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 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!
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!