You awake, Loop? I’m not sleepy either. What time is it, anyway? Ugh, still early. Want to go out and sniff the air for a few minutes? She did.
The moon had set hours ago. Overhead, Orion was shining brilliantly in the starry night sky. Nights were already getting long this time of year. It would be at least another hour until dawn. Lupe sniffed around in the quiet darkness for 15 minutes. Then it was back in the G6 to try to get a little more shuteye.
The next time SPHP came to, it was light out. The sun was already shining on the treetops. Lupe was wide awake, looking out the window, watching. The American Dingo was anxious to get out and start her next Black Hills, WY adventure! OK, Loopster, it’s time, past time really, let’s go!
Duling Hill (6,005 ft.) was Lupe’s first peakbagging objective of the day. Lupe and SPHP followed USFS Road No. 872.3 a short distance WSW to the “Y” with No. 872.1F. Lupe turned S on No. 872.1F and promptly arrived at a big canvas tent in the forest just off the road.
The big canvas tent was a rather unusual discovery. No one was around when Lupe arrived, but there was a big stack of logs outside ready for splitting into firewood. Evidently there was some kind of stove in the tent. A long black smokestack leaned out of a hole in the roof.
Someone had gone to considerable trouble to establish this semi-permanent looking camp. Lupe sniffed around the tent, but there were no windows. The front door was all zipped and tied shut. Interesting, but best to leave it alone. Lupe and SPHP continued SSW on USFS Road No. 872.1F.
Near a high point, Lupe and SPHP left the road to climb up onto a forested ridge to the W. It wasn’t much of a climb, but SPHP soon caught a glimpse of a high hill about 1.5 miles away to the SW. That had to be Duling Hill. No. 872.1F had been heading practically straight for it.
Lupe and SPHP cut back down a short steep slope to return to the road, which was now going SW down a valley. Lupe had some luck and found a squirrel to bark at in a beautiful grove of golden aspens.
After an easy stroll down the wooded valley, Lupe reached a junction. There was a big, round, tan, plastic water trough for cattle here, but it contained no water. A grassy unmarked road branched off going SE up another small valley. No. 872.1F turned W.
Lupe left the road, went past the water trough, and crossed a tiny, mucky stream. She then started climbing S up Duling Hill. The climb was steepest at the beginning, and soon became more gradual. Everything was going fine when Lupe’s worries from yesterday suddenly returned. Gunfire again! Intermittent just like yesterday. More target practice.
Up until now, Lupe had been all fired up, full of energy, roaming and racing through the hills. Even though the gunfire was distant, it instantly made the Carolina Dog nervous and spoiled her fun. She wanted to stop and hide.
SPHP found a fallen tree to sit on. Lupe curled up next to the tree. The Carolina Dog wanted to wait the gunfire out right here. SPHP allowed her a short break. No telling how long the gunfire would continue. Yesterday afternoon it had persisted until after sundown.
Lupe was reluctant to get going again, but she wasn’t in any real danger. It was time to move on. The American Dingo stuck closely to SPHP. Soon she was skirting the NW slope of High Point 5947 to reach the saddle over to the summit of Duling Hill. The summit wasn’t much farther. The old USFS map showed a survey benchmark at the top of Duling Hill, for some reason or other marked “Butte”. SPHP wondered if Lupe would be able to find it.
As it turned out, the “Butte” survey benchmark was very easy to find. Lupe went right to it. A conspicuous cairn was built up around benchmark, right at what did appear to be the top of the mountain. Next to the cairn was some old wire and a wooden cross fallen on the ground. The summit area was quite large, nearly flat, and forested. The forest was fairly open, but still effectively blocked the views.
Lupe was still so nervous about the distant gunfire, she wanted to stay right next to SPHP. Many attempts had to be made to persuade her to stay alone near the cairn long enough for a photo.
Lupe and SPHP left the Duling Hill summit wandering WNW across a broad area that sloped down only slightly. The hope was that Lupe would come to some viewpoints along the way. Lupe did her best. She found some partial views, but that was all Duling Hill had to offer.
Once Lupe’s exploration of the W end of Duling Hill was complete, she headed almost straight N down a long ridge. The ridge became quite narrow as Lupe lost elevation. More than half way down, Lupe discovered bones strewn about a small level spot. Some wild animal had met its fate here. It must have happened quite a while ago. The scattered bones were totally bare.
After following the N ridge down from Duling Hill for 0.75 mile, Lupe entered a wide valley of open meadows. A bright yellow stand of aspens was on display. Off to the NW was a clear view of Iron Mountain (5,887 ft.), the forested ridge that was Lupe’s next peakbagging goal.
Iron Mountain was less than a mile away to the NW. However, small bands of cliffs were visible along the S and SE slopes. The mountain looked like it could be much more easily approached from the NE than the SE. Lupe traveled N through the valley, looking for the easiest way up Iron Mountain. Along the way, she passed a stock pond.
Apparently the stock pond was fed by the tiny stream Lupe had crossed before beginning her ascent of Duling Hill. The trickle of flow was enough to keep the stock pond from going dry even this late in the season. The stock pond was kind of a scenic spot, in addition to a source of water for wildlife.
N of the stock pond, Lupe came to a dirt road. It was unmarked, but was probably some branch of USFS Road No. 882. Lupe followed this road only a short distance, then crossed to the other side and followed a single track trail closer to Iron Mountain. It lead to another road, which was grassy and climbed at an easy pace, winding its way N.
The grassy road took Lupe to a pass NE of Iron Mountain where there was an intersection. A road marked as USFS Road No. 882.1B went W from the pass, and looked like it was about to turn SW to go up Iron Mountain. Perfect!
Lupe followed No. 882.1B. She was feeling better again. Sometime after she had left the stock pond, target practice had ceased. No more gunfire! Lupe was regaining her confidence. Life is always better when you don’t have to worry about being gunned down!
No. 882.1B brought Lupe high up on the E slope of Iron Mountain, but did not go to the top. Instead, it turned S, paralleling the ridgeline. Lupe and SPHP left the road to finish the easy climb through open forest. Lupe only needed to gain another 70 feet of elevation or so to reach the N end of the summit ridge.
From a distance, Iron Mountain had looked quite densely forested. SPHP was surprised when Lupe found a flat grassy field at the N end of the ridge. The meadow was ringed by trees, explaining why this bare spot hadn’t been visible from a distance. At the N end was a small opening between trees. Lupe had a clear view of Warren Peaks (6,650 ft.) from here.
The summit ridge on Iron Mountain was quite broad E/W, and ran N/S for a good 500 to 600 feet. To the E, the ground sloped away at a moderate pace. To the W was a line of limestone (Why not iron for Pete’s sake? This is Iron Mountain, not Limestone Mountain!) cliffs. The cliffs were on the order of 30 to 40 feet high.
The highest part of the summit ridge near the limestone cliffs was nearly level for quite a distance going S from the N end of the ridge. Lupe and SPHP headed S exploring the ridgeline. Although SPHP later discovered that topo maps show the true summit of Iron Mountain very close to the N end of the mountain, there was an area 150 feet farther S that seemed a little higher to SPHP.
This more southern high point was certainly more scenic. It was forested and shady, but right next to the cliffs where there was with an opening between the trees permitting a look at Inyan Kara (6,360 ft.). Lupe declared it the official true summit of Iron Mountain as far as she was concerned, by posing on the highest rock she could find.
Lupe and SPHP went S along the Iron Mountain ridgeline far enough to be absolutely certain the Carolina Dog had visited the true summit. Then Lupe turned around and went back to the N end of the ridge one more time. Lupe’s explorations of Iron Mountain were complete. So were all of her peakbagging goals in this remote part of the Black Hills. It was time to head back to the G6.
Lupe returned to USFS Road No. 882.1B, following it NE back down Iron Mountain. She left the road a couple of times to take a look around from two different viewpoints along the way. Far below to the SE, she saw the stock pond she had passed by earlier. To the N was Hooker Peak (5,862 ft.), which she had climbed as the sun set yesterday.
When Lupe reached the pass NE of Iron Mountain at the start of USFS Road No. 882.1B, it would have been very easy to get back to the G6 by taking the road going N from the pass. That road would soon have turned E and headed almost directly to the G6. However, SPHP didn’t look at the maps and guessed wrong, taking a road winding SE instead.
Pretty soon it became apparent that the road going SE would eventually lead Lupe right back to the stock pond. It seemed like the long way around. SPHP now compounded the first error by making another one. SPHP left the road taking Lupe NE up a side valley, expecting to find a pass over the ridge.
There was a pass, alright, but much higher up than SPHP expected. Lupe climbed until she was nearly up to High Point 5783. She then lost all her elevation gains going E down a steep slope to a road visible below. SPHP didn’t recognize the road, but Lupe had been here before, just hours ago. She was back on No. 872.1F, but following the road the wrong way, away from the G6!
When the big, round, tan water trough came into view, SPHP realized Lupe was back at the tiny stream where she had started her climb up Duling Hill. Good grief! SPHP had been leading the American Dingo the wrong way! Lupe didn’t mind. She was still having fun.
There was nothing to do about it, except turn around and traipse right back up USFS Road No. 872.1F for the third time today, this time going uphill. Lupe reached the little pass at the high point on the road, passed by the canvas tent (which was still vacant), and finally arrived at the G6 (1:51 PM, 71°F).
Well, all those navigation mistakes SPHP had made since leaving Iron Mountain had chewed up at least an hour. It was too bad. SPHP had been thinking Lupe might travel farther N to the portion of the Black Hills N of Sundance, WY known as the Bear Lodge Mountains. It would take time to get there, though. Now, Lupe would arrive with only a few hours left before sunset.
And so, the decision was made to call it for the day. Black Hills, WY Expedition No. 177 was over. Lupe and SPHP headed for home. Lupe had achieved her original peakbagging goals for her two day excursion to this part of the Black Hills in Wyoming. It wouldn’t be that long before she could return to explore peaks in the Bear Lodge Mountains.
In the meantime, the Carolina Dog was very happy barking at cows and horses along Moskee Road and I90 all the way home.Want more Lupe adventures? Choose from Lupe’s Black Hills Expeditions Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index. Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.