Lupe was up before dawn. SPHP hadn’t gotten up early enough for Expedition No. 108 to take Lupe to Cicero Peak (6,166 ft.), and wasn’t going to make the same mistake again. The sun had yet to make an appearance, but sunrise was coming as Lupe and SPHP headed out in the G6.
By the time Lupe and SPHP turned onto USFS Road No. 338, the sun was well up above the horizon. SPHP soon regretted turning onto No. 338. A high clearance vehicle wouldn’t have had any problem, but the G6 just wasn’t built to take this kind of abuse.
The narrow road wasn’t steep, but it was littered with rocks large enough to worry about getting a hole torn in the bottom of the G6’s oil pan. Some of the rocks were loose, but many were firmly attached to the mountain. No. 338 wound an excruciatingly long 1.5 miles up to a little parking lot near the top of Cicero Peak.
The G6’s oil pan survived, but the bumpy ride couldn’t have done the alignment, suspension system or tires any good. SPHP was by now firmly resolved that this was the G6’s one and only trip up Cicero Peak. Never again! At least there hadn’t been any traffic on the narrow road. There had been only one possible place to turn around other than the little parking lot near the top.
Lupe, of course, was unconcerned. She was eager to get out, and get going. It was 8:43 AM (45°F), when she hopped out of the G6. The first order of business, of course, was to go the very short remaining distance (30 feet of elevation) up to the summit. In just a few minutes, Lupe was there sniffing around a little building near the base of a tower at the top.
It turned out there were a few rocks W of the tower that were a little bit higher than where the tower sat. Lupe went over and stood on them to claim her first peakbagging success of the day. Not much of an accomplishment, really. The G6 had done all the real work. Still, Lupe was here, up at the top of Cicero Peak!
Although the top of Cicero Peak was pretty heavily forested, there were places not far below the summit where there were some pretty nice views. From the little parking lot, Lupe could see off to the E. S of the summit was a great open view to the S. Except for a few peaks far to the W, Cicero Peak is the last peak this high this far S in the Black Hills. Lupe could see a long way, clear into Nebraska.
USFS Road No. 338 was a lousy road to the top for the G6, but it made a great hiking trail. After taking a shortcut down through the forest W of the summit, Lupe and SPHP followed No. 338 most of the way back down the mountain.
Near the only possible vehicle turnaround point along No. 338, Lupe and SPHP left the road to climb a grassy slope. There were good views from here both back S toward Cicero Peak, and NE toward Lupe’s next peakbagging objective, Northeast Cicero Peak (6,240 ft.).
From the grassy slope, Lupe headed directly toward Northeast Cicero Peak. She went down the grassy slope, crossed USFS Road No. 338, and cut through a field dotted here and there with pines. She entered the forest again shortly before reaching USFS Road No. 336 (Flynn Creek Road).
After crossing Flynn Creek Road at the bottom of the valley, Lupe started climbing NNW along a ridgeline. After a while, it was became apparent that this ridge was not going to be a very direct route up Northeast Cicero Peak. Lupe left the ridge, going down into the upper end of a draw. The draw was forested lower down, but mostly open territory at the upper end where Lupe entered it. Lupe found a trail to follow NNE up the other side of the draw. She ultimately arrived up on a saddle ridge running ESE/WNW.
Lupe was now WNW of Northeast Cicero Peak. From the saddle ridge, another higher ridge was visible to the ENE. Most of that ridge was barren. It looked like it had been ravaged by a forest fire at some point in the past. Was that barren ridge Daisy Peak (5,948 ft.), Lupe’s 3rd peakbagging objective of the day? It seemed to be too close, but the ridge led N to a forested hill, which might well be Kruger Peak (5,838 ft.), Lupe’s 4th peakbagging goal of the day.
The saddle ridge WNW of Northeast Cicero Peak also provided a great view toward higher mountains to the N and NW.
After taking in the views from the saddle area, it was time for Lupe to continue on up Northeast Cicero Peak. From Cicero Peak, SPHP had noticed a large grassy area that extended high up onto the SW part of the mountain. It couldn’t be too far away from where Lupe was now. Lupe and SPHP set off heading SE to look for it.
After crossing a level open area, Lupe had to climb steeply up through a thick forest of young trees where there was snow on the ground. Lupe emerged above the forest not far from the open area SPHP had seen from a distance. A short trek to the SW brought Lupe to it. There was a great view to the S of Cicero Peak.
Back at Cicero Peak, SPHP had also caught a glimpse through the trees of an interesting little hill to the W capped by a rock that looked very much like a broken tooth. SPHP had dubbed it “Cracked Molar”. From where Lupe was now, SW of the summit of Northeast Cicero Peak, there was a clear view of Cracked Molar.
From the SW viewpoint, a 10 minute trek took Lupe up to the summit of Northeast Cicero Peak. The summit area was pretty broad and flat. Most of it was grassy, open ground. There was a little ridge of rocks just a few feet high, and several large boulders sitting around. There were great views in every direction, except to the S and SE where trees were in the way.
Looking N from Northeast Cicero Peak, SPHP really began to doubt that the high barren ridge and forested high point Lupe had seen from the saddle ridge down WNW of Northeast Cicero Peak were really Daisy and Kruger Peaks. They were just too close and easy to reach. On the other hand, if they weren’t Daisy and Kruger Peaks, where were they? Nothing else really stood out.
SPHP pondered the point as Lupe headed NE following a ridge down off Northeast Cicero Peak. The going was kind of slow. Rocks, dead timber, and scattered patches of snow were hidden in the grass. About halfway down to the next ridge (the one mistaken for Daisy Peak), SPHP stopped to check the maps. Lupe curled up near some rocks to enjoy the sunshine and get out of the breeze sweeping W across the ridgeline.
A look at the maps left no doubt. There was no way the high barren ridge Lupe was approaching was Daisy Peak, nor was the forested hill beyond it Kruger Peak. They had to be farther N, but another look in that direction left SPHP uncertain exactly which hills Lupe needed to head for. For a couple of minutes, SPHP considered just having Lupe turn around and return to the G6.
Nah! Lupe wasn’t going to turn around. The area was scenic and interesting. SPHP would figure out where Daisy and Kruger Peaks were eventually. It was an adventure, in any case, and Lupe was having fun. Onward!
The open ridge was a great place to be. There were views in every direction. Even well below the summit of Northeast Cicero Peak, Lupe was still quite high compared to much of the immediately surrounding terrain. There continued to be numerous rocks in the grass, though, and lots of fallen timber, too. To avoid tripping, SPHP had to stand still to look around.
Lupe reached the SSE end of the barren ridge. Lupe and SPHP headed for a small rocky prominence toward the NE. Time for a break. SPHP ate an apple, studied maps, and looked around trying to figure out where Daisy Peak was. Lupe had some Taste of the Wild.
OK. SPHP had it figured out. Daisy Peak was in sight off to the N. It had to be that hill well N beyond the forested hill SPHP had originally mistaken for Kruger Peak (actually High Point 5999). Kruger Peak wasn’t in view, but it was lower and probably hidden behind Daisy Peak. Now that it had been properly identified, from now on Daisy Peak was going to be easy to recognize. It was a rounded hill forested on the W side, and barren on the E side.
Daisy Peak was still quite a long way off. Time to get moving. Lupe and SPHP set off following the barren ridge NNW along the E side. Lupe eventually worked her way up to the highest point on the ridge. She continued NNW along the ridgeline from there.
The highest part of the barren ridge came to an end. Lupe and SPHP went W down a rocky slope toward a saddle leading up to High Point 5999. Partway down into the saddle, where the terrain became less rocky and not as steep, Lupe and SPHP paused. There were good views back S toward Northeast Cicero Peak, and N toward Daisy Peak.
SPHP could see that if Lupe continued following the spine of the saddle area up to High Point 5999, Lupe was going to have a long trek over a lot of rough ground. She would eventually have to lose elevation anyway, to get to Daisy Peak. Instead of climbing High Point 5999, Lupe and SPHP left the saddle area going N down into a big valley.
At first the route down was steep, rocky and full of dead timber. Gradually the going got easier. As Lupe approached a small forest in the valley, she came to a road. The road had been abandoned years ago. Trees were growing on it, but it made a great trail.
At the far N end of the valley, Lupe reached an intersection with another road going E/W. A marker showed that Lupe had been on USFS Road No. 337.1B. She had just reached USFS Road No. 337.1A, although there was no marker saying so. Lupe turned W (L) following No. 337.1A past a hill (High Point 5706) just to the N.
By the time Lupe was SW of High Point 5706, she was back in the forest. Here No. 337.1A turned SW, but Daisy Peak was still off to the N beyond High Point No. 5706. Lupe and SPHP left the road, and started climbing up the SW slope of High Point 5706. The terrain grew increasingly steep, and it became easier to just travel N along the slope.
Lupe and SPHP made it around High Point 5706 to the saddle that led up to Daisy Peak. Lupe went right on up the S slope to arrive at the summit. The true summit of Daisy Peak was out in the open near the S end of the summit ridge. There were good views from this grassy area in every direction except to the W and NW. Mt. Coolidge (6,023 ft.) was notable off to the NE.
Looking N from Daisy Peak, Lupe could finally see Kruger Peak. It wasn’t far off at all now, less than 0.5 mile. After a short rest break, Lupe headed N along the Daisy Peak summit ridge. Most of the ridge was forested, but at the very N end there was a great view of the big Glen Erin Creek valley and Custer Mountain (6,089 ft.) beyond it.
To get to Kruger Peak, Lupe and SPHP started directly down the N slope of Daisy Peak. The going was slow, since the slope was fairly steep, snowy, and yet again there was a considerable amount of dead timber laying around. Lupe came across an old road down in the saddle area between Daisy and Kruger Peaks, but didn’t follow it. Instead, she just continued right on up to a high rocky point at the W end of the Kruger Peak summit.
The rocks at the W end of Kruger Peak may not have been the true summit. There was an area a short distance E through the forest that was probably a little higher. Lupe went over there, too, to make certain she had reached the very top of the mountain. There were some rocks at the E high point, but they weren’t as impressive as those to the W.
By climbing Kruger Peak, Lupe had completed her 4th and final peakbagging goal of the day. She wasn’t going to go any farther N beyond Kruger Peak. The G6 was now 4 miles to the SSW as the crow flies. The E high point (and probable true summit) of Kruger Peak seemed like a good place to stop and take a break.
There was another reason to stop, too. Coming up Kruger Peak, Lupe had started hearing gunfire from down in the Glen Erin Creek valley to the W. It made her nervous, and she had been begging SPHP to stop and hide. So SPHP stopped and covered Lupe with a jacket so she would feel better. Lupe was happy and felt safe curled up under the jacket. SPHP ate an apple, checked the maps again, and took in the panoramic views to the E.
Lupe liked hiding under the jacket on Kruger Peak, but soon it was time to go. As SPHP led her down the E spine of the mountain, Lupe kept trying to persuade SPHP to stop again. Those big soft Carolina Dog ears could still hear gunfire far off to the W. The sun was starting to get low, though, and it was a long winding way back to the G6. Lupe and SPHP had to press on.
After losing quite a bit of elevation, Lupe and SPHP left the E spine of Kruger Peak. Lupe headed S down into a valley where she saw lots of deer. She headed for a saddle E of Daisy Peak. On the other side of the saddle, the land was forested and lost elevation again. Lupe had found a trail leading up to the saddle on the N side, and it continued down into the forest on the S side.
The trail eventually led to USFS Road No. 337.1A. Lupe turned WSW (R) on it. She passed the junction with No. 337.1B, which she had come down earlier before climbing Daisy Peak. Lupe and SPHP just stayed on No. 337.1A all the way until it reached the main road, USFS Road No. 337. Although the sun was down by now, there were still a few active squirrels in the trees along the way, so Lupe had some exciting times barking as twilight closed in.
Just prior to reaching No. 337, Lupe came to half a dozen bearded men standing around a pickup truck. These were the first people Lupe and SPHP had seen since leaving the G6. The men were drinking beer, and for some reason, putting little branches of spruce trees in the empty beer bottles so they stuck out as if they were Christmas trees.
The men said they were from Custer. They weren’t hunters, just out drinking and talking in the woods having a good time. They were quite friendly. They treated Lupe kindly and offered SPHP a beer, which was politely declined. SPHP chatted with them for a few minutes. They seemed truly surprised to find out where Lupe had been.
Somewhere along USFS Road No. 337, Lupe got something stuck in her right ear. She kept shaking her head and scratching. SPHP tried to help her, but even with a flashlight couldn’t see anything in her ear. SPHP scratched it for her, which she enjoyed, but it didn’t really help. Lupe kept scratching it herself whenever SPHP stopped for more than a moment. Her ear bothered her off and on the rest of the day.
No. 337 led to No. 336 (Flynn Creek Road). No. 336 led to No. 338, the rocky road up to Cicero Peak. It was pitch dark by the time Lupe and SPHP reached No. 338. A red light could be seen up on the tower on Cicero Peak. As Lupe and SPHP made the trek up the mountain, SPHP threw 100 – 200 large loose rocks off to the side of the road, hoping to make the trip back down less traumatic for the poor, abused G6.
Before leaving Cicero Peak, Lupe and SPHP went all the way back up to the very highest rocks on the mountain, so Lupe could claim a 2nd ascent. At 6:06 PM (48°F), Lupe jumped into the G6 for the ride home. Despite SPHP’s rock clearing efforts, it still took 25 minutes to carefully drive the 1.5 miles back down the mountain, but the G6 emerged unscathed.
Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 109 was over. It was the last expedition for SPHP and the 3 year old Carolina Dog. Tomorrow was Lupe’s 4th birthday. Lupe’s last day being 3 years old had been quite a day!