Black Hills, WY Expedition No. 177 – Duling Hill & Iron Mountain (10-10-16)

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.

Lupe in the G6 early on 10-10-16. The G6 said it was 5:11 AM, 38°F.
Lupe in the G6 early on 10-10-16. The G6 said it was 5:11 AM, 38°F.

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.

Lupe discovered this big canvas tent off USFS Road No. 872.1F. No one was around when Lupe arrived.
Lupe discovered this big canvas tent off USFS Road No. 872.1F. No one was around when Lupe arrived.

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.

Lupe on USFS Road No. 872.1F. The happy Carolina Dog soon found a squirrel to bark at among the golden aspens. Photo looks SSW.
Lupe on USFS Road No. 872.1F. The happy Carolina Dog soon found a squirrel to bark at among the golden aspens. Photo looks SSW.

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.

The survey benchmark on Duling Hill did say "Butte", just like the old USFS map showed it would.
The survey benchmark on Duling Hill did say “Butte”, just like the old USFS map showed it would.

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.

A very nervous Carolina Dog poses reluctantly at the summit cairn on Duling Hill. The distant, intermittent gunfire from someone just doing target practice kept her on edge. Photo looks NE.
A very nervous Carolina Dog poses reluctantly at the summit cairn on Duling Hill. The distant, intermittent gunfire from someone just doing target practice kept her on edge. Photo looks NE.
Looking ENE across part of the Duling Hill summit area.
Looking ENE across part of the Duling Hill summit area.

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.

Lupe found this narrow view of Inyan Kara from Duling Hill. Photo looks SW.
Lupe found this narrow view of Inyan Kara from Duling Hill. Photo looks SW.
Inyan Kara Mountain (6,360 ft.). Photo looks SW using the telephoto lens.
Inyan Kara Mountain (6,360 ft.). Photo looks SW using the telephoto lens.
This was the clearest view of Hooker Peak (5,862 ft.) that Lupe found from Duling Hill. Photo looks N using the telephoto lens.
This was the clearest view of Hooker Peak (5,862 ft.) that Lupe found from Duling Hill. Photo looks N using the telephoto lens.
Iron Mountain, Lupe's next peakbagging goal is the big forested ridge in the foreground. Far away on the horizon, Warren Peaks (6,650 ft.) can be seen on the L. Photo looks NNW.
Iron Mountain, Lupe’s next peakbagging goal is the big forested ridge in the foreground. Far away on the horizon, Warren Peaks (6,650 ft.) can be seen on the L. Photo looks NNW.

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.

Lupe discovered these bones on the narrow N ridge coming down Duling Hill.
Lupe discovered these bones on the narrow N ridge coming down Duling Hill.

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.

A stand of yellow aspens greeted Lupe in the valley at the lower end of the N ridge from Duling Hill. Photo looks NE.
A stand of yellow aspens greeted Lupe in the valley at the lower end of the N ridge from Duling Hill. Photo looks NE.
Iron Mountain, the long forested ridge seen here, was Lupe's next peakbagging goal. Photo looks NW.
Iron Mountain, the long forested ridge seen here, was Lupe’s next peakbagging goal. Photo looks NW.

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.

Lupe on her way past a scenic little stock pond SE of Iron Mountain. Photo looks NE.
Lupe on her way past a scenic little stock pond SE of Iron Mountain. Photo looks NE.

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.

To SPHP's surprise, Lupe discovered a meadow up at the N end of the Iron Mountain summit ridge. Later on, SPHP found out that topo maps show this part of the mountain as the true summit. Photo looks NNW.
To SPHP’s surprise, Lupe discovered a meadow up at the N end of the Iron Mountain summit ridge. Later on, SPHP found out that topo maps show this part of the mountain as the true summit. Photo looks NNW.
The lookout tower on Warren Peaks (Center) can be seen in this photo taken from the N end of the summit ridge of Iron Mountain. Photo looks NW using the telephoto lens.
The lookout tower on Warren Peaks (Center) can be seen in this photo taken from the N end of the summit ridge of Iron Mountain. Photo looks NW using the telephoto lens.

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.

Looking farther W into Wyoming from the cliffs along the summit ridge on Iron Mountain. Hwy 585 can be seen below.
Looking farther W into Wyoming from the cliffs along the summit ridge on Iron Mountain. Hwy 585 can be seen below.
Lupe up on the limestone cliffs along the W edge of the Iron Mountain summit ridge. Photo looks SSW.
Lupe up on the limestone cliffs along the W edge of the Iron Mountain summit ridge. Photo looks SSW.
Hope you got that shot of the cliff, SPHP. I'm outta here!
Hope you got that shot of the cliff, SPHP. I’m outta here!

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 stands atop the highest rock she could find at her official true summit of Iron Mountain. Unseen just beyond her is a 40 foot cliff. Inyan Kara is seen on the horizon. Photo looks SW.
Lupe stands atop the highest rock she could find at her official true summit of Iron Mountain. Unseen just beyond her is a 40 foot cliff. Inyan Kara is seen on the horizon. Photo looks SW.

Inyan Kara from the summit of Iron Mountain, WY 10-10-16

Inyan Kara as seen from Iron Mountain. Photo looks SW using the telephoto lens.
Inyan Kara as seen from Iron Mountain. Photo looks SW using the telephoto lens.

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.

On her way down Iron Mountain, Lupe saw the stock pond she had passed by earlier in the day. Photo looks SE.
On her way down Iron Mountain, Lupe saw the stock pond she had passed by earlier in the day. Photo looks SE.
Hooker Peak as seen from the NE slopes of Iron Mountain. Lupe had been up on top of Hooker Peak yesterday at sunset! Photo looks N using the telephoto lens.
Hooker Peak as seen from the NE slopes of Iron Mountain. Lupe had been up on top of Hooker Peak yesterday at sunset! Photo looks N using the telephoto lens.

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!

Even when Lupe passed by the same stand of golden aspens along USFS Road No. 872.1F where she had found the squirrel early in the morning, SPHP didn't realize where she was, or that she was going the wrong way!
Even when Lupe passed by the same stand of golden aspens along USFS Road No. 872.1F where she had found the squirrel early in the morning, SPHP didn’t realize where she was, or that she was going the wrong way!
Although Lupe and SPHP went the wrong way on USFS Road No. 872.1F, seeing fall colors like these a second time around could hardly be considered a waste of time.
Although Lupe and SPHP went the wrong way on USFS Road No. 872.1F, seeing fall colors like these a second time around could hardly be considered a waste of time.

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.Lupe in the G6 a little after 5 AM in WY on 10-10-16Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s Black Hills Expeditions Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

The Athabasca Glacier & Wilcox Pass, Jasper National Park, Canada (8-3-16)

Day 5 (Part 1) of Lupe’s summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska.

After midnight, Lupe heard rain.  Always light, never heavy, but steady.  SPHP hoped there would be new snow on the mountains in the morning.  Morning came.  No such luck.  The night hadn’t been quite cold enough.  Even if there had been new snow, Lupe might not have seen it.  The mountaintops remained shrouded by clouds and mist.

In early morning mist and light rain, Lupe and SPHP explored along the shore of Bow Lake from the picnic ground to where Lupe could see the toe of the Crowfoot Glacier.  The toe was the only part of the glacier not lost in the clouds.

Only the toe of the Crowfoot Glacier was visible from the shore of Bow Lake with the mountaintops shrouded in fog and mist. Photo looks S using the telephoto lens.
Only the toe of the Crowfoot Glacier was visible from the shore of Bow Lake with the mountaintops shrouded in fog and mist. Photo looks S using the telephoto lens.

A visit to the Athabasca Glacier, and a trek up to Wilcox Pass were on Lupe’s agenda for the day.  Unfortunately, both would be pointless in this weather.  All the glorious sights would be hidden from view.

The American Dingo had been to Wilcox Pass twice before, on both her 2013 & 2014 Dingo Vacations.  The views from the overlook toward the Athabasca Glacier and surrounding peaks were the most spectacular Lupe had seen anywhere in the Canadian Rockies.  Missing out on Wilcox Pass would be simply tragic!

Nothing we can do, Loop, but head N and see what conditions are like when we get there!  Maybe these clouds will burn off or move out by then.

Nothing had really changed, though, by the time Lupe and SPHP drove over Sunwapta Pass into Jasper National Park.  The sky was still completely overcast, the mountaintops hidden from view.  Light rain fell intermittently.  It didn’t look like Wilcox Pass was in the cards at all.

Surprisingly, most of the Athabasca Glacier could be seen beneath the clouds.  Lupe could still take the little hike up toward the toe of the glacier.

Lupe at the start of the trail to the Athabasca Glacier. The glacier comes into view from the top of the low ridge seen beyond Lupe. Years ago it was possible to walk right up onto the glacier, but now authorities have roped off the last part of the approach, supposedly due to public safety concerns.
Lupe at the start of the trail to the Athabasca Glacier. The glacier comes into view from the top of the low ridge seen beyond Lupe. Years ago it was possible to walk right up onto the glacier, but now authorities have roped off the last part of the approach, supposedly due to public safety concerns.
Lupe near the Athabasca Glacier. Photo looks SW.
Lupe near the Athabasca Glacier. Photo looks SW.
Lupe as close to the Athabasca Glacier as she was allowed to go. Meltwaters seen below the toe of the glacier are a major source of the Sunwapta River. Photo looks SW.
Lupe as close to the Athabasca Glacier as she was allowed to go. Meltwaters seen below the toe of the glacier are a major source of the Sunwapta River. Photo looks SW.
A look at the upper end of the Athabasca Glacier using the telephoto lens. Unseen above is the Columbia Icefield from which the glacier flows. The Columbia Icefield is the largest in icefield in North America, covering about 125 square miles.
A look at the upper end of the Athabasca Glacier using the telephoto lens. Unseen above is the Columbia Icefield from which the glacier flows. The Columbia Icefield is the largest in icefield in North America, covering about 125 square miles.

The short hike to see the Athabasca Glacier didn’t take very long, but during that time, the rain virtually stopped.  Off to the N, SPHP noticed two tiny patches of blue sky.  That was all it took.  Once back at the G6, Lupe and SPHP drove S on Icefields Parkway Hwy 93 a few miles to the Wilcox Pass trailhead.

Only 3 vehicles were at the normally popular trailhead, an indication of how poor conditions had been to start the day.  Disappointingly, instead of growing as hoped, the tiny patches of blue sky had disappeared.  It was misting again.  The temperature was only in the 40’s (°F).

Lupe was undeterred.  The Carolina Dog was ready to hit the trail!  Another vehicle pulled into the trailhead as Lupe began her ascent to Wilcox Pass (10:00 AM).

The first part of the Wilcox Pass trail winds around in a forest while climbing steadily.  Shortly after crossing a wooden bridge over a steep slope, Lupe came to the first viewpoint.  Part of the Athabasca Glacier was in view, but clouds still clung to the mountains.

Lupe on the Wilcox Pass trail a little beyond the first viewpoint. Part of the Athabasca Glacier is seen on the L. Photo looks WSW.
Lupe on the Wilcox Pass trail a little beyond the first viewpoint. Part of the Athabasca Glacier is seen on the L. Photo looks WSW.

Beyond the first viewpoint, the forest thinned quickly.  The trail was relatively level for a short distance, as it led along the edge of a ridge.  The Athabasca Glacier could now be seen most of the time.

The steepest part of the climb was next.  The trail turned away from the view and went up a big slope.  Lupe passed by scattered patches of stunted forest, and was soon above tree line.  Ominously, instead of clearing up, the sky was looking darker.  The mist was heavier than before.

Lupe wasn’t turning back now!  The hardest part of the climb was over.  The trek to Wilcox Pass was becoming progressively easier when, suddenly, Lupe stopped.  She had seen or sniffed something up on the slope above the trail!

A small herd of Bighorn sheep was resting on the tundra.  Lupe was fascinated.  She wanted to stay right here and watch.  Actually, she wanted to go trophy sheep hunting, but the leash prevented her from having too much fun.

Bighorn sheep near the Wilcox Pass trail. Lupe was fascinated. She would have liked to go trophy sheep hunting, but the leash spoiled her fun.
Bighorn sheep near the Wilcox Pass trail. Lupe was fascinated. She would have liked to go trophy sheep hunting, but the leash spoiled her fun.

Bighorn sheep near Wilcox Pass, Jasper NP, Canada 8-3-16Bighorn sheep near Wilcox Pass, Jasper NP, Canada 8-3-16As Lupe watched Bighorn sheep, the mist turned to rain.  The few people who had come up to Wilcox Pass earlier in the day were now slogging past Lupe and SPHP on the way back down the trail.  The couple that had been following Lupe up turned around and retreated, too.

SPHP finally persuaded Lupe to press on, leaving the sheep to enjoy their solitude.  As Lupe neared Wilcox Pass, a chill wind drove the rain down more fiercely.  Lupe and SPHP were totally alone.  That was awesome!  The fresh breeze felt good, too, but the rain would have to let up pretty soon if Lupe was to remain up here for long.

In mist, wind, and rain, Lupe nears Wilcox Pass. Mount Wilcox is up ahead. Photo looks NW.
In mist, wind, and rain, Lupe nears Wilcox Pass. Mount Wilcox is up ahead. Photo looks NW.

Lupe made it to Wilcox Pass.  Conditions weren’t terrible, but they weren’t encouraging either.  The vast and lonely pass was beautiful and mysterious beneath the sullen sky.

Lupe at Wilcox Pass. Photo looks NW.
Lupe at Wilcox Pass. Photo looks NW.

The stupendous panoramic view that Lupe had come to see was at the end of a side trail to the SW, not right at Wilcox Pass itself.  Even though it appeared likely the view was going to be obscured by clouds and rain, Lupe and SPHP set off on the side trail.  The solitary hike over the forlorn, broken wild tundra might have to be its own reward.

Lupe up on one of the first little high points on the way to the viewpoint SW of Wilcox Pass. Photo looks NNW at the broad empty expanse of Wilcox Pass. The main Wilcox Pass trail is seen beyond Lupe and to the R. Staying on the main trail would have taken Lupe over the pass and down to Tangle Creek.
Lupe up on one of the first little high points on the way to the viewpoint SW of Wilcox Pass. Photo looks NNW at the broad empty expanse of Wilcox Pass. The main Wilcox Pass trail is seen beyond Lupe and to the R. Staying on the main trail would have taken Lupe over the pass and down to Tangle Creek.

The commanding, panoramic view of the Athabasca Glacier and surrounding peaks Lupe was on her way to see is perhaps 0.5 mile to 1.0 mile SW of the main trail at Wilcox Pass.  The trail to the viewpoint climbs several small ridges, and goes through a series of lower areas, too, on the way.  Lupe and SPHP made good progress to one of the higher ridges, where there was a large cairn.

It was still windy, but thankfully, the rain was starting to let up.  The clouds were lifting.  Lupe could now see the summit of Mount Wilcox (9,462 ft.).  Even better, off to the N was another patch of blue sky!  It was bigger than the tiny patches of blue sky SPHP had seen before.

Lupe on the ridge with the big cairn (not pictured). It was still windy, but the clouds had lifted enough so Lupe could see the top of Mount Wilcox. There was even a patch of blue sky! Photo looks NNW.
Lupe on the ridge with the big cairn (not pictured). It was still windy, but the clouds had lifted enough so Lupe could see the top of Mount Wilcox. There was even a patch of blue sky! Photo looks NNW.
Lupe on the ridge with the big cairn. Photo looks E at the huge W ridge of Nigel Peak (10,535 ft.) on the E side of Wilcox Pass.
Lupe on the ridge with the big cairn. Photo looks E at the huge W ridge of Nigel Peak (10,535 ft.) on the E side of Wilcox Pass.
Lupe still on the ridge with the big cairn. Icefields Parkway Hwy 93 can be seen in the distance heading over Sunwapta Pass. Photo looks SE.
Lupe still on the ridge with the big cairn. Icefields Parkway Hwy 93 can be seen in the distance heading over Sunwapta Pass. Photo looks SE.

The weather continued improving as Lupe and SPHP followed the side trail SW.  The patch of blue sky near Mount Wilcox was growing fast!

The patch of blue sky near Mount Wilcox was growing fast! Photo looks NNW.
The patch of blue sky near Mount Wilcox was growing fast! Photo looks NNW.
Lupe reaches the last little valley to be crossed on the way to the SW viewpoint. This valley had a tiny stream in it. Sunwapta Pass is visible in the distance on the L. Photo looks SE.
Lupe reaches the last little valley to be crossed on the way to the SW viewpoint. This valley had a tiny stream in it. Sunwapta Pass is visible in the distance on the L. Photo looks SE.

The last little valley to be crossed before reaching the final ridge was narrow and had a tiny stream flowing through it.  Lupe crossed the stream and climbed up on the final ridge.  The whole ridgeline featured tremendous views.  Lupe and SPHP followed the trail NW to another big cairn.  This cairn appeared to be the end of the side trail, and a fantastic spot to take in the panoramic view.

Going a short distance SW down the slope from the cairn got Lupe out of the worst of the wind.  At first, clouds still obscured the mountains surrounding the Athabasca Glacier.  However, the now huge hole in the clouds near Mount Wilcox held out the promise of clearing skies and splendid scenes soon to come.  Lupe and SPHP got comfortable, and prepared to watch the big show.

Lupe reaches the viewpoint at the end of the side trail SW of Wilcox Pass. Clouds still hung around the Athabasca Glacier (L) and Snow Dome (R). Photo looks SW.
Lupe reaches the viewpoint at the end of the side trail SW of Wilcox Pass. Clouds still hung around the Athabasca Glacier (L) and Snow Dome (R). Photo looks SW.
Mount Athabasca (L) and Mt. Andromeda (Center) are in the clouds. Photo shows the Icefield Centre and related facilities 1400 feet lower down along Icefields Parkway Hwy 93. Photo looks SW.
Mount Athabasca (L) and Mt. Andromeda (Center) are in the clouds. Photo shows the Icefield Centre and related facilities 1400 feet lower down along Icefields Parkway Hwy 93. Photo looks SW.
Lupe at the last big cairn at the end of the side trail leading SW from Wilcox Pass. The huge span of blue sky around Mount Wilcox was very encouraging! Photo looks NNW.
Lupe at the last big cairn at the end of the side trail leading SW from Wilcox Pass. The huge span of blue sky around Mount Wilcox was very encouraging! Photo looks NNW.
Lupe takes a break trying to dry off and warm up while waiting for the big showy mountain and glacier display to begin! Photo looks SW.
Lupe takes a break trying to dry off and warm up while waiting for the big showy mountain and glacier display to begin! Photo looks SW.

Lupe had made it to the viewpoint just in time.  It was only a matter of a few minutes before blue sky started appearing over the Athabasca Glacier.  The summit of Snow Dome (11,483 ft.) was the first to be revealed.

The summit of Snow Dome was revealed as the big patch of blue sky passed over. Part of the Athabasca Glacier is visible along the L edge. Photo looks SW.
The summit of Snow Dome was revealed as the big patch of blue sky passed over. Part of the Athabasca Glacier is visible along the L edge. Photo looks SW.
Lupe and Snow Dome. Photo looks SW.
Lupe and Snow Dome. Photo looks SW.
Lupe watches the big show. Photo looks SW.
Lupe watches the big show. Photo looks SW.

For 40 minutes, Lupe and SPHP watched the changing scene.  The blue sky tried hard, but never could reveal the summits of the other peaks around the Athabasca Glacier.  Clouds clung to them.  Sometimes it seemed like the peaks were creating more clouds all by themselves.

It was all still gorgeous.  SPHP was very glad that Lupe came up to Wilcox Pass and over to the viewpoint.  What a shame it would have been to miss all this grandeur!

The Athabasca Glacier and Sunwapta Lake. Photo looks SW.
The Athabasca Glacier and Sunwapta Lake. Photo looks SW.
The summits of Mt. Athabasca and Mt. Andromeda refused to emerge from the clouds.
The summits of Mt. Athabasca and Mt. Andromeda refused to emerge from the clouds.
Mount Athabasca using the telephoto lens. Photo looks S.
Mount Athabasca using the telephoto lens. Photo looks S.
Lupe and Mt. Athabasca. Photo looks S.
Lupe and Mt. Athabasca. Photo looks S.

Mt. Athabasca, Mt. Andromeda & the Athabasca Glacier, Jasper NP, Canada 8-3-16

The sunny summit of Mount Wilcox. Photo looks NNW using the telephoto lens.
The sunny summit of Mount Wilcox. Photo looks NNW using the telephoto lens.
The Athabasca Glacier. From Lupe's high vantage point, part of the Columbia snowfield which feeds the glacier is in view. Photo looks SW.
The Athabasca Glacier. From Lupe’s high vantage point, part of the Columbia snowfield which feeds the glacier is in view. Photo looks SW.

Eventually the big patch of blue sky started losing the battle.  More clouds were coming.  The sky darkened.  The big show was over, at least for now.  It was time for Lupe to go.  She had lots of fun on the way back exploring the heather.

The blue sky had encouraged others to start coming back up to Wilcox Pass, too.  Soon Lupe and SPHP were no longer alone.  Sporadically, it rained again, but this time not hard enough to discourage everyone.  Now, Lupe and SPHP were the only ones going down, while others came up.

Lupe was pleased and excited to see that the Bighorn sheep hadn’t gone anywhere.  They were still peacefully watching the passing parade.  Lupe got a little more sheep watching in, too.

Lupe was pleased to see that the Bighorn sheep hadn't gone anywhere. She got in a little more fun watching them before continuing down the trail.
Lupe was pleased to see that the Bighorn sheep hadn’t gone anywhere. She got in a little more fun watching them before continuing down the trail.

When Lupe emerged from the forest at the Wilcox Pass trailhead again (2:47 PM), the clouds were nearly all gone.  Blue skies and sunshine prevailed, and things had warmed up considerably (59°F).

SPHP drove Lupe down to the Icefield Centre across the highway from the Athabasca Glacier.  The place was a madhouse.  SPHP was fortunate to get a parking spot in the huge parking lot.  The place was packed with vehicles, with lots more circling around looking for an opening.

The views from the Icefield Centre weren’t as good as from high above in the Wilcox Pass area, but the scene was still magnificent.  Now that their summits were in clear view, Lupe agreed to pose for a few more photos of the high snowy peaks surrounding the Athabasca Glacier.

Part of Snow Dome (L) and Mt. Kitchener (11,417 ft.) (R) with the Dome Glacier between them. Too bad the sky never got this clear while Lupe was on high near Wilcox Pass! Photo looks WSW.
Part of Snow Dome (L) and Mt. Kitchener (11,417 ft.) (R) with the Dome Glacier between them. Too bad the sky never got this clear while Lupe was on high near Wilcox Pass! Photo looks WSW.
A closer view using the telephoto lens. Photo looks WSW.
A closer view using the telephoto lens. Photo looks WSW.
The Dome Glacier (Center) and Snow Dome (L). Photo looks WSW.
The Dome Glacier (Center) and Snow Dome (L). Photo looks WSW.
The Dome Glacier (L) and Mt. Kitchener (R). Photo looks W.
The Dome Glacier (L) and Mt. Kitchener (R). Photo looks W.
Mount Andromeda (11,286 ft.) (L) and the Athabasca Glacier (R). Photo looks SSW.
Mount Andromeda (11,286 ft.) (L) and the Athabasca Glacier (R). Photo looks SSW.
Lupe with beautiful snow and glacier covered Mount Athabasca in the background. Photo looks S.
Lupe with beautiful snow and glacier covered Mount Athabasca in the background. Photo looks S.

The rainy, misty morning was long gone, having finally given way to this bright, sunny afternoon.  Lupe had been close to the Athabasca Glacier, made it to Wilcox Pass, and seen glorious sights from on high.

Well, Looper, it’s what, not even 3:15 PM, yet.  What now?

Since we are in the Canadian Rockies on a fine summer afternoon, looks like time for another adventure to me!

The clever Carolina Dog was so right!  Lupe and SPHP hopped in the G6, left the teeming Icefield Centre parking lot, and headed N on Icefields Parkway Hwy 93.  When you are in the Canadian Rockies, the next big adventure is never far away!

Mount Athabasca (11,453 ft.), Jasper National Park, Canada
Mount Athabasca (11,453 ft.), Jasper National Park, Canada

Note: Although there are many areas of superb beauty in the Canadian Rockies, the Wilcox Pass trail to the dramatic snow and ice-covered panoramic view of Mt. Athabasca, Mt. Andromeda, the Athabasca Glacier, Snow Dome and Mt. Kitchener is the most scenically rewarding half day hike Lupe and SPHP have found to date.

The Wilcox Pass trailhead is located less than 0.25 mile off the N bound side of Icefields Parkway Hwy 93 along the gravel road that leads to the Wilcox Creek campground. The turnoff is just a mile or two N of the Banff and Jasper National Parks boundary at Sunwapta Pass, and just a couple miles S of the Icefield Centre across from the Athabasca Glacier.

The Wilcox Pass trail is in good condition.  The side trail to the viewpoint SW of the pass is easy to spot and follow.  Total elevation gain is on the order of 1,400 feet.  One section of the main trail is fairly steep, but most of it is only moderately strenuous.

Another great trail to a glacier view is only 10 minutes away.  The Parker Ridge trail, which is even shorter (and less time-consuming) than the Wilcox Pass trail, switchbacks up to a spectacular view of the Saskatchewan Glacier.  The Parker Ridge trailhead is along the S bound side of Icefields Parkway Hwy 93 several miles S of the Jasper National Park and Banff National Park boundary at Sunwapta Pass.

The Wilcox Pass Trail, Jasper National Park, Canada 7-31-13

The Wilcox Pass Trail, Jasper National Park, Canada 7-29-14

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s 2016 Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska Adventure IndexDingo Vacations Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to New Lupe Adventures.

Black Hills, WY Expedition No. 176 – Elkhorn Divide, Fish Mountain & Hooker Peak (10-9-16)

The names on the sign looked familiar.  They had been on the Peakbagger.com topo map SPHP had been looking at online early this morning.  SPHP parked the G6 next to the sign (1:56 PM, 70°F).  Let’s try it from here, Looper!

Lupe near the intersection of USFS Roads No. 872.3 & No. 878 in the Black Hills of Wyoming. Her day's adventures started here. Photo looks WSW.
Lupe near the intersection of USFS Roads No. 872.3 & No. 878 in the Black Hills of Wyoming. Her day’s adventures started here. Photo looks WSW.

It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm, but Lupe had arrived late for her Black Hills of Wyoming expedition.  Back at home this morning, the printer wouldn’t print.  SPHP had fought with it for hours.  The reason it wouldn’t print was still as clear as mud.  It was nearly noon by the time SPHP had given up on it.

Normally, SPHP brings along a topo map or two printed out from Peakbagger.com on Lupe’s expeditions.  Today, all SPHP had to go on was a hand-sketched map drawn with a couple of contours for each of the peaks Lupe hoped to climb.  Of course, SPHP had the old Black Hills National Forest map along, too, but it showed very little detail.

We might have quite a time trying to figure out what’s what around here, Loop!  Let’s hope we can find and recognize these peaks you’re looking to climb.  Lupe and SPHP started off going WSW on USFS Road No. 872.3 toward a bright yellow grove of aspens where there was a fork in the road.

Fall colors were still in full swing at this bright yellow grove of aspens near the intersection of USFS Roads No. 872.3 & 872.1F. Photo looks SW.
Fall colors were still in full swing at this bright yellow grove of aspens near the intersection of USFS Roads No. 872.3 & 872.1F. Photo looks SW.

At the intersection, the main road angled W on its way to Fish Canyon.  A less traveled road curved S.  It was marked No. 872.1F.  According to SPHP’s old Black Hills National Forest map, it should have said No. 872.4F.  That is, if Lupe was really where SPHP thought she was.  Hmmm.

Loopster, let’s try to find Fish Mountain first, OK?  Lupe had no objections.  Lupe and SPHP returned to the G6.  Fish Mountain was supposed to be only a mile or so N.  A faint grassy road left No. 872.3 and went NNE up a little valley.  The faint road was evidently what was left of USFS Road No. 878.  SPHP started following it.  Lupe, however, streaked away to the W.

She had found a squirrel!  The valley echoed with joyous Dingo barking.  The good times continued for several minutes, after which Lupe raced N looking for SPHP.  As far as Lupe was concerned, if these woods were full of squirrels, she was going to have a great day whether she ever found Fish Mountain or not.

USFS Road No. 878 soon faded away entirely.  Lupe and SPHP climbed a ridge to the NNW.  The ridge was forested, but not so densely as to make it impossible to get an idea of the general lay of the land.  Off to the NNW were a couple of forested hills.  Another high spot was to the SW along this ridge.  A smaller hill was to the NE, with a bigger one farther NNE.

Fish Mountain was probably one of the hills to the NNW.  A lower grassy ridge to the N on the other side of a shallow valley appeared to lead in that direction.  Lupe and SPHP started down into the valley.  Suddenly, there was gunfire!  Lupe, who had been having a great time exploring and looking for more squirrels, was immediately concerned.

The gunfire was much too distant to be a genuine threat.  Hunters?  Maybe.  Unfortunately it had come from the NW, in the general direction of Fish Mountain.  Now Lupe was begging SPHP not to go that way.  Well, OK.  SPHP decided to take another look at things from the small hill to the NE, while Lupe calmed down.

Lupe at the top of the little hill to the NE. SPHP eventually concluded this hill was the middle high point along Elkhorn Divide. Photo looks NE.
Lupe at the top of the little hill to the NE. SPHP eventually concluded this hill was the middle high point along Elkhorn Divide. Photo looks NE.

Lupe reached the top of the little hill.  As SPHP gazed around, only one thing was really clear.  Distant views were going to be hard to come by in these heavily forested hills.

The nervous American Dingo stuck to SPHP like glue.  Unfortunately, the gunfire was continuing intermittently.  The good news was that meant hunters weren’t the source.  Hunters wouldn’t fire off a round or two every 4 or 5 minutes.  The bad news was that the source was almost certainly someone doing target practice.  Lupe might have to endure the terrifying noise for hours.

SPHP peered through the forest, repeatedly referencing the maps.  Surprisingly, the crudely hand-drawn topo map was actually of some use!  Suddenly, things made sense, at least partial sense.  This hill Lupe was on was the middle high point along Elkhorn Divide (5,944 ft.), wasn’t it?  If so, the true summit would be somewhere on that higher hill Lupe had seen to the N.

SPHP led Lupe N down into a broad, flat saddle area on the way to the Elkhorn Divide summit hill.  In the saddle, Lupe came to a fence.  Beyond the fence, she crossed a road going NW.  She continued N up the big hill.

The highest ground was over toward the W side of the mountain.  Lupe soon arrived at an edge where the ground dropped off steeply.  A short stroll N along the W edge brought Lupe up to a big flat area, which appeared to be the summit of Elkhorn Divide.  This area was all forested, but open enough so it was pretty sunny.

Lupe on a big dead tree at the summit of Elkhorn Divide. Photo looks N.
Lupe on a big dead tree at the summit of Elkhorn Divide. Photo looks N.
Lupe on Elkhorn Divide. Here she's sitting on what appeared to be the highest spot, but there was lots of ground around at virtually the same elevation. Photo looks W.
Lupe on Elkhorn Divide. Here she’s sitting on what appeared to be the highest spot, but there was lots of ground around at virtually the same elevation. Photo looks W.
The Elkhorn Divide summit area. A huge dead pine tree had fallen over toward the E, but gotten hung up on other trees before hitting the ground. Photo looks N.
The Elkhorn Divide summit area. A huge dead pine tree had fallen over toward the E, but gotten hung up on other trees before hitting the ground. Photo looks N.

Lupe and SPHP explored far enough N along the W edge of the Elkhorn Divide summit hill to make certain Lupe had actually been to the true summit.  She had.  The forest made it hard to tell, but there didn’t seem to be any promising routes toward the NW to Fish Mountain from here.

Lupe turned S retracing her route along the W edge back to the summit of Elkhorn Divide.  She continued on down the hill.  Along the way, she came to several rock outcroppings.  From one of them was a narrow view of a mountain off to the W.  SPHP was almost certain that mountain had to be Hooker Peak, another one of Lupe’s peakbagging goals.

Hooker Peak, another of Lupe's peakbagging goals. Photo looks W from a rock outcropping S of the Elkhorn Divide summit using the telephoto lens.
Hooker Peak, another of Lupe’s peakbagging goals. Photo looks W from a rock outcropping S of the Elkhorn Divide summit using the telephoto lens.

Lupe and SPHP reached the saddle area again, and got on the road going NW.  Lupe followed the road for only a few minutes.  Glimpses of the grassy ridge she had seen earlier on were becoming visible through the forest.  Lupe left the road heading W.   She came to a fence up on the grassy ridge.  The fence line pointed almost directly at Fish Mountain (5,942 ft.).

Lupe on the grassy ridge on her way to Fish Mountain, the most distant hill on the R. The hill on the L is High Point 5922. Lupe didn't climb HP 5922, but she did climb the lower sub peak seen at (Center) on her way to Fish Mountain. Photo looks NW.
Lupe on the grassy ridge on her way to Fish Mountain, the most distant hill on the R. The hill on the L is High Point 5922. Lupe didn’t climb HP 5922, but she did climb the lower sub peak seen at (Center) on her way to Fish Mountain. Photo looks NW.

Lupe followed the fence line toward Fish Mountain.  The fence turned WNW as it drew near two sub-peaks E of High Point 5922.  Lupe climbed both of these sub-peaks without having to cross the fence.

Climbing the second, higher sub-peak proved to be quite unnecessary.  The rocky summit didn’t provide much of a view of Fish Mountain, despite high hopes for one.  Lupe then had to lose all the elevation she had just gained traversing a steep slope toward the saddle over to Fish Mountain.

While exploring the steep slope, Lupe made an intensely exciting discovery.  She found a squirrel on the ground!  The squirrel alertly made a narrow escape by springing nimbly to the safety of a nearby tree.  Unfortunately for the poor squirrel, the tree was either dead or an aspen that had already lost all its leaves.  Lupe could see the frightened squirrel scrambling around up there, and raised a tremendous ruckus.

The squirrel was 35 feet above the ground and perfectly safe, but totally unnerved.  It desperately wanted to get out of sight.  Dashing around from one spindly little branch to the next, it lost its balance.  Down fell the squirrel!  Clear back to the ground.  Lupe was after it immediately.

Now, if SPHP ever falls out of a tree 35 feet straight down to the ground, that will be the end of the ole’ ballgame right then and there.  The squirrel, however, sprang up like Lazarus from the dead, totally unfazed.  Nevertheless, if there hadn’t been so much tall grass, brush and deadfall timber around to slow Lupe down, things might well have ended badly for the squirrel.  As it was, Lazarus the squirrel escaped again to a big pine tree and disappeared.

Lupe was so excited, for a little while she didn’t even think about the gunfire, which was still going on.  She was convinced that where one squirrel could be found on the ground, there might well be more.  She sniffed frantically everywhere.  She didn’t calm down until she was past the saddle and climbing the S slope of Fish Mountain.

Near the top of Fish Mountain, was a band of small limestone cliffs.  The cliffs were quite broken up, so it wasn’t hard at all for Lupe to find a route through them.  Lupe arrived up on a summit ridge about 200 feet long E/W, and 25 or 30 feet wide N/S.  Several different stones closer to the E end vied for the title of true summit.

Lupe at the summit of Fish Mountain. Photo looks W.
Lupe at the summit of Fish Mountain. Photo looks W.

The E end of the summit ridge was surprisingly barren, but still ringed by enough trees to block the views.  However, there was one exception.  A small gap in the trees provided a glimpse of Inyan Kara (6,360 ft.) off to the SSW.

Inyan Kara Mountain as seen from Fish Mountain using the telephoto lens. Photo looks SSW.
Inyan Kara Mountain as seen from Fish Mountain using the telephoto lens. Photo looks SSW.

Lupe and SPHP took a break up on Fish Mountain.  By now, Lupe was back to worrying about the gunfire again.  Apparently target practice was going to last all day.  SPHP tried to comfort Lupe, but the truth was her next peakbagging goal was Hooker Peak, even closer to the source of Lupe’s torment.

Instead of heading back down the steep S slope of Fish Mountain, Lupe and SPHP explored the summit ridge to the W.  It went farther than SPHP expected, before beginning to lose elevation steadily.  Lupe arrived at an opening in the forest along the S rim of the ridge where there was a clear view to the SSW.  Inyan Kara could be seen again, along with a couple more peaks Lupe hoped to climb tomorrow.

Lupe at the viewpoint along the S rim of Fish Mountain, well W of the summit. Inyan Kara is seen in the distance. Duling Hill (6,005 ft.) is L of the dead tree. Iron Mountain (5,887 ft.) is in the foreground to the R of Inyan Kara partially obscuring it. Photo looks SSW.
Lupe at the viewpoint along the S rim of Fish Mountain, well W of the summit. Inyan Kara is seen in the distance. Duling Hill (6,005 ft.) is L of the dead tree. Iron Mountain (5,887 ft.) is in the foreground to the R of Inyan Kara partially obscuring it. Photo looks SSW.
Another look with the telephoto lens. Photo looks SSW.
Another look with the telephoto lens. Photo looks SSW.
Duling Hill (Center) from Fish Mountain. Photo looks S.
Duling Hill (Center) from Fish Mountain. Photo looks S.

Lupe and SPHP continued W from the viewpoint.  Lupe didn’t have to go much farther before the terrain dropped down to a more heavily forested area where she found an old road.  The road took her SE down to the W side of the saddle between Fish Mountain and High Point 5922.  There it turned sharply W continuing down a side valley all the way to Fish Canyon.

By the time Lupe reached Fish Canyon, the sun was already so low it was only shining on the mountaintops.  However, Lupe was quite close to another peakbagging objective, Hooker Peak (5,862 ft.).  Maybe she could still make it up Hooker Peak before sunset?  She would have to hurry!  Lupe and SPHP went a short distance NNW on the road in Fish Canyon before turning SW to climb Hooker Peak’s NE ridge.

Most of the climb wasn’t bad, but Lupe was a nervous wreck.  The continuing gunfire was now quite loud, originating from somewhere much lower, but not too far away to the NW.  SPHP could hardly move without tripping over or stepping on the psyched out American Dingo.  Just like Lazarus the squirrel, Lupe was desperate to hide.

Despite the gunfire and steep final trek to the summit, Lupe arrived up on top of Hooker Peak.  The sun was on the horizon.  The summit ridge proved to be a short, narrow line of rock, with fairly high cliffs to the S, an arrangement which provided a panoramic view in that direction.  In all other directions, there was forest.

Lupe on Hooker Peak, WY. Inyan Kara is seen in the distance. Photo looks SSW.
Lupe on Hooker Peak, WY. Inyan Kara is seen in the distance. Photo looks SSW.
Looking SW along part of the short rocky summit ridge of Hooker Peak.
Looking SW along part of the short rocky summit ridge of Hooker Peak.
Inyan Kara from Hooker Peak. Photo looks SSW using the telephoto lens.
Inyan Kara from Hooker Peak. Photo looks SSW using the telephoto lens.

There was more to the Hooker Peak summit ridge than SPHP originally realized.  Lupe explored it farther to the WSW.  It remained quite high, part of it perhaps as high as where Lupe had her summit photos taken on the rocks.  There were more trees and bushes to deal with here.  SPHP hoped for a clear view of the fast fading sunset, but there really wasn’t one.

Lupe near the WSW end of the Hooker Peak summit ridge. Photo looks WSW.
Lupe near the WSW end of the Hooker Peak summit ridge. Photo looks WSW.

The sun was gone.  Twilight began fading fast.  Lupe and SPHP spent maybe 20 minutes total up on Hooker Peak before having to retreat.  Lupe went down the mountain following the NE ridge, retracing her route up.  Darkness came on so quickly that SPHP had to bring out the flashlight before Lupe even made it back down to Fish Canyon.

At last, Lupe was happy again.  Target practice was finally over.  (Thank heavens, the would-be sharpshooter didn’t have night vision goggles!)  Beneath a star-studded sky, Lupe and SPHP followed the road up Fish Canyon.  At first it went S, then SE.  After a mile or so, there was an intersection not shown on the old Black Hills National Forest map.  The hand-sketched topo map was useless too.  SPHP guessed, taking the road going S instead of E.

There were doubt-filled moments, but finally, 1.5 miles later, after the road had wound around before turning E, Lupe came to the intersection near the grove of yellow aspens she had been to before.  Three minutes later, she was at the G6 (8:07 PM, 46°F) feasting on an entire can of Alpo.

For once, Lupe wasn’t going straight home following a Black Hills expedition.  She was staying right here.  A long night was ahead, but Lupe’s adventures in the Black Hills of Wyoming weren’t over yet.

Lupe on Hooker Peak, WY.
Lupe on Hooker Peak, WY.

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

Kabekona Lake, Minnesota (10-2-16)

It was evening, already dark, when Lupe arrived at the cabin on Kabekona Lake in northern Minnesota.  Surprisingly, no one seemed to be around.  However, the door was unlocked.  Presumably everyone would be back soon.  Lupe and SPHP went right on in.

Lupe had been here before, way back in June of 2014 – a very long time ago for the Carolina Dog.  Did she remember the cabin?  Lupe sniffed around curiously.  She went up the stairs to the loft she’d loved where she and SPHP had stayed before.  The Carolina Dog’s eyes grew wide, but she didn’t jump up on the bed.  Did she remember the loft?  It was hard to say.

Lupe discovered there were two cats in the basement, but Laddie, the old cat that had been here in 2014, was nowhere to be seen.  The two new cats were both curious and rather alarmed to see an American Dingo in possession of the main floor of their cabin.  SPHP closed the door to the basement.  Even though Lupe likes cats, it was best to keep the cats down there for now.

SPHP crashed on the couch.  Lupe was 700 miles from home.  It had been a long day’s drive.  Best to get a little shuteye, before the gang returned.  Lupe sniffed around a little more, then curled up with SPHP.

Suddenly Lupe was barking furiously!  She had leapt up to defend the cabin from intruders!  Of course, the intruders happened to be John and Joyce, owners of the cabin, returning home from eating out.  With them were Claire and Laura, who had arrived yesterday for the same sad reason Lupe was here.  Lupe calmed down when she realized SPHP was glad to see these intruders.  She most graciously permitted John and Joyce to enter their own cabin.

Service at the restaurant had been extremely slow.  It was already after 10 PM.  Tomorrow there would be a ceremony after church for Connie.  The next day’s schedule was discussed.  Then it was time to hit the hay.  Everyone retired for the night.

The next morning, Lupe, Sandy and SPHP went down to take a look at Kabekona lake.  The lake looked wonderful!  It was going to be a beautiful day!  Lupe would only have half of the afternoon and this one evening before sunset to enjoy the lake, though.  The rest of the day she would be stuck in the G6.  Tomorrow she would be headed home again.

Lupe checks out Kabekona Lake early on 10-2-16. It was going to be a beautiful day at the lake!
Lupe checks out Kabekona Lake early on 10-2-16. It was going to be a beautiful day at the lake!
Kabekona Lake is SW of much larger Leech Lake in N central Minnesota. Photo looks NE.
Kabekona Lake is SW of much larger Leech Lake in N central Minnesota. Photo looks NE.

It was an amazingly warm day for northern Minnesota in early October.  During church, Lupe was confined to the G6 with the windows rolled down as far as possible without allowing her a possible escape route.  She had plenty of water to help her stay cool.  She would be bored, but fine.

After church, SPHP took Lupe for a short walk to a small lake nearby.  Lupe was soon back in the G6, though, until social hour was done.  SPHP brought Lupe a pastry from the church meant for social time attendees.  Lupe wanted to go back with SPHP into the church, since SPHP had neglected to bring her any coffee, but SPHP wouldn’t hear of it.

A little after noon, social hour ended.  Now it was time to go to the cemetery for a short ceremony for Connie.  The cemetery wasn’t far away.  Fortunately the road went right by a field full of black cows and Canadian geese.  Lupe had an exciting, if brief, respite from boredom barking furiously at the cows.

Post ceremony at the cemetery, a luncheon was held back at the church.  Lupe was still stuck in the G6.  However, she did receive a much appreciated ham and cheese sandwich, plus another pastry, to ease both hunger and the monotony of confinement.

Lupe with flowers for Connie.
Lupe with flowers for Connie.

It was after 2 PM by the time Lupe was back at the cabin.  Finally, she could go exploring outside.  Was she ever ready!  The Carolina Dog  charged through the N woods, nose to the ground, delighted to be free again.

Lupe bounded around the cabin.  She went with SPHP down to the dock for another quick look at Kabekona Lake.  She explored the driveway and woods out to County Road No. 37.

Lupe at the Kabekona Lake cabin.
Lupe at the Kabekona Lake cabin.
Cabin life at Kabekona Lake in northern Minnesota is awesome! This message has been approved by an American Dingo.
Cabin life at Kabekona Lake in northern Minnesota is awesome! This message has been approved by an American Dingo.
Lupe at the cabin's shed for boating equipment and supplies.
Lupe at the cabin’s shed for boating equipment and supplies.
On the dock.
On the dock.
So, SPHP, will you take me boating? Pretty please?
So, SPHP, will you take me boating? Pretty please?
Lupe on the cabin's driveway out to Country Road No. 37.
Lupe on the cabin’s driveway out to Country Road No. 37.
Early October is a great time to be in the north woods in Minnesota! Fall colors are on display. Even better yet, the mosquitoes are all dead!
Early October is a great time to be in the north woods in Minnesota! Fall colors are on display. Even better yet, the mosquitoes are all dead!

After Lupe’s outdoor reconnaissance, it was time to go back to the cabin to pop the big question.  SPHP asked John about the possibility of taking the boat out on the lake?

John didn’t say no, but as SPHP expected, the events of the past summer meant John hadn’t had the boat out on the lake even once yet this year himself.  There was a long list of tasks to accomplish to get the boat and motor ready for launch.  Lupe wouldn’t get to spend much time actually on the lake.  Nevertheless, SPHP was prepared to spring into action, when John made another suggestion.

Why not take the canoes instead of the boat?  John had a canoe, and there was another one that could be borrowed at the cabin where Sandy and Lib were staying.  That made more sense.  It was a calm day with hardly any waves on the lake.  The canoes would be fun, and would require almost no prep time at all!  The plan was set.  John went with Lupe and SPHP to launch the first canoe.

Soon Lupe was in the canoe out on Kabekona Lake!  John and SPHP paddled over to the neighbor’s dock.  SPHP climbed up a short ladder onto the dock intending to go get the second canoe.  SPHP had barely reached the top of the ladder, when suddenly Lupe decided she wasn’t getting left behind.  She launched herself out of the canoe!

Of course, Lupe didn’t realize the canoe would tip as she made her leap for the dock.  Consequently, she didn’t jump quite high enough.  For a fraction of a second, she clung to the edge of the dock trying to dig her claws in and scramble up, but she couldn’t.  Lupe plunged back into Kabekona Lake sinking beneath the surface!

Now Carolina Dogs, at least this Carolina Dog, are not water dogs.  Although Lupe likes wading in puddles and streams, and even laying down in them, SPHP has almost never seen Lupe swim.  Maybe it was because of her first swimming experience.

When Lupe was 3 months old, on her first trip to the park, Lupe had hurled herself for no apparent reason into Rapid Creek.  Of course, the tiny puppy sank far below the surface.  SPHP was on the verge of wading in to save her.  However, Lupe popped back up to the surface and swam against the current for shore, managing to extricate herself all on her own.

That first experience must have been quite a shock, though.  Puppy Lupe had had no idea she would sink and start to drown.  It was March.  There was 6″ of snow on the ground.  The water in the creek couldn’t have been much above freezing.  Ever since then, Lupe has carefully avoided water that’s over her head.

Did Lupe even remember how to swim?  SPHP peered anxiously into Kabekona Lake.  Lupe did swim back up to the surface!  She was doing the Dingo paddle for all she was worth, but she was confused.  She swam around to the wrong side of the canoe where she couldn’t see the near shore.

SPHP called to Lupe and encouraged her to come.  She swam back around the canoe again, and headed for shore.  When she reached it, she released a great spray of water as she shook herself off.  Despite her unexpected baptism in Kabekona Lake, Lupe was fine.  She went with SPHP to launch the second canoe.

Before long, Laura and Sandy joined Lupe’s canoe fleet crew as paddlers.  Laura went with John, and Sandy with Lupe and SPHP.  It was sunny and warm.  Lupe dried off quickly.  She was quite content to stay in the canoe.

John and Laura in Canoe No. 1 of Lupe's fleet.
John and Laura in Canoe No. 1 of Lupe’s fleet.
Sandy and Lupe in Canoe No. 2.
Sandy and Lupe in Canoe No. 2.
Lupe's canoe fleet headed for Preacher's Point for no particular reason, other than to relax and enjoy the outing.
Lupe’s canoe fleet headed for Preacher’s Point for no particular reason, other than to relax and enjoy the outing.
John and Laura again, having a good time.
John and Laura again, having a good time.
Lupe and Sandy again. Sandy was having fun. Lupe was still getting used to life as a sea dog. She was careful not to leap out of the canoe again.
Lupe and Sandy again. Sandy was having fun. Lupe was still getting used to life as a sea dog. She was careful not to leap out of the canoe again.

There was no particular goal other than to paddle around lazily enjoying the day.  Preacher’s Point along the SE shore of Kabekona Lake became the canoe trip’s destination by default.

After going a bit beyond Preacher’s Point, Lupe’s canoe fleet turned around and headed back for John’s cabin.  There was no rush, just a leisurely paddle.  Over two hours had gone by on the lake by the time the tiny fleet arrived back at the dock.  John, Laura and Sandy were done for the day.

However, Lib hadn’t gotten a chance to be out on the lake yet.  She joined Lupe and SPHP for a one canoe sunset cruise back to Preacher’s Point.  The water was glassy smooth.

Sea dog Lupe enjoys the ride while Lib paddles.
Sea dog Lupe enjoys the ride while Lib paddles.
Lib near Preacher Point on Kabekona Lake.
Lib near Preacher Point on Kabekona Lake.

On her second return trip from Preacher Point, Lupe was sailing toward the now setting sun.  Her afternoon and evening on Kabekona Lake was almost over.  The canoes had been a great idea.  Even so, the hours had flown by fast.

Sunset from Kabekona Lake.
Sunset from Kabekona Lake.

Sunset on Kabekona Lake, MN 10-2-16Sunset on Kabekona Lake, MN 10-2-16By the time it was all over and the canoes were put away, there wasn’t much light left at all.  Lupe and SPHP took one last look at Kabekona Lake from the dock before heading to the cabin for supper.

Lupe on the dock again at dusk. Sea dog Lupe, like most sailors, was glad to be back on terra firma on shore leave.
Lupe on the dock again at dusk. Sea dog Lupe, like most sailors, was glad to be back on terra firma on shore leave.

Supper was well underway in the cabin by the time Lupe and SPHP appeared.  The evening was spent in pleasant conversation, except for a brief altercation between Blackie, the jet black cat, and Lupe.

Apparently Blackie resented Lupe getting too close to his dinner bowl.  Blackie let her know it in no uncertain terms.  In return, Lupe made it clear that American Dingoes have no intention of being bossed around by mere cats.  Fortunately, a truce based on mutual understanding was reached in two seconds.

The next morning, it was already time to say good-bye.  Laura had left well before dawn to catch a plane.  Sandy and Lib departed right after breakfast.  A little while later, it was Lupe and SPHP’s turn to hit the long road home.

Lupe, Lib and Sandy say good-bye.
Lupe, Lib and Sandy say good-bye.
Joyce and Lupe with Claire looking on from the table.
Joyce and Lupe with Claire looking on from the table.
John & Joyce with Lupe.
John & Joyce with Lupe.
John shares a nugget of Norwegian philosophy.
John shares a nugget of Norwegian philosophy.
Claire and Joyce bid Lupe farewell.
Claire and Joyce bid Lupe farewell.

The Kabekona Lake cabin, MN 10-2-16

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Fairview Mountain & Saddle Mountain, Banff National Park, Canada (8-2-16)

Day 4 of Lupe’s summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska.

Well, Looper, how about we go see Lake Louise again before hitting the trail?  Lupe was all for it, which was a good thing, since SPHP would have pretty much insisted on it.  The view of snow-clad Mount Victoria (11,375 ft.) from Lake Louise is among the most beautiful and famous scenes in the Canadian Rockies.

The stroll down the trail from the upper parking lot to the boat house where they rent out canoes took only a few minutes.  Suddenly, Lupe was back at Lake Louise for the first time since her summer of 2014 Dingo Vacation over 2 years ago.  The tranquil, turquoise lake was as gorgeous as ever.   Maybe there was a little less snow on Mount Victoria, but it was still an awesome scene.

Lupe arrives near the Lake Louise boat house early on this cool, clear morning.
Lupe arrives near the Lake Louise boat house early on this cool, clear morning.
Mount Victoria from Lake Louise. Photo looks SW.
Mount Victoria from Lake Louise. Photo looks SW.

It was still relatively early (7:11 AM, 39°F).  No one was out on the lake yet, although the usual crowd from Chateau Lac Louise was already gathering to admire the scene.  Lupe and SPHP ambled over closer to the grand hotel.  See that mountain, Loop?  That’s Fairview Mountain (8,986 ft.) where you’re going today!

Fairview Mountain, seen here from Lake Louise, was Lupe's main peakbagging objective for the day. Photo looks SSW.
Fairview Mountain, seen here from Lake Louise, was Lupe’s main peakbagging objective for the day. Photo looks SSW.

Lupe posed for a photo from the shore of Lake Louise with Fairview Mountain in the background.  A couple minutes later, when she jumped up on a low rock wall for another shot of Mount Victoria, tourists seemed to think it was quite a trick.  Lupe basked in love and admiration.  Cameras clicked like she was about to hold a press conference.

When Lupe leaped up on this low rock wall for another shot of Mount Victoria across Lake Louise, tourists seemed to think she had performed quite a feat.
When Lupe leaped up on this low rock wall for another shot of Mount Victoria across Lake Louise, tourists seemed to think she had performed quite a feat.

Before the Carolina Dog could address her new fans with any long-winded speeches, SPHP led her away.  After all, she had a mountain to climb!  Lupe and SPHP headed for the Saddleback Trail, which splits off of the short path between the boat house and upper Lake Louise parking lot.

The Saddleback Trail begins climbing through a dense forest at a moderate to fairly steep pace.  For quite a distance, there’s little to see except trees.  After 0.4 km or so, Lupe passed by junctions with the Moraine Lake Highline trail and the Fairview Overlook trail.  A sign said the Fairview Overlook trail went 0.7 km to the viewpoint, which presumably looks out over Lake Louise.  A 2.3 km loop can be made back to the boat house.

The Fairview Overlook trail sounded like a nice little jaunt, likely rewarded with a great view of Lake Louise, but Lupe was going higher, much higher!  Lupe and SPHP pressed on.  Lupe had easily gone over half of the 3.7 km from Lake Louise to Saddleback Pass by the time she reached the first big opening in the forest.  Now Lupe could see Saddle Mountain up ahead.

Lupe on the Saddleback Trail on her way to Saddle Pass. Here she's broken out of the mature forest to get her first clear view of Saddle Mountain up ahead. Photo looks S.
Lupe on the Saddleback Trail on her way to Saddle Pass. Here she’s broken out of the mature forest to get her first clear view of Saddle Mountain up ahead. Photo looks S.

The slope up to Saddle Pass became steeper.  Switchbacks appeared along the trail to help make the climb easier.  As Lupe gained elevation, more glorious sights began to appear.  Soon she could see the snowy summit of Mount Temple (11,614 ft.) poking up over Saddle Pass.

Mount Temple pokes up above Saddle Pass, an early indication of the glorious scenes in store for Lupe higher up.
Mount Temple pokes up above Saddle Pass, an early indication of the glorious scenes in store for Lupe higher up.

As Lupe neared Saddle Pass, the trail gained elevation much more gradually than before.  Sheol Mountain (9,117 ft.) and Haddo Peak (10,072 ft.) were in view directly ahead.

The trail climbed much more gently as Lupe neared Saddle Pass. Sheol Mountain (L) and Haddo Peak (R) were now in view.
The trail climbed much more gently as Lupe neared Saddle Pass. Sheol Mountain (L) and Haddo Peak (R) were now in view.

When Lupe reached Saddle Pass, she came upon a sign clearly marking the side trail that goes the rest of the way up Fairview Mountain.  The Saddleback Trail continued over the pass down into Sheol Valley, eventually reaching Paradise Valley far below.

Fairview Mountain from Saddle Pass. Lake Louise is on the other side of the mountain from here. Photo looks NW.
Fairview Mountain from Saddle Pass. Lake Louise is on the other side of the mountain from here. Photo looks NW.
This sign was along the Saddleback Trail as it headed for Sheol Valley a little beyond the side trail to Fairview Mountain. Sheol Valley and Paradise Valley are prime grizzly bear habitat.
This sign was along the Saddleback Trail as it headed for Sheol Valley a little beyond the side trail to Fairview Mountain. Sheol Valley and Paradise Valley are prime grizzly bear habitat.

Lupe and SPHP left the Saddleback trail to take the side trail up Fairview Mountain.  The side trail passed through a short section of forest, then began a steep rocky ascent above tree line.

Looking SE down on Saddle Mountain (L) from the trail up Fairview Mountain. Saddle Pass and the intersection of the Saddleback & Fairview Mountain trails are seen at the lower R.
Looking SE down on Saddle Mountain (L) from the trail up Fairview Mountain. Saddle Pass and the intersection of the Saddleback & Fairview Mountain trails are seen at the lower R.

There was a fair amount of loose rock on the steep, narrow trail, but Lupe had no problem climbing up.  She had plenty of opportunity to relax and enjoy the views while SPHP frequently paused for air.  Lupe followed the trail all the way to the summit of Fairview Mountain.  Magnificent views were in every direction, but Mount Victoria was the first splendor to attract the eye.

Lupe reaches the summit of Fairview Mountain! Mount Victoria is in view beyond her. Photo looks SW.
Lupe reaches the summit of Fairview Mountain! Mount Victoria is in view beyond her. Photo looks SW.
Lupe up at the NE end of the Fairview Mountain summit. Photo looks NE at peaks of the Canadian Rockies on the other side of the Bow River valley.
Lupe up at the NE end of the Fairview Mountain summit. Photo looks NE at peaks of the Canadian Rockies on the other side of the Bow River valley.

Despite the splendid mountain scenery all around, a different view caught and held Lupe’s attention.  A chipmunk was only a few paces away right here at the very top of Fairview Mountain!

While SPHP gazed at scenery, this chipmunk kept Lupe entertained up on Fairview Mountain! Mount Victoria in the background. Photo looks SW.
While SPHP gazed at scenery, this chipmunk kept Lupe entertained up on Fairview Mountain! Mount Victoria in the background. Photo looks SW.
Apparently this chipmunk appreciates a grand view, too, managing to earn a living up on Fairview Mountain panhandling from visitors. Haddo Peak (10,072 ft.) (L), Mount Aberdeen (10,358 ft.) (Center - look straight down to see the chipmunk), and Mount Lefroy (11,293 ft.) (R) are in view here. Photo looks SW.
Apparently this chipmunk appreciates a grand view, too, and manages to earn a living up on Fairview Mountain panhandling from visitors. Haddo Peak (10,072 ft.) (L), Mount Aberdeen (10,358 ft.) (Center – look straight down to see the chipmunk), and Mount Lefroy (11,293 ft.) (R) are in view here. Photo looks SW.
Lupe and the chipmunk stare each other down.
Lupe and the chipmunk stare each other down.

The nimble chipmunk was a world class, lightning fast, mountain scrambler.  Lupe stared helplessly at the enticing Dingo treat.  Meanwhile, the chipmunk pondered how to get past Lupe to plead for a handout.  During the impasse, SPHP admired the planet from this terrific vantage point, occasionally interrupting Lupe’s reverie to demand that she pose for the camera.

Mount Daly (10,328 ft.) (Center) with the Bath Glacier below it. Photo looks NW with help from the telephoto lens.
Mount Daly (10,328 ft.) (Center) with the Bath Glacier below it. Photo looks NW with help from the telephoto lens.
Mount Hector (11,135 ft.). Photo looks N using the telephoto lens.
Mount Hector (11,135 ft.). Photo looks N using the telephoto lens.
Looking down on Saddle Mountain (lower L). The Bow River valley is seen beyond it. Sheol Valley leading down into Paradise Valley is in view at the lower R. Photo looks SE.
Looking down on Saddle Mountain (lower L). The Bow River valley is seen beyond it. Sheol Valley leading down into Paradise Valley is in view at the lower R. Photo looks SE.
Haddo Peak (L), Mount Aberdeen (Center), Mount Lefroy (R of Center), and part of Mount Victoria (R). Photo looks SW.
Haddo Peak (L), Mount Aberdeen (Center), Mount Lefroy (R of Center), and part of Mount Victoria (R). Photo looks SW.
Mount Victoria. Photo looks SW.
Mount Victoria. Photo looks SW.
A closer look at Mount Victoria with a little help from the telephoto lens. Photo looks SW.
A closer look at Mount Victoria with a little help from the telephoto lens. Photo looks SW.
A closer look at Haddo Peak (L), Mount Aberdeen and the Aberdeen glacier (Center) and Mount Lefroy (R). Photo looks SW.
A closer look at Haddo Peak (L), Mount Aberdeen and the Aberdeen glacier (Center) and Mount Lefroy (R). Photo looks SW.
Mount Temple (11,614 ft.) is seen beyond Lupe on the L. Photo looks S from Fairview Mountain.
Mount Temple (11,614 ft.) is seen beyond Lupe on the L. Photo looks S from Fairview Mountain.
Mount Temple (Center) is seen beyond Sheol Mountain (R). Photo looks S.
Mount Temple (Center) is seen beyond Sheol Mountain (R). Photo looks S.
The N face of Mount Temple. Photo looks S using the telephoto lens.
The N face of Mount Temple. Photo looks S using the telephoto lens.
Mount Aberdeen and the Aberdeen glacier (L) and Mount Lefroy (R). Photo looks SW.
Mount Aberdeen and the Aberdeen glacier (L) and Mount Lefroy (R). Photo looks SW.

For 20 minutes, Lupe and SPHP were alone at the top of Fairview Mountain.  After that, a steady stream of climbers came and went.  Lupe and SPHP met Krystin, a civil engineer from Calgary, who had once scrambled up Mount Temple.  SPHP was mightily impressed, but Krystin said lots of people do it, although certain moves are required going up a band of cliffs.

Scrambling up Mount Temple didn’t sound like anything Lupe and SPHP could tackle.  Lupe settled for having her picture taken with Krystin.

Krystin & Lupe on Fairview Mountain with Mount Temple in the background on the L. Krystin, a civil engineer from Calgary, had once scrambled up Mount Temple. Photo looks S.
Krystin & Lupe on Fairview Mountain with Mount Temple in the background on the L. Krystin, a civil engineer from Calgary, had once scrambled up Mount Temple. Photo looks S.

People came and went.  SPHP chatted with Krystin and a few others.  The chipmunk stuffed its cheeks with peanuts, raisins and granola offered by the crowd, unmolested by Lupe.  Conditions were perfect for hanging around enjoying the stupendous views!

Looking down on part of Lake Louise. Photo looks NW.
Looking down on part of Lake Louise. Photo looks NW.
Mount Victoria again. The Plain of Six Glaciers trail on the NW side of the valley below leads up to the base of Mount Victoria and a view of the Death Trap. Lupe took the Plain of Six Glaciers trail on both her summer of 2013 and 2014 Dingo Vacations. It is another trail in the area very much worth exploring, and sports a tea house along the way. Photo looks SW.
Mount Victoria again. The Plain of Six Glaciers trail on the NW side of the valley below leads up to the base of Mount Victoria and a view of the Death Trap. Lupe took the Plain of Six Glaciers trail on both her summer of 2013 and 2014 Dingo Vacations. It is another trail in the area very much worth exploring, and sports a tea house along the way. Photo looks SW.
The summits of Mount Aberdeen (L) and Mount Lefroy (R) using the telephoto lens. Photo looks SW.
The summits of Mount Aberdeen (L) and Mount Lefroy (R) using the telephoto lens. Photo looks SW.
A final look at Mount Victoria from Fairview Mountain. Photo looks SW.
A final look at Mount Victoria from Fairview Mountain. Photo looks SW.

After more than 2 wonderful hours on Fairview Mountain, it was time for Lupe to get moving again.  SPHP intended to simply follow the spur trail up Fairview Mountain all the way back down to Saddle Pass.  Somehow though, before getting even 0.25 of the way down, SPHP realized Lupe was off the intended trail and on some kind of steep shortcut.

Lots of others had come this way, too, but the shortcut didn’t really save any time.  The very steep “trail” eventually evaporated in a jumble of boulders.  When Lupe and SPHP finally reached the Saddleback Trail again, Lupe had to take it back up to Saddle Pass.  Lupe wasn’t ready to return to Lake Louise quite yet!  She was going to climb Saddle Mountain, too.

SPHP looked for a side trail off the Saddleback Trail leading to Saddle Mountain, but found none, despite there being one on the maps.  Lupe and SPHP finally just headed into the forest toward the mountain.  As Lupe climbed Saddle Mountain’s W ridge, she did come to a faint, braided trail among the rocks.

Lupe climbing the W ridge of Saddle Mountain. Although she found a faint trail, most of the way up was simply an easy scramble among rocks and boulders. Photo looks E.
Lupe climbing the W ridge of Saddle Mountain. Although she found a faint trail, most of the way up was simply an easy scramble among rocks and boulders. Photo looks E.

The summit ridge on Saddle Mountain was hundreds of feet long NE/SW with high points toward each end.  Lupe arrived first up at the SW end where there was a big cairn.  Although Saddle Mountain isn’t nearly as high as Fairview Mountain, it did offer beautiful views farther up Paradise Valley.

Lupe arrives on top of Saddle Mountain near the cairn at the SW high point. For some undiscernible reason, the American Dingo had a sly look on her face. Beyond her are Mount Temple (L), a view farther up Paradise Valley, and part of Sheol Mountain (R). Photo looks SSW.
Lupe arrives on top of Saddle Mountain near the cairn at the SW high point. For some undiscernible reason, the American Dingo had a sly look on her face. Beyond her are Mount Temple (L), a view farther up Paradise Valley, and part of Sheol Mountain (R). Photo looks SSW.
The upper end of Sheol Valley (Center) with the top of Mount Victoria looming over the ridge. The junction of the Saddleback trail and Fairview Mountain trail in Saddle Pass is seen to the R of Lupe. Sheol Mountain is on the (L), with Haddo Peak (L of Center). Photo looks WSW from Saddle Mountain.
The upper end of Sheol Valley (Center) with the top of Mount Victoria looming over the ridge. The junction of the Saddleback trail and Fairview Mountain trail in Saddle Pass is seen to the R of Lupe. Sheol Mountain is on the (L), with Haddo Peak (L of Center). Photo looks WSW from Saddle Mountain.
Looking NNE along the summit ridge of Saddle Mountain. Mount Hector is seen in the distance on the (L).
Looking NNE along the summit ridge of Saddle Mountain. Mount Hector is seen in the distance on the (L).
Fairview Mountain as seen from Saddle Mountain. The Saddleback Trail is seen far below leading to Saddle Pass toward the L. The very steep "trail" Lupe took down Fairview Mountain is seen faintly leading straight down toward the switchbacks on the Saddleback Trail right above Lupe. Parts of the Fairview Mountain trail are seen even more faintly zig-zagging down toward the forest on the L. Photo looks NW.
Fairview Mountain as seen from Saddle Mountain. The Saddleback Trail is seen far below leading to Saddle Pass toward the L. The very steep “trail” Lupe took down Fairview Mountain is seen faintly leading straight down toward the switchbacks on the Saddleback Trail right above Lupe. Parts of the Fairview Mountain trail are seen even more faintly zig-zagging down toward the forest on the L. Photo looks NW.

Since the high point near the NE end of the summit ridge appeared to be slightly higher than the one near the cairn at the SW end, Lupe had to go over there to reach the true summit of Saddle Mountain.  By the time she got there, Lupe and SPHP were no longer entirely alone.  Another climber had appeared back at the cairn.

Lupe at the true summit of Saddle Mountain. Photo looks SW at Sheol Mountain (L) and Haddo Peak (R).
Lupe at the true summit of Saddle Mountain. Photo looks SW at Sheol Mountain (L) and Haddo Peak (R).
Haddo Peak (L) and Mount Victoria (R) from the true summit of Saddle Mountain. Photo looks WSW.
Haddo Peak (L) and Mount Victoria (R) from the true summit of Saddle Mountain. Photo looks WSW.
The little turquoise blue gem at the base of Mount Temple is Lake Annette. Lupe had taken the Paradise Valley trail to Lake Annette on 7-22-13 during her summer of 2013 Dingo Vacation. Photo looks S.
The little turquoise blue gem at the base of Mount Temple is Lake Annette. Lupe had taken the Paradise Valley trail to Lake Annette on 7-22-13 during her summer of 2013 Dingo Vacation. Photo looks S.
Mount Temple, Lake Annette and Paradise Valley from Saddle Mountain. Photo looks S.
Mount Temple, Lake Annette and Paradise Valley from Saddle Mountain. Photo looks S.
Mount Victoria from Saddle Mountain using the telephoto lens. Photo looks WSW.
Mount Victoria from Saddle Mountain using the telephoto lens. Photo looks WSW.
Summit of Mount Temple using the telephoto lens. Photo looks S.
Summit of Mount Temple using the telephoto lens. Photo looks S.

The other climber was gone by the time Lupe returned to the cairn at the SW high point.  Lupe and SPHP spent a fabulous 30 minutes in solitude on Saddle Mountain.  Then it was time to begin the return trip to Lake Louise.

Chateau Lake Louise from Saddle Mountain. Icefields Parkway Hwy 93 winds its way N past Mount Hector in the distance. Photo looks N.
Chateau Lake Louise from Saddle Mountain. Icefields Parkway Hwy 93 winds its way N past Mount Hector in the distance. Photo looks N.

It was almost dinner time for the American Dingo by the time she was back at the G6 (5:27 PM, 78°F).  Instead of eating right away, though, Lupe and SPHP left Lake Louise heading N on Hwy 1 to Icefields Parkway Hwy 93.

Lupe arrived at the picnic ground on the E shore of lovely Bow Lake in time to have her evening meal there.  By then the sky had clouded up.  Although the mountaintops were no longer in view, the gloomy sky soon caused everyone else to depart.  Lupe and SPHP had Bow Lake to themselves.

Tomorrow, Lupe would continue N to more adventures in the Canadian Rockies, hoping for a break in the clouds.  In the meantime, though, Lupe dined and relaxed listening to gentle waves breaking on the shore of Bow Lake.

Lupe at Bow Lake.
Lupe at Bow Lake.

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Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 175 – Citadel Rock, Beartown Hill, Iron Creek Lake & The Needles (9-28-16)

SPHP parked the G6 at the intersection of USFS Roads No. 134 and No. 626.1F (9:08 AM, 64°F).  Lupe leaped out.  She seemed surprised.  Yeah, Loop, it has been a while, but summer is over.  It’s time to resume your Black Hills expeditions again!  Lupe was all in favor of that.  Soon she was running through the forest sniffing madly, while SPHP struck out along No. 626.1F.

The road went NW a short distance before turning SSW.  Near the turn was a big mud puddle off the W side of the road.  The leaves of the aspen trees beyond the puddle were turning yellow, contrasting nicely with the green pines, murky brown water of the puddle, and clear blue skies.  Come on over here, Loopster!  Fall colors are going to be near their peak today.  Let’s get a picture.

Lupe at the first big mud puddle she reached along USFS Road No. 626.1F. Lupe would see plenty of golden aspens this day, since fall colors were near their height in the Black Hills.
Lupe at the first big mud puddle she reached along USFS Road No. 626.1F. Lupe would see plenty of golden aspens this day, since fall colors were near their height in the Black Hills.

Lupe passed more mud puddles as she continued SSW along USFS Road No. 626.1F.  The puddles were of little interest for her, except as occasional sources of mineral water.  Lupe was far more interested in trees, specifically the exciting possibility that they might contain squirrels!  Lupe dashed through the forest, frequently stopping to check out the most promising prospects.

Lupe engages in one of her favorite pastimes, checking trees for squirrels.
Lupe engages in one of her favorite pastimes, checking trees for squirrels.

In addition to her squirrel objectives, Lupe also had several peakbagging objectives for the day.  The first one was Citadel Rock (5,480 ft.), located over 2.5 miles SW of the G6.  Lupe’s route, though, was going to be circuitous and considerably longer.

Lupe followed USFS Road No. 626.1F for a couple of miles to an intersection with No. 626.1 at a point a mile E of Citadel Rock.  Instead of immediately turning W, Lupe and SPHP followed No. 626.1 going NW to No. 626.1A.  No. 626.1A subsequently went W, and then SW, to No. 626.1C.

No. 626.1C wasn’t really even a road any more.  It was overgrown with weeds, and blocked at many points by mounds of dirt and rock that had scooped up out of the roadbed for that very purpose.  Lupe and SPHP finally got a glimpse of Citadel Rock high above while heading S up a valley on No. 626.1C.  The road passed to the W of Citadel Rock before curling E and climbing to the top of a ridge.

From the ridge it was possible to get the first halfway decent look at Citadel Rock, which was now 0.25 mile N.

Citadel Rock juts up above the trees. Photo looks NNW.
Citadel Rock juts up above the trees. Photo looks NNW.

A single track trail led NNW through the forest following the ridgeline toward Citadel Rock.  Lupe soon reached the base of the rock formation.

Lupe reaches the base of Citadel Rock. Photo looks NW.
Lupe reaches the base of Citadel Rock. Photo looks NW.

Citadel Rock was only about 40 feet higher than the rest of the ridge, but the walls of the rock formation were nearly vertical.  Although experienced rock climbers would have no problem reaching the top, Lupe could only get part way up the S face.

Lupe and SPHP went counterclockwise around the base of Citadel Rock looking for an easier way up.

Looking up at Citadel Rock from the ESE.
Looking up at Citadel Rock from the ESE.
Lupe below the N face of Citadel Rock.
Lupe below the N face of Citadel Rock.
The N face of Citadel Rock was even higher and more vertical than the S face.
The N face of Citadel Rock was even higher and more vertical than the S face.

There was no route up from the E.  As Lupe proceeded around the shady N face, it began to dawn on SPHP that maybe there wasn’t a way up for the American Dingo.  The N face was even more vertical than the S face had been.

By the time Lupe was around to the SW face, things were looking better.  However, after some initial investigation, SPHP didn’t think Lupe could get up from here either.

The W face.
The W face.
The SW face. At first SPHP thought Lupe might be able to climb up the steep slope seen on the R and find a route to the top, but further investigation proved discouraging.
The SW face. At first SPHP thought Lupe might be able to climb up the steep slope seen on the R and find a route to the top, but further investigation proved discouraging.

Lupe went clear around Citadel Rock, but found no safe way up for a Carolina Dog.

To SPHP, it seemed just ridiculous.  Lupe had found a way up many a towering, impressive peak on her Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation.  In fact, she had ultimately succeeded in reaching the top of every peak she attempted.  Now, here, back in the Black Hills of South Dakota, there was no way up to the top of the very first little peak she tried!

Back at the S face of Citadel Rock, Lupe and SPHP made one last attempt to find a way up.  She could get higher here than anywhere else, but there simply wasn’t a reasonably safe route to the top.

Lupe stands as high up on Citadel Rock as she was going to get. Photo looks WNW.
Lupe stands as high up on Citadel Rock as she was going to get. Photo looks WNW.

Lupe below the summit of Citadel Rock, 9-28-16Well, Loopster, looks like you are either going to have to sprout wings or leave this one to the rock climbers.  Although SPHP was a bit disappointed, Lupe took it all in stride.  She took a break, enjoying Taste of the Wild, water, and half of SPHP’s chocolate coconut granola bar.

Lupe was more interested in what was going on in the forest than in reaching the top of Citadel Rock.
Lupe was more interested in what was going on in the forest than in reaching the top of Citadel Rock.
Lupe relaxes after circumnavigating Citadel Rock. She didn't get to the top, but was in fine spirits nevertheless.
Lupe relaxes after circumnavigating Citadel Rock. She didn’t get to the top, but was in fine spirits nevertheless.

Lupe had a couple more peakbagging goals for the day after Citadel Rock, but they were far enough away so she needed to return to the G6 to get closer to them.  Lupe and SPHP gave up on Citadel Rock, and followed the trail along the ridge back to the S.  Instead of returning to the G6 the way she had come, Lupe continued S up onto a larger ridge before turning E.

A single track trail wound along the bigger ridge past scenic aspens before continuing on down to USFS Road No. 626.1F.  Lupe reached the road well S of its junction with No. 626.1 where she had left it earlier.

Colorful aspens decorated the big ridge S of Citadel Rock. Photo looks SE.
Colorful aspens decorated the big ridge S of Citadel Rock. Photo looks SE.

Fall colors in the Black Hills, 9-28-16Fall colors SE of Citadel Rock, 9-28-16Fall colors SE of Citadel Rock, 9-28-16

Lupe on her way down to USFS Road No. 626.1F again. Terry Peak (7,064 ft.) is seen in the distance on the R. Photo looks SE.
Lupe on her way down to USFS Road No. 626.1F again. Terry Peak (7,064 ft.) is seen in the distance on the R. Photo looks SE.

Lupe followed USFS Road No. 626.1F all the way back to the G6 (1:48 PM, 72°F).  Despite failure at Citadel Rock, Lupe still had two more peakbagging goals – Beartown Hill and The Needles.  After a short drive, she would start first for Beartown Hill from the intersection of USFS Roads No. 222 and No. 222.1N (2:16 PM, 72°F).

Getting to the top of Beartown Hill (5,880 ft.) took hardly any time at all.  Lupe gained only a little elevation from where she started.  She followed USFS Road No. 222.1N less than 0.25 mile NE to reach two high points a little E of the road that appeared to be candidates for the true summit of Beartown Hill.  The high points were separated by perhaps 400 to 500 feet.  Lupe visited both.

Lupe on the first high point that was a candidate for the true summit of Beartown Hill. Photo looks NE.
Lupe on the first high point that was a candidate for the true summit of Beartown Hill. Photo looks NE.
Lupe at the second candidate for the true summit of Beartown Hill. The summit area was so large and flat that it hardly seemed like Lupe was on a mountain at all. Photo looks N.
Lupe at the second candidate for the true summit of Beartown Hill. The summit area was so large and flat that it hardly seemed like Lupe was on a mountain at all. Photo looks N.

Well, that was easy.  Too easy, actually!  The summit area on Beartown Hill was so flat and wide it hardly seemed like Lupe was even on a mountain.  At least going to Citadel Rock had involved some elevation gain, even though Lupe hadn’t been able to reach the top.  Now, here she was at the top of Beartown Hill with virtually no effort.  So far, Lupe had enjoyed nice outings in the woods, but as a peakbagging day, the results were not inspiring.

Only one peakbagging goal remained – The Needles (5,880 ft.).  In the Black Hills of South Dakota, the area normally referred to by locals and tourists alike as “The Needles” is in the southern Black Hills in NW Custer State Park.  That area includes the Cathedral Spires (6,840 ft.) as well as other granite spires commonly viewed from along The Needles Highway (Hwy 87).  The Needles in Custer State Park are a rather famous tourist attraction.

However, The Needles that Lupe intended to climb this day, was in the far NW part of the Black Hills of South Dakota.  In fact, SPHP had never even heard of this The Needles before noticing it labeled on an old USFS map.  Was it another grouping of granite spires?  Was it just another mountain?  SPHP had no idea, but Lupe was going to find out.  This The Needles was located about 2 miles NNE of Beartown Hill.

From the second high point on Beartown Hill, Lupe and SPHP returned to USFS Road No. 222.1N.  Quite encouragingly, the road continued NNE in the general direction of The Needles.  As Lupe followed the road, SPHP was hoping it might continue all the way to The Needles.  No such luck.  The road soon reached a dead end.

Lupe left the road, temporarily turning NNW to stay up on a ridge, which hopefully would eventually lead to The Needles.  At first, the terrain along the ridge seemed encouraging, but after 0.25 mile or so, Lupe came to a dense part of the forest.  Ahead to the N, the ridge seemed to end, dropping steadily down a forested slope as far as SPHP could see.  Other ridges and valleys were partially in view to the NW and NE.

SPHP consulted the maps.  To get to The Needles, Lupe needed to stay up on the ridge, although she would have to drop temporarily down into a couple of saddles along the way.  Although the topo map made the ridge look like an easy thing to follow, in the real world, the terrain seemed confusing and more complicated.  Already, SPHP wasn’t quite sure Lupe was even on the right ridge.

Staring down the densely forested slope, SPHP lost confidence.  There weren’t many landmarks around.  It looked like it would be easy to get turned around and lost in this territory.  If it had been earlier in the day, that wouldn’t have been too big a deal, but it was already close to mid-afternoon.  Lupe waited expectantly, wondering what the hold up was, while SPHP pondered.

SPHP wasn’t at all confident that Lupe would even be able to climb The Needles, assuming she could find them.  She certainly couldn’t climb any of the vertical granite spires called The Needles in Custer State Park.  Maybe it didn’t make any sense to continue.  On the other hand, if Lupe didn’t climb The Needles, Expedition No. 175 was going to be pretty much a complete peakbagging dud, however much Lupe enjoyed her romp in the woods.

Sigh.  We better turn back Loopster, I don’t like the looks of this, not this late in the day.  How would you like to go see Iron Creek Lake instead?  Lupe barked enthusiastically.  She was fine with Iron Creek Lake or wherever, as long as SPHP started moving again.  Lupe wanted action, not all this indecisive dawdling around!  Lupe and SPHP turned around and headed back to the G6 (3:20 PM, 72°F).

A short drive brought Lupe to Iron Creek Lake, a small lake hidden at the end of a gravel road (3:36 PM, 70°F).  There were cabins on private property around the W end of the lake.  Along the N shore was a store (closed for the season), a boat launch, small beach and a dock.  The lake looked great to Lupe!  She was thirsty.  Lupe immediately ran down to Iron Creek Lake for a big thirst-quenching drink.

Lupe dashed down to Iron Creek Lake for a drink. Photo looks SW.
Lupe dashed down to Iron Creek Lake for a drink. Photo looks SW.
Iron Creek Lake. Photo looks SW.
Iron Creek Lake. Photo looks SW.

Although Iron Creek Lake looked like it might be quite a busy place in the summer, it was pretty quiet this time of year.  A few people were fishing along the shore, and one was fishing from a small boat trolling slowly around the lake.  Other than that, no one seemed to be around.

The little lake was quite beautiful, sparkling in the sunlight.  A path led around the E end of the lake.  Lupe and SPHP took a pleasant stroll not only around the E end, but clear around the lake.  The people Lupe passed by were having some luck catching rainbow trout.  Lupe saw a few ducks fly off, and even saw a family of ducklings paddle away.

Lupe on the N shore of Iron Creek Lake. Photo looks E.
Lupe on the N shore of Iron Creek Lake. Photo looks E.
Lupe along the E end of the N shore. Cattails grew in profusion around much of the lake. Photo looks WSW.
Lupe along the E end of the N shore. Cattails grew in profusion around much of the lake. Photo looks WSW.
Lupe stands on the dam at the E end of Iron Creek Lake. There are no natural lakes in the Black Hills. Photo looks WNW.
Lupe stands on the dam at the E end of Iron Creek Lake. There are no natural lakes in the Black Hills. Photo looks WNW.
Looking WNW from the SE corner of Iron Creek Lake.
Looking WNW from the SE corner of Iron Creek Lake.
Looking W.
Looking W.
Ducklings on Iron Creek Lake.
Ducklings on Iron Creek Lake.

Although Lupe and SPHP were in no hurry, it took less than 40 minutes to stroll all the way around Iron Creek Lake (4:14 PM, 70°F).  By then, SPHP had a new idea.  Maybe Lupe could still climb The Needles?  Although The Needles was 2 miles N of Beartown Hill, there was another possible approach from a much closer starting point.  USFS Road No. 130 passed only a little over 0.5 mile to the E of it.

Earlier, SPHP had rejected the notion of climbing The Needles from the E.  The topo map showed Lupe would have to leave the road, drop down into Beaver Creek canyon and find a way across the creek, before even attempting to ascend The Needles.  SPHP had thought that the E side of the canyon might be a cliff from the close spacing of the contour lines on the topo map, or that Beaver Creek might be difficult to cross.

What if these obstacles really weren’t that bad?  It was now pretty late in the day, but why not at least take a look?  Lupe and SPHP left Iron Creek Lake (4:14 PM, 69°F) determined to at least drive far enough along USFS Road No. 130 to see if there was any realistic possibility of climbing The Needles from the E.

Initially, the drive N along USFS Road No. 130 was not encouraging.  Although the road was on high ground E of Beaver Creek canyon, the forest hid any views to the W.  SPHP parked the G6 briefly at a junction with USFS Road No. 222.1D, intending to follow it W at least far enough get a view of the canyon.  Lupe, however, refused to budge from the G6.

SPHP reviewed the maps again.  Maybe the Carolina Dog was right.  Another mile N, and USFS Road No. 130 would be at its closest point directly E of The Needles.  SPHP got back in the G6.  OK, we’ll try it your way, Loop!  Lupe grinned, but said nothing as SPHP started driving slowly N again.

After going more than 0.75 mile, two hills close together could be glimpsed off to the W.  The view didn’t improve much as SPHP continued driving N.  At 1.25 miles, SPHP parked the G6 along USFS Road No. 130 at a point already a little N of the two hills.  Lupe again refused to leave the G6, preferring to wait until SPHP returned with a quick scouting report.

Loopster, come on out!  This must be it.  That highest hill toward the W has to be The Needles.  Let’s see if we can get there.  Lupe wasn’t sure this was a good idea, but with a little coaxing, she hopped out of the G6.  It was already 4:50 PM (69°F).  Rough terrain and lack of daylight might prove an insurmountable combination of obstacles.  Lupe and SPHP struck off to the W through the forest, regardless.

Almost immediately, the ground started falling off more and more steeply.  Lupe descended rapidly into the Beaver Creek canyon.  SPHP hoped she wouldn’t cliff out, and she didn’t.  After losing nearly 200 feet of elevation, a creek bed of light gray rocks appeared below.  It was totally dry.  Lupe and SPHP were soon down there, following the creek bed N.

The creek bed was rough terrain full of stones.  The canyon made a sharp turn to the W, after Lupe had followed it only a few hundred feet N.  If anything, the creek bed was even rockier after turning W.  Lupe and SPHP abandoned the creek bed and scrambled up the opposite bank.  Lupe headed SW through forested territory full of brambles, gaining elevation as she went.

For a while, SPHP wasn’t certain if Lupe had crossed Beaver Creek, or if she had only made it over a dried up tributary in a side canyon.  As Lupe continued gaining elevation steadily, though, it slowly became apparent that she actually was across Beaver Creek.  That was encouraging!

Lupe soon got more good news.  She got out of the worst of the brambles, and reached the top of a low forested ridge.  The two hills to the W were in view again, closer than before.  The S hill was lower than the N one, but they weren’t too far apart.  The ridge Lupe was on rose toward the SW.  A check of the topo map showed that Lupe should probably follow this ridge toward the lower hill.

The ridge went SW farther than SPHP expected.  Finally, Lupe found a saddle leading W toward the two hills.  Lupe crossed the saddle and started climbing.  Near the top, the climb up the S hill was tougher than expected.  A combination of large boulders and deadfall timber made the going very slow.

By the time Lupe reached the top of the S hill, it was decision time.  The N hill wasn’t far away, but the sun was low in the sky.  Clearly, going on to climb the N hill meant Lupe wouldn’t be able to get back to the G6 before dark.

Nope!  No way Lupe was turning back!  As long as Lupe could get halfway back before dark, SPHP was confident the terrain was distinctive enough so that Lupe wouldn’t get lost.  Lupe and SPHP hurried down into a shallow saddle leading to the N hill.  Soon Lupe was gaining elevation again.  The climb was moderately steep, but without all the big boulders and deadfall that had slowed her down on the S hill.

It looked like Lupe didn’t have far to go to reach the top of the N hill.  What would she find there?  Would she be able to reach the summit?  Was this hill really The Needles?

The sun was sinking, as Lupe reached a collection of medium-sized stones at the top of a very small summit area.  And sure enough, there it was!  A survey benchmark saying “Needles” was affixed to a rock next to the highest rocks on the mountain.  Lupe had her first notable peakbagging success of the day!

The Needles survey benchmark. Finding this benchmark up at the top of the N hill confirmed that Lupe had really found and climbed The Needles, despite failure earlier in the day. Suddenly Lupe's peakbagging efforts on Expedition No. 175 finally seemed successful and worthwhile.
The Needles survey benchmark. Finding this benchmark up at the top of the N hill confirmed that Lupe had really found and climbed The Needles, despite failure earlier in the day. Suddenly Lupe’s peakbagging efforts on Expedition No. 175 finally seemed successful and worthwhile.
Lupe up on top of The Needles! Photo looks N.
Lupe up on top of The Needles (5,880 ft.)! Photo looks N.
Looking SW from The Needles summit. The small granite spires on the R likely gave the mountain its name, although they are tiny compared to the famous Needles in Custer State Park.
Looking SW from The Needles summit. The small granite spires on the R likely gave the mountain its name, although they are tiny compared to the famous Needles in Custer State Park.

Lupe and SPHP stayed up on The Needles as long as the sun remained above the horizon.  The mountain wasn’t particularly high or prominent.  The views were nice, but not particularly impressive.  Yet it was still fun to be here, up on a seldom visited remote outpost of the northern Black Hills – a remote outpost that had almost eluded Lupe on this beautiful early autumn day.

Ladybugs were having a major convention up on The Needles when Lupe came along.
Ladybugs were having a major convention up on The Needles when Lupe came along.
Lupe at the summit. The survey benchmark is in view below and to the R of her. Photo looks SSW.
Lupe at the summit. The survey benchmark is in view below and to the R of her. Photo looks SSW.
Lupe in the fading light on The Needles. Photo looks NNW.
Lupe in the fading light on The Needles. Photo looks NNW.
Looking NE up at the summit.
Looking NE up at the summit.
Lupe just below the highest rock. She looks concerned, because she heard a single gunshot a moment earlier. Photo looks NE.
Lupe just below the highest rock. She looks concerned, because she heard a single gunshot a moment earlier. Photo looks NE.

Before leaving The Needles, Lupe went down near the granite spires that likely gave the mountain its name.  When the sun disappeared from view, it was time to go.  Lupe and SPHP hurried through the darkening forest, bypassing the S hill to the E.

Lupe near the granite spires. Photo looks WSW.
Lupe near the granite spires. Photo looks WSW.

Granite spires of The Needles, 9-28-16

Sunset from The Needles.
Sunset from The Needles.

Stars were shining by the time Lupe made it back to the low ridge W of Beaver Creek.  It was so dark out, SPHP had to bring out the flashlight.  The batteries were dead!  They had been dying for a long, long time.  SPHP had been carrying spare batteries around for more than 2 years.  Would they work?  They did!

By the light of the little flashlight, Lupe and SPHP scrambled down a steep bank to the dry creek bed of Beaver Creek.  Lupe was somewhere S of where she had crossed it on the way to The Needles.  Climbing up the E side of the canyon, cliffs came into view above.  Fortunately, there was a narrow passage between them.  Lupe made it above the cliffs.  The steep slope began leveling out.

Lupe and SPHP plunged E through the inky forest for a long way after the ground was almost level.  Sooner or later Lupe had to come to USFS Road No. 130, no matter where she had crossed Beaver Creek.  SPHP looked to the Big Dipper in the night sky to stay oriented.  Suddenly the road appeared only a few feet away.

In darkness and silence, Lupe and SPHP enjoyed a surprisingly long march N beneath the faint glow of the Milky Way.  When Lupe  finally reached the G6 (8:32 PM, 57°F), her Black Hills Expedition No. 175 adventures were over.Sunset at The Needles, 9-28-16Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s Black Hills Expeditions Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

Mount Bourgeau, Banff National Park, Canada (8-1-16)

Day 3 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation.

The trailhead for Mount Bourgeau (9,616 ft.) was empty when Lupe arrived (7:09 AM, 41°F).  That didn’t last long.  Another vehicle pulled in within 2 minutes, and 5 or 6 more pulled in within 10 minutes.  Lupe was anxious to get started.  SPHP agreed.  SPHP helped Lupe up the metal grate stairway, opened the gate, and let Lupe down in the forest on the other side.

Mount Bourgeau as seen from Trans-Canada Hwy No. 1 a few miles W of Banff. The trail to the top comes up from Harvey Pass on the opposite side. Photo looks WSW.
Mount Bourgeau as seen from Trans-Canada Hwy No. 1 a few miles W of Banff. The trail to the top comes up from Harvey Pass on the opposite side. Photo looks WSW.

There wouldn’t be much to see except forest for quite a long way.  The trail wouldn’t get out in the open until Lupe was close to Bourgeau Lake, more than 2,000 feet higher than the trailhead.  On the way, Lupe would get occasional glimpses of nearby mountains, pass by a creek and a waterfall, but that would be about it.

Lupe in the forest on the first part of the trail to Bourgeau Lake, Harvey Pass, and ultimately the summit of Mt. Bourgeau.
Lupe in the forest on the first part of the trail to Bourgeau Lake, Harvey Pass, and ultimately the summit of Mt. Bourgeau.

Lupe and SPHP hurried along the trail to stay ahead of the crowd that would soon be coming.  The trail gained elevation at a relentless, but moderate pace.  SPHP grew concerned about the weather.  The sky was clouding up.  Fortunately, after a while it gradually cleared again enough to alleviate any real worries.

If successful, this would be Lupe’s 2nd trip up Mount Bourgeau.  She had climbed it more than two years ago on 7-22-14 during her 2014 Dingo Vacation.  That time SPHP had forgotten the camera, a mistake not realized until Lupe was already far from the G6, too far to go back for it.

If that hadn’t happened, Lupe would probably have been exploring a new trail to a different mountain today.  However, the views from Mount Bourgeau had been too grand not to have some photos of Lupe up there.  So now, 2 years later, Lupe was back!  And this time, SPHP made 100% certain to bring the camera.

Lupe pressed on.  Despite the unchanging appearance of the forest, she was making progress.  First, traffic noise from Trans-Canada Hwy No. 1 faded away.  Then she could hear a rushing creek far below to the N.  She eventually crossed a nice wooden bridge over another creek.

When Lupe reached the big waterfall cascading down a headwall, SPHP knew the trail was about to get steeper.  The good news was that Lupe didn’t have much farther to go to reach Bourgeau Lake.

Lupe approaches the waterfall cascading down the headwall. After crossing the creek below the falls, the trail would become steeper.
Lupe approaches the waterfall cascading down the headwall. After crossing the creek below the falls, the trail would become steeper.
Lupe at the base of the falls on the stream that comes down from Bourgeau Lake.
Lupe at the base of the falls on the stream that comes down from Bourgeau Lake.

There was no bridge across the creek below the falls.  However, rocks were grouped up in wire cages, forming platforms that stood well above the water level.  Crossing the creek was no problem at all.  Once past the falls, the trail steepened.  Long switchbacks kept the rate of climb from becoming too difficult.  Lupe had plenty of time to sniff around off trail during SPHP’s air and water breaks.

Lupe had already covered the vast majority of the distance from the trailhead to Bourgeau Lake.  As soon as she was up over the headwall, the trail would level out, the views would open up, and Lupe would see the cliffs of the NW face of Mount Bourgeau, below which Borgeau Lake is hidden in a small section of forest.

Above the headwall, the trail leveled out and the views opened up. This photo looks WSW toward a 2nd headwall the trail passes over beyond Bourgeau Lake on its way to Harvey Pass.
Above the headwall, the trail leveled out and the views opened up. This photo looks WSW toward a 2nd headwall the trail passes over beyond Bourgeau Lake on its way to Harvey Pass.
Looking WNW from the trail above the first headwall.
Looking WNW from the trail above the first headwall.
Lupe on the trail. She is getting close to reaching Bourgeau Lake, still hidden by the forest ahead. Photo looks SW.
Lupe on the trail. She is getting close to reaching Bourgeau Lake, still hidden by the forest ahead. Photo looks SW.

Lupe and SPHP reached the level trail above the headwall.  The forest gave way to more open territory where the views were every bit as wonderful as SPHP remembered.  From now on, Lupe would see increasingly spectacular country all the rest of the way up to the summit of Mount Bourgeau.

It wasn’t much farther to Bourgeau Lake, tucked away in a corner at the base of towering cliffs to the S and W.  A small forested area kept the lake hidden from view until Lupe was almost upon it.  The main trail doesn’t go quite all the way to the lake.  Upon re-entering the forest, Lupe and SPHP took a minor side trail leading to the NE shore of Bourgeau Lake.

Lupe reaches Bourgeau Lake, her first major objective. Photo looks W.
Lupe reaches Bourgeau Lake, her first major objective. Photo looks W.
On her way up Mount Bourgeau, Lupe would eventually go around the back side of the cliffs on the R, before climbing along the top of the ridge on the L high above Bourgeau Lake.
On her way up Mount Bourgeau, Lupe would eventually go around the back side of the cliffs on the R, before climbing along the top of the ridge on the L high above Bourgeau Lake.
Lupe at the outlet stream from Bourgeau Lake. Photo looks NE.
Lupe at the outlet stream from Bourgeau Lake. Photo looks NE.

At Bourgeau Lake, Lupe had already gone well over half the distance along the trail to the top of Mount Bourgeau, but more than half of the elevation gain required was still ahead.  Lupe stayed at Bourgeau Lake only a short while.  Lupe and SPHP returned to the main trail to continue the trek.

The trail wound SW through the forest a little to the NW of Bourgeau Lake, which was no longer in view.  Before long, the trail turned NW and started climbing again.  Lupe left the forest behind as she gained elevation.  The trail now climbed steeply traversing a long slope of loose rock toward the top of a 2nd headwall.  Well to the left of the trail, a creek tumbled noisily down a series of small waterfalls.

By the time Lupe reached the top of the 2nd headwall, the trail had turned W.  A small lake could be seen ahead.  Beyond the lake, the trail continued up yet another smaller rise.

Lupe reaches the top of the 2nd headwall. A small lake lies ahead. The trail can be seen passing to the R of the lake. Lupe was essentially above tree line at this point. Only a few stunted trees and bushes remained in this area. Photo looks W.
Lupe reaches the top of the 2nd headwall. A small lake lies ahead. The trail can be seen passing to the R of the lake. Lupe was essentially above tree line at this point. Only a few stunted trees and bushes remained in this area. Photo looks W.

Lupe followed the trail past the N shore of the small lake, and then up the next rise beyond it.  Although there were a few stunted trees and bushes around, Lupe was effectively at or above tree line.

Looking back E from the NW shore of the very pretty small lake above the 2nd headwall.
Looking back E from the NW shore of the very pretty small lake above the 2nd headwall.
Lupe reaches the top of the rise beyond the small lake above the 2nd headwall. Photo looks E.
Lupe reaches the top of the rise beyond the small lake above the 2nd headwall. Photo looks E.

From the top of the rise beyond the small lake, Lupe could see a big grassy area containing a pond fed by small streams.  High rock walls sheltered this area on the N, W and SW.  However, the trail did not continue W toward the pond.  Instead, it turned S, gradually steepening as it went up a long slope.  Lupe’s 2nd major objective, Harvey Pass, was at the top of the slope.

Looking S toward Harvey Pass.
Looking S toward Harvey Pass.
Lupe reaches the N end of Harvey Pass. Photo looks N back down toward the stream-fed pond.
Lupe reaches the N end of Harvey Pass. Photo looks N back down toward the stream-fed pond.

Lupe and SPHP followed the trail on up to Harvey Pass.  Another pond was nestled in a low spot up at the pass.

Lupe at Harvey Pass. Photo looks S across the pond.
Lupe at Harvey Pass. Photo looks S across the pond.

Reaching Harvey Pass was an important milestone.  From the S end of the pass, Lupe got her first expansive view of the territory SW of Mount Bourgeau.  Lupe could even see Mount Assiniboine (11,864 ft.), sometimes called the Matterhorn of the Canadian Rockies, although the top of the peak was lost in the clouds.

Mt. Assiniboini, with its summit in the clouds, is seen on the L from Harvey Pass. Photo looks S using the telephoto lens.
Mt. Assiniboini, with its summit in the clouds, is seen on the L from Harvey Pass. Photo looks S using the telephoto lens.

Near the S end of Harvey Pass, the trail to Mount Bourgeau splits off and angles SE up a grassy slope.  As the trail reaches the top of the near ridge, it turns more to the E.  From here, much of Lupe’s route on the final leg up to the summit could be seen ahead.

Much of the last leg of the route from Harvey Pass up Mount Bourgeau is seen ahead. Photo looks ESE.
Much of the last leg of the route from Harvey Pass up Mount Bourgeau is seen ahead. Photo looks ESE.

As Lupe and SPHP climbed along the trail from Harvey Pass the rest of the way up Mount Bourgeau, the views got better and better.  The trail was often steep, but easy to follow.  The general route was always clear, even though parts of the trail were braided.  Caution was occasionally required.  The trail sometimes passed very close to the edge of the cliffs to the N.

Lupe at one of SPHP's first rest stops on the way up Mount Bourgeau from Harvey Pass. Photo looks SW.
Lupe at one of SPHP’s first rest stops on the way up Mount Bourgeau from Harvey Pass. Photo looks SW.
Looking NE from the trail above Harvey Pass. The valley where the closest trees are seen is the same valley Bourgeau Lake is in. The lake can't be seen from here, because is it tucked in beneath the cliffs on the near side of the valley.
Looking NE from the trail above Harvey Pass. The valley where the closest trees are seen is the same valley Bourgeau Lake is in. The lake can’t be seen from here, because is it tucked in beneath the cliffs on the near side of the valley.
Making progress! Lupe on the trail with Mount Bourgeau up ahead. Photo looks E.
Making progress! Lupe on the trail with Mount Bourgeau up ahead. Photo looks E.
Looking down on Harvey Pass (where the light blue pond is) from Mt. Bourgeau. SPHP believes the high point on the horizon L of Center may be Mount Ball (10,807 ft.). Photo looks WNW.
Looking down on Harvey Pass (where the light blue pond is) from Mt. Bourgeau. SPHP believes the high point on the horizon L of Center may be Mount Ball (10,807 ft.). Photo looks WNW.
Getting closer! Photo looks ENE.
Getting closer! Photo looks ENE.
Oh, looks like Lupe is going to make it! She's looking good and the summit of Mount Bourgeau is dead ahead. Photo looks E.
Oh, looks like Lupe is going to make it! She’s looking good and the summit of Mount Bourgeau is dead ahead. Photo looks E.
Looking ENE at the Canadian Rockies.
Looking ENE at the Canadian Rockies.
Lupe takes a break. She didn't really need one, but she sometimes takes them anyway when SPHP does. Photo looks W.
Lupe takes a break. She didn’t really need one, but she sometimes takes them anyway when SPHP does. Photo looks W.

Lupe reached the summit of Mount Bourgeau.  A few people who had passed her on the way up, while she was checking out Bourgeau Lake or waiting for SPHP along the trail, were already at the top of the mountain.  More people kept arriving every 5 minutes or so.  Soon there was quite a crowd near the summit cairn.  Fortunately, the overall summit area is quite large.  There was plenty of room for everyone.

Several hardy people arrived at the top of Mount Bourgeau wearing shorts.  They generally regretted their choice of attire.  The temperature was in the low 40’s °F with an often brisk SW breeze.

Lupe easily reached the summit of Mount Bourgeau. There were only a few people on top when she first arrived, but more started arriving every 5 minutes or so until there was a small crowd. Photo looks S.
Lupe easily reached the summit of Mount Bourgeau. There were only a few people on top when she first arrived, but more started arriving every 5 minutes or so until there was a small crowd. Photo looks S.

The views from Mount Bourgeau were spectacular.  Scenes of the Canadian Rockies like those from airline magazines were in every direction.  While everyone else was milling around near the summit cairn, Lupe and SPHP wandered around looking at the splendid views.

Looking NNW toward Mount Brett (9,790 ft.) (L) and Pilot Mountain (9,580 ft.) (L of Center).
Looking NNW toward Mount Brett (9,790 ft.) (L) and Pilot Mountain (9,580 ft.) (L of Center).
Looking WNW. Just above Lupe's head, part of the small lake she passed by above the 2nd headwall can be seen far below.
Looking WNW. Just above Lupe’s head, part of the small lake she passed by above the 2nd headwall can be seen far below.
Looking SSE. Mt. Assiniboine is in the distance, still in the clouds, just R of Center. Part of the Sunshine Village area is seen in the forested area along the R side of this photo.
Looking SSE. Mt. Assiniboine is in the distance, still in the clouds, just R of Center. Part of the Sunshine Village area is seen in the forested area along the R side of this photo.

When the area near the summit cairn was briefly vacated by the crowd, Lupe went over to it for her official summit of Mount Bourgeau photo.

Lupe at the cairn in her official summit of Mount Bourgeau photo. Photo looks NE.
Lupe at the cairn in her official summit of Mount Bourgeau photo. Photo looks NE.

There were so many wonderful views from Mount Bourgeau, it was easy to just keep clicking away taking pictures.

Looking WNW using the telephoto lens.
Looking WNW using the telephoto lens.
Looking WSW in the general direction of the Egypt Lakes area.
Looking WSW in the general direction of the Egypt Lakes area.
Looking ENE at Banff and the Bow River Valley.
Looking ENE at Banff and the Bow River Valley.

Lupe and SPHP took a long break up on Mount Bourgeau.  Lupe was ready for Taste of the Wild and water.  SPHP had pudding and fruit cups.  During the break, SPHP kept hoping for a clear view of Mount Assiniboine, but the summit remained shrouded by clouds.

The top of Mt. Assiniboine (L of Center) remained stuck in the clouds. Photo looks S.
The top of Mt. Assiniboine (L of Center) remained stuck in the clouds. Photo looks S.

Lupe checked out the white shed at the top of Mount Bourgeau.  When Lupe had been here before on 7-22-14, there had been a couple of marmots living under this shed.  The marmots had done a great job keeping Lupe entertained.  Sadly, there was no sign of any marmots this time.

When Lupe was on Mount Bourgeau in July, 2014, she had been kept entertained by a couple of marmots living under this shed. Sadly, there was no trace of the marmots now. Photo looks S.
When Lupe was on Mount Bourgeau in July, 2014, she had been kept entertained by a couple of marmots living under this shed. Sadly, there was no trace of the marmots now. Photo looks S.

Lupe may have been disappointed that the marmots were gone, but she didn’t have time to get bored.  Plenty of people were paying attention to Lupe.  She was suddenly quite popular.  She got petted and loved and talked to by lots of kind strangers.  Lupe basked in the attention.

A couple of Chinese guys were among the first to pay attention to Lupe. The one who could speak English said he lived in Beijing!
A couple of Chinese guys were among the first to pay attention to Lupe. The one who could speak English said he lived in Beijing!
The summit remained a busy place much of the time Lupe was on Mount Bourgeau.
The summit remained a busy place much of the time Lupe was on Mount Bourgeau.
A friendly girl wanted to pose with Lupe. She was part of a group from Europe who were here on a guided tour. Lupe was busy making friends from all over the world!
A friendly girl wanted to pose with Lupe. She was part of a group from Europe who were here on a guided tour. Lupe was busy making friends from all over the world!

Not all of the friends Lupe made on Mount Bourgeau were human.  After Lupe had been at the summit for an hour or so, along came a dog named Marshall.  Lupe and Marshall had a good time wrestling.  When they got tired of that, they posed for a “canines only” photo at the summit cairn.

Lupe and Marshall go at it. They had a good time wrestling. Marshall was only 2 years old, but was bigger than Lupe. Of course, the rambunctious Carolina Dog had no problem holding her own against Marshall, though it was a spirited encounter.
Lupe and Marshall go at it. They had a good time wrestling. Marshall was only 2 years old, but was bigger than Lupe. Of course, the rambunctious Carolina Dog had no problem holding her own against Marshall, though it was a spirited encounter.
Lupe and Marshall at the Mount Bourgeau summit cairn.
Lupe and Marshall at the Mount Bourgeau summit cairn.

Lupe and SPHP remained on Mount Bourgeau for over 1.5 hours.  During that time, many people came and went.  Gradually the crowd began to thin out, although there were still occasional new arrivals.  Eventually, it was time to think about heading back down.  Lupe and SPHP took one last tour around the summit area.

Looking WNW. Parts of the trail Lupe would be taking back down are visible far below. One section leads down to the small lake, the other is on the scree slope below the lake near the lower R corner.
Looking WNW. Parts of the trail Lupe would be taking back down are visible far below. One section leads down to the small lake, the other is on the scree slope below the lake near the lower R corner.
Looking W using the telephoto lens.
Looking W using the telephoto lens.
Looking SSE.
Looking SSE.
Looking NE back up toward the top.
Looking NE back up toward the top.
Looking N.
Looking N.

Finally, it was time for Lupe to say good-bye to Mount Bourgeau.  She would return by the same route she came up.  The scenery was just as fabulous the 2nd time around!  Lupe and SPHP enjoyed it immensely.

Lupe on the trail shortly after leaving the summit. Photo looks WNW.
Lupe on the trail shortly after leaving the summit. Photo looks WNW.
Lupe frolicking on a big snowbank.
Lupe frolicking on a big snowbank.

On the way down to Harvey Pass, Lupe met two amazing young girls still hiking up with their parents.  They were less than 30 minutes away from the top of the mountain, a climb of over 4,900 feet of elevation gain from the trailhead.  Jasmine was just 8 years old.  Her sister, Angelica, was only 6.  They were both still climbing under their own power!  Angelica was quite taken with Lupe.

When Lupe reached Harvey Pass again, the weather was beautiful.  It was much warmer than up on top of Mount Bourgeau, and with hardly any wind.  Best of all, there was finally a clear view of Mount Assiniboini, too!  Lupe and SPHP dawdled for half an hour at Harvey Pass, enjoying the day and the glorious surroundings.

Lupe reaches Harvey Pass again on her way back to the G6. Lupe and SPHP hung out here enjoying the day for half an hour before continuing on. Photo looks NNW.
Lupe reaches Harvey Pass again on her way back to the G6. Lupe and SPHP hung out here enjoying the day for half an hour before continuing on. Photo looks NNW.
Mount Assiniboini was finally out of the clouds! Photo looks S from Harvey Pass using the telephoto lens.
Mount Assiniboini was finally out of the clouds! Photo looks S from Harvey Pass using the telephoto lens.
Looking NW from Harvey Pass down on the stream-fed pond.
Looking NW from Harvey Pass down on the stream-fed pond.
Lupe at the N end of Harvey Pass with Mount Assiniboini in the distance. Photo looks S.
Lupe at the N end of Harvey Pass with Mount Assiniboini in the distance. Photo looks S.
A final look at Mt. Assiniboini from Harvey Pass.
A final look at Mt. Assiniboini from Harvey Pass.

Lupe finally said good-bye to Harvey Pass, too.  The scenery continued to be wonderful all the way back down past Bourgeau Lake.  After that, Lupe entered the forest again, as the trail switchbacked down the first headwall.  The rest of the way back was a long, pleasant stroll downhill to the trailhead and the G6 (6:54 PM, 65°F).

A day in the Canadian Rockies at Mount Bourgeau is hard to beat, but Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation was just getting going!

Looking back at the trail up to Harvey Pass. Photo looks SSE.
Looking back at the trail up to Harvey Pass. Photo looks SSE.
Looking downstream toward the small lake above the 2nd headwall. Photo looks E.
Looking downstream toward the small lake above the 2nd headwall. Photo looks E.
Looking down on Bourgeau Lake while coming down the 2nd headwall. The NW face of Mount Bourgeau towers above the lake. Photo looks ESE.
Looking down on Bourgeau Lake while coming down the 2nd headwall. The NW face of Mount Bourgeau towers above the lake. Photo looks ESE.

Note:  The Mount Bourgeau trailhead is located on the SW (Eastbound) side of Trans-Canada Hwy No. 1.  It is perhaps a 10 minute drive W of the town of Banff.  For westbound traffic there is a sign for Mount Bourgeau (or Bourgeau Lake?) along Hwy 1 a little past the exit to Sunshine Meadows.  The left turn to the TH is 2 km past the sign.  (Watch for eastbound traffic after crossing the forested median.)  There is no sign at the actual turning point.  The TH is very close to Hwy 1, but hidden in the forest.

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s 2016 Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska Adventure Index,  Dingo Vacations Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to New Lupe Adventures.

Porphyry Peak (7-30-16) & King’s Hill (7-31-16), Montana

Days 1 & 2 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation

Lupe was happy, oh so happy!  Loopster, it’s going to be a while yet, I need to finish loading everything in the G6.  You will be in the car all day.  Why don’t you come out, and run around a bit before we go?

Nothing doing!  Lupe knew good things were about to happen.  She had already jumped up into the G6 onto her comfy spot where she would be riding shotgun.  She wasn’t about to get out of the car and risk being left behind.  This Carolina Dog wasn’t taking any chances on missing out on her Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation, which SPHP kept telling her would be the best ever!

I'm staying right here, SPHP! Hurry and finish loading up. I can't wait for my Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to begin! You've told me this is going to be the best one ever. Where are we going? Squirrel Mountain, I hope!
I’m staying right here, SPHP! Hurry and finish loading up. I can’t wait for my Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to begin! You’ve told me this is going to be the best one ever. Where are we going? Squirrel Mountain, I hope!

At 10:06 AM, SPHP backed the G6 out of the driveway.  Lupe was on her way!

It was a very long way to where Lupe was going.  Most of today and tomorrow would be spent traveling.  Lupe didn’t mind.  She loves riding, looking out the window, and sniffing the air.  Mostly she watches for animals to bark at.  She was going to see plenty of them in the next two days.  Cows, horses, and occasionally sheep, deer or pronghorn antelope.

Lupe’s very satisfying barking frenzy began long before her Black Hills of South Dakota disappeared in the rear view mirror.  It continued for hours across the high rolling plains and pine-covered ridges of SE Montana.  W of Lame Deer, Montana the temperature hit 100°F.  By then, Lupe was barking in air-conditioned comfort.

The miles rolled by.  It was an easy, relaxing drive on lightly traveled highways.  SPHP grinned at Lupe.  You know, Loop, things might never get any better than they are right now.  We are free as birds, and have your whole Dingo Vacation ahead of us!

Well, actually they could be a little better, SPHP!

What do you mean?

Did you bring any water?  My barker is dry!

Oh, sorry!  So, you’re one parched puppy, aye?  Small wonder.  Hang on a sec.  Here you go.  Lupe slurped up an entire bowl of water and requested a refill, which she also drained in short order.  Better?

Much!  Thank you!  Lupe returned to vigilance.  More cows could appear at any moment.  If not, haystacks, barns or suspicious-looking outbuildings would do, too.  The G6 was a noisy place.

At 6:30 PM, SPHP parked the G6 at King’s Hill Pass on Hwy 89 in the Little Belt Mountains of central Montana.  That’s enough driving for today, Loop.  We’ll stay here tonight.  Remember this place?  You were here a couple of years ago.  How about climbing Porphyry Peak (8,192 ft.) again to stretch our legs?

By now, Lupe was very ready to get out of the G6, eager to go exploring for a while.  A dirt road left King’s Hill Pass heading W for Porphyry Peak.  It wound around a bit, but went all the way to the summit.  By the time Lupe reached the ranger tower on top of the mountain, she had gone at least 1.5 miles along the road, and gained nearly 800 feet of elevation.

No one else seemed to be around.

Lupe near the base of the ranger tower on Porphyry Peak.
Lupe near the base of the ranger tower on Porphyry Peak.
Photo looks ESE.
Photo looks ESE.

Without climbing the ranger tower, the best views from Porphyry Peak are from the E end of the large, flat summit area over by the Showdown ski resort facilities.  Lupe and SPHP headed over there for a look.

Big Baldy Mountain (9,177 ft.) (L) and Yogo Peak (8,801 ft.) (R) from Porphyry Peak. Photo looks NE.
Big Baldy Mountain (9,177 ft.) (L) and Yogo Peak (8,801 ft.) (R) from Porphyry Peak. Photo looks NE.
SPHP believes this is Big Baldy Mountain, the highest peak of the Little Belt Mountain Range in Montana. Photo looks NE using the telephoto lens.
SPHP believes this is Big Baldy Mountain, the highest peak of the Little Belt Mountain Range in Montana. Photo looks NE using the telephoto lens.
Lupe was a little nervous up on the Showdown ski resort chairlift on Porphyry Peak. She wasn't ready to take up skiing yet, which was just as well, since there wasn't any snow at the end of July.
Lupe was a little nervous up on the Showdown ski resort chairlift on Porphyry Peak. She wasn’t ready to take up skiing yet, which was just as well, since there wasn’t any snow at the end of July.

After taking a look at the views from the Showdown ski area, Lupe and SPHP wandered back over toward the ranger tower again.  The hatch door to the observation deck at the top was closed, but Lupe could still go partway up to check out the views.  SPHP started up the stairs.  Lupe came along behind, but she wasn’t so sure this was a good idea.

Upon returning to the ranger tower, SPHP noticed this Porphyry Peak benchmark nearby. Photo looks, uh, down.
Upon returning to the ranger tower, SPHP noticed this Porphyry Peak benchmark nearby. Photo looks, uh, down.
Although Lupe is used to climbing mountains, the ranger tower seemed somewhat scary. She was rather reluctant going up the stairs due to the unprotected openings between them.
Although Lupe is used to climbing mountains, the ranger tower seemed somewhat scary. She was rather reluctant going up the stairs due to the unprotected openings between them.

Even from only partway up the ranger tower, it was possible to see mountains to the W that weren’t visible from ground level due to the forest.  SPHP thought it might be nice to get a sunset photo from up here, but the sun wasn’t going to set for a while yet.

It had turned out that Lupe and SPHP weren’t alone on Porphyry Peak.  Over by the Showdown ski area there had been a parked vehicle.  Someone had been busy rearranging gear in it.  Lupe and SPHP had time to go over there to see who it was, which is how Lupe met Cooper from Sacramento, CA.

Lupe with Cooper from Sacramento, CA at the Showdown ski resort. Cooper had recently graduated from high school and was off on long adventures of his own now.
Lupe with Cooper from Sacramento, CA at the Showdown ski resort. Cooper had recently graduated from high school and was off on long adventures of his own now.

Cooper had graduated from high school 2 months ago, and since then had been off exploring the American West on his own.  He had a beautiful camera and hopes of becoming a “digital nomad”, turning photography into a profession.

Cooper had another month of exploring ahead of him before flying to Hawaii to work on a farm for room and board for 3 months.  After that, he intended to find work on a ship.  Basically, he was taking a year off for various adventures before starting college.  Lupe and SPHP were both impressed.

By the time Lupe and SPHP had heard Cooper’s story, the sun was getting near the horizon.  Cooper also wanted to get some photos from the ranger tower.  Lupe, Cooper and SPHP all went over to the ranger tower together.  This time, Lupe felt braver.  She climbed a long way up the tower steps.

Lupe felt braver and climbed much higher up the steps of the Porphyry Peak ranger tower the 2nd time around.
Lupe felt braver and climbed much higher up the steps of the Porphyry Peak ranger tower the 2nd time around.
Sunset from the Porphyry Peak ranger tower, 7-30-16.
Sunset from the Porphyry Peak ranger tower, 7-30-16.

After the sun sank below the horizon, Lupe and SPHP bid Cooper good-bye and good luck.  Lupe took a shortcut down one of the ski runs to get to the road back to King’s Hill Pass.  By the time she reached the G6, the light was fading.  Day 1 of her 2016 Dingo Vacation was over.  It had been a good, promising start.  Lupe had Alpo for dinner, then settled down on her soft perch for the night.

Early the next morning, Lupe was totally energized and ready for many more long hours of enthusiastic barking.  The sun wasn’t even up yet (5:33 AM).  Let’s climb King’s Hill before we leave, Loop.  You look ready for a romp!  Burning off a little of that American Dingo energy now wouldn’t hurt a thing.

No argument there!  A trek up King’s Hill (8,008 ft.) sounded like an even better way to start the day to Lupe than barking at cows.  She burst out of the G6 as soon as the door was open, and dashed into the woods.  On the prowl and sniffing excitedly, she wound around racing between the trees.

SPHP followed Lupe into the forest, and quickly came upon USFS Road No. 487, which headed S angling up the W slope of King’s Hill.  The road curved around to the E as it reached the open ground near the top of the hill.  At a 3-way intersection, Lupe and SPHP turned N on USFS Road No. 251 (Dry Wolf Road).

SPHP didn’t stay on the road much farther.  Lupe was running around up on the open ground leading to the summit.  A cool W wind was making things a bit chilly up here, but the sun would be up in minutes.  Lupe reached the summit of King’s Hill, marked by a survey benchmark near the N end, about the time the sun peeped up over the horizon.

Sunrise from King's Hill, 7-31-16.
Sunrise from King’s Hill, 7-31-16.
Lupe reached the summit of King's Hill just as the sun peeped up above the horizon. A chilly W breeze was blowing.
Lupe reached the summit of King’s Hill just as the sun peeped up above the horizon. A chilly W breeze was blowing.
The survey benchmark at the summit.
The survey benchmark at the summit.
Porphyry Peak from King's Hill. The Showdown ski runs are in view. Photo looks W.
Porphyry Peak from King’s Hill. The Showdown ski runs are in view. Photo looks W.

It was going to be a beautiful day in the Little Belt Mountains, but Lupe couldn’t linger up on King’s Hill for very long.  She had many miles to go.  A power line goes NW back down to Hwy 89 from near the summit.  Lupe and SPHP took this steeper shortcut to return to the G6 (7:09 AM).

Lupe had many miles to go, so she couldn't stay up on King's Hill very long. She took this shortcut under the power line back down to King's Hill Pass and the G6. Photo looks NW.
Lupe had many miles to go, so she couldn’t stay up on King’s Hill very long. She took this shortcut under the power line back down to King’s Hill Pass and the G6. Photo looks NW.

As Lupe resumed her journey, there wasn’t too much for her to bark at for a little while.  The Little Belt Mountains were mostly forested, so there weren’t many cows or horses.

Hwy 89 lost elevation steadily for miles N of King’s Hill Pass.  When the highway was about out of the mountains, SPHP stopped at the Al Buck Memorial Park.  Time to let Lupe run off a little more steam!  Lupe was quick to take advantage of the opportunity.

Lupe visited Isaac Walton Spring where a tiny waterfall poured right out of the hill beside the park.  She waded in the cool water and had a nice drink.  She found a chipmunk to bark at in one of the trees in the park.  She went across Hwy 89, and took a look at scenic Belt Creek.

Lupe cools her paws off near the tiny waterfall created by Isaac Walton Spring at Al Buck Memorial Park along Hwy 89.
Lupe cools her paws off near the tiny waterfall created by Isaac Walton Spring at Al Buck Memorial Park along Hwy 89.
Belt Creek, MT. Photo looks SSW.
Belt Creek, MT. Photo looks SSW.

Lupe enjoyed a few more short breaks out of the G6 during the day, but once out of the mountains, Day 2 was mostly another Carolina Dog barkfest.  Shortly before noon, Lupe crossed the border into Canada.  Yesterday’s 100°F heat in Montana was long gone.  The high in Canada was only in the low 60’s °F.  The rest of Lupe’s summer was going to be cool and comfortable!

NW of Lethbridge, there were big clouds and scattered rainstorms, even a short stretch of small hail.  It had been nearly 2 years since Lupe was last in Canada, and it was good to be back.  Off to the W, the Canadian Rockies were beckoning Lupe to come and play!

By early evening, Lupe was entering the gorgeous Canadian Rockies.  She got to stop and take the Many Springs Trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park.  The Many Springs Trail was super easy, with little elevation change as it went around a big pond in a wetlands area that looked like prime wildlife habitat.

Lupe on a footbridge along the Many Springs Trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park, Alberta. The trail featured wetlands and views of Yamnuska (7,349 ft.).
Lupe on a footbridge along the Many Springs Trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park, Alberta. The trail featured wetlands and views of Yamnuska (7,349 ft.).

Maybe there was dangerous wildlife out there!?  About 2/3 of the way around the pond, a boardwalk served as the trail where it went right along the edge of the pond.  Something spooked Lupe just as she reached the boardwalk.  She absolutely refused to go on the boardwalk to complete the loop.  The American Dingo insisted on going back the way she had come rather than set one paw on that frightening 6″ high boardwalk.

Oh, well.  That was fine.  Lupe and SPHP returned to the G6.  Exploring a couple of winding roads revealed a lovely picnic area along the Bow River.  Lupe wasn’t too hungry yet, but she sniffed around part of the time while SPHP dined.

The first long leg of Lupe’s journey was complete.  Lupe’s two day Barkfest was over.  Tomorrow Lupe would be climbing and playing in the spectacular Canadian Rockies.

Lupe along the Bow River in Bow Valley Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada.
Lupe along the Bow River in Bow Valley Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada.

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s 2016 Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska Adventure Index,  Dingo Vacations Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to New Lupe Adventures.