quiet, busy listening intently through the headphones while using Morse Code to reply to as many of the radio operators seeking him as possible. At the same time, he was trying to log the call signs, time of contact, location and a few other details of each successful contact. Just to keep Lupe, Dusty and SPHP informed, now and then he called out where the operators he was “working” were from.
The pileup eventually ended as those trying to contact Joe either got through, or gave up on reaching him. After half an hour, new contacts were sporadic. Joe kept his radio active another 15 minutes, switching to a voice frequency toward the end. After one or two voice contacts, Joe was satisfied. He’d managed to make and log 15 different QSO’s (contacts) from ham radio operators scattered all over the USA.
Joe was pretty happy with his first SOTA experience. AA0Q had never been so popular and in demand before! He’d made mistakes that kept him from “working” many of those who had tried to contact him, but Joe had learned a lot. In the future, it would be easy to correct the worst errors. Keeping the contacts short was vitally important. People wanted their “Shack Sloth” points awarded for a successful QSO fast! No dilly-dallying around allowed in this business. Next time, Joe would have SPHP do the logging.
After taking down the antenna and putting the radio equipment away, it was time to return to the summit for a few pictures. Joe also wanted to chat with the ranger to let him know his SOTA radio operation was over.
Joe’s operating point on the NE side of the jagged NW ridge hadn’t been the easiest place to work from (or the most comfortable), but it did have a couple things going for it. The NE side of the ridge was hidden from the trail to the ranger station, so Joe hadn’t been bothered by all the people coming and going. The site had also been close enough to the top of the mountain to meet SOTA’s standards for a “peak activation”.
When Joe, Dusty, Lupe and SPHP got back to grandma’s house, Joe logged all 15 contacts (QSO’s) he’d made into the Summits on the Air website. Joe was awarded his first 8 of 1,000 points required to earn the “Mountain Goat” designation. The 15 QSO’s each earned points toward the 1,000 points required for the “Shack Sloth” designation.
Joe was happy. Lupe and Dusty were happy, too. They had earned extra ice cream and Beggin’ Strips for becoming “Radio-Active”!
There was too much snow, more than a foot on the ground. It was everywhere, too. Lupe sank in up to her belly even where it hadn’t drifted. Clearly going N had been a mistake. With a forecast high in the low 50’s °F, SPHP had chosen four peakbagging objectives for Lupe near Galena in the northern Black Hills. However, as SPHP drove N on Hwy 385, the amount of snow around had increased steadily.
Lupe and SPHP were at Custer Crossing, and hadn’t even reached the starting point for the day’s planned expedition near Galena yet. Lupe loves the snow, but this wasn’t going to work. A day spent out here, and even Lupe would wind up freezing and exhausted. Time for Plan B. Lupe and SPHP got back in the G6 and headed S.
NW of Hill City, Lupe and SPHP hopped back out of the G6 at Newton Lake, (a little pond really) on Newton Creek. It was 9:32 AM, but only 35°F. Maybe the day wasn’t going to be as warm as advertised. There was still snow around, but much less than back at Custer Crossing. This would work.
Lupe started off heading W on the Mickelson Trail. She soon found some squirrels to bark at, so she was happy. The day was getting off to a good start after all. Lupe met a couple of cross country skiers on the trail, and sniffed with their big yellow lab. Less than a mile from Newton Lake, Lupe left the Mickelson Trail and turned S on USFS Road No. 386.USFS Road No. 386 is a major gravel road. It was slick with packed snow and ice. The road curved around as it climbed. SPHP trudged along the uninteresting big road. Lupe was having some luck finding squirrels to bark at in the forest, though, so she was busy dashing off here and there having a good time.
About a mile S of Deerfield Road, Lupe and SPHP reached the intersection with USFS Road No. 386.1B, a minor road much more to SPHP’s liking. Lupe and SPHP followed No. 386.1B. It went E until it got close to the W slopes of Smith Mountain(5,897 ft.) and then turned S. Lupe stuck with No. 386.1B until it got close to the S end of Smith Mountain. Then Lupe and SPHP took off heading SSW through the forest.
Lupe soon came to a big open field, which she and SPHP crossed, continuing SSW. Lupe eventually returned to the forest S of the field. Before long, Lupe ran into USFS Road No. 727.1F at a point just NW of Flag Mountain(5,896 ft.). No. 727.1F took Lupe S skirting just W of Flag Mountain. It linked up with No. 727 just a little W of the saddle between Flag Mountain on the N, and Campaign Hill on the S.
Of course, SPHP actually had a peakbagging goal in mind for Lupe. Back on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 106 on 11-28-14, Lupe climbed a couple of mountains she had already passed by today – Smith Mountain and Flag Mountain. On Expedition No. 106, she hadn’t had time to continue S to Campaign Hill(5,800 ft.), but now she was practically there.
Lupe and SPHP went E on No. 727 just a few hundred feet to the high point of the saddle. There, Lupe and SPHP left the road to start climbing straight up the N face of Campaign Hill. Lupe only had to gain a little over 200 feet of elevation from the saddle to reach the summit ridge. She reached the top of the ridge near the E end.
Lupe and SPHP explored the ridge up at the top of Campaign Hill looking for the true summit. The ridge line went W from the E end of the mountain to the first (NW) rock formation, and then curved SSW. Lupe climbed up on the first rock formation, but there were so many trees she couldn’t even see Flag Mountain just 1/3 mile to the N. However, she could see more big rocks off to the SSW. They looked even higher. The true summit of Campaign Hill had to be over that way.
Lupe didn’t have to go very far to reach two more high points. The middle one was higher than the NW high point she had just come from, but the true summit was at the next high point beyond it. All of the high points featured exposed rock formations. The largest rock formation was at the summit.
SPHP had to lift Lupe up onto the highest rocks at the true summit of Campaign Hill. Lupe had accomplished her primary peakbagging goal for the day! Other than the satisfaction of just being there, Campaign Hill wasn’t providing much of a reward. The forest was so thick, there weren’t clear views in any direction. Lupe could catch only a glimpse of Harney Peak(7,242 ft.) through the trees from the highest rocks, and that was about it.
There was still plenty of time left in the day. Why not go visit Peak 6048? It was just a mile to the S of Campaign Hill, and Lupe and SPHP had never been there before, either. So Lupe and SPHP headed SSW down along the ridge line from Campaign Hill. To the E, the terrain dropped off steeply. To the W, the terrain sloped away much more gently.
A little less than halfway to Peak 6048, there was an opening in the forest along the ridge line as it was dropping down into a saddle. Here Lupe got her first clear look at Peak 6048. The steep N face was snowy, and appeared to be covered with a maze of deadfall timber. Lupe could see that Peak 6048 had a double top, with the true summit being to the E. It also looked like there were rocks at the E end of the mountain where there might be some pretty decent views.
Lupe and SPHP continued down into the little saddle, and then climbed over a small hill heading S. Beyond the small hill, the ridge line leading to Peak 6048 continued. The ground to the E still fell off sharply, but to the W the land sloped gently toward sunlit forests and little fields full of snow and light.
The climb up Peak 6048 from the NW was slow. A few inches of snow made everything slippery. The worst obstacle was the large amount of deadfall timber to be navigated. Lupe reached the NW high point on Peak 6048. There were some pretty big rocks up here. Lupe found a cairn at the top of them. Trees blocked the views in most directions, but it was possible to get a pretty decent view off to the NW.
Lupe continued SE looking for the true summit of Peak 6048. She lost only a little elevation, and then came to another snowy climb through more deadfall. For a short stretch, SPHP was reduced to climbing up on hands and knees while clinging to rocks and trees.
At the SE summit, there were two large rock formations. The one farthest to the SE seemed to be slightly higher and the true summit of Peak 6048.
The best views from Peak 6048 were not at the summit. They were from the top of a cliff about 25 feet lower than the summit and a short distance to the E. Naturally, Lupe and SPHP had to check it out. There were sweeping open views all the way from the N around to the SE. This cliff with the fabulous views was a good spot to take a little break. Lupe had her Taste of the Wild. SPHP had an apple.
After hanging out at the E cliff for a little while, it was time to go. Lupe and SPHP climbed back up to the true summit of Peak 6048. The 2nd large rock outcropping, the one that wasn’t quite as high, was nearby to the NW. Lupe and SPHP went over there for a few minutes. Even though these rocks weren’t quite as high as the true summit, the whole rock formation was more interesting. The American Dingo graciously posed for a couple of photos.
Lupe and SPHP did a little more exploring of the summit area over towards the W, before beginning the journey down the mountain. A pleasant sunlit ledge offered a nice view to the NW.
The trek down the NW slopes of Peak 6048 seemed to take a long time for no farther than it was. Going down, the snow seemed more slippery. The deadfall seemed denser and more bothersome. Finally, SPHP was down off the steepest part of the mountain, and Lupe could race on ahead.
Just for fun, and since it was on the way back to the G6, Lupe and SPHP returned to climb Campaign Hill again. Before reaching it, Harney Peak was visible from the ridge line all lit up in the slanting rays of the January afternoon sun.
Lupe went clear up to the very top of Campaign Hill for a 2nd time, but didn’t stay there long. SPHP still wanted to climb Flag Mountain to the N, too. Lupe and SPHP went past the other high points along the ridge, and then headed down the N slope of Campaign Hill. Lupe crossed USFS Road No. 727 at the saddle, and started up the SW slope of Flag Mountain.
The climb up Flag Mountain from the SW was easier than expected. It was kind of steep, but there wasn’t any snow. There wasn’t much deadfall timber either, except near the very top. The sun was starting to get low in the SW by the time Lupe arrived on top of Flag Mountain. A cool NW breeze was starting to blow.
It was getting to be time to hurry on. Lupe left Flag Mountain heading down the N slope. SPHP lost a lot of time again picking a way slowly down through the snow and plentiful deadfall timber. After losing sufficient elevation, the terrain began to level out a bit and there was much less deadfall. Lupe and SPHP could make progress again.
Lupe crossed Patterson Creek in a big field N of Flag Mountain. This field connected to the big open field she had traversed earlier in the day. By now the sun was on the horizon.
After crossing Patterson Creek and the big field, Lupe was almost to USFS Road No. 386.1B just SW of Smith Mountain again. Before Lupe and SPHP could even reach the road, the sunset suddenly developed into a beautiful display of color. It almost looked like the forest was on fire!
The glorious sky faded as quickly as it arrived. Lupe and SPHP reached USFS Road No. 386.1B again. The rest of Lupe’s return trip to the G6 was just a retracement of the first part of her day’s journey. She still had 3 miles to go to get to the G6.
Lupe and SPHP trudged onward in the gathering gloom. Every now and then, Lupe would hear something undetectable to SPHP in the forest. Each time she raced off to investigate, returning to SPHP a few minutes later with a big grin on her face, as if some animal out there had told her a really good joke.
It was 6:40 PM, and still a balmy 43°F out when Lupe reached the G6. Lupe jumped very willingly into the G6, and curled up. Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 115 was over. It had been a great day. Lupe hardly stirred on the drive home. She must have had a great day, too!
Morning! (5:57 AM, 30°F) SPHP opened the door of the G6 to let Lupe out, and grabbed the boots left outside on the ground the previous evening in the hopes that they would dry out a little. SPHP’s boots had been soaking wet after spending much of the previous day hiking through snow drifts with Lupe on her fabulous day trip to Warbonnet Peak(9,414 ft.) and back.
Well, that didn’t work. The boots weren’t dry. They weren’t soaking wet, either. Instead, they were frozen stiff. It was chilly out. Outside, there was frost on the picnic table. SPHP turned on the engine to warm things up, with the blower blasting the boots with hot air to thaw them out. Lupe hopped back into the G6 to bask in the warmth.
SPHP studied the maps. SPHP hoped Lupe would be able to climb two more mountains today. The original plan had been to go for Buffalo Peak (9,387 ft.) and then Squaw Mountain (9,313 ft.), which were 4 or 5 miles N of the Campbell Creek campground where Lupe and SPHP had spent the night. The Peakbagger.com topo map showed a 4WD USFS Road No. 664 leaving Cold Spring Road (County Road No. 24), and leading after a few miles to a trail going between the two mountains.
However, SPHP had acquired a new map yesterday. The forest service personnel who had been reinstalling the campground sign (washed away by floods a few weeks ago), gave SPHP a “Motor Vehicle Use Map” for the Medicine Bow National Forest. It didn’t show the road and trail leading between Buffalo Peak and Squaw Mountain at all. It did show something interesting, though. There was a trailhead along Cold Spring Road, and a Twin Peaks trail No. 618 leading right to Twin Peaks(9,280 ft.).
The Peakbagger.com topo map also showed Trail No. 618, but did not agree with the Motor Vehicle Use Map. The Peakbagger.com map showed Trail No. 618 passing 0.5 mile N of the Twin Peaks summit.
By the time SPHP’s boots had thawed out enough to become sopping wet again, and pliable enough to put on, Lupe had new plan for the day. She was going to find the Twin Peaks trailhead, and take Trail No. 618 to Twin Peaks. If there was enough time left in the day after that, she would try for Squaw Mountain.
After breakfast, Lupe and SPHP left Campbell Creek campground. SPHP drove N on Cold Spring Road. Three miles N of the campground, SPHP saw a big empty parking lot next to the forest a little uphill and W of the road. There was no sign along the road, but SPHP turned in and parked anyway (8:25 AM).
A small wooden sign, in deteriorating condition, still said clearly “Twin Peaks Trail No. 618”. The sign was next to an old jeep or ATV trail heading W from the parking lot. There was absolutely no other information around. This is it, Loop! Let’s get going!
The old jeep trail went gradually up and over a low part of a ridge coming down from the SW. On the other side, a little over 0.5 mile from the trailhead, Lupe reached Roaring Fork Creek. Snow was still melting up in the mountains, so Roaring Fork Creek was living up to its name. The creek wasn’t terribly large, but big enough so that SPHP started wondering how much of a problem creek crossings were going to be on Trail No. 618.
SPHP needn’t have worried. Trail No. 618 never did cross Roaring Fork Creek even once, although it did cross a few much smaller tributaries, most of which were clearly seasonal in nature. None of the tributaries presented any problem.
Lupe trotted along Trail No. 618, sniffing here and there, and making occasional short forays into the forest to investigate points of interest to American Dingoes. The trail went W following the S side of the creek upstream, most of the time well above it. About where the trail had reached Roaring Fork Creek, the valley had narrowed and the forest had become denser. Lupe and SPHP enjoyed a shady trek, with the pleasant sound of water tumbling over rocks below.
Gradually, the trail became steeper. About 0.75 mile after reaching Roaring Fork Creek, Lupe came to an intersection. It was unmarked, of course. Here, the old jeep trail veered to the SW (L) and started climbing steeply. To the R, a single track trail led down a hill toward the creek.
Decision time. Which way Lupe? The Carolina Dog made no response. Instead, she looked expectantly up at SPHP. We better check the maps. Hang on a few minutes. SPHP already knew what they would show. The old jeep trail to the L looked like it was heading in the direction shown on the Motor Vehicle Use Map directly to Twin Peaks. The single track trail continuing up Roaring Fork Creek was the route shown on the Peakbagger.com topo map. Depending on which map one looked at, both were supposedly Trail No. 618.
Yep, that was what the maps showed alright. The Motor Vehicle Use Map showed almost no details. It was impossible to know if the jeep trail actually went up to the top of Twin Peaks or not. SPHP suspected it wouldn’t, although it must end somewhere not too far from the summit.
The Peakbagger.com map showed the Roaring Fork Creek route would ultimately leave Lupe facing at least 0.5 mile of off-trail bushwhacking going up the N slope of Twin Peaks. On the other hand, if Twin Peaks proved impossible to climb, Lupe’s alternative peak, Squaw Mountain, would be much closer.
SPHP pondered for 10 minutes. Lupe took the single track trail near Roaring Fork Creek.
After going a little way on the single track trail, Lupe reached a barbed wire fence across it. A yellow sign said “Please Close The Gate”. The sign must not have been very effective. Sterner measures had been put in place. There was no gate. Only a fence. It ended at a rock formation a foot to the L of the trail. Lupe and SPHP climbed over the rocks to get by.
A little farther on, a more serious situation developed. The trail came to a marshy area with lots of little streams running through it. Crossing the area wasn’t a problem, but following the trail was. SPHP lost it completely.
Lupe soon found the trail again a little farther upstream, but from here on, the trail seemed to be seldom used. Most of the time it wasn’t hard to follow, but every so often, it faded away. SPHP lost the trail completely several times, but Lupe always came across it again.
Trail No. 618 eventually began to climb well above the level of Roaring Fork Creek. The trail and creek started to diverge. The trail turned more to the WSW, while the creek angled NW.
For a long way up the creek valley, the only really view had been N toward Squaw Mountain on the opposite side of the valley. However, as Lupe continued gaining elevation, she now started seeing occasional glimpses of a high point to the S. A long, moderately steep, forested slope led up toward it. That high point had to be some part of Twin Peaks.
Lupe and SPHP took a break. SPHP needed to check the topo map to determine where Lupe should leave the trail. She would have to go S to start the climb up Twin Peaks. The topo map showed that Lupe was approaching a saddle in the trail. To the N of it were some contours indicating minor high points. The trail’s high point should be a good place to turn S.
The trail leveled out slowly as it approached the saddle. Some fairly impressive rock outcroppings began appearing on the N side of the trail. Lupe reached the saddle.
Lupe and SPHP went a little farther W on the trail. It started losing elevation at a pretty good clip. Yes, Lupe had made it to the saddle. No doubt about it. Lupe and SPHP went back to the trail’s high point. It was time for Lupe to leave Trail No. 618. SPHP took one more look at the topo map. Lupe would be climbing the N slopes of Twin Peaks. The map seemed to indicate the climb would be easiest going around toward the NE side of the mountain.
Lupe and SPHP left Trail No. 618 going S. The ground was almost level close to the trail, but Lupe soon reached the beginning of the long slope upward. Nothing but forest could be seen above. Just like yesterday, during Lupe’s trip to Warbonnet Peak, this forest with a N exposure was full of snow. The snow was stacked in drifts 2 to 4 feet high. The long struggle up the mountain began.
SPHP tried to angle toward the SE to get over to the NE slope of the mountain, as suggested by the topo map. The terrain didn’t want to cooperate. The easiest way up kept looking like it was farther to the W, where Lupe would be going up the NW side of the mountain. Lupe and SPHP made forays to the E where possible, but the terrain always soon started looking easier back toward the W.
Lupe was having a great time. The snow wasn’t a problem for her. SPHP made fewer attempts to go E, gradually giving in to the terrain. Lupe was destined to climb Twin Peaks from the NW.
Lupe climbed and climbed. Finally, she came to a more level area in the forest. A quick stroll led her to a rock formation. Now she could get a look at what was ahead.
From the rocks, Lupe could see the summit of Twin Peaks ahead. The rest of the climb to the top didn’t look terribly long, but it was steeper than before. A rough, stony ridge rose from the NW almost to the top of the mountain, before turning E to the summit. Lupe could try to follow that ridge. Climbing directly up the steep, snowy, forested N slope was the other option.
After a short break, Lupe and SPHP left the rock formation. Lupe lost a little elevation crossing a shallow saddle. Lupe and SPHP stayed in the forest a little to the E of the rough, stony ridge. The slope kept getting steeper and steeper, the higher Lupe went.
SPHP decided Lupe should try to get up on the rough, stony ridge. Deep snowdrifts were in the shade of the NE side of the ridge. Lupe and SPHP had to climb up over them to reach the ridgeline. Lupe made it first. SPHP followed.
SPHP wondered if the ridge would be too rough to follow. If Lupe had gotten on it a little lower down, it looked like it would have been. From where Lupe reached it, however, the ridge wasn’t hard to follow. There was little or no snow on the ridgeline. Lupe began to make rapid progress.
Soon there were cliffs to the SW. Their height increased as Lupe climbed. A huge view opened up to the S. The ridge turned E. Lupe was nearing the summit. Instead of staying up on the highest rocks, Lupe and SPHP traversed ledges slightly below and to the S of them. The ledges were 5 or 6 feet wide, and seemed safer than the rocks above, despite the cliffs along the edge.
Lupe and SPHP proceeded carefully. Just short of the summit was a gap in the rocks. Beyond the gap was a wall of rock that looked like a potential problem. SPHP could get up it, but how was Lupe going to get up there?
SPHP told Lupe to wait, and went closer to get a better look. Suddenly, a Carolina Dog appeared above! Lupe had found a way up on her own. She knew what she was doing. Now it was SPHP turn. SPHP had to pass through a crack between two big rocks. The L boulder moved slightly as soon as SPHP touched it! It wasn’t completely stable. That was unnerving!
SPHP pushed gently on the boulder again. Yes, it did move, and quite easily. It rocked back and forth. More force didn’t make it move any farther, though. It wasn’t going to fall, its range of motion was quite limited. SPHP joined Lupe on top of Twin Peaks(9,280 ft.)!
Right away, it was apparent that Lupe was at the true summit of Twin Peaks. The summit area was quite small, with cliffs to the N and S. The last part of Lupe’s climb had been from the W along the narrow rocky ridge and ledges. To the E, rocks went another 10 feet farther before reaching a drop off.
Lucky, Lupe! Purely by accident, Lupe and SPHP had come up the NW spine of the mountain. From the top, it looked like the only possible route Lupe and SPHP could have managed. Lupe had made it, though! Now she had fabulous 360° views, and a chance to rest while enjoying her peakbagging success.
Maybe Lupe didn’t like being up on the exposed rocks of the small summit area, or maybe she was simply ready for a break. After SPHP took a few photos of her on the summit, she went down to rest in a slot below the highest rocks.
The slot was a couple of feet wide and deep, 4 or 5 feet long, and protected by rock on three sides. The only opening was toward the W. There was a little grass for Lupe to lay down on, and a bit of shade. Lupe tried to close her eyes and rest, but a fly kept harassing her.
While Lupe snapped at the bothersome fly, SPHP tried to identify some of the surrounding mountains.
One of the mysteries of Twin Peaks was why it was even called Twin Peaks. Lupe was clearly at the highest point on the mountain, with unobstructed views in every direction. Yet there didn’t seem to be any other similar peak nearby to be its “twin”. There were some lower ridges of rounded rocks a little way E of the summit, but they were close enough so it was hard to consider them a separate peak.
SPHP decided High Point 9225 to the SE had to be the twin, but it didn’t look like one at all, at least not from here. High Point 9225 was a much longer, flatter, broader ridge. It didn’t resemble the true summit where Lupe was one bit.
Lupe and SPHP remained up on Twin Peaks for around 45 minutes. As lovely as the views were, the time came to think about moving on. Squaw Mountain (9,313 ft.) was next! Climbing Squaw Mountain didn’t look hard at all, but would take hours. Lupe and SPHP took a last look around from Twin Peaks, before starting a careful descent.
At first, Lupe and SPHP retraced her route up on the way down. The narrow, rocky ridge presented no other obvious options. Eventually, though, Lupe got back down to more forgiving terrain.
SPHP had seen some open ground way down in the valley to the NW of Twin Peaks. It was W and NW of the saddle where Lupe had left Trail No. 618. SPHP suspected this open ground might lead far enough N to take Lupe around to the NW end of Squaw Mountain. After Lupe passed by the rock formation where she had gotten her first good look at the summit of Twin Peaks from the NW, Lupe and SPHP continued down trying to stay toward the NW.
Somehow, it didn’t work. Much to SPHP’s surprise, Lupe arrived at Trail No. 618 again right back at the top of the saddle. Lupe needed to go N from here to get to the W end of Squaw Mountain. The big rock formation N of the trail hadn’t gone anywhere, though. It blocked the way N. Lupe could go around it to the W or E.
SPHP decided Lupe should go around to the E. She should soon be able to turn N, and eventually NW going up the Roaring Fork Creek valley. SPHP expected Lupe would find open ground somewhere on the way around the W end of Squaw Mountain. Lupe and SPHP went E a short distance on the trail, before leaving it to turn N.
Lupe and SPHP gained a little elevation working around the rock formation N of the trail. Lupe found snow N of the rock formation, not as much as on the N slope of Twin Peaks, but enough to slow SPHP down. Deadfall timber was abundant, too. Lupe was making progress through the dense forest, but not as fast as SPHP had hoped.
The forest went on and on. Lupe did not come to open ground. The W end of Squaw Mountain was getting closer and closer. Lupe lost elevation going toward it. Lupe came upon a series of small bright green openings in the forest. The bright green areas were swampy, full of shallow standing water and trickling little streams. The green openings were beautiful, crossing them was slow, as SPHP tried to avoid the wettest spots.
Lupe reached a final bright green marsh, somewhat bigger than the others. Lupe had made it back to Roaring Fork Creek, but much farther upstream than before. The creek flowed E in the forest a little beyond the N edge of the bright green marsh. Lupe went to the far NW end of the marsh.
Lupe was just S of the far W end of Squaw Mountain. It had taken longer to get here than SPHP had expected. Lupe hadn’t come to any easy open ground. Beyond the bright green marsh, damp, dank forest continued for who knew how much farther?
There were still hours of daylight left. SPHP had no doubt Lupe would be able to get to the summit of Squaw Mountain before dark. That wasn’t good enough, though. Lupe and SPHP weren’t at all equipped to spend a night on the mountain. Lupe would need enough daylight to find her way back to the trail through miles of trackless forest before dark. She wouldn’t have that much time.
Lupe stood on a rotting log at the edge of the forest. She was at her point of farthest advance. SPHP stared deeper into the forest, wistfully. Maybe Lupe would come back again some day to climb Squaw Mountain. Or maybe this was it, her only chance, a moment passing into history. Sorry, Lupe, we aren’t going to make it this time.
When Lupe reached the G6 again, it was 5:27 PM (65°F). Soon Lupe and SPHP were heading N on Cold Spring Road. Lupe’s trip to the Laramie Mountains was ending, but Lupe and SPHP were still having fun. The drive to Douglas was absolutely gorgeous. Mile after mile of unspoiled classic western scenery.
Pronghorn antelope and cows caught Lupe’s attention. Barkfest was on! Lupe sped past them all having the time of her life. In the rear view mirror, Squaw Mountain and Buffalo Peak loomed impressively high and blue.