Day 10 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska
The sky was overcast, but it wasn’t raining. What time was it? Good grief! Almost 9:30 AM already! SPHP came to. Lupe was looking way perkier than SPHP. Her successful climb up King’s Throne yesterday only seemed to have enlivened her. SPHP on the other hand … well, it didn’t matter, today needed to be a rest day, anyway.
Lupe and SPHP got water and pitched garbage at the campground. SPHP straightened up the G6. There were a few squirrels around, so Lupe was happy. When all was back in order again, Lupe and SPHP drove down to see Kathleen Lake. A crew was taking down big tents that had been set up for some youth group over the weekend. The tents had been flapping noisily in the wind much of the night.
King’s Throne Peak(6,529 ft.) was across the bay. SPHP had been hoping for a clear, bright shot of Lupe at shining blue Kathleen Lake with mighty King’s Throne illuminated by morning sun in the background, but it wasn’t going to happen. The top of the mountain was scraping clouds. There wasn’t a ray of sunshine anywhere. Kathleen Lake looked green, instead of the brilliant blue it had appeared only yesterday.
There wasn’t a real plan for the day. Lupe and SPHP drove to Haines Junction. SPHP managed to get a shower at a motel. Much better! The skies were clearing. Maybe it was time to head N and see what Lupe’s options were? On the way N, Lupe went by Mount Decoeli(7,650 ft.).
SPHP had hopes that Lupe would be able to climb Decoeli, but not today. It was too much for today, right after King’s Throne. Maybe it wasn’t a bad idea to check out the trailhead, though? SPHP found the trailhead on a hill more than 10 miles N of Haines Junction. The trailhead was really just a big paved pullout on the W side of the Alaska Highway. There was no sign, no information, nothing except free parking.
It seemed like a good idea to stop by the Tachal Dhal visitor center for information. SPHP knew the visitor center was located near the S end of Kluane Lake, a huge lake E of the Saint Elias range. Lupe and SPHP continued N on the Alaska Highway. Soon the lake could be seen ahead, flanked by mountains to the W.
Kluane Lake was huge and gorgeous! Before even going to the visitor center, Lupe and SPHP stopped at a large pullout along the shore at the S end of the lake.
Kluane Lake made a huge impression. To the N, the cold, blue waters stretched to the horizon like a Yukon sea. E of the lake, desolate unknown peaks marched N toward the Arctic until they vanished from view. NW across the lake was scenic Sheep Mountain(6,400 ft.), a peak SPHP hoped Lupe might be able to climb. To the W was the wide, flat Slims River valley. Strange clouds of dust blew from the valley toward Kluane Lake.
Blowing dust was unexpected and puzzling. Was the Alaska Highway gravel over there? SPHP figured the dust must be coming from traffic on the Alaska Highway or road construction. Later, it became evident the dust was being blown up by winds sweeping over dried out mud flats along the Slims River.
After Lupe had a chance to wade in Kluane Lake and have a refreshing drink of Yukon water, Lupe and SPHP went on to the Tachal Dahl visitor center. The visitor center was located in a small building in the Slims River Valley W of both Kluane Lake and the Alaska Highway. SPHP went in to inquire about trails in the area.
There was bad news for Lupe about the trail to Sheep Mountain. It was temporarily closed due to recent grizzly bear activity. SPHP chatted with a ranger about a much longer trail up the Slims River Valley to the Kaskawulsh Glacier. The best glacier viewpoint was from Observation Mountain(6,824 ft.), but getting there would involve a 3 day/2 night backpacking trip and major stream fords.
As a nice day hike, the ranger suggested the Bullion Plateau trail. The Bullion Plateau sounded interesting, but it was already afternoon and the trail was too long to consider today. How about something short and easy? Right away, the ranger suggested Shepherd’s Knoll, a hill not too far away up the Slims River valley. A very short trail goes to the top of Shepherd’s Knoll where there are views both up the valley and back toward Kluane Lake. It sounded perfect!
A little N on the Alaska Highway from the turn to the Tachal Dhal visitor center, another gravel road leaves the highway. This road goes 2.6 km up the Slims River valley to the Tachal Dahl trailhead. Lupe left for Shepherd’s Knoll from here. Lupe and SPHP started out on the main trail, which ultimately goes to the Kaskawulsh Glacier. The trail began as an old roadbed going through a forest.
It didn’t take Lupe long, maybe 15 minutes, to reach an intersection with the Sheep Creek trail. A few hundred feet farther along, on the valley side of the main trail, Lupe found the side trail to Shepherd’s Knoll.
The Shepherd’s Knoll trail wasn’t long at all. It climbed partway up a small hill and vanished. Lupe continued on higher up the hill, checking out the views from different vantage points along her way.
For as little effort as it took for Lupe to get here, the views from Shepherd’s Knoll were impressive.
Even though getting to Shepherd’s Knoll hadn’t taken Lupe very far up the Slims River valley, it was certainly a worthwhile easy trek. Lupe would have liked to do much more exploring in the Slims River area, but this was a rest day, and it was starting to get late. Lupe and SPHP returned to the Tachal Dahl trailhead.
No one had been at the trailhead before, but now there were nearly a dozen people here. They had just returned from an overnight backpacking trip to the Kaskawulsh Glacier. A campground near the glacier was about as far as most of them had made it. Only one person had succeeded in reaching the top of Observation Mountain. The trip was more strenuous than they’d anticipated.
Lupe and SPHP went back to Kluane Lake, but this time a bit farther N along the W side of the lake. A forested hill projected partway into the lake from mud flats deposited by the Slims River. Silt is gradually filling in this end of the lake.
Evening was coming. The views from the pullout along the S shore of Kluane Lake earlier in the day had been so beautiful that Lupe and SPHP returned to enjoy the evening there.
Lupe spent a few happy hours exploring the shore of Kluane Lake, while SPHP watched the ancient dust blow, and the waves roll in.
Well, Loopster, it’s all been kind of leading up to this lately. Don’t know if you are going to meet with any success today or not, but we’re at least going to try it.
Lupe wasn’t worried. She wasn’t paying any attention to SPHP at all. The eastern sky was just beginning to get light, but she could see cows, lots of big, beautiful, black cows, in the pastures along I90. The cow-crazed American Dingo was busy barking for all she was worth. A little later on, NW of Sundance along Hwys 14 & 24, there were herds of deer to entertain her, too.
Wyoming Hwy 24 goes right past America’s very first national monument. Lupe’s first stop of the day was a quick one to see Devil’s Tower(5,112 ft.). Not a soul was around early on a Sunday morning in November. The sun’s first rays struck the tower while Lupe was there to see it.
Lupe and SPHP didn’t go into the national monument. Devil’s Tower is one peak Lupe is never going to bag unless she sprouts Dingo Wings. However, with a little luck, she was going to get to see the top of it today! After a good look at Devil’s Tower, Lupe and SPHP continued N on Hwy 24.
On 3 consecutive Black Hills Expeditions to the Bear Lodge Mountains, Lupe had seen distant views of both Devil’s Tower and the Missouri Buttes from a variety of vantage points. They are the most famous and dramatic landmarks in the entire NE Wyoming region. Although climbing Devil’s Tower was completely out of the question for the Carolina Dog, she was here now to try her luck climbing the Missouri Buttes(5,374 ft.).
SPHP had good reasons to believe Lupe might not make it. There are actually 4 separate buttes in the Missouri Buttes cluster. All are located within an area covering no more than 2 square miles about 4 miles NW of Devil’s Tower. The problem was, all of the Missouri Buttes are on private land. Lupe’s first hurdle was to find and secure permission from the landowner to enter the owner’s private property.
Even if permission could be secured to access the private property, there was another big problem. The only information SPHP found online about climbing Missouri Buttes was a trip report by PanamaRed on SummitPost.org indicating there was Class 3 & 4 scrambling with some exposure near the top of the highest NW Missouri Butte. Lupe and SPHP are up for some light Class 3, but anything approaching Class 4 just wasn’t going to happen.
Three miles N of Devil’s Tower junction, Lupe and SPHP left Highway 24 on Barlow Canyon Road. The gravel road crossed the Belle Fourche River, went a mile N, and then turned W.
SPHP wasn’t certain where to go, but wound up at the Lake Guest Ranch headquarters located near the NW end of Missouri Buttes Lake. Even though it was early on a Sunday morning, SPHP received a friendly reception from a couple of ranch hands. The ranch owner was available to talk to!
SPHP was invited in to talk to the owner. The Lake Guest Ranch HQ was a pretty cool place inside. SPHP was hopeful. When SPHP explained to the owner why Lupe was here – to seek permission to climb the Missouri Buttes, the response was polite, but firm. The answer was no. The owner’s insurance wouldn’t allow it, it was hunting season and dangerous, etc.
The negative response was devastating! Well, not devastating – there are plenty of mountains in the world Lupe can climb – but it was disappointing. That was that, though, nothing could be done about it. Lupe wasn’t going to get to climb the Missouri Buttes. Until …
Until the Lake Guest Ranch owner said that he didn’t even own the land the 2 highest Missouri Buttes are on. Didn’t own the land?! Who did? It was part of the Nuckoll ranch. His neighbor J.W. Nuckoll owns the land came the response. SPHP was given a phone number for the Nuckoll ranch.
Back in the G6, SPHP tried the phone number. A recording, but no response. Hmmm. Didn’t we pass a sign or something for the Nuckoll ranch on the way here, Loop? I think we did.
Not sure, SPHP. Unless it was branded on the side of a cow, I wouldn’t have noticed!
Lupe and SPHP drove off from the Lake Guest Ranch looking for the Nuckoll ranch. Along Barlow Canyon Road, there it was. A mailbox said Nuckoll, and an old building nearby said something about Nuckoll sheep and wool. This was it! A driveway led more than a mile S into a side canyon before ending at two houses. A sign on the first one said J.W. & Thea Nuckoll.
J.W. was an old-timer. He was on oxygen, but was friendly when SPHP met him. SPHP explained why Lupe was here. J.W. said he had climbed the Missouri Buttes himself. He had even climbed Devil’s Tower! That was good, that was very good. Surely he would understand?
He did! Mr. Nuckoll agreed to let Lupe and SPHP climb the Missouri Buttes. He had even more good news. When SPHP asked how difficult a climb it was, Mr. Nuckoll told SPHP about a trail to the top of the highest NW Missouri Butte. That sounded great! SPHP then asked about the NE Missouri Butte, too. Mr. Nuckoll said it was even possible to ride a horse to the top of the NE butte. Lupe would have no problem! SPHP thanked Mr. Nuckoll, and went off to tell Lupe the good news.
In just a few minutes, Lupe was on her way (8:51 AM, 53°F)! The first part of the hike started farther along the driveway, beyond the two houses. For a short distance, Lupe was on a road continuing up the little canyon. There were lots of cows around. Lupe and SPHP climbed a forested slope heading SSW to avoid them. Up above, Lupe arrived at the edge of a huge gently sloping field. The highest NW Missouri Butte(5,374 ft.) was already in view!
The somewhat lower NEMissouri Butte(5,212 ft.) is closer to Devil’s Tower, and wasn’t any farther away than the highest NW Butte. Lupe and SPHP decided to go for the NE Missouri Butte first. Even though the SE end of the butte looked the most rugged, Lupe went over to take a look at it, and see if Devil’s Tower was in view.
The SE end of the NE Missouri Butte was quite steep and rocky, but it didn’t look impossible to climb up from here. However, Lupe had already seen that the NW end of the butte was definitely easier. Lupe and SPHP went back around to the NW end, where Lupe made her ascent.
Slippery pine needles on a moderately steep slope were about all Lupe had to contend with going up. Before long, Lupe was at the true summit of the NE Missouri Butte, which proved to be near the SE end of the ridge. An old wooden cross was sticking up from a summit cairn near some of the highest rocks. The panoramic views toward the E were spectacular!
Of course, Devil’s Tower was the most striking landmark in view. Much farther away, Warren Peaks(6,650 ft.) and Inyan Kara(6,360 ft.) could be seen, too, although they didn’t show up all that well in the morning haze. Long pine-covered ridges with yellow cliffs, and the Belle Fourche River valley were off to the NE. To the W, Lupe could see her next peakbagging goal, the NW butte, which is highest of all the Missouri Buttes.
Lupe and SPHP took a break up on NE Missouri Butte. The views were really awesome. It was so wonderful that Mr. Nuckoll had granted Lupe permission to come and see this unique scene. Lupe could see the top of Devil’s Tower from here!
After 45 minutes spent enjoying the summit of the NE Missouri Butte, it was time for Lupe to go see if she could find the trail Mr. Nuckoll spoke of leading to the top of the highest NW Missouri Butte. Lupe went down the W slope of the NE Missouri Butte, and crossed the saddle over to the NW butte.
A big gash was visible on the NE side of the NW Missouri Butte, but it looked mighty steep and straight. Mr. Nuckoll had spoken of the trail up the butte making a sharp turn. SPHP didn’t think Lupe should try going up that NE gash. It didn’t look like there was any way a trail could make a sharp turn from there.
The post by PanamaRed on SummitPost.org didn’t say what route he had taken to the top, but SPHP had the impression from photos PanamaRed posted that he had climbed up from the NW. If that led to Class 3 & 4 scrambling, Lupe wouldn’t succeed in going up that way either.
Lupe started up the NW Missouri Butte from a boulder field at the base of the N face.
Lupe climbed up beyond the boulders into a zone of trees and bushes. It was steep going, but still doable. The worst part was the incredible number of low thorny bushes. They didn’t seem to bother Lupe, but SPHP had to watch carefully before grabbing on to anything.
When Lupe reached the base of the cliff, she worked her way to the W, still climbing steeply all the way among trees and thorny bushes. Her route led toward a couple of large rock protrusions sticking out to the N. About the time she got close to the first big rock formation, Lupe reached some steep grassy ground above most of the trees and thorny bushes.
It looked like there was a route continuing W (R) up a channel between rock formations. How high up this route went was difficult to see, although it looked like it might be possible to make a sharp turn to the E (L) near the top. Maybe that was the way to go? While pondering, SPHP suddenly realized Lupe was already on a very faint trail. The barely discernable trail went steeply up a ramp toward the E (L) from here.
Maybe it was best to check out the ramp first? The ramp went up to a high point where sunlight could be seen. May as well see what was on the other side of that high point, before attempting to negotiate the rocky channel.
The ramp was a relatively easy climb. In just a few minutes, Lupe and SPHP were at the top.
Devil’s Tower and the NE Missouri Butte, where Lupe had just been, were both in view from the top of the ramp. Peering S around the corner to the NE side of the butte, SPHP was surprised and pleased to see that the ramp continued. It leveled out quite a bit as it traversed the NE face of the butte.
The ramp’s continuation was an easy walk, but didn’t go very far. It soon ended at place where a few rocky steps up brought Lupe onto the moderately sloping NE part of the summit area. The good news was that Lupe was almost to the top! A short walk through a forest of junipers would take her to the summit of the highest NW Missouri Butte. Her peakbagging success was assured!
The bad news was that Lupe’s nemesis was here, too, in great profusion! The first thing SPHP saw upon gaining the summit area was cactus. Lots of big cacti clusters were scattered around. Lupe would have to be carried the rest of the way to the true summit.
So, Lupe wound up being toted the last 150 feet to the true summit of the highest NW Missouri Butte. She took her summit break there, under strict orders not to move around. She wanted to be where SPHP was anyway, so it all worked out fine.
PanamaRed had posted a photo of the Missouri Buttes USGS survey benchmark, but at first SPHP didn’t see it. A brief search revealed it partially hidden by a bush along the very NW edge of the summit, a little way W of the highest rocks.
The best views from the NW Missouri Butte in the vicinity of the true summit were the panoramic views to the W and N. Junipers blocked the views in other directions. Even though the air was rather hazy, it was still possible to see the outline of the Bighorn Mountains to the W. Off to the NW and N, there was nothing higher than NW Missouri Butte anywhere in sight.
After 25 or 30 minutes relaxing near the true summit, it was time to explore the SW part of the summit area, which was hidden by juniper trees. SPHP had to carry Lupe for fear of the cacti, but she didn’t mind getting a free ride. From the SW end of the summit area, it was possible to see the Lake Guest Ranch HQ and Missouri Butte Lake.
Lupe also had a clear view of the 2 lower S Missouri Buttes.
Lupe and SPHP returned to the summit for a final look around. Lupe then got carried back down to the NE end of the summit area near the start of the ramp. Before taking the ramp down, Lupe checked out the views from this end of NW Missouri Butte.
Lupe took the ramp all the way back down to its beginning on the steep grassy slope near the large rock protrusions where SPHP first noticed the very faint trail. Now that it was clear there actually was a trail, it was possible to see it continuing on down the mountain.
The trail went down to a much larger boulder field than the one Lupe had crossed coming up. This area was well to the W of the area of trees and thorny bushes below the cliff Lupe had been in earlier. Lupe went all the way down the boulder field, passed through a couple of stands of trees, and reached the pasture below the N face of NW Missouri Butte.
From near a stock pond, it was possible to get a good look at the best route up the mountain.
Lupe had climbed both the highest Missouri Buttes. Her Expedition No. 181 was an unqualified peakbagging success! However, there was still a lot of daylight left. Why not go take another look from the top of the NE Missouri Butte? A few hours had gone by, and the sun would be shining from another angle. There was only a little bit of cactus up there that SPHP had seen at the far SE end. Lupe could avoid it easily.
Lupe was fine with going back up. So once again, she climbed the W slope and then followed the summit ridge SE to the top of the NE Missouri Butte. With the afternoon sun now lighting up the near side of Devil’s Tower, the view was even better than earlier in the day.
Lupe and SPHP spent another 30 beautiful minutes up on the NE Missouri Butte. Then it was time to call it a day. SPHP had told Mr. Nuckoll that it would be great to get a chance to talk to him some more when Lupe returned from Missouri Buttes. It was probably best to get there well before the Nuckolls wanted to have their supper.
Lupe left NE Missouri Butte for the 2nd and final time. She liked crossing the huge, wide open pasture, and going through the forest on the way back. Before long, she was back at the Nuckoll’s house (3:26 PM, 55°F).
No one was around. SPHP checked both homes, but there was no one to thank for the wonderful day Lupe had on the Missouri Buttes. No telling where the Nuckolls had gone, or when they might return. SPHP left a note in the door.
Days 8 and 9 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska
That guy at the Bell 1 rest area yesterday evening had been right. There were bears in these woods! As Lupe and SPHP rolled N along Cassiar Highway No. 37 early on August 6th, Lupe saw 7 bears near the road in a span of 1.5 hours. Each bear was cause for a ferocious barkfest – from the safety of the G6, of course – as Lupe sped on by.
Day 8 of Lupe’s summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation was going to be a travel day. SPHP drove. Lupe looked out the window watching for wildlife. After the bears, though, no wildlife appeared. Lupe got bored and snoozed.
Cassiar Highway No. 37 went past beautiful mountains and lakes. It crossed scenic rivers. The forest never ended. Even now, in 2016, with 7.5 billion people on the planet, Lupe really was in an unbelievably vast, uninhabited land. The narrow strip of highway was the only link to civilization. Everything else was unspoiled wilderness. It all hardly seemed possible. It felt like going back in time. Columbus may have landed in the Americas almost 524 years ago, but along the Cassiar Highway there were still few visible consequences.
The hours and miles went by. There was traffic on Cassiar Highway No. 37, more than SPHP expected. Most of it was big trucks. Civilization may not have made much of a dent yet, but it is coming soon, even here.
For hundreds of miles, Cassiar Highway No. 37 had been good pavement, but N of the Bell 2 rest stop the road deteriorated. Rough, broken, patchy pavement appeared. Stretches of very dusty gravel became common. N of the tiny community of Dease Lake, the road turned to gravel for a long way. SPHP feared the Cassiar Highway might be nothing but dust from here on, but Lupe hit pavement again after 25 miles or so. The worst was over. Gradually, the Cassiar Highway improved again.
Now and then Lupe and SPHP stopped for short breaks. At least, they were supposed to be short. At the Beaver Dam rest stop, SPHP was so weary of driving that 15 minutes of shuteye unintentionally turned into nearly 2 hours of unconsciousness.
On the road again, SPHP felt better. Unconsciousness has its benefits! Lupe wasn’t far now from 2 major milestones on her journey. Suddenly, up ahead, there it was! A much anticipated sign was up on an embankment near the road. Lupe just had to stop for this!
Lupe had made it to the Yukon! It was hard to believe she was really here. A relatively short drive N of the Yukon border brought Lupe to the next big milestone of the day. Lupe’s long journey on Cassiar Highway No. 37 was over. She had reached the Alaska Highway! Lupe and SPHP turned W, heading for Whitehorse.
The afternoon wore on. It was a long way to Whitehorse, hundreds of miles. Evening came. Nearing Teslin Lake, there was a bit of Dingo excitement when Lupe saw her 8th black bear of the day. Lupe didn’t make it to Whitehorse. Day 6 ended for Lupe W of Teslin Lake. Time to stop for the night.
The next morning, Lupe did make it to Whitehorse, the capital city of the Yukon. She didn’t stay long, though. Lupe was on her way to her first mountain climbing adventure in the Yukon, instead!
Although there had been mountains much of the way along the Alaska Highway, Lupe first caught sight of the higher, more rugged peaks of the Saint Elias Range approaching Haines Junction.
At Haines Junction, Lupe and SPHP left the Alaska Highway, turning S on Hwy 3 to Haines. Lupe wasn’t going all the way to Haines. Her objective was only 17 miles away now. About halfway there, SPHP saw a mountain to the SSW resembling a long high wall. Was that it? It looked incredibly steep! SPHP’s heart sank. Would Lupe be able to climb anything like that?
The realization quickly grew that the N end of the mountain wall really was Lupe’s objective! Well, there was supposed to be a trail, or at least a route, to the top. It had taken hours to get here, and was already late in the morning. No time to second guess things, Lupe would just have to try it and see how things went.
A short drive from a turn off Hwy 3 brought Lupe to the Cottonwood Trailhead. SPHP parked the G6. Ten minutes later (10:32 AM, 63°F), Lupe was on the Cottonwood Trail. The first part of the trail was quite level and followed a road through a shady forest. Up ahead was Lupe’s mighty objective – King’s Throne Peak(6,529 ft.).
About a mile from the trailhead, Lupe came to an intersection. The Cottonwood Trail headed NW on its way past Kathleen Lake. It is ultimately part of an 87 km 4-6 day backpacking loop. Lupe took the King’s Throne trail instead. The single track trail began to climb steeply.
At first, the trail was switchbacking up through forest, and Lupe couldn’t see much. Eventually, though, Lupe got above tree line. The views of Kathleen Lake to the N were already fabulous!
King’s Throne Peak is clearly named for the giant cirque which faces NNE. The cirque is the seat of the throne, with the high ridges wrapping around it serving as the throne’s arms and back. It really is pretty easy to imagine the mountain serving as the throne of a titan-sized king.
Evidently the giant cirque is the ultimate destination for many hikers, and they go no farther. As described in Kluane National Park literature, the King’s Throne trail goes only as far as the cirque. Elevation gain from Kathleen Lake required to reach the cirque is about 1,800 feet.
Down in the forest below, it had been a nice calm day, but as Lupe approached the giant cirque, it was starting to get pretty windy out. The American Dingo is no great fan of wind, but she had no choice but to put up with it.
Lupe and SPHP weren’t the only ones on the King’s Throne trail. Quite a few other hikers were around. Some of them turned around at the giant cirque, satisfied with the grand view of Kathleen Lake and being able to say they had hiked King’s Throne trail, which officially ends here.
Of course, Lupe was going onward! Kluane National Park literature describes the rest of the way up to King’s Throne summit as a “route” rather than a “trail”, because it isn’t officially maintained. The first part of the route was every bit as good as the official trail had been. It climbed toward the steep NE ridge of the mountain.
When the route reached the steep NE ridge, it turned and worked its way almost straight up it. For a while there was some grass around. Later on it was all rock. The ridgeline became increasingly narrow. Most of the time, the trail was a bit to the E of the ridgeline. Off to the W, on the side of the ridge toward the giant cirque, were increasingly fearsome cliffs.
The NE ridge was hard going. The route was either loose rocks or very hard packed soil difficult to maintain traction on. Hiking poles would have been an enormous help, but SPHP had none. Even some of the bigger rocks Lupe passed by at certain points were often crumbly, loose and rotten. Everything had to be tested.
The Carolina Dog had no problems, except for the wind. She hated it! As Lupe gained elevation, it swirled more and more violently around the ridgeline. SPHP joined Lupe on all fours, and virtually crawled up the mountain. Just trying to stand up and maintain balance was scary. The wind attacked first from one direction, then suddenly reversed and blew just as strongly from a completely different one.
Fortunately, it wasn’t cold out, which would have been unbearable in this wind. Still, the wind was taking a toll. People were coming down the mountain.
Most had simply turned around, having decided it wasn’t worth it in this gale. Among them Lupe saw climbers who had passed SPHP on the way up. A few groups who had left earlier in the day had succeeded in reaching the summit. They reported even windier conditions there. Looking down, climbers who had been gaining on Lupe and SPHP could no longer be seen. They had turned around, too.
Lupe kept climbing. Finally, a group of four guys appeared coming down the route. They had foreign accents and seemed very experienced. They too, reported very windy conditions at the summit, which they had successfully attained. They were the last people Lupe saw the rest of the day. Lupe and SPHP were alone on the mountain.
Lupe still had a ways to go up the steep NE ridge. Lupe pressed on. At last, she reached the end. She came upon a broad rocky plain which was almost level by comparison. The difficult part of the climb was over. The rest of the way to the summit would be much easier!
Wow, was it ever windy here, though! SPHP wouldn’t let Lupe get too close to the cliffs above the giant cirque for fear the Carolina Dog would sail right over the edge. For a few minutes, SPHP could only stand in one place. Taking a step was nearly impossible.
After a few minutes, a slight lull in the wind allowed SPHP to move again. For a little while, that was how it went. When the wind blew hardest, SPHP had to stand stock still, ready to crouch, if necessary. When there was a lull, progress resumed. Maybe it would be less windy away from the edge of the giant cirque?
It was! Away from the cliffs, the wind was noticeably weaker. Lupe and SPHP were on the move again. Lupe headed W toward the S side of a rounded high point where a saddle led over to the next peak to the S.
Maybe it was White Dingo Magic, but contrary to reports from climbers who had been here earlier, the wind was getting weaker, not worse! Lupe worked her way up and over a high point, and turned NW toward the King’s Throne summit. The reduced wind speed was a welcome relief.
Lupe and SPHP were making good time now. Even before Lupe reached King’s Throne summit, glorious sights came into view to the W.
By the time Lupe reached the summit of King’s Throne Peak, the wind had died down to just a breeze. Lupe and SPHP were free to really enjoy the stupendous views in every direction!
On the NE side of the summit, the air was almost calm. SPHP sat down out of the wind to rest while taking in the magnificent views. Lupe curled up in SPHP’s lap. Lupe got petted and praised for bringing SPHP to such a wonderful place. The Carolina Dog seemed to enjoy every moment.
One distant peak Lupe could see was of particular interest. The steep top of Mount Decoeli(7,650 ft.) was faintly in view to the NW far beyond Kathleen Lake. Mount Decoeli was on the short list of peaks in Kluane National Park that SPHP hoped Lupe might be able to climb.
However, Mount Decoeli looked every bit as steep as the NE ridge coming up King’s Throne Peak. Clearly, Decoeli would be a huge challenge. SPHP gazed at Decoeli filled with both hope and doubt. Would Lupe ever be on top of that daunting mountain?
Lupe and SPHP lingered at the summit of King’s Throne Peak for more than 45 minutes. Conditions were great, and the views were awe-inspiring. Lupe would have stayed much longer, but she had gotten a late morning start, and it had taken a very long time for SPHP to climb, crawl and stagger all the way to the top.
The time came when Lupe had to think about starting down. She returned to the King’s Throne summit cairn for a final look. SPHP took another round of photos. After all the effort expended to get here, it was hard to think about leaving already to face the steep, windy NE ridge again.
The relative calm Lupe experienced on top of King’s Throne summit did not prevail elsewhere, although the wind wasn’t as bad as it had been earlier in the day. Lupe and SPHP made good time on the route back until reaching the steep NE ridge.
Going down the NE ridge, the wind was still strong and unpredictable. The terrain was so steep, the footing so unreliable, and the swirling wind so unnerving that SPHP became extraordinarily slow and cautious. SPHP crawled, slid, and took baby steps down the mountain. Lupe became so impatient with SPHP, the were-puppy attacked repeatedly to encourage some movement.
This was taking forever! The sun was long gone. The creeping Yukon twilight slowly faded. Yet the sweeping views of the desolate mountains of the far N were chillingly inspiring. Thousands of feet below, whitecaps could be seen on Kathleen Lake.
Even the official King’s Throne trail below the giant cirque seemed steeper and more difficult than SPHP remembered. By now SPHP’s toes were all sore from being mashed against the front of the boots for hours. The painful trek continued.
By the time Lupe was back on the Cottonwood Trail, SPHP was beat. Amazingly, Lupe was bursting with American Dingo energy. The dark forest, roaring waves crashing on the unseen shore of Kathleen Lake, and wildly swaying treetops made Lupe wild, too. Something darted across the trail in the gloom ahead. A coyote! Who knew, maybe it was a wolf? This was the Yukon! Lupe seemed ready to dash off into the forest to live wild and free, too!
11:07 PM. The animated American Dingo was finally back at the G6. SPHP was still mostly alive. What a day it had been! Lupe had succeeded in climbing King’s Throne Peak, a feat dreamed of for a long time now. Despite exhaustion, SPHP was filled with joy.
Congratulations, Loopster! You did it – all the way to the top! Well done, sweet puppy! King’s Throne was amazingly amazing! And you know what? Tomorrow you aren’t even going to think about trying another stunt like that again. Bunny hill, here you come!
Bunnies? That grabbed Lupe’s attention! The Carolina Dog was all in favor of Bunny Hill.
Fog! Must be just a ground fog, though. Stars could still be seen above. With any luck at all, we’ll drive out of it, Loop. Lupe whined. She couldn’t see them, but she could smell ’em. Cows were hidden out there in the foggy darkness! The Carolina Dog barked, leaping from window to window trying to catch sight of them.
On the way up to Warren Peaks, the G6 did emerge from the fog. Lupe was going to get to see sunrise from the highest point in the Bear Lodge Mountains after all!
It was cool and a bit windy when Lupe arrived up on Warren Peaks(6,650 ft.) (7:18 AM, 38°F). For almost the end of October, conditions were actually exceptionally nice. Off to the ENE, Lupe could see a thin layer of very low clouds. That had to be part of the fog she’d gone through to get here. To the W, the Bear Lodge Mountains were acting like a dam, holding back a sea of more substantial low clouds.
Lupe and SPHP watched the sunrise develop. Just for fun, Lupe took a little stroll down to a slightly lower hill SE of the fire tower.
Lupe returned to the summit of Warren Peaks. Sunrise was taking longer than anticipated. The sun was above the horizon, but obscured by clouds. SPHP was still interested in watching the display, but Lupe was ready for action!
This was Lupe’s third expedition in a row to the Bear Lodge Mountains in NE Wyoming. Once again, she had 3 peakbagging goals for the day. The first one was Bull Hill, only a mile N of Warren Peaks.
When SPHP finally quit dawdling watching the sunrise, Lupe and SPHP drove N on USFS Road No. 838. Before going to Bull Hill, SPHP wanted to check out a viewpoint a short distance NW of Warren Peaks, the same viewpoint where Lupe had seen Devils Tower and Missouri Buttes in twilight at the end of the day on Expedition No. 179. Now that it was morning, maybe it would be possible to get a clearer view? (7:49 AM, 38°F)
Heh. No view at all. The white sea of low clouds trapped to the W of the Bear Lodge Mountains blanketed all of the territory in that direction. Lupe and SPHP went on. SPHP parked the G6 near the intersection of USFS Roads No. 838 and No. 847 (8:06 AM, 38°F).
Getting to Bull Hill(6,394 ft.) was easy. Lupe trotted E down USFS Road No. 847 to a side road with a Bull Hill Road sign. She followed Bull Hill Road around the N side of a forested ridge, then SE up the Whitetail Creek valley. Bull Hill Road curved E, going up and over a saddle. At the saddle, Lupe was directly S of Bull Hill. She left the road, climbing up a pasture to the open forest at the top of the mountain.
Lupe and SPHP explored the top of Bull Hill. Toward the E was a nice view of Crow Peak(5,787 ft.) in South Dakota, but Lupe had just seen essentially the same view from even higher Warren Peaks. After a short stay on Bull Hill, Lupe headed back to the G6 (9:31 AM, 45°F).
Lupe’s next peakbagging goal, Ragged Top, was back to the S a few miles, not really all that far away. After a short drive, SPHP parked the G6 at the intersection of USFS Road No. 838 and an unmarked road on the E side of No. 838. (This intersection is a few hundred feet N of the start of No. 838.1B on the W side of No. 838, and marked as 6,374 ft. elevation on the Peakbagger.com topo map.)
To get to Ragged Top(6,260 ft.), Lupe didn’t really have to gain any elevation at all. In fact, she would lose a little on the way there. Ragged Top is the high point at the SW end of a mile long ridge. The G6 was already parked near the higher NE end of the ridge. Lupe cut through the forest on the W side of USFS Road No. 838 to reach No. 838.1B. She followed the road SW toward Ragged Top.
USFS Road No. 838.1B ended at a meadow at a high point. Lupe was more than half way to Ragged Top, but would have to do some bushwhacking from here. American Dingoes are great at bushwhacking! Lupe descended into a saddle leading to a lower forested hill along the ridge.
The saddle area was forested, too. What’s more, the forest floor was densely carpeted with low juniper bushes. Lupe found easier traveling over less vegetated ground along the SE side of the ridge. When Lupe climbed up the forested hill on the SW side of the saddle, she reached the first significant rock outcroppings.
From here on, the now undulating ridge to Ragged Top was much narrower than before. Lupe passed by, or went over, several more rock formations along the way. The last part of the ridge turned S as Lupe approached the final high point – the small summit known as Ragged Top. Soon Lupe was surveying the situation from the top of Ragged Top.
The best views were actually from rocks farther S where the ridge ended. Lupe could see both Inyan Kara(6,360 ft.) and Sundance Mountain(5,824 ft.) beyond a bank of clouds sneaking out to the E from the sea of clouds to the W.
Lupe was still at the S viewpoint, when a sudden loud explosion echoed up from the valley below! Gunfire! Lupe ran to SPHP. That was it for the photo session. More gunfire rang out every few minutes. No way Lupe was letting SPHP get more than a foot away. The final photo of the Ragged Top summit, taken from the S, had to be Lupe-less.
Lupe had made it to Ragged Top, but she didn’t want to be there now! With gunfire going on sporadically, all she wanted to do was hide. Time to get the Carolina Dog out of here! SPHP led the way back to the G6.
When Lupe reached the forested saddle again, she decided to slink along hidden pathways between the low juniper bushes that dominated the forest floor. In this manner, she slunk along all by herself clear up to the edge of the meadow where USFS Road No. 838.1B had ended. As far as the American Dingo was concerned, her slinking worked just fine! Lupe didn’t get shot. Not even once.
At the meadow, Lupe and SPHP took a break. Lupe curled up on SPHP’s lap, so SPHP could pet her and hold her. This was most reassuring. It certainly helped that the gunfire stopped, too. Lupe and SPHP shared a chocolate coconut granola bar. Things were looking up! Things were also looking like a mess. SPHP noticed Lupe treasures scattered along the edge of the forest.
Cleanup ensued. As Lupe and SPHP continued back to the G6, more Lupe treasures were encountered, this time in the form of empty shotgun shells. By the time Lupe was back at the G6 (12:07 PM, 55°F), she had two grocery sacks full of treasures.
Lupe had one more peakbagging goal for Expedition No. 180, but it was a long way N from here. On the way, Lupe and SPHP stopped again (12:15 PM, 55°F) at the viewpoint NW of Warren Peaks where she had seen Devils Tower(5,112 ft.) and Missouri Buttes(5,374 ft.) a week ago.
The clouds were gone! Devils Tower and Missouri Buttes were in view to the NW. The air was rather hazy, but it was much easier to see them now than at sundown last week.
Lupe had a great time in the G6 traveling N to start her journey to her 3rd and final peakbagging goal of the day. She rode with her head out the window, with the wind in her face. She saw lots of deer in the forest, plus cows to bark at near Hwy 24.
When SPHP finally parked the G6 (1:17 PM, 61°F) again, Lupe recognized this place. She had been here before. She was at the intersection of Planting Spring Road (USFS Road No. 881.1) and USFS Road No. 830. Two weeks ago on Expedition No. 178, she had stumbled onto this junction on her way to Bald Mountain(4,800 ft.). Now it was the starting point for her journey to Lone Tree Hill(4,600 ft.).
The first part of Lupe’s route to Lone Tree Hill she had already been on before. Lupe and SPHP set out going WNW on USFS Road No. 881.1. Almost right away, Lupe passed by a rather elaborate tent and camper setup on the N side of the road. Several guys planning on going deer hunting occupied the camp.
Once past the hunters, Lupe had a blast running around in the woods along No. 881.1. She made good time to the intersection with USFS Road No. 881.1A, which leads to Bald Mountain. Lupe did not take the turn to Bald Mountain, staying instead on No. 881.1. The road quickly turned N.
No. 881.1 eventually angled NW for a while. When it finally turned W, Lupe could see sky between trees at the far end of a slight rise ahead. Lupe was about to reach the W edge of the large flat ridge she had been traveling along. Lone Tree Hill(4,600 ft.) was supposed to be off to the NW beyond the edge of the ridge. Would she be able to see it?
The Peakbagger.com topo map showed No. 881.1 ending (near elevation 4,768 ft.) before reaching the edge of the ridge. The road didn’t actually end. Instead, it curved SW on its way down to a somewhat lower area. Lupe and SPHP left the road. Lupe went W through the forest, and up the slight rise.
Lupe arrived at the edge of a N/S running line of small cliffs. There weren’t any discernable breaks in the cliff line. Due to the forest, the only relatively clear view was off toward the SW, where Lupe could see Devils Tower and Missouri Buttes on the far horizon.
It was hard to see between the trees, but there did seem to be a large hill off to the NW where Lone Tree Hill should be. That had to be it! Lone Tree Hill appeared to be poorly named. Although some of the slopes below the line of rock at the summit were bare or sparsely forested, there were plenty of trees on Lone Tree Hill.
Aptly named or not, from a distance Lone Tree Hill looked like an easy climb. There was one problem, though. Lone Tree Hill stood off by itself a mile NW of the ridge Lupe was on. How could Lupe get safely down off these cliffs to cross the low ground between here and there?
The topo map showed only one semi-promising route nearby. A ravine to the NE trended W to the lower ground Lupe needed to reach. SPHP hesitated. No. 881.1 had turned SW where Lupe had left it, heading down toward lower territory, too. Maybe the road would take Lupe safely down below the cliffs? That might be a lot easier than bushwhacking through a steep ravine!
Lupe and SPHP left the cliff edge to return to No. 881.1. Once there, Lupe followed it SW. The road lost some elevation, but then started to level out and turn S. It looked like it was going to continue S, staying above a band of cliffs. Hmmm. Not good. Lupe left the road briefly, entering a small ravine leading W. No dice. The ravine quickly cliffed out. The drop was only 15 or 20 feet. Didn’t matter, it may as well have been 10 times that much.
OK. The ravine to the NE really was the only reasonable possibility. Of course, there must be other routes, but they would all be significantly longer. Lupe had made good time getting to the cliffs. Even so, it was late enough in the day so the amount of time left before sunset was something to keep in mind. The afternoon was clouding up. It wouldn’t be a good idea to still be wandering around in a trackless forest trying to find and bushwhack back up a steep ravine after dark, especially with no moon or stars to help stay oriented.
Better get a move on! Lupe and SPHP headed back up the road. Lupe regained all her lost elevation, before leaving the road again to go try the ravine to the NE. The ravine started out fine. Gradually, Lupe lost elevation again. She found an animal trail to follow. Rock formations appeared on the slopes of the ravine, but Lupe didn’t come to any cliffs on the way W.
The NE ravine route worked! Lupe lost over 400 feet of elevation. She found herself safely down in a tall grove of white-barked aspens where the ground leveled out. She was actually having a great time exploring this remote forest. SPHP was confident Lupe was going to successfully climb Lone Tree Hill now!
Lupe had been going W down the ravine. Now it was time to turn NW. The tall aspens gave way to a forest of scrub oak. Lupe romped around among fallen leaves looking for squirrels in the oak trees. She found several squirrels, much to her delight and the squirrels’ annoyance. Sometimes scrub oaks grow in dense clusters, but this forest was more open than that. It wasn’t hard to move around. Lupe was making great progress again.
Lupe turned N upon reaching a long saddle leading to Lone Tree Hill’s S ridge. By climbing the S ridge, Lupe could get to the lower E end of Lone Tree Hill’s summit ridge. As Lupe progressed along the saddle, she encountered areas of open ground interspersed between stands of forest.
Lupe reached the S ridge. Her climb up Lone Tree Hill was about to begin in earnest. She immediately encountered a new obstacle. The scrub oak forest was now behind her, and the S ridge leading up was all pine forest. At least it had been. The pine forest was devastated!
A tangle of dead trees, most laying perpendicular to Lupe’s route, was blocking the way forward. It looked like a tornado had hit this place! The trunks of many trees had simply snapped.
Progress became excruciatingly slow, as Lupe and SPHP struggled over, under, and around the deadfall timber. Fortunately, the S ridge wasn’t very long. Lupe only had to gain 200 feet of elevation to reach the lower E end of Lone Tree Hill’s summit ridge. This was taking forever, though! SPHP started to worry about how much time was going by.
Slowly, ever so slowly, Lupe and SPHP picked a way up through the shattered forest. “Lone Tree” Hill, indeed! If, only! That “Lone Tree” term had been used rather loosely, hadn’t it? As in, “Lone Tree” means less than 10,000 trees. Silly SPHP had been expecting like, maybe, one tree – perhaps a few more, if one counted little trees springing up around the big one. Not this! Who had named this place, anyway? Must have been an Indian 300 years ago. The name hadn’t been justified in at least that long.
As Lupe starting getting close to the E ridge, the deadfall gradually diminished. Then, finally, she was out of it. Hallelujah! Lupe reached the lower E end of Lone Tree Hill’s summit ridge. The top of the mountain was in view not too far to the W.
Lupe started making good progress again. She headed for the higher W portion of Lone Tree Hill’s summit ridge. Near the top, she encountered more deadfall timber. The deadfall slowed SPHP down, but not Lupe. Lupe went straight to the top of the mountain. She had made it! Lupe stood on the summit of Lone Tree Hill.
The true summit of Lone Tree Hill was a bit W of where Lupe had come up. The mountain featured a band of rock and very small cliffs along the S edge of the summit ridge. Views toward the S were generally quite good. By moving around the summit, it was possible to see a long way in almost any direction.
The far W end of the summit ridge was a bit lower than the rest of it, but had hardly any trees. Lupe had a 270° panoramic view from here! It was a great place to take a break, and celebrate Lupe’s final peakbagging success of the day.
Lupe and SPHP shared water and chocolate coconut granola bars. Lupe had her Taste of the Wild. SPHP consumed an apple. The sun was getting lower, but Lupe would have time to get back to the road before dark. Actually, it was getting hard to even tell where the sun was. The sky, which had been at least partly sunny and blue in the morning, was now a boring, indistinct, gray smudge in almost every direction.
Lupe lingered on Lone Tree Hill as long as possible. Best to enjoy the moment! Lone Tree Hill was the type of small peakbagging objective that Lupe might well never ever return to again. It was sort of far from home, sort of hard to get to, and there are higher and more dramatic places to go.
Yet, being on Lone Tree Hill was great! The sweeping views of the wide open spaces, forested hills, and long dark ridges of remote NE Wyoming were wonderful. And even if the pine trees weren’t alone on Lone Tree Hill, Lupe and SPHP were. The solitude and serenity was unbroken, except by the distant mooing of cattle and occasional twittering of small birds. Lone Tree Hill was good for the spirit.
As it always does, the time came to start for home. No devastated S ridge for Lupe this time, though! It would be much easier to head right on down the mostly barren S slope of the mountain from the W end of the summit ridge. Lupe was ready. The return trip was something to look forward to, too!
The busy American Dingo made the most of the return trip. She stopped frequently on her way down the mountain to scan the scene below. She streaked across meadows, sniffed around in forests, barked at squirrels, saw some deer, found and climbed back up the ravine onto the big ridge, ultimately returning to USFS Road No. 881.1. She traveled the road in fading light, as the forest darkened and grew more mysterious around her.
The deer hunters were in their big tent, talking and laughing, when Lupe passed by again. Brightly glowing light escaped the tent at various openings. Smoke drifted out a black smokestack. Sounded like good times going on inside.
The hunters didn’t see the American Dingo trot by. She was almost to the G6 (6:09 PM, 54°F), her day’s adventures nearly over, destined for a long ride home to a late Alpo dinner, warm bed, and sweet dreams of a day spent alive and free in the Bear Lodge Mountains of Wyoming.
Note: Lupe treasures gathered on Black Hills, WY Expedition No. 180 included 19 aluminum cans, 9 plastic bottles, 3 glass bottles, 48 shotgun shells.
Day 7 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska.
Lupe and SPHP hit the road again early (6:20 AM), still heading NW on Yellowhead Hwy No. 16. A cool, light rain fell under overcast skies. Lupe was happy. Vast forests continued to dominate, but every now and then the Carolina Dog had an opportunity to bark at cows or horses in fields near the road. The miles flew by.
The day seemed to be getting darker, instead of brighter, when Lupe passed through Smithers in rain and fog. High mountains were close to Smithers, the first high mountains Lupe had seen since before reaching Prince George yesterday. Lupe was approaching adventure territory once again!
On the way to New Hazelton, the rain stopped. The skies started clearing. It was going to be a bright day after all! After passing through New Hazelton, Yellowhead Highway No. 16 turned SW for a while. Lupe and SPHP stopped for a short break at Sealy Lake. A sign told of an ancient water-grizzly named Medeek.
Lupe went down to Sealy Lake. The lake was a small one with reeds near the shore. Impressive mountains were near Sealy Lake to the SE, but they weren’t what held SPHP’s interest. Across Sealy Lake, mountains with large snowfields on them were seen in the distance to the W. Before Lupe reached those mountains, she would turn N on the Cassiar Highway No. 37.
A little later on, Lupe was there, at the junction. Getting to the Cassiar Highway No. 37 was kind of a big deal. The Cassiar was going to be Lupe’s road to adventure!
As Lupe and SPHP traveled N on Cassiar Highway No. 37, mountains and forests soon took over completely. Gone were the fields of haystacks, cows and horses. The highway went by beautiful lakes and rivers. Lupe missed the cows and horses, and eventually fell asleep.
At Meziadin Junction, SPHP turned W on Hwy 37A, a 61 km spur road to Stewart, British Columbia. Along the way, Lupe got to see the Bear Glacier.
Farther on, Hwy 37A crossed a bridge over the Bear River just before entering the small border town of Stewart, British Columbia. The Bear River valley was impressive. Lupe and SPHP got out of the G6 to take a look.
Stewart is a small town at the end of the Portland Canal, a long narrow arm (a fjord, essentially) of the Pacific Ocean. Only 3 km from Stewart, Lupe entered the even smaller town of Hyder, Alaska. Alaska became Lupe’s 12th US Dingo State!
Hyder, Alaska has two main attractions, other than being on the Portland Canal. A few miles N of Hyder is the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site. For $5 per day, visitors can view wildlife from a raised wooden observation platform along Fish Creek. Wild bears feeding on salmon in Fish Creek are the big draw.
Although Lupe would have loved barking ferociously at grizzly bears from the safety of a raised platform, this would no doubt have been frowned upon by the park service and every other site visitor. Nevertheless, SPHP stopped briefly at the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site to ask directions to Hyder’s other main attraction, the Salmon Glacier.
The directions were easy. Just keep following the road past the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site. About 16 miles from Hyder, the road reaches an observation point with a tremendous view overlooking the Salmon Glacier. Interestingly, although the road through Hyder, Alaska and past Fish Creek provides the only access to the Salmon Glacier, the glacier itself is actually a short distance over the Canadian border in British Columbia.
The sky was crystal clear blue as Lupe and SPHP drove up the gravel road. The road went N following the Salmon River valley, climbing ever higher up on the mountain slopes on the E side of the valley. Traffic was surprisingly heavy, and raised long-lingering clouds of dust. There were numerous small pullouts at viewpoints along the way. Finally, the Salmon Glacier came into view.
The S tongue of the Salmon Glacier which came into view first was impressive, but is only a small part of the entire glacier. The scene became more and more amazing as Lupe neared the main Salmon Glacier viewpoint.
The main viewpoint was crowded when Lupe arrived. A dozen vehicles were parked along the road and in a small parking area. Two dozen or more people were milling around checking out the view. Lupe and SPHP ignored the dust and commotion, as much as possible. Lupe waited for a turn up on a small rise with a panoramic glacier view.
Wow! The Salmon Glacier was absolutely stunning! The huge white glacier, streaked with dark gray rock and tinges of blue, flows down a high wide valley surrounded by mountains straight toward the viewpoint. Hundreds of feet below, the giant glacier splits into a forked tongue. The larger end flows S (L) down the Salmon River valley. The smaller N (R) end flows into a depression filled earlier in the year by Summit Lake.
The Salmon Glacier was a glorious sight! What wasn’t glorious was how busy the main viewpoint was. Vehicles kept coming and going raising all kinds of dust. A road which goes 10 miles farther past the main viewpoint, was closed for construction. Construction equipment made more dust and noise as it rumbled by. Several helicopters flew back and forth, apparently in connection with the construction.
A two year old tyrant among the throng of tourists had learned to screech commands every 20 or 30 seconds at his willingly subservient parents. A grandma in the same family pleaded with 2 older girls to please come and stand by her for a photo. After all, grandma had bought them lots of nice things, hadn’t she? With nothing new in it for them, the girls pouted and declined to have anything to do with grandma.
Lupe loved one part of all these goings on – the helicopters! Lupe loves helicopters. In particular, she loves to run below them barking furiously to chase them away. With all the helicopters buzzing around, Lupe was only adding to the general tumult.
Fortunately, SPHP remembered reading online that there is an unmaintained trail going up the mountainside to the E of the Salmon Glacier viewpoint. The views would be even more spectacular up there! Lupe could bark at helicopters all she wanted to, far from the crowd. Lupe and SPHP left the little parking lot (1:51 PM, 66°F), quickly finding several informal trails winding up the mountainside.
Making the climb above the parking lot was a great decision. As Lupe and SPHP gained hundreds of feet of elevation, the noise, dust, brats and general commotion at the main viewpoint faded away. Helicopters still flew by, even closer than down below, greatly entertaining Lupe. She raced around barking for all she was worth, not bothering anyone.
Lupe and SPHP stopped for short breaks on a couple of hills hundreds feet above the road. Peace and tranquility reigned. Missing these incredible views from on high would have been a shame!
Fields of flowers watered by tiny streams and ponds were in view beyond the small hills where Lupe took her first short breaks. When her breaks were done, Lupe went SSE exploring this vibrant, colorful territory. She climbed even higher up to a massive knob of rock where she found a big cairn. To the SE, Lupe could see the snow-capped summit of Mount Dilworth(5,446 ft.).
From the rock knob, the views were amazing, not only toward the Salmon Glacier, but in every direction. The day was very warm and sunny. Conditions were ideal. For a little while, SPHP toyed with the idea of climbing Mount Dilworth with Lupe. It looked easy, but maybe the huge snowfield at the top was actually quite dangerous? Falling into a crevasse would be the end. Best to leave it alone.
So Lupe made no attempt to climb Mount Dilworth, despite how tempting it looked. Instead, the Carolina Dog had fun among flowers, fields, and streams on the way back down to the main Salmon Glacier viewpoint along the road. The return trip was a wonderful time full of beautiful sights.
When Lupe reached the main Salmon Glacier viewpoint back at the road, a new bit of excitement was going on. Someone had accidently dropped their camera far down a steep slope, and attempting to retrieve it, managed to get themselves stuck in a precarious position. A rescue operation was in progress.
While everyone else was gathered in one spot talking about the rescue, Lupe and SPHP walked over to a hill offering a better view of the N tongue of the glacier. Every year, typically in mid-July, this part of the Salmon Glacier unleashes a major natural hazard.
In spring and early summer, Summit Lake forms from meltwaters backed up by an ice-dam at the N end of the glacier. As temperatures warm, Summit Lake eventually breaks through the ice-dam. The lake then drains to the S beneath the Salmon Glacier, flooding the Salmon River where water levels rise suddenly by 4 or 5 feet for several days.
Since it was August, Summit Lake had already broken through the ice-dam and drained away. Lupe could still see where Summit Lake had been, though. A small area of gray green water remained at the bottom of a depression surrounded by collapsed ice and snow. The former high water level was easy to see on the side of the mountain above.
Lupe’s visit to the Salmon Glacier had been a most memorable occasion, but it was time to move on (4:07 PM, 76°F). Lupe and SPHP made a few more stops at viewpoints on the way back to Hyder while the glorious Salmon Glacier was still in view.
On the way back to Hyder, the G6 said the temperature hit an incredible 84°F outside. SPHP fretted uselessly about the ultimate fate of the Salmon Glacier. Things cooled off closer to Hyder, perhaps influenced by the nearby presence of the ocean.
Lupe hadn’t seen the ocean since visiting the Washington and Oregon coasts during her Summer of 2012 Dingo Vacation nearly 4 years ago. So when Lupe got back to Hyder, Alaska, SPHP drove her over to the end of the wharf to see the Portland Canal.
Lupe’s adventure to Hyder, Alaska and the Salmon Glacier was done. Lupe and SPHP went back through Canadian customs returning to Stewart in British Columbia. Although it was late afternoon already, the long Canadian summer days meant there were still hours of daylight left.
Lupe and SPHP left Stewart taking Hwy 37A back past the Bear Glacier to Meziadin Junction. After gassing the G6 up, Lupe’s long journey N on Cassiar Highway No. 37 resumed. Each mile took the Carolina Dog farther N than she had ever been before.
Daylight was fading by the time Lupe crossed a big bridge over a river that looked like it was running very low. Beyond the bridge was the Bell 1 rest stop. SPHP pulled in. Time for a quick dinner before dark. For some reason, Lupe wanted to stay in the G6. Was she just tired, or was it true?
A guy from Dease Lake had been talking to SPHP. He said his big brown dog sensed bears nearby. He claimed these woods were full of bears. He also talked about how the weather was changing. Last winter this area had received only 4 feet of snow. Ten years ago, typical total winter snowfall used to be 15 meters (49 feet). Another bad sign for the Salmon Glacier.
Well, that’s why we are here now, Looper! To see it all while fate and fortune still smile upon us, and these fabulous natural wonders of the world remain.
Hah! How’s this for peakbagging the easy way, Loop? SPHP turned off the engine. The G6 was parked at the base of the Warren Peaks fire lookout tower (8:23 AM, 38°F). Lupe was already at the top of the mountain. Feels like cheating, doesn’t it? We didn’t have to do a thing. Come on, Looper, lets take a look around! Lupe was out of the G6 like a shot.
A light S breeze was blowing. Clear skies and another unseasonably warm October day. The panoramic views were terrific. The Warren Peaks(6,656 ft.) fire lookout tower is atop the highest point in the Bear Lodge Mountains in NE Wyoming. Lupe gazed out over miles and miles of high prairie far beyond the mountains.
When the light is right and the air is clear, you can see all the way to the Bighorn Mountains from here Loop! The light wasn’t right. A bit of haze was in the air. Oh, well.
Although Lupe was back to continue her peakbagging adventures in the Bear Lodge Mountains, Warren Peaks(6,656 ft.) wasn’t really one of her prime peakbagging goals for Expedition No. 179. Lupe had been here twice before. Warren Peaks was just a great viewpoint from which to start the day, conveniently located on the way to other objectives she’d never been to before.
Before leaving this terrific vantage point, SPHP stared off to the N trying to pick out Vision Peak(4,812 ft.) or Bald Mountain(4,800 ft.), where Lupe had been adventuring a week ago. Nothing really stood out that SPHP could positively identify. Neither did any of today’s objectives. Most of the Bear Lodge Mountains just aren’t that rugged.
Lupe and SPHP left Warren Peaks headed N on USFS Road No. 838. At 9:04 AM (39°F), Lupe was leaping out of the G6 again, this time at the junction of USFS Roads No. 849 and 849.1A. Lupe had two peakbagging objectives nearby. They were two summits called the Black Hills. (Not to be confused with the entire Black Hills range, which is hard not to do, since the identical names make it plenty confusing.)
Lupe set off for the Black Hills (East)(5,229 ft.) summit first, climbing toward the S in territory W of the N ridge. At first, she encountered thickets of brush and small trees in a forest of mixed pine and aspen. As Lupe gained elevation, the pines prevailed and most of the smaller stuff disappeared. The terrain was unusually lumpy. Lupe went up a series of small rises separated by little ravines or low spots. Deer seemed to like this area, and Lupe saw quite a few of them.
The Black Hills (East) summit ridge runs roughly NW/SE. Lupe reached a lower part of the ridgeline a bit WNW of a protruding rock outcropping of yellowish tan limestone, or perhaps sandstone. This rock formation proved to be quite level on top, and runs the entire length of the summit ridge, which was hundreds of feet long. Toward the SW, the rocks form a line of small cliffs.
From the NW end of the Black Hills (East) summit ridge, Lupe could see Black Hills (West)(5,323 ft.). Black Hills (West) is almost 100 feet higher than Black Hills (East). Lupe would be going over there next, but not until she finished exploring Black Hills (East).
Lupe and SPHP traveled SE along the entire length of the Black Hills (East) summit ridge, staying near the line of cliffs. Forest effectively hid the views in every direction, other than SW from the cliffs. Even looking SW, higher forested ridges only a mile or two away were as far as Lupe could see.
Close to the SE end of the Black Hills E summit ridge, a small pine tree was perched near the edge of the cliffs. Ponderosa pines can grow in some of the most amazing places. The little tree looked like it was growing straight out of the rocks!
The Black Hills (East) summit ridge was long, on the order of 800 feet long. Having traveled the entire length of the ridge near the cliffs, it was time for Lupe to look for the true summit. Since the entire area was quite flat, there wasn’t going to be any one easily identifiable point.
Although there was only a slight elevation difference, the highest area Lupe could find on Black Hills (East) seemed to be back closer to the middle of the summit ridge. A somewhat elevated area was 50 to 100 feet NE of the cliffs. This high ground was covered by a dense thicket of scrub oak trees. Lupe had no views at all from here!
Having achieved her first peakbagging success of the day at Black Hills (East), it was time for Lupe to head for Black Hills (West). To get there, she first had to go back down to the G6.
Lupe roughly retraced the same route she had taken up. The many deer held Lupe’s attention much of the time, but she also found an interesting column of rock out in the middle of the forest. Strangely enough, someone had drawn an odd face on it.
Lupe reached the G6 at 10:36 AM. She was surprised and puzzled when SPHP went right on by it. However, her next peakbagging goal, Black Hills (West) was not far away.
Lupe and SPHP crossed USFS Road No. 849 and went down to Blacktail Creek. Lupe reached the tiny creek near a tiny waterfall. Of course, she paused for a not-so-tiny drink from the creek as she crossed it, prior to beginning her climb up Black Hills (West).
Lupe’s path up Black Hills (West) was very direct. She simply followed the long NE ridge, staying on the ridgeline a little above the cliffs to the SE. Lupe’s entire climb was steadily up at a moderate pace. As Lupe neared the summit, she found a big grassy meadow at the top of the mountain. SPHP hoped the views would be better here than from Black Hills (East).
Unfortunately, the views from Black Hills (West) were rather disappointing. The mountain wasn’t quite high enough for a good look at the most interesting sight. Off to the WNW, Lupe had only a partial view of the Missouri Buttes(5,374 ft.) and top of Devils Tower(5,112 ft.).
Lupe and SPHP wandered around the Black Hills (West) summit area for a little while, seeing what could be seen, before taking a break. After the break, it was photo op time for Lupe before beginning the descent.
Lupe and SPHP returned to the G6 (12:01 PM) going back down the NE ridge of Black Hills (West). Lupe had one more peakbagging goal for Expedition No. 179, Sherrard Hill. Sherrard Hill(5,385 ft.) is a little higher than Black Hills (West). SPHP had hopes that Lupe might find better views from Sherrard Hill than either of the two Black Hills summits had on offer.
SPHP drove a couple miles NNW on USFS Road No. 849 to its junction with USFS Road No. 860.1, before parking the G6 (12:09 PM, 57°F). Lupe would start her trek to Sherrard Hill from here.
Much of Lupe’s journey to Sherrard Hill followed USFS Roads. She started out going S on No. 860.1, which soon crossed Blacktail Creek. Lupe came to many forks in the road. At the first one, Lupe stayed to the R, avoiding side road No. 860.1A. At the next junction, where an unmarked road to the L went down to a bridge across Hershey Creek, she stayed to the R again on a road marked as Trail No. 1042.
At a third junction, Lupe stayed to the R again, now following USFS Road No. 860.1F.
While on No. 860.1F, Lupe and SPHP kept hearing geese. Finally, a flock of them flew by almost right overhead. The geese were so high, Lupe didn’t pay much attention to them.
As Lupe got closer to Sherrard Hill, she kept coming to more forks in the road. She avoided taking USFS Roads No. 860.1R (to the R) or No. 860.1J (to the L). The road she was on eventually turned W going up a valley. When Lupe reached a saddle at the upper end of the valley, SPHP was pretty certain Sherrard Hill was the wooded hill immediately to the S.
Lupe stuck with the road she was on as it circled around to the NW side of Sherrard Hill. She passed by USFS Road No. 860.1G on the way. By now, the road Lupe was following had leveled out. Lupe and SPHP turned SE and started climbing.
The climb up Sherrard Hill(5,385 ft.) was along quite a gentle slope. The hill was heavily forested all the way up. The summit area was large, and all heavily forested, too. Lupe and SPHP went all the way to the SE end of the summit area. There was little to be seen, but forest anywhere.
Well, that was it. None of Lupe’s 3 main peakbagging objectives of the day had provided much in the way of views, and Sherrard Hill, the highest of them all, had no views at all. Sometimes that’s just the way it is in the mountains.
Lupe and SPHP took a short break for chocolate coconut granola bars and water at the SE end of the summit area. Then Lupe got to explore the Sherrard Hill summit looking for the highest point. Just like on Black Hills (East), the top of the mountain was so flat, it was hard to pin down an exact location of the true summit. Once again, it appeared to be in a thick grove of scrub oaks.
Before completely abandoning Sherrard Hill to return to the G6, Lupe and SPHP wandered over to a slightly lower part of the mountain protruding to the W from the N end of the summit area. From here, Lupe did catch a couple of glimpses of Missouri Buttes, but never had a really good look.
Lupe and SPHP continued NW to High Point 5255, but other than a ranch house to the W, there was nothing to see there either. OK, that was it. Time to give up and go back to the G6. Lupe had a great time on the way back. She saw many deer, and several squirrels.
When Lupe arrived at the G6 again (3:43 PM, 57°F), it was only a little over 2 hours until sundown. Time enough to do something, but not go off climbing another mountain. Since Lupe had never seen Cook Lake before, why not go see the little lake?
The Cook Lake Recreation Area features a campground, picnic area, loop trail around the lake, and another loop trail N of the lake called the Cliff Swallow trail. Lupe arrived at Cook Lake (4:16 PM, 53°F) too late to both spend time at the lake and take the Cliff Swallow trail. Since the main purpose was to see Cook Lake, Lupe stuck to the lakeshore trail.
Although there had been a few people around when Lupe first arrived at Cook Lake, by the time Lupe completed her investigations along the shore (5:09 PM, 51°F), things were pretty quiet. The lakeshore trail had been a relaxing way to end the day.
Lupe’s Black Hills, WY Expedition No. 179 wasn’t quite over yet, though. On the way back home, while still in the Bear Lodge Mountains, Lupe made two more quick stops. First, Lupe and SPHP took a short stroll from USFS Road No. 838 to a high point NW of Warren Peaks. SPHP wanted to find out if Lupe could see Devil’s Tower and Warren Peaks from here.
She could! The sun was low in the sky, and the light was weak, but there they were! What’s more, Lupe could also see the outline of the Bighorn Mountains far to the W!
Lupe’s final stop was back up on Warren Peaks(6,650 ft.). The sun had either just set, or was hidden by clouds near the horizon. Lupe went over to the highest rocks on the mountain a few feet W of the fire lookout tower.
And so, Black Hills, WY Expedition No. 179 ended with Lupe standing atop the highest point in the Bear Lodge Mountains for the second time today, admiring the colorful sunset and distant outline of the lofty peaks of the glorious Bighorn Mountains.
Day 5 (Part 2) & Day 6 of Lupe’s 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska
After an overcast, drippy morning, Lupe’s excursions to the toe of the Athabasca Glacier and Wilcox Pass had turned out great! The weather had gradually cleared up as the day went on. At mid-afternoon, as Lupe and SPHP headed N on Icefields Parkway Hwy 93 looking for the next adventure, sunny blue skies prevailed.
Why not go take a look at Sunwapta Falls? These mighty falls contain the meltwaters of the Athabasca Glacier, which Lupe had just visited.
Well, one reason not to was that the Sunwapta Falls parking lot was packed. It took a while for a parking spot to open up. Lupe and SPHP went to see Sunwapta Falls along with the rest of the teeming throng. No doubt about it, Sunwapta Falls was gorgeous. A huge torrent of water plunged into a deep narrow gorge the Sunwapta River has carved over eons right through the rock.
The bridge across the Sunwapta River below the falls was loaded with people. More tourists lined the chain link fences along the edges of the gorge. Lupe was lost and confused in the crowd. Once before, Lupe had taken a trail to lower Sunwapta Falls, a series of three more waterfalls in close succession downstream. The lower falls were equally impressive and worthwhile.
It wasn’t all that far to lower Sunwapta Falls. Unfortunately, today that was probably a disadvantage. The lower falls would likely be pretty busy, too. Not nearly as crowded as the upper falls, perhaps, but still busy. Lupe would have more fun somewhere else. Fortunately, Lupe and SPHP’s favorite picnic ground in Jasper National Park wasn’t that far away. Lupe and SPHP returned to the G6, and continued N.
Maybe Lupe’s favorite picnic ground in Jasper National Park is only intended for use by locals? It’s right off the W side of Icefields Parkway Hwy 93, about 5 or 6 miles S of Athabasca Falls, but there is no sign for it anywhere along the highway. The picnic ground features only a handful of picnic tables situated right up on the E bank overlooking the Athabasca River. Across the giant river are beautiful peaks of the Canadian Rockies.
When Lupe and SPHP arrived, the picnic ground was empty. Simply fantastic! Lupe rushed down to cool off in the meltwater swollen Athabasca River. She searched for squirrels in the forest, and found a few, too! Lupe and SPHP played Dingo games. No one came. Lupe was free to be herself. The American Dingo was having a blast!
When early evening arrived, it was time to leave the picnic ground to go take a look at Athabasca Falls. There were still people around this very popular and impressive waterfall, but a big majority of the usual daytime crowds had by now departed. A tremendous torrent of the combined Sunwapta and Athabasca Rivers roared over the falls.
After visiting Athabasca Falls, Lupe and SPHP continued N to the tourist and railroad town of Jasper. Lupe didn’t stay in Jasper long, though. Soon Lupe and SPHP were heading NW on Yellowhead Highway No. 16 toward British Columbia. It was a beautiful evening for a drive through the Canadian Rockies, but had been another long day, too. As SPHP drove, the weary American Dingo snoozed on her pile of blankets and pillows.
In Mount Robson Provincial Park, SPHP stopped the G6 at a long pullout near Yellowhead Lake. The lake was hidden by trees. Lupe and SPHP got out to take a look. A trail led through the forest and down a very steep bank to reach the shore of the lake.
Yellowhead Lake was gorgeous, but unfortunately, there was no trail along the shore. After a few minutes spent down by the lake admiring the view, Lupe and SPHP scrambled back up the steep bank. The dense forest blocked any view of the lake. Lupe’s last brief adventure of the day was spent sniffing around in the woods near Yellowhead Lake.
Lupe and SPHP drove on, but it was getting late. The long Canadian twilight was fading. Day was done. Time to stop for the night.
The next morning, Mount Fitzwilliam was in view, tall and impressive in the early light.
However, Lupe and SPHP were already beyond Mt. Fitzwilliam. Lupe wasn’t going back. Today was a special day. Today Lupe was going N, hundreds of miles farther N than she had ever been before! Most of the day would be spent traveling, but not too far ahead were two more big Canadian waterfalls Lupe could visit along the way. The first was Overlander Falls.
Overlander Falls on the Fraser River is in Mount Robson Provincial Park, within walking distance of the park headquarters. SPHP parked the G6 at a trailhead along Yellowhead Hwy No. 16. A sign at the trailhead displayed a simple map of the area.
Lupe was starting from the E end of the trail system, very close to Overlander Falls. A wide, well-worn path led into the forest from the highway. At first, the path lost elevation gradually, but as the roar of the falls grew louder, the trail started switchbacking down a steep slope.
In only 10 minutes, Lupe was at Overlander Falls. The falls weren’t high at all, but a tremendous volume of beautiful icy blue green water spilled over the brink into a vast swirling pool below.
A plaque near the falls told the story of how Overlander Falls got its name.
Since most of Lupe’s day was going to be spent traveling in the G6, the 1.6 km Overlander Falls trail along the Fraser River to the Mount Robson Provincial Park headquarters was an appealing option. No one was around yet, and the trail would provide a peaceful, secluded path through the forest along the scenic blue green river. Lupe could get some exercise, and SPHP would enjoy the views. Lupe was most definitely in favor of the idea!
As it turned out, the Overlander Falls trail did not stay down near the river. Instead, it paralleled the river mostly 40 to 80 feet above it on the forested slope. The Fraser River was only occasionally in view. The trail was in good condition, but didn’t look like it sees an awful lot of use, perhaps because there are trails to more dramatic destinations nearby. (See Lupe’s fabulous hike to Mount Robson and Berg Lake in 2013 on the Berg Lake Trail!)
The Overlander Falls trail was fairly level most of the time, and an easy hike. It passed Hogan’s camp, established way back when the railroad was being built. The Carolina Dog was not too impressed. Hogan’s camp now amounts to nothing more than a few rotting logs. However, Lupe did enjoy sniffing and exploring in the forest along the trail. She found a few squirrels to bark at, which made her day.
At the W end of the Overlander Falls trail, Lupe came to a road at a bridge across the Fraser River. There was no trailhead at this end, just a small sign near the bridge pointing out the trail. Downstream from the bridge was a bend in the Fraser River. Lupe and SPHP went down to the river’s edge so Lupe could get a drink.
After the American Dingo had her drink from the Fraser River, Lupe and SPHP took the road another 0.25 km to the Mount Robson Provincial Park headquarters on the N side of Yellowhead Hwy No. 16. Unfortunately, the sky had been clouding up. The summit of Mt. Robson was hidden from view.
Lupe and SPHP returned to the Overlander Falls trail. On the way back to the G6, tragedy struck. Excited by a squirrel, while leaping around in the thick underbrush, Lupe got her right front dewclaw got hooked on something. Her dewclaw snapped completely off! It was painful and bled a little, but not much. The wounded Carolina Dog looked to SPHP for help.
SPHP examined Lupe’s paw, kissed the terrible wound many times, and gave Lupe lots of attention. When that didn’t cure it, SPHP carried Lupe along the trail.
Naturally, her right front paw hurt where the dewclaw had snapped off right at the base. Lupe was certain she couldn’t go on. Until she could. After 15 minutes of being carted around like a sack of potatoes, at Hogan’s camp Lupe decided she could manage on her own just fine. Back at the G6, Dr. SPHP applied anti-biotic ointment and a bandage (9:55 AM).
Lupe’s adventures (and misadventures) at Overlander Falls were complete. Time to get back on the road again (10:12 AM), but only for a short stretch. Lupe had very little chance to recuperate before reaching the trailhead for Rearguard Falls. She did fine anyway.
The trail to Rearguard Falls wasn’t very long. Lupe soon came to an elaborate system of walkways with metal railings near the falls. Like Overlander Falls, Rearguard Falls wasn’t all that high. Rearguard Falls was almost more like a cascade. It was still impressive and very beautiful. Lupe and SPHP stayed at Rearguard Falls for close to an hour.
Part of the reason Lupe was at Rearguard Falls so long was that other people kept coming and going. Some of them had very fancy cameras they set up on tripods. At the closest viewpoint next to the falls, several photographers set up their tripods in succession, each one occupying the coveted spot continuously for 15 or 20 minutes.
It didn’t matter to Lupe or SPHP how long they took. The stunningly beautiful river, the hypnotic roar of the falls both soothing and powerful, the mountain scenery, and perfect weather made Rearguard Falls a great place to be. Waiting for a turn at the closest viewpoint, SPHP chatted with people, while Lupe relaxed or enjoyed being admired and petted by friendly tourists.
One lady was here with her husband (who was busy with his camera and tripod at the coveted spot) and two sons. They were from the Netherlands. She said they had saved money for 10 years to come to Canada. Eventually they were going to sail up the inland passage on the Pacific Ocean near the end of their trip. They loved Canada, and were having a fabulous time!
Finally, it was Lupe’s turn at the closest spot to Rearguard Falls. Two photos, a final lingering look, and Lupe’s time at Rearguard Falls was over (11:31 AM).
Lupe and SPHP spent nearly all the rest of the day traveling on Yellowhead Hwy No. 16. Both Lupe and SPHP were farther N than they had ever been before. Lupe was entering a whole new world!
NW of the junction with Hwy 5, traffic on Hwy 16 greatly diminished. Almost everyone else had turned S on Hwy 5 heading for Kamloops. Lupe was in a valley miles wide, with a wall of high mountains on each side. Nearly all the land was forested, but at first there were some farms and fields near the highway, too. Haystacks were abundant, but curiously, not livestock. Lupe watched diligently for a long time, but saw only one herd of cows to bark at.
After a while, the farms and fields disappeared. On both sides of the valley, the high mountains were getting progressively smaller and more distant. Unbroken forest stretched in every direction as far the eye could see. Despite being in what appeared to be a complete wilderness, no wildlife was seen except for ravens picking at roadkill.
With no cows or horses to bark at, and no wildlife to hold her attention, Lupe’s eyelids began to droop. Soon she was snoozing, as the countless miles of endless forest went by. To SPHP, it was all increasingly magical, to be here, at last, with Lupe in a wilderness that stretched ahead for not only hundreds, but literally thousands of miles, heading toward the unknown.
Granted, what lay ahead wasn’t completely unknown. SPHP had maps and descriptions, had seen photos online, and had a general plan for Lupe’s 2016 Dingo Vacation adventures. All that was helpful, necessary and informative to a degree, but only scratched the surface of the possibilities and realities in this gigantic new territory Lupe was traveling through. And all the preparations weren’t the same as finally being here, actually seeing it all for the very first time.
The mountains were gone, replaced by distant blue ridges, by the time Lupe neared Prince George. Lupe woke up as the G6 slowed entering the city. Prince George turned out to be a lively and attractive city situated along the scenic Fraser River. It was the only large town Lupe would see in all of British Columbia. SPHP made a couple of stops for gas and groceries.
As Hwy 16 headed WNW from Prince George, farms and fields appeared again, carved out of the seemingly limitless forest. To Lupe, the open fields meant cows and horses. This time the Carolina Dog wasn’t disappointed. Although most of the fields were full of haystacks and bales, Lupe did see lots of cows and horses. She got plenty of most satisfying barking in. Now and then she had to stop long enough to slurp up water to wet her poor overworked parched barker.
At a rest stop near Cluculz Lake, Lupe and SPHP devoured half of a whole roasted chicken purchased in Prince George, while a rain shower passed over. Between the exciting cows and horses, and tasty roasted chicken, Lupe was very much revived. Back on the road again, she remained awake and watchful.
The long drive was marvelously relaxing. Lush green fields surrounded by dark forests appeared, and subsequently retreated from view. Distant blue ridges defined the horizon. Gray white clouds drifted across a partly sunny blue sky, trailing rain dark streaks of rain behind them. For a long time, the G6 said it was a perfect 71°F out.
The green fields closer to Prince George gradually disappeared, swallowed by the primal forest. Lupe passed through a few small towns of significance – Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake, and Burns Lake. The farther Lupe went, the less traffic remained on the road. The sun was low by the time Lupe reached Houston, a tiny, quiet community near the Bulkley River.
In Houston, right alongside Yellowhead Highway No. 16, was a very beautiful small park with a fountain, manicured lawn, and a profusion of vibrantly colored flowers. Here Lupe and SPHP stopped to stretch their legs and admire Houston’s crown jewel, in the little time remaining while it was all still aglow in the sharply slanting rays of earth’s sinking star.
Lupe and SPHP hit the road before dawn. Lupe was on her way to explore the Bear Lodge Mountains, a remote part of the Black Hills in NE Wyoming separate from the main body of the Black Hills in South Dakota. The sun was up by the time the eager American Dingo reached the Wyoming border.
Lupe had 3 peakbagging goals for the day. SPHP had high hopes for the first one, due to it’s intriguing name – Vision Peak(4,812 ft.). Those hopes seemed likely to be justified when SPHP parked the G6 off USFS Road No. 830 about 1.5 miles N of Hwy 24 (8:18 AM, 67°F). Lupe was already high up on a ridge with a view to the S.
The day was unseasonably warm, but with a fairly stiff WSW breeze. Lupe headed W on USFS Road No. 887.1, a little used side road closed to motor vehicles. The road climbed a bit, then crossed over to the N side of the ridge, where Lupe was out of the wind. No. 887.1 then wound around a little below the long ridgeline heading generally W, while slowly losing elevation.
No. 887.1 wound around for more than a mile. Lupe didn’t find any squirrels, but whitetail deer were abundant. The road never returned to the ridgeline, although Lupe and SPHP made one foray up onto the ridge before returning to the road again. To the N, Lupe had views of another high ridge beyond Lucky Gulch.
Lupe was making great progress, when suddenly USFS Road No. 887.1 simply ended W of High Point 4805. Fortunately, Lupe was already almost to the saddle over to Vision Peak. A short bushwhack through the forest brought Lupe to the E end of the saddle.
Lupe crossed the saddle and began climbing. She encountered a couple of minor rock outcroppings along the way, but the climb was neither long nor difficult. Soon she reached the top of Vision Peak(4,812 ft.).
Since Vision Peak is positioned way out at the far W end of a long, fairly narrow ridge, SPHP had been hoping for great wide open views, especially toward the W. Lupe did find quite a nice view to the S right at the true summit, but most of the summit ridge was too heavily forested to see much. Somewhat disappointingly, Vision Peak seemed to be a BYOV (Bring Your Own Vision) mountain.
Lupe and SPHP lingered on Vision Peak for a little while, taking a break and enjoying the best view, which was to the S. The wind was out of the SSW about 20 mph, but wasn’t bad at ground level. The forest provided quite effective protection, although the wind was certainly heard in the treetops.
On the way back to the G6, instead of taking the road, Lupe and SPHP climbed up onto the long ridge after crossing the saddle E of Vision Peak. There were more impressive rock outcroppings along this climb up onto the ridge, than there had been climbing Vision Peak.
Although it was a bit out of the way, Lupe visited High Point 4805. On the way there, she caught a glimpse of a high, partly barren hill off to the NW. That was probably her next peakbagging goal, Bald Mountain(4,800 ft.)!
The trek along USFS Road No. 887.1 to get close to Vision Peak had been pleasant and easy, but the return trip along the top of the ridge was more fun. Distant views to both the N and S occasionally presented themselves, and deer were plentiful. Lupe even found a couple of squirrels along the way, which she greeted with her usual enormous enthusiasm.
Even though Vision Peak itself had turned out to be somewhat of an anti-climax, the whole excursion had been a pleasant success (10:55 AM, 70°F).
Lupe’s next peakbagging goal was Bald Mountain(4,800 ft.). Getting to Bald Mountain was supposed to be another relatively easy tromp through the woods over some high ground with little net elevation change. SPHP drove farther N on USFS Road No. 830 for a couple of miles looking for a closer starting point, ultimately parking at the start of USFS Road No. 830.4C (11:08 AM, 70°F).
Like No. 887.1, No. 830.4C was gated off and closed to motor vehicles, so it hadn’t seen much recent use either. Lupe and SPHP set off following it WSW through the forest. At first, everything seemed fine. Lupe was having a great romp in the woods, and there were deer everywhere. Gradually, however, the road turned more to the SW, then SSW, as it became fainter and fainter. Lupe did not come to any of the side roads SPHP was expecting to find.
Eventually No. 830.4C faded away completely. Lupe was in the middle of the forest. It looked like there was blue sky between the trees off to the W, so maybe there was a viewpoint over there. Lupe and SPHP headed W. Yes, there was a view. What SPHP presumed was Bald Mountain was in sight off to the W. However, there was a big canyon between Lupe and Bald Mountain. Something was wrong. Time to consult the maps.
The exciting conclusion was that No. 830.4C must not have been the best place to start for Bald Mountain. The big intervening canyon between Lupe and Bald Mountain was almost certainly Reservoir Gulch. Lupe was too far S. She would have to backtrack and go around the upper end of Reservoir Gulch.
It was farther than SPHP expected. Lupe went up and down, crossing many ravines feeding into Reservoir Gulch as she now headed back to the NE. Finally, a road appeared dead ahead. When Lupe reached it, SPHP saw that less than 100 feet off to the SE, this road intersected a bigger road. Oh, brother! Lupe was all the way back to USFS Road No. 830.
The G6 was nowhere in sight. Lupe was farther N along No. 830 than where it had been left. A sign at the side road showed that Lupe had reached USFS Road No. 881.1. Another sign showed that it led to Planting Spring. Time for another map check.
OK, this was it! No. 881.1 was definitely the right road to take. Lupe didn’t need to go all the way to Planting Spring, but in less than a mile Lupe should reach another road going SW toward Bald Mountain. After a short rest break, Lupe and SPHP set off again.
No. 881.1 was a much better road than No. 830.4C had been. Even so, Lupe soon came to a gate across the road closing No. 881.1 to motor vehicle traffic, too. Apparently all these minor roads were closed to motor vehicles.
No. 881.1 went up and down little hills on its way W. After about a mile or so, Lupe did come to a side road that turned S (L) in a sunny meadow. This side road was marked No. 881.1A. Lupe followed it, and soon it did turn SW.
After 0.25 mile or so, Lupe came to a marker for USFS Road No. 881.1C. A faint track went off to the WNW (R). Lupe stayed to the L on the better road. In another 0.25 mile, No. 881.1A reached some cliffs. Lupe was now on the N side of Reservoir Gulch. From the cliffs, Lupe could see Vision Peak off to the SE.
Lupe had only another 0.5 mile to go to reach Bald Mountain. She came to a variety of scenic points along the way. She passed by some groves of scrub oaks sporting orangey brown leaves.
USFS Road No. 881.1A did not go quite all the way to Bald Mountain. It played out about 0.25 mile from the summit. A few hundred feet farther W was a small ridge topped with scattered large boulders. It was possible to get a distant view to the W from one of the boulders.
Lupe went S following the boulders. When the small ridge ended, Lupe continued on through the forest. She eventually wound up back along the N edge of Reservoir Gulch again. Here she had an even better view of Vision Peak to the SE. She was getting quite close to her Bald Mountain objective, too.
Lupe reached the top of Bald Mountain(4,800 ft.). The summit area was a huge triangular field of tall grass, several hundred feet long on each side. Forest ringed much of the N and NW edges of the field, and around the S tip, but elsewhere there were great unobstructed views. This was more like it! Bald Mountain should have been named Vision Peak!
Lupe and SPHP took a stroll around the summit field before settling down for a break. Lupe had water and Taste of the Wild. SPHP had an apple. The big view toward Devils Tower and Missouri Buttes was simply marvelous. It might have been even a little more marvelous if the weather wasn’t deteriorating.
What had been a 20 mph SSW breeze earlier in the day, had built up to a 35 mph gusty SW wind. Big clouds were moving in from the SW. The clouds sprinkled light rain for a few minutes, but the rain shower didn’t amount to much. Lupe didn’t care for that wind, though! She preferred curling up behind SPHP to facing directly into the wind to see the view.
With Lupe’s second peakbagging success of the day secured, it was time to return to the G6. Away from the SW edge of Bald Mountain, the wind was hardly noticeable. As big clouds sailed across the sky overhead, Lupe roamed the forest. She saw lots of deer. The occasional squirrel kept her entertained.
Near Bald Mountain, she passed by the orange and brown groves of scrub oak again. Farther along, were the yellow aspens.
The return trip was simply a retracement of Lupe’s route to Bald Mountain all the way back to USFS Road No. 830. From there, Lupe had to follow No. 830 going S until she found the G6 again, still parked at the start of USFS Road No. 830.4C (2:47 PM, 66°F).
Most of the big clouds were gone now. The sun was out again. A little over three hours remained before sunset. Lupe had one more peakbagging goal left for the day. About 6 or 7 miles farther N on No. 830, the old USFS map showed a side road leading close to Stoney Point(4,480 ft.). SPHP drove N looking for it.
A wooden rail fence curved away from USFS Road No. 830 where SPHP found the side road Lupe needed to follow toward Stoney Point. A pickup truck and travel trailer were parked near the start of the side road, which was unmarked by any road number or name. A big black horse with a large white spot on his forehead stood right in the middle of the side road. “Spot” seemed to be the campsite’s only occupant at the moment.
SPHP parked the G6 on the W side of No. 830, away from the camp (3:22 PM, 64°F). Lupe and SPHP then cut through a field on the S side of the rail fence away from “Spot”. SPHP hoped to keep Lupe from playing a game of “See Spot run! Run, Spot, run!” Spot was quite curious about what was going on, and watched Lupe nervously. Although Lupe loves barking at horses from the G6, she paid Spot no mind. She reached the side road well beyond where Spot had effectively blocked it.
On the side road, Lupe soon arrived at a fence and gate. Ahh, yes! This minor dirt road, like all the others, was also closed to motor vehicles from here on. A pickup truck with Ohio license plates was parked nearby. Lupe and SPHP continued following the side road. Stoney Point was still 2.5 miles to the NE.
Before long, Lupe came to a place where there was a grassy hill on the N side of the road. Up on the hill were a couple of interesting large boulders. Lupe and SPHP headed for the boulders. Lupe leaped up on the biggest one for a photo and a look around.
With nothing else of note in the area, Lupe and SPHP continued on, taking a shortcut over the small grassy hill. More boulders came into view as Lupe reached the crest of the hill. As Lupe passed by the first big one, she discovered someone sitting with his back to the boulder only a couple of feet away. A hunter!
Lupe’s sudden appearance right next to him seemed to startle the hunter for a moment. When he saw SPHP, he waved, and SPHP waved back. Lupe and SPHP went on. From up on the hill, the hunter had a great view of the large field to the E. Lupe and SPHP crossed the field, reached the road again, and eventually disappeared from his range of view as the road returned to the forest.
Hearing gunfire on Lupe’s expeditions, isn’t that uncommon. Usually any gunfire is distant and from people doing target practice, but occasionally there are hunters about, especially this time of year. However, Lupe has seldom actually seen hunters in the field. Lupe and SPHP rarely see anyone on her Black Hills expeditions, except near major roads. Lupe had never come right up on a hunter in the field like this before!
The road went close to the edge of a canyon. There was a big view to the SE. On the far horizon, Lupe could see the Black Hills back in South Dakota.
The road left the edge of the canyon curving first N, then NW, as it continued through the forest. However, the road soon left the forest as it turned N again. Up ahead was a another grassy hill with some big boulders near the top. Wearing bright orange, another hunter was stationed up there!
Lupe stuck to the road. The hunter and SPHP waved as the American Dingo passed on by. When Lupe reached the top of the hill, the road turned NE crossing a huge level field. This treeless plain was exposed and windy. Not as windy as Bald Mountain had been, but a 20 mph SW wind swept across the field. At the far end of the field were some low rocks near a few pine trees. When she got there, Lupe sought out a place sheltered from the wind.
SPHP checked the maps. Stoney Point had to be close by. It was just a small hill to the ENE beyond this elevated windswept plain. Lupe could be there in 15 minutes. Lupe was disappointed to learn she had to leave her cozy windbreak to press on.
A short distance E of Lupe’s rocky windbreak, Stoney Point(4,480 ft.) came into view. Stoney Point was just a barren hill with a few boulders, bushes and trees scattered over it. The views would be good from there, though.
Lupe headed for the biggest rocks on the NW slope of Stoney Point as she approached. The wind was blowing hard when she jumped up on them.
From the big rocks, it was only a short stroll up to the summit of Stoney Point. There were huge distant views from the NW to the ESE. Lupe could see a very long way out across low pine-covered ridges and high prairie. Despite the wind, Lupe and SPHP hung around a while checking out the views.
SPHP had noticed a post with a red top up on Stoney Point when Lupe first arrived, but hadn’t though much of it. SPHP was surprised when Lupe found a survey benchmark a few feet away. The old USFS map hadn’t shown a benchmark, but here it was! A closer look at the topo map from Peakbagger.com did show the benchmark.
When the time came to leave Stoney Point, SPHP started heading W down the hill on the way back to the huge field. A minute later, SPHP realized Lupe wasn’t coming. She was still back up near the summit of Stoney Point. SPHP called her, but she still didn’t come. She was standing stiffly in place.
Lupe looked like she did earlier in the year when she had encounters with cactus. SPHP hadn’t noticed any cactus, but maybe she had stepped on one somewhere up on Stoney Point?
SPHP returned to Lupe. She let SPHP inspect all her paws. No cactus spines anywhere – nothing was wrong that SPHP could see. Still, something must have happened. Maybe she stepped on something sharp, and thought it was a cactus?
In any case, Lupe wouldn’t budge. SPHP carried her as far as the big rocks on the NW slope of Stoney Point. She was willing to pose for a couple more photos from the rocks.
For some reason, being up on the rocks helped Lupe’s confidence. Presumably she discovered her paws didn’t really hurt as she moved around. All on her own, off she went, now leading SPHP on the way back to the G6. When she reached the E end of the huge field, she paused for one more look back at Stoney Point.
The second hunter was still in position when Lupe went by again. Once again, the hunter and SPHP waved. Returning to the forest, Lupe found a squirrel to bark at. She had a great time, but a little later, as she was approaching the area where she had startled the first hunter, he came down the hill toward SPHP. Oh, boy. Maybe he had heard Lupe barking, and was unhappy thinking she had driven away whatever he might be hunting?
Nope. The hunter was just friendly. He was really a very nice guy, and simply wanted to meet Lupe and chat with SPHP. His name was Joe Eberz. He was from Ohio, and was way out here in NE Wyoming hunting elk. Had Lupe seen the rest of his party? Yes, but only half of it. Turned out there was a third hunter Lupe and SPHP hadn’t noticed somewhere out there.
Joe hadn’t seen any elk in Wyoming yet, and neither had Lupe or SPHP today. Plenty of deer around, but none of Lupe’s “giant deers”. Joe and his party still had several more days to hunt. Maybe they would find elk before they had to return to Ohio.
Joe and SPHP had a pleasant conversation. Joe said Lupe really had startled him when she made her first sudden appearance. SPHP had been amazed to see Joe sitting behind the big rock, too! Joe petted Lupe, and had his picture taken with her.