Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 203 – Gimlet Creek to Minnesota Ridge (5-6-17)

Start 8:23 AM, 50°F, USFS Road No. 203.5 just off Rochford Road

Lupe liked the looks of this place – green grass, a bubbling creek, choice of sun or shade.  A slice of American Dingo paradise, that’s what it was!  Loopster was all smiles.

Lupe was all smiles at the start of Expedition No. 203. She anticipated a great day ahead!

Smiles and energy, that is!  Lupe took off running.  She bounded through the tall grass wet with dew near Gimlet Creek.  Of course, she tested the waters of the creek itself, too.  They quickly earned the Carolina Dog seal of approval.

Lupe’s day started close to the confluence of Gimlet Creek & East Gimlet Creek. Here she tests the waters of East Gimlet Creek.

As SPHP started up USFS Road No. 203.5, Lupe raced through fields on both sides of the creek.  Sometimes she scrambled partway up the sides of the valley.  She was looking for squirrels, but didn’t find any.  A great many of the large trees on the hillsides were dead, killed by pine bark beetles.

Lupe remained hopeful, though.  The day was just beginning.  Having a creek to follow was simply glorious!  Loop loved being able to cool off in the stream.  At intervals, the road had big mud puddles, too.  Lupe strolled through each one, slurping up cloudy brown water as she went.  She was definitely getting her mineral requirements met.

Lupe on USFS Road No. 203.5 in lower Gimlet Creek valley. Photo looks N.
Lupe got to follow USFS Road No. 203.5 up Gimlet Creek valley for more than 2 miles. Actually, it was SPHP who followed the road. Loop was busy exploring.
Looking downstream in the Gimlet Creek valley. The lower part of the valley was fairly narrow as seen here. Photo looks S.
Looking NNW up the valley.

Only a week ago, Lupe had found snow up in the hills on Expedition No. 202.  No chance of that today.  Not even close.  Beneath a cloudless blue sky, the day was warming up fast.  In fact, the forecast was for near record temperatures in the 80’s °F.  From winter to summer with scarcely any transition between.  Not good, but not that unusual in the Black Hills.

After 2 miles, the road forded Gimlet Creek.  Lupe was already slowing down due to the rising temperatures.  She stayed closer to SPHP and the road.  Fur coats are wonderful when it’s cool out, but not so great when it’s warm.  Lupe’s tongue hung out.  She wore a perpetual smile whether she wanted to or not.

By the time Lupe reached the Gimlet Creek ford on USFS Road No. 203.5, she was slowing down. The day was warming up fast, and the heat was starting to get to her. The creek and every mud puddle she came to were welcome sights.

Beyond the ford, the valley widened out considerably.

The valley had become much wider by the time Lupe reached the ford on Gimlet Creek. Photo looks N across the valley, which curves to the E (R) here for a short distance.

About 0.25 mile N of the ford, Gimlet Creek turned E.  From a side valley to the W, a smaller tributary stream flowed into a pond before continuing over to its confluence with Gimlet Creek.  Several ducks flew away as Lupe drew near the pond.

Getting close to the pond, which isn’t in view quite yet, but isn’t far off to the L. The small tributary stream flows through the fenced-in area seen above Looper on its way to Gimlet Creek on the far R. Photo looks NE.
Lupe reaches the pond, the biggest water feature she would see on Expedition No. 203. Several ducks had flown off as Lupe approached. Photo looks NW.
A good bridge crossed the small tributary of Gimlet Creek where it exited the pond. Lupe had come up USFS Road No. 203.5 from the direction seen on the L. Photo looks SW.

A family of Canadian geese had made this pond home.  When Lupe arrived, they were out for a stroll on the green grass nearby.

Momma and papa goose out for a stroll with their 5 chicks.

The little geese were far too young to fly, so when momma and papa saw Lupe, they led the chicks back to the safety of the water.  In the meantime, the ducks had already returned.

By the time Lupe circled around to the N side of the pond, the ducks had already returned. Photo looks S down the Gimlet Creek valley the way Lupe had come.
The geese returned to the safety of the water while Lupe was around.

For a few minutes, Lupe and SPHP enjoyed watching the ducks and geese.  Unseen frogs sang a noisy tune.  It was a pleasant scene, but Lupe was soon eager to press on.

Immediately N of the pond, USFS Road No. 203.5 left the valley and disappeared up a forested hillside.  Lupe didn’t follow it.  Instead, she went W on a fading side road, which paralleled the tributary of Gimlet Creek.  She had to go around deadfall timber blocking the road in a number of places.

The side road soon ended at a marshy area where another small valley came down from the N.  Lupe crossed the marsh, still heading W.  She stayed in the valley the tributary of Gimlet Creek flowed through.  Eventually this valley turned N, too.

The tributary of Gimlet Creek was a very small stream, but did have flow.  After the valley turned N, Lupe came across another minor road following this stream.  The road forded the tiny creek 5 or 6 times.  Lupe was always glad to have another chance to cool her paws off.

A minor road Lupe was following upstream forded the little creek 5 or 6 times. Lupe was always glad to have another chance to cool her paws off or get a quick drink. Photo looks NNE.
The tiny stream supported a lush green ribbon of life.

Lupe was 1.25 miles from the pond when she came to a pole fence across the valley.  On the other side was a better road.  Lupe went around the fence and continued N on this new road.   She met a little green snake basking in the sun.  Though it was warm out, the snake didn’t move even when SPHP prodded it with a stick.

Why the snake didn’t move wasn’t clear.  It looked fine, but perhaps something was wrong with it?  The only sign of life it gave was to flicker its tongue when lightly poked.

Lupe came to this small green snake basking in the sun on the road. It wouldn’t move other than to flick its tongue now and then.

The new road quickly brought Lupe to a junction.  A sign said Lupe had been on Killoern Springs Road (USFS Road No. 204.1B).  The other road at the junction was USFS Road No. 204.1.  Lupe sat in the shade of a big pine tree while SPHP checked the maps.

Lupe relaxes in the shade of a pine tree while SPHP checks the maps.
Looking NW from the junction of Killoern Springs Road and USFS Road No. 204.1. Pine bark beetle damaged sections of the forest are a common sight in the Black Hills these days.

The maps confirmed that Lupe was now more than 3 miles from where she’d left the G6.  She actually did have a peakbagging goal today.  She was on her way to Minnesota Ridge (6,240 ft.), the summit of which was still another 2 miles to the NW.  Only a little farther N on No. 204.1 was another junction, this one with Minnesota Ridge Road (USFS Road No. 203).  In fact, Lupe could see the junction from here.

Minnesota Ridge Road wouldn’t take Lupe all the way to the summit, but it would get her reasonably close.  Lupe headed for it.

The march up Minnesota Ridge Road was sunny.  The day was very hot for early May.  The little stream Lupe had been following had completely disappeared.  Lupe panted.  Her tongue hung out as she plodded along the dusty road behind SPHP.  A couple of times, SPHP stopped to give her water.

The road didn’t climb all that steeply, but it was steep enough.  The heat sapped both Lupe’s and SPHP’s energy.  A mile from the last junction, the road finally began to level out.  Lupe reached another intersection with Greens Gulch Loop.

The road leveled out about the time Lupe reached this intersection with Greens Gulch Loop (unseen to the L). Photo looks N.

SPHP checked the maps again.  Lupe could go either way, W on Greens Gulch Loop or N on Minnesota Ridge Road.  No matter which way she went, she would have to leave the road before long.

Loop stayed on Minnesota Ridge Road for another 0.25 mile.  She reached a big mud hole where frogs were singing noisily.

Frogs singing in this mud hole on the E side of Minnesota Ridge Road ceased their din when Lupe appeared. Lupe was far enough N now. It was time to leave the road to look for the summit of Minnesota Ridge. Photo looks ENE.

Lupe left the road heading WNW through the forest.  The true summit of Minnesota Ridge might be as much as 0.5 mile away or even a little more.  SPHP was more concerned with how difficult it might be to find the summit, than how far away it was.  The topo map showed only a gradual rise in the terrain toward the W.  The top of Minnesota Ridge was likely to be flat, forested, and cover a lot of territory.

Although many trees were still green and growing, the forest floor was thick with beetle-killed deadfall timber.  Lupe wound around trying to avoid the worst of it.  At least it was clear Lupe actually was gradually gaining elevation as she continued WNW.  Nothing except more forest was in view in any direction.

After a long wandering way, Lupe started catching glimpses of distant ridges miles away to the W.  She was nearing the W edge of Minnesota Ridge, which was the steepest side of the mountain.  As she reached what seemed to be the highest terrain, Lupe found a series of boulders scattered along a line running roughly N/S.

Tree broken views of distant ridges farther W appeared as Lupe reached the W “edge” of Minnesota Ridge. A line of boulders ran N/S. Maybe one of them was the true summit? Photo looks W.

Lupe had hardly seen any rocks in the forest until now.  Maybe this was Minnesota Ridge’s summit area?  It seemed likely.  Perhaps one of these boulders would be clearly higher than all the others?  Maybe it wasn’t going to be as hard to find the true summit as SPHP expected.

Lupe explored S along the line of boulders.  She didn’t have to go too far before it became clear the terrain was definitely going to start dropping off if she went any farther this way.

Lupe on the last big boulder at the S end of the highest terrain. A short exploration to the S from here confirmed that Lupe would lose elevation going any farther that way. Photo looks S.

Once it was established that there was no point in going any farther S, Lupe turned N again.  She followed the line of scattered boulders looking for the highest one.

Lupe willingly leapt up on each boulder SPHP thought might be the true summit of Minnesota Ridge (6,240 ft.), but the process soon became somewhat of a comedy.  Each time SPHP believed Lupe had been at the true summit, another boulder that seemed clearly a little higher would be found hidden in the forest another 20 to 50 feet farther N.

Lupe on the 1st boulder SPHP declared the true summit. Photo looks NE.
On the 2nd “true summit”. Photo looks NW.
On the 3rd “true summit”. Photo looks E.
Lupe on the 4th “true summit”. This one was well back from the W edge of the mountain, and had an interesting knob of different colored rock firmly fastened on top. There was even a clearing in the forest nearby. Photo looks NW.
The 5th “true summit” rock had its own little ecosystem growing on it. SPHP named this one Garden Rock. Photo looks ENE.
Looper on the 6th “true summit”, the highest and farthest N in the line of boulders. Photo looks NNW.

Finally after standing on 6 different “true summit” boulders, the line of boulders faded away.  The ground to the N seemed to dip slightly, so No. 6 was probably it. To be certain, though, Lupe continued N near the W edge of the mountain.  Only when it was clear that the terrain was going to start dropping off decisively would Lupe claim her peakbagging success.

It didn’t happen.  Beyond the slight dip, the ground rose slowly again.  Lupe went hundreds of feet N before coming to another area where the terrain leveled out.  She was almost certainly higher now than she had been back at boulder No. 6.  This large area of flat ground was sunny and open.  Most of the trees had been killed by pine bark beetles, and had subsequently snapped and fallen over.

SPHP didn’t like it.  This area now had to be considered the true summit, but the place lacked charm.  All the deadfall was just plain ugly.  A couple of modest-sized rocks about equal in elevation were now joint contenders for true summit.  Once again, Lupe willingly got on each one.

Boulder No. 7 in contention for the title of true summit. However, No. 8 only 25 feet away was about the same elevation, too. Photo looks SSW.
“True summit” No. 8 was in an ugly place with lots of deadfall. Photo looks N.

“True summits” 7 and 8 were in such a hideous place, there was no point in lingering.  The terrain to the N was still flat, so Lupe needed to explore it too, in order to make certain this was actually the top of the mountain.

The deadfall was bad for hundreds of feet.  Lupe and SPHP made slow progress, but nearing the end of it, a rock ledge appeared ahead.  It was definitely at least 5 feet higher than anywhere Lupe had been yet!  SPHP was glad.  Lupe worked her way over to it.

From the S end of the rock ledge, Lupe could see that the ledge continued on to the NNW for some distance.  Lupe was at the top of a line of small cliffs which became larger off to the NNW, but only because the terrain below the cliffs was dropping off faster than the ledge above.  The S end of the ledge where Lupe first reached it appeared to be the highest point.

The rock ledge definitely made a better looking “true summit” No. 9.  Lupe perched on top while SPHP scrambled down through rocks and deadfall to get her official Minnesota Ridge (6,240 ft.) summit photo.

Lupe perches on “true summit” No. 9 at the S end of the rock ledge. Photo looks N.

Lupe even enjoyed a bit of a view from the ledge, making it even more worthy of being the summit.

The view to the W wasn’t spectacular, but was much better than a bunch of collapsed dead trees.

Lupe and SPHP explored a little farther to the NNW along the rock ledge.  The ledge lost elevation gradually in this direction, but continued onward.

Beneath the shade of a big pine tree, not far from “true summit” No. 9 at a point where the views to the W were pretty good, Lupe and SPHP took a break.  Lupe crunched some of her Taste of the Wild.  SPHP munched an apple.  The water in the water bottles was icky warm now, but that couldn’t be helped.  Warm water or none at all.  Take it or leave it.

After 5 or 10 minutes, a couple of large birds came sailing by.  They circled and soared in updrafts near the ledge.  They circled around many times, but were moving so fast through the small patch of sky where Lupe had a clear view of them between the pines, it was hard for SPHP to get a good photo.

One of the two large birds soaring on updrafts near the long ledge. The birds circled around to swoop by many times during Lupe’s break.
Hawks or eagles? SPHP wasn’t sure. They didn’t seem quite large enough to be eagles.
Lupe on a big rectangular rock at the edge of the ledge. Her break area was just off to the L. True summit No. 9 is only a short distance beyond her. Photo looks SSE.
On the same rectangular rock.

When the big birds soared away for the final time, Lupe’s break was over.  She returned briefly to “true summit” No. 9.  Since the terrain 30 to 50 feet back from the edge of the ledge seemed to be slightly higher, Lupe resumed her search for the absolutely highest point.

Nothing really stood out as being the exact spot, so Lupe chose a small rock that looked as high as anything else around for her final “true summit” No. 10 photo.  If this wasn’t the real deal, SPHP was convinced it had to be within a foot or two of the actual high point, which might be hidden anywhere among all the deadfall nearby.  This was close enough as far as Carolina Dogs are concerned!

True summit No. 10. Even if this wasn’t the actual tippy top of Minnesota Ridge it had to be close. Certainly close enough as far as Carolina Dogs are concerned. Photo looks NNE.

Ten true summits were more than enough for any mountain.  Lupe claimed her peakbagging success.  Now what?  The sun was still high in the sky.  Hours and hours of daylight remained.  May as well explore NNW along the rock ledge to see how far it went.  Maybe there were places with better views than Lupe had seen so far?

Lupe explores farther NNW along the rock ledge. Photo looks SSE.

Lupe did come to a few places where the rock ledge provided better views!  All of the views were to the W where Lupe could see the edge of the higher limestone plateau country of the western Black Hills.  She could see Nipple Butte (6,800 ft.), Flag Mountain (6,937 ft.) and other high points she had been to before on prior expeditions, but they were all miles away.

Looking SW from the ledge toward the higher limestone plateau country of the western Black Hills.
Lupe out on the largest rock platform she found along the entire ledge. Nipple Butte and Flag Mountain are in view on the horizon straight up from her, but they are very far away. Photo looks SW.

The rock ledge eventually petered out.  The views were gone.  It was clear Lupe really had been to the summit.  She had lost enough elevation by now so there was no doubt.  With all the time left in the day, Lupe could still do some exploring.

Years ago, back during the days of her early expeditions, Lupe had come to the Minnesota Ridge area on several different occasions, although she had never sought out the summit before today.  Somewhere to the W was a road she had followed as a very young Dingo a couple of different times.  It would be fun to travel it again.  Somewhere to the N was a road she had been on before that would lead her to it.

Lupe and SPHP went N looking for the road.  Lupe was losing elevation steadily now.  She came to a big field that didn’t seem familiar.

Lupe came to this big field somewhere on the N slope of Minnesota Ridge. SPHP didn’t recognize it. Photo looks S.

The big field led down to another good-sized field, where Lupe discovered an American Dingo display stand.

Lupe on the American Dingo display stand. What else could it be?

From the American Dingo display stand, Lupe headed NW.  She picked up a faint road she had never been on before.  Eventually it turned W and led her to the USFS road SPHP remembered W of Minnesota Ridge.

Lupe traveled S on this road, which ultimately proved to be USFS Road No. 204.1A.  It was fun to recognize a few places along the way.  Lupe took a short break at a tiny creek she had been to years before.  This creek flows down into Greens Gulch, but Lupe did not follow it as she had done on one prior occasion.

Lupe drank again from this tiny stream that flows into Greens Gulch. It had been years since she’d last been here.

The road went up and down.  It was surprising how much of it still seemed familiar, despite the years gone by.  The uphill stretches weren’t that long or difficult, but made the heat more oppressive.  Lupe had plenty of time.  After climbing past one uphill stretch, Lupe and SPHP took a water break.

Yes, the water was warm, but it did feel good to sit down and rest a bit.  A few clouds were drifting through the blue sky.  Lupe seemed content to lay panting on the ground, watching and listening.  Why not?  SPHP stretched out, too.  The heat made being lazy easy.

SPHP watched clouds.  Lupe listened to birds and watched for signs of activity in the forest.  Half an hour went by.  Then Lupe spotted a deer peering at her through the forest.  For a couple of minutes, Lupe and the deer stared at each other.  When the deer finally looked away and started moving, it was too much for Lupe.  Instinct took over and she was off like a shot.  A minute later she was back.  Lazy day break time was over.

Lupe’s trek along the road continued.  She soon came to a familiar intersection where she turned E on USFS Road No. 204.1.  She completed her big loop around the W side of Minnesota Ridge and arrived back at Killoern Springs Road.

On the remaining 3 miles back to the G6, Lupe retraced her route taken earlier in the day.  The ducks and Canadian geese were still at the pond.  Lupe and SPHP stopped to watch them for 15 minutes before pressing on S down Gimlet Creek valley.

Nearing the pond again. Photo looks E.
The Canadian geese were still at the pond. Lupe and SPHP watched them for a little while before pressing on.

The G6 wasn’t far from the confluence of Gimlet Creek and East Gimlet Creek.  On her last exploration of the day, Lupe visited the confluence.  She drank the refreshing cold water, and cooled her paws off one more time in the combined stream.

Expedition No. 203 had been different from most in recent years.  It was more of a throwback to the long treks of Lupe’s early years, with less emphasis on peakbagging.  Lupe had really enjoyed Gimlet Creek, the pond, and the easy strolls through the long valleys.  She still made it to the top of Minnesota Ridge, and got to see territory she hadn’t been to in years.

The unseasonal heat showed one thing, though.  It was soon time to think about heading to higher ground and cooler climes.  For a little while yet, that still meant higher terrain in Lupe’s Black Hills.  However, it wouldn’t be long before more distant adventures beckoned.

The start of Lupe’s grand summer of 2017 was fast approaching.

(End 6:04 PM, 77°F)

At the confluence of East Gimlet Creek (L) and Gimlet Creek (R) at the end of the day.

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Lazy Mountain, Chugach Range, Alaska (9-1-16)

Day 34 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska

Pepper Peak (5,381 ft.) had been a stupendous day and a glorious summit, but Lupe and SPHP hadn’t really recovered yet from yesterday’s huge 4,500 feet of elevation gain.  No matter.  Feeling it or not, Lupe was climbing one more mountain today.  The calendar now said September.  After 3 fabulous, unforgettable weeks in Alaska, this was the American Dingo’s last full day in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

Lazy Mountain (3,740 ft.) was destined to be the last peak Lupe and SPHP would climb together in Alaska in 2016, or maybe forever.  Tired or not, it was time to begin (9:55 AM, 48°F).  At least Lupe had another clear, bright day.  She was guaranteed some great views of Palmer, the Matanuska River valley all the way to the Knik Arm off Cook Inlet, and mountains in all directions.

Right away, Lupe had a choice to make.  Two trails diverge near the trailhead parking lot.  They both go about halfway up Lazy Mountain to where they meet again near a picnic table situated on a point with a view.  A single combined trail goes the rest of the way to the summit.  The old Lazy Mountain approach was supposed to be the steepest.  The newer Lazy Moose trail is an easier climb, but winds around a bunch on switchbacks that add considerable distance.

Even though energy levels were low, Lupe and SPHP started straight up the Lazy Mountain trail.  The reports were no joke.  The trail started out steep.  It didn’t stay that way long.  It soon got steeper, and then stayed that way.  Whoever named Lazy Mountain must have realized what they were in for, and decided they were too lazy to even attempt it.  Otherwise, the name makes no sense at all.

As usual in most of Lupe’s Alaskan trail experiences, the Lazy Mountain trail started in a forest.  Gradually the forest thinned, and tall bushes started to dominate.  The forest had thinned out considerably, by the time Lupe reached the picnic table near the intersection with the Lazy Moose trail.  It had been a long, hard climb with frequent rest breaks, but Lupe was halfway up the 3,000 feet of elevation gain needed to reach the summit.

At the picnic table, SPHP chatted for a little while with a guy who came running (yes, running!) up the same Lazy Mountain trail Lupe and SPHP had just staggered up.  He said he lives in Palmer, and runs this far up Lazy Mountain 3 times a week.  He plays in a Christian music band, and was very surprised to hear that Lupe lives in South Dakota.

Why he was flying to Sioux Falls, SD tomorrow to play in a big concert there!  He had been with his band to South Dakota many times, including Pine Ridge and Lupe’s Black Hills.  South Dakota was a hot spot for his kind of music.  He wished Lupe and SPHP well, before running off down the longer Lazy Moose trail.

Small world.  Sort of.  Lupe still had another 1,500 feet of mountain climbing left to do in Alaska.  Somehow it still loomed large, not small.  Lupe’s trek resumed.  Still steep, but perhaps not quite as steep as before.  Tall bushes dominated, but most of the trees were gone.  On and on.  Up and up, for a while longer.

Finally, Lupe was past the bushes.  She was up in the tundra zone.  Some places were devoid even of the tough, beautiful, little tundra plants.  Bare dirt and small rocks were exposed.  Lupe had made a lot of progress up the mountain by now.  For a while, the trail leveled out.  There was even a completely flat section!  A high point that might be the summit was in view ahead.

Getting there! Lupe climbing Lazy Mountain. She’s up above tree line here. Only scattered clumps of bushes and the tundra remained. Photo looks NE.
For a while, SPHP wasn’t sure which high point might be the true summit of Lazy Mountain. It turned out to be the one on the L that the trail is heading for. Photo looks NE.

The trail soon started climbing again, but never as steeply as earlier on.  Below a ridge, Lupe passed a second picnic table.  The built-in benches were in good shape, but nearly all the boards forming the table part were missing.  Lupe did not stop.  She kept on going.  Her final climb in Alaska was dead ahead.

Lupe on her final climb in Alaska. The top of Lazy Mountain is in view only a short way ahead. Photo looks NE.

Lupe gained the summit ridge.  It wasn’t terribly long, maybe 100 feet.  At the far NE end, was a smaller ridge of solid lumpy-looking rock.  The true summit of Lazy Mountain was perched at the far end of the little ridge, perhaps an extra 20 feet above the main ridge.

Lupe rests in the shade at the base of the lumpy rock ridge at the far NE end of Lazy Mountain’s main summit ridge. Matanuska Peak is the high point in the background. Photo looks SE.

Lupe scrambled up to the highest point at the far end of the lumpy rock ridge.  She was done mountain climbing in Alaska!  This was it, the true summit of Lazy Mountain (3,740 ft.)!

Lupe perched at the true summit of Lazy Mountain, having just completed all of her mountain climbing in Alaska in 2016. Photo looks NNE.

Lupe could not be persuaded to stay up at the highest point on Lazy Mountain when SPHP tried to back down off the lumpy ridge for a more distant shot of her at the summit.  There was quite a bit of exposure up there, and not a lot of room to maneuver.

It was OK, she had made it to the top for a good close up.  Not to mention all the many other dramatic peaks she had climbed on her Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation!  If the Carolina Dog felt better a little lower down, she had certainly earned a reprieve from posing at the top of precipices.

Lupe on the lumpy rock ridge. The true summit of Lazy Mountain is on the L. Lupe couldn’t be persuaded to remain at the high point long enough for SPHP to scramble back down for a more distant photo of her up there. The high point had a lot of exposure and not a lot of room. Photo looks ENE.
Matanuska Peak from Lazy Mountain. Photo looks SE.

Mountain climbing in Alaska was over.  Time to take a look around at what Lupe could see from her last Alaskan mountain.  Unlike most of the mountains Loop had climbed, where the most impressive views were of other mountains, Lazy Mountain’s most dramatic views were down toward the Matanuska River valley.

More than 3,000 feet below Lazy Mountain, the braided confluence of the Matanuska River and Knik River could be seen to the SW near the start of the Knik Arm of the North Pacific Ocean off Cook Inlet.  Bodenburg Butte (886 ft.) rising more than 600 feet above immediately surrounding terrain, looked like a little hill.

The Matanuska River (Center) flows toward the Knik River (L). They have a braided confluence near the Knik Arm seen on the upper R. Bodenburg Butte(L) looks like a little hill from Lazy Mountain. Photo looks SW.

The most dramatic mountains Lupe could see from Lazy Mountain were very far away to WSW, in the direction of Mount Susitna (4,396 ft.), also known as Sleeping Lady.  (See The Legend of Sleeping Lady)  Well beyond Mount Susitna were impressive white mountains on the edge of vision.

Mount Susitna (Sleeping Lady) is the long blue ridge, subject of a local legend. Photo looks WSW from Lazy Mountain using the telephoto lens.
High, white mountains could be seen faintly very far away beyond Mount Susitna. Photo looks W using the telephoto lens.

Considerably closer, it was possible to see several smaller peaks with snow and ice on them in other directions.

Unknown peak with snow in view from Lazy Mountain. Taken using the telephoto lens.

Matanuska Peak (6,093 ft.) to the SE was easily the most impressive of the nearby mountains.

Matanuska Peak (L) was easily the most impressive of the mountains nearby. Photo looks SE.
Matanuska Peak through the telephoto lens.

Even including the larger summit ridge, and not just the small, final lumpy rock part leading to the true summit, there wasn’t much exploring to be done up on Lazy Mountain.  Lupe could see virtually the entire summit area at a glance.  However, there was plenty of room to move around some from one end to the other, gaining slightly different vantage points.

Except for the highest lumpy rock part where the true summit is, most of Lazy Mountain’s summit area is in view here. The town of Palmer is below, mostly on the far side of the Matanuska River. Mount Susitna can be made out on the far horizon. Part of the Talkeetna Range is seen on the R. Photo looks W.

Lupe found a shady spot close to the lumpy rock ridge to doze a bit.  SPHP relaxed gazing off first in one direction, then another, seeing dazzlingly beautiful Alaska from the top of a mountain Lupe had climbed for possibly the last time.

Lupe dozes a little below the true summit. Photo looks NE.
Looking NNE toward the Talkeetna Range.

Lupe stayed up on Lazy Mountain for 45 minutes.  The time came to start thinking about moving on.  Despite the rigors of the steep trail up, the perfect day and wonderful views at the top had made Lupe’s final climb in Alaska a lovely, memorable experience.  Now only the return trip down the mountain remained.

Lupe ready to leave the mountaintops of Alaska. The lumpy rock ridge and true summit of Lazy Mountain are on the R. Photo looks NE.
Looking down on the town of Palmer, situated mostly on the far side of the Matanuska River. Photo looks WSW.
The Matanuska flows away toward the Knik Arm. Photo looks SW.
Starting down the trail. Several peaks of interest are seen along the far ridge. Straight up from Bodenburg Butte, the little hill in the valley at (Center), are 3 dark wavy peaks. The two on the L are East Twin Peak (5,840 ft.)(L) and West Twin Peak (5,472 ft.)(R). To their L across a gentle saddle is a seemingly unimpressive hill in sunlight. That hill is actually Pepper Peak (5,381 ft.) where Lupe had such a tremendous adventure only a day earlier. The high point of the dark peaks to the L of Pepper Peak is Pioneer Peak (6,398 ft.). Photo looks SW.

When Lupe got down close to the first picnic table, she took the Lazy Moose trail instead of the Lazy Mountain trail.  The Lazy Moose trail was considerably longer, but not nearly so steep.  The trail had markers along it, which seemed to represent feet traveled along the trail, starting from the lower end.

The first marker Lupe came to said 15,800, implying that Lupe was about 3 miles from the trailhead.  The markers were about 1,000 feet apart on the higher part of the trail.  Lower down, they were consistently 200 feet apart.  The Lazy Moose trail had lots of switchbacks and general winding around.  The markers told the story of Lupe’s progress down her last Alaskan mountain.

Lupe enjoyed trotting and sniffing along the easier trail.  Late afternoon on the first day of September was comfortably sunny and warm.  Lupe led SPHP down Lazy Mountain, exploring for only a little longer the fabled Land of the Midnight Sun (4:23 PM, 72°F).

Loop on the Lazy Moose trail, Lazy Mountain, Chugach Range, Alaska.

Note:  Directions to the Lazy Mountain Recreation Area trailhead –  From the Glenn Hwy in Palmer, go E on Arctic Road (Old Glenn Highway) for 2.5 miles.  Take a L on Clark-Wolverine Road, 0.5 mile after crossing the Matanuska River.  Proceed 0.5 mile to a T intersection.  Take a R on Huntley Road, following it to the end.  Stay to the R going down to the trailhead parking lot.

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

Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 202 – Ford Mountain, Storm Hill & Ingersoll Peak (4-29-17)

Start – Old Hill City Road near the 1880 Train crossing NNE of Ford Mountain (10:13 AM, 40°F).

The week after Joe & cousin Dusty headed back home to Colorado was overcast and cold.  On the 25th, Lupe stared bored out the window all day as light snow fell.  Winter’s last blast didn’t amount to much, but snowflakes were still sailing on the breeze the next  morning.  Although only an inch or two had fallen, once again Lupe’s world was all white.

By afternoon, the snow ended.  By evening, it had warmed up enough to melt almost everything that had fallen.  The world reverted to green, but gray clouds remained.  The next few days weren’t much warmer.  Now and then a cold rain or mist fell.

When Lupe finally got to venture up into the Black Hills again, it wasn’t surprising Expedition No. 202 got off to a snowy start.  The snow hadn’t melted yet up here.  Lupe, of course, was delighted!  She frolicked and cooled off on the clean new snow with enormous enthusiasm.  It was a great start to her journey up Ford Mountain (5,641 ft.).

Lupe was delighted to find a couple inches of snow to frolic on as she set out for Ford Mountain.

The snow was only a couple of inches deep, but it was everywhere on the N slope.  Fortunately, the slope wasn’t too steep.  SPHP was able to follow Lupe up despite the slick snow.  Before long, Lupe had gained enough elevation to see another mountain she hoped to climb today.  Storm Hill was off to the NE.

Storm Hill, another mountain Lupe hoped to visit today, came into view as she climbed Ford Mountain. Photo looks NE.

At first, going up Ford Mountain was easy.  Less than 1/3 of the way up, though, Lupe reached a zone covered with a lot of deadfall timber.  Progress up the mountain slowed considerably.

Lupe arrives at the zone of heavy deadfall timber. The deadfall greatly slowed SPHP’s progress up the mountain. Photo looks SSE.

The deadfall didn’t diminish until Lupe neared the top of Ford Mountain’s NE shoulder.  The NE shoulder featured scattered rock outcroppings.  Lupe got up on the highest one, but the forest was so thick she didn’t have any distant views.  She could barely make out Ford Mountain’s summit off to the SW.

Lupe on the highest rock outcropping on Ford Mountain’s NE shoulder. The mountain’s summit is barely discernable between the trees beyond her. Photo looks SW.

Lupe lost only a little elevation traversing the snowy saddle leading to the final climb.  Deadfall was a problem here, too, though not quite as bad as earlier on.  This climb was noticeably steeper, making footing more difficult for SPHP with the snow around.

The final 50 feet up was much rockier than the rest of the mountain had been.  Lupe still had an easy time of it, while SPHP scrambled slowly to the top.

The last 50 feet to the top were steeper and much rockier than the rest of Lupe’s route up had been. Photo looks SSW.

When Lupe reached the top of Ford Mountain (5,641 ft.), she found a roughly circular summit area 100 feet in diameter.  The area was nearly flat, but slightly higher toward the center.  All along the edge, from the NE around to the E and S, an uneven rock ledge perched above cliffs offered sweeping unobstructed views.

Lupe close to where she first reached the summit area. Five Points (6,221 ft.) (R) is the highest mountain seen beyond her. Union Hill (6,120 ft.) is the snowiest high point on the far L. Photo looks N.
Storm Hill (5,656 ft.) is on the L. Farther away R of Center is Mount Warner (5,889 ft.). Samelius Peak (5,856 ft.) is on the far R. Photo looks ENE.
Black Elk Peak (7,231 ft.), the highest mountain in South Dakota, is straight up from Lupe on the horizon. Photo looks S.
Sylvan Hill (7,000 ft.) is the most distant peak L of Center. Saint Elmo Peak (6,458 ft.) is the smaller, snowy mountain in the distance beyond Lupe. Photo looks SSW.

After checking out the splendid views, Lupe visited Ford Mountain’s true summit.  The center of the summit area was so flat, she really didn’t find any one point that looked noticeably higher than the rest.  No cairn or survey benchmark was to be seen either, but Lupe did find something way cooler than that – a stone fortress!

Another look at Black Elk Peak. This photo shows more of Ford Mountain’s summit. Photo looks S.
No cairn or survey benchmark could be found on Ford Mountain, but Lupe did find this cool stone fortress! Photo looks WNW.

On her many adventures in the Black Hills, Lupe sometimes comes across small structures which could serve as Dingo Outposts, but seldom anything as elaborate as the Dingo Fortress on Ford Mountain.  Someone had spent a lot of time moving a lot of heavy rocks building it.

An opening to the WNW served as a doorway.  Lupe went inside to inspect her latest Black Hills Dingo Bastion.

Yes, a Carolina Dog would be safe in this solid stone fort. It was almost a Dingo Castle! Photo looks E.

The stone fort met with Lupe’s approval.  Best, most elaborate summit cairn ever!  After sniffing around the interior a bit, Lupe came out to see what else there was to see up here.Part of Hill City was in view off to the NW.

The NE end of Hill City is in view in the valley below. The highest peak on the R is Union Hill (6,120 ft.). Photo looks NW.

The view of Bishop Mountain (5,706 ft.) to the SW was partially blocked by the forest, and wasn’t that impressive.  So that was about it.  Lupe made a final tour of the sights from the cliff edge.

A nice look S all the way from Black Elk Peak (L) over to Sylvan Hill (far R).
Storm Hill, Lupe’s next peakbagging objective. She would travel up the W slope seen on the L. An intense fire on the mountain destroyed most of the forest some years ago. Photo looks NE with help from the telephoto lens.
Looking N at Five Points (Center) using the telephoto lens. The peak on the L is known to Lupe as False North Point.

Lupe retraced her original route up on the way down Ford Mountain.  She was surprised when she arrived at G6 and SPHP walked right on by without even stopping.  She was even more surprised when SPHP started following train tracks on the other side of Old Hill City Road.  It was the first time she’d ever followed train tracks.

SPHP knew they would lead her to the base of Storm Hill.

Lupe was surprised to be following train tracks on her way to Storm Hill.

Lupe wouldn’t see a train today, but the tracks aren’t abandoned.  They only see use during the summer, when the 1880 Train runs from Hill City past Oblivion to Keystone and back.  The round trip is a popular sightseeing excursion for tourists.  A few more weeks, and the 1880 Train would be running again.

Fortunately, there was something else Lupe didn’t see as she was busy sniffing along the tracks in the first gap the railroad passed through.  The bunny saw Lupe, though.  It remained absolutely still on a bank only a few feet above the tracks.Lupe followed the 1880 Train tracks for 0.5 mile to the base of Storm Hill.

Storm Hill dead ahead! Photo looks NE.
Lupe left the railroad tracks here where they turned SE. The back side of Mt. Rushmore is seen in the distance. Photo looks SE.

The first part of Lupe’s ascent went through a gently sloping pine forest.  The day had warmed up enough so the snow on the ground was melting.  Lupe ate snow and had a fun romp in the open forest as she headed NE toward a saddle.

Upon reaching the saddle, Loop turned E.  The mountain was getting progressively steeper and rockier.  Lupe reached the part of the forest that had burned years ago.  With less shade, the snow was vanishing fast here.

The real climb began when Lupe reached the charred forest. Photo looks ENE.

So many dead trees were still standing that the amount of deadfall timber laying on the ground wasn’t too bad yet.  Lupe could still easily run around exploring.

Lupe exploring the charred W slope of Storm Hill.

Of course, it got rockier and steeper the higher up Lupe went.  However, her route was never too difficult, even for SPHP.  As Lupe neared the top of Storm Hill, she could see a tower and a solar panel up there.

As Lupe neared the top of Storm Hill, she could see a tower and solar panel at the summit.

It turned out that by coming up from the W, Lupe arrived at the true summit right away without having to traverse any of the summit ridge.  Most of the summit ridge was off to the E and notably lower.  The area around the true summit was very rocky and much, much smaller than on Ford Mountain.

Ropes and guy wires supported the small tower.  Electrical wires were around, too.  At first, it wasn’t clear if they were live or not.

Lupe reaches the top of Storm Hill. It wasn’t initially clear if the tower, solar panel, and all the wires running around still served a purpose, or not. Photo looks SW.
The true summit of Storm Hill was quite a small area dominated by the tower and associated paraphernalia perched on top. Photo looks SW.

Lupe and SPHP approached the tower cautiously paying special attention to electrical cords and wires.  Lupe made it up onto the highest rocks with no problem.  Although someone had gone to considerable effort to set all this stuff up, nothing appeared to be in working condition.  It was all dead.

The view of Black Elk Peak (7,231 ft.) still sporting a dusting of snow at the end of April  was gorgeous. Summit Peak (5,655 ft.) is the lower forested ridge to the L of Lupe’s ears. Lupe had been there on Expedition No. 194. Although the topo maps show the true summit of Summit Peak at the SW (R) end of the ridge, Lupe remains quite certain it is at the NE (L) end. Photo looks S.

The solar panel appeared to have been meant to charge a bank of 7 batteries.  What purpose the tower used to serve wasn’t clear.  All the wires and equipment around made moving about the summit a bit tricky.

The solar panel was probably meant to charge this bank of 7 batteries.
Lupe enjoys a bit of shade from the solar panel. Ford Mountain (5,641 ft.) is the closest rock-capped hill on the L. Bishop Mountain (5,706 ft.) is the ridge immediately beyond it. Photo looks SW.
Loopster on the very highest rock on Storm Hill. The EverStart battery appeared more likely to be a NeverStart battery at this point in time.
Part of the notably lower portion of Storm Hill’s summit ridge is seen on the L. On the horizon, Mount Warner (5,889 ft.) is the highest point straight up from Lupe’s head. Samelius Peak (5,856 ft.) is the high point straight up from her tail. Photo looks E.
Another look E.

After taking a look around from the true summit, Lupe and SPHP retreated a little down off the high point just to get away from the wires and equipment.  It was time for a break.  At least SPHP thought so, but Lupe wasn’t hungry.  She was happy enough to curl up for a rest, though, while SPHP consumed the usual apple.

Since Lupe wasn’t really into it, break time didn’t last any longer than the apple did.  When it was over, Lupe briefly returned to the true summit.  SPHP took a few more photos before Lupe started back down the mountain.

After break, Lupe returned briefly to the true summit. Photo looks S from the break area.

Looking N. Hwy 385/16 E of Hill City is seen below. Part of Mitchell Lake is, too. The highest peak on the L is Five Points.

Once again, Lupe returned to the G6 (1:52 PM) by the same route she had taken to the mountain.  This time SPHP let her in.  She still had plenty of time to climb another peak, but a ride was in order to get closer to her next objective.  Lupe enjoyed barking at several cows and horses along the way.

SPHP parked the G6 again 3 or 4 miles farther E where Centennial Trail No. 89 crosses Old Hill City Road (2:07 PM, 46°F).  Ingersoll Peak (5,356 ft.) was Lupe’s next destination.  It was somewhere not too far off to the NE, but SPHP wasn’t completely certain exactly how far away it was.  A mile or two, maybe?  The plan was to follow Centennial Trail No. 89 going N a little way before leaving it to turn E to search for the peak.

Lupe set out crossing the 1880 Train tracks and Battle Creek immediately N of Old Hill City Road.  She continued N on Centennial Trail No. 89.  The trail led gradually up a side valley where a mix of pines and aspens lined both sides of the trail.

After crossing the 1880 Train tracks and Battle Creek, Lupe followed Centennial Trail No. 89 going N up a gentle side valley. A mix of pines and aspens lined both sides of the trail. It was now close to mid-afternoon. Only a little melting snow remained. Photo looked NNE.

Lupe hadn’t gone too far when a logging road left Centennial Trail No. 89 heading up the ridge to the E.  Why not follow it to see if Ingersoll Peak could be seen from up there?  Lupe took the logging road.

The logging road faded away before even reaching the top of the ridge.  Lupe kept going, though, and managed to get there.  The forest had been thinned, but not enough to see much off to the E.  However, it appeared the ridge gained more elevation to the NE, which seemed to be the right direction to go.

Lupe struck off following the ridgeline.  It had minor ups and downs, but on the whole she was gaining elevation.  After reaching a couple of high spots where there still wasn’t much to see, she finally came to a rock outcropping on the E side of the ridge where there was a view.  Ingersoll Peak was in sight, but farther away than SPHP expected.

From this rock outcropping, Lupe got her first look at Ingersoll Peak. It was farther away than SPHP expected. Photo looks E.

It took a while to get there.  Lupe tried to go around the N end of an intervening valley to avoid losing elevation, but it didn’t work.  The valley was too long.  She wound up turning E and going down into two sizable valleys separated by a lower ridge before the terrain allowed her to climb out again and regain all her lost elevation.

Once she was out of the second valley, Loop came across a dirt road leading NE toward even higher ground.  Before long it curved around to the SE and brought her to the base of Ingersoll Peak’s W slope.  Here Lupe followed an abandoned side road that made a big switchback to the NE and then S, gaining more elevation along the way.

The side road leveled out near a huge rock, turned SE and looked like it was about to start losing elevation.  Lupe left the side road near the huge rock to climb Ingersoll Peak’s W slope.  The slope was heavily forested, so it wasn’t possible to see very far ahead.  After gaining 200 feet of elevation, suddenly the slope leveled out rapidly.

A rock formation 50 feet away looked higher than anything else around.  Subsequent exploration proved this rock formation was the true summit of Ingersoll Peak (5,356 ft.).  Lupe needed a boost from SPHP to get up on the highest rocks.

Lupe reaches the summit of Ingersoll Peak! The mountain was so heavily forested she didn’t have much of a view. Photo looks NW.
On the very highest rock. Photo looks N.

Ingersoll Peak was so heavily forested, Lupe didn’t have much of a view.  She saw no reason to dawdle on the highest rocks, preferring to explore the summit area as soon as SPHP told her it was OK to jump down.

More of the summit rock formation is seen here. The highest rocks are just to the L of Lupe and a bit behind her. Photo looks NNW.

Most of the large summit area was off to the E.  It was so heavily forested, a couple inches of snow remained up here.  Lupe didn’t find any views, but sunlight filtered by the trees created a pleasing pattern of shadows and highlights on the snow.  The top of Ingersoll Peak felt secluded and still a bit wintery.

Looking back toward the true summit (hidden by the trees on the R) from near the NE end of the larger summit area. The dense forest, snow, shadows, and filtered sunlight made Ingersoll Peak feel secluded and remote. Winter still lingered here. Photo looks SW.
The wily Snow Dingo on secluded Ingersoll Peak.

When exploration confirmed Lupe had already been to the true summit, Lupe returned to it.  This time she didn’t want to get up on the highest rocks where there wasn’t any room to move around.  However, she did agree to hang out among the slightly lower rocks for a few more photos.

Among the rocks of the summit formation. Photo looks WSW.
Looking N.

Lupe left the summit of Ingersoll Peak going back down the W slope.  She had already lost substantial elevation when she came to a rock outcropping where she could see Storm Hill off to the NW.

From this rock outcropping well down the W slope, Lupe got her only decent view from Ingersoll Peak. Storm Hill (5,656 ft.) is in the distance straight up from Lupe. Samelius Peak (5,856 ft.) is the high point on the R. Photo looks NW.

Lupe came to the abandoned road near the huge rock again.  She followed the switchback down to the lower road, which she took back to the area where she first found it.  W of the road was a barren hill strewn with scattered deadfall.  Lupe went over there for a look at the view, which was far better than any she’d had from Ingersoll Peak.

From this barren hillside, Lupe had a much better view than she’d found anywhere on Ingersoll Peak. The rugged terrain near Black Elk Peak (Center) can be seen. Photo looks SW.

Lupe returned to the road.  She wasn’t going to cross the two valleys to the W this time.  Instead she followed the road down into a long valley.

Lupe near the start of the road’s descent into the long valley. Photo looks SW.
Heading down. Photo looks SSW.

At the end of the valley, Lupe arrived at Old Hill City Road again.  For more than a mile, she followed the 1880 Train tracks as they wound around toward the W.  Along the way, she saw a single Canadian goose floating on a tiny pond.  The lonely goose honked a hopeful greeting.

From the 1880 Train tracks on the way back to the G6, Lupe saw this solitary Canadian Goose floating on a tiny pond. It honked at Lupe, but didn’t fly away.

Canadian geese and Carolina Dogs aren’t likely to become best of friends.  SPHP encouraged Lupe to keep trotting right on by.  (End 5:52 PM, 44°F)

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

Pepper Peak, Chugach State Park, Alaska (8-31-16)

Day 33 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska

Yowser!  Over 4,500 feet of elevation gain!  Most definitely a long day ahead.  Yet it would be a glorious one, if Lupe and SPHP could make it to the top of Pepper Peak.  Soup, Swiss Miss and sardines for breakfast.  SPHP was sick of sardines, but Lupe devoured the rest of the tin with gusto.  Thank heavens!

SPHP paid the $5.00 daily trailhead parking fee, then Lupe went down for a look at gorgeous Eklunta Lake.  Totally clear skies and nearly calm.  Conditions were going to be perfect!  After a few minutes along the lakeshore, Lupe and SPHP went looking for the trail to Twin Peaks.  (9:19 AM, 39°F)

Lupe’s long last day of August 2016 started on the shore of beautiful Eklunta Lake. Photo looks SE.

On the way to the trail, Lupe got a glimpse of what was in store for her – the long, long SW ridge of Pepper Peak (5,381 ft.).  The view was a bit daunting.  It didn’t look scary, or like something Lupe couldn’t do, just exhaustingly long.  As they say, though, every journey starts with that first step.  Lupe’s paws were already trotting right along.  She would get up Pepper Peak, if SPHP could.

The sheer size of Pepper Peak from down near lake level was a bit daunting. However, it didn’t look like anything technical or too scary. Lupe could do that! Photo looks NE.

Lupe crossed a bridge over Thachkatnu Creek.  The Twin Peaks trail headed off to the L (NNW).  Lupe’s long climb began.

Such a beautiful day!  The Twin Peaks trail started in a forest.  There wasn’t much to be seen except the trees.  The trail zigged NE.  Right away, Lupe gained 300 or 400 feet of elevation on a relentless, fairly steep climb.  The trail then zagged NW for a longer stretch on the way to the Thachkatnu Creek valley between Twin Peaks and Pepper Peak.

The trail wasn’t as steep along in here.  Autumn was already on its way to Alaska.  Leaves were beginning to turn yellow.  Lupe sniffed and explored along the newly carpeted Yellow Leaf trail.

Follow, follow, follow, follow, follow the Yellow Leaf Trail! Toto on the way to the Emerald … no wait, make that Lupe on a relatively flat section of the Twin Peaks trail on her way to the Thachkatnu Creek valley between Twin Peaks and Pepper Peak. Photo looks NW.

As the Twin Peaks trail reached the Thachkatnu Creek valley, it turned NE again, staying high up on the Pepper Peak side.  Near the gradual turn, the trail had become steeper, gaining elevation even faster than before.  Lupe gained another 300 or 400 feet before the slope slackened as the trail zigged back to the SE.

Lupe had gained enough elevation by now so that she was getting close to tree line.  The forest was starting to thin out a bit.  Along another steep climb to the NE, Lupe reached an opening with a gorgeous view of Eklunta Lake.

Lupe reaches the first clear view of Eklunta Lake from the Twin Peaks trail. Photo looks SE.

Two benches are positioned along the Twin Peaks trail.  Lupe was almost to the first one.  Another steep little climb and she was there.

SPHP had been looking for the benches for a while.  Lupe had already come so far, SPHP thought it was possible she had somehow missed the first bench, but this was actually it.  As SPHP learned a little later on, only the first bench has a view of Eklunta Lake.

Lupe reaches the first of two benches along the Twin Peaks trail. Only the first bench has a view of Eklunta Lake. Photo looks SE.

From the first bench, the trail turned back to the NW again leaving Eklunta Lake behind.  Lupe was still mostly in forest, but tall bushes were becoming more prominent.  From here on, the trail kept climbing steadily.  Lupe came to no more relatively level sections.  It was all sort of steep.

Soon Lupe was back over toward the Thachkatnu Creek valley again.  Once more, the trail turned NE going up the valley, remaining high up on the Pepper Peak side.  The forest gave way to the tall bushes as Lupe went up.  Lupe could see Twin Peaks towering over the opposite side of the valley.

Twin Peaks from the Twin Peaks trail before reaching the 2nd bench. Photo looks NNW.

Lupe must have been almost a mile from the first bench, when she reached the second one.  This bench was located on the Thachkatnu Creek side of Pepper Peak’s SW ridge.  Twin Peaks were in view, but not Eklunta Lake.  There were still lots of tall bushes near the second bench, but Lupe wasn’t far from reaching bush line where the views would really open up.

At the second bench, Lupe faced a choice.  She could continue following a trail, presumably part of the Twin Peaks trail, up the Thachkatnu Creek valley toward the saddle between the Twin Peaks and Pepper Peak.  The other choice was to take a side trail going SE up to the SW ridgeline coming down from Pepper Peak.

According to information SPHP had found online, Lupe could eventually reach the top of Pepper Peak either way.  However, the trail going up the Thachkatnu Creek valley would have limited views for a long way.  On Pepper Peak’s SW ridge, Lupe would be able to see Eklunta Lake the entire time, plus lots of magnificent mountains beyond.

With no more to go on than that, the choice was easy.  Lupe left the second bench following the trail toward the SW ridge.

Lupe takes a break while SPHP checks the map. She is already a little past the second bench back at the Twin Peaks trail, on her way over to the SW ridgeline coming down from Pepper Peak. By now, she was above the forest and tall bushes, but still faced a tremendous climb to the top of Pepper Peak. Photo looks NE.

The ridgeline was farther from the second bench than SPHP expected, but it didn’t take Lupe too long to get there.  Beautiful Eklunta Lake was in sight again.

Lupe reaches Pepper Peak’s SW ridgeline after leaving the Twin Peaks trail and the second bench behind. Even though a very long way remained to the top of Pepper Peak, she had definitely made some progress. The view of Eklunta Lake was getting better and better. Photo looks SE.

Lupe had already come a long way, but the real climb, the long one up Pepper Peak’s SW ridge was just about to begin.  Lupe was no longer on any formal, maintained trail, but there was still a path leading higher.  Even without the path, the route was plain to see.  Just keep heading up the ridge.

Lupe climbed and climbed.  The views kept improving with every step higher.

Going up Pepper Peak’s SW ridge. Photo looks NE.
West Twin Peak (5,472 ft.) (L) and East Twin Peak (5,840 ft.) (R) from Pepper Peak’s SW ridge.  Sorry ’bout making you stare into the sun, Looper! Photo looks NW.

For a long way, Pepper Peak’s SW ridge was broad and rounded.  Other than the steepness, there were no other issues at all to deal with.  Up and up was all there was to it, as fast as heart, lungs, legs and desire allowed.  SPHP was getting close to a high point near the end of this relatively easy part of the climb, when suddenly Lupe let out a tremendous WOOF!

SPHP looked around.  Nothing.  What on earth was she woofing at here?  Lupe WOOFED again.  Oh, there!  SPHP looked up, straight up.  Two parasailers were floating high above!

Lupe spotted these two parasailers high above Pepper Peak’s SW ridge. Photo looks, yes, UP!

Wow!  That looked both scary and amazingly fun.  Time for a parasailer break!  Lupe and SPHP went just a little higher to the top of the nearby high point, then stopped to watch the parasailers for a while.

The parasailers were moving quite fast.  They lost elevation relatively quickly, but seemed to have no problem finding thermals to take them soaring again.  It was incredible how far and fast they flew.  The one with the pink chute soon flew miles away to the SE far beyond Shaker Peak, and ultimately completely out of sight.

The parasailer with the green, white and blue chute hung around for a while.  He made a couple of passes not terribly far above Lupe, which excited her tremendously.  She had never seen such a huge bird in all her life!  Why it must be a Roc, or a Pterodactyl!

The parasailer with the pink chute soon flew miles away out of sight far beyond Shaker Peak, but this one stuck around to buzz Lupe a couple of times. Was she ever excited! She had never seen a Pterodactyl so close up before! It’s wingspan was HUGE! However, even a Pterodactyl didn’t have the guts to come all the way down to the ground to tangle with an American Dingo!
Simply WOW! What else is there to say?

The second parasailer drifted away out of sight.  Wow!  SPHP wondered where they had started from, and how they would ever get back.  Who knew?

Time to press on again.  The way forward was becoming steeper and rockier.  The toughest part of the climb was about to begin.

Lupe at Parasailer Point. The toughest part of the climb up Pepper Peak was about to begin. Photo looks NE.
Salt Peak (5,455 ft.) (L) and Shaker Peak (5,089 ft.) (R) from Parasailer Point. Photo looks E.

The ridge became rockier and rockier as Lupe progressed.  There was still a trail, but it was less well-defined and harder to follow.  The slope became steeper.  Exposure increased.  Lupe encountered more and more loose rock.  She tried to stay up near the ridge line, but wound up a little below and to the SE of it.

Looking NW toward Twin Peaks just before tackling the last, big ragged rocky section of Pepper Peak’s SW ridge.
The last ragged, rocky section nearing the top of Pepper Peak. Lupe stayed a little below the ridgeline on the SE (R) side. The trail was hard to follow here. Lupe encountered quite a bit of loose rock and some exposure. Photo looks NE.

Although the ragged part of the ridge wasn’t terribly long, it took a while to navigate it.  Lupe finally got past it, though.  The ridge was now leveling out.  The going was getting a lot easier.  It couldn’t be much farther to the top of Pepper Peak!

Ahead was one more big knob of rock.  Lupe and SPHP had seen it from far, far below.  SPHP believed it was the summit.  Lupe seemed to be way up in the sky.  Who knew what kind of precipice might be on the other side?

The trail was in much better condition again here.  It wound up the SE side of the knob.  Lupe headed up.  SPHP followed close behind.

Lupe on her way up the last craggy knob. Photo looks N.

Lupe reached the top of the craggy knob.  SPHP was glad to see Lupe had not arrived at a pinnacle surrounded by dangerous cliffs.  The top of the craggy knob wasn’t terribly large, but had a nice, flat area where Lupe could relax with a fantastic view of Eklunta Lake.

Lupe arrives up on top of the last craggy knob of Pepper Peak’s SW ridge. She had a nice flat area on which to relax. The view of Eklunta Lake more than 4,000 feet below was fantastic! Photo looks SE.

As Lupe had approached the craggy knob, SPHP caught a glimpse of a rounded hill some distance beyond it.  The truth became clear even before Lupe reached the top of the knob.  This last knob of rock was not the summit of Pepper Peak.  The true summit was over at the top of the rounded hill.

This wasn’t bad news.  In fact, it was good news!  The remaining distance to the true summit was an easy trek.  The trail followed an almost level final stretch of ridgeline straight toward it.  Piece of cake!  When Lupe arrived, she was going to find a nice, big, roomy summit.  She could be there in minutes!

Even before Lupe reached the top of the final crag of rock coming up the SW ridge, the last stretch of the ridgeline leading to the true summit of Pepper Peak came into view. Getting there was going to be a piece of cake! Photo looks N.

The views were so amazing, Lupe and SPHP stayed on the last craggy knob of rock for a few minutes before continuing on.

The final journey to the true summit was joyous.  Lupe was going to make it to the top of Pepper Peak!  She arrived to find a large cairn at the high point at the N end of a spacious summit.  This was it.  More than 4,500 feet above where she’d started, Lupe stood at the very top of Pepper Peak (5,381 ft.)!

Lupe reaches the true summit of Pepper Peak! Twin Peaks, and the saddle leading over to them, are in view beyond her. Photo looks NW.

The summit of Pepper Peak was an amazing place!  Lupe had sweeping 360° panoramic views.  Nearby, she could see many peaks of similar elevation.  Long, barren ridges, many knife-edged, connected one peak to another to another.  In between the ridges were deep U-shaped valleys carved by long departed giant glaciers of the ice age.  Eklunta Lake was a beautiful highlight, with big snow and ice-covered peaks in sight miles away beyond its S end.

However, Pepper Peak had a lot more to offer than just the glories relatively close at hand.  Pepper Peak is a place for binoculars.  Despite not being the highest peak around, Lupe could see tremendous distances in most directions.  On the far horizons gleamed many white wonders of Alaska.  SPHP knew the names of a few, but most were unknown places of mystery, glimpsed for the first time from afar here on Pepper Peak.

One of the more spectacular high peaks in the distance far from Pepper Peak. Photo looks ESE using the telephoto lens.
Many of the grand peaks visible in the distance from Pepper Peak were so far away, it was next to impossible to get both Lupe and the distant mountain in focus in the same photo.

To the SW, barely visible beyond shimmering Cook Inlet, Lupe could make out Redoubt Volcano (10,197 ft.) and nearby white mountains of the Aleutian Range.  Redoubt was so far away, it hardly even showed up in a photo.  To the NW, still far off, but somewhat closer, were the colossal peaks of the Alaska Range.  Mount Foraker (17,400 ft.) and Denali (20,310 ft.) at least showed up using the camera’s telephoto lens.

Denali, the highest mountain in North America, from Pepper Peak using the telephoto lens. Photo looks NW.
Mount Foraker. Photo looks NW.
Unknown peaks of the Alaska Range visible from Pepper Peak. Photo looks NW.

To the ESE, Lupe saw a huge, long snowy ridge.  SPHP had no idea what the names of any of those mountains along the ridge were, but the sight was spectacular, and not quite so far away.  In fact, the views toward the E and S were the most amazing of any Lupe saw from Pepper Peak.  The amount of snow and ice visible, even from a distance, was incredible!

Amazing sights were to the E & S of Pepper Peak. Lupe saw this huge, long, towering ridge of white mountains. Photo looks ESE.
Looking ESE with even a little more help from the telephoto lens.
Many people only go as far on the Twin Peaks trail as the first or second bench. Nice, of course, but only by coming all the way up to the top of Pepper Peak will you see this!
The huge snowy ridge connected to an enormous snowfield to the S. Photo looks SE.
Wow! Gorgeous! Love that soft appearing pure white ridge on the R.

Of course, Eklunta Lake to the SSE and the snowy peaks beyond it were highlights of the views from Pepper Peak, too!

Eklunta Lake from the summit of Pepper Peak. The high peak on the left is Bold Peak (7,522 ft.). Photo looks SSE.
Peaks beyond Eklunta Lake through the telephoto lens. Photo looks SSE.
More peaks beyond Eklunta Lake. Still looking SSE, but a bit more toward the S.
Bold Peak (7,522 ft.), seen again here, is a couple miles E of the S end of Eklunta Lake. Photo looks SE.
S end of Eklunta Lake using the telephoto lens.

Before arriving at the summit of Pepper Peak, SPHP had given some thought to having Lupe go on to Shaker Peak (5,089 ft.), about a mile away to the SE.  However, the views were so splendid from Pepper Peak, and it had been such a long climb to get here, that the Shaker Peak idea got dropped.

Lupe was fine with the decision.  It meant she got a nice long rest on Pepper Peak, while SPHP continued to stare off into the distance in fascination.

Anyone out there know the name of this eye-catching mountain?
Looking N toward Palmer and the Matanuska River. Lazy Mountain (3,740 ft.) is seen on the R. Lupe hoped to climb Lazy Mountain tomorrow!
It was hard not to keep coming back to this view again and again. It made such an impression! Photo looks ESE.
SPHP believes the top of Shaker Peak is in view here on the lower right. Photo looks SE.
Looking ESE again.
Lupe at Pepper Peak’s summit cairn with Mount Foraker(L) and Denali(R) in the distance. Photo looks NW.
Lupe with Denali in the background. Lupe never got a clear view of Denali when she had been in Denali State Park. The titanic mountain had almost always been completely hidden in the clouds. She had a clear, if distant, view of it from Pepper Peak, though! Photo looks NW.

Looper and SPHP stayed up on Pepper Peak for more than 2 hours.  Only one other person came up to the summit during all that time, despite the perfect weather.  An Alaskan named Craig appeared from the Twin Peaks route.

SPHP raved about the views from Pepper Peak.  To Craig, though, Pepper Peak was just another pleasant summit among many in Alaska.  Craig stayed all of 10 minutes on top, then headed for the SW ridge Lupe had come up.  Another day, another amazing mountain in Alaska, ho-hum.

SPHP’s enthusiasm wasn’t diminished in the least.  Lupe seemed happy here, too!

Loopster on Pepper Peak with gorgeous Eklunta Lake as a backdrop. Photo looks SSE.
Lupe keeps an eye on the sky. You never know when another Pterodactyl might choose to come swooping down on you around here!
Did you bring any water, SPHP? I’m getting thirsty just looking at this.
Well, did you? Bold Peak on the L.
Hmmm, this is starting to look faintly familiar. Sure is beautiful, though! Loopster, we need one of these for the back yard!
This would do nicely, as well.

Lupe was just chillin’ up on Pepper Peak, while SPHP took more photos of photographed photos.  Although time was moving on, SPHP found it difficult to tear away from the tremendous views.  Mountain mania continued a little longer.

Lupe chillin’ on Pepper Peak with the Twin Peaks in view beyond her. Photo looks WNW.
Lupe wasn’t in any big hurry to leave either. She liked Pepper Peak just fine. Photo looks SW.
See that white peak poking up on the far left? SPHP wondered if Lupe hadn’t also seen it from The Ramp (5,240 ft.) a couple of days ago.
Looking S.
This photo doesn’t make as much use of the telephoto lens, but shows the relationships between some of the peaks better.
Sweet! Cranking up the telephoto lens for an even closer look than before.

After more than 2 hours on Pepper Peak, it really was time to go.  Even so, it was hard to tear away from the incomparable views.  This climb had been so worthwhile!  SPHP was very glad Lupe had made the trip.  At last, though, Lupe had to begin the trek back to the G6.

On the way down, Lupe was going to take the Twin Peaks route, even though it meant not being able to see as much along the way.  The Twin Peaks route did have one advantage.  Lupe would avoid the rocky scramble along the upper part of Pepper Peak’s SW ridge.

Exactly how to get to the Twin Peaks route wasn’t entirely clear.  One thing was for certain.  Lupe needed to get down to the saddle between Pepper Peak and Twin Peaks.  Craig had reached the summit cairn coming up from the N, which was the shortest route and probably made the most sense.

Lupe, however, started off going S back down toward the last rocky knob she’d reached on the SW ridge on the way up.  Before she quite got to it, she turned sharply back toward the N, following sheep trails below and to the W of the summit of Pepper Peak toward the saddle to Twin Peaks.

Approaching the last rocky knob of Pepper Peak’s SW ridge (seen on the L) on the way down from the summit. From here, Lupe turned sharply almost 180° back toward the right. She followed sheep trails below the summit over to the saddle between Pepper Peak and Twin Peaks. This worked just fine, though Craig’s more direct route going N from the summit was shorter and probably just as easy. Photo looks WSW.
Looking back up toward Pepper Peak from the saddle leading to Twin Peaks. Photo looks SSE.
Lupe saw a couple herds of sheep way over on the slopes of the Twin Peaks. Several dozen sheep were in sight. Photo taken using the telephoto lens.

The trail Lupe was following along the saddle seemed determined to stay up on the ridgeline.  Perhaps SPHP gave up on the trail too soon?  Lupe and SPHP left it to start heading down into the Thachkatnu Creek valley, expecting to find another trail down there before too long.  That didn’t happen.

As is often the case, Lupe had most of her fun on the Pepper Peak excursion on the way back to the G6.  She loved roaming the tundra in the Thachkatnu Creek valley!  She ran far and wide, sniffing and exploring.  At times she was just a distant speck of a Dingo.  Once she reappeared from a completely unexpected direction after being out of sight for a few minutes.

Pepper Peak from the upper part of the Thachkatnu Creek valley, still not terribly far below the saddle between Pepper Peak and the Twin Peaks. Photo looks SE.

The route back down via the saddle and Thachkatnu Creek valley had absolutely no scrambling, exposure, or areas of loose rock.  So it’s perfectly possible to reach the top of Pepper Peak completely avoiding that kind of thing.  Somewhere, there’s probably a decent trail much of the way, but it must have been closer to Twin Peaks than Lupe and SPHP went.

For a long, long way, Lupe and SPHP lost elevation without coming to a trail.  The vegetation became denser and taller as Lupe went lower.  However, she didn’t get quite all the way down to where the tall bushes and forest started in earnest.  Lupe finally found a trail when she was about at the elevation of the second (higher) bench on the Twin Peaks trail.  By then, she wasn’t that far away from it.

Lupe and SPHP lost even more elevation crossing Thachkatnu Creek, but immediately had to regain it, climbing steeply on the other side.  Not too surprisingly, Lupe arrived at the Twin Peaks trail right at the second bench.  All that remained was a long, pleasant downhill stroll on the Twin Peaks trail.

Near the first bench, Lupe saw Eklunta Lake in the evening sunlight one more time from above.

Eklunta Lake in the evening sunlight from near the first bench on the Twin Peaks trail. Photo looks SE.

And one more time, Lupe followed the Yellow Leaf trail, this time all the way to the end of her magnificent Pepper Peak adventure.  (8:38 PM, 58°F)

On the Yellow Leaf trail once more.


Chugach State Park

Chugach State Park Map

Chugach State Park Brochure

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Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 201 – Summits on the Air! (Silver Mountain, 4-22-17)

Start 9:16 AM, 48°F, Boulder Hill Road (USFS Road No. 358) 0.5 mile N of Hwy 16.

Note: Summits on the Air is an awards scheme for radio amateurs that encourages portable operation in mountainous areas.  A point system awards points for both transmitting (“activating”) from a mountain or picking up the signal (“chasing”).

Joe & cousin Dusty were in town!  That meant one thing – time for some Summits on the Air action!  Lupe was all for it.  She and Dusty arrived at the top of Silver Mountain around 10 AM.  It was a beautiful day to be on the mountain.

Lupe hadn’t been on Silver Mountain in more than 2 years. Although the views are excellent, Silver Mountain is not one of Lupe’s favorites. Target practice gunfire can usually be heard off to the W, which makes her nervous. To Lupe’s dismay, the guns were blazing away again today. Boulder Hill (5,331 ft.) is in view on the L. Photo looks NE.
Cousin Dusty just below the summit. The distant gunfire didn’t bother Dusty at all. She paid not the slightest attention to it.
Dusty lives in Arvada, Colorado, but was up in South Dakota for a weekend visit. Dusty really likes exploring the Black Hills with Lupe.

Joe had posted notification on the Summits on the Air website that AA0Q (his call letters) would “activate” (start transmitting from) Silver Mountain at 11:00 AM.  With an hour to go, he had plenty of time to set up his antenna and portable Ham radio.

Preparations to start transmitting from Silver Mountain included setting up this 16 or 17′ long antenna with four lateral wires at the very summit. Photo looks NE.

Joe said he liked the layout on Silver Mountain (5,405 ft.).  The forest had burned years ago, so there were no big trees around to obstruct the views in any direction.  The mountain sloped away fairly steeply on most sides with nothing any higher for at least a couple of miles in any direction.

Although Silver Mountain was a good physical setup for Ham radio transmissions, Joe wasn’t at all certain how well things were going to work out.  The 11 year sunspot cycle hits its low in just a couple more years, and atmospheric conditions are usually best for amateur radio band transmissions when sunspot activity is high, not low.

As it got close to 11 AM, everything was ready to go.  The antenna and portable radio were all set up.  SPHP was trained to keep a simple log of Joe’s contacts.  Lupe and Dusty were prepared to ward off any intruders.

At 10:55 AM, Joe started transmitting in Morse code, receiving a first response almost instantly.  That contact “spotted” AA0Q on SOTA’s website confirming contact with Joe.  Silver Mountain was on the air!

An immediate explosion of activity came from dozens of “chasers” all trying to make contact at the same time.  AA0Q was overwhelmed by the response, as usual.  Joe did his best to make rapid contact with as many of the chasers as possible, but it was impossible to respond to more than a fraction.

AA0Q hard at it shortly after “activating” Silver Mountain. Photo looks SE.
Dusty relaxes nearby while Joe works the Ham radio. Response from the chasers, as usual, was initially overwhelming.

Atmospheric conditions were changing rapidly.  Joe and the chasers often exchanged signal strength information, which varied wildly over the span of only a few minutes.  Of course, part of the variation was due to the different locations of the chasers.  Successful contacts were made with operators in Arizona, California, Pennsylvania, the Carolinas and several other states.

With chasers lined up in droves trying to get through, each contact had to be brief.

So, Uncle Joe, how is it going? Heard anything from anyone on Squirrel Mountain, yet? Lupe checks on AA0Q’s SOTA progress. Photo looks E.
This photo shows the overall setup. The rocky summit ridge wasn’t the best for comfort, but AA0Q managed pretty well. Photo looks NNE.
AA0Q’s portable radio in use on Silver Mountain.

For the first 10 or 15 minutes, conditions gradually improved.  Signals were getting a little stronger on average, despite bouncing around.  Later on, conditions deteriorated.  At times the “bands” were down for a minute or two.  AA0Q got a chance to shift to a more comfortable position.

As time went by, the bands went down intermittently, giving Joe a chance to shift to a more comfortable position. Photo looks SSW.

By 11:30 AM, 35 minutes after Joe started transmitting, it was over.  The bands were consistently weak.  The chasers had either made contact with AA0Q, or given up by now.  Even when conditions improved momentarily, no one was left still trying to make contact.  Evidently it was time to take down the antenna and put the radio away.

Joe at the top of Silver Mountain shortly before taking the antenna down. Photo looks NNE.
Silver Mountain was the 3rd Black Hills peak AA0Q has activated. In July, 2016, Lupe and SPHP had accompanied Joe & Dusty to Custer Peak and Boulder Hill.

AA0Q had made 27 contacts in 35 minutes, so Joe was pleased with the overall results.  Despite spotty atmospheric conditions, Silver Mountain had been a successful Summits on the Air outing.  There always seem to be way more chasers than it’s possible to make contact with right after activating a peak, but Joe had done all he could.

Lupe got a pat from AA0Q for her guide services.

Lupe earns a pat from AA0Q for her Black Hills peak guide services. Photo looks NE.

Once the radio equipment was put away, it was time for a final look around at the views, followed by a short exploration of Silver Mountain’s summit area.  Of course, the most impressive view was toward Black Elk Peak (7,231 ft.), the highest mountain in South Dakota.

Black Elk Peak (7,231 ft.) (R of Center) from Silver Mountain. Hwy 16 is seen below. Photo looks SW.

Silver Mountain’s summit area features two ridges running roughly N/S.  The E ridge where Joe had set up the radio equipment is the highest.  However, only a short distance to the W is an even rockier and more interesting ridge.  The W ridge is only slightly lower than the E one.

The slightly lower, but more dramatic W ridge. Photo looks NW.

Between the two ridges, at the base of the E one, is one of many Dingo outposts Lupe has discovered scattered throughout the Black Hills.

Joe inspects Lupe’s Silver Mountain Dingo outpost. Joe was pretty certain it didn’t meet current building codes, but adventurous American Dingoes don’t give two hoots about that. Boulder Hill is in view beyond it. Photo looks NNE.

Joe was intrigued by the W ridge.  He got up on top for a few minutes for a look around.  Lupe and Dusty stayed below.

Joe got up on the W ridge for a look around. Slightly lower, Lupe is partially hidden among the small trees on the L, while Dusty sniffs around in the foreground. Photo looks W.

With Silver Mountain’s summit area explored, everyone headed back to the G6.  There was still tons of time left in the day.  Joe wanted to go climb Boulder Hill (5,331 ft.) again.  Everyone piled into the G6.  Joe drove 0.5 mile N to the start of the access road only 0.25 mile SW of the summit.

An easy trek along the access road led to a scenic path that winds up the large rock formation at the top of the mountain.  Soon Lupe was at the summit with a great view looking back at Silver Mountain (5,405 ft.).

Silver Mountain (Center) from Boulder Hill. Photo looks SSW.

Joe has liked Boulder Hill ever since first climbing it with Lupe, Dusty and SPHP exactly one year ago on 4-22-16.  In fact, he liked it so much that first time, everyone had come back to make a second ascent the very next day!  On the 4th of July, Joe had even done a Summits on the Air activation of Boulder Hill.

Today’s Expedition No. 201 was Joe and Dusty’s 4th time up on Boulder Hill with Lupe and SPHP.  Good times!

Joe on Boulder Hill near the area where he’d done a Summits on the Air activation of the peak on 7-4-16. Back then his antenna had been propped up in the big pine tree seen directly beyond him. Photo looks NW.
Joe & Dusty together with Lupe on top of Boulder Hill for the 4th time. The first time up for Joe and Dusty had been exactly one year ago! Photo looks SE.

No Summits on the Air activation of Boulder Hill was planned for today.  This was a pleasure excursion, just to see the views.

Silver Mountain (L). Photo looks SSW.
Silver Mountain with a little help from the telephoto lens. The more dramatic, rocky W ridge is seen to the R of the true summit. Photo looks SSW.

After lingering at the top of the mountain for 15 minutes, everyone started back down.  Time to head back to Lupe’s grandma’s house for food, fun and games.  Lupe and Dusty looked forward to an afternoon of squeaker ball, tennis ball and flying disc action in grandma’s front yard.  (End 2:00 PM, 62°F)

Joe (lower R) starts the trek down. Photo looks S.
Lupe’s cousin Dusty on Boulder Hill. Photo looks E.


Summits on the Air official website

Expedition No. 174(a) – Summits on the Air!  (Custer Peak, 7-2-16)

Expedition No. 174(b) – Summits on the Air!  (Boulder Hill, 7-4-16)

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Flattop Mountain, Blueberry Knoll & Thunder Bird Falls, Chugach State Park, Alaska (8-30-16)

Day 32 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska

The replacement part didn’t look the same as the original one.  Figures.  SPHP didn’t have the tools, or the knowledge required to fix the problem.  Better not mess with it any more.  For some reason, lots of bees were flying around the O’Reilly Auto Parts store parking lot, and SPHP is allergic.  Time to get out of here!  Even though the G6’s right front headlight still wasn’t working, SPHP reassembled everything.

When SPHP had taken it all apart, hoping to simply replace the low beam headlight bulb, it turned out that wasn’t the problem.  The bulb was fine, but the socket it fit into was partially melted.  O’Reilly had the replacement part, or something that was supposed to work, for less than $10.

However, there was no telling what it would take to find someone here in Anchorage who knew where that extra wire on the replacement socket should go, and had both the time and tools needed to install it.  A simple oil change had been $60, and taken hours to line up this morning.

When Lupe got home to the Black Hills in South Dakota, SPHP was going to just order a whole new headlight assembly and be done with it.  That meant the $50 fix-it ticket would have to be paid, since there was no way an Alaskan state trooper would ever get to inspect the new headlight to confirm it worked, but that’s life.  Que sera, sera.

No more wasting Lupe’s precious time in Alaska!  The morning had already shot by.  Fortunately, there was a nice little adventure she could do this afternoon.  Lupe could climb Flattop Mountain (3,510 ft.), the most frequently climbed mountain in Alaska, with great views of Anchorage from the top!

Back to the Glenn Alps Trailhead (2:39 PM, 61°F)!  Only yesterday, Lupe had started off from here for a fabulous day spent climbing The Wedge (4,660 ft.) and The Ramp (5,240 ft.).  Glenn Alps, located on the SE side of Anchorage, was also the trailhead for Flattop.  Having spent all morning lazing around resting up in the G6, Lupe was ready and raring to go.

Lupe starts off for Flattop Mountain, seen beyond her. The trail to the top of Flattop from the Glenn Alps trailhead is about 1.6 miles long and gains about 1,300 feet of elevation. Photo looks SE.

Climbing Flattop wasn’t going to be the solitary, wilderness type experience Lupe had enjoyed most of yesterday climbing The Wedge and The Ramp.  On this beautiful, warm summer afternoon, the trail to Flattop Mountain was packed with hikers (and dogs) of all descriptions.

The trail started off entering a forest, but Lupe was soon beyond that.  She followed the trail gaining elevation gradually as it led her around the SW side of Blueberry Knoll (2,625 ft.).  Flattop Mountain was directly ahead.

Flattop Mountain from the SW slope of Blueberry Knoll. Reportedly, there are 2 ways up Flattop. Everyone seemed to be taking the steepest, most direct route, which climbs up the ridge on the L protruding toward the camera. Lupe took the steep route, too. Lupe never saw the easier route, which presumably goes up somewhere more to the W (R). Photo looks SE.

Once around Blueberry Knoll, the trail swept around the SW (R) side of another, steeper hill, part of the ridge extending NNW from Flattop Mountain.  The trail steepened as it turned E (L) again back toward a saddle between this higher hill and the rest of Flattop Mountain.  Lupe encountered a long series of wood framed steps filled with dirt and gravel on the way to the saddle.

Reportedly, there are two popular routes up Flattop Mountain.  The steepest, most direct, route switchbacks right up the slope from the saddle to the top of Flattop.  An easier route presumably goes somewhere more to the W (R).  Lupe and SPHP never saw the trail for the easier route, although it likely separates from the steeper route somewhere close to, or a little above the saddle.

On this warm, dry, summer day, everyone seemed to be taking the steepest route right on up.  Lupe took the steep route, too.

Lupe on the switchbacks of the steep route. After a bit of a light scramble, the trail eventually reaches the top a little to the R of Center.

The switchbacks brought Lupe quite close to the top of the mountain, but the last 50 to 75 feet of elevation gain was more difficult.  Here, the going was steeper, with large rocks and big steps up.  A little light scrambling was required to reach the top.  Nothing too tricky, but a bit of caution needed to be exercised along in here.

Lupe reached the top of Flattop Mountain a short distance W of an American flag flying at the N end of the summit area.  Everyone was busy getting their pictures taken next to the flag.  While Lupe was waiting for the crowd to clear out for her turn, she went to investigate some big cairns nearby.

Climbing Flattop Mountain, Lupe had gained about 1,300 feet of elevation, only a fraction of what she’d gained climbing The Wedge (4,660 ft.) and The Ramp (5,240 ft.) yesterday.  However, she had a decent view of both mountains from Flattop.

Lupe waits for her turn for a picture at the American flag on Flattop Mountain from a big cairn nearby. Beyond her are O’Malley Peak (5,150 ft.) (L), The Ramp (pointy peak L of Center), and The Wedge (on the R straight up from Lupe’s head). Lupe had climbed both The Ramp and The Wedge yesterday. Photo looks E.

Soon it was Lupe’s turn for a picture at the American flag.

An American Dingo stands proudly next to the American flag on Flattop Mountain. Photo looks N.

Of course, with a name like Flattop Mountain, the summit area was very large, and rather, umm, flat.  The top of the mountain was stony, and completely open with very little vegetation.

Still, there were a few things to explore.  People had constructed big cairns, and even a large, circular stone fort.  The true summit was at a collection of rocks off toward the SW.  The mountain offered 360° views.  While most people congregated near the American flag, Lupe went off to see what there was to see.

Powerline Pass is seen on the L. Just to the R of it is South Powerline Peak (4,500 ft.). The greenish near hill should be Peak 2 (3,609 ft.), with Peak 3 (4,068 ft.) seen beyond it on the R. The highest peak near Center is either Ptarmigan Peak (4,910 ft.) or possibly Flaketop Peak (4,488 ft.). Photo looks SE.
A closer look through the telephoto lens. Peak 2 at lower L, Peak 3 on the R, with either Flaketop or Ptarmigan Peak in the distance near the Center. Photo looks SE.
Lupe near the circular stone fort. Photo looks S toward McHugh Peak (4,308 ft.).
Loop at the true summit of Flattop Mountain. Photo looks NW toward Anchorage and Cook Inlet.
Downtown Anchorage seen through the telephoto lens. Nearly all of Anchorage is in view from Flattop Mountain. The view of the city lights at night must be grand!
The Turnagain Arm from Flattop Mountain. S Anchorage is seen below. Photo looks SW.
Although Lupe was here on a cloudless day, the air was still somewhat hazy, perhaps due to humidity. This photo looks NW using the telephoto lens to see past Anchorage and Fire Island toward the giant snowy peaks beyond Cook Inlet. Sunsets must be awesome from Flattop Mountain with the city of Anchorage, ocean, and impressive mountains all in view!
Looper on top of Flattop with Peak 2, Peak 3 and Ptarmigan or Flaketop beyond. Photo looks SE.
The Ramp(L) from Flattop. Photo looks E.

Too bad Lupe and SPHP didn’t do things in reverse order this day!  The views of the Turnagain Arm, Cook Inlet, and Knik Arm of the ocean, plus all the surrounding mountains at sunset would have been a sight to behold!  Shortly after that, Lupe would have had a sweeping view of all the lights of Anchorage at night.

Still, Lupe got a great look at everything under bright, blue skies on a warm, calm day, so she had to count herself lucky.  Sunset was hours away, so it was time to press on.  Lupe could have gone on to Peak 2, but after yesterday’s big adventure, SPHP wasn’t up to it and had something milder in mind.  Lupe started back down Flattop Mountain the same way she’d come up.

Looking back down toward the Glenn Alps Trailhead from Flattop. Blueberry Knoll is the large gently rounded hill with the trail on it to the L, and the trailhead parking lot just beyond it on the R. Lupe would make the minor climb to the top of Blueberry Knoll on the way back to the G6. Photo looks N.

On the way back to the G6, Lupe and SPHP left the main trail to make the almost trivial trek to the top of Blueberry Knoll.  The views were good even from here!

Looking back at Flattop Mountain from Blueberry Knoll. Photo looks S.
Lupe balances precariously atop the soaring spires of Blueberry Knoll! Oh, OK, so it was almost as flat as North Dakota, so what? The views were still sweet, and Blueberry Knoll is worth the climb if one doesn’t have the time or energy to go all the way up Flattop. Photo looks SSW.
A final look at Flattop Mountain from Blueberry Knoll.

Lupe reached the G6 again early in the evening (6:09 PM).  Soon she was saying good-bye to Anchorage for the final time, heading NE on the Glenn Highway (Alaska Route 1).  The drive was wonderful!   It was 75°F!  Lupe road perched high on her pillows and blankets with the windows open and a warm breeze blowing in her face.

Near milepost 25, SPHP took the Thunder Bird exit, parking less than 0.5 mile off the highway at the Thunder Bird Falls trailhead next to the Eklunta River (7:10 PM).  Lupe’s last adventure of the day was to go see Thunder Bird Falls, a 200 foot waterfall on Thunder Bird Creek.

A wide, well groomed trail goes for nearly a mile through a forest to the Thunder Bird Falls viewing platform perched along the side of a bluff.  The trail gained only 100 feet of elevation along the way.  Lupe passed by private homes in the forest W of the trail.  To the E, the Eklunta River flowed at the bottom of a deep, narrow gorge.

At one point, the trail went right to the edge of the cliff.  A fenced viewing platform let Lupe peer straight down to the river.

Looking down on either the Eklunta River or Thunder Bird Creek from a viewing platform along the Thunder Bird Falls trail.

Thunder Bird Creek is a tributary of the Eklunta River.  At some point along the way, Lupe passed by their unseen confluence.  The trail was now above Thunder Bird Creek.  Shortly before reaching the Thunder Bird Falls viewing platform, Lupe passed by a short side trail that goes down to the creek near the base of the falls.

The view of Thunder Bird Falls from the platform at the end of the trail was somewhat surprising.  The falls cascades down a very narrow gorge, twisting along the way.  Only part of Thunder Bird Falls was actually in view.

Lupe on the Thunder Bird Falls viewing platform.
Thunder Bird Falls plunges 200 feet down a very narrow gorge, twisting as it goes. Even from the viewing platform, only part of it could be seen. Note the trail on the lower L. It is not part of the Thunder Bird Falls trail, and can only be reached by fording the creek. It leads to a much closer, dramatic, and precarious view of the falls.

Naturally, Lupe and SPHP were curious about what could be seen of the falls from below.  After leaving the viewing platform, Lupe took the nearby trail down to Thunder Bird Creek.

Lupe on the side trail down to Thunder Bird Creek. The entire Thunder Bird Falls trail was wide and well-groomed as seen here. Round trip from the trailhead is less than 2 miles, perhaps a bit more if you go down to the creek like Lupe did.
Of course, no trip to a creek is complete without sampling the water quality. Clear, cold Thunder Bird Creek got the Carolina Dog seal of approval!

As it turned out, unless one is willing to get wet, there was little to be seen of Thunder Bird Falls from below, although the valley was humid with mist and the roar of the falls came from just around a corner.

This was as close as Lupe got to Thunder Bird Falls, and all that could be seen of it from below, unless you were willing to get wet and cold.

Thunder Bird Falls did provide a bit of excitement while Lupe was there.  Three teenagers were crossing Thunder Bird Creek, intent on climbing the short, slick, steep muddy trail to a much closer and precarious viewpoint right next to the falls.  The last girl slipped on her way across the creek.  She plunged in getting soaking wet with a shriek that made certain big soft Dingo ears momentarily stand on end!

Despite her chilly reception in Thunder Bird Creek, the girl was tough enough to get herself up and out pronto.  She continued across the creek and joined her friends to climb the muddy trail and see Thunder Bird Falls close up.

Three teenagers (the last one totally drenched from a spill in the creek) climb the steep, slick trail to a close up view of Thunder Bird Falls. It was a trek Lupe and SPHP decided to forego.

Lupe would soon make the peaceful, pleasant return trip along the Thunder Bird Falls trail as sunlight filtered through the trees on her way back to the G6 (8:11 PM).  She’d had a pretty easy, relaxing day.  Tomorrow she had a much bigger, tougher adventure ahead.  For now, though, we leave Lupe along clear-running Thunder Bird Creek, near the roar and mist of Thunder Bird Falls.

Lupe along Thunder Bird Creek, Chugach State Park, Alaska

Glenn Alps Trailhead directions:  In Anchorage, from the Seward Highway take O’Malley Road E toward the mountains.  Turn R on Hillside Drive, then L on Upper Huffman Road.  Follow signs to the trailhead at the end of Toilsome Road.  $5.00 daily parking fee applies.

Thunder Bird Falls Trailhead directions:  From Anchorage or Eagle River, take the Glenn Hwy (Alaska Route 1) going NE to the Thunder Bird Falls exit near milepost 25.  The trailhead is on the R about 0.5 mile from the highway.  From Palmer, take the Glenn Hwy going SW.  Turn at the exit for Eklunta Lake (milepost 26 or 27) to get on the old Glenn Hwy.  Go SW past the turn for Eklunta Lake.  The Thunder Bird Falls trailhead is on the L immediately after crossing the Eklunta River.  $5.00 daily parking fee applies.


Chugach State Park

Chugach State Park Map

Chugach State Park Brochure

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Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 200 – Horsethief Lake Trail No. 14 & Beyond to Peak 6735 in the Black Elk Wilderness (4-15-17)

SPHP parked the G6 at the Big Pine trailhead for Centennial Trail No. 89 (9:50 AM, 49°F).  The road to the Horsethief Lake trailhead had been closed, but this was close enough.  Lupe crossed Hwy 244, followed Centennial Trail No. 89 a short distance, then left it to cut down through the forest to the Horsethief Lake campground.

The stroll through the campground was easy – a paved road wound between tall pines past campsites all the way to some sites right on Horsethief Lake.   No one was around.  The campground was closed.  Tourist season wouldn’t start for another month.  Only 2 or 3 miles from Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Horsethief Lake campground is a really nice place to stay when it’s open.

Lupe wasn’t staying, of course.  She was here for her 200th Black Hills Expedition!  She did go down to the lakeshore at a couple of spots on her way to the Horsethief Lake trailhead.

Lupe arrives at Horsethief Lake ready for her 200th Black Hills Expedition! She’s still in the campground here. The trailhead for Horsethief Lake Trail No. 14 into the Black Elk Wilderness is in the forest on the far side of the lake. Photo looks SSE.
Horsethief Lake isn’t very big. About half of it is seen here. Hwy 244 crosses the dam in view at the far side of the lake. Photo looks NNE.

An extensive trail system leads into the Black Elk Wilderness, some of which sees heavy traffic while the majority of it sees relatively little use.  Trail No. 9 from Sylvan Lake to Black Elk Peak (7,231 ft.) (formerly Harney Peak) and Trail No. 4 to Little Devil’s Tower (6,960 ft.) are the most popular, but Lupe wasn’t headed to either of those places today.

A short walk S from the lake up a gravel road brought Lupe to the trailhead for the 2.8 mile long Horsethief Lake Trail No. 14.  SPHP stopped briefly to register, and Lupe was on her way!

Lupe awaits the start of her day’s adventure at the Horsethief Lake Trail No. 14 trailhead.

Lupe entered the Black Elk Wilderness.  Horsethief Lake Trail No. 14 went S in a narrow valley featuring a small stream.  All around were massive granite formations, many with nearly vertical sides towering far above the creek.  Lupe drank from the stream and watched for squirrels in the trees, while SPHP paid more attention to the impressive rocks.

Wow! How many expeditions have we been on since there’s been an actual stream, SPHP? Seems like forever! This is nice!
Many massive granite formations tower above Horsethief Lake Trail No. 14. These formations are typical features of the Black Elk Wilderness.
This first part of Trail No. 14 gained elevation most of the time as it went S. It was a bit steep only along a few short sections. The trail crossed the stream a number of times, but Lupe easily leapt across.

The first 0.75 mile of Horsethief Lake Trail No. 14 followed the stream and led to a junction with the 111 mile long Centennial Trail No. 89.  Near the end of this first stretch, Lupe saw a couple of women.  They were watching children scrambling around on nearby rocks.  Lupe would see no one else the rest of the day.

Getting to the junction with Centennial Trail No. 89 was easy and hadn’t taken long.

Well, this was easy! Piece of cake! … You’ve barely started sweet puppy, just wait!
At the junction of Horsethief Lake Trail No. 14 & Centennial Trail No. 89. Lupe had just come up the trail on the L and would be taking the trail toward the camera.

At the 3-way junction with Centennial Trail No. 89, Lupe took the trail to the R.  For several hundred feet or more, Horsethief Lake Trail No. 14 and Centennial Trail No. 89 share the same path.  It only took Lupe a few minutes to reach another intersection where the trails divided again.  Lupe went L, staying on Horsethief Lake Trail No. 14.

She was now headed into the heart of the Black Elk Wilderness.

Entering the heart of the Black Elk Wilderness, Lupe found these big mossy boulders near a stream.

Two miles of Horsethief Trail No. 14 remained after it separated from Centennial Trail No. 89.  For the first mile, the trail continued winding S, gaining elevation at a slowly increasing rate.  The small creek was sometimes nearby, and the trail crossed it again.  Lupe still wandered among huge granite formations.

Lupe was still among massive granite formations as Horsethief Lake Trail No. 14 continued S after separating from Centennial Trail No. 89.
The trail crossed the small stream again. Eventually the stream disappeared entirely as Lupe gained elevation.

The sky had clouded up by now.  Rain threatened, but only a few drops fell.  Small patches of blue sky here and there showed that nothing serious was in the works.

The small stream eventually disappeared.  Lupe was approaching a pass.  When she got there, a fallen tree was wedged in place over the trail.

Lupe came upon this fallen tree suspended over Horsethief Lake Trail No. 14 at the top of the pass.

The forest in the Black Elk Wilderness has been devastated by pine bark beetles in recent years.  Dead trees have broken and fallen in tremendous numbers over much of the landscape.  However, the trail had been clear so far.  Lupe had only begun encountering limited quantities of deadfall timber actually on the trail as she drew near the pass.

On the S side of the pass, the situation deteriorated steadily.  The farther Lupe went, the more deadfall she had to navigate over, under, or around.  Most of the trail was still clear, though.  She was still making good progress.

The trail lost elevation heading SW into the Grizzly Bear Creek drainage.  After a brief climb to a lower pass, Lupe’s peakbagging objective came into view for the first time.  Peak 6735 was almost dead ahead, but still more than 2 miles away as the crow flies.

Horsethief Lake Trail No. 14 descends through a shattered forest after going over a couple of passes. Lupe’s peakbagging objective, Peak 6735, is seen for the first time as the high point between the trees on the L. Dead ahead at center is Peak 6710. Photo looks SW.

Beyond the lower pass, Horsethief Lake Trail No. 14 lost elevation the rest of the way to where it ended at a junction with Grizzly Creek Trail No. 7.  Grizzly Bear Creek was flowing across No. 7 just S of the intersection.

Lupe was now 2.8 miles from the trailhead at Horsethief Lake.  She had lost 300 feet of elevation coming down to Grizzly Bear Creek from the pass.  She still had to gain nearly 1,400 feet from here to reach the summit of Peak 6735.

Loop reaches the junction with Grizzly Creek Trail No. 7 at the end of Horsethief Lake Trail No. 14.

So far, Lupe’d had an easy time of it.  Now she needed to follow Grizzly Creek Trail No. 7 upstream.  Right next to the intersection, two trees had fallen over the trail the way Lupe needed to go.  A couple of signs were taped to the trees.  What did they say?

The signs on the deadfall blocking Grizzly Creek Trail No. 7 weren’t encouraging.

Turn around?  Hah!  Not a chance.  The truth was, Lupe had climbed Peak 6735 once before, almost 3 years ago in June, 2014 on Expedition No. 92.  Lupe had come this same route back then.  So what, if the trail hadn’t been maintained in a while?  Lupe was going to leave Grizzly Creek Trail No. 7 pretty soon anyway.  Whatever deadfall was on the trail ahead was only a hint of what was in store off-trail.

Lupe and SPHP went right over the signs and started up Grizzly Creek Trail No. 7.  The trail went NW following Grizzly Bear Creek upstream.

Lupe at Grizzly Bear Creek.

Grizzly Creek Trail No. 7 had a lot of deadfall on it.  Lupe’s progress was slowed considerably, since SPHP couldn’t keep up with the agile American Dingo.  Lupe didn’t need to follow Grizzly Creek Trail No. 7 very far.  SPHP watched for a field to appear on the opposite (SW) side of the creek.  When it came into view after 0.25 mile or so, Lupe left the trail and crossed Grizzly Bear Creek.

Lupe crosses Grizzly Bear Creek after leaving the trail. From here on, she had no trail to follow the rest of the way to Peak 6735.

From here on, there was no trail.  Lupe traveled W through the tall grass field.  This was as easy as it was going to get, but wouldn’t last long.  She stayed in the field, gaining elevation gradually as long as possible.

In the big field SE of Grizzly Bear Creek. Lupe traveled W, staying in the field as long as possible. Photo looks NW.

The field ended.  Lupe entered the forest.  The hard part of Expedition No. 200 was about to begin.  Peak 6735 was an unseen fortress in the sky defended by huge rock formations, a long steep climb, but most of all by a never-ending jungle of deadfall timber.  Lupe’s ordeal began in earnest.

On the way to Peak 6735 shortly after leaving Grizzly Creek Trail No. 7 and the big field behind.

At first, the terrain Lupe was on seemed unfamiliar.  This was actually a good thing.  The plan of attack was to stay NW of a rugged ridge leading SW up to High Point 6411.  It would be best if Lupe could avoid High Point 6411 entirely, and not reach the ridgeline until she was beyond it at a saddle leading to Peak 6710.

On Expedition No. 92, the plan had been the same, but Lupe had wound up following the ridgeline quite closely, which meant she had climbed clear up to the top of High Point 6411.  That feat was unnecessary, since she then had to find a way down, losing 130+ feet of elevation in the process.

The deadfall had been bad on Expedition No. 92.  It hadn’t improved one bit since then.  If anything, it was worse.  Lupe climbed and climbed.  She went over and under countless dead trees.  Progress was excruciatingly slow.  The higher Lupe went, the tougher things became.  Lupe started coming to large rock formations separated by steep stretches of devastated forest.

Gah!  Gradually it became apparent that, once again, Lupe was on the NE ridge.

Eh, Looper, looks like all reasonable routes from this direction lead naturally to High Point 6411.  Guess we’re going to get stuck going all the way up there again.

No worries, SPHP.  I’m doing fine, if we can just stop for a few water breaks now and then.  Jumping over all this mess is hard work!  When does the fun begin?

Heh, this is the fun!  At least, in a way it is.  The ultimate reward will be the views from the top of Peak 6735.

You know SPHP, there’s something sort of wrong with you.  Yeah, this is better than all the cactus on recent expeditions, but not that much.  Could we please go on some expeditions to easy terrain where the trees are alive and full of squirrels?  Do you ever even think about that?

I’ll try to remember to prioritize squirrels more in the future, Loop.

Promises, promises, but that would be nice!

The going got tougher as Lupe kept climbing. Another big rock formation is just ahead.

Slowly, slowly, up and up.  The rock formations on the ridgeline became larger and larger.  They were too big to go over.  Lupe had to go around them.  Sometimes it was easiest on the NW side of the ridge, sometimes on the SE side.  SPHP kept expecting Lupe to arrive at High Point 6411, but she didn’t.  How many of these rock formations would she have to work her way around?  SPHP couldn’t remember.

Meanwhile, the views were improving as Lupe gained elevation.  Everything in the distance now looked familiar.  Lupe was in one of the most rugged parts of the Black Hills here.  Beautiful large granite formations were all around.  Peak 6735 to the SW remained hidden from view most of the time, but Black Elk Peak (7,131 ft.) was often visible to the NW.

Yet another rocky high point on the ridge ahead. How many of these big rock formations would Lupe have to find a way past? SPHP couldn’t remember. Photo looks SW.
Black Elk Peak (Center), the highest mountain in South Dakota, was often in view as Lupe climbed ever higher up the ridge. Photo looks NW.
Lupe was in some of the most rugged country in the Black Hills. Photo looks NE back down the ridgeline she was coming up.

As expected, it finally happened.  Lupe reached the top of High Point 6411.  She’d had several water breaks on the way up, but now it was time for a longer break.  Lupe had Taste of the Wild.  SPHP ate an apple.

SPHP consulted the topo map.  It seemed like it had taken a long time to get here, but Lupe had covered a depressingly short distance from Grizzly Bear Creek.  On the bright side, she had gained a lot of the elevation required to reach Peak 6735. Unfortunately, she would have to give some of it back getting down off High Point 6411.

Since Lupe had come all the way to the top of High Point 6411, she might as well have a look around.  Peak 6735 was in view, but still nearly a mile away.

Peak 6735 was in view from High Point 6411, but still nearly a mile of deadfall infested territory away. Photo looks SSW.
At the summit of High Point 6411. Photo looks S.
On Expedition No. 92, Lupe had come within 10 feet or so of reaching the summit of Peak 6710 seen here on the L. Parts of the Cathedral Spires and Little Devil’s Tower are in view farther off on the R. Photo looks WSW.
Loopster at the very top of High Point 6411. Photo looks SSE.

The views were great from High Point 6411, but would be even better on Peak 6735.  Onward!  A first attempt to get down off High Point 6411 going WSW proved a little too steep for comfort.  Ugh!  Lupe climbed back up.  SPHP couldn’t remember how Lupe had gotten down on Expedition No. 92.

A foray to the WNW didn’t look promising at first, but worked out just fine.  Lupe made it down to the saddle leading to Peak 6710.  Once across the saddle, she started climbing again.  For a while, the terrain forced her to head directly toward Peak 6710, but this time she wasn’t going to go virtually all the way to the summit like she had on Expedition No. 92.

Once Looper made it past some more big rock formations, and was about as high as the saddle leading from Peak 6710 over to Peak 6735, she turned S and headed for the saddle.  She wound up higher on Peak 6710 than she needed to be, but skirted the summit a little way off to the SE.  Struggling through a thick forest of young pines choked with the endless deadfall, she finally got past Peak 6710.  The saddle to Peak 6735 was now close by.

Once Lupe skirted around the SE slope of Peak 6710, the saddle leading to Peak 6735 was directly ahead. Photo looks S.

Across the saddle and straight up the N ridge.  Lupe was getting close!  Near the end, the terrain wasn’t as steep, the deadfall a little less troublesome.  Suddenly Lupe was there!  Despite the mountain’s deadfall defenses, the plucky Carolina Dog stood at the top of Peak 6735.

Well, almost.  A dead tree with many annoying branches was leaning against the very highest rock at the summit, preventing Lupe from getting up on it.

Oh, no!  No way!  Lupe had gone over, under, or around hundreds, maybe thousands, of dead trees to get here.  The whole mountain was covered with and surrounded by wretched deadfall.  All those jillions of dead trees could stay exactly where nature placed them, except this one.  This one had to go!

Fortunately, the offending dead pine tree was smallish.  SPHP managed to drag it away from the summit rock and push it over the edge.  It fell only 10 feet, but at least it was out of the way.  The summit rock was clear.   Lupe stood on top!

After a long struggle through the deadfall, Lupe stands at the very top of Peak 6735. Photo looks NW.

At the top of Peak 6735, a short uneven ridge of rock ran for 30 feet in a line oriented roughly E/W.  The ridge sloped a little up toward a rock at the true summit near the E end.  The greater summit area was much larger and sloped down toward the SW, where a massive, but lower, granite platform ran along the SE edge.

When Lupe had been here nearly 3 years ago on Expedition No. 92, Peak 6735’s summit had many large dead pines still standing.  Some of them still were, but many had fallen over by now.  The fallen trees made it harder to move around, but the views were more sweeping and open now than they had been back then.  From seldom visited Peak 6735, Lupe had fantastic views of more than half of the entire Black Elk Wilderness!

After a suitably long rest break at the true summit, it was picture time.  Naturally, Lupe toured the entire summit area.

Peak 6920 (L) and Black Elk Peak (7,231 ft.) (R) from the true summit rock. Peak 6710 is the big rock formation to the R of Lupe’s head. Photo looks NW.
Looking NNW. Black Elk Peak on the L.
Looking E along the rocky summit ridge toward Loopster positioned at the very top.
Another look at Loop at the top. Photo looks SE.
Lupe found the cairn to her R sitting N of, and 8 or 10 feet below, the true summit of Peak 6735. SPHP hadn’t noticed any cairns when Lupe was here on Expedition No. 92, but maybe it was new since then? The large block of granite in the distance on the L is the back side of Mount Rushmore (5,725 ft.). Photo looks NE.
Lupe now at the W end of the summit ridge. The highest point seen on the distant ridge at the far R is the top of Sylvan Hill (7,000 ft.). Photo looks WSW from the true summit.
This photo shows a good deal of the greater summit area. Photo looks S.
Lupe now along the SE edge of the greater summit area. Photo looks SSE.
Looking SE.
A glance back up toward the true summit. Photo looks N.
Looking SW from the larger, but lower granite ridge along the SE edge of the summit area.
Looper strikes a dramatic American Dingo pose. Photo looks NE back toward the true summit from the far SW end of the greater summit area.
Looking S from the far SW end of the greater summit area.
Much of the greater summit area. Photo looks NE from the SW end.
Lupe near the true summit again after completing her tour. A lovely green carpet of kinnikinnick clings to a thin layer of soil. Photo looks NE.
Back up on the little true summit ridge. Photo looks WNW.

Conditions were beautiful on Peak 6735.  Lupe and SPHP lingered up here for quite a while, and would have loved to stay longer.  However, even though the sun wouldn’t set for at least a couple of hours yet, it was time to go.

Already it was way too late to try to go back the way Lupe had come up.  Traveling all that way through the deadfall took many hours.  Getting stuck out here away from the trail when night fell would have made it nearly impossible to do anything other than wait for dawn.  Even a deadfall-covered trail would be extremely difficult to follow at night.

On Expedition No. 92, Lupe had taken a shortcut back to Grizzly Creek Trail No. 7 by going around the E side of Peak 6710 and continuing N.  This shorter route back down to the trail had been very steep, but had worked.

SPHP wondered if Lupe shouldn’t try to avoid such a steep descent this time?  By heading beyond Peak 6710 towards Peak 6920, she wouldn’t have to lose much elevation before reaching Norbeck Trail No. 3 not too far from its junction with Grizzly Creek Trail No. 7.

The advantage was, this might be the easiest route out of here.  The disadvantage was, Lupe had never tried it before.

Lupe needed to get to a trail before dark, if she didn’t want to wind up stuck in all the deadfall all night long. SPHP pondered the possibility of heading W (L) of Peak 6710 (the lower rock formation on the R) and heading for Peak 6920 seen on the L. Lupe should reach Norbeck Trail No. 3 this way without having to lose a lot of elevation. Photo looks NW.

Lupe enjoyed a little more time up on Peak 6735 while SPHP pondered the best course of action.

Peak 6710 (L) with Black Elk Peak beyond it. Should Lupe try going around the W (L) side of Peak 6710? Photo looks NNW.
The rugged terrain to the NNE. Lupe had come up from this direction, but there wasn’t enough daylight left to go back this way.
The panorama to the NW. From L to R: Cathedral Spires, Little Devil’s Tower, Peak 6920, Black Elk Peak, Peak 6710.
Last moments atop Peak 6735.
High Point 6411 (lower R) is illuminated by sunlight. Photo looks NNE.

The final decision was made on the way down Peak 6735’s N ridge.  Lupe would try going W of Peak 6710 and heading for Peak 6920.  Hopefully, she would reach Norbeck Trail No. 3 well before sunset.

It was hurry up time, if possible, but the deadfall made the going dreadfully slow.  By the time Lupe got over the ridge SW of Peak 6710, close to an hour had gone by.  After crossing the ridge, the terrain and deadfall did not improve, but then they weren’t expected to.  The only solution was to get to a trail.  Any trail would do.

Looking up at the rock formations Lupe traveled beneath W of Peak 6710. Photo looks E.
Looking back at the big rock formation at the far end of the ridge extending SW from Peak 6710. Photo looks S.
A closer look with help from the telephoto lens.

Once she was over the SW ridge, Lupe lost some elevation before having to regain it to get up on the next ridge to the NW.  This ridge went W from Peak 6710.  Lupe and SPHP followed it a short distance, but within 5 or 10 minutes it was apparent a deep valley was ahead.  This wasn’t going to work.  Where to now?

Loop started back E toward Peak 6710.  SPHP noticed a saddle off to the NE.  It led to the NW, the way Lupe needed to go, and was every bit as high as where she was now.  That was the route!  Puppy, ho!  Lupe maintained elevation and headed for the saddle.

It took a good 10 minutes to get there.  The saddle wasn’t terribly wide or long.  It led to a large rock formation immediately to the WNW.  Climbing up there looked possible, but time consuming.  Instead, Lupe crossed the saddle and turned NW to go around the high point.

Lupe was now way up in the upper Grizzly Bear Creek drainage.  Somewhere down below was Grizzly Creek Trail No. 7.  For a while, Lupe tried simply maintaining elevation and going NW.  The plan was still to look for Norbeck Trail No. 3.  A high ridge came into view to the NW.  That had to be where Norbeck Trail No. 3 was, but it was still a considerable distance away and a bit of a climb.

SPHP debated whether Lupe should try simply cutting down through the forest directly to Grizzly Creek Trail No. 7, or getting on top of the ridge she was following?  She tried a little of both, but didn’t lose all that much elevation going down, and never made it all the way to the top going up, either.  The varied terrain kept changing SPHP’s mind on which way she ought to go.

A 50 foot deep ravine appeared ahead.  Lupe had to kept going NW, so there was no choice, but to go down into it.  Loop led the way down the slope.  Suddenly SPHP realized she was standing on a trail!  Odd, surprising.  SPHP hadn’t thought she was anywhere close to a trail yet.  Whatever works, though!  The trail was good news!

The trail Lupe had found had to be Grizzly Creek Trail No. 7.  SPHP wondered how far Loop was from the intersection with Norbeck Trail No. 3?  Didn’t matter.  The sun would still be up for a while.  Best to make tracks, and use the available daylight to get past as much deadfall on the trail as possible.  Without the slightest hesitation, Lupe and SPHP followed Grizzly Creek Trail No. 7 going E.

The sun was still shining on the high peaks and would be for a while, but Lupe had a lot of elevation to lose.  The trail went on and on.  Fortunately, this upper section of Grizzly Creek Trail No. 7 trail was not choked with deadfall.  In fact, there was very little of it.  Lupe made great progress, but the sun had set by the time she made it all the way down to Grizzly Bear Creek.

Lupe makes it back to Grizzly Bear Creek.

The trail crossed Grizzly Bear Creek a number of times, but the creek was low enough so the crossings weren’t a problem.  Deadfall on the trail became a problem again and slowed things down, but was no big deal compared to what Lupe had been through already.

The forest was dim and the sky pale, by the time Lupe reached the intersection with Horsethief Lake Trail No. 14 again.  The race to make as much use of the fading light as possible continued.  Lupe didn’t stop for a break until she was beyond the upper pass.  SPHP could hardly see the trail now.  The flashlight came out.

Stars had been shining above for a while.  No worries, though.  Lupe knew the rest of the trail ahead had little deadfall.  It would be easy enough to follow.

A short break, then onward, but now at a relaxed pace through an inky black forest with incredibly bright stars above.  What a gorgeous evening!

Well, Looper, Expedition No. 200 wasn’t a bad day’s adventure, was it?

No, not at all, but I still say it needed more squirrels!

End (9:42 PM, 38°F)

On Peak 6735.

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The Wedge & The Ramp, Chugach State Park, Alaska (8-29-16)

Day 31 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska

Glenn Alps Trailhead on the SE edge of Anchorage was a busy place. (11:52 AM, 55°F)  It was certainly the first trailhead Lupe had ever been to where SPHP could pay the $5.00 parking fee by credit card.  Spiffy.  So uptown and 21st century.

Up town wasn’t where Lupe wanted to be.  She was looking forward to adventures up mountain in spectacular Chugach State Park!  Lupe and SPHP left the parking lot heading for the Powerline Trail.  Turned out there was a closer, lower parking lot.  Learn something new every day.

Lupe had a beautiful sunny day for her adventures.  Not so long ago, SPHP had almost despaired of ever seeing the sun in S Alaska.  Twice Lupe had been on the verge of leaving the state.  However, she wound up spending the last few days exploring and adventuring in brilliant sunshine out on the Kenai Peninsula.  A high pressure system must have finally chased the gloom away from the Anchorage area, too.

The Powerline Trail turned out to be an old road.  Lupe took it SE toward Powerline Pass.  The trail was busy with people jogging and biking.  Mountains were in view ahead.  From almost the very start, Lupe could see The Wedge (4,660 ft.), her first peakbagging goal, in the distance.  For Alaska, it looked like an easy, not too inspiring climb.

Lupe on the Powerline Trail. The Wedge is already in view in the distance on the L. Photo looks SE.

To be honest, both Lupe and SPHP found the Powerline Trail rather dull.  Too sunny, too warm, too busy, too low down, and far from the mountains.  A long, boring trudge on a dirt road.  It’s easy to get spoiled in Alaska!  Hopefully the experience would improve.

It did.  Gradually, the mountain views seemed less distant.  To get to the valley leading to the saddle between The Wedge and The Ramp, Lupe had to leave the Powerline Trail after a couple of miles.  A smaller side trail led down to a footbridge across the South Fork of Campbell Creek.  As soon as Lupe left the Powerline Trail behind, suddenly everything seemed better and more beautiful.

The views steadily improved as Lupe progressed along the Powerline Trail. Lupe’s 2nd peakbagging objective, The Ramp, is the sharp, pointy peak seen L of Center. Photo looks E.
Lupe at the start of the side trail, about to leave the Powerline Trail behind. The nice footbridge across the South Fork of Campbell Creek is just ahead. Photo looks E.
Hot paws cool down in the refreshing South Fork of Campbell Creek. Photo looks E.
Even though Lupe was still in the same valley, as soon as she left the Powerline Trail, everything seemed more beautiful. Photo looks SE up the South Fork of Campbell Creek toward Powerline Pass.

After crossing the South Fork of Campbell Creek, the side trail went NE up a moderately steep slope.  The trail entered a forest of stunted conifers.  A couple of women came down the trail toward Lupe.  They had seen a moose and calf only a little farther up, right on the trail!

Lupe and SPHP proceeded slowly, cautiously.  Lupe saw the mama moose, but only got a glimpse of the calf.  The moose were no longer on the trail, having wandered off into the forest.  Lupe and SPHP got by them at a good distance without incident.  Lupe was very interested in those moose!  She was a good Dingo, though, and never barked.

Mama moose using the telephoto lens.

Once past the moose, Lupe kept climbing through the forest on the trail.  By the time the trail left the forest, it had deteriorated considerably.  Only a simple single track path remained.  Ahead to the ESE, Lupe now had a clear view of the big saddle between The Wedge and The Ramp.  The saddle was still a couple miles away.

After emerging from Moose Forest, Lupe had a great view of the saddle between The Ramp (L) and The Wedge (R). Photo looks SE.

The trail crossed some fairly level terrain heading toward the valley leading to the saddle.  Lupe arrived at a tributary of the South Fork of Campbell Creek.  The trail could be seen on the other side, but there was no bridge, or even any decent arrangement of stepping stones across the creek.  No problem for Lupe, but SPHP would have liked to avoid getting wet feet.

Lupe arrives at the tributary of the South Fork of Campbell Creek near the start of the long valley leading to the saddle between The Wedge & The Ramp. Photo looks NE.

In the end, even though the stream wasn’t all that big, SPHP found no way across in this area without simply fording it.  Squish, squish.  Puppy, ho!  Onward!  Lupe climbed up the embankment on the far side of the creek and kept going.

It would have been better if SPHP had gone farther upstream before crossing.  The trail vanished.  Lupe soon found herself in boggy terrain on the S side of another small tributary.  Higher, drier ground was over on the N side, but it took a while to find a reasonably dry way to get there.

Once on the higher ground N of the boggy creek, Lupe quickly found a trail again.  Lupe and SPHP followed it toward the big saddle.  For quite a long way, Lupe could run down to the creek for a drink any time she wanted.  She enjoyed availing herself of this opportunity at regular intervals.

Lupe down in the clear rushing tributary. For quite a distance, she was able to cool off or get a drink out of this creek any time she wanted.
Colorful foliage made Lupe’s trek up the valley to the saddle bright and beautiful.
Farther up the valley, the tributary stream wasn’t so boggy. Here Lupe enjoys the stream below a series of small waterfalls.

As Lupe continued up the valley, the trail became intermittent.  In fact, there seemed to be multiple trails, but none of them was a firmly established dominant route.  All started and stopped in unpredictable fashion.  It hardly mattered.  Lupe could always see the big saddle up ahead, and kept going toward it.

Eventually, the stream reduced to a trickle, then disappeared.  Lupe was getting close to the saddle between The Wedge & The Ramp.  She could have chosen to climb either mountain first, but went for The Wedge (4,660 ft.).  It wasn’t as high, and looked like the easiest climb.

Higher up in the valley, the stream disappeared. Lupe was getting closer to The Wedge, which she would try to climb first. Photo looks SSE.

Lupe got up on a big rounded ridge that swept down into the valley from the saddle.  On the other side of the ridge, she could see a large snowbank.  Except for tiny tundra plants, nearly all vegetation disappeared as Lupe made the final climb up the rounded ridge to the saddle.

Lupe reaches the rounded ridge sweeping down from the saddle. Very little vegetation remained by the time Lupe reached this point. She followed the rounded ridgeline up to the saddle, then turned SW to complete her ascent of The Wedge. Photo looks SE.

Lupe followed the rounded ridgeline all the way up to the saddle.  The saddle was a very broad, rounded area as well.  Lupe turned SW to ascend The Wedge.  Although The Wedge had looked like an easy climb from way back down on the Powerline Trail, it was steeper than expected.  Lupe roamed the wide slope at will, as SPHP trudged slowly higher.

The climb was steep, but not the least bit scary.  The slope was covered with small rocks and plants.  For the most part, it was all fairly stable.  Lupe didn’t come to any trail going up, but she didn’t need to.  Staying far from the cliffs was easy.  Lupe could take any route she desired up the huge, broad slope.

It seemed like a long climb, but the terrain finally started to level out.  Lupe reached The Wedge’s summit ridge near the NE end.  The true summit wasn’t far away at a rocky prominence.  While SPHP took a look an initial look around at the tremendous views, Lupe relaxed.

Lupe relaxes on The Wedge! The true summit is at the rocky prominence seen beyond her. The summit ridge went hundreds of feet farther beyond it. Photo looks WSW.

My, how those views had improved since Lupe started out way back down on the Powerline Trail!

The wide valley Lupe traveled through on her way to The Wedge is seen on the R. The first mountain beyond her (the one casting the dark shadow) is High Point 4160. The hill in sunlight beyond High Point 4160 is Flattop Mountain (3,510 ft.) near Anchorage. Cook Inlet and Anchorage are also in view. Photo looks WNW.
O’Malley Peak (5,150 ft.) from The Wedge. Photo looks NNW.
If Lupe had stayed on the Powerline Trail, she would have wound up at Powerline Pass(L). The small lake is Green Lake. Homicide Peak (4,660 ft.) is visible on the L beyond Powerline Pass. North Suicide Peak (5,065 ft.) appears above the ridgeline beyond Green Lake. South Suicide Peak (5,005 ft.) is to its R. Photo looks S.
Lupe’s next peakbagging destination, The Ramp, is seen here on the L. Part of the big saddle between The Wedge & The Ramp is seen in the lower foreground. Photo looks NE.
O’Malley Peak (Center) is the high point along the far ridge. Photo looks NNW.

The views of the nearby peaks were impressive, but far toward the E & SE horizons, Lupe could see even higher mountains and big snowfields.  The camera’s telephoto lens provided a better look at what was out there.

Wow! What’s that white monster peering over from behind the snowfield on the L? SPHP had no idea what peak that was. Photo looks E using the telephoto lens.
Looking S or SE toward fabulous remote mountains.

Naturally, Lupe went over to the true summit of The Wedge to claim her peakbagging success.

Lupe sits on the true summit of The Wedge. The Ramp is in view beyond her. Photo looks NE.
On the summit. Photo looks ENE.
A lone Carolina Dog stands astride the summit of The Wedge. Her next destination, The Ramp, is seen on the L. Photo looks ENE.

After half an hour spent on The Wedge, Lupe started her journey back down to the big saddle leading to The Ramp.  She stayed farther to the E than where she’d come up, hoping to see Ship Lake, which hadn’t been visible from the summit of The Wedge.  As she lost elevation, Ship Lake came into view.

Staying farther E coming down The Wedge, Lupe came to an amazing view of Ship Lake. Lupe is the tiny Dingo on the R. Photo looks ESE.
Ship Lake from the upper ENE slopes of The Wedge. Avalanche Mountain (5,000 ft.) (R) towers above the lake. Photo looks ESE.
Ship Lake through the telephoto lens.

Lupe continued on down toward the saddle leading to The Ramp (5,240 feet).  The Ramp is nearly 600 feet higher than The Wedge, and looked considerably steeper from afar.  The upper slopes were much more rugged, and the top of the mountain comes nearly to a point.  Lupe couldn’t expect any nice big summit area to relax on at The Ramp!

Looking at the summit of The Ramp through the telephoto lens. Lupe would try climbing up near the center of this photo a little to the L of all the steep ragged ridges. Photo looks NE.

SPHP started wondering if Lupe could even make it to the top of The Ramp?  Meaning, of course, SPHP wondered if SPHP could make it to the top!  The first part of the climb wouldn’t be bad, but the closer Lupe got to The Ramp, the more concerned SPHP became.

Meanwhile, Lupe was leaving Ship Lake and The Wedge farther and farther behind as she progressed across the saddle and started up The Ramp.

Ship Lake and Avalanche Mountain from the saddle between The Wedge & The Ramp. Photo looks SE.

Looking back across the saddle toward The Wedge from near the start of Lupe’s climb up The Ramp. Ship Lake is out of sight far down the slope to the L. Photo looks SW.
As Lupe started climbing The Ramp, Ship Lake and Avalanche Mountain receded behind her. Photo looks SSE.

For quite a long way, climbing The Ramp wasn’t any harder or steeper than climbing The Wedge had been.  However, the way up was slowly getting progressively steeper.  Lupe had already regained all of the elevation she’d lost going down from The Wedge and more, when suddenly a woman was in view above.  She was coming down toward Lupe.

Going up The Ramp.

Lupe and SPHP soon met up with her.  She had made it to the summit of The Ramp.  She advised staying near the closest ragged, rocky ridgeline to the E.  She said there was a sort of intermittent trail along there.  Near the very top, though, Lupe should swing around to complete her climb along the W ridge.  Going back down, Lupe could either return to the saddle or go down the W ridge, slowly turning SW into the valley.

SPHP thanked her for the advice, and she was gone.  She was the only person Lupe saw all day after the two women who had seen the moose early on.  The woman did seem to know what she’d been talking about, and apparently she’d made it to the top.  Per her advice, Lupe and SPHP angled over to the ragged ridgeline.

The woman was right.  An intermittent trail went up the ragged ridge.  Lupe had less loose rock to contend with.  There were also some fearsome drops only a few feet away on the E side of the ridge.  Lupe and SPHP kept climbing.  Lupe was getting there!  More and more of The Ramp was down below.  Less and less remained above.

Nearing the summit of The Ramp. Lupe made the last part of this climb along the W ridge, seen on the L. Photo looks N.

As the woman had advised, and the terrain virtually dictated, Lupe gained much of the last 60 feet of elevation by moving over to the W ridge and climbing up from that direction.  Very close to the top, Lupe traversed a narrow 30 foot long level ledge toward the SE, then scrambled 10 feet almost straight up to a small grassy area.

The narrow ledge had way more exposure than Lupe and SPHP are used to, but SPHP had good hand and foot holds all the way.  Lupe seemed unconcerned.  She had no problem crossing the ledge.  She scrambled up to the grassy area as easily as if she were only part Dingo, with a good dose of mountain goat in her.

At the little grassy area, Lupe was only 15 – 20 feet below the summit.  After a brief pause, Lupe and SPHP finished the climb.  The last 10 feet were very steep, but once again, there were good hand and foot holds.  Lupe managed to get all the way up to sit a only a foot or two below the tops of the highest rocks at the summit of The Ramp.

SPHP wouldn’t let Lupe go up that last foot or two.  Huge exposure was only a couple feet away to the N.  This was it.  Close enough for Dingo work!  Lupe was claiming her peakbagging success!  With one hand, SPHP clung to the rocks, while operating the camera with the other.

Lupe perches next to the very highest rocks of The Ramp. Want to know how large the summit area was? You’re looking at it! Photo looks E.
Part bird, part mountain goat, part Dingo! Lupe sits on top of The Ramp with incredible views in every direction. Photo looks SE.
Lupe at the top of The Ramp. Photo looks ESE.
Yeah, SPHP, there’s a helluva view from up here, but you know what? So far, not a squirrel in sight!

Of course, the views were amazing from The Wedge.  In fact, they were dizzying.  SPHP clung to the rocks, taking pictures.  At SPHP’s bidding, Lupe got down off the summit.  She retreated to a less precarious position close to the grassy area where she could rest comfortably, while still enjoying the stupendous view.  SPHP soon joined her.  Wow, what an incredible place!

O’Malley Peak (5,150 ft.)(L of Center), Hidden Peak (5,105 ft.)(Center), and Wolverine Peak (4,491 ft.)(R) from The Ramp (5,240 ft.). Photo looks NW.
Looking down on some of the Williwaw Lakes in the valley of the Middle Fork of Campbell Creek. Wolverine Peak is on the L. Mount Elliot (4,710 ft.) is the closest mountain beyond the lakes. The Tanaina Peaks and Tikishla Peak are along the big ridge beyond Mount Elliot.  Photo looks N.
Looking SE using the telephoto lens.
Ship Lake and Avalanche Mountain from the summit of The Ramp. The Suicide Peaks are visible on the R. Photo looks S.
The Wedge(L) looks much smaller from the summit of The Ramp. The broad valley seen below is the one Lupe came up on her way to The Wedge after leaving the Powerline Trail. Photo looks SW.
O’Malley Peak using the telephoto lens. Photo looks NW.
Some of the Williwaw Lakes using the telephoto lens. Photo looks N.
Summit of The Ramp. Photo looks ESE.
Lupe chillin’ a little below the summit. She has a view of part of Ship Lake and Avalanche Mountain on the L. The Suicide Peaks are straight up from her head. On the R is the saddle she crossed coming here from The Wedge. Photo looks S.

After 15 minutes doing nothing other than enjoying the views together, Lupe and SPHP started down.  Once safely past the 10 foot down climb and 30 foot ledge, SPHP felt more relaxed about the situation.  A long pleasant evening trek down the mountain ensued.  Lupe took the alternate route down along the W ridge, eventually dropping well below it on her way to the valley.

Going down the W ridge line. O’Malley Peak on the R. Photo looks WNW.

The route stayed steep and rocky for a long way.  Slowly the slope decreased. Tundra vegetation started taking over, and the way became less rocky.  For Lupe, this was the best part of the entire excursion.  For a long time, she ran free over great distances to her heart’s content.  The tundra glowed with color in the evening light.  The air was fresh and cool.  Lupe was in American Dingo paradise!

The Wedge as seen from the N side of the broad valley. Photo looks S.
Lupe in American Dingo paradise.
Only one question. Where do they keep the squirrels around here? I’ve searched everywhere!

Of course, Lupe always remembered to come running back to SPHP at frequent intervals, even though it was a chore having to constantly regain all the elevation she’d just lost.

Lupe comes running back to check on slowpoke, SPHP. Lupe’s route up The Wedge earlier in the day is in view here. She started up the low ridge at center, following it all the way to the L, then curving back up toward the R to reach the top. Photo looks S.

Lupe and SPHP saw no one in the broad valley.  The return trip was a glorious, peaceful, happy time.

SPHP has no idea what sort of plant these are, but they were soft and beautiful. They decorated the tundra in scattered clumps.
The wonderful, colorful tundra.

The wonderful, amazing Carolina Dog! She seemed fairly satisfied with the way this adventure turned out!

By staying farther N in the valley, Lupe was able to avoid most of the boggy terrain lower down.  SPHP even found a way over the tributary of the South Fork of Campbell Creek without having to ford it again.  By the time Lupe was getting close to the Powerline Trail again, the sun was disappearing behind the mountains far to the W beyond Cook Inlet.

The sun disappears on the W horizon behind mountains beyond Anchorage and Cook Inlet. The Knik Arm is seen on the R.
A final look back at the now distant big saddle between The Wedge (R) and The Ramp (L). Photo looks SE.

As Lupe and SPHP finally drew near the turn off the Powerline Trail leading to the Glenn Alps Trailhead, some of the lights of Anchorage came into view.  Mountains were silhouetted against an orange sky beyond the Knik Arm of Cook Inlet.

Some of the lights of Anchorage came into view from the Powerline Trail. Photo looks NNW.
Anchorage, Alaska

SPHP remembered there was a small hill near the upper Glenn Alps Trailhead parking lot where the G6 was.  Why not spend a view extra minutes to climb it and get a sweeping view of the lights of the entire city of Anchorage?  It sounded like a great idea!

Lupe never got to.  Someone else had the same idea, and had already claimed both the hill and the view as their own.  (10:33 PM)Note:  The Glenn Alps Trailhead is on the SE edge of Anchorage.  To get there, take O’Malley Road off Seward Highway going E toward the mountains.  Turn R on Hillside Drive, L on Upper Huffman Road, and follow the signs to Toilsome Road.  The upper trailhead parking lot is at the end of Toilsome Road.


Chugach State Park

Chugach State Park Map

Chugach State Park Brochure

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