Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 199 – Twin Sisters Twice & Castle Rock (4-12-17)

Start (10:25 AM, 54°F), intersection of Dog Song Road & USFS Road No. 373, 4 miles SE of Pringle.

Cool rainy weather, even a skiff of snow, had delayed Expedition No. 199 for several days, but Lupe was finally on her way!  Although she had finished up the last of the Brian Kalet peaks she was going to climb in the southern Black Hills on Expedition No. 198, she was still headed S, just not quite as far S as before.

Lupe’s first peakbagging objective for the day was the high point of the Twin Sisters Range (4,980 ft.).  The Twin Sisters Range is really no more than a 2 mile long ridge running E/W within the Black Hills.  For some reason this ridge, which isn’t particularly high even compared to nearby terrain, has its own name on the maps while countless similar ridges do not.

No matter, if the Twin Sisters Range was on the maps, that was good enough for Lupe!  After she reached the high point, the plan was to explore much of the rest of the ridge.  Maybe Lupe would even go on to Elk Knob, another minor high point 0.5 mile farther S?

Approaching the area from the W, it became clear Lupe would not only have an easy time up on the ridge, she would have some great views, too.  The Twin Sisters Range looked barren and exposed.

The W end of the Twin Sisters Range looked barren and exposed. Lupe was going to have some great views up there! Photo looks E from Dog Song Road.
At the starting point. The G6 is parked just off Dog Song Road (not pictured). Lupe would follow USFS Road No. 373 to get to the W end of the Twin Sisters Range, about a mile E of here. High Point 5017 is the ridge seen in the background. Photo looks SE.

From the G6, Lupe followed USFS Road No. 373 going E toward the W end of the Twin Sisters Range.  This was a super easy, level stroll in upper Cold Spring Creek valley.  The creek must have been underground here.  It was nowhere in sight.  A steady E breeze made the day seem cooler than it really was, but meadowlarks were singing cheerfully.  Lupe was cheerful, too!  She liked this place.

Shortly after setting out, Loop reached a locked gate across No. 373 at the W end of an area serving as the water supply source for Wind Cave National Park.  The 0.5 mile long area is not connected to the rest of the park, located 2 miles farther E.  No vehicles could go beyond the locked gate, but Lupe could.  It didn’t take her long to reach the far E end where she found no gate, only a cattle guard.

After passing through the park water supply area, No. 373 angled SE and entered a thinly forested area.  Lupe began to gain elevation.  The W end of the Twin Sisters Range was now close at hand.

Getting close to the W end of the Twin Sisters Range. Photo looks E from USFS Road No. 373.

Lupe followed No. 373 gradually uphill until she was SW of the W end of the Twin Sisters Range.  Here, SPHP led her off the road to begin the real climb.

Lupe and SPHP left the road to begin the climb up to the W end of the ridgeline here. Photo looks NE.

After all the cactus she had been having to dodge for the last couple of months while climbing Brian Kalet peaks farther S, Loop wasn’t at all certain leaving the road was a good idea.  In fact, she was pretty positive it wasn’t.  This barren ridge looked a lot like some of those cactus-infested areas.  She begged SPHP to carry her.

The Twin Sisters Range was a few hundred feet higher than most of the peaks Lupe had been climbing lately.  It was definitely sunny and exposed, which is good for cactus, but SPHP hadn’t seen any yet.  Maybe this area was high enough to be above cactus line?  Cactus usually disappears somewhere in the 4,700 to 5,000 foot range in the Black Hills.

SPHP didn’t carry Lupe, only encouraged her to keep climbing.  She followed somewhat reluctantly.  However, her confidence grew as she made rapid progress up the slope without encountering any cacti.

Shortly before reaching the ridgeline, there was movement on the ground.  Lupe saw a snake!   It was gray-green and smallish, but coiled up and surprisingly active.  SPHP didn’t know what kind of snake it was, but it was clearly harmless.

Lupe came across this snake as she neared the top of the ridgeline. It was harmless, but surprisingly active on this cool, breezy day.

Even though the snake was harmless, SPHP was a little concerned about seeing it.  The snake seemed plenty lively despite the cool, breezy day.  Snakes are quite rare in most of the Black Hills, but are much more common at lower elevations.  In all her expeditions and adventures in the Black Hills, Lupe has never seen a rattlesnake.

One of the reasons Lupe had been climbing the lower Brian Kalet peaks of the southern hills early in the year when it was cold out was to avoid encountering rattlesnakes.  Due Lupe’s small size, a rattlesnake would be much more of a danger to her than to SPHP, and she might not know to stay away if she came to one.

Lupe might be above cactus line here, but seeing the harmless snake proved she wasn’t above snake line yet.  SPHP couldn’t ever remember seeing a rattlesnake above 5,500 feet in the Black Hills, but that was more than 500 feet higher than the Twin Sisters Range.  Seeing the harmless snake also proved spring had progressed far enough along so snakes were now active.

Dry, sunny, and topped by a layer of weathered limestone undoubtedly offering plenty of little caves and crevasses to hide in, the Twin Sisters Range did look like prime rattlesnake country.  Still, seeing a single harmless snake didn’t mean the area was infested.  SPHP encouraged Lupe to stay close from now on, though, as she finished her climb.

It only took Lupe a couple more minutes to reach the top at the W end of the ridge.  The views were excellent!

Lupe reaches the W end of the Twin Sisters Range ridge. The views were excellent! Without any trees around, Loop could see in every direction. Photo looks W at the Cold Springs Creek valley she had traveled through to get here.
The high point of the Twin Sisters Range (R) from near the W end of the ridge. Photo looks ENE.

The Twin Sisters Range High Point (4,980 ft.) was less than 0.25 mile away.  An easy stroll E along the ridge, and Lupe was claiming her first peakbagging success of the day!  That was easy!

Lupe reaches the summit cairn at the Twin Sisters Range High Point. Photo looks W.
At the summit cairn. Photo looks E.
The lower end of the Cold Spring Creek valley. Photo looks ENE.

With the 360° view available from the Twin Sisters Range High Point, Lupe could see many mountain peaks she had visited in the past, including a lot of the ones she had been to in the last couple of months in the southern Black Hills.  Most of them were many miles away.

Looking N toward Northeast Cicero Peak (6,240 ft.)(Center). Mount Coolidge (6,023 ft.)(far R) is also in view.
High Point 5017 is the large, barren ridge in the foreground. On the far horizon are Parker Peak (4,848 ft.)(L) and Matias Peak (4,780 ft.)(Center). Photo looks SW.
Much of the territory around (and including) the Twin Sisters Range had burned years ago. This photo looks NW at some of the devastation.

From the summit, Lupe could see the rest of the Twin Sisters Range ridgeline to the E.  She would get to explore much of this territory on her way to Elk Knob.  It looked like fun!  The Carolina Dog would enjoy great views all the way.

Looking SE at the rest of the Twin Sisters Range ridgeline. Lupe would have a great time exploring it on her way to Elk Knob! Buffalo Gap is in view in the distance at the edge of the hills a little R of Center. Peak 4160 is the long ridge to the L of it at Center. Unkpapa Peak (4,280 ft.) is the long ridge to the R. Lupe had been to both only 10 days ago on Expedition No. 198.

After enjoying the views from the breezy summit, Lupe headed SE down the ridge starting her trek to Elk Knob.  For 5 minutes, it was fun being able to see so much.  In an instant, everything changed.

Looper, you OK?!

Yes, of course!  You were right, no cactus up here.  Makes life a lot more pleasant!  This is way better than some of those other mountains.

Yeah, but we’re not staying.  Time to go!  There’s worse things than cactus.  Hear that buzzing?

With these big soft Dingo ears, how could I not hear it?

Well, remember that sound.  That’s a rattlesnake.  Poisonous, perhaps deadly to Dingoes if one bites you!  We must have passed within a few feet of it seconds ago.  It’s right over there somewhere.  Stay here!  Don’t go over there.

Yikes!  Are you serious?

Very.  Two snakes in what, maybe 20 minutes, up here?  One of them poisonous.  It changes everything.  We aren’t going to spend hours strolling around on Rattler Ridge courting disaster.  Forget that.  If you like this place, we can come back another time, like on a warmish day in December or January.  Won’t be any snakes then.

Yeah, suddenly I’m thinking this place would look gorgeous with a couple inches of snow on the ground!

Yup, exactly, let’s skedaddle, but stay close till we’re down off this ridge.

The buzzing had lasted maybe 20 seconds before it stopped.  SPHP pitched 8 or 10 rocks back toward the source, but the buzzing didn’t start up again.  SPHP walked a little closer, but saw nothing.  Maybe the snake had slithered into some hole?  Didn’t matter, there wasn’t any doubt.  A rattler had been there.  Elk Knob wasn’t happening.  Not today.  No way!

Looking NW back up at the Twin Sisters Range High Point. This was as far as Lupe got on her way to Elk Knob due to the rattlesnake she’d heard only a few minutes ago.

Lupe didn’t go back up to the Twin Sisters Range summit.  She took a shortcut going SW down off the ridge.  This route was more direct and less steep than the way she’d come up.  She came to no more snakes.

The return trip to USFS Road No. 373 was uneventful.  SPHP did see the one and only cactus patch of the day, but it was easily avoided.  The most exciting thing Lupe encountered along the way was some sort of huge ant festival going on at a rotting log.

Lupe starts down the S side of the ridge. If you want a good idea of what prime rattlesnake territory looks like, this is it. Photo looks W.
Lupe saw no more snakes. The most exciting thing she saw coming down off the ridge was this big ant festival being held at a rotten log.

All’s well that ends well.  Loopster reached USFS Road No. 373.  At least she had made it to the top of the Twin Sister’s Range High Point!  Elk Knob could wait.

On the way back to the G6 along USFS Road No. 373. Photo looks WNW.

The stroll back to the G6 along the road was nice and relaxing.  The whole journey to the Twin Sisters Range High Point hadn’t taken long, only a little over an hour and a half (12:07 PM, 54°F).  There was oodles of time left in the day.

That was OK!  SPHP had a backup plan.  There was another Twin Sisters on the maps Lupe could visit.

On the way back to Hwy 89 on Dog Song Road, SPHP stopped the G6 for this look back at the Twin Sisters Range High Point (L). Goodbye Rattler Ridge! Photo looks E.

Well, Loopster, that was it!  We are done with this low country stuff now until it gets cold again in the fall.  No more cactus.  No more snakes.  We are staying high.  If we manage not to fall off of anything and can avoid the barbed wire, we should be golden.  Of course, there’s always mountain lions, and hunters, but oh well, never mind.  We’ll be fine.

That sounds, great!  I can’t tell you how sick I was getting of cactus.

No doubt, but you were getting better at handling it, too.  We had fun!  Saw some great stuff.

Maybe, not nearly enough squirrels, though.  So where we going now?

Twin Sisters again.  Another Twin Sisters (5,920 ft.), a different one.  These next Twin Sisters are W of Custer.  They are nearly 1,000 feet higher than the ones we just left.  Should be plenty of trees, no cactus, no snakes, and maybe you will see some squirrels.

I hope you’re right.  Strange that both places have the same name.

Yeah, actually, there is a third set of Twin Sisters (5,244 ft.) in the Black Hills, too.  It’s even farther N, between Pactola and Sheridan Lakes, practically right off the Centennial Trail.  You’ve already been there, but it was a long time ago.  You weren’t even 14 months old yet.  So after this next set, you will have visited 3 different Twin Sisters in the Black Hills.

Like a whole litter of sisters!

You could say that.

When Lupe jumped out of the G6 again at Comanche Park campground off Hwy 16, she knew instantly this place was more to her liking (12:59 PM, 52°F).  She sniffed the air briefly, then took off running in circles.  It was true!  No more cactus!  One of the first trees she checked even had a squirrel in it!  Things were definitely looking up.

The new Twin Sisters were less than 2 miles away.  Lupe and SPHP headed S through Comanche Park campground.  A little beyond it, a few houses were around, part of some subdivision, but the private property wasn’t hard to avoid.  Most of the area was national forest land.

The terrain Lupe traveled through was rolling and forested.  Much of the forest had been thinned, so it was quite open and easy to see what was ahead.  Before long, the N Twin Sister (5,920 ft.) was in view.  It was the highest of the two.

The N Twin Sister comes into view S of Comanche Park campground. Photo looks S.

Lupe headed straight for the mountain.  As she got closer, it looked like it might be best to start up along the NW ridge.  The climb wasn’t difficult, although it became steeper as Lupe got higher up.

When she was already fairly high, Lupe reached a prominent point capped by some unusual looking rocks.  The rocks formed a couple of platforms, one large and one small.  Lupe got up on both to look around.  From the smaller platform, she had a decent view to the NNE.

Lupe on the small platform of cool rocks on her way up the N Twin Sister. She was already high enough to have a pretty decent view from here. Photo looks NNE.
A happy finally-out-of-cactus-country American Dingo on the smaller platform. Sylvan Hill (7,000 ft.) is the distant ridge on the R. Photo looks NNE.

Trees blocked the views from the larger platform.  Still, it was fun climbing around on the interesting rocks.

Lupe below the highest rocks of the larger platform.

Lupe finished her climb following the N ridge.  The route was modestly steep, but not difficult.  Soon Looper was standing on a stump at the very top of the N Twin Sister.  Since this was the highest sister, she’d already accomplished her peakbagging goal here.  Easy, squeezy!

Ta da! Lupe stands on a stump at the summit of the N Twin Sister. Since this was the highest one, she was able to claim another Dingo peakbagging success! The S Twin Sister is in view beyond her. Photo looks S.

The summit area was plenty roomy.  Three prongs radiated out from the central high point.  One off to the N, one to the E.  The third and longest prong sloped down to the SW.  The views were best from the two shorter prongs, due to breaks in the forest.

Looking NNW from the N prong.
Lupe at the edge of the E prong. Northeast Cicero Peak (6,240 ft.) (Center) is the high point on the horizon. Photo looks ESE.
The summit area on the N Twin Sister was plenty roomy. This photo looks W from the E prong, and shows more than half of the summit area.

Lupe and SPHP took a break near the summit.  Lupe had her Taste of the Wild and water.  SPHP consumed an apple.

A number of birds were flying around.  The Bluebird of Happiness showed up and hung around for quite a while.  Lupe was glad to see him!  She was certain now that her past few months of cactus ordeals were over.  The Bluebird of Happiness would never steer you wrong, would he?

The Bluebird of Happiness paid Lupe a visit up on the N Twin Sister. It had been a year since she’d last seen him up on Twin Buttes (4,949 ft.) during Expedition No. 166.  Maybe the Bluebird of Happiness had a thing for twins?

After the break, Lupe went down into the saddle leading to the S Twin Sister.  It was an easy jaunt down a modestly steep slope.  The climb up the S Twin Sister was steeper, but not bad.  A lot more rocks were over here.  Lupe went up along the NW side since there were cliffs on the N and NE sides.

Lupe got up on the cliffs for a look back at the N Twin Sister.

Lupe on top of the cliffs along the NE edge of the S Twin Sister. The N Twin Sister where she had just been is in view. Photo looks N.

The S Twin Sister had a much larger summit area than the N Twin Sister.  There were two high points, one to the N and one to the S.  The N one seemed to be a little higher than the S one, but Lupe found great viewpoints from both.  Trees always blocked the views to the NW, but it was possible to see in any other direction from some part of the mountain.

Lupe took a tour of the entire summit area.  She enjoyed lots of fabulous views.

Lupe at the edge of the S rim of the S Twin Sister. Parker Peak (4,848 ft.) (L) and Matias Peak (4,780 ft.) (Center) are barely in view in the haze on the horizon. Photo looks S.
Peak 5846 is the closest big ridge on the R. Photo looks SE.
Lupe stands at the SW end of the S Twin Sister. A lower rock platform seen on the R stuck out a little farther to the W. A small connecting saddle made it possible to get onto the lower platform. Photo looks SSW.
Looking down across a gap toward the lower platform. Photo looks SW.
The view through the gap between the platforms. Photo looks SSE.
Looper on the lower platform. Photo looks S.
Can I come down yet? …. Sure, that was great Loop, thank you!
Lupe at the S high point of the S Twin Sister. The topo maps give the elevation here as 5,889 ft. Photo looks NNE.

After touring the whole area near the S high point, Lupe returned to the cliffs near the N high point for a final look around.

The N Sister (L) from the cliffs at the N end of the S Sister. The large gray rock formation sticking up out of the forest on the R is Castle Rock. Photo looks N.
Loop on top of the cliffs along the far NE edge of the S Sister. Peak 5846 (Center) is the first big ridge seen in the distance beyond her. Photo looks SE.
Looking S across the summit area of the S Twin Sister from near the N end.

Having completed her explorations of the S Twin Sister summit, Lupe went back down the NW slope and crossed the saddle over to the N Twin Sister.  Down in the saddle she found a pretty grouping of crocuses.

Crocuses (officially Pasque flowers) are the state flower of South Dakota. They bloom in early spring in the Black Hills.

Lupe returned briefly to the summit of the N Twin Sister before heading down the N ridge.

Lupe back at the summit of the N Twin Sister. Photo looks N.

On the way down the N ridge, Lupe could sometimes see a large, gray rock formation off in the forest to the NNE.  This was Castle Rock (5,600 ft.).  SPHP had also caught a glimpse of Castle Rock off to the E on Lupe’s way to the Twin Sisters.  It wasn’t terribly high, but the sides looked like nearly vertical walls – not anything a Dingo could climb.

Castle Rock as seen on Lupe’s way down the N ridge of the N Twin Sister. Photo looks NNE using the telephoto lens.

Despite not being any larger than hundreds, maybe thousands, of similar rock formations in the Black Hills, Castle Rock had its own name and was shown on the maps.  Since it was kind of on the way back to the G6, SPHP thought Lupe might as well go check it out.  Even if she couldn’t climb Castle Rock, she could say she’d been there.

Surprisingly, when Lupe arrived, it looked fairly easy to climb at least partway up from the S end.  Lupe began climbing.  She needed a boost at one scrambly spot, but to SPHP’s amazement, she made it all the way to the top of Castle Rock!

To SPHP’s amazement, Lupe made it all the way to the top of Castle Rock. Photo looks N.

Castle Rock wasn’t all that tall, but it jutted up high enough to be well above the surrounding forest.  Consequently, Lupe had views in every direction.  The true summit of Castle Rock was near the N end of the formation where several large boulders sat on the rest of the granite.  Lupe got up on one of these boulders.

Lupe on one of the huge boulders at the true summit near the N end of Castle Rock. Photo looks N.
Hah! And you thought I couldn’t do it, SPHP. Not a bad Dingo perch either, I can see for miles! Photo looks SSW.

After scanning the forest below for deer and squirrels from her lofty perch, Lupe got off the big boulder to explore the summit area some more.  It wasn’t very large, but was kind of dramatic with all the huge rocks around and cliffs to the E & W.

Lupe exploring the summit area. Twin Sisters are in view on the L. The highest boulder of all on Castle Rock is seen on the R. Photo looks SSW.

Of course, the Twin Sisters where Lupe had just been were in view to the SSW.

Twin Sisters (Center) from Castle Rock. Photo looks SSW.

After a brief summit area inspection, Lupe returned to the huge boulder.

Lupe returns to her lofty perch. Photo looks N.

After a few more minutes enjoying the views from her favorite lofty perch, it was time to go.  Retreating back down the S end the way she had come up was the only feasible route.  Soon Lupe was down and on her way back to the G6.

Looking back at Castle Rock from the W.

Expedition No. 199 should have been over now for all practical purposes, but by the time Lupe made it back to the G6 (5:34 PM, 52°F), SPHP had hatched a new plan.

Near Mount Rushmore is another mountain shown on the maps called Old Baldy Mountain (5,605 ft.).  Lupe had never been there, even though it was in the data base.  SPHP had always assumed based on its location near many other impossible-for-a-Dingo-to-climb soaring granite formations that Lupe wouldn’t be able to climb Old Baldy.

However, Loopster’s unexpected success reaching the top of Castle Rock made SPHP start thinking maybe she could also get to the summit of Old Baldy Mountain?  Time to check it out!

On the way home, Lupe dropped by the Wrinkled Rock Climbing Area (6:09 PM, 50°F).  A short walk along one of the paths brought Lupe to a view of Old Baldy Mountain.

Forget about this one, SPHP, unless you’re ready to spring for a helicopter ride! This one’s not happening! Old Baldy Mountain (Center). Photo looks ENE.


Twin Sisters Range High Point: Dog Song Road (USFS Road No. 682.1) leaves Hwy 89 1.7 miles S of Pringle.  The junction with USFS Road No. 373 is 3 miles from the highway.

Twin Sisters (W of Custer): Comanche Park campground where Lupe started is 6 miles W of Custer on the S side of Hwy 16.  However, it may be possible (and necessary when the campground is open) to start much closer on an alternate route from the E.  Click here for details.

Want more Lupe adventures?  Check out her Black Hills, SD & WY Expeditions Adventure Index, Master Adventure Index, or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures!

Portage Pass & the Portage Glacier, Chugach National Forest, Alaska (8-28-16)

Day 30, Part 2 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska

Flashing lights.  SPHP slowed down, pulling over toward the shoulder to let the cop go past.  Instead, the patrol car came right up behind the G6.  Uh-oh.  SPHP had been driving 10 mph under the limit.  Now what?  Lupe started to growl as the policeman approached SPHP’s window.  Not a good time for that, Looper!  Shush!

Burnt out headlight.  Which one?  The right one.  Good grief.  That same headlight had burnt out a few weeks before Lupe left home on this Dingo vacation.  SPHP had personally bought and installed a new bulb.  Most aggravating.

The officer politely gave SPHP a $50 fix-it ticket.  Fix it within 30 days and have the headlight inspected by an Alaskan state trooper, or pay the fine.  Sigh.  Well, onward.  Nothing could be done about it on a Sunday evening.  Loopster, that was an adventure we could have done without.

The adventure Lupe was on her way toward was the trail to Portage Pass to see the Portage Glacier.  Only a few days ago, Lupe had seen Portage Lake and taken a nearby trail to see the Byron Glacier.  However, Portage Glacier long ago receded from view from the NW end of Portage Lake where Lupe had been.  To see it, Lupe would have to go through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel (also known as the Whittier Tunnel), and take the trail to Portage Pass.

At 13,300 feet long (2.5 miles), the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel is the longest highway tunnel in North America.  The tunnel is only a single lane wide, and highway vehicles share it with the Alaskan Railroad.  Railroad tracks are embedded right in the highway lane.

Logistically, the tunnel functions on a set schedule, with highway vehicles getting to use the tunnel for 15 minutes in each direction each hour.  The 15 minute intervals alternate directions every 30 minutes.  The tunnel is not open to highway vehicles at night.  During 2016’s summer schedule, the first time slot in the morning was 7:00 – 7:15 AM.  The last time slot in the evening was 11:00 – 11:15 PM.

Lupe timed her arrival at the Whittier Tunnel perfectly!  SPHP paid the $13.00 round trip fee for the G6 at the toll booth.  Only a minute or two later, Lupe had a green light to enter the tunnel.

The 2.5 mile long Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel to Whittier was more fun and spooky than Lupe expected!

The maximum speed limit was only 25 mph, so it took a while to get through the tunnel.  It was spookier and more fun than Lupe expected!  It was a little like going down a long dungeon passage in a video game, except there were no side doors, passages, turns or curves at all.  (No wandering monsters, either!)  The tunnel was completely straight.

In a few places, water dripped from the ceiling.  At intervals, there were small pullouts for vehicles experiencing mechanical difficulties.  Otherwise, no stops are permitted.  If a train had been coming from the other direction, the Whittier Tunnel would be the stuff of nightmares.

The tunnel was a little like being in a long dungeon passage in a video game, except there were no side doors, passages, twists or turns at all. The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel is completely straight.

Of course, the tunnel’s carefully controlled schedule prevents head on collisions from happening.  Still, it was an odd feeling when, upon emerging from the tunnel, Lupe saw a locomotive aimed directly at the passage she had just taken.

Lupe was now on the Whittier side.  Only a short distance (0.25 mile?) from the end of the tunnel, was a R turn onto a gravel road that promptly went over the railroad tracks.  This was the short road leading to the Portage Pass trailhead.  Another R turn led to a lane where vehicles were parked along both sides of the road.  It was a strange trailhead with no formal parking lot.  At first, SPHP wasn’t even certain Lupe was at the right place.

This was it, though!  SPHP parked the G6 (7:02 PM, 57°F).  Tall bushes dominated the area, and out of them flooded a horde of tiny black flies.  Standing around meant getting chewed on by these little menaces.  Lupe and SPHP looked around for the trail to Portage Pass, finding it near a sign.  Lupe set off up the trail at once.

The Portage Pass trail was relatively busy, with people and dogs coming and going.  Most were leaving at this time of day.  Tall bushes grew everywhere off the trail.  Biting black flies were everywhere, too.  They weren’t too bad, as long as Lupe didn’t stop to look around.  Going up the trail to Portage Pass, there really wasn’t much to stop and look at anyway, although the view back toward Whittier and Passage Canal was steadily improving as Lupe gained elevation.

The trail to Portage Pass is only a mile or so long.  The trail is popular, so it was well-worn and in good condition.  It starts close to sea level, and gains nearly 800 feet of elevation.  Most of the way, it climbed steadily at a moderate pace.  As Lupe neared the pass, the climb became steeper.  The annoying black flies did an excellent job of discouraging any needless dawdling along the way.

Thankfully, a breeze was blowing up at the pass, largely solving the black fly problem.  Ahead were magnificent sights!

Lupe arrives at Portage Pass. Ahead were magnificent sights! Photo looks SW.

Coming up, Lupe had been in the shadow of Maynard Mountain (4,137 ft.), but beyond the pass, snow-covered mountains gleamed in the evening sunlight.  Beautiful Portage Glacier was directly ahead a mile or more away.  Big waterfalls cascaded down nearby mountains from snow fields and smaller glaciers.

From Portage Pass, Lupe saw snowy mountains in the evening sunlight. Photo looks S.

A maze of small trails climbed a variety of hilly rock formations and small ridges in Portage Pass.  Lupe climbed up for a better look.  A small pond known as Divide Lake was ahead to the SW.  Divide Lake sat lower down on a broad, brushy flat area, beyond which Lupe saw Portage Glacier extending all the way down to the far shore of Portage Lake.

Lupe on a rocky high point in Portage Pass. She had a fabulous view of the Portage Glacier from here! Photo looks SW.
Beyond the lower small pond known as Divide Lake, Portage Glacier could be seen flowing all the way down to the far shore of Portage Lake. Photo looks SW.
Portage Glacier. Photo looks SW using the telephoto lens.
The Portage Glacier still reaches Portage Lake, and still calves icebergs into it. The glacier will not have to retreat much farther, though, before icebergs in Portage Lake will be a thing of the past. Photo looks SW.
Lupe was fortunate to see the Portage Glacier on such a clear day. Nearby Whittier has 196 inches of average annual precipitation, including 241 inches of snowfall. Yeah, might want to bring the raingear, just in case.
The Portage Glacier was far from the only beautiful sight from Portage Pass. Here, Bard Peak (3,800 ft.) and part of the much smaller Shakespeare Glacier are in view on the L. Photo looks SSW.

A trail continues beyond Portage Pass all the way down to Portage Lake, which is another mile away.  Unfortunately, Lupe had arrived too late in the day to go that far.  However, while she was up at Portage Pass, Lupe met Matt and Elisa from Nome.  They decided they wanted to go at least to Divide Lake, so Lupe and SPHP tagged along, too.

From Divide Lake, it wasn’t possible to see the lower part of the Portage Glacier where it reaches Portage Lake.  However, Lupe did have beautiful double views of the upper portion of the glacier and surrounding peaks reflected in the lake

Lupe saw the upper portion of the Portage Glacier and surrounding peaks reflected in mirror smooth Divide Lake. Photo looks SW.

Lupe at Divide Lake. Photo looks SW.

Lupe, Matt, Elisa and SPHP went a little beyond Divide Lake, eventually reaching a bench.  Bushes had grown up so much, anyone sitting on the bench no longer had a view of the Portage Glacier.  SPHP could see it, but only by standing on top of a big rock nearby.  Lupe saw only bushes in the direction of Portage Glacier, but she could still see big waterfalls on the mountains to the S.

From the bench beyond Divide Lake, Lupe could still see big waterfalls on the mountains to the S, although she had no view of the Portage Glacier. Photo looks S.
SPHP could see the Portage Glacier only by standing on a big rock next to the bench. However, this was a slightly better view than Lupe had had back up at Portage Pass. More of Portage Lake and some of the icebergs in it could be seen. Photos looks SW.
In late August 2016, Portage Glacier barely reached Portage Lake.
The impressive waterfalls Lupe could see to the S made a distant, soothing roar.
Through the telephoto lens.

Matt and Elisa talked about life in Nome.  Elisa told of having to call in late for work sometimes due to herds of musk oxen blocking the road.  Elisa was the first person Lupe or SPHP had ever met who had this problem.  There can’t be too many places in the world where musk oxen in the way would be a well-received excuse for being late to work.

Byron Peak (4,700 ft.) and the Portage Glacier near sunset. Photo looks SW.
A final close look at the Portage Glacier ice viewed through the telephoto lens.

Sunlight was rapidly disappearing.  Soon it would be gone even from the mountaintops.  Lupe, Matt, Elisa and SPHP all started back for Portage Pass.  At the pass, Matt and Elisa went on, but Lupe tarried.  From another rocky hill in the pass, Lupe had a beautiful view of Passage Canal back toward Whittier.

Looking across a small pond in Portage Pass in the opposite direction from the Portage Glacier. Photo looks NE.
Lupe near a cairn on one of the small rocky hills in Portage Pass. She had a tremendous view of Passage Canal back toward Whittier! The top of Lowell Peak(L) is still sunlit for a few more moments. Photo looks NE.
Lowell Peak (4,728 ft.) from Portage Pass. Photo looks NE using the telephoto lens.

A few late stragglers were still heading up the Portage Pass trail as Lupe headed back down to the G6.  Before long, it would be too dark for them to see much of anything at Portage Pass.  Most of the time, the trail was deserted.  Lupe arrived back at the G6 (9:17 PM).

Even though it was getting dark, Lupe and SPHP drove into the town of Whittier, to see what it was like.  Whittier was a strange place.  There were few homes, and only a small run-down looking business district.  Three high-rise buildings were perched up against the base of towering mountains, but only one of them was lit up.

On a Sunday evening, there wasn’t much going on, but it was easy to see that Whittier must ordinarily be a busy place.  There were lots of commercial buildings around.  Large parking lots were crammed full of vehicles and boats.  Down by the shore, a great many boats were moored along illuminated docks in a cove of Passage Canal.  Multiple railroad tracks ran through town.

The whole place had an abandoned industrial air to it, though what could be seen of the setting was spectacularly beautiful.  Did Lupe want to spend the night stuck in Whittier?  No, probably not.  There was still time to make the 10:00 PM tunnel access back out of Whittier to the rest of the world.

So Lupe left spectacular Portage Pass, and the odd, beautifully situated town of Whittier behind.  She made one more spooky trip trip through Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, emerging from the far end beneath a starlit Alaskan sky.

Passage Canal from Portage Pass near sunset. The strange little town of Whittier is out of sight along the cove to the R.

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

Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 198 – Peak 4160 & Unkpapa Peak (4-2-17)

Start (9:50 AM, 61°F), intersection of 7-11 Road & Red Valley Road several miles SE of Wind Cave National Park.

Wow!  A perfect spring day for bagging a couple more Black Hills peaks – blue skies, calm, almost room temperature.  Even though April was barely underway, it might even get a little too warm in another couple of hours.

Lupe was excited.  She’d already had a great time barking at cows and horses from the G6 all the way to Buffalo Gap.  She’d seen one of her two peakbagging goals for the day, too.  SPHP had let her out of the G6 for a couple of minutes for a quick look at Unkpapa Peak (4,280 ft.).

Unkpapa Peak from Red Valley Road (County Road No. 5). Photo looks S.

Before taking on Unkpapa Peak, Loop had other business to attend to.  For the past several months, she had been working on climbing southern Black Hills peaks Brian Kalet had added to the data base last May.  Now she was almost done.  One more Brian Kalet peak remained – Peak 4160.  Lupe was going to get Peak 4160 over and done with first.

Crumbly and steep – a bad combination!  The route SPHP choose to start off with was silly and unnecessary.  The red dirt of the steep hillside was damp and messy.  The white gypsum rock crumbled easily, providing unreliable support.  Lupe didn’t have a problem negotiating the hillside, but it took SPHP a while to reach the more solid gypsum cap at the top of the hill.

Lupe had no problem climbing this steep, crumbly hillside, but it sure slowed SPHP down. This was a crazy route up Peak 4160, anyway. Lupe would soon have to lose nearly all the elevation she gained climbing this hill before even starting up the main ridge.

On the other side of the hill was a pine forest and easier terrain.  Unfortunately, Lupe had to lose nearly all the elevation she had just gained.  The ground sloped down into a series of ravines she had to go around or through.

Once she was past the last of the ravines, Lupe started a steady climb up the W face of Peak 4160.  The forest thinned out rapidly.  On the upper slope few trees were left to block the steadily improving views.

As Lupe climbed the W face of Peak 4160, the forest dwindled away rapidly. From the upper slopes she had a great view of Unkpapa Peak (L). 7-11 Road is seen below. Photo looks SSW.

Down in the forest Lupe hadn’t seen much cactus, but up on the sunny, barren, upper slope it was a different story.  The higher Lupe went, the more cactus she found.  By the time she reached the ridgeline, Lupe was not a happy Dingo.  She begged SPHP to carry her, or at least scout out the route ahead.

With so much cactus on Peak 4160, Lupe insisted that SPHP scout ahead for danger before she would follow. Here she’s on her way having received the signal that this next part of the route was cactus-free. Photo looks SE.
Good job, SPHP! No cactus at all on that last stretch. Take your time and keep up the good work. I’ll wait here until you give the signal. Make sure you don’t miss any!  My paws are at stake!

Peak 4160 is a long ridge running almost straight N/S.  The W face is quite steep, but the mountain slopes away only gradually to the E.  Lupe had come up well S of the high point, which the topo map showed was somewhere quite close to the W edge.  She headed N along the edge looking for the true summit.

Cactus was the only serious obstacle.  With SPHP’s scouting help, and an occasional lift over the worst of the cacti, Lupe arrived at a line of small rocks of almost equal elevation.  These rocks were the true summit of Peak 4160.  It was a great moment.  Lupe had done it – she had climbed the last of her Brian Kalet peaks in the southern hills!

Lupe reaches the true summit of Peak 4160, the last of the Brian Kalet peaks she was going to climb in the southern Black Hills. She was pretty happy, thinking this was the last cactus-infested mountain she would have to climb. SPHP hadn’t sprung the news about Unkpapa Peak on her yet! Photo looks N.
Lupe found this line of small rocks at the top of Peak 4160. They were 20 or 30 feet away from the W edge of the mountain. Photo looks S.

The topo map showed two separate areas on the mountain within 4,160 foot elevation contours.  Brian Kalet had marked the southernmost of these areas as being the location of the true summit.  Lupe had reached this S area first, and she could see the next high point to the N from here.  It definitely looked a little lower.

Lupe was glad!  She was already at the true summit and could skip the remaining cactus-infested trek to the N high point.

The rocks of the true summit were 20 or 30 feet from the edge of the steep W face of the mountain.  Of course, the edge was where all the best views from Peak 4160 were.  Naturally, Lupe went over to check them out.

The best views from Peak 4160 were along the W edge of the mountain. Although blue skies had prevailed when she started up, Lupe could now see clouds building to the NW. Photo looks NW.
Unkpapa Peak (L) from Peak 4160. Photo looks SSW.
Gravel 7-11 Road stretches away to the SW. Lupe had come up Peak 4160 through the forest seen below on the L. Photo looks SW.

Happy with the last of the Brian Kalet peaks already in the bag, Lupe returned to the true summit briefly before starting her trek back down the mountain.

Lupe returned to the true summit briefly before starting down. Photo looks E.

She began her return to the G6 heading S along the W edge where the views were best.  Before leaving the ridgeline, Lupe stopped briefly at a couple of points along the way.

Looking W before leaving the ridgeline.
Looking NNW.

Although it had been sunny and warm earlier, by the time Lupe was down the skies were gray.  A cool wind was blowing.  Off to the NW, it looked like rain.  Lupe passed by an ancient windmill, the old blades still capable of spinning in the breeze.

By the time Lupe was down off Peak 4160, the weather had changed. The skies were gray, a cool breeze was blowing, and it looked like rain to the NW. She passed by this ancient windmill, its old blades still spinning in the wind. Photo looks SW.

At 1:15 PM, Lupe jumped into the G6 when SPHP opened the door.  Was she ever surprised when SPHP politely informed her she wasn’t going anywhere until she climbed Unkpapa Peak, too!

Loopster was fine with that!   Carolina Dogs are always ready for the next adventure.  Lupe abandoned the G6, and started for Unkpapa Peak.  Her journey began below a line of low cliffs near the edge of a dry creek bed.

Lupe passed by this line of colorful low cliffs to start her journey up Unkpapa Peak.

After crossing some easy open ground, the terrain became steeper as Lupe climbed up through a forest.  Her route was steepest near the end of the climb where only scattered trees remained.

Lupe on her way up Unkpapa Peak. The steepest part of the climb is directly ahead, but wasn’t at all difficult. Photo looks SE.

Lupe reached the top of the Unkpapa ridge at its northernmost point.  The weather had continued to deteriorate.  Up here it was windy and cool.  SPHP was putting layers back on, but Lupe had to make do with the same lovely brown and white fur outfit she wears in all kinds of weather.

Like Peak 4160, Unkpapa Peak features two different areas contained within equally high elevation contours.  That meant two possible sites for the true summit.  On Unkpapa Peak, these two areas are separated by more than a mile.  The topo map showed a survey benchmark at the N high point, which wasn’t too far away from where Lupe reached the N rim of the mountain.  The name Unkpapa Peak was also shown at this point on the map.

While Lupe headed ESE along the edge of the N face on her way to the closest summit, SPHP kept an eye out for the survey benchmark.

Looper stands in the cool wind along the N rim of Unkpapa Peak, a little E of where she first came up. American Dingoes are not fans of wind. Photo looks E.
The N high point of Unkpapa Peak is visible on the L. Lupe didn’t have far to go to get there. The skies were still blue to the E, but Loop wouldn’t see the sun in all her time up here since clouds continued to move into the area. Photo looks ESE.
Lupe still standing in the wind along the N rim. The weather looked increasingly stormy off to the NW (L). The intersection of 7-11 Road and Red Valley Road is seen below. A quarry is in view on the far side of 7-11 Road. Photo looks NNW.

Lupe hadn’t seen much cactus on the way up Unkpapa Peak, but when she reached the top of the ridge there was plenty of it around.  SPHP’s scouting and Port-A-Puppy services were called into play again.  Lupe still hates cactus, but with all the cactus-infested mountains she’d been climbing recently in the southern Black Hills, she was getting fairly used to dealing with it.

Lupe made good progress along the N rim toward the summit.  SPHP was surprised when she found a survey benchmark a couple hundred yards before reaching the high point.  The topo map only showed a benchmark at the top.

Lupe found this survey benchmark a good 200 yards W of the N summit.

The cactus was annoying, but could not stop Lupe from reaching the N summit.  She arrived to find a couple of modest rocks at the very top.  Lupe got on them to claim 1/2 of her peakbagging success on Unkpapa Peak (4,280 ft.).  This summit was quite close to the N rim, but thankfully trees along the edge helped block the N wind.

Shortly before reaching the N summit, Lupe came to this great view of Buffalo Gap. Photo looks ENE.
Almost there! A happy Carolina Dog awaits another cactus all clear signal from SPHP. She’s almost to the N summit of Unkpapa Peak. Photo looks WNW.
Ta da! Looper stands atop the N summit of Unkpapa Peak. Photo looks E.

After reaching the N summit, Lupe looked around the area close by for both the best view of Peak 4160 from Unkpapa Peak and another survey benchmark.  A break in the trees along the N rim provided a great look at Peak 4160, but there didn’t seem to be a second survey benchmark.

A break in the trees along the N rim provided a great look at Peak 4160 (the closest big ridge) from Unkpapa Peak. Photo looks NNE.
Peak 4160 with some help from the telephoto lens. Photo looks NNE.

Lupe and SPHP took a break under a big pine tree a little back from the N edge where the wind wasn’t so strong.  Lupe had eaten some Taste of the Wild up on Peak 4160, too, but she was still kind of hungry.  She had another helping.

Even under this pine tree there was cactus.  Hopefully, Unkpapa Peak was to be the last of the lower southern Black Hills peaks with cacti that Lupe would have to climb for a long time.  She sure wouldn’t miss the cactus.  Neither would SPHP.

One thing Lupe wouldn’t miss from these lower, drier southern Black Hills peaks was all the blasted cactus.

Yet it had to be admitted that despite the lower elevation of these southern peaks, the drier climate where cactus thrived and trees didn’t fare as well had provided Lupe many outstanding sweeping views unlike those found in the much more heavily forested Black Hills typical farther N.

After the short break beneath the pine tree, Lupe returned to the summit rocks, which were close by.  On the way, SPHP noticed a second survey benchmark.  So there was one here after all!  It was a little S of the highest rocks.

As Lupe returned to the summit rocks after her break, SPHP noticed this second survey benchmark a little to the S of the highest rocks.
Lupe back at the N summit after her break. Although the N and W faces of Unkpapa Peak are fairly steep, the top of the mountain is a gently undulating plain. The S summit, more than a mile to the SW is in view on the L. The trees on the R are all near the edge of the W face. Photo looks SW.

The N and W faces of Unkpapa Peak are fairly steep, but the top of the mountain is a gently undulating plain.  Looking SW across this plain from the N summit, it was possible to see several high points more than a mile away, but it was hard to tell which might be the S summit.

To really claim a completely valid peakbagging success on Unkpapa Mountain, Lupe would need to visit the S summit as well.  If the topo map was correct, odds were that the S summit was also technically the true summit, since the area enclosed by the 4,280 foot contour was much larger over there.

Lupe headed SW across the undulating plain.  Cactus was a constant threat, but wasn’t nearly as thick as it had been along the N rim.  Lupe and SPHP enjoyed the easy stroll.  The wind wasn’t nearly as bad here as along the N rim.  The air was comfortably cool.  Meadowlarks were singing.

Lupe discovered a huge bone.

Looper found this huge bone shortly after starting on her way to the S summit. Too bad it had long been completely picked over. What a prize it would have been fresh!

Unfortunately, the huge bone had been completely picked over long, long ago.  By all appearances, it had been laying here bleaching in the sun for years.  What a glittering Dingo prize it would have been when fresh!  Lupe was way too late for that.

The next thing Lupe found was of much more practical use.  She came to a trail!  The trail meant an almost guaranteed cactus-free path.  Lupe was enthused.  She took the lead, running back and forth ahead of SPHP.  She was making rapid progress now.

After finding the trail, Lupe made rapid progress. Although SPHP wasn’t certain of it yet, the barren ridge seen slightly R of Center behind her proved to be the S summit of Unkpapa Peak. Photo looks SSW.
Looking NE back at the N summit of Unkpapa Peak from a small, rock-covered hill. The trail Lupe had been following is in view on the hillside.

Suddenly there was movement ahead!  A small herd of deer had become aware of the approach of a ferocious American Dingo.  They quickly bounded out of sight over the W rim of the mountain.  Lupe raced over there.  From the edge, she was disappointed to find the deer had vanished, but she did get a good look at the stormier conditions prevailing over the higher Black Hills to the NW.

A small herd of deer bounds away before disappearing over the W edge of Unkpapa Peak. Photo looks SW using the telephoto lens.
From the W rim of the mountain, Lupe caught no sight of the deer, but did see the stormier weather prevailing over higher hills to the NW. She would rather have seen the deer.

It wasn’t much farther now to a rocky ridge that might be the S summit of Unkpapa Peak.  Lupe stayed neared the trees along the W rim of the mountain as she traveled S toward the ridge.  A disturbing amount of cactus was present whenever she ventured away from the trees.  SPHP had to help her past it in a few places.

The ridge itself was barren, but didn’t have as much cactus.  Upon reaching the top, it became clear this ridge was indeed the S summit.  Lupe had made it!  A 75 foot long line of modest to good-sized rocks and boulders of similar elevation formed the highest part of the ridge.  Lupe got up on several of the highest rocks for a look around.

Lupe reaches the rocky ridgeline at the S summit. Photo looks SW.
Looking W.
Looking NE back at the N summit. The N summit appears to be considerably higher in this photo, which is deceptive. While actually there, both the N and S summits did seem to be about the same elevation.
From a distance, it had been hard to tell if this ridge was actually the S summit or not. However, this view from the top looking WSW over the next canyon left no doubt.

The most dramatic views were off to the W and N, but Lupe could see in every direction from the barren S summit.

Pines line the edge of the W rim of the mountain. Lupe could see far beyond them. Photo looks N.
Lupe had a big view to the NW, but rain showers hid the higher, more distant hills.

Reaching the S summit meant that Lupe’s peakbagging tasks were complete on Unkpapa Peak.  Whether the N high point or the S high point was the true summit didn’t really matter now.  Lupe had been to both.

For 20 minutes or so, Lupe and SPHP remained up on the S summit.  Looper had plenty of time to get back to the G6, but there was no rush.  It was too late in the day for another adventure.

The wind blew, but not as strongly as it had earlier along the N rim.  The sky tried to spit rain, but didn’t achieve much in the way of results.  The air was cool, but not cold.  Lupe and SPHP stayed together on the rocks, enjoying the panorama from Unkpapa.

Even though she wasn’t that far from home, it might be a long time before Lupe returned for another expedition this far S in the Black Hills.  The Brian Kalet peaks Lupe intended to climb were finally complete.  Except for the cactus, the last few months climbing them had been surprisingly fun.

An American Dingo lingers atop the S summit of Unkpapa Peak. Photo looks ESE.

On the way back N, Lupe took the scenic route staying near the W rim for the huge view.  The farther N she went, the more cactus there seemed to be, but SPHP helped the Carolina Dog through it.

Looking back at Unkpapa’s S summit. Photo looks SE.
The grand view from the NW rim of Unkpapa. Photo looks N.

Lupe went back down the N face about where she’d come up.  A colorful hill to the NW caught SPHP’s fancy.

This colorful small hill caught SPHP’s fancy on Lupe’s way down. Photo looks NW.

It was still early when Lupe reached the G6 (5:11 PM, 47°F).  She had plenty of daylight for enormously satisfying frenzied barking at the numerous cows and horses she saw on the drive home.

For the 3rd expedition in a row, Lupe celebrated the end of the day with a chocolate milkshake from the Sonic Drive-In.  The milkshake was fancied up with whipped cream and a cherry on top.

American Dingoes love whipped cream!  The cherry?  It was graciously ceded to SPHP.Want more Lupe adventures?  Check out her Black Hills, SD & WY Expeditions Adventure Index, Master Adventure Index, or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures!

Tonsina Point on Resurrection Bay, Caines Head State Recreation Area, Alaska (8-28-16)

Day 30, Part 1, of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska

No Dingoes allowed!  Extraordinarily disappointing, but the place was swarming with tourists.  Park rangers patrolled near the nature center at the start of the trail.  Signs banning American Dingoes were prominently displayed.  There wasn’t going to be any getting around this one.  Lupe couldn’t go.  Time to break out Plan B.

The day had started out well enough, with sunny skies full of promise.  A gorgeous drive from the Mystery Hills almost all the way to Seward had taken up the morning.  Lupe enjoyed beef stew for breakfast along clear, rushing Ptarmigan Creek.  Now here she was, all ready for her next big adventure.

That big adventure was supposed to have been a hike from the Exit Glacier Nature Center along the Harding Icefield Trail all the way to the end.  Lupe would have had a sweeping view of the 700 square mile Harding Icefield, the largest icefield entirely within the United States.  Now it was clear that wasn’t going to happen.

What SPHP hadn’t realized was that the Exit Glacier and Harding Icefield are in Kenai Fjords National Park.  Since US National Parks are forbidden territory for Carolina Dogs, Lupe’s Harding Icefield adventure was over before it started.  At least Lupe had gotten to see the Exit Glacier from a distance on the way to the nature center.

At least Lupe did get to see this view of the Exit Glacier on her way to the nature center. Unfortunately, she was banned from the Harding Icefield Trail where she would have had a fabulous view of the 700 square mile Harding Icefield. Photo looks W.

Fortunately, there actually was a Plan B.  Lupe could go to Tonsina Point on Resurrection Bay!  Compared to the Harding Icefield Trail, Plan B wasn’t too ambitious, but maybe that was OK.  Yesterday, Lupe had a big adventure in the Mystery Hills involving more than 3,000 feet of elevation gain.  Perhaps an easy day was for the best.

SPHP drove back along Herman Leirer Road (the road to the Exit Glacier) to mile 3 on the Seward Highway, turned S, and drove all the way through Seward to a “T” at the end of the highway at the S end of town.

A right turn took Lupe to a gravel road perched slightly above the W shore of Resurrection Bay.  The dusty road went S for 3 miles to Lowell Point, where it curved to the E.  There was private property in Lowell Point, and signage didn’t mention Tonsina Point.  Which way?  SPHP had no clue, but stayed on the same road.

The road made another turn to the S.  Happily, it soon ended at a trailhead.  (Note: $5.00 daily parking fee).  A path could be seen leading from the parking lot to Resurrection Bay, only a short distance away.  This must be it!  SPHP parked the G6 (12:48 PM, 72°F), and Lupe got out.  Lupe and SPHP took the short path to Resurrection Bay.

The temperature was in the low 70’s °F, no doubt a warm day in Alaska, but SPHP was surprised to see Lupe had arrived at a public beach.  Even more surprising was that a few hardy Alaskans were actually in the water.  Resurrection Bay is an arm of the North Pacific Ocean.  Streams and rivers pour glacial meltwaters into it.  How warm could it be?  Those Alaskans must be tough!  Neither Lupe nor SPHP was tempted to take a dip.

To SPHP’s surprise, Lupe arrived at a public beach on the S side of Lowell Point. A few tough Alaskans were swimming in these glacial fed waters of the North Pacific Ocean! Photo looks NE.

Ixnay on the swimming, but a little sunbathing might be enjoyable.  The beach certainly had a wonderful view of Resurrection Bay and the surrounding mountains, many of which still had snow or even small glaciers visible on them.  Offshore, a small island rose dramatically from the bay.  A large bird was perched up on top.  It looked like it might be an eagle.

From the beach at Lowell Point, a small rocky island rose dramatically from Resurrection Bay. A large bird, perhaps an eagle, was perched on top. Photo looks SSE.

The camera’s telephoto lens revealed the truth.  The big bird actually was an eagle – a bald eagle!

The big bird actually was an eagle – a bald eagle! Now that was cool!

While SPHP wouldn’t have minded dozing and sunbathing on the beach at Lowell Point for a little while, the truth is, American Dingoes aren’t much into that sort of thing.  Lupe wanted action!  So Lupe and SPHP headed SW toward the end of the beach, where SPHP expected to find the trail to Tonsina Point.

The beach ended at a very steep forested embankment coming all the way down to the sea.  No sign of a trail anywhere.  Puzzling.  SPHP finally concluded it was best to return to the trailhead for information on the trail’s location.

As it turned out, there were two trailheads, the one the G6 was parked at near the beach, and another trailhead for the Caines Head State Recreation Area.  The second trailhead was only a short hike away up a hill.  The trail to Tonsina Point starts from there.  Lupe and SPHP left the G6 parked where it was, taking a muddy trail through an amazing forest up to the second trailhead.

Note:  The Caines Head State Recreation Area trailhead has its own parking lot at the end of a short road (a R turn to the S) off the Lowell Point road from Seward.  There was a sign for it, but SPHP hadn’t made the turn since the sign didn’t mention Tonsina Point.  The same $5.00 daily parking fee applies here.

A sign at the upper trailhead showed a map of Caines Head State Recreation Area.  The trail to Tonsina Point is only the first short section of a much longer trail to destinations near Caines Head.  Lupe was only going as far as Tonsina Point.  Beyond Tonsina Point, parts of the trail are flooded and impassable at high tide, possibly forcing an overnight stay waiting for low tide.

Map posted at the Caines Head State Recreation Area trailhead.

The trail going S to Tonsina Point and beyond started as a single track at the parking lot, but soon merged with a road leading to private properties, which seemed a bit weird.  Farther on, it left the private road, continuing as a 5 or 6 foot wide trail improved with a layer of fine slate gray gravel.

All the way to Tonsina Point, the trail went through a thick forest providing not even a glimpse of Resurrection Bay.  Tiny streams flowed next to the trail in some places, providing Lupe with fresh, cold water.  The trail was relatively busy on this warm day in August, though it was a ghost town compared to the crowds Lupe had seen at the Exit Glacier.

After leaving the private road, the trail climbed steadily at an easy pace, ultimately gaining about 200 feet of elevation.  The trail then became more primitive and switchbacked down a considerably steeper slope.  At the bottom of the switchbacks, Lupe arrived at an arched bridge over Tonsina Creek.

Lupe on the bridge over Tonsina Creek. Photo looks upstream (W).

From the bridge, Lupe had a great view downstream of Tonsina Creek emptying into nearby Resurrection Bay.

From the arched footbridge, Lupe had a great view of Tonsina Creek emptying into nearby Resurrection Bay. Photo looks E.

Once across the bridge, Lupe left the main trail to follow a path toward Resurrection Bay, stopping briefly to wade in Tonsina Creek along the way.  Salmon could be seen swimming in the creek.  Signs near the main trail indicated fishing for them was prohibited.

Lupe hadn’t been interested in swimming in Resurrection Bay back at Lowell Point, but she didn’t mind wading in Tonsina Creek.
Loopster near the mouth of Tonsina Creek where it empties into Resurrection Bay. Photo looks NE.

Lupe had arrived at Tonsina Point, the big delta formed by Tonsina Creek where it reaches Resurrection Bay.  Being a delta, the whole area was flat.  Away from the ocean, above the high tide mark, bright green grasses and other plants flourished in luxurious profusion.  The tidal plain close to Resurrection Bay was all sand, mud and small stones.  Seagulls congregated near the edge of the water.

When Lupe arrived, the tide was at least partially out, exposing a large stretch of tidal plain beyond the onshore vegetation.  Lupe went way out near the water’s edge to check out the impressive views of Resurrection Bay and surrounding mountains.

From Tonsina Point, Lupe could see a glacier in the mountains on the E side of Resurrection Bay. Photo looks ENE using the telephoto lens.
Snow remained on many mountains, even though Lupe was here in late August. Photo looks ESE.
Seagulls liked to hang out near the edge of the bay. Photo looks SSE.

The 1.5 mile long trail Lupe took to Tonsina Point starts at Lowell Point, seen on the L. Lowell Point is about 3 miles S of Seward, Alaska. Seward is situated at the far NW end of Resurrection Bay. Photo looks NNE.

Several old tree trunks, bleached white by the sun, were washed up near the high tide mark.  People were using them as benches, from which they had great views of Resurrection Bay while relaxing and having lunch.  That seemed like a good idea, so Lupe and SPHP headed over there to join them.  On the way, Lupe found something on the beach which greatly interested her.

Lupe thinks dead fish are really cool! SPHP isn’t as keen on them. The Carolina Dog sometimes likes to roll in stinky things like dead fish, probably an instinctive action to hide her scent. Boy, does that ever work!

At the bleached tree trunks, SPHP took a break and had a bite to eat.  Lupe wasn’t tired or hungry.  She met a dog named Pinecone, and spent her time enticing Pinecone to play with her, at which she was partially successful.

After SPHP’s break, Lupe continued her exploration of Tonsina Point’s tidal plain, working her way around toward the S.  A very large piece of driftwood with many branches was stranded out there all by itself.  Lupe sniffed around it, and decided it made a good, scenic platform for her next couple shots of Resurrection Bay.

Lupe goes out on a limb to present you with this beautiful picture of Resurrection Bay from Tonsina Point! Photo looks SSE.
Out on a limb! Oh, SPHP, you’re such a riot!

Near the S end of Tonsina Point, Lupe’s advance was blocked by another channel of Tonsina Creek.  The main trail crossed this channel at a 2nd bridge located farther inland.  Lupe went over to the 2nd bridge, but did not cross it.

At Tonsina Point, Lupe had only seen a small portion of Caines Head State Recreation Area.  The main trail continues S beyond the 2nd bridge for miles leading to more trails, an old fort, various facilities, and lots more beautiful views.  No doubt it was all worth further exploration, however, the tide was starting to come in.  At high tide, parts of the trail S of Tonsina Point are under water.

Lupe and SPHP were not prepared to spend the night camping out, if Lupe got cut off from Tonsina Point by high tide.  So Lupe took the main trail back N through a lovely forest to the 1st bridge over Tonsina Creek.

Lupe in the forest on the Tonsina Point delta.
On the trail back to the first bridge. Photo looks N.
Lupe squints in the bright sunlight on the 1st bridge over Tonsina Creek. Photo looks N.

Lupe’s time at beautiful Tonsina Point was over.  She had only scratched the surface of what there is to see at Caines Head State Recreation area, but Tonsina Point had been an easy, fun excursion.  Lupe returned to the G6 happy with her Tonsina Point experience (3:47 PM).

Before leaving the gorgeous Seward area, Lupe played tourist in town.  She dropped by a park where a statue featuring a prospector and his dog commemorates Alaska’s pioneering spirit, and the Iditarod National Historic Trail, which goes all the way from Seward to Nome.  Lupe shares Alaska’s pioneering spirit.  She was certain the statue could be improved by the addition of an American Dingo.

The 1.5 mile long trail to Tonsina Point was lovely, but American Dingo, Lupe, was ready for a bigger challenge on the 958 mile Iditarod Trail going from Seward to Nome! Unfortunately, SPHP wasn’t up to it, and chickened out.

Lupe was enthused.  She was all for setting out on the 958 mile long Iditarod Trail, but SPHP just doesn’t have quite the same degree of Alaskan pioneering spirit and chickened out.

Well, fine.  Lupe had another idea.  How about something less pioneery, and more decadently luxurious?  There was a big, comfy ship in town that looked like it could take Lupe and SPHP to Nome in grand style by sea.  American Dingoes love being pampered, too, you know!

Since SPHP wasn’t up to the Iditarod Trail, Lupe was also willing to consider a luxurious sea voyage to Nome aboard this very spiffy Holland America cruise ship.

SPHP had to admit the cruise ship was beautiful and would be a lot of fun, but whined piteously something negative about a budget.  Most disappointing, but Lupe finally did manage to negotiate a consolation deal.

After a stop at Safeway, Lupe left Seward in the G6, perched in comfort high up on her blankets and pillows, heading N on a wonderful scenic drive along the Seward Highway while sharing ice cream sandwiches and chips with SPHP.  Before the day was over, she was going to get to go through a long, long tunnel and take the trail to Portage Pass to see the Portage Glacier.

Of course, that’s another adventure for another post.


Caines Head State Recreation Area

Lowell Point State Recreation Site

Resurrection Bay Brochure & Map

Tonsina Point on Resurrection Bay, Caines Head State Recreation Area, Alaska

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

Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 197 – Parker Peak & Horse Trap Mountain (3-27-17)

Start (10:49 AM, 54°F)

Crocuses!  Lupe discovered pale, lavender crocuses along the trail, not many, but a few here and there.  No denying it now, spring had arrived in the Black Hills!  As far as Lupe was concerned, crocuses were infinitely better than the cacti she had been reluctantly dealing with on her recent Black Hills expeditions.  SPHP couldn’t have agreed more.

Crocuses herald the arrival of spring in the Black Hills.

The trail had led Lupe right up to the top of the broad ridge.  The ridge ran for miles E/W, and had a number of large extensions to the S.  Most of the ground up here was rolling grasslands, rimmed by Ponderosa pines along the edges, with more pines scattered in various places across the open ground.

Lupe arrives up on the broad ridge that ran for miles E/W. The survey benchmark, at the top of the pipe seen sticking up out of the ground beneath her, provided SPHP with a good indication of her precise location. Photo looks SW.

The question was, which way to go from here?  The plan was to follow 4WD roads up on this huge ridge to Lupe’s two peakbagging objectives of the day – Parker Peak (4,848 ft.) and Horse Trap Mountain (4,682 ft.), but neither mountain was in sight, nor was any road visible.  Maybe the old roads shown both on the topo map and SPHP’s old Black Hills USFS map didn’t even exist anymore?  Entirely possible.

What was for certain was that Parker Peak, the high point of Fall River county, was miles away at the far W end of this ridge.  Horse Trap Mountain, however, was somewhere closer by to the S.  Maybe it was still E of here?

Lupe explored E along a fence line, going up to the crest of a gentle rise where a few large pines were clustered.  Looking E and SE from here revealed nothing.  All the terrain was nearly as high, and a lot of it was forested.  No sign of Horse Trap Mountain.

The only thing Lupe discovered by going E was that crocuses weren’t present up on top of this ridge.  Instead, her feared cactus nemesis was.  Not a lot of cactus, but enough so SPHP carried her over one small patch.  The cactus wasn’t a surprise, SPHP had expected it.  Even up on this high ridge, Lupe was still below cactus line.

Going farther E didn’t look promising.  Lupe retraced her steps, returning to where the trail had first brought her up to the top of the ridge.  At the fence corner, Lupe came to a pipe sticking up out of the ground.  SPHP hadn’t noticed it before.  A survey benchmark at the top of the pipe provided a clue, such a good clue that after consulting the maps, SPHP knew exactly where Lupe was.  Horse Trap Mountain was more than 2 miles SSW of here.

SPHP started leading Lupe WSW down toward an earthen dam for a dried up stock pond.  However, Loop was now wary.  The foray to the E had shown her that cactus was present.  She followed SPHP reluctantly.

Crossing the earthen dam, Lupe didn’t notice the one cluster of cactus growing on it.  Her confidence started returning.  SPHP enticed her SW up to the top of the next rise without much of a problem.  By staying where there were trees, the chance of encountering more cactus was reduced.

Unfortunately, the ridge didn’t have enough trees to provide continuous shade.  Lupe soon realized cactus was up here, too.  She insisted upon returning to her now familiar method for dealing with cacti.  The Carolina Dog stood or sat motionless while SPHP scouted ahead.  She would only come when SPHP sat on the ground to signal that the route was safe.

In some places it wasn’t safe.  SPHP had to carry the American Dingo a few times over the thicker cactus patches.  It would sure help to find a road, any kind of a road.  Lupe would be willing to trot along a road confident that cactus wouldn’t be on it.

Lupe was in luck!  A little down over the other side of the rise, she did find a road.  The road was faint and seldom used, even grassy, but it was a road.  Upon reaching it, Lupe was immediately relieved of the worst of her cactus worries.  She was willing to travel the road without her time consuming cacti technique being employed.

The grassy road went S.  Within minutes, Lupe passed by the ruins of an old cabin.  A little farther on, the road came to a major intersection in a clearing.  Dirt roads radiated out in 4 or 5 directions.  Ahead, across a tree filled canyon, Lupe saw an interesting butte in the distance.  SPHP didn’t realize it at first, but this was Lupe’s first view of Horse Trap Mountain.

Lupe near the major dirt road intersection. The butte in the distance is Horse Trap Mountain. Photo looks SSW.

A canyon was between Lupe and the interesting butte.  Consulting the topo maps, SPHP realized the interesting butte was very likely Horse Trap Mountain.  To get there, Lupe would have to take the road leading W.  If it was the road shown on the topo map, it would soon make a big detour to the NW to get Lupe around the end of Falls Canyon.

The road did exactly as the topo map showed.  Not only was Lupe ever more confident about the cactus situation, but SPHP was increasingly confident of the existence of the road system shown on the topo map.  Things were going well!

After rounding the NW end of Falls Canyon, the road turned S.  Lupe hadn’t gone as far S as the map showed she would need to in order to reach a turn to the W, when another road angling that direction appeared.  After another quick map consultation, SPHP concluded this road was most likely a short cut to Parker Peak.  Did Lupe want to go there first or to Horse Trap Mountain?

Lupe went W for Parker Peak.  The short cut worked.  The new road eventually intersected the main route shown on the topo map.  Everything went fine.  The roads, which were only a mix of dirt and grass the entire way, served as a Dingo superhighway.  Lupe was making great progress!  It was an easy trek.  The route was level or close to it most of the time.  What elevation changes Lupe came to were all gradual.

She often had beautiful views along the way.

Lupe enjoyed beautiful views on her way to Parker Peak. The high ridge in the distance is more than a mile SE of Parker Peak. Photo looks SW across Hell Canyon.
The high point straight up from Lupe is the top of Parker Peak protruding barely above an intervening lower ridge. Photo looks W.
View to the NW. The dark high point on the far horizon a little R of Center is Wildcat Peak (5,500 ft.).  The ridge on the far R is Elk Benchmark (5,669 ft.). The closer forested hill on the L is an unnamed peak a couple miles N of Matias Peak.

As Lupe got closer to Parker Peak, the views gradually changed.

The same unnamed ridge SE of Parker Peak, but now looking SSW at it across Hell Canyon.
Another view to the NW, this time looking a little more N with less help from the telephoto lens.
Looking down Hell Canyon toward Horse Trap Mountain (R of Center). Photo looks SE.

The road passed to the N of a skinny lower ridge 0.5 mile E of Parker Peak.  Lupe left the road to climb up on the skinny ridge for a good view of her objective, now in clear view.

Parker Peak from the skinny ridge 0.5 mile to the E. The skinny ridge was topped with colorful rocks. Photo looks W.

Lupe returned to the road after leaving the skinny ridge.  She was closing in on Parker Peak rapidly now!  In hardly any time at all, she was on her way up.

After leaving the skinny ridge, Lupe rapidly closed in on Parker Peak. Photo looks W.
Starting up!

The road Lupe was on reached the roomy summit area near the S end.  The true summit was along the W side almost at the N end.  On her way there, Lupe saw 4 concrete foundation corners, and discovered 2 survey benchmarks.  The foundation corners were all that were left of a former fire lookout tower.

Lupe stands on one of the old concrete foundation corners. All four of them are in view. They were all that remained of the old fire lookout tower. Photo looks SW.
The first survey benchmark Lupe came to on Parker Peak as she headed N along the W side of the summit area.
Lupe on top of Parker Peak. Part of the town of Edgemont, SD can be seen in the distance on the far R. Photo looks SW.
The second survey benchmark Lupe came to. This one was also near the W side of the summit area. By the time Lupe reached it, she was within a few tens of feet of the N end of the mountain.
Lupe stands next to the northernmost survey benchmark. Part of an old retaining wall is behind her on the L. Edgemont, SD is now seen in the distance at Center. Photo looks SW.

Lupe arrived at the highest rocks on Parker Peak (4,848 ft.) at the N end of the summit area to claim her peakbagging success of Fall River county’s highest point.  The views were splendid!

Success! Lupe at the true summit of Parker Peak. Wildcat Peak (straight up from Lupe’s rump) and Elk Benchmark (a little to her R) are in view again on the far horizon. Photo looks NW.
Matias Peak (4,780 ft.) is the forested hill on the R. Photo looks WNW.
Lupe starts settling in at the Parker Peak summit for a little rest break. Far below her lofty perch, the intersection of Hwys 89 & 18 is seen on the far L. The Mickelson Trail slants from the L to the Center before turning due N. Photo looks N.
Horse Trap Mountain (L) from Parker Peak. Photo looks SE.

At the summit, Lupe was ready to relax.  She was thirsty and hungry, lapping up a couple bowlfuls of water, and crunching up most of the Taste of the Wild supply.  Then she rested while SPHP petted her.  She encouraged SPHP to continue whenever it looked like there might be a break in the Dingo lovefest.

What? You aren’t done giving me love already are you? Please continue!

The sun was still fairly high in the sky.  Lupe had plenty of time to get to Horse Trap Mountain.  Lupe and SPHP loitered at the summit for a long time.  Parker Peak was the highest point around.  Lupe could see long distances in nearly every direction.

The time came to move on.  Lupe had a last look at the fantastic view to the N.

A last look to the N.

Then Lupe began working her way toward the S end of the summit area.  She posed for a few photos along the way.

Near the edge of the W face. Photo looks SW.
Matias Peak (R) from Parker Peak. Photo looks WNW.
At the S end of the summit area. The curved road on the far R is the old highway to Edgemont. Photo looks SSW.
Looking from the S end of the summit area back toward the true summit. Photo looks NNE.

After going all the way to the S end of Parker Peak’s summit area, Lupe started her journey to Horse Trap Mountain.  She took the road she had come up back down off Parker Peak, and headed E retracing her route.

All the roads shown on the topo map really did exist!  In fact, even more roads existed than shown.  None of these roads amounted to much.  They were all simple grass and dirt pasture trails, but they allowed Lupe to occasionally take minor shortcuts.  Surprisingly little cactus was around, but the Carolina Dog was happiest staying right on the roads where she didn’t even have to think about her sharp, spiny enemy.

Lupe went 2 miles E before turning S for Horse Trap Mountain.  It was still 1.5 miles away.  The trek S was easy and relaxing.  Lupe stopped briefly at a few of the better viewpoints along the way.

The trek to Horse Trap Mountain was relaxing and beautiful. Photo looks SW towards highlands on the far side of Hell Canyon.

As she drew near Horse Trap Mountain, Lupe came to a place where she had an impressive view of Falls Canyon.

Nearing Horse Trap Mountain, Lupe had this impressive view of Falls Canyon. Photo looks SSE.
Horse Trap Mountain from the W edge of Falls Canyon. Photo looks S.

At last, Horse Trap Mountain was dead ahead.  However, a large ravine was between Lupe and the mountain.

Lupe reached this open ground where Horse Trap Mountain was dead ahead. However, a large ravine was between Lupe and the mountain. Photo looks S.

The road brought Lupe down to a narrow saddle leading to the NNE ridge going up Horse Trap Mountain.  To the W was the large ravine.  To the E was Falls Canyon.  The road turned sharply and began to descend into Falls Canyon.

No road went up Horse Trap Mountain, but the NNE ridge was an easy climb for Lupe.  She soon arrived up at the NE end of the football fields long summit area.  First she took a look at the grand views to the E and SE from here.  She could see Flagpole Mountain (4,320 ft.) and several other peaks she had visited on recent expeditions.

It was fun to see them all again from this new vantage point.

Lupe on the rocks at the E edge of the Horse Trap Mountain summit area. Flagpole Mountain (4,320 ft.), which she had visited recently on Expedition No. 195, is seen in the distance at Center. Impressive Falls Canyon is in the foreground. Photo looks SE.

A couple of peaks Lupe had visited in the Seven Sisters Range exactly a month ago on Expedition No. 193 are in view on the far horizon. Peak 4371 is near the L edge of the photo, and Peak 4310 is a little to the R of it. The closer barren hill only 2 miles away at Center is Roundtop Hill. Lupe has never been there. Photo looks ESE.

The top of Horse Trap Mountain was mostly open grasslands dotted with Ponderosa pines.  The summit area was shaped like an elongated circle, longest NE/SW, and sloped gradually to the S.  The summit’s edges were rimmed all around with cliffs of modest height.

The true summit of Horse Trap Mountain (4,682 ft.) was evidently somewhere along the N or NW rim.  After admiring the views of spacious Falls Canyon and the distant peaks to the E and SE, Lupe went to find it.

The summit of Horse Trap Mountain was open grassland dotted with Ponderosa Pines. Photo looks W from the NE end of the mountain where Lupe came up. From here, Lupe went to find the true summit, heading beyond the trees seen on the R.

A short, easy stroll brought Lupe to the highest rocks and true summit of Horse Trap Mountain along the N rim.  She could see the top of Parker Peak (4,848 ft.), where she had been only a couple hours ago from here.

Lupe at the true summit of Horse Trap Mountain. The top of Parker Peak, where she had been only a couple hours earlier, is on the horizon at Center beyond a branch of Hell Canyon. Photo looks NW.
Looking N from the true summit at the territory Lupe traveled across to reach Horse Trap Mountain.
Looking SE from the true summit.
Looking SW from the true summit. Lupe’s a little hard to see, but she’s right in the center of this photo.

Lupe and SPHP took a 15 minute break to enjoy the views from the true summit.  Lupe polished off the rest of her Taste of the Wild supply, and tanked up on water again.

When break time was over, the American Dingo took a counter-clockwise tour of the edge of Horse Trap Mountain’s summit.  Beautiful views were in every direction.  Some of them were quite different from the usual Black Hills terrain, and reminded SPHP vaguely of sights seen in much higher mountain ranges.

Looking WNW. Parker Peak is in view again on the R.
Lupe along the NW rim. The rough, rocky terrain seen here was fairly typical along the edges of Horse Trap Mountain’s summit. Photo looks NE.
SPHP was impressed with this view of the lower part of Hell Canyon, which seemed to be on a rather grand scale for the Black Hills. Photo looks SW.
Another look at Parker Peak. Photo looks NW.
Looking WSW across Hell Canyon.
Lupe liked this big view of Hell Canyon, too. Photo looks WSW.
Looking S. The high plains of western South Dakota are seen beyond the end of the Black Hills.
Lupe at the S end of the summit area. The cliffs along the escarpment here weren’t as high as elsewhere around the mountain, but the views were still great. Photo looks W along the S escarpment.
Falls Canyon and Flagpole Mountain (R) from the S end of Horse Trap Mountain. Photo looks SE.

After going clear around the W end of the mountain all the way to the S end, Lupe traveled N across the grassy center of the summit area to return to the true summit of Horse Trap Mountain for a final time.  She took a second 15 minute break here.  It was a glorious place to be!

The sun was starting to sink in the W.  Lupe still had a couple of hours left before sunset, but it was miles back to the G6.  The vast majority of her journey would be a pleasant trek along the same dirt and grass roads up on the big ridge, but near the end Lupe would have to navigate that field with cactus and then find the trail down.

It was time to leave Horse Trap Mountain.

Looking NE along the way to start back down off Horse Trap Mountain.

The return journey in the evening light was wonderful!  Spring was in the air, and by now Lupe realized there really wasn’t much cactus around.  She romped through the fields and forests.  To complete her joy, the Carolina Dog even found a squirrel to bark at.  No cactus bothered her.  Lupe found the trail leading down off the big ridge.

The sun was long down.  Not much twilight remained by the time Lupe reached the G6 again (7:36 PM, 50°F).

On the long drive home, Lupe barked at cows and horses until it was so dark SPHP concluded she could only smell them, not see them.  Expedition No. 197 wasn’t officially over until the American Dingo finally decided there was nothing left out there worthy of being barked at.

Maybe a dry barker would like something cold and wet to soothe it?  The Sonic Drive-Inn was still having its half price drink sale after 8 PM, and it was already after 9 PM.  Would Looper like to go get a milkshake?  Yes, indeed!  SPHP didn’t have to ask twice.

A great day of adventure finished with Lupe relaxing on the bed slurping up chocolate milkshake from a bowl, while SPHP worked on the strawberry one.  And then it was lights out.

A Carolina Dog twitched now and then during the night, but whether she was dreaming of Parker Peak, Horse Trap Mountain, adventures past, or adventures yet to come, was impossible to tell.

Want more Lupe adventures?  Check out her Black Hills, SD & WY Expeditions Adventure Index, Master Adventure Index, or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures!

On the Skyline Trail to the Mystery Hills, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska (8-27-16)

Day 29, Part 2, of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska

Plans for a return visit to the beach at Ninilchik on Cook Inlet were quickly dashed when Lupe and SPHP stopped to help a woman hitchhiker along the Sterling Highway (Alaska Route 1).  Turned out she needed a ride to her landscaping job, well beyond Ninilchik, clear over in Soldotna.  She was already late and needed to get there quickly.  Her car (nowhere in sight) had broken down, and no one else had stopped to give her a lift.

Jane was a friendly, plucky gal.  She introduced herself to Lupe and SPHP, and immediately launched into her life’s story.  Some of it made not a lick of sense, but it was an entertaining tale nevertheless.  Lupe and SPHP listened in silence as the miles flew by, and Jane related her only-in-Alaska monologue.

Jane had moved to Homer, Alaska from California years ago.  Naturally, she loved Alaska.  She had made some money back in California in real estate.  Jane used part of the money she’d saved to make a great purchase of 40 acres near the edge of a development somewhere around here, the particular parcel having been carefully selected by closing her eyes and putting her finger to a map.

The land wasn’t even for sale at the time, but when Jane approached the owners, they thought she was so wonderful, they promptly agreed to sell it to her for a song.  She lives off-grid in a cabin on this beautiful property, where she and her dog manage to avoid being eaten by grizzlies by sticking close to either the cabin, or her ATV, on which they zoom away to safety at a moment’s notice.

When you live off grid, you have to create your own entertainment.  Jane kept chickens to produce eggs.  A pure white rooster served as head of the flock.  For fun, Jane used a water pistol to paint the rooster with bright colors so he was more of a fancy rainbow rooster instead of a boring pure white one.  The rooster didn’t object in the least.  Instead, his reaction was to put on a Mick Jagger style strutting performance to impress his harem, which Jane found endlessly amusing.

Sadly, tragedy struck.  All but two of her chickens and the beloved rainbow rooster passed away very recently when her pet wolf broke its new chain after only 2 days, and did what wolves like to do to chickens.

With the wonderful, balmy climate Alaska now has due to global warming, it’s getting harder and harder to keep the riff raff out.  The Kenai peninsula is filling up with people.  Living off the grid here is no longer the hardy pioneering existence it once was a few years back.  Fortunately, Jane’s 24 year old son took pictures of a mind-bogglingly beautiful little town, with a name that SPHP has since forgotten, but it started with a “U”.

U-ville is located on Spruce Island, near much larger Kodiak Island, and can only be accessed by boat or the air.  The few pictures Jane’s son took were enough to convince Jane that U-ville is the place to be, so she is in the process of getting ready to sell her 40 acres and move.  People in U-ville, who have never met Jane, but have advanced word of her interest in living on Spruce Island, are falling over themselves offering her good jobs, and encouraging her to join their community ASAP.

Jane related all this, and a good deal more which now escapes SPHP, in the time it took to reach Soldotna, where she promptly exited the G6, cheerfully bidding Lupe and SPHP a fond farewell.  Clearly there had been much more to come, time permitting, so it was with a mixed sense of reluctance and relief that Lupe resumed her own adventures, though they may pale in comparison to Jane’s.

Lupe’s next adventure started E of Soldotna near milepost 61 of the Sterling Highway at the trailhead for the Skyline Trail to the Mystery Hills (12:03 PM, 68°F).  The trailhead parking lot was on the SW side of the highway, but the actual trail started over on the NE side, a bit farther to the NW.

Looking up at the Mystery Hills from the Skyline Trail parking lot near milepost 61 of the Sterling Highway. Photo looks NE.

A sign near the start of the Skyline Trail provided general information.  Lupe could expect a steep 1,800 feet of elevation gain over 1.25 miles.

The Skyline Trail is somewhat oddly named, since it officially ends at a saddle between mountains, before ever getting up to any of the peaks of the Mystery Hills, or even following any portion of the ridgeline.  Skyline Access Trail would have been a better name for it.

The sign did show a trail continuing on up from the saddle.  On the topo map SPHP had along, a pack trail goes on for miles all the way from the saddle up to and over a series of peaks in the Mystery Hills.

Sign near the start of the Skyline Trail.

Just as the sign had promised, the Skyline Trail was steep.  There were no significant switchbacks.  Up and up.  SPHP was soon pausing frequently to let heart, lungs and legs catch up with the demands of the trail.  Lupe, of course, wasn’t fazed in the least.

For a long way, the trail was in forest.  Little could be seen.  After quite a climb, the forest finally started gradually giving way to tall bushes.  Lupe started to get glimpses of the progress she was making.

Once the forest thinned out, Lupe could see the progress she was making. Part of her first peakbagging goal, Mystery Hills North is seen on the R. Photo looks E.

The trail’s rate of climb didn’t diminish until Lupe was getting fairly close to the saddle.  Then things started to level out rapidly.  Where Lupe first reached the saddle, she came upon a final big stand of gnarled old pine trees.  The day was warm and bright.  The shade provided by this last clump of odd old pines was welcome.  Lupe and SPHP took a break.

As near as SPHP could tell, Lupe had reached the official end of the Skyline Trail.

Lupe takes a break beneath an isolated stand of gnarled old pines she came upon as she reached the saddle. She was at, or very near, the official end of the Skyline Trail.

The Skyline Trail may have officially ended, but the sign and maps were right.  A good trail continued on across the saddle toward the mountain to the E.  (Note: As far as Lupe was concerned, this continuation of the trail going on up to the Mystery Hills was all part of the same Skyline Trail, and will be referred to as such for the remainder of this post.)  When Lupe’s break under the gnarled pines was over, Lupe and SPHP pressed onward.

Not far from the pines, Lupe passed by another trail branching off to the N on its way through the saddle.  The American Dingo ignored the side trail and started climbing the mountain to the E.

A good trail continued beyond the gnarled pines across the S end of the saddle area. Lupe ignored a side trail that branched off to the N (L), and continued up the hill seen directly ahead. This extension of the Skyline Trail eventually climbed around to the S (R) side of the hill. Photo looks E.

Lupe still had nearly 1,000 feet of elevation gain to go in order to reach her first peakbagging goal, North Mystery Hills (3,284 ft.).  She encountered a short stretch of rock climbing near the base of the mountain, but was soon easily past it.  Lupe came to no further complications along the trail, which now worked around to the S side of the slope, as it continued E.  Another higher saddle could be seen ahead.

Lupe on her way up to a higher saddle(Center). Lupe was heading for North Mystery Hills, seen on the R. Photo looks SE.

On the way to the next saddle, Lupe already had some splendid unobstructed views.

Lupe already had splendid views on her way up the Skyline Trail to the next saddle. Jean Lake is in the foreground. A portion of much larger Skilak Lake is in the distance. Photo looks S.
Far away across Cook Inlet, Lupe could see impressive snow-capped peaks. Photo looks NW using the telephoto lens.

The path up to the higher saddle was a long, steady grind, but the pace of elevation gain wasn’t bad, certainly nothing like Lupe had faced on the way to the first saddle.  Upon reaching the higher saddle, the trail turned S, climbing more aggressively up the mountain.

When the Skyline Trail finally started leveling out, a rock outcropping larger and higher than any other nearby point was a short distance ahead.  Lupe went over to it.  She had reached the N end of the North Mystery Hills summit ridge.  The views were fabulous!

Here, at the end of the climb up from the 2nd saddle, Lupe reached the N end of the North Mystery Hills summit ridge. A metal box containing a register was tucked among the rocks on the E (R) side of this high point. (Close to the backpack.) The unnamed peak in the background is nearly as high as North Mystery Hills and is located on the other (N) side of the 2nd saddle Lupe had just come from. Photo looks N.
Looking down on Peak 2851 (L) from North Mystery Hills. Peak 2851 is on the NW side of the first big saddle Lupe reached where she took a break among the gnarled old pines. Flatlands of northern Kenai Peninsula are seen in the distance. Photo looks NW.
Hideout Hill (2,869 ft.) from North Mystery Hills. Part of Skilak Lake is seen in the distance. Photo looks SW.

Right away, Lupe discovered a metal box tucked among the rocks on the E side of the rock outcropping.  The box contained a register.  SPHP entered Lupe’s name on it to secure the Carolina Dog’s place in North Mystery Hills history.

Although it had been a warm, calm, sunny day lower down, a fairly strong, cool E wind was blowing up here.  While SPHP was entering her name in the register, Lupe found a big rock to hide behind.  She curled up on the W side of it to escape the wind.

While SPHP entered her name in the register, Lupe curled up behind a big rock to escape the E wind. Lupe hadn’t quite reached the true summit of North Mystery Hills yet. The true summit is the high point beyond Lupe on the L. The similarly colored more distant hill is her next peakbagging goal, Mystery Hills Central. Photo looks SE.

Lupe had seen a number of people along the Skyline Trail, but hadn’t come across anyone since leaving the first saddle.  However, while she was still curled up out of the wind, and SPHP was busy gazing off into the distance, a young man showed up.  His name was Patrick Metzger.

Patrick was quite friendly to Lupe and SPHP.  Soon, Patrick and SPHP were engaged in conversation.  Patrick wasn’t an Alaskan native.  He moved to Soldotna a few years ago, where he works for Univar, a global chemical distribution business.  Like Lupe, he enjoys the outdoors and climbing mountains in his spare time, so there was a lot to talk about.

Patrick shared his love of Alaska with Lupe and SPHP.  He recommended several places Lupe might want to consider visiting while she was here.  By the time Patrick needed to move on, nearly an hour had gone by.  The visit with Patrick had been fun, but Lupe needed to get going, too.

Technically, Lupe still hadn’t reached the true summit of North Mystery Hills, but it wasn’t far away.  A short, windy stroll to the SE brought Lupe to the NW end of a small hill on the broader ridgeline.  The small hill proved to have two high points on it, one at each end of a little ridgeline, sort of a minor summit ridge up on the greater summit area.  Lupe visited both high points.  It was a close contest, but the true summit seemed to be at the SE end where Lupe found a small cairn.

Lupe reaches the NW high point on the minor summit ridge. This point was in contention with another spot nearby to the SE for true summit of North Mystery Hills. Mystery Hills Central is on the L. The SE end of Skilak Lake is on the R. Photo looks S.
Lupe stands in the wind at the NW high point of the minor summit ridge. This might possibly have been the true summit of North Mystery Hills, but the high point in view to the SE (Center) appeared to be marginally higher. Photo looks SE.

The trail didn’t even go to the likely true summit at the SE end of the minor summit ridge.  Instead, the trail skirted below it to the SW.  Lupe left the trail to make the short side trip to the true summit.  A pitifully small cairn was the only indication Lupe had finally reached her North Mystery Hills (3,284 ft.) peakbagging goal.

Success! Lupe sits in the E breeze at the true summit of North Mystery Hills. Her next peakbagging goal, Mystery Hills Central, is in view along the ridgeline. Photo looks SSE.
Looking back to the NW from the North Mystery Hills true summit. The other candidate for true summit at the NW end of the minor summit ridge Lupe is on is seen straight up from her rump. The high point where she first reached the broader summit ridge is at the far end straight up from her head. That’s over where Lupe found the metal box containing the register.
Mystery Hills East (3,478 ft.)(Center) from North Mystery Hills. Mystery Hills East is the highest of the Mystery Hills. The trail Lupe was following (an extension of the Skyline Trail) goes all the way to Mystery Hills East, but Lupe didn’t make it that far. Peeking over the R shoulder of Mystery Hills East is Round Mountain (3,901 ft.). Photo looks ESE.

Having finally reached the summit of North Mystery Hills, Lupe’s next objective was Mystery Hills Central (3,291 ft.), still 1.25 miles away to the SSE.  Getting there was simply a matter of following the Skyline Trail on a beautiful, fun ridge hike.  Lupe had splendid sweeping views along the entire route.  She passed over a series of rocky highpoints, as well as lower, gentler terrain, on the way.

Looking back at the summit of North Mystery Hills on the way to Mystery Hills Central. Photo looks NNW.
Lupe takes a break on a rocky high point on her way to Mystery Hills Central. Her ears point up toward Mystery Hills East. Photo looks E.
Approaching Mystery Hills Central. Photo looks SSE.

When Lupe arrived at the top of Mystery Hills Central, she found a roomy, nearly flat, summit area.  It also had two candidates for true summit, separated by only a short distance.  Lupe found a survey benchmark at the E high point, and a modest cairn at the W one.

Despite the still rather annoyingly strong E wind, Lupe and SPHP paused on Mystery Hills Central for a while to appreciate the grand 360° views.

The survey benchmark on Mystery Hills Central.
Kenai River valley from Mystery Hills Central summit. Photo looks SE.
Lupe enduring the stiff E wind up on Mystery Hills Central. What a tremendous view of Skilak Lake to the SW!
Looking S toward distant glories of the Kenai Peninsula.
S using the telephoto lens.

The topo map showed the Skyline Trail continuing on from Mystery Hills Central, looping around for miles, still following the ridgeline.  Eventually the trail goes all the way to Mystery Hills East (3,478 ft.).  Lupe could see part of the trail from above.

One look was enough to convince SPHP that Lupe didn’t have the time, and SPHP didn’t have the energy, to press on to Mystery Hills East.  That part of the trail had some serious elevation gains and losses along the way, in addition to being nearly another 3 miles long.

The trail to Mystery Hills East can be seen below on the hill on the R. It follows the ridgeline, eventually going over the next hill toward the L. Round Mountain is in view in the distance on the L. Photo looks ESE.

So this was it, Lupe had come as far along the Skyline Trail as she was going to.  Mystery Hills Central was the end of the line.  The sun said Lupe would soon have to start back.  Lupe and SPHP lingered a little while longer together on Mystery Hills Central.

Lupe at the Mystery Hills Central cairn. The ridge route back to North Mystery Hills (Center) is beyond her. Photo looks NW.
View to the NE.
The Kenai River on its way to Skilak Lake. Photo looks SW.

The time came to say good-bye to Mystery Hills Central.  Lupe started back the way she had come.

Starting back toward North Mystery Hills (Center). Photo looks NNW.
The Mystery Dingo of the Mystery Hills up on the ridgeline. Photo looks E.

As the sun sank lower toward the horizon, the E wind finally began to relent, losing some of its strength.  Lupe had a wonderful time exploring the ridge along the Skyline Trail.  It was a relaxing evening trek, surrounded by beauty on all sides, high in the Mystery Hills.

Lupe returned to the true summit of North Mystery Hills.  From there, she went on to the NW end of the broad summit ridge, back to the high rocky point where she had first discovered the metal box containing the register, and met Patrick Metzger only 4 hours ago.

Lupe returns to the true summit of North Mystery Hills. Photo looks NW.
Back at the far NW end of the North Mystery Hills summit area. Lupe is at the high point where she found the metal box containing the register, and met Patrick Metzger a few hours ago. Photo looks NNW.
Looper in the evening sunlight, prior to starting back down the Skyline Trail from North Mystery Hills. Photo looks N.
Lower Peak 2851 is partially hidden by the slope on the R. The Skyline Trail can be seen leading back down this slope on its way from the high saddle to the first saddle where the stand of old gnarled pines was. The Sterling Highway is on the L. Photo looks NW.

Although Lupe hadn’t seen anyone on the Skyline Trail after Patrick left, once Lupe began her descent from the Mystery Hills, she met a few hikers on their way up.  They were hoping to catch the sunset from North Mystery Hills.  To SPHP, it looked like the sun was going to sink into a cloud bank.  The sunset was likely to be more silver and gray than colorful.

Looking WSW on the way down to the first saddle. Skilak Lake can be seen beyond Hideout Hill on the L. A silvery Cook Inlet shimmers on the far horizon.
Jean Lake and more distant Skilak Lake. Photo looks SW.

What those hikers actually saw at sunset, Lupe never knew.  By then she was far down steep Skyline Trail in the encroaching gloom of the dark forest at the base of the Mystery Hills.  (8:49 PM)

On the Skyline Trail to the Mystery Hills.

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Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 196 – Devil’s Slide, Cascade Falls & Tepee Mountain (3-19-17)

Start (7:46 AM, 50°F)  J. H. Keith Memorial Park, Cascade Springs, Hwy 71 S of Hot Springs.

Nothing like starting the day off with a little dread.  Upon arrival, Lupe understood the situation immediately.  Another expedition, another cactus-infested mountain.  When would this ever end?  Lupe’s soft Dingo ears drooped.

Not many more of these lower peaks below cactus line to go, Looper.  You’ll be alright.  Once you’ve done them, you won’t ever have to return.  Besides, you’ve actually had some really fun times on these peaks, haven’t you?  Come on, it won’t take long.  I’ll help you dodge the cacti.  What do you say?

What do I say?  I say, OK, fine, but you ought to join in the fun.  About time you went barefoot, too, SPHP!  It’s a shame you’ve been missing out on the whole, complete joyful experience of all these barefoot treks through cacti lately.  Besides, it might be amusing to see human ears droop for a change.

Heh, I appreciate your concern Loop, but think I’ll pass on that.  Just a matter of personal vanity, you understand.  I don’t look nearly as good as you do with droopy ears.  Come on, let’s go!

The E slope wasn’t bad.  Definitely better than the optional route up the barren sunbaked WSW slope would have been.  That might well have been a cactus nightmare.  As it was, Lupe hardly encountered any cacti until she was at the top of the ridgeline.  By then, she was almost to the summit of Devil’s Slide Mountain (3,965 ft.).

Loop nears the summit of Devil’s Slide Mountain. She’d hardly encountered any cactus at all during her climb up the E slope. Photo looks NW.

As expected, cactus was thick on the other side of the ridge.  Lupe stayed mostly toward the E to avoid it.  She quickly made her way to the summit.  The top of Devil’s Slide Mountain consisted of an assortment of large boulders resting on a prominent knob along the ridgeline.

No trees were up here to block the views.  Lupe could see in every direction.

Lupe reaches the top of Devil’s Slide Mountain. With no trees around, she had fabulous views in every direction. Photo looks NNW along the spine of the ridgeline.
Lupe at the true summit. The steep slopes below the curved ridge in the distance on the L are known as Horseshoe Bend. Photo looks SSE.
Highway 71 is seen below on its way to Hot Springs, SD. The high ridge on the R is part of the Seven Sisters Range. Lupe had been climbing hills over there only a few weeks ago on Expedition No. 193. Back then, everything had been white with snow. Photo looks NNE.
Lupe on the very highest rock. Horseshoe Bend in view on the L. Photo looks SSE.

Lupe’s adventures had taken her to the top of Flagpole Mountain (4,320 ft.) only a week ago on Expedition No. 195.  SPHP thought she ought to be able to see the summit from here beyond Horseshoe Bend, a steep sharply curving slope along the NW face of the mountain.

Loop had an unobstructed view of the entire length of Horseshoe Bend from Devil’s Slide Mountain, but the light was a little glary.  Horseshoe Bend was far enough away so SPHP couldn’t tell if the actual summit of Flagpole Mountain was in view or hidden behind the top of the ridge.  Binoculars would have solved the puzzle, but SPHP didn’t have any along.

Although Lupe had a great view of the entire length of Horseshoe Bend, SPHP couldn’t tell if she could see the actual summit of Flagpole Mountain from Devil’s Slide or not. SPHP suspected it was just out of view beyond the top of the ridge. Photo looks SSE.

Not all of the views from Devil’s Slide Mountain were of more hills and mountains.  To the S and SW, high plains stretched away to the horizon beyond the Black Hills.  Closer by, Lupe could see Cascade Creek in the valley below.

High plains stretch away to the horizon SW of Devil’s Slide Mountain. Hwy 71 is in view below on its way to Ardmore, SD and Nebraska. Cascade Creek is to the R of the highway. Photo looks SW.

It was too early in the day to take a real break, but Lupe and SPHP hung around up on top of Devil’s Slide Mountain for a while enjoying the views.  Eventually it was time to press on.  Lupe had more adventures in store.

Lupe lingers at the summit of Devil’s Slide Mountain. Photo looks S.
Time to go, Looper! Come on down! Photo looks S with a little help from the telephoto lens.
Starting down.

Lupe returned to the G6 (9:16 AM, 57°F).  Her next stop, Cascade Falls, was only a few miles away.  The picnic ground was closed and barred shut to vehicles this time of year, but there was plenty of room to park the G6 at the turnoff.

Lupe went around the gate, through the picnic ground, and down the steps leading to Cascade Creek and the falls.  She had a drink, waded around, and enjoyed the view of Devil’s Slide Mountain from below.

Devil’s Slide Mountain from Cascade Creek above the main falls. Photo looks NE.
The true summit of Devil’s Slide Mountain is the high point seen on the L.
Yep, this is it – Cascade Falls! More like rapids really, but they feature a great swimming hole below and some fine wading, including a number of much smaller pools to soak in, above. Photo looks W.
A look downstream. Photo looks SSW.
Aren’t you coming in SPHP? Photo looks NW.
Cascade Falls as seen from downstream. Devil’s Slide Mountain is in view on the R. Photo looks NNE.

After visiting Cascade Falls, Lupe’s next stop was only a mile farther S at the Cheyenne River.  A sign S of the river told about the Wood Stage Station, which used to be close by.  More than a century ago, a stagecoach route ran from Sydney, Nebraska to Deadwood, South Dakota.  The sign mentioned General Custer’s 1874 Expedition to the Black Hills.

This historical marker about the Wood Stage Station is just S of the Cheyenne River on the E side of Hwy 71.

Custer’s only expedition to the Black Hills made him even more famous due to the discovery of gold.  Despite being on her 196th Black Hills expedition, Loop hasn’t become famous, but then she’s never found any gold.  SPHP sort of wishes she would, but understands that American Dingoes are more squirrel oriented than gold oriented.

At least Lupe’s relations with the Sioux nation are far superior to General Custer’s.

The Cheyenne River flows out of Wyoming around the S end of the Black Hills on its way to the Missouri River. Photo looks WSW from the Hwy 71 bridge.

Lupe’s next peakbagging objective was Tepee Mountain (3,970 ft.) on the S bank of the Cheyenne River a couple miles W of Angostura Reservoir.  Lupe had seen Tepee Mountain for the first time only a week ago on Expedition No. 195.  From Flagpole Mountain, Tepee Mountain appeared as a much lower, heavily forested ridge.

SPHP turned E off Hwy 71 onto Maitland Road five miles S of the Cheyenne River.  According to SPHP’s old Black Hills USFS map, Tepee Mountain is on BLM land, but private ranches are nearby.  SPHP had to look for access for Lupe.

More than a mile SSW of Tepee Mountain, Lupe and SPHP stopped by the headquarters of the Tepee Creek Ranch.  Two ranch dogs were eager for Lupe to come out and play, but she had to stay in the G6 while SPHP chatted with the rancher’s wife.

The wife was friendly.  She didn’t seem opposed to Lupe crossing the ranch to climb Tepee Mountain, but mentioned that cows were calving and it had been so warm and dry out lately snakes were already out.  She suggested that SPHP check out the possibility of public access along the Cheyenne River from Angostura Reservoir before resorting to crossing the ranch.  SPHP agreed to do that.

Lupe visited the S shore of Angostura Reservoir, as requested by the Tepee Creek rancher’s wife, but found no public access leading W along the Cheyenne River. Photo looks N.

Five miles of dusty gravel roads brought Lupe to a boat launch on the S shore of Angostura.  Immediately to the W was a mobile home park, which appeared to be bordered by more private ranchlands.  Lupe found no sign of public access to Tepee Mountain from here.

Lupe and SPHP left Angostura Reservoir.  An approach from Maitland Road would have to do.  SPHP found a spot to park the G6 (10:53 AM, 72°F).  The summit of Tepee Mountain was more than 2 miles N from here.

Lupe was none too keen on starting the trek.  The first half of her journey was through hilly, forested terrain.  The forest was a mix of junipers and Ponderosa pines.  Junipers thrive where it’s dry.  Lupe associates them with cactus.  She’s right, too.  Cacti were present from almost the very start.

The forested hillsides didn’t have much cactus, but wound around a long series of ravines in crazy directions.  The uneven ground was tiring to traverse.  Higher up, the terrain was much more level, but many areas were so dry on top that even the junipers couldn’t survive.  The sunny, exposed terrain was full of cactus.

Lupe in the mixed forest of pines and junipers. There was a lot less cactus in the forest than up on the sunny top of these low hills, but Lupe came to many ravines. Photo looks S.

Lupe and SPHP used her usual technique for dealing with cactus.  SPHP scouted ahead looking for a safe route forward.  When SPHP sat on the ground, Lupe took it as the signal she could advance that far.  Rinse and repeat.  Where there was too much cactus, SPHP carried Lupe far enough to get to a less infested area.

Progress was slow, but steady.  At first, Lupe and SPHP stayed mostly on the high ground along the edge of the trees.  Later, Lupe tried staying more in the forest.  Traveling each type of terrain had its benefits and drawbacks.  It was an extraordinarily warm day for March.  The Carolina Dog was thrilled to find a small rapidly shrinking patch of melting snow in the forest on the N side of a hill!

Lupe was thrilled to find this small rapidly melting snow bank on the N slope of a hill. It was a very hot day out for March. The cold, wet snow felt marvelous!

As wearisome as the forested hills were, SPHP was not looking forward to reaching the end of them.  From Maitland Road, Lupe had already seen the S slopes of Tepee Mountain.  She would have to make a long, gradual climb up a barren, sun drenched slope.  SPHP feared Lupe would face an incredible concentration of cacti the entire way.

Lupe might have to be carried more than a mile to the top.

Tepee Mountain as seen from Maitland Road. The summit is the high point on the R. SPHP feared Lupe would encounter so much cactus on the barren S slope that she would have to be carried all the way to the top. Her route would take her up from the R side of this photo. Photo looks N using the telephoto lens.

The forest ended when Looper reached the N end of the low hills.  Now she faced open grasslands the rest of the way up Tepee Mountain.  Just ahead was a dirt road at the bottom of a shallow ravine that drained to the W.  Beyond the road was a barbed wire fence.  Lupe would have to cross both the road and the fence.  First, though, she followed the road uphill to the E.

Traveling this short section of dirt road up the ravine was easy.  Lupe was confident she wouldn’t encounter any cactus.  Near a junction of fences, she left the road and went under the fence to the N.  SPHP thought Lupe might be on BLM land now, but wasn’t certain.

Despite the heads up from the rancher’s wife, Lupe hadn’t seen a single cow or rattlesnake.  However, cows had clearly spent a lot of time in the pasture N of the fence.  This was great news for Lupe!  The cows had eaten everything down so there wasn’t much vegetation left.  Best of all, cows are apparently hard on cactus.  SPHP had feared this area would be totally infested; instead there was hardly any!

Lupe now N of the low forested hills seen behind her. This field had far less cactus in it than SPHP had feared. Lupe made relatively good time the rest of the way up Tepee Mountain. Photo looks SSE.

Lupe wasn’t convinced this barren ground was safe.  She insisted that SPHP continue to scout out the cactus situation ahead.  Overall, though, she made significantly faster progress.  She traveled up the long, gentle slope going NW, staying close to another barbed wire fence coming down the mountain.

As Lupe climbed higher, more cactus appeared – enough to slow things down again, but it wasn’t too bad.  The fence line turned N.  Lupe kept going NW until she came across a cattle trail that went N, too.

The cattle trail was like a super highway.  Lupe trotted along unworried and unhindered by cactus.  By the time the cattle trail curved E, Lupe was only 150 yards from the top of the mountain.  She found cactus again as soon as she left the trail, but SPHP guided her through it.  Lupe reached the summit of Tepee Mountain (3,790 ft.).  Sweet success!

The large summit area was mostly grassland.  Barren terrain sloped gradually away to the S and E.  Junipers and pines were scattered thinly along the edge of the steeper W slope.  The steepest drop off was to the N, where a thick line of trees blocked the view most places.  The highest rocks on the mountain were clustered in a small area near the NW corner of the summit.  Four or five different medium-sized rocks might have been the absolute highest point.

The most impressive view was toward the NW.  Lupe could see Flagpole Mountain (4,320 ft.).  She had been there only a week ago on Expedition No. 195.

Lupe reaches the summit of Tepee Mountain. The most impressive view was this look at Flagpole Mountain. Lupe had been there only a week ago on Expedition No. 195. Photo looks NW.
Looking N at some of the colorful cliffs E of Flagpole Mountain.
Lupe stands on the rock that SPHP thought might be the highest one, though 4 or 5 rocks nearby were about as high. Photo looks N.
Looking ESE. The high plains of western South Dakota go to the horizon.

Lupe was happy to reach the summit of Tepee Mountain.  After a few photos, she curled up in the shade of a juniper tree.  She had a great view of Flagpole Mountain while enjoying some Taste of the Wild.  It was an amazingly warm day.  Only mid-March and the temperature was somewhere in the 70’s!

Lupe rested in the shade of a juniper tree while having Taste of the Wild and enjoying this beautiful view of Flagpole Mountain (L). Photo looks NNW.

SPHP munched an apple and shared water with Lupe.  When the apple was gone, SPHP got up to wander around the summit area to see what else there was to see.  Lupe preferred not to move around much.  She was still worried about cactus.  Besides, she liked the shade of the juniper tree.  She was curious about what SPHP was up to, though.

Sometimes she peered out from her juniper tree stronghold to see what was going on.

Whatcha up to, SPHP? … Don’t worry Loop, just having a look around. … OK, but don’t wander off too far and leave me stuck here all alone up on this pincushion! Photo looks WNW.
SPHP had to wander a little E of the true summit to find a break in the trees big enough to provide this view of the Cheyenne River. Part of Angostura Reservoir is seen in the distance on the R. Photo looks NE.

Lupe soon decided she didn’t want to miss out on any of the views.  She came out from her juniper trees to join SPHP and pose in a few more photos.

Angostura Reservoir from Tepee Mountain. Photo looks NE.
Looking NW toward the true summit.
Still looking toward the true summit as a cloud passes overhead providing temporary shade. The big green junipers on the L are at the top of the mountain. Photo looks NW.
Looking W.
The view to the WNW.

At the conclusion of her scenic summit tour, Lupe wanted to go relax in the shade of the juniper tree some more.  SPHP went with her.  There was no rush.  The sun was high in the sky, and Lupe might never be on Tepee Mountain again.  Time enough to enjoy this unique moment, and seldom seen view of Flagpole Mountain.

SPHP petted Lupe; in turn, she licked SPHP’s hand.  Puffy white clouds sailed slowly through the pale blue sky overhead.  Lupe and SPHP were both happy.

Happy times on Tepee Mountain in the shade of the juniper tree.

As it always does, the time came to say good-bye to the mountain.  Lupe and SPHP started back to the G6.  Lupe followed the same route as before, except that when she reached the low, forested hills again, she stayed farther to the W and lower down.  Hidden on the N slopes of various ravines, she found half a dozen more patches of snow to eat and cool off on.

There were still cacti to deal with.  Lupe remained cautious.  SPHP helped guide her through, and carried her for short distances where necessary.  She finally reached Maitland Road again W of the G6, but it wasn’t far away (3:31 PM, 81°F).

Looking back at Tepee Mountain (Center) on the way to the G6. Photo looks NNW.

Over 80°F, in March!  Incredible!  On the way home, Lupe stopped again at Cascade Falls.  The thirsty Carolina Dog had a huge drink from the creek.  SPHP thought the water would be cold, but it was surprisingly, comfortably warm.  This time, SPHP joined Lupe wading around in Cascade Creek.

Lupe returned to Cascade Falls for a 2nd time on this incredibly warm March day. SPHP joined her wading in the surprisingly warm creek. Photo looks S.
For cactus weary paws, Lupe recommends wading in Cascade Creek! Photo looks N.

Expedition No. 196 was a success, but wasn’t entirely over until Lupe was done with her enthusiastic barking from the G6 at all the cows and horses she saw on the way home.  SPHP thought she deserved a special treat for braving the cactus on two more mountains today.  The Sonic Drive-Inn was advertising half price milkshakes after 8 PM.

Lupe had a good time being taken out to the Sonic Drive-Inn.  She was delighted when SPHP bought her a milkshake of her very own.  Lupe had chocolate.  SPHP had strawberry.  When the milkshakes were gone, it was time for nighty-night and dreaming together about the day’s adventures, and adventures yet to come.Want more Lupe adventures?  Check out her Black Hills, SD & WY Expeditions Adventure Index, Master Adventure Index, or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures!