Black Hills, WY Expedition No. 185 – Sweetwater Mountain (12-4-16)

N of Newcastle, Lupe and SPHP stopped at the Salt Creek Overlook.  There was a little snow here in Wyoming.  Not much, but enough to brighten the scene.  Lupe perched precariously on a guard rail post for her souvenir shot, a cliff a few feet behind her.  As soon as she heard the click of the camera, she jumped off the post.  The photo was taken into the sun, but didn’t turn out too badly.

Lupe perches precariously on the guard rail post at the Salt Creek Overlook along Hwy 85 N of Newcastle, WY. Photo looks SE.

Lupe was back in wonderful Wyoming for the last time in 2016 to complete her peakbagging tour of Black Hills peaks W of the South Dakota border.  Only one peak remained on her list – Sweetwater Mountain (6,440 ft.).

Three weeks ago, on Expedition No. 182, Lupe had climbed nearby Mount Pisgah (6,380 ft.).  There had been time enough left in the day for Lupe to climb Sweetwater Mountain, too.  However, the owner of the ranch Sweetwater Mountain is situated on couldn’t be found right away.  He suddenly showed up on an ATV, as SPHP was writing a note to leave at his house requesting permission for Lupe to be on his land.

The rancher’s name was Bart Roberts, as SPHP had learned from a trip report on Peakbagger.com written by Edward Earl, the only Peakbagger.com account holder to have previously climbed Sweetwater Mountain.  Mr. Roberts refused Lupe permission to climb the mountain.  He leased out hunting rights to the property, and didn’t want the hunters disturbed.

Would it be acceptable for Lupe to return after hunting season?  Mr. Roberts considered that for a few minutes.  Yes, that would be fine, but Lupe couldn’t come back until after elk season was over at the end of November.  SPHP could park over by the old barn.

Now it was early December.  A long stretch of much colder weather starting tomorrow was in the forecast.  If Lupe was ever going to climb Sweetwater Mountain, today was the day.

As Edward Earl’s trip report mentioned, the entrance to Mr. Robert’s ranch is 12.5 miles N of Newcastle, or 5 miles S of Four Corners, on the W side of US Hwy No. 85.  SPHP drove N from the Salt Creek Overlook until Red Butte came into view, unmistakable on the E side of the highway.  Lupe was almost to Mr. Robert’s ranch.  SPHP soon saw the mailbox on a barrel mentioned by Edward Earl.  Lupe had arrived!

Lupe arrives at the entrance to Bart Robert’s ranch on 12-4-16 ready to climb Sweetwater Mountain, having already secured permission from Mr. Roberts to do so. The old mailbox on a barrel mentioned by Edward Earl’s May 2009 trip report was still here. Photo looks NW.

As previously agreed, SPHP drove only about a mile onto the ranch, parking the G6 near an old barn (8:59 AM, 14°F).  Nearby was a light green house.  This wasn’t Bart Roberts’ personal home (already passed by on a short side road to the R on the way in), but is on his land and occupied by his brother.

SPHP parked the G6 near this scenic old barn a mile or so onto Mr. Robert’s ranch. Lupe was ready to start her climb of Sweetwater Mountain! Photo looks WNW.
Lupe on today’s road to adventure! The green gate mentioned by Edward Earl’s trip report on Peakbagger.com was standing open. Photo looks WNW.

Lupe and SPHP passed through an open green gate, starting toward Sweetwater Mountain on a dirt road.  At only 14°F, it was noticeably colder here in Wyoming than back home in South Dakota, but the day would warm up.  Lupe didn’t even seem to notice the cold.  She rolled and frisked in the snow by the road.

The old barn wasn’t even out of sight yet, when Lupe came to a barbed wire fence across the road.  The gate was so firmly fastened, it was easiest to simply crawl under.

Past the firmly fastened barb wire gate, an American Dingo looks forward to fun and adventure on Sweetwater Mountain. Photo looks SE.

In only a few minutes, Lupe arrived at an intersection at the base of Sweetwater Mountain.  The main road went straight, then curved L (S) to begin winding up the mountain.  The other road branched off to the R (N), going downhill a short distance to what appeared to be a small frozen pond.  (Later in the day, Lupe returned along this side road.  The pond, if that is what it was, had no water in it.)

Lupe quickly reached an intersection at the base of Sweetwater Mountain. She followed the main road going straight, not the side road to the R.
A look down the side road. It wound around what appeared to be a frozen pond at the bottom of the drainage. Later Lupe learned there wasn’t any water or even ice there, just some snow.

Lupe stayed straight (W) on the main road, which quickly curved S (L) to start climbing the E face of the mountain.  The road wound around making a series of switchbacks.  After several switchbacks, Lupe came to a larger frozen pond on the SW (L) side of the road.  This was likely the 2nd pond mentioned in Edward Earl’s trip report.

Lupe reaches a frozen pond SW of the road. This is likely the 2nd pond mentioned by Edward Earl. Photo looks SW.

Lupe continued NW on the road past the pond.  The road turned S again.  The intention had been to follow this road all the way up onto the Sweetwater Mountain plateau, but suddenly there was a noise.  A vehicle was coming up the road!  It would be here momentarily.

Maybe hunters were coming?  Mr. Roberts had mentioned the possibility of hunters seeking other game being on the mountain after elk season.  Lupe had permission to be here, but maybe it was best to stay out of sight?  No sense causing any friction between Mr. Roberts and his paying customers.  Lupe and SPHP scrambled up the forested bank, getting off the road.

Within seconds, an ATV appeared, passing quickly by below.  Three men had been in it, dressed as hunters.  They hadn’t noticed Lupe or SPHP.  The ATV looked like the one Bart Roberts owned, but SPHP hadn’t gotten a good look at any of the men.  Whether Mr. Roberts had been among them wasn’t clear.

Yes, maybe it was best to simply stay out of sight.  Mr. Roberts hadn’t said anything about how he wanted SPHP to react, if hunters were present.  He most definitely hadn’t wanted the elk hunters disturbed.

Lupe didn’t return to the road.  The Sweetwater Mountain plateau wasn’t all that much farther up.  Lupe and SPHP angled NW through the forest, climbing a fairly steep slope.  There was a lot more snow here than down below, several inches.  The snow made the slope slick, but Lupe made it up onto the E edge of the plateau.

Even though she had permission to be here, after seeing hunters go by in an ATV, Lupe stayed off road in the forest while completing her climb up onto the Sweetwater Mountain plateau. There was much more snow up here than down below by the old barn. Photo looks NW.

The Sweetwater Mountain plateau is irregularly shaped, but runs roughly 3 miles N/S, and 0.5 to 1.0 mile E/W.  Lupe had arrived about mid-way along the E edge of the mountain, somewhere a bit S of High Point 6402 on the topo map.  Lupe’s primary objective was to reach the true summit, located along the N edge of the plateau 0.33 mile out on a section of the plateau protruding to the E.  The summit was still nearly 2 miles away.

The Sweetwater Mountain plateau turned out to be forested, gently rolling terrain.  That was fortunate.  Lupe shouldn’t have a hard time staying out of the hunters’ way.  She saw no sign of them.  Lupe and SPHP started N staying very close to the E edge of the plateau.

Although the N face of Sweetwater Mountain is the highest and steepest, the E face is only moderately less so.  Lupe quickly arrived at rock formations near the top of a line of small E-facing cliffs.  She had a good view to the E toward the main body of the Black Hills in South Dakota.

Lupe comes to the first rock formations along the E edge of the Sweetwater Mountain plateau. Photo looks E.
Lupe found this wall of rock in the forest a little SW of the highest and best viewpoint she reached along the E edge of the plateau. Photo looks NW.

The best views Lupe came to along the E edge of the plateau were from a couple of roomy rock platforms, the S one being a little lower than the N one.  SPHP wasn’t entirely certain where Lupe was on the map.  This may have been High Point 6402, or somewhere N of it.  Wherever Lupe was, she sure had a terrific sweeping view of everything off to the E!

Dingo with a view! The S edge of the highest platform of rock Lupe came to along the E face of Sweetwater Mountain (possibly High Point 6402) is visible on the L. Photo looks NE.
Lupe on the lower rock platform. The long forested ridge on the horizon is the W side of the Black Hills range in South Dakota. Photo looks ESE.
Part of Mount Pisgah, where Lupe had been 3 weeks ago, is visible as the more distant ridge on the R. Photo looks SE from the highest rock platform.
The true summit of Sweetwater Mountain is on the ridge seen on the L. The rounded, forested hill on the R is High Point 6423. Lupe eventually left Sweetwater Mountain by traveling down to the saddle seen between them. She then proceeded back to the G6 along the open snowy slopes seen below High Point 6423. Photo looks NNE.

After passing by some of the more dramatic E-facing cliffs, Lupe continued N through the forest.  Down at the old barn, where Lupe had started her trek, there had only been 0.5″ of snow on the ground.  Up here, the snow was 3″ to 5″ deep.

Lupe seemed to be enjoying the day, but she was puzzled when SPHP repeatedly warned her not to bark at the squirrels she occasionally spotted in the trees.  So far, there hadn’t been any sign of the hunters.  Wherever they were, SPHP didn’t want Lupe alerting them to her presence.  Five minutes of shrill Dingo barking action would be a dead give-away!

SPHP encouraged Lupe to stay reasonably close.  A real danger lurked in the forest.  Now and then, Lupe was coming to downed barbed wire fences.  Whether the barbed wire was all part of one continuous fence, or several different fences, wasn’t clear and hardly mattered.  SPHP tried to keep a close watch for this danger, made worse by the fact that it was often partially hidden by the snow.  Lupe cooperatively allowed herself to be carried over each downed fence.

Lupe was approaching the N end of the Sweetwater Mountain plateau.  She crossed a road going E/W in the forest.  Only a little farther on, another road came this way from a snow-filled meadow off to the W, the first open ground Lupe had seen up on the plateau.  Lupe got on this second snowy road, following it E.  The mountain’s summit was still 0.33 mile away.

Where Lupe reached it, the road was very close to the high ground along the N edge of the mountain.  Edward Earl had mentioned a secondary objective on Sweetwater Mountain, the Cambria survey benchmark.  He’d written that he found it near a bright yellow wand on a hill.  The benchmark itself had been among a pile of rocks, also spray-painted bright yellow.

From Earl’s description, the Cambria survey benchmark was well W of Sweetwater Mountain’s true summit.  Lupe was probably already quite close to it.  She should find it before reaching the summit.  SPHP kept an eye out for the bright yellow wand.  Lupe had hardly gone any distance on the snowy road at all, when there it was!

The yellow wand (a single metal fence post) was no longer as bright as it was 7.5 years ago when Edward Earl was here in May 2009, but it was still here.  So were the now fading yellow rocks around the benchmark.  Lupe found that even the Cambria survey benchmark itself had been spray-painted yellow.

Lupe at Edward Earl’s yellow wand marking the location of the Cambria survey benchmark. Photo looks E.
The yellow wand was only a few feet from the drop-off along the N face of the mountain. From this angle, the yellow rocks and Cambria benchmark are right behind the wand. Photo looks N.
Even the Cambria survey benchmark had been painted bright yellow, though the paint was faded and flaking away by the time Lupe arrived more than 7.5 years after Edward Earl had been here.

Edward Earl had been right at this very spot!  Now Lupe was here.  Tragically, Earl had drowned in Alaska nearly 1.5 years ago while attempting to cross the Jago River N of the Arctic Circle.  Lupe had been in Alaska for the first time only a few months ago on her fabulous Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation.  SPHP was thinking such thoughts when, suddenly, there was a noise, an engine noise, approaching from the W.

The ATV!  The hunters were coming!  They were nearly here.  Lupe would surely be spotted in the snowy open forest S of the road, yet she was pinned only a few feet from the near vertical drop-off along the N face of the mountain.  Where to?

Quickly, Lupe and SPHP went E down a small slope to a depression along the N rim.  The depression was a little farther from the road, and low enough to be barely out of sight.  A moment later, the ATV could be heard going by.  Lupe and SPHP caught only a glimpse of it, as the hunters drove off to the E.  That had been a close one!  By now, staying out of the hunters’ way had evolved into a game, a game Lupe had just narrowly avoided losing.

What now, though?  The hunters were headed E out on the ridge protruding from the summit plateau.  Soon they would reach the end of it.  It seemed likely they would have to come back this way before too long.  For 10 minutes, Lupe remained hidden at the depression, while SPHP listened for the ATV’s return, pondering her best course of action.  In the meantime, Lupe certainly had a tremendous view to the N from here!

From the little depression E of the Cambria survey benchmark along the N rim of Sweetwater Mountain, Lupe had a great view to the N. Inyan Kara(Center) is on the horizon. Photo looks NNW.

If Lupe had to hide out for a bit, this depression really was a good place to do it.  Lupe could see both Inyan Kara (6,360 ft.), and even more distant Warren Peaks (6,650 ft.) on the N horizon.  Beautiful western scenery was off to the NW, too.  Lupe and SPHP were perfectly happy to take a little break right here.

Inyan Kara using the telephoto lens. Photo looks NNW.
Warren Peaks (Center). Photo looks N using the telephoto lens.
Western scenery to the NW using the telephoto lens.
Looking NW. Inyan Kara(R) is on the horizon.

After 10 minutes, the ATV and the hunters had not returned.  What were they doing?  Were the hunters on foot now?  SPHP could hear nothing.  Lupe gave no sign of hearing anything unusual either.  Lupe couldn’t stay here forever.  Cautiously, she started E along the N edge of the mountain looking for the true summit.

The terrain did gain some elevation going E.  As Lupe approached the highest ground, two big bucks bounded away to the S.  Like Lupe, they had been hiding along the very N edge of the mountain.  If the hunters had been peakbaggers, too, they would have come right to them!  How odd, and ironically funny!

Lupe arrived at the true summit of Sweetwater Mountain, so recently vacated by the two bucks.  The summit was an unremarkable level area in the forest.  For the most part, trees blocked the views.

A Carolina Dog arrives at the true summit along the N edge of Sweetwater Mountain shortly after it was vacated by two large bucks. Photo looks WNW at the best view available from here.
Lupe on the true summit. The immediately surrounding ground was quite level. The oddly curved pine tree trunk in the background is a landmark that should last for some years yet. Photo looks ENE.
Stealth Dingo Lupe succeeds in reaching the true summit of Sweetwater Mountain without being detected by a roving band of hunters, despite 2 close calls! Would she be able to escape the mountain unseen? Photo looks WNW.

Having now been to both the Cambria survey benchmark and the true summit of Sweetwater Mountain, Lupe could have just called the day a success and headed back to the G6.  However, it was still relatively early.  Over toward the NW end of the mountain the topo map showed High Point 6410, only a few tens of feet lower than the true summit.  Maybe it would be fun for Lupe to see what was over there?

Lupe felt up to it.  She left the true summit heading W.  As she drew near her depression-with-a-view E of the Cambria benchmark, there was that noise again!  An engine, somewhere to the W.  How had the hunters gotten past Lupe way over there?  Was there a second group of them?  Better wait here again.  Lupe and SPHP enjoyed the view to the N from the depression.

Lupe and SPHP paused a 2nd time at the depression E of the Cambria survey benchmark, while waiting to see if the hunters were about to make another appearance. Strangely enough, this American Dingo refuge seemed to have the best unobstructed view to the N from anywhere along the mountain’s N rim. Photo looks NNE toward Inyan Kara Mountain.
Inyan Kara using the telephoto lens. Photo looks NNW.

The engine noise faded.  No hunters or ATV’s appeared.  Lupe resumed her trek W, passing by the Cambria benchmark again.  She was bold enough to follow the road W out into the big, snowy meadow.

Lupe followed the road from Cambria benchmark W out into this big snowy meadow. Photo looks W.

On the far side of the meadow, Lupe took a side road NW back into the forest.  She eventually abandoned this road to return to the N rim of the plateau.  Lupe followed the N rim going W.  She reached NW High Point 6410.  It turned out to be just another nearly level area near the N rim where the forest blocked the view.

Lupe reaches High Point 6410 on the NW part of the Sweetwater Mountain plateau. There wasn’t much to see here. More flat, snowy forest was about it. Photo looks W.

High Point 6410 hadn’t provided much excitement or drama.  A little farther NW, the topo map showed a point along the plateau edge jutting out to the N.  Lupe might as well continue on over there.  Maybe she could get a view to the W?

Lupe continued NW.  She reached the end of the N point.  There was a view to the W, but she had to travel a little SW along the edge of the plateau to reach a place where there was enough of an opening in the forest to permit a reasonably clear look.

Looking W from a small cliff near the NW end of Sweetwater Mountain.
Scenery WNW of Sweetwater Mountain.

Lupe still hadn’t explored the W or S sides of Sweetwater Mountain.  She would have done so, if there hadn’t been any hunters around.  There hadn’t been any further sign of them lately, but maybe it was time to call it good.  Lupe had done what she came to do.

So Lupe began her trek back to the G6.  She stayed along the N rim of the plateau.  Once again, she visited High Point 6410, the snowy meadow, the Cambria survey benchmark, and the true summit of Sweetwater Mountain along the way.  She found a road that led E steeply down to the saddle between Sweetwater Mountain and High Point 6423.

At the saddle, Lupe turned S.  Lupe and SPHP went through a gate in a barbed wire fence.  Now Lupe was on open ground heading S down into a valley.

The valley to the S of the saddle. Lupe is already past the barbed wire fence. Photo looks S.

Lupe was in no rush.  She had time to explore this valley.  It wouldn’t take long to get to the G6.  In fact, this route through the valley would have been a much more direct route to the summit than the one she had taken earlier in the day.  The valley had some pretty sights.  Lupe had a good time here.

Cliffs along the E face of Sweetwater Mountain. Lupe had been up above them heading N (R) on her way to the true summit earlier in the day. Photo looks WSW.
The large ridge on the horizon is Mount Pisgah. Photo looks SSE from a hillside SW of High Point 6423.
Loopster up on a boulder on the hillside SW of High Point 6423. Photo looks E.
The wily, elusive Snow-Dingo of Sweetwater Mountain.

No hunters or ATV’s ever made another appearance.  After a pleasant trek down the valley, Lupe was back at the G6.  Lupe’s adventures on Sweetwater Mountain were over.  (1:54 PM, 32°F)

There were still a couple of hours of daylight left.  Lupe took a roundabout way home.  She stopped by Four Corners.  A sign near the junction of US Hwy 85 and Wyoming Hwy 585 told of a stagecoach robbery back in the days of the Old West.Lupe and SPHP enjoyed a beautiful drive from Four Corners going first E on Mallo Road, then S on Beaver Creek Road.  Lupe rode with her head out the window of the G6, happily barking with all her might at herds of cows and horses.  At her last stop of the day, Lupe climbed a small hill overlooking LAK reservoir on Beaver Creek.  The lake was nearly completely frozen over.

The small hill(L) Lupe climbed for a view of the LAK reservoir. Photo looks SW.
Lupe near LAK reservoir. This small lake is 5 miles E of Newcastle, WY less than a mile N of US Hwy 16 along Beaver Creek Road. Photo looks NW.
Lupe’s 2016 adventures in Wyoming ended here, at LAK reservoir, after her successful climb of Sweetwater Mountain. Photo looks SW.

Soon after leaving LAK reservoir, Lupe was back in South Dakota.  Her 2016 adventures in Wyoming were over.  The Carolina Dog’s ascent of Sweetwater Mountain marked the successful conclusion of her fall of 2016 peakbagging tour of Black Hills and Bear Lodge Mountain peaks in NE Wyoming.

Cold weather was coming.  For the next couple of months, Lupe’s opportunities for outdoor adventures might be limited.  But, hey!  Both her birthday and Christmas would be here soon.  For high-spirited American Dingoes, there’s always another adventure of some sort right around the next bend!

Thank you to rancher Bart Roberts for granting Lupe and SPHP permission to enter his beautiful eastern Wyoming ranch to climb Sweetwater Mountain!

The wily Snow-Dingo, E of Sweetwater Mountain.

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

Lupe’s 6th Birthday (12-14-16)

Lupe’s 6th birthday was a rather cold day, as December birthdays are apt to be.  However, it wasn’t cold enough to prevent the day from starting with a little flying disc action in the backyard.

Lupe’s birthday got off to a good start with some flying disc action in the backyard.

Lupe had received the flying disc as part of a PupJoy gift box at Thanksgiving.  She used to play with Frisbees when she was less than two years old, but she wasn’t used to the flying disc now.  SPHP wasn’t the best at throwing it, either.

Still, Lupe had some success at catching the flying disc in mid-flight when SPHP managed to get in a decent toss.  Short practice sessions were held throughout the morning and early afternoon, with increasing success as the day wore on.

Around mid-afternoon, it was time to brave the Christmas crowds at Wal-Mart.  Lupe went along for the ride in the G6.  SPHP bought a Dingo’s food chocolate cake mix and marshmallow vanilla frosting.

At home, SPHP baked the cake.  It was supposed to cool for a while before being frosted.  SPHP was in a bit of a hurry, so the cake got put outside in 10°F weather for 20 minutes.  It was plenty cool to frost then!  SPHP added sprinkles on top of the frosting.  Then it was time to go.

Every year, Lupe has her birthday party at Grandma’s house, and this year was no exception.  Lupe raced in to surprise Grandma wearing her party hat.  Although this happens every year, Grandma still manages to be surprised and glad to see the birthday Dingo.

Lupe arrives at Grandma’s house wearing her party hat, ready to surprise Grandma!
Grandma was glad to see the birthday Dingo, and Lupe was glad to see Grandma!

Lupe’s birthday party was poorly attended this year.  Only Grandma, SPHP and Lupe were there.  Even Butterfly, Grandma’s 3-legged cat, didn’t bother to come out to wish Lupe a happy birthday.

Lupe wasn’t worried about the attendance, though.  What worried her was a new addition to her birthday cake.  SPHP had added candles!  Whether she was afraid of the flaming cake, or how many Dingo years gone by those candles represented wasn’t entirely clear, but after a few minutes, Lupe got used to them.

Lupe seemed a bit scared of her flaming birthday cake at first. She’d never had a cake with candles on it before! Whether she was worried about being so close to the flames, or about the number of Dingo years gone by those candles represented wasn’t entirely clear.

Grandma and SPHP sang Happy Birthday to Lupe.  She liked being the star of the party!  When Grandma and SPHP told her the candles meant she could make a wish before they were blown out, Lupe liked that idea a lot!

I get to make a wish!? Maybe these candles are a good thing!

Lupe thought and thought about what she should wish for.  The candles burned so low on the cake, they were about to light the frosting on fire.  Finally, when Lupe had had enough time to settle on what her wish would be, SPHP blew out the candles for her.

SPHP succeeded in blowing out all 6 candles in one breath.  Lupe was very happy!  That meant her wish was going to come true!  She was careful not to let anyone know what she’d wished for, so her wish didn’t get jinxed.

Lupe was very happy that her secret birthday wish is going to come true!

Next it was time for Lupe’s birthday presents.  She got 4 presents, because she is loved so much!  Lupe received a package of Nudges brand jerky cuts chicken treats, a new Kong squeaker ball, an Ol’ Roy long-lasting chew stick, and a bottle of Alaska Naturals wild Alaskan salmon oil.

Lupe with all her birthday loot and her birthday cake.

After Lupe got to see all her new presents, it was time for cake and ice cream.  Lupe normally loves cake and ice cream, but she went for the new Ol’ Roy long-lasting chew stick instead.

Lupe chomps away on her new long-lasting Ol’ Roy chew stick.

Long-lasting turned out to mean about 3 minutes.  By then, Lupe had devoured the whole chew stick!  At least it must have been satisfying and filling.  Lupe decided not to eat any cake or ice cream.  SPHP put her cake and ice cream in the freezer to save it for later on.

Full of Ol’ Roy 3 minute long-lasting chew stick, Lupe decided to pass on the cake and ice cream. SPHP saved it for her in the freezer for later on.

When SPHP and Grandma had finished their cake and ice cream, SPHP asked Lupe if she wanted to go to the cul-de-sac.  Lupe loves to go to the cul-de-sac!  Even though it was pretty cold out, Lupe wanted to go.

Lupe was excited about the prospect of going to the cul-de-sac! It’s one of her most favorite things to do at Grandma’s house. She was anxious to go on a moment’s notice.

This time of year, there is a house near the cul-de-sac that always has the most beautiful Christmas tree.  Lupe stopped by to see it on the way back from the cul-de-sac.

Lupe dropped by to see the most beautiful Christmas tree on her way back to Grandma’s house from the cul-de-sac. It was pretty chilly outside, but Lupe was glad she came. The brightly decorated tree really was a wonderful sight under a frosty full moon.

When Lupe got back to Grandma’s house, her big 6th birthday bash was over.  SPHP gathered up her 3 remaining undevoured presents to take home.  Lupe didn’t see any deer or cows to bark at on the way home, but she did get to bark at the gas pipeline.  That gas pipeline never lets her down!

Lupe hopes not to let you down, either.  Being 5 is going to be tough to beat, but the 6 year old Carolina Dog promises more new Dingo adventures on the way!

May your birthday wishes and dreams come true, Lupe!

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s Dingo Tales Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe Adventures.

Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 184 – Iron Mountain & Peak 5688 (11-28-16)

Windy.  Not all that cold out, but not terribly warm, either.  SPHP dithered.  Lupe was due for another of her Black Hills expeditions, but what were conditions going to be like up in the hills?  Lupe was anxious to go.  SPHP checked the forecast again.  Not much of a change expected all day long.  It would probably be OK.  Lupe won out, Expedition No. 184 was a go!

After a bit of a late start, SPHP parked the G6 at the parking lot on top of Iron Mountain (10:38 AM, 34°F).  Lupe’s first peakbagging success of the day was going to be a super easy, trivial one.  A short paved path curved NW toward an official viewpoint at the NW edge of the large, forested summit area.

Expedition No. 184 started with Lupe already almost at the top of Iron Mountain. The rocky ridge seen between the trees is the true summit at the W end of the mountain. Photo looks W.

The big view from Iron Mountain (5,446 ft.) is off to the W toward Harney Peak (7,242 ft.), the highest mountain in South Dakota.  The main attraction for most people, however, is closer by to the NW.  Mount Rushmore (5,725 ft.) can be seen only 3 miles away.

Lupe didn’t go to the official, safely-fenced, tourist viewpoint.  She made the 20 foot climb up onto the short, scenic rock ridge where the true summit is to claim her pathetically easy Iron Mountain peakbagging success.  Once on top at the edge of the mountain, she had no interest in sticking around for the views.  Every blast of the N wind, gusting 30-35 mph, was hitting her full force.  Not Lupe’s idea of a good time!

Lupe, partially protected from the roaring N wind, at the base of the solid rock summit ridge on Iron Mountain. Photo looks SW.
Almost at the top. Photo looks SW.
Harney Peak from the summit of Iron Mountain. Photo looks W.

Of course, Iron Mountain wasn’t Lupe’s real peakbagging goal for Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 184.  Simply driving practically to the top of the mountain would have been a poor excuse for an expedition.

Eight days ago, on Expedition No. 183, Lupe had made it from Lakota Lake to nearby Woodpecker Ridge (5,680 ft.).  Her route traveling SW along the length of the ridge had been so difficult and taken so long, Lupe had run out of time to go on to Peak 5688.  Lupe was back to find and climb Peak 5688 on Expedition No. 184.

Lupe stayed on the windy summit of Iron Mountain for only a moment or two.  She wanted down out of that gale!  Lupe and SPHP left the Iron Mountain summit area heading first S, then W down to the Iron Mountain Picnic Ground along Iron Mountain Road (Hwy 16A).  From the picnic ground, Lupe took Centennial Bypass Trail No. 89B going SW into the Black Elk Wilderness.  The wind wasn’t much of a problem down here.

Image result for black elk wilderness trail systemBefore long, Lupe came to a sign along the trail.  SPHP intended for Lupe to take Iron Mountain Trail No. 16 going S to Iron Creek, but the sign didn’t mention that trail.  The sign was actually at the intersection, but deadfall timber hid Trail No. 16 from view.  SPHP failed to look carefully enough to find it, and missed the turn.

Lupe was a lot farther along Centennial Bypass Trail No. 89B before SPHP stopped to check the maps and realized the mistake.  No matter, Trail No. 89B was one of the few trails Lupe had never been on before in the Black Elk Wilderness.  She was having fun exploring it.  Soon Lupe would reach the junction with the main Centennial Trail No. 89.  She could turn S there.

Lupe near the junction of Centennial Bypass Trail No. 89B and Centennial Trail No. 89. Photo looks E back along the bypass trail she had just traveled.

Back in 2012, when Lupe first started her Black Hills, SD Expeditions, she explored virtually the entire length of the 111 mile long Centennial Trail No. 89 over the course of the year, one section at a time.  It seemed like a long time ago.  When Lupe turned S on Centennial Trail No. 89, at first SPHP didn’t recognize anything.

On Centennial Trail No. 89. Lupe had explored virtually the entire length of this 111 mile trail back in 2012, one section at a time. Even so, SPHP didn’t recognize this part of the trail. Photo looks S.

As Lupe headed S on Centennial Trail No. 89, she started seeing huge granite rock formations a little E of the trail.  Before long, Lupe arrived at an intersection that did look familiar.  SPHP remembered being confused back in 2012 as to which way to go from here.  The correct choice had been to turn E, so Lupe did so again.

Lupe on Centennial Trail No. 89 just after turning E at the intersection where SPHP had been confused back in 2012. Photo looks E.

Very shortly after turning E, the trail started curving S again, arriving almost immediately at yet another intersection.  Centennial Trail No. 89 went S staying to the W of the huge rock formations.  If Lupe went that way, she would arrive at the Iron Mountain Horse Camp near Iron Creek.

There was a faster way to get to Iron Creek, though.  Lupe left Centennial Trail No. 89 taking Grizzly Bear Creek Trail No. 7 (unmarked at the junction) instead.  Trail No. 7 went SE between towering walls of solid granite.  Lupe followed Grizzly Bear Creek Trail No. 7 all the way down to a trailhead at USFS Road No. 345 near Iron Creek.

Lupe in the Black Elk Wilderness on her way to Iron Creek via Grizzly Bear Creek Trail No. 7. Photo looks NNE.

From the trailhead along USFS Road No. 345, Peak 5688 was about 2 miles to the SSE as the crow flies.  It had taken Lupe quite a while to reach Iron Creek on the route she had taken, but there was still plenty of time to search for Peak 5688.  No road or trail led to it from here.  Lupe would have to make her way to Peak 5688 by exploring the forest, but she loves doing that!

The first task was to cross Iron Creek, which was S of the road.  Lupe crossed USFS Road No. 345, went to the creek, and quickly found a way over it.

Newly formed ice crystals on Iron Creek. 8 days ago, on Expedition No. 183, there had been an inch of snow down along Iron Creek. The snow had melted, but apparently it had been cold again recently.
Lupe about to cross Iron Creek. Photo looks upstream (W).

Beyond the creek, Lupe continued S, climbing up onto a small ridge.  She could see massive granite formations typical of this part of the Black Hills back to the N.

Looking N from the small ridge at massive granite rock outcroppings typical of this part of the Black Hills.

Lupe and SPHP wandered through the forest, trying to travel S in the general direction of Peak 5688.  For a while, it was hard to keep one’s bearings.  The rumpled terrain kept forcing Lupe in different directions.  There were no clear landmarks in view.  Lupe had never been here before.

Lupe wanders looking for Peak 5688. Photo looks S?

After wandering around for a while, Lupe finally saw a high hill ahead.  The high hill was part of Woodpecker Ridge, where Lupe had been 8 days ago on Expedition No. 183.

Still looking for Peak 5688, Lupe discovers the high hill in the background. SPHP correctly surmised it was part of Woodpecker Ridge, not too far from the summit where Lupe had been 8 days ago on Expedition No. 183. Photo looks SE?

Lupe continued her explorations, eventually entering an area of deadfall timber and thistles that looked vaguely familiar from Expedition No. 183.  She came across a primitive road that led up to some high ground.  Studying the topo map, SPHP became convinced this road was part of a route shown on the map a little W of Woodpecker Ridge.

Looking E at Woodpecker Ridge.

Lupe saw a long forested ridge off to the SSW.  That ridge almost certainly had to be Peak 5688.  Lupe was closest to it’s NNE end.  She headed S toward it, crossing High Point 5428 on the topo map along the way.

Lupe in the forest N of High Point 5428. Photo looks S.
Lupe reaches the top of High Point 5428. Photo looks NE.

Lupe crossed a dirt road in the saddle between High Point 5428 and the NNE end of Peak 5688.  Instead of heading for the very end of the ridge, Lupe climbed up its NW slope to gain the ridgeline a little farther S.  This part of the ridge was narrow, forested, and strewn with boulders.

Lupe makes it up onto the Peak 5688 ridgeline a little S of its NNE end. This part of the ridge was relatively narrow, strewn with many boulders and some deadfall timber. Photo looks NNE.

Lupe was still about 0.5 mile from the summit of Peak 5688, which is near the SSW end of the ridgeline.  Lupe followed the ridge toward the summit, gaining elevation gradually along the way.  She started coming to places with big views again, especially toward the N and W.

Wherever there were openings in the forest, Lupe had views again from the Peak 5688 ridgeline. Photo looks NW toward the Cathedral Spires(L) and Harney Peak(R).

Although the wind hadn’t been a problem since leaving the summit of Iron Mountain, it was still blowing just as hard now as it had been earlier.  Up on the Peak 5688 ridgeline, Lupe was increasingly exposed to the wind again as she progressed toward the summit.  She often stayed a little E of the ridgeline to avoid the worst of it.

The strong wind was a problem again up on Peak 5688. It was very windy where Lupe is seen here up on the little wall of rocks, or anywhere to the R (NW). It was much less windy just a few feet to the L (SE). Photo looks SW.
The biggest rock outcropping on the horizon at center is Mt. Rushmore. The tall, thin dead tree to Lupe’s L is pointing almost straight up at George Washington’s head. The wind made it hard to hold the camera steady enough for a clear shot. Photo looks N.

Lupe came to a higher, broader, more open part of the ridge.  At first, SPHP thought this might be the summit.  There were great views from this area, but with only a few trees to slow it down here, the wind was exceptionally strong.

Looking NW from the open area. Harney Peak in view R of Center.
Lupe in the gale up on a rock that SPHP thought for a little while might be the true summit of Peak 5688. It turned out the summit was still a little farther S. Photo looks NE.

From the high open ground, a more heavily forested area was partially in view to the SSW.  Uncertain whether Lupe had already reached the top of Peak 5688 or not, Lupe and SPHP continued on to check it out.  In a few minutes, Lupe came across a small cairn on larger rocks.

Stuffed in a crack in the rocks right below the cairn was a small, torn, zip-lock plastic bag.  It contained a few crumpled pieces of aluminum foil, some damp rotten paper, and a plastic toy of two dogs water skiing.  There was also a piece of paper with the names William Wade & Charles Wade Johnson on it.  It was dated 8-13-12, and signed CWJ.

Another Carolina Dog peakbagging success! Lupe stands on the highest rocks of Peak 5688. Photo looks S.
Lupe discovered this plastic toy in a little plastic bag tucked into a crack in the rocks beneath the summit cairn. SPHP left the toy in the plastic bag along with a paper signed 8-13-12 by CWJ where Lupe had found it, but packed out the small amount of trash the bag contained.
Lupe takes a break at the summit of Peak 5688. Photo looks S.

After a short break near the cairn, Lupe and SPHP toured the general area to make absolutely certain Lupe had reached the true summit of Peak 5688.  She had!  Although the summit was mostly hidden by trees, there were nice views available close by.

Harney Peak from within a few feet of Peak 5688’s true summit. Photo looks NW.
Looking NNW using the telephoto lens.
Looking SE.
Looking N toward the true summit during a brief exploration Lupe made to the S.
Cathedral Spires using the telephoto lens. Photo looks NW.

The days are short near the end of November.  Even though it wasn’t all that late, the sun was low.  It would be down within the hour.  Lupe still had a long way to go to get back to the G6.  She at least needed to reach USFS Road No. 345 near Iron Creek before it got dark.  It was time to leave Peak 5688.  Lupe was tired of the wind, anyway.

Lupe in a nice little flat area next to the summit rocks. (The small cairn is visible on the L.) She would stay here on Peak 5688 only a few more minutes before leaving to head back to the G6. Photo looks N.

Lupe started back to the G6 going NNE along the Peak 5688 ridgeline.  She didn’t follow the ridge nearly as far back as she had originally come up along it.  As soon as she could, she headed NW down off the ridge.  Within 20 minutes of leaving the summit, Lupe was out of the wind in a beautiful grassy valley.

Lupe on her way down. Here she’s still in the high open area NNE of the summit. Woodpecker Ridge(R) can be seen in the distance between the trees. Photo looks NNE.
Lupe reaches the beautiful grassy valley NW of Peak 5688. Photo looks SW.

The sun sank down behind the hills.  Lupe found a fairly good dirt road on the other side of the beautiful valley which led N.  She followed it for a little way.  When it turned toward the W, she left the road.  Lupe and SPHP wandered N in the forest.  Well before twilight faded, Lupe reached Iron Creek again at a small frozen pond.

Lupe nears a frozen pond along Iron Creek. USFS Road No. 345 is in view beyond the pond. Photo looks NW.

Beyond Iron Creek and the frozen pond, Lupe returned to USFS Road No. 345.  She followed the road NE two miles to the Iron Mountain Trail No. 16 trailhead.  Along the way, she passed Camp Remington and the Grizzly Bear Creek Trail No. 7 trailhead.  She went by old cabins scattered along the road.  Everything was quiet and deserted.  Not a soul was around.

Lupe at Camp Remington. No one was around at any of the cabins here, or anywhere else along her route.

Twilight was almost gone by the time Lupe started up Iron Mountain Trail No. 16.  The flashlight had to be put to use.  Wind still blew in the trees.  Faint stars appeared in the sky.  It was that last quiet hour of darkness Lupe often experiences at the end of her Black Hills expeditions while traveling back to the G6.

Uncharacteristically, SPHP decided to try a few night time shots using the camera’s flash.  What would they show?

The first shot SPHP took in the dark using the flash was the best. It revealed a scary wide-eyed American Dingo on Iron Mountain Trail No. 16.

Lupe finally arrived at the intersection with Centennial Bypass Trail No. 89B.  No wonder SPHP had missed the intersection earlier in the day!  A huge amount of deadfall timber was strewn all over Iron Mountain Trail No. 16 in this area.

Lupe took Trail No. 89B back to the Iron Mountain Picnic Ground.  She crossed Iron Mountain Road.  Lupe returned to the summit of Iron Mountain.

The wind had died down only a little.  Tiny snowflakes whipped by in the gusty breeze.  SPHP fumbled around trying to get a photo of Lupe on top of Iron Mountain in the dark.  Success was limited.

Oh, well.  Lupe’s Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 184 to Iron Mountain & Peak 5688 was over.  At least, Lupe had been successful!  Time to go home.  (5:52 PM, 31°F)

An American Dingo loses patience, leaving the Iron Mountain summit a moment before the flash.
Carolina Dog on Iron Mountain – perhaps a little underexposed?
Overexposed rocks at the summit of Iron Mountain. The American Dingo is either cloaked, or has already grown disgusted and left.
Blurry Carolina Dog at the summit of Iron Mountain after dark. OK, we’re calling this one good as good as it gets! Let’s go home Loopster, its cold and windy here!

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The Worthington Glacier, Alaska (8-11-16)

Days 12 & 13 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska.

Lupe’s adventures in the Yukon were done for now.  Only yesterday, she’d enjoyed an epic day climbing Mount Decoeli (7,650 ft.) in Kluane National Park.  From afar, she had seen Canada’s highest mountain, Mount Logan (19,541 ft.).  Today was going to be a well-deserved day of rest for the Carolina Dog.  Lupe would spend much of it snoozing in the G6, while SPHP drove N.

Lupe was on her way to Alaska!

Lupe's morning on 8-10-16 started near Kluane Lake in Kluane National Park in the Yukon. Mount Decoeli, which Lupe had climbed the day before, is seen here on the far (L) across Kluane Lake. Photo looks SE.
Lupe’s morning on 8-10-16 started near Kluane Lake in Kluane National Park in the Yukon. Mount Decoeli, which Lupe had climbed the day before, is seen here on the far (L) across Kluane Lake. Photo looks SE.
 Lupe at Kluane Lake in the Yukon. Photo looks SSE.
Lupe at Kluane Lake in the Yukon. Photo looks SSE.

Lupe and SPHP made frequent stops along the way.  Sometimes Lupe stopped at scenic highlights.  More often, SPHP was forced to stop due to road construction.  The Alaska Highway had buckled and heaved in many places.  Lupe & SPHP spent a good deal of time following pilot cars across dusty, torn-up, sections of road.  All the way, fascinating Yukon scenery was right outside the window of the G6.

Mountains of the Saint Elias range. Not a bad bit of scenery to enjoy while waiting for the pilot car to appear! Photo looks SW.
Mountains of the Saint Elias range. Not a bad bit of scenery to enjoy while waiting for the pilot car to appear! Photo looks SW.

When Lupe crossed the mighty Donjek River, SPHP was stuck following a pilot car and couldn’t stop.  Farther N, she did get to stop and see the White River.

The vast floodplain of the White River. Photo looks downstream toward the NE.
The vast floodplain of the White River. Photo looks downstream toward the NE.

The frost-heaved road, and all the construction made driving slow, but there was no real hurry.  By early afternoon, Lupe reached the border crossing from Canada into Alaska.  SPHP was disappointed when there was no colorful “Welcome to Alaska!” sign Lupe could pose by, only a dull, wordy, official sign at U.S. customs.  Oh well, at least there were no problems crossing the border.

Just being in Alaska was exciting!  Lupe had technically already been to a tiny piece of Alaska at Hyder on her way to see the Salmon Glacier, but now she was about to travel hundreds of miles across America’s largest, wildest, and most remote state.  The feeling was almost spine-tingling.  Who knew what adventures awaited Lupe in the Last Frontier State?

At Tok, Lupe left the Alaska Highway when SPHP turned S on the Tok Cut-off.  Near the SW end of the Tok Cut-off, Lupe got to see the Copper River from a high bluff.  If there hadn’t been so many clouds, Lupe might also have seen some of the giant snow and ice-capped peaks in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park & Preserve.

Lupe at the Copper River in Alaska. Photo looks W or SW in the downstream direction.
Lupe at the Copper River in Alaska. Photo looks W or SW in the downstream direction.
The Copper River from a pullout along the Tok Cut-off. Clouds prevented Lupe from seeing giant snow-capped peaks to the S in Wrangell - St. Elias National Park & Preserve. Photo looks upstream.
The Copper River from a pullout along the Tok Cut-off. Clouds prevented Lupe from seeing giant snow-capped peaks to the S in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park & Preserve. Photo looks upstream.

Near Gulkana, Lupe reached the Richardson Highway (No. 4).  SPHP took it going S toward Valdez.  By late evening, Lupe was approaching the Worthington Glacier.  It was an impressive sight, even from the highway!

Upper reaches of the Worthington Glacier as seen from the Richardson Highway. Photo looks WSW.
Upper reaches of the Worthington Glacier as seen from the Richardson Highway. Photo looks WSW.
Worthington Glacier. Photo looks WSW using the telephoto lens.
Worthington Glacier. Photo looks WSW using the telephoto lens.

Lupe’s long day of rest traveling through the Yukon into Alaska was almost over.  Tomorrow she would have several options, among them the Worthington Glacier Ridge Trail.  Where she would go would be decided tomorrow morning.  Until then, Lupe and SPHP settled in for the night.

The next morning did not bring good news.  The sky was socked in with low clouds.  A light mist was falling.  Conditions did not seem conducive to a hike near the Worthington Glacier.  SPHP drove over Thompson Pass toward Valdez.  In Keystone Canyon, many amazing, beautiful waterfalls tumbled down the mountainsides.  Lupe stopped briefly for a closer look at Bridal Veil Falls and Horsetail Falls.

Bridal Veil Falls in Keystone Canyon.
Bridal Veil Falls in Keystone Canyon.
Lupe at Horsetail Falls.
Lupe at Horsetail Falls.
Lupe at the base of Horsetail Falls. Both Bridal Veil Falls and Horsetail Falls can be viewed from pullouts along the Richardson Highway in Keystone Canyon on the way to Valdez. They are no more than 0.5 mile apart, but on opposite sides of the highway.
Lupe at the base of Horsetail Falls. Both Bridal Veil Falls and Horsetail Falls can be viewed from pullouts along the Richardson Highway in Keystone Canyon on the way to Valdez. They are no more than 0.5 mile apart, but on opposite sides of the highway.

By the time Lupe reached Valdez, it was raining harder.  The rain wasn’t heavy, but it was steady.  With the rain falling, there wasn’t any urgency to do anything outdoors.  SPHP dropped by the local Safeway store, and bought a roasted chicken to share with Lupe.  Oddly, she wasn’t hungry.  She refused any chicken.  That seemed strange, but OK.  Lupe and SPHP watched the rain fall, while SPHP consumed part of the chicken.

It was soon apparent why Lupe didn’t want any chicken.  Without warning, she threw up.  Poor, Loopster wasn’t feeling well!  SPHP cleaned up her soiled blanket, then took Lupe out for a short walk in the rain to let her get anything else bad out of her system.  She seemed to feel better.

There were a couple of awesome adventures near Valdez that SPHP was hoping Lupe might be able to do.  One was to take the trail to Shoup Bay to see the Shoup Glacier and Kittiwake rookery.  To do the whole trail was a long day hike, but maybe Lupe could do it tomorrow, if the weather cleared up.

The other adventure had been suggested by Richard Baker, whom Lupe had met on Mount Decoeli in the Yukon.  Richard had highly recommended taking a cruise on Prince William Sound aboard the Lu-Lu Belle to see the Columbia Glacier, the second largest tidewater glacier in North America.  Whales, eagles and other wildlife are sometimes seen from the Lu-Lu Belle, too.

Lupe had to wait in the G6, while SPHP went into the Lu-Lu Belle office to inquire about the Columbia Glacier tour.  The receptionist was very courteous and friendly.  She said the Lu-Lu Belle goes to the Columbia Glacier every day in season, pretty much regardless of the weather.  The cost was $125 per person for an approximately 7 hour long tour aboard the luxury yacht.

It all sounded wonderful!  Time for the big question.  What about Lupe?  Bad news.  Lupe couldn’t go.  They had dog-sitting services available, but the tour was a no-go for poor Looper.

No doubt it would have been a fantastic excursion, but if Lupe wasn’t going on the Lu-Lu Belle, neither was SPHP.  This isn’t The (Mostly) True Adventures of SPHP, you know!  So that was that, but before leaving the Lu-Lu Belle office, SPHP asked about the weather forecast.

The receptionist looked up the Valdez forecast on her computer.  100% chance of rain today and each of the next four days, then dropping to only 80%, 70%, and 40% for the three following days.  She then said it had already been raining in Valdez for 3 straight weeks.

Yikes!  That changed everything.  Lupe and SPHP were willing to wait out a day or two of poor weather, but sitting around for more than a whole week of rain made no sense.  SPHP returned to Lupe with the glum news.  No Lu-Lu Belle, no Shoup Glacier, no Worthington Glacier.  What to do?

If the Alaskan coast was going to be socked in with rain for another week or more, the only thing SPHP could think of doing was to head back inland.  It meant Lupe wouldn’t get to do any of the cool stuff near Valdez on this trip, but Alaska is a huge place.  There were other adventures in store for Lupe elsewhere.

Unfortunately, there was no point in hanging around Valdez.  Amid rain and mist, Lupe and SPHP left town to start the long drive inland again on the Richardson Highway.  Once again, Lupe traveled along the Lowe River, up Keystone Canyon, past Horsetail, Bridal Veil, and lots of other gorgeous waterfalls.  She crossed Thompson Pass, and took a last glance at the Worthington Glacier as SPHP drove on by.

Wait a minute!  The sky was still completely overcast, but only the tops of the mountains were in the clouds.  The Worthington Glacier was in view.  It was barely misting here.  SPHP turned the G6 around.  Lupe was going to get to see the Worthington Glacier after all!  If the rain would hold off for only a few hours, a little mist wouldn’t stop an American Dingo!

SPHP drove back to the Worthington Glacier State Recreation Site.  A dozen other vehicles were in the parking lot.  People were coming and going.  Nearly all of them were taking the short nature trail down to a viewpoint where the toe of the glacier could be seen.  Nice, but not what Lupe had come for.

Lupe was here to take the much longer Worthington Glacier Ridge Trail, which goes W for a mile and a half, or more, on a ridge S of the glacier.  Lupe and SPHP could see a couple hikers coming down the ridge trail.  When they got to the start of the trail at the parking lot, SPHP talked to them.  How were conditions up on the ridge?  How far had they gone?  Was anyone else up there right now?

Conditions were cloudy, a bit damp and rainy at times.  They had made it all the way to what they considered the end of the trail.  The glacier views were spectacular.  Not another soul was up on the trail now.  They were the last ones down.

Wonderful, that settled it!  Lupe and SPHP started up the ridge.

Lupe starts up the Worthington Glacier Ridge Trail. Photo looks W.
Lupe starts up the Worthington Glacier Ridge Trail. Photo looks W.

The Worthington Glacier Ridge Trail began climbing along the top of a very narrow ridge with steep sides.  To the S (L) was a very green valley of mixed alder and tundra.  To the N (R) was the valley the Worthington Glacier flows down.  The trail followed the ridgeline W.  As Lupe gained elevation, the views of the Worthington Glacier up ahead became progressively more impressive.

The very green mixed alder and tundra valley on the S (L) side of the trail is shown well here. Part of the trail leaves the ridge near unstable cliffs to travel safely through this valley a little way before returning to the ridge. Lupe loved the green valley, but there were mosquitoes down there. They weren't too bad. Up on the ridge, a breeze blew them away. Photo looks W.
The very green mixed alder and tundra valley on the S (L) side of the trail is shown well here. Part of the trail leaves the ridge near unstable cliffs to travel safely through this valley a little way before returning to the ridge. Lupe loved the green valley, but there were mosquitoes down there. They weren’t too bad. Up on the ridge, a breeze blew them away. Photo looks W.
As Lupe climbed, the views of the Worthington Glacier steadily improved. The big rounded hump seen ahead on the L looked like it might be the end of the trail. Photo looks WNW.
As Lupe climbed, the views of the Worthington Glacier steadily improved. The big rounded hump seen ahead on the L looked like it might be the end of the trail. Photo looks WNW.
The Worthington Glacier has two arms, separated by the ridge of rock seen on the upper R. Near the lower end of the glacier, both arms drop steeply as seen here. A little farther up, the glacier is one big river of ice. Photo looks NW.
The Worthington Glacier has two arms, separated by the ridge of rock seen on the upper R. Near the lower end of the glacier, both arms drop steeply as seen here. A little farther up, the glacier is one big river of ice. Photo looks NW.
Gotta love that beautiful blue glacier ice!
Gotta love that beautiful blue glacier ice!

The ridge trail left the ridge temporarily to bypass dangerous cliffs.  It entered the green valley of mixed alders and tundra.  There were a few mosquitoes down here to deal with, but they weren’t too bad.  They were pretty much limited to the valley on this day.  A breeze kept them from being much of a bother up on the ridge.

Lupe loved the green valley!  SPHP thought it was great, too.  The valley was full of wildflowers.  The tiny, delicate plants growing on the tundra were fascinating.  They were so incredibly varied and colorful!

Bright wildflowers in the lush green valley S of the ridge.
Bright wildflowers in the lush green valley S of the ridge.
For Lupe, the beautiful green valley was one of her favorite parts of the whole Worthington Glacier Ridge Trail. The glacier isn't in view here, but it can be seen from virtually everywhere else on the ridge trail. Lupe was completely convinced the wildflowers and tundra were worth seeing, too! Photo looks E.
For Lupe, the beautiful green valley was one of her favorite parts of the whole Worthington Glacier Ridge Trail. The glacier isn’t in view here, but it can be seen from virtually everywhere else on the ridge trail. Lupe was completely convinced the wildflowers and tundra were worth seeing, too! Photo looks E.
Delicate, vibrant little plants of the tundra. They were only an inch or two high.
Delicate, vibrant little plants of the tundra. They were only an inch or two high.

Before long, the trail left Lupe’s lush, green valley and returned to the ridge.  The Worthington Glacier was always in view from here on.  The trail headed up toward a high, barren, rounded mound of dark colored soil and rock.  It looked like that hill might be the end of the trail.  The climb up to the top was steep!

Back on the ridge again, the Worthington Glacier was always in view.
Back on the ridge again, the Worthington Glacier was always in view.
Lovely blue crevasses as seen with a little help from the telephoto lens.
Lovely blue crevasses as seen with a little help from the telephoto lens.
As Lupe climbed the last high, barren, rounded hill, she had this view of the Worthington Glacier as a single river of ice above where the glacier split in two. Photo looks WNW.
As Lupe climbed the last high, barren, rounded hill, she had this view of the Worthington Glacier as a single river of ice above where the glacier split in two. Photo looks WNW.
Lupe near the top of the last high, barren, rounded hill. From below, this hill looked like it might be the end of the trail. Maybe it is the end of the formal trail, but Lupe found out it was possible to go quite a long way farther. Cairns showed the way. Photo looks W.
Lupe near the top of the last high, barren, rounded hill. From below, this hill looked like it might be the end of the trail. Maybe it is the end of the formal trail, but Lupe found out it was possible to go quite a long way farther. Cairns showed the way. Photo looks W.

Lupe reached the top of the high, barren, rounded hill.  The trail leveled out and went right on over it.  At first, SPHP wasn’t certain if the trail continued or not.  Lupe and SPHP left the ridgeline to explore farther W along the N side of a mountain.  Others had been this way, too.  The terrain was rocky and uneven.  There was no longer a distinct, continuous trail, but now and then Lupe came to cairns along the way.

Part of the time, Lupe was traveling over relatively level, wide, rock shelves.  Other times, she had to climb steep slopes.  Lupe passed by occasional bright patches of wildflowers.  Some places bright green moss clung to dark rocks next to trickling waterfalls.  To the S was the mountain.  To the N, Lupe looked down upon the Worthington Glacier.  To the W, Lupe’s route rose toward a white, gray and black world of clouds, snow, ice, and dark earth.

As Lupe explored farther W above the Worthington Glacier, she sometimes came to colorful patches of wildflowers in an otherwise bleak world. Photo looks WNW.
As Lupe explored farther W above the Worthington Glacier, she sometimes came to colorful patches of wildflowers in an otherwise bleak world. Photo looks WNW.
Wildflowers bring a splash of color to the Worthington Glacier.
Wildflowers bring a splash of color to the Worthington Glacier.
A mighty American Dingo explores the harsh environment of the Worthington Glacier! Actually, the worst Lupe had to face was some light rain and heavy mist that came and went. The temperature wasn't that bad, either - maybe in the upper 40's °F. Photo looks WNW.
A mighty American Dingo explores the harsh environment of the Worthington Glacier! Actually, the worst Lupe had to face was some light rain and heavy mist that came and went. The temperature wasn’t that bad, either – maybe in the upper 40’s °F. Photo looks WNW.
A glacial tsunami surges over the lip of a vast bowl of snow and ice above. Lupe had seen what was higher up from the Richardson Highway yesterday evening, but the upper part of the glacier wasn't visible now. Photo looks WNW.
A glacial tsunami surges over the lip of a vast bowl of snow and ice above. Lupe had seen what was higher up from the Richardson Highway yesterday evening, but the upper part of the glacier wasn’t visible now. Photo looks WNW.
A really big cairn beckons, showing the way ahead. Photo looks W.
A really big cairn beckons, showing the way ahead. Photo looks W.
Lupe reaches the really big cairn. She kept going for a considerable distance from here. Smaller cairns continued to confirm her route. Photo looks NW.
Lupe reaches the really big cairn. She kept going for a considerable distance from here. Smaller cairns continued to confirm her route. Photo looks NW.

Lupe at the Worthington Glacier, Alaska 8-11-16After traveling a considerable distance along the mountainside, Lupe reached a really big cairn at a high point.  SPHP thought maybe the big cairn meant Lupe was getting close to the end of how far she was going to be able to go W.

This wasn’t the end yet, though.  Onward!  The slope of the terrain lessened.  Lupe still had to climb some, but gained elevation more slowly than before.  The bold, damp Carolina Dog went on and on.  Small cairns marked the route.  The farther Lupe went, the more streams of rain and meltwater she encountered pouring over the rocks.

At last, it could be seen that Lupe was nearing a point where she would be surrounded by snow and ice on 3 sides.

Through light rain and mist, Lupe presses on toward the end. Soon she would be surrounded by snow and ice on 3 sides. Photo looks W.
Through light rain and mist, Lupe presses on toward the end. Soon she would be surrounded by snow and ice on 3 sides. Photo looks W.

Lupe reached the end of how far she could go W.  The view was stupendous, even on a cloudy, drizzly day.  Beneath the misty clouds, the sense of grandeur, solitude, and isolation was supreme.  Snow, ice, mist, and dark rocks comprised the whole visible world.

To the SW, a big patch of pink snow was close at hand.  SPHP was chilly enough, but the hot-blooded Carolina Dog thought a frolic on the snow would be fun!

A hot-blooded Carolina Dog frolics on a patch of pink snow at the end of the line. The glacier, no doubt, melted a little more from this abuse.
A hot-blooded Carolina Dog frolics on a patch of pink snow at the end of the line. The glacier, no doubt, melted a little more from this abuse.
Lupe at the end of the line. She was surrounded on 3 sides by snow and ice. Photo looks WSW.
Lupe at the end of the line. She was surrounded on 3 sides by snow and ice. Photo looks WSW.
Looking back down the Worthington Glacier from close to the W end of Lupe's advance. The Richardson Highway is seen far below. Photo looks ENE.
Looking back down the Worthington Glacier from close to the W end of Lupe’s advance. The Richardson Highway is seen far below. Photo looks ENE.
Lupe at the end of the line. The Worthington Glacier flows down from higher still, but this was as far as Lupe could go. Photo looks NW.
Lupe at the end of the line. The Worthington Glacier flows down from higher still, but this was as far as Lupe could go. Photo looks NW.

After the Carolina Dog had cooled down sufficiently, Lupe and SPHP stood at the final high point Lupe reached, contemplating the Worthington Glacier and enjoying this rare, exquisite moment.

As SPHP looked around, it looked like Lupe might be able to go back to the SE, and climb 200 feet higher on the mountainside above.  Any higher up than that, the mountain was buried beneath deep, pristine snow.  Lupe might have seen more from up on the mountainside, but SPHP decided against it.

On a clear, bright day, the additional climb would have been worth it, but everything was wet and slippery now.  A cold, light rain was falling.  Even if Lupe had climbed higher, clouds and fog might easily have negated any benefit.  In truth, Lupe was lucky the weather had cooperated enough to let her get this far.  She’d had an unexpectedly wonderful day.

Lupe and SPHP stayed for a while at the far W end of Lupe's advance contemplating this slow-moving river of ancient ice and snow known as the Worthington Glacier. Photo looks NW.
Lupe and SPHP stayed for a while at the far W end of Lupe’s advance contemplating this slow-moving river of ancient ice and snow known as the Worthington Glacier. Photo looks NW.
Lupe thinking deep thoughts at the end of the line - There hasn't been a squirrel here in 25,000 years!
Lupe thinking deep thoughts at the end of the line – There hasn’t been a squirrel here in 25,000 years!
Looking NE.
Looking NE.
Lupe stands near the small cairn at the end of her Worthington Glacier exploration. Photo looks NE.
Lupe stands near the small cairn at the end of her Worthington Glacier exploration. Photo looks NE.

There was only one way back, which was to retrace Lupe’s entire route up here.  Of course, going in the reverse direction provided a different perspective.  One thing didn’t change.  Lupe continued sniffing and exploring.  Even SPHP stopped to examine a few details along the way.

Bright green moss grew near trickling waterfalls.
Bright green moss grew near trickling waterfalls.

Moss near the Worthington Glacier, Alaska 8-11-16

The really big cairn is seen ahead, this time to the E.
The really big cairn is seen ahead, this time to the E.
Lupe explores near a patch of wildflowers. At least there was something worth sniffing! Photo looks E.
Lupe explores near a patch of wildflowers. At least there was something worth sniffing! Photo looks E.
Don't jump, Loop! You forgot your SUPER DINGO cape!
Don’t jump, Loop! You forgot your SUPER DINGO cape!
Looking NE. The weather wasn't really improving on the return trip.
Looking NE. The weather wasn’t really improving on the return trip.
Lupe back on the Worthington Glacier Ridge Trail on top of the high, barren hill. Photo looks ENE.
Lupe back on the Worthington Glacier Ridge Trail on top of the high, barren hill. Photo looks ENE.
Uh, Lupe did mention that the route up the high, barren, rounded hill was sort of steep, didn't she? Photo looks E.
Uh, Lupe did mention that the route up the high, barren, rounded hill was sort of steep, didn’t she? Photo looks E.
What makes that glacial blue so appealing, anyway?
What makes that glacial blue so appealing, anyway?

Four or five hours after she’d left, Lupe was back at the G6.  Her adventure on the Worthington Glacier Ridge Trail had been a very worthwhile success!  SPHP was so glad she’d done it!

The long trek had cured any remaining queasiness from earlier in the day.  Lupe was famished!  She made up for having missed breakfast by doing more than her fair share helping SPHP devour every last bit of the leftover roasted chicken.  Once full of chicken, Lupe felt a tad sleepy.

Full of roasted chicken, Lupe passed out in the G6.
Full of roasted chicken, Lupe passed out in the G6.

Digesting all that chicken took awhile.  Lupe had a nice long Dingo nap.  By the time she woke up, it was evening.  There was still time, though, to take the short nature trail to the viewpoint looking up at the S toe of the Worthington Glacier from below.

The trail to the viewpoint took only a few minutes.  There were, however, unofficial trails that people had made going closer to the glacier.  Naturally, Lupe and SPHP thought it a good idea to go find out what could be seen along them.

The unofficial trails were wet, muddy and slick.  They climbed an incredible jumble of rocks.  The terrain looked like an explosion had taken place.  Of course, there hadn’t been any explosion.  The rocks were just as they had been unceremoniously dumped at the not-too-long-ago terminal moraine of the Worthington Glacier.

Lupe among the rocky debris left by the retreat of the Worthington Glacier. Photo looks W.
Lupe among the rocky debris left by the retreat of the Worthington Glacier. Photo looks W.
Lupe got close enough to see the toe of the glacier. Photo looks W.
Lupe got close enough to see the toe of the glacier. Photo looks W.
Lupe near the toe. Photo looks W.
Lupe near the toe. Photo looks W.
S toe of the Worthington Glacier in Alaska.
S toe of the Worthington Glacier in Alaska.

After scrambling over the jumble of rock close enough to get a good look at the S toe of the glacier, there was one more thing to go see.  Earlier, on the way back to the G6, while Lupe was still way up high on the ridge trail, SPHP had noticed a very long stream of water cascading down the lower N side of the Worthington Glacier valley.

From above, the stream of water had presented a rather bizarre optical illusion.  It looked like the water cascaded up and over a ridge of solid rock!  Simply impossible, but that was how it had looked to SPHP.  Lupe wasn’t far now from the bottom of that stream.  Time to go take a closer look!

Lupe at the bottom of the anti-gravity waterfall. Everything was normal, the water fell down, not up. Photo looks N.
Lupe at the bottom of the anti-gravity waterfall. Everything was normal, the water fell down, not up. Photo looks N.

When Lupe got to the base of the falls, everything was normal.  The water fell down, not up.  Which is how it should be, and always will be.  The mystery wasn’t completely solved for SPHP, because the part of the long stream that had seemed to cascade uphill was out of sight much higher up.  Illusion that it no doubt was, this stream had earned the nickname “Anti-gravity Creek” as far as SPHP was concerned.

It had been quite a day at the Worthington Glacier for Loopster, but it was getting dark.  The rain was starting up again.  Almost back at the G6, SPHP thought of one more thing Lupe might want to check out.  When SPHP turned and headed toward the glacier once more, Lupe let out a single, no-nonsense woof!

She’d had enough!  Time to dry off and get some shut-eye!  Meekly, SPHP obeyed.  Back to the G6.  Sometimes Dingoes know best!

SPHP, you might want to have your eyes checked! Water falls down, got that? Down!
SPHP, you might want to have your eyes checked! Water falls down, got that? Down!

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

Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 183 – Iron Mountain & Woodpecker Ridge (11-20-16)

Time for a change of focus.  Lupe had spent most of her Black Hills Expeditions of the last couple of months peakbagging in the NW Black Hills, often going as far as the Bear Lodge Mountains in NE Wyoming.  Only one named peak remained in that general direction that was a current peakbagging priority for her, Sweetwater Mountain (6,440 ft.), but she didn’t have permission from the land owner to climb it until hunting season was over in December.

So, what to do?  Looking over the topo maps on Peakbagger.com, SPHP noticed a couple of peaks a few miles SSW of Iron Mountain that Lupe had never been to.  They weren’t far away, which was kind of important on a short November day, since Lupe was getting off to a late start.  Woodpecker Ridge and Peak 5688 should be fun!  Lupe could start from Lakota Lake.

To get to Lakota Lake, Lupe and SPHP took Iron Mountain Road (Hwy 16A) going S from Mount Rushmore National Memorial near Keystone.  Iron Mountain Road is a fun drive.  It ultimately winds all the way up to the top of Iron Mountain (5,446 ft.).  Along the way, Iron Mountain Road spirals up several pigtail bridges, features a couple stretches of “divided highway” consisting of one-way single lanes, and passes through short tunnels deliberately constructed to frame Mount Rushmore.

Naturally, Lupe and SPHP stopped to enjoy a few of the sights along the way up Iron Mountain.

Lupe by one of the pigtail bridges along Iron Mountain Road.
Lupe by one of the pigtail bridges along Iron Mountain Road.

Pigtail Bridge sign along Iron Mountain Road, 11-28-16

Lupe at the start of the longest tunnel on Iron Mountain Road. Three tunnels were purposely constructed to frame Mount Rushmore. The camera couldn't handle the light contrast well enough for Mt. Rushmore to show up in this shot. Photo looks NW.
Lupe at the start of the longest tunnel on Iron Mountain Road. Three tunnels were purposely constructed to frame Mount Rushmore. The camera couldn’t handle the light contrast well enough for Mt. Rushmore to show up in this shot. Photo looks NW.
Lupe now at the other end of the tunnel closer to Mt. Rushmore. Photo looks NW.
Lupe now at the other end of the tunnel closer to Mt. Rushmore. Photo looks NW.
Here's how it looks driving through the tunnel on the way to Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Photo taken with help from the telephoto lens.
Here’s how it looks driving through the tunnel on the way to Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Photo taken with help from the telephoto lens.
Mount Rushmore, Black Hills, South Dakota, Photo looks NW.
Mount Rushmore, Black Hills, South Dakota, Photo looks NW.

At the top of Iron Mountain is a paved parking lot, and a short walking path to a viewpoint.  Right next to the viewpoint is a ridge of rock roughly 20 feet high, where the absolute summit of the mountain is located.  Lupe and SPHP stopped briefly to make the tiny climb to the absolute summit for a look around.

Since the true summit is on the W edge of the large summit area, the best views were toward Harney Peak (7,242 ft.) to the W, and Mount Rushmore (5,725 ft.) to the NW.  From Iron Mountain, Lupe had a great view of some of the most rugged terrain in the Black Hills!

Lupe on Iron Mountain. Harney Peak, the highest mountain in South Dakota, is in the background. Photo looks W.
Lupe on Iron Mountain. Harney Peak, the highest mountain in South Dakota, is in the background. Photo looks W.
Harney Peak, the highest mountain in South Dakota, from Iron Mountain. Photo looks W using the telephoto lens.
Harney Peak, the highest mountain in South Dakota, from Iron Mountain. Photo looks W using the telephoto lens.
Mount Rushmore from Iron Mountain. Photo looks NW with help from the telephoto lens.
Mount Rushmore from Iron Mountain. Photo looks NW with help from the telephoto lens.

After all the sight-seeing stops coming up and over Iron Mountain, it was 10:01 AM (46°F) by the time Lupe arrived at Lakota Lake.  SPHP left the G6 parked at the empty picnic ground.

Lupe arrives at the Lakota Lake picnic ground. Photo looks E toward the dam.
Lupe arrives at the Lakota Lake picnic ground. Photo looks E toward the dam.
Lupe near Lakota Lake. Lakota Lake is E of Iron Mountain Road about 3 miles ESE of Iron Mountain. A short gravel road leads to the picnic ground on the W shore near the N end of the lake. Photo looks NE.
Lupe near Lakota Lake. Lakota Lake is E of Iron Mountain Road about 3 miles ESE of Iron Mountain. A short gravel road leads to the picnic ground on the W shore near the N end of the lake. Photo looks NE.

Lupe’s first peakbagging goal was Woodpecker Ridge (5,680 ft.).  Woodpecker Ridge is about 2 miles long, running SW/NE.  The ridge is W of Iron Mountain Road, and S of Iron Creek.  The topo map showed that the summit was near the far SW end of the ridge, about 3 miles from where Lupe was starting at Lakota Lake.  Lupe and SPHP followed the gravel road SW from the Lakota Lake picnic ground back to Iron Mountain Road.

Iron Creek Trail No. 15, starts on the W side of Iron Mountain Road, right across from the road to Lakota Lake.  The plan was for Lupe to follow Iron Creek Trail No. 15 up the valley for a mile, or so, to where the topo map showed the easiest approach to the Woodpecker Ridge summit from the NNE.  After a relatively gentle mile-long climb, Lupe would reach the ridgeline about 0.25 mile E of the summit.

At first, everything went according to plan.  Lupe enjoyed trotting along the single track Iron Creek trail looking for squirrels.  Less than an inch of new snow on the ground made things look fresh and bright.  The trail crossed Iron Creek several times, but there were plank bridges or good stepping stones to help SPHP get across.

Lupe on the plank bridge at the first Iron Creek crossing on Iron Creek Trail No. 15.
Lupe on the plank bridge at the first Iron Creek crossing on Iron Creek Trail No. 15.
Lupe on Iron Creek Trail No. 15. Less than an inch of new snow made the trail look clean and bright.
Lupe on Iron Creek Trail No. 15. Less than an inch of new snow made the trail look clean and bright.

At the fourth creek crossing, there was no bridge.  SPHP didn’t see any convenient stepping stones around either.  No way was SPHP going to wade across chilly Iron Creek this time of year!  Lupe and SPHP went a little back downstream looking for a way to cross the creek.

Lupe hadn’t gone far, when a rather questionable way across the creek presented itself.  SPHP had to reach out over the creek to lean against a boulder on the other side.  SPHP was barely able to grip the top of the boulder and shinny up, but it did work.  Lupe, of course, had no problem simply leaping over the creek.  Carolina Dogs don’t let little things like minor creek crossings interfere with their plans!

Lupe and SPHP were now on the S side of Iron Creek, but not yet anywhere near where SPHP had planned for Lupe to start up Woodpecker Ridge.  Lupe was only a little past the NE end of the ridge.  Cliffs could be seen high above.  It wasn’t at all clear if there would be a way up that would avoid the cliffs and allow Lupe to reach the ridgeline from here, but SPHP decided to try it anyway.

The start of the climb didn’t go very well.  Lupe and SPHP climbed onto a small ridge to the E, before turning S.  Right away, Lupe had to climb up onto a big rock outcropping.  Ten paces later, a drop-off forced her right back down to the W.  However, once around the rock formation, she was able to climb steadily through the forest, heading SSW.

There were plenty of rocks scattered around the whole way.  Lupe eventually came to an area of fairly large boulders.  The boulders slowed SPHP down quite a bit, although Lupe had fun exploring them.

Lupe among the boulders on the way up Woodpecker Ridge. Photo looks SSW.
Lupe among the boulders on the way up Woodpecker Ridge. Photo looks SSW.

As Lupe got closer to the cliffs above, the boulders got larger.  At the base of the cliffs were boulder fields that would have taken a long time to traverse.  Lupe and SPHP worked around to the W of them.

Lupe below the base of the cliffs. She is on the N side of Woodpecker Ridge, not too far from its NE end. Photo looks SE.
Lupe below the base of the cliffs. She is on the N side of Woodpecker Ridge, not too far from its NE end. Photo looks SE.

Fortunately, the line of cliffs was not continuous.  Lupe bypassed them to the W, too.  She was able to keep climbing steadily SSW through the forest.  On the way up, Lupe even saw a woodpecker, but it wasn’t close enough for SPHP to get a decent photo.

As it turned out, Lupe wound up climbing well above the first cliffs.  Lupe and SPHP reached the ridgeline near High Point 5537.  Lakota Lake, and the top of the cliffs Lupe had bypassed, could be seen far below.

Part of Lakota Lake, where Lupe had started her journey to Woodpecker Ridge, is seen far below. The tops of the cliffs Lupe bypassed on the way to High Point 5537 are in view in the foreground. Photo looks NE.
Part of Lakota Lake, where Lupe had started her journey to Woodpecker Ridge, is seen far below. The tops of the cliffs Lupe bypassed on the way to High Point 5537 are in view in the foreground. Photo looks NE.
Mount Rushmore from High Point 5537, near the NE end of Woodpecker Ridge. Photo looks NW using the telephoto lens.
Mount Rushmore from High Point 5537, near the NE end of Woodpecker Ridge. Photo looks NW using the telephoto lens.
Harney Peak from High Point 5537. Photo looks NW.
Harney Peak from High Point 5537. Photo looks NW.
Lupe on High Point 5537 near the NE end of Woodpecker Ridge. Photo looks NE.
Lupe on High Point 5537 near the NE end of Woodpecker Ridge. Photo looks NE.

SPHP was glad Lupe had reached the ridgeline at High Point 5537.  It meant Lupe would get to explore most of the length of Woodpecker Ridge.  She now faced only about 150 feet of net elevation gain on the way to the summit.  SPHP expected a relatively easy hike SW along the ridge.

Exploring Woodpecker Ridge was fun, but soon proved to be a lot of work, too.  The ridgeline was rough, not level.  Lupe had to climb over or around many rock formations.  The rocks weren’t the worst of it, either.  The farther SW Lupe went, the more deadfall timber she encountered.  The rocks and deadfall weren’t terrible, but SPHP’s progress became very slow.

Another problem began to worry SPHP.  Since there was so little net elevation change along the way, it might be hard to tell where the true summit of Woodpecker Ridge was.  SPHP started taking photos of Lupe at notable high points, just on the chance that she was already at the summit.

Lupe at one of the notable high points along Woodpecker Ridge. This turned out not to be the true summit, or even close to it. Photo looks N.
Lupe at one of the notable high points along Woodpecker Ridge. This turned out not to be the true summit, or even close to it. Photo looks N.

Lupe finally reached a place where there were significant elevation changes ahead.  Two distinct hills weren’t too far away.  SPHP hoped the closest one was the summit of Woodpecker Ridge, and the more distant one was Peak 5688, Lupe’s other peakbagging goal for the day.  A brief halt to check the topo maps was in order.

Lupe finally arrived at this high point from which two distinct hills could be seen ahead. SPHP initially hoped that the one on the L was the summit of Woodpecker Ridge, and the one on the R was Peak 5688. In truth, both hills were summits of Woodpecker Ridge enclosed by the 5680 foot contour, with the one on the R likely being the true summit. Photo looks SW.
Lupe finally arrived at this high point from which two distinct hills could be seen ahead. SPHP initially hoped that the one on the L was the summit of Woodpecker Ridge, and the one on the R was Peak 5688. In truth, both hills were summits of Woodpecker Ridge enclosed by the 5680 foot contour, with the one on the R likely being the true summit. Photo looks SW.

The topo maps said differently.  What they showed was disappointing.  Lupe hadn’t made nearly as much progress along Woodpecker Ridge as SPHP had believed.  Both of the hills in view were high points of Woodpecker Ridge, the summits of which were both enclosed by the 5680 foot contour.

On Peakbagger.com, the more distant hill farther to the W with a much larger area enclosed by the 5680 foot contour was shown as the location of the true summit.  Still, there was a chance that the closer hill was actually the true summit.  Lupe would have to visit both to make certain she reached the top of Woodpecker Ridge.

One more thing was evident, too.  At the pace Lupe and SPHP were going, there was absolutely no chance Lupe was going to reach Peak 5688 today.  By the time Lupe reached the W summit of Woodpecker Ridge, the sun was going to be too low in the sky to do anything but start looking for an easier way back to the G6.  Oh, well.  That’s often how things go in the mountains.

Lupe still near the point where SPHP realized the two hills ahead were both summits of Woodpecker Ridge enclosed by the 5680 foot contour. Harney Peak is seen in the distance. Photo looks NW.
Lupe still near the point where SPHP realized the two hills ahead were both summits of Woodpecker Ridge enclosed by the 5680 foot contour. Harney Peak is seen in the distance. Photo looks NW.
Harney Peak from Woodpecker Ridge about halfway between High Point 5537 and the E summit enclosed by the 5680 foot contour. Photo looks NW using the telephoto lens.
Harney Peak from Woodpecker Ridge about halfway between High Point 5537 and the E summit enclosed by the 5680 foot contour. Photo looks NW using the telephoto lens.
Most of the time, trees blocked the views from Woodpecker Ridge. However, Lupe did come to points with views in various directions. This photo looks E or SE out onto the prairies beyond the Black Hills.
Most of the time, trees blocked the views from Woodpecker Ridge. However, Lupe did come to points with views in various directions. This photo looks E or SE out onto the prairies beyond the Black Hills.

Lupe and SPHP pressed on toward the two hills.  If anything, the rock formations Lupe had to find a way around were bigger than before, and the deadfall still worse.  There was more elevation loss and gain to deal with, too.  It took more than half an hour just to reach the E summit, even though it hadn’t been very far away.

Lupe reaches the E summit of Woodpecker Ridge. Although the W summit is probably the true summit, the views were more open and better from this E summit. Harney Peak is seen in the distance. Photo looks NW.
Lupe reaches the E summit of Woodpecker Ridge. Although the W summit is probably the true summit, the views were more open and better from this E summit. Harney Peak is seen in the distance. Photo looks NW.
Mount Rushmore from the E summit of Woodpecker Ridge. Photo looks NNW using the telephoto lens.
Mount Rushmore from the E summit of Woodpecker Ridge. Photo looks NNW using the telephoto lens.

Lupe and SPHP took a break up on the E summit of Woodpecker Ridge, but only stayed 15 or 20 minutes.  It was nice up there, but it was too late in the day to lounge about given the continual difficulties Lupe faced negotiating all the obstacles nature placed in her path along Woodpecker Ridge.

The time arrived to begin the final push to the likely true summit of Woodpecker Ridge.  Lupe headed W down into a broad saddle.  The more level terrain should have made the going much easier, but the deadfall timber here was the worst Lupe had faced all day.

The W summit can be seen ahead, but it was hard to make any decent time getting there through this mess! Photo looks W.
The W summit can be seen ahead, but it was hard to make any decent time getting there through this mess! Photo looks W.
Although Lupe is generally very good at making her way through deadfall, SPHP encourages her to take her time. At least a couple of times in the past, Lupe has been impaled on broken branches, resulting in a lot of pain and hundreds of dollars worth of vet bills. Photo looks W.
Although Lupe is generally very good at making her way through deadfall, SPHP encourages her to take her time. At least a couple of times in the past, Lupe has been impaled on broken branches, resulting in a lot of pain and hundreds of dollars worth of vet bills. Photo looks W.

It took close to another 45 minutes to make it over to the W summit of Woodpecker Ridge.  Sadly, the W summit was ugly.  There was a lot of deadfall.  Even so, enough trees were still standing to block the views.  Although Lupe could now claim a successful ascent of Woodpecker Ridge, the achievement seemed anti-climactic.

Lupe reaches the W summit of Woodpecker Ridge. She could finally claim a successful ascent. Photo looks NE.
Lupe reaches the W summit of Woodpecker Ridge. She could finally claim a successful ascent. Photo looks NE.
Lupe questions SPHP's judgment in selecting this ugly spot for her peakbagging objective of the day.
Lupe questions SPHP’s judgment in selecting this ugly spot for her peakbagging objective of the day.
A better view from the W summit of Woodpecker Ridge. Photo looks N.
A better view from the W summit of Woodpecker Ridge. Photo looks N.

Lupe and SPHP took another break.  Lupe relaxed.  SPHP took a look at the topo maps again.  The sun was low enough so Lupe really needed to start making tracks toward a decent route out of here.

Lupe relaxes on Woodpecker Ridge while SPHP checks the topo maps.
Lupe relaxes on Woodpecker Ridge while SPHP checks the topo maps.

The topo maps showed some kind of a trail off to the W that would lead N before curving NE down a ravine into the Iron Creek valley again.  There was a road down there that would take Lupe back to Iron Creek Trail No. 15 again.  Somehow, SPHP would just have to deal with the creek crossings, even if it meant fording the stream.

SPHP polished off the last apple.  Time to pack up and go.  The sun would be down in minutes.  Lupe was ready.  Puppy, ho!  Onward!

Lupe's last moment on top of Woodpecker Ridge, just before heading down. Photo looks S.
Lupe’s last moment on top of Woodpecker Ridge, just before heading down. Photo looks S.

Lupe and SPHP left the summit heading N.  Before long, Lupe reached a cliff edge.  The terrain forced her down to the W.  She saw two more woodpeckers as she progressed down the slope.  As soon as it was possible, Lupe turned N again.  Lupe and SPHP wandered through a forest with less deadfall than before, but it was still slow going.  The area was full of thistles.  Time passed.  The light was fading.  Lupe still hadn’t found a trail or road.

SPHP decided to check the topo maps again.  The maps could not be found.  It became clear they had somehow been left up on Woodpecker Ridge.  Not good.  Still, they probably wouldn’t be needed.  The distance Lupe needed to cover to reach Iron Creek wasn’t that far.  One way or another, she would make it.

It’s hard to say exactly where Lupe and SPHP went, but probably somewhere in the area where the topo maps on Peakbagger.com show a point marked 5190 feet of elevation, 0.5 mile NNW of the Woodpecker Ridge summit.  As Lupe and SPHP wandered N, Lupe finally came to a faint remnant of a road.  It did curve NE down into a ravine.  Lower down, the ravine had huge solid rock walls.

Lupe reached the road leading to the W end of Iron Creek Trail No. 15 before it was dark.  Old cabins were strung out along the road, but there was no sign of activity anywhere.  By the time Lupe reached the start of the trail, stars were coming out.  At the trailhead, a sign said Iron Creek Trail No. 15 had 11 water crossings.  Oh, boy!

It wasn’t a problem, though.  Lupe and SPHP made great time along the single track trail.  Luckily, there was a decent way across Iron Creek at every crossing – a bridge, stepping stones, a fallen log – always something.  The stars became bright against a black sky.  The flashlight came out.  Lupe and SPHP enjoyed a last hour of quiet travel in the darkness.

Somehow, even in the dark, a way across Iron Creek appeared near crossing No. 4 (No. 8 counting in reverse).  Funny that it could be found in the night, when SPHP hadn’t seen it during daylight, but there it was.  Yay!  No fording of the freezing stream was required!  And that, was that.  No suspense remained over the outcome of Expedition No. 183.

Lupe and SPHP made it back to the G6 (5:57 PM, 33°F).  All the way back over Iron Mountain, the Carolina Dog rode with her head out the window, hoping to see a deer in the headlights, but she saw none.  By the time she reached Keystone, Lupe had given up.  It was kind of an anti-climactic end, like reaching the summit of Woodpecker Ridge had been.

Yet for Lupe and SPHP, it had been another great day adventuring together in the Black Hills.  It’s often the journey, and not the final goal, that make the day and the memories.

Lupe at one of the notable high points along Woodpecker Ridge. This turned out not to be the true summit, or even close to it. Photo looks N.
Lupe at one of the notable high points along Woodpecker Ridge.

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Decoeli, Kluane National Park, Yukon Territory, Canada (8-9-16)

Day 11 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska.

No matter what hour of the night Lupe woke up, there was light in the northern sky.  Twilight moved slowly around the horizon, but never completely disappeared.  Lupe was N, as far N as she had ever been in her life.  Beyond huge, dark Kluane Lake, a line of mysterious unknown mountains marched away to the Arctic.  It all seemed surreal, but Lupe really was here, in the fabled Yukon!

Two days ago, Lupe had climbed her first peak in the Yukon, King’s Throne Peak (6,529 ft.) in Kluane National Park.  It had been a long, hard climb in powerful, swirling winds, but Lupe had made it to the top.  She had been rewarded with spectacular views of Kathleen Lake, Louise Lake and mountains of the Saint Elias range.

From King’s Throne Peak, Lupe had seen another peak off to the NW, the mountain she would attempt to climb today – Mount Decoeli (7,650 ft.).  If Lupe could reach the summit of Decoeli, it was possible she would get to see the highest mountain in Canada, Mount Logan (19,541 ft.), far off to the WSW!

At some point, the long twilight became a long dawn, as the sun started sneaking back up toward the horizon again.  Twenty minutes after the sun finally appeared (6:30 AM, 39°F), Lupe was at the long, paved pullout on the W side of the Alaska Highway that serves as the trailhead for the trek to Decoeli.  No one else was here.  The G6 was alone in the huge parking area.

At 7:23 AM, all was ready.  Lupe and SPHP left the pullout heading S to a cairn marking the start of the route to Decoeli.  Nearby an old jeep trail headed SW into a forest of stunted trees and tall soapberry bushes.  Lupe and SPHP followed the jeep trail, which soon met another similar road coming from the E.  Lupe took the new road W.  Mount Decoeli was in sight up ahead.

Mount Decoeli from along the jeep trail. Photo looks WSW using the telephoto lens.
Mount Decoeli from along the jeep trail. Photo looks WSW using the telephoto lens.

About a kilometer from the Alaska Highway, the road ended at Summit Creek.  From here, Lupe’s route followed Summit Creek upstream.  The creek led Lupe toward a still unseen rock glacier S of Mount Decoeli.

Lupe reaches Summit Creek at the end of the road. From here, Lupe followed the creek upstream toward a still unseen rock glacier at the base of the snow streaked mountain on the L. Lupe's objective, the summit of Decoeli, is seen on the R. Photo looks WSW.
Lupe reaches Summit Creek at the end of the road. From here, Lupe followed the creek upstream toward a still unseen rock glacier at the base of the snow streaked mountain on the L. Lupe’s objective, the summit of Decoeli, is seen on the R. Photo looks WSW.

Summit Creek was running low, but not low enough for SPHP to cross without getting wet feet.  Lupe and SPHP stayed on the S side of the creek for as long as possible.  It was generally easiest to simply travel right up the creek bed.  However, Summit Creek often ran right along the S bank of the stream channel, forcing Lupe and SPHP up into the bushes above the bank.

At first, there were usually some pretty decent trails to follow through the brush, but as Lupe got farther and farther upstream, these trails deteriorated, becoming hard to find and follow.  The jungle of bushes was so dense, it was almost impossible to make any headway where there wasn’t some kind of path.

Being in the tall bushes made SPHP increasingly nervous.  Nothing more than a few feet away was in view.  With the stream babbling along close by, it wasn’t easy to hear anything else.  SPHP kept up a lively, loud conversation with Lupe, counting on Lupe to give some warning if she smelled bears in the area.

After being repeatedly forced up into the jungle, SPHP finally decided enough was enough!  Lupe and SPHP forded Summit Creek, and stayed out in the open on the wide, rocky creek bed.

Of course, fording the stream meant SPHP’s feet were now soaking wet.  They stayed that way.  Summit Creek kept insisting upon flowing back and forth all the way from one side of the stream channel to the other, so Lupe and SPHP had to keep crossing the creek.  Nevertheless, Lupe’s upstream progress was much faster out on the rocks.  Furthermore, if any bears were in the area, at least out on the creek bed they could be seen well before coming right up on them.

After a long trek, Lupe could see the rock glacier S of Decoeli up ahead.

The rock glacier is now in view below the snow-streaked mountain up ahead. Photo looks WSW.
The rock glacier is now in view below the snow-streaked mountain up ahead. Photo looks WSW.

By the time Lupe reached the toe of the rock glacier, the dense jungle of bushes on the banks of Summit Creek was gone.  Lupe left the creek bed to start climbing the green, mossy slope on the N bank.  A trail showed others had taken this route before.  Lupe liked being out on the spongy, mossy slope a lot better than being down on the rocky stream bed.

Lupe nears the toe of the rock glacier. About the time she reached it, she left the creek bed to follow a trail up the mossy slope on the R. Photo looks WSW.
Lupe nears the toe of the rock glacier. About the time she reached it, she left the creek bed to follow a trail up the mossy slope on the R. Photo looks WSW.
Lupe greatly preferred being on this spongy, mossy ground. She would eventually climb from the little knob seen on the ridgeline at (Center), up to the summit of Mount Decoeli on the R. Photo looks NW.
Lupe greatly preferred being on this spongy, mossy ground. She would eventually climb from the little knob seen on the ridgeline at (Center), up to the summit of Mount Decoeli on the R. Photo looks NW.
Lupe had already gained a fair amount of elevation on the long, gentle trek up Summit Creek to the rock glacier. Now that she had left the creek bed, though, things were about to get a lot steeper! Photo looks NW.
Lupe had already gained a fair amount of elevation on the long, gentle trek up Summit Creek to the rock glacier. Now that she had left the creek bed, though, things were about to get a lot steeper! Photo looks NW.

Only a few minutes after Lupe left the creek bed, SPHP heard voices.  Looking back, two people and a big brown dog were in sight not too far away.  They were moving fast, coming up the creek bed, just like Lupe and SPHP had.

Lupe’s route was much steeper up on the green, spongy ground, than it had been down by Summit Creek.  Rather than turn NW directly up the steep slope, it seemed best to follow the trail W for a little while making a more gradual climb.  Lupe had already crossed a big ravine and gained a fair amount of elevation above the rock glacier, by the time the two hikers and their dog overtook SPHP.

Two hikers and their big brown dog overtook SPHP near this point. Photo looks SW over the rock glacier.
Two hikers and their big brown dog overtook SPHP near this point. Photo looks SW over the rock glacier.

The two hikers were Milo and Ben, from Smithers, British Columbia, with their dog, Lucca.  Lucca was bigger than Lupe, and not too sociable.  Lucca growled menacingly.  Lupe wisely kept her distance.  Milo, Ben and SPHP had a brief, friendly conversation.

Had Lupe and SPHP seen the grizzly bear?  Uh, no.  What grizzly bear?  Where?  Milo and Ben said they had come across a huge, steaming, fresh grizzly scat at the junction of the two roads leading to Summit Creek.  Shortly after that, they saw the grizzly.  Fortunately, it just ambled off into the bushes where they lost sight of it.

SPHP was certain that a giant steaming bear scat hadn’t been at the road intersection when Lupe passed by.  Even if SPHP hadn’t noticed it, Lupe certainly would have!  The bear must have been fairly close by, though, for it to come through before Milo and Ben showed up.  Yeah, avoiding the bushes, and staying out on the rocks on the wide Summit Creek channel was definitely the way to go on the way back!

All resumed the climb up Decoeli.  Milo, Ben and Luca were soon well ahead of Lupe and SPHP.  Everyone had turned NW going directly up the steep slope.  For a little way farther, the ground was still covered with nice spongy, green plants.  Pretty soon, though, Lupe reached rocky ground again.  From here on, Lupe faced a long, steep climb up very loose scree mixed with occasional large rocks.

Lupe reaches the scree. She isn't to the steepest part of the climb quite yet. Worryingly, a cloud had appeared, and now clung to the summit of Decoeli. Photo looks NW.
Lupe reaches the scree. She isn’t to the steepest part of the climb quite yet. Worryingly, a cloud had appeared, and now clung to the summit of Decoeli. Photo looks NW.
Lupe on her way up Decoeli. She went over the orange-tan colored knob beyond her, and then climbed toward the saddle seen L of Center on the ridge. Photo looks NW.
Lupe on her way up Decoeli. She went over the orange-tan colored knob beyond her, and then climbed toward the saddle seen L of Center on the ridge. Photo looks NW.

Although most of the sky was clear, a worrisome cloud formed and grew around the summit of Decoeli.  It hung around for a while, but eventually blew away to the E.  In the meantime, Lupe was making steady progress up Decoeli.  She was now approaching the most challenging part of the climb.

Lupe and SPHP reached a long, incredibly steep, scree slope.  The climb became rather unnerving.  Virtually everything was loose.  With each step up, the mountain gave way.  Rocks slid and careened down the mountain from under SPHP’s feet.  Now and then, entire areas began to slide, taking SPHP sliding back down, too, before stabilizing.  Nothing wanted to hold.  It was like trying to navigate a river of rock flowing in the opposite direction.

Most of the few large rocks on the slope were loose, too.  SPHP avoided coming up directly below them.  Even Lupe was causing showers of rocks to tumble, sometimes bounding hundreds of feet down the mountain.  It was dangerous for Lupe and SPHP to be directly above or below each other, for fear of the projectiles being released from above.

Lupe on the scary steep scree slope. The American Dingo was doing fine. She was heading for the saddle just L of Center. Photo looks NW.
Lupe on the scary steep scree slope. The American Dingo was doing fine. She was heading for the saddle just L of Center. Photo looks NW.

Lupe headed up toward large rock formations along the ridge to the WNW.  She gained elevation relentlessly.  The view back down the precipitous scree slope toward the rock glacier was tremendous.  Lupe was as calm as ever.  SPHP, however, found it better not to look down too long upon the dizzying scene.

Lupe nears the first big rock formation. No wonder the Carolina Dog was so calm on this steep scree slope - she was keeping her eyes closed! Photo looks WNW.
Lupe nears the first big rock formation. No wonder the Carolina Dog was so calm on this steep scree slope – she was keeping her eyes closed! Photo looks WNW.

Lupe reached the top of the first big rock formation.  On a small area of relatively level terra firma, Lupe and SPHP took a break.  At Summit Creek, the air had been calm, but up here a cool breeze was blowing.  The views were already fantastic, even though Lupe still had a considerable climb ahead.  Lupe and SPHP relaxed for 10 minutes, recovering from the ordeal on the treacherous scree slope.

Lupe at the first rock formation above the treacherous scree slope. Photo looks S toward the rock glacier, now many hundreds of feet below.
Lupe at the first rock formation above the treacherous scree slope. Photo looks S toward the rock glacier, now many hundreds of feet below.

Lupe was now on the ridge that had been visible from below.  Another, longer ridge was in view off to the W.  The longer ridge looked like it might very well have been a considerably easier route up.  Perhaps Lupe should have stayed down near the rock glacier longer, following it farther SW before turning N to start her climb.  Maybe she should take that ridge on the way back down?

The long, low ridge seen beyond Lupe would have been a much easier route up Decoeli. To get to it, Lupe would have had to follow the rock glacier farther SW before turning N to start her climb. Photo looks W.
The long, low ridge seen beyond Lupe would have been a much easier route up Decoeli. To get to it, Lupe would have had to follow the rock glacier farther SW before turning N to start her climb. Photo looks W.

Off to the NW, SPHP saw another climber!  He was at about Lupe’s level.  Apparently, he had come up somewhere along that longer ridge, thereby avoiding the super steep, scree slope.  This new climber also saw SPHP, and waved.  SPHP waved back.  No doubt, Lupe would get to meet him at the top of the mountain.

Lupe continued her climb up Decoeli.  She was now traveling up the ridgeline, no longer on the scree slope.  The ridge was still very rocky, and quite steep, but the rocks were more stable than before.  Soon, Lupe came to another rock formation where there was a small patch of level ground.

Lupe reaches a 2nd rock formation along the ridgeline. There was a little level ground here, but Lupe still faced a fairly long climb to reach the top of Decoeli. Photo looks NW.
Lupe reaches a 2nd rock formation along the ridgeline. There was a little level ground here, but Lupe still faced a fairly long climb to reach the top of Decoeli. Photo looks NW.

Lupe was getting closer to the top of Decoeli.  She still had to gain hundreds of feet of elevation, but the nature of the climb was changing.  The slope ahead, while still steep, was broader and covered with talus.  The large rocks were much more stable.  Projectiles were no longer being released with every step.

Lupe and SPHP toiled upward.  A cold W wind was blowing.  The sky overhead was a clear, brilliant blue.  The slope diminished.  A weather vane, spinning rapidly, came into view.  Beyond it, a silver metal shack perched atop the mountain.  Milo, Ben and the new climber were all there, engaged in conversation.  Weary, Lucca had collapsed on the rocks.  She didn’t stir at all, as Lupe went by.

After gaining nearly 4,400 ft. of elevation, Lupe had made it to the top of Decoeli (7,650 ft.)!  The views were fantastic, but disappointingly, off to the WSW, there were clouds in the direction where Mount Logan should be.  High, snowy peaks were partially in view, but many summits were not.

Far to the WSW, partially shrouded by clouds, were giant snowy peaks of the Saint Elias range. This photo was taken as Lupe arrived at the summit of Decoeli. Even a partial view was a stirring sight! SPHP wondered if Lupe was gazing upon Mount Logan, the highest peak in all of Canada, among the distant giants she could see? Photo taken with the telephoto lens.
Far to the WSW, partially shrouded by clouds, were giant snowy peaks of the Saint Elias range. This photo was taken as Lupe arrived at the summit of Decoeli. Even a partial view was a stirring sight! SPHP wondered if Lupe was gazing upon Mount Logan, the highest peak in all of Canada, among the distant giants she could see? Photo taken with the telephoto lens.
Lupe on top of Decoeli! Photo looks S.
Lupe on top of Decoeli! Photo looks S.
The view toward Haines Junction. Photo looks SE.
The view toward Haines Junction. Photo looks SE.
Milo and Ben chat with Richard Baker. Poor, exhausted Lucca was passed out on the rocks. Photo looks WNW.
Milo and Ben chat with Richard Baker. Poor, exhausted Lucca was passed out on the rocks. Photo looks WNW.

After a few minutes gazing at the amazing views, Lupe and SPHP went to see Ben, Milo, and Lucca and meet the other climber.  He was Richard Baker, owner of a seasonal window cleaning business in Tucson, Arizona.  Richard was quite animated, and busy expounding upon his philosophy of life among other topics.

Milo and Ben were telling the tale of the grizzly bear.  Richard couldn’t believe he hadn’t seen the bear scat, or noticed the grizzly.  He is normally very wary in bear country, and was well-equipped with bear spray and other protective devices.

Milo and Ben were both wearing shorts, and feeling a bit uncomfortable in the cold breeze.  Since they intended to start back down soon, it was time for a photo op with them at the summit cairn.  Milo said they had just built the cairn higher while Lupe was coming up Decoeli, which explained it’s magnificently balanced slender height.

Ben (L) and Milo (R) at the newly improved Decoeli summit cairn with their dog, Lucca, and Lupe. Ben is 16, and in school. Milo is 50, and works in the lumber industry. They were all from Smithers, British Columbia. They had been climbing mountains on 5 of the past 7 days. Like Lupe, they had also been to King's Throne. Photo looks S.
Ben (L) and Milo (R) at the newly improved Decoeli summit cairn with their dog, Lucca, and Lupe. Ben is 16, and in school. Milo is 50, and works in the lumber industry. They were all from Smithers, British Columbia. They had been climbing mountains on 5 of the past 7 days. Like Lupe, they had also been to King’s Throne. Photo looks S.

Spurred on by the cold wind, Milo, Ben and Lucca started down Decoeli.  Lupe did not see them again.  Richard, Lupe and SPHP were in no hurry to leave.  Richard and SPHP chatted while admiring the views.  Gradually, the clouds were lifting in the W!  Many towering ice-clad mountains were in sight.  Richard shared his binoculars with SPHP.

Richard and SPHP wondered whether or not Mount Logan was in view, and if so, which peak it might be.  Richard thought it was one farther to the N than SPHP believed.  In truth, neither Richard nor SPHP really knew, but it was fun to speculate.  It remained a pretty good bet that Lupe was seeing Mount Logan somewhere over there!

Lupe scans distant giants of snow and ice from Decoeli. Somewhere over there was Mount Logan, the highest peak in all of Canada, and 2nd highest peak in North America! SPHP believes Lupe did see Mount Logan, even though neither Richard nor SPHP knew exactly which peak was it. Photo looks WSW.
Lupe scans distant giants of snow and ice from Decoeli. Somewhere over there was Mount Logan, the highest peak in all of Canada, and 2nd highest peak in North America! SPHP believes Lupe did see Mount Logan, even though neither Richard nor SPHP knew exactly which peak was it. Photo looks WSW.
SPHP believes the highest mountain at Center is Mount Cairns (9,186 ft.). Photo looks WNW.
SPHP believes the highest mountain at Center is Mount Cairns (9,186 ft.). Photo looks WNW.
Looking SE from Decoeli. Two large lakes are seen faintly on the L. Kathleen Lake is the closest. Dezadeash Lake is the more distant. The long slope rising to the R from between them is the NE ridge that Lupe climbed 2 days earlier to reach the summit of King's Throne (6,529 ft.), which is barely in view.
Looking SE from Decoeli. Two large lakes are seen faintly on the L. Kathleen Lake is the closest. Dezadeash Lake is the more distant. The long slope rising to the R from between them is the NE ridge that Lupe climbed 2 days earlier to reach the summit of King’s Throne (6,529 ft.), which is barely in view.
Kluane Lake from Decoeli. Photo looks NW.
Kluane Lake from Decoeli. Photo looks NW.
Gradually, the clouds to the W lifted, allowing a better view of the stunning, distant peaks of the Saint Elias range. Neither Richard nor SPHP knew the names of any of them, but nevertheless, they were an inspiring sight! Photo looks W.
Gradually, the clouds to the W lifted, allowing a better view of the stunning, distant peaks of the Saint Elias range. Neither Richard nor SPHP knew the names of any of them, but nevertheless, they were an inspiring sight! Photo looks W.
A world of snow and ice. Was that huge snowy ramp on the R, Mt. Logan? It was SPHP's favorite candidate. It would be fun to know the truth! Photo looks WSW using the telephoto lens.
A world of snow and ice. Was that huge snowy ramp on the R, Mt. Logan? It was SPHP’s favorite candidate. It would be fun to know the truth! Photo looks WSW using the telephoto lens.
Mount Logan? No one knew. It's some grand and massive peak, for certain! Photo looks WSW using the telephoto lens.
Mount Logan? No one knew. It’s some grand and massive peak, for certain! Photo looks WSW using the telephoto lens.
More spectacular high peaks. Photo looks W.
More spectacular high peaks. Photo looks W.
A lofty white peak R of Center looks almost made of clouds. But what's that slope on the L? It was hard to tell if it was a cloud or part of some colossal mountain. Photo looks W.
A lofty white peak R of Center looks almost made of clouds. But what’s that slope on the L? It was hard to tell if it was a cloud or part of some colossal mountain. Photo looks W.

Richard and SPHP spent so long taking turns looking through the binoculars, that Lupe became a bit bored with it all.  She was tired of standing around, and disliked the cold wind.  Lupe had water, some Taste of the Wild, and curled up on as flat a spot as she could find.  SPHP covered her with a jacket to help her keep warm.

Richard Baker on Decoeli. Richard was quite animated and friendly. He shared his binoculars and philosophy with SPHP. Richard's window cleaning business in Tucson, AZ is seasonal enough to permit him time to travel and climb mountains part of the year.
Richard Baker on Decoeli. Richard was quite animated and friendly. He shared his binoculars and philosophy with SPHP. Richard’s window cleaning business in Tucson, AZ is seasonal enough to permit him time to travel and climb mountains part of the year.

After Lupe and SPHP had been at the summit for 50 minutes, Richard announced that he was ready to head down.  Lupe and SPHP remained on top of Decoeli alone a little longer for a last look around.  The views remained simply astounding!  Climbing Decoeli had been a challenging, yet magnificently rewarding experience.

Lupe not far from the Decoeli summit cairn for the last time. Photo looks S.
Lupe not far from the Decoeli summit cairn for the last time. Photo looks S.
The best route down Decoeli passes to the R of the small prominence seen L of Center overlooking the rock glacier. Photo looks S..
The best route down Decoeli passes to the R of the small prominence seen L of Center overlooking the rock glacier. Photo looks S..
Richard Baker starts down Decoeli. Mount Cairnes is in view at Center. Photo looks WNW.
Richard Baker starts down Decoeli. Mount Cairnes is in view at Center. Photo looks WNW.

Sadly, it was time to move on.  Lupe and SPHP set off following Richard down the mountain.  This time, Lupe stayed on the longer ridge going SSW.  The first part of the descent down the talus slope was still quite steep and slow, but by staying on the SSW ridge, Lupe was able to avoid having to go down the treacherous scree slope to the SE where she and SPHP had come up.

Richard was leading the way, taking the same long SSW ridge.  Even this route was steep enough so SPHP had to be careful not to send rocks bounding down the mountain toward him.  Several times SPHP had to shout a warning.

The SSW ridge led down toward a wide saddle. The rock glacier Lupe would eventually have to turn toward is out of sight farther down to the L. Although this route wasn't as difficult as the scree slope Lupe and SPHP climbed going up, it was still plenty steep. Richard can be seen ahead. SPHP had to be careful not to send loose rocks bounding down the mountain at him. Photo looks SSW.
The SSW ridge led down toward a wide saddle. The rock glacier Lupe would eventually have to turn toward is out of sight farther down to the L. Although this route wasn’t as difficult as the scree slope Lupe and SPHP climbed going up, it was still plenty steep. Richard can be seen ahead. SPHP had to be careful not to send loose rocks bounding down the mountain at him. Photo looks SSW.
Unnamed peaks beyond the saddle SSW of Decoeli. Photo looks SSW.
Unnamed peaks beyond the saddle SSW of Decoeli. Photo looks SSW.

Partly out of fear of rocks hurtling down the mountain, Richard stopped off to the side long enough to let Lupe and SPHP catch up.  While climbing Decoeli, Richard had originally come up from the SE to reach this broad, gentler slope on the long SSW ridge.  He had also had to climb up a steep, scree slope on the way, but not for nearly as far as Lupe.

Ahead was a small prominence overlooking the rock glacier to the S.  The question was whether to start down to the SE now, or circle around the W side of the prominence?  After a little discussion and scouting around, it was decided to go the long way around the W side.  There were numerous sheep trails Lupe could follow in this area.

Going down around the prominence overlooking the rock glacier. The top of the prominence is out of sight up the L slope. Richard leads the way, while Lupe wonders what's keeping SPHP? The rock glacier is in view ahead. Photo looks SSE.
Going down around the prominence overlooking the rock glacier. The top of the prominence is out of sight up the L slope. Richard leads the way, while Lupe wonders what’s keeping SPHP? The rock glacier is in view ahead. Photo looks SSE.
Looking SSE at the mountains beyond the rock glacier. It's possible the more distant peak on the L is Mount Archibald (8,491 ft.), but SPHP isn't certain.
Looking SSE at the mountains beyond the rock glacier. It’s possible the more distant peak on the L is Mount Archibald (8,491 ft.), but SPHP isn’t certain.
Lupe on her way down Decoeli. Photo looks N.
Lupe on her way down Decoeli. Photo looks N.

Eventually, Lupe, Richard and SPHP all arrived down at the rock glacier.  Up close, it was possible to see there really was melting snow and glacial ice under all the rock.

Lupe down by the rock glacier.
Lupe down by the rock glacier.

Richard, Lupe and SPHP all started the journey NE toward the rock glacier’s toe.  The terrain along the NW side of the glacier was often rough and broken.  After staying near the glacier’s edge for a while, SPHP tried leading Lupe up a steep bank to a green, spongy area overlooking the glacier.  This maneuver did not help.  Lupe quickly arrived at a ravine leading right back down to the glacier.

Richard had stayed down by the rock glacier.  He forged ahead, while Lupe and SPHP navigated the ravine.  By the time Lupe reached the toe of the glacier, Richard was out of sight somewhere down Summit Creek.

Lupe and SPHP made great progress going down the wide, rock-strewn Summit Creek channel.  This time, SPHP didn’t hesitate to simply ford the creek whenever necessary.  Every now and then, Lupe caught sight of Richard far ahead.  The long trek down the creek bed was actually quite easy and fun.  Lupe and SPHP enjoyed the beautiful long Yukon evening.

Near the start of the jeep trail, Lupe and SPHP caught up with Richard again.  Richard and SPHP chatted as Lupe trotted along the road.  Richard expounded upon grizzly bears.  He was carrying bear spray and other anti-bear devices to deal with them.  He talked about how all these tall bushes with small red berries growing along the road were soapberry bushes, and how bears love soapberries!

At the intersection where the road forked, there it was, just like Milo and Ben had said.  A huge grizzly bear scat full of soapberries was right there at the intersection.  Richard still couldn’t believe he hadn’t seen it in the morning!

The sun was getting low when Lupe reached the G6.  She’d had a long, long day.  Without the slightest hesitation, she hopped into the G6.  Lupe curled up on her blankets and pillows, looking forward to a soft, comfy snooze.  For more than an hour outside, Richard and SPHP conversed about Decoeli, bears, and other things.  Richard even offered SPHP a free canister of bear spray.  SPHP thanked him, but declined.

When Richard said good-bye and drove off, SPHP joined Lupe in the G6.  The sun was about to set.  What a fantastic, memorable day it had been!  Lupe had made it to the top of Decoeli.  She had almost certainly seen Mount Logan, the highest mountain in all of Canada.

Lupe and SPHP drove N on the Alaska Highway on the way to Kluane Lake, as the still glowing evening faded slowly from the wild Yukon mountains and sky.

Half moon over mountains NW of Decoeli.
Half moon over mountains NW of Decoeli.
Lupe's long, fabulous Day of Decoeli draws to a close.
Lupe’s long, fabulous Day of Decoeli draws to a close.
Sunset, Kluane National Park, Yukon Territory, Canada 8-9-16
Sunset, Kluane National Park, Yukon Territory, Canada 8-9-16

Note: The trailhead for Mount Decoeli is a long, paved pullout 12.5 miles N of Haines Junction on the W side of the Alaska Highway.  (1.4 miles N of the Spruce Beetle trailhead.) Decoeli is near, but not actually in, Kluane National Park.  The route up is not maintained or signed in any manner.  There is no formal trail.  Elevation gain is a bit under 4,400 feet, or 1330 meters.  Distance is roughly 11 miles or 18 km round trip.

A free description of the route up Decoeli is available from visitor centers near Haines Junction and Kluane Lake.

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

Black Hills Expedition No. 182 – Mount Pisgah (WY) & Laird Peak (SD) (11-13-16)

The sign said “Lunney”.  This was it!  Beyond a gravel parking area, SPHP opened a wire gate, then drove the G6 down a steep little slope, parking it next to an old building (8:49 AM, 48°F).  SPHP closed the gate again.  Lupe could come out now.  She bounded out of the G6 expecting great things!

Lupe arrives at the Lunney place, ready to start on her next Black Hills, WY adventure. Photo looks E.
Lupe arrives at the Lunney place, ready to start on her next Black Hills, WY adventure. Photo looks E.
The G6 parked on land owned by rancher Lauris Tysdal. The Lunney place just off US Hwy 85 is seen just beyond the fence. Photo looks W.
The G6 parked on land owned by rancher Lauris Tysdal. The Lunney place just off US Hwy 85 is seen just beyond the fence. Photo looks W.

Lupe was in the Black Hills of Wyoming, about 5 miles S of the junction of Highways 85 & 585 at Four Corners.  She had just seen Red Butte on the E side of Hwy 85 less than a half mile to the N.  SPHP had been watching for the Lunney place, mentioned in a May, 2009 trip report by Edward Earl on Peakbagger.com.

The Lunney place was important as an access point to rancher Lauris Tysdal’s land and Mount Pisgah (6,380 ft.).  Mount Pisgah was one of two peakbagging goals Lupe had in this vicinity.  She already had Mr. Tysdal’s permission to cross his land to climb Mount Pisgah.  Later in the day, Lupe and SPHP would be looking for the owner of the ranch where Sweetwater Mountain (6,440 ft.) was, hoping to get permission to climb it, too.

First things first, though.  Before climbing Mount Pisgah, Lupe was going to go see Red Butte, a fin of red clay topped with a layer of limestone.  Lupe and SPHP went N through a field just E of US Hwy 85.  Red Butte was soon in view.

Lupe S of Red Butte. This fin of red clay capped by a layer of limestone is a somewhat unusual landmark in the Black Hills area. It is more typical of parts of Wyoming farther W. Photo looks N.
Lupe S of Red Butte. This fin of red clay capped by a layer of limestone is a somewhat unusual landmark in the Black Hills area. It is more typical of parts of Wyoming farther W. Photo looks N.
Red Butte, WY from the S. The butte is just E of US Hwy 85, about 5 miles S of Four Corners. It is seen to be much longer than it appears here when viewed from the E or W. Photo looks N.
Red Butte, WY from the S. The butte is just E of US Hwy 85, about 5 miles S of Four Corners. It is seen to be much longer than it appears here when viewed from the E or W. Photo looks N.

After a good look at Red Butte, Lupe and SPHP returned to the G6 where a dirt road on the Tysdal Ranch headed SE.  This road would take Lupe all the way up to the top of Mount Pisgah.

Lupe about to start for Mount Pisgah. She would follow the dirt road seen here. It went SE beyond the building, then turned NE (L) before reaching the trees. Photo looks SE.
Lupe about to start for Mount Pisgah. She would follow the dirt road seen here. It went SE beyond the building, then turned NE (L) before reaching the trees. Photo looks SE.

The road took Lupe SE past an old, low building, then turned NE before reaching the trees.  Lupe soon came to a fence across the road.  The fence wasn’t mentioned in Edward Earl’s report.  The Carolina Dog slipped under the fence.  She stayed on the road, as it entered the forest and wound its way up a small canyon.

Coming out into more open ground again, Lupe could see the same rock formations Red Butte was made of evident along the NW side of the canyon.

The same rock formations Red Butte was made of were also evident on the NW side of the canyon the road to Mount Pisgah passed through. Photo looks NW.
The same rock formations Red Butte was made of were also evident on the NW side of the canyon the road to Mount Pisgah passed through. Photo looks NW.

Now and then, side roads left the road Lupe was following.  She didn’t take any of the side roads, per Edward Earl’s advice.  The main dirt road slowly turned ENE as it went up the canyon.  For a while, the road looked like it was heading for a minor pass to the E.  Instead, it made a sweeping curve to the S before reaching the pass.

The road grew steeper, and wound around quite a bit, but was generally heading S.  Suddenly, Lupe dashed ahead.   She was looking up into the forest to the SE.  SPHP saw it, too.  Not too far away, a large coyote was watching Lupe!  As soon as it made eye contact with SPHP, it fled E into the forest.  Lupe was disappointed that the wild dog didn’t want to be friends, but it was probably for the best.

Lupe reached an orange well pump mentioned by Edward Earl.  By now, Lupe could see a tall tower up on the NW end of the huge Mount Pisgah summit plateau.  Edward Earl’s trip report had mentioned that a tower shown on the topo map at the N end of Mount Pisgah was not there, but Lupe most definitely saw one.  It was in plain sight.

Lupe at the orange hydrant, mentioned (as an orange well pump) by Edward Earl's trip report. Photo looks SE.
Lupe at the orange hydrant, mentioned (as an orange well pump) by Edward Earl’s trip report. Photo looks SE.

By now, Lupe was fairly high up on the NW slope of Mount Pisgah.  There were tree-broken views off to the N and W, but Lupe hadn’t come to any clear views.

From the orange hydrant, the road leveled out.  It turned sharply E, passing below the steep N face of the mountain.  Within a few minutes, Lupe came to a fetid brown pond in a depression S of the road.  The pond was shrunken by drought.  Hoof prints showed thirsty cattle had churned up the mud around the pond.  Apparently, cattle aren’t overly concerned about water quality.

Lupe at the fetid stock pond shrunken by drought. This pond is just S of the road, and N of the steep upper N face of Mount Pisgah. The brown water looked simply horrid. Photo looks ENE.
Lupe at the fetid stock pond shrunken by drought. This pond is just S of the road, and N of the steep upper N face of Mount Pisgah. The brown water looked simply horrid. Photo looks ENE.

Beyond the nasty pond, the road swung toward the NNE before rounding the end of a narrow ridge extending in that direction from the summit plateau.  The road then turned S along the less steep E face of Mount Pisgah.  The forest was left behind.  Lupe was out in grasslands.  Here, she had a clear view to the E of the Black Hills in South Dakota across a valley several miles wide.

On the E slope of Mount Pisgah, Lupe had a sweeping view to the E of the Black Hills in South Dakota across a wide valley. Photo looks NE.
On the E slope of Mount Pisgah, Lupe had a sweeping view to the E of the Black Hills in South Dakota across a wide valley. Photo looks NE.
Lupe on the road up Mount Pisgah. Here she is on the upper E slope of the mountain. The road eventually entered the forest again, before making a couple of switchbacks to emerge up on the summit plateau. Photo looks S.
Lupe on the road up Mount Pisgah. Here she is on the upper E slope of the mountain. The road eventually entered the forest again, before making a couple of switchbacks to emerge up on the summit plateau. Photo looks S.

Another tower was visible ahead on top of the mountain, as Lupe followed the road S along the upper E slope.  The road re-entered the forest, made a couple of switchbacks, and emerged on open ground up on the E side of the huge summit plateau.

Most of the plateau was grassland, but the N end was pine forest.  Pines also ringed the edges of the plateau, cutting off the views, which was a little disappointing.  Not just one, but three large towers were visible to the S, a little W of a stand of pines where the true summit of Mount Pisgah was hidden from view.

Lupe reaches the open ground on the huge Mount Pisgah summit plateau. The road continued S toward 3 large towers. The towers were W of a stand of pines where the true summit of Mount Pisgah was still hidden from view. Photo looks S.
Lupe reaches the open ground on the huge Mount Pisgah summit plateau. The road continued S toward 3 large towers. The towers were W of a stand of pines where the true summit of Mount Pisgah was still hidden from view. Photo looks S.

The road led toward the three large towers.  Lupe went that way, but her top priority was to find the true summit of Mount Pisgah.  Edward Earl had reported that the highest ground was somewhere under a cluster of young evergreens, along with no fewer than 8 concrete slabs with anchor bolts.  The concrete footings were likely part of a structure that was started, but never completed.

Two of the three large towers W of the true summit of Mount Pisgah. Photo looks SW.
Two of the three large towers W of the true summit of Mount Pisgah. Photo looks SW.

W of the towers, Lupe slipped under a barbed wire fence running E/W that Edward Earl hadn’t mentioned.  Not too far S of the fence, she found the concrete slabs with anchor bolts.  The ground in this area was all quite level.  There was no clear, exact, high point, but Lupe had reached the true summit of Mount Pisgah.

Lupe stands on one of the concrete slabs Edward Earl mentioned in the area of the true summit of Mount Pisgah. Photo looks NE.
Lupe stands on one of the concrete slabs Edward Earl mentioned in the area of the true summit of Mount Pisgah. Photo looks NE.

The cluster of young evergreens, wasn’t as young as it had been when Edward Earl was here nearly 7.5 years ago.

Lupe at the summit of Mount Pisgah. A couple of the concrete footings with anchor bolts are in view on the L. The young evergreens Edward Earl had seen nearly 7.5 years ago weren't so young anymore. Photo looks E.
Lupe at the summit of Mount Pisgah. A couple of the concrete footings with anchor bolts are in view on the L. The young evergreens Edward Earl had seen nearly 7.5 years ago weren’t so young anymore. Photo looks E.

The true summit of Mount Pisgah wasn’t too exciting, really.  Although the highest ground was quite close to the E edge of the summit plateau, there were too many trees around to see much of anything.  With Lupe’s peakbagging goal accomplished, she left the summit to take a closer look at the towers.

To the SSE of the three towers was a battered old blue and yellow school bus.  Due to broken glass on the ground, SPHP wouldn’t let Lupe get too close to it.  SPHP gathered up a number of Lupe treasures someone had carelessly discarded near the bus.

Lupe near the battered blue and yellow bus. Broken glass nearby meant Lupe couldn't get too close to it. Why on earth it was here was unfathomable. Photo looks NE.
Lupe near the battered blue and yellow bus. Broken glass nearby meant Lupe couldn’t get too close to it. Why on earth it was here was unfathomable. Photo looks NE.

Edward Earl had only mentioned one tower W of the summit, but now there were three.  The two farthest to the N had new-looking concrete slabs for support, and new outbuildings near them.  The N towers must have been installed after Mr. Earl had been to Mount Pisgah.

The three towers W of the summit. The towers on the L and R were new since Edward Earl was here in May, 2009. Photo looks N.
The three towers W of the summit. The towers on the L and R were new since Edward Earl was here in May, 2009. Photo looks N.

It doesn’t take a Carolina Dog long to look at a few towers!  Lupe was soon ready to move on.  Of course, she still had one tower left to check out, the one at the NW end of the summit plateau that she had seen from down by the orange hydrant.

Lupe and SPHP went N along the E edge of the summit plateau, hoping to catch an open view, but found none.  Lupe then went NW to the road again on her way to the NW tower.  A side road off the main dirt road went N into the forest.  Near the N edge of the plateau, it turned W and took Lupe to the lone tower Edward Earl had somehow missed.

Looking NW across part of the Mount Pisgah summit plateau.
Looking NW across part of the Mount Pisgah summit plateau.
Looking S back at the 3 towers W of the summit.
Looking S back at the 3 towers W of the summit.
Looking S back at the 3 towers W of the summit from near the start of the side road to the 4th tower at the NW end of the mountain. The intersection with the main dirt road is at the L edge of this photo near the trees.
Looking S back at the 3 towers W of the summit from near the start of the side road to the 4th tower at the NW end of the mountain. The intersection with the main dirt road is at the L edge of this photo near the trees.
Lupe nears the NW tower. It must have been here when Edward Earl was around; the outbuilding next to it looked quite old. How he missed it is unclear. Photo looks W.
Lupe nears the NW tower. It must have been here when Edward Earl was around; the outbuilding next to it looked quite old. How he missed it is unclear. Photo looks W.

The NW tower had broken wires hanging off of it.  Paint had peeled off much of the old shack next to it.  However, a heater or air-conditioner on the NE side of the shack was running.  How had Edward Earl missed this tower?  It must have been here, as old as it appeared to be.  Strange.

SPHP went over to the N edge of the summit plateau, hoping for a view.  Lupe didn’t come.  She was standing frozen near the shack.  She looked like she does whenever she steps on a cactus.  SPHP went back to her.  Lupe held up a little front paw, pleading to be carried.

SPHP carried Lupe over to the edge of the plateau.  Lupe rolled over on the ground, so SPHP could check her paws for cactus spines.  Nothing.  SPHP hadn’t seen any cactus anywhere on Mount Pisgah, either.  Maybe Lupe had stepped on something else sharp?  Ever since her bad experience with cactus in the Wildcat Hills of Nebraska, Lupe tends to assume cactus is everywhere any time her paws hurt.

Lupe at the NW end of the summit plateau before starting down the mountain. For a minute or two, she wanted to just sit here. Worried about cactus, she was hoping SPHP was going to carry her back to the G6. Photo looks SE.
Lupe at the NW end of the summit plateau before starting down the mountain. For a minute or two, she wanted to just sit here. Worried about cactus, she was hoping SPHP was going to carry her back to the G6. Photo looks SE.

Apparently, Lupe would have liked SPHP to carry her all the way back to the G6.  She stopped several times on the way down the mountain.  There really wasn’t anything wrong with her that SPHP could see.  She always came running when SPHP got too far ahead.

Instead of taking the road back, Lupe and SPHP went down Mount Pisgah’s NW slope.  A power line went down this way, too.  Most of the time Lupe stayed within sight of it.

Surprisingly, although Lupe hadn’t found any clear views from the edge of the summit plateau on top of the mountain, coming down the NW slope, she did!  Red Butte and Sweetwater Mountain (6,440 ft.), Lupe’s next peakbagging objective, were both in view from several spots on the way down.

Red Butte (L) and Sweetwater Mountain (the long forested ridge on the horizon) as seen from the NW slopes of Mount Pisgah. The canyon seen below Red Butte is the same one Lupe traveled through (from L to R) on the road leading to the top of Mount Pisgah. Photo looks NW.
Red Butte (L) and Sweetwater Mountain (the long forested ridge on the horizon) as seen from the NW slopes of Mount Pisgah. The canyon seen below Red Butte is the same one Lupe traveled through (from L to R) on the road leading to the top of Mount Pisgah. Photo looks NW.
Looking down on Red Butte with a little help from the telephoto lens. Photo looks NW.
Looking down on Red Butte with a little help from the telephoto lens. Photo looks NW.

The NW slope was steep until Lupe reached a road after losing 200 to 300 feet of elevation.  Lupe took the road SW a short distance to the edge of a small meadow where it looked like there might be a view.

The meadow turned out to be part of a much more extensive grassland.  Lupe did have a great view to the SW.

Lupe finds a much more extensive grassland than she'd been expecting. She had a great view from here. Photo looks SW.
Lupe finds a much more extensive grassland than she’d been expecting. She had a great view from here. Photo looks SW.

Lupe went through the grassland, and continued on down the NW slope of Mount Pisgah.  Down here, it wasn’t so steep.  Most of the time Lupe was in forest, but a forest full of small openings and glens.  Lupe’s route down was an easy one.

Crossing the big grassland, Lupe could see the entire length of the Sweetwater Mountain plateau off to the NW.
Crossing the big grassland, Lupe could see the entire length of the Sweetwater Mountain plateau off to the NW.
Lupe came to several dirt roads on the way down Mount Pisgah. She didn't follow any of them very far, but she did travel a short stretch of this road. Photo looks NNE.
Lupe came to several dirt roads on the way down Mount Pisgah. She didn’t follow any of them very far, but she did travel a short stretch of this road. Photo looks NNE.

The American Dingo eventually reached the road she had followed to the top of Mount Pisgah down in the canyon.  She followed it back to the Lunney place, which was only 10 or 15 minutes away (12:25 PM, 55°F).

The G6 was already up on the gravel parking area on the Lunney place with Lupe in it, and SPHP was just closing the gate to Lauris Tysdal’s land, when a jeep drove up.  Mr. Lunney was in it, somewhat surprised, no doubt, to find Lupe and SPHP on the property.

SPHP explained how Lupe had come to be here.  Mr. Lunney seemed satisfied with the explanation.  He began to tell SPHP a little bit about the history of the Lunney place.  His grandparents had bought the property, which includes over 8 acres of land with the house and outbuildings, back in the 1940’s.  In recent years, it had belonged to his mother, but she passed away earlier this year.

Mr. Lunney has another home, so this Lunney property is eventually going to be sold, although exactly when wasn’t clear.  There was no big rush to sell it.  Having been in the family so many decades, Mr. Lunney has a lot of fond memories of this place.

Lupe still had another peakbagging objective today.  After SPHP’s pleasant chat with Mr. Lunney, it was time to go look for the owner of the ranch that Sweetwater Mountain is on.  The ranch wasn’t far away, but the owner didn’t seem to be home.  Without permission from the owner, Lupe couldn’t climb Sweetwater Mountain.

SPHP was writing a note to leave on the door of the rancher’s home, when the owner drove up on an ATV.  SPHP had a conversation with him.  The upshot of it all was that Lupe was refused permission to climb Sweetwater Mountain.  However, when hunting season is over at the end of November, she is welcome to come back to climb it in December.

Well, that was that.  No Sweetwater Mountain today.  Lupe still had a few hours of daylight to do something with.  In the end, it was decided she might just as well climb Laird Peak (6,906 ft.) N of O’Neil Pass in South Dakota.  Laird Peak wasn’t a hard climb at all, and was on the way home.

Lupe and SPHP left the G6 parked S of a corral about 0.33 mile N of Hwy 85 along USFS Road No. 106 (2:35 PM, 48°F).  Lupe took a dirt road E up a shallow valley past Tom Spring.  The road reached an intersection at the upper end of the valley.  From there, Lupe bushwhacked E along the N side of a fence to a small forested rise.  She found the Laird Peak survey benchmark on top of the rise.

The Laird Peak survey benchmark was at the top of a small forested rise.
The Laird Peak survey benchmark was at the top of a small forested rise.
Lupe on Laird Peak. The survey benchmark is seen below her tummy. Photo looks N.
Lupe on Laird Peak. The survey benchmark is seen below her tummy. Photo looks N.
Sweet Lupe on Laird Peak.
Sweet Lupe on Laird Peak.
Even though at 6,906 feet, Laird Peak is quite high for the Black Hills, it was another mountain with no views due to so many trees. The summit area is of modest size. A significant part of it is seen here. The post marking the survey benchmark location is seen on the R. Photo looks N.
Even though at 6,906 feet, Laird Peak is quite high for the Black Hills, it was another mountain with no views due to so many trees. The summit area is of modest size. A significant part of it is seen here. The post marking the survey benchmark location is seen on the R. Photo looks N.

Climbing Laird Peak had been quick and easy.  Lupe had no more peakbagging to do.  It was only around 3:00 PM, but the November sun was already quite low.  It would be dark in another 2 hours.

Since it would only take half an hour to get back to the G6, Lupe had some free time to roam and sniff.  She had no real purpose other than to enjoy life as a free-roaming Dingo in the woods.  Lupe and SPHP wandered through the forest.  The Carolina Dog made a big loop to the N, before returning to Laird Peak’s summit.  She then made a big loop to the S, getting fairly close to US Hwy 85.

Lupe nearly back to the Laird Peak summit at the end of her exploratory loop to the N. Photo looks S.
Lupe nearly back to the Laird Peak summit at the end of her exploratory loop to the N. Photo looks S.

Sharply slanting pine-filtered rays of sunlight announced the imminent arrival of sunset.  Time to start back to the G6.  Lupe’s Black Hills Expedition No. 182 was drawing to a close.  Happily, she’d made it to Mount Pisgah in Wyoming, one of her two main peakbagging objectives, and Laird Peak in South Dakota, but Sweetwater Mountain had eluded her.

Hopefully, sweet Lupe will see the world from the top of Sweetwater Mountain sometime in December, but life’s uncertain, and that’s another adventure for another day.

Roaming free S of Laird Peak near day's end. Photo looks NNE.
Roaming free S of Laird Peak near day’s end. Photo looks NNE.

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