Day 4 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range, Wyoming & Beyond!
SPHP got the spare pair of Realtree shoes out of the trunk of the G6. They were old and in bad shape. SPHP muttered while putting them on.
Should have brought these along yesterday, and none of this would have happened!
None of what?
Oh, you know Loop, losing my new boots in La Bonte Creek. The whole purpose of bringing these old Realtree shoes on this trip had been to use them as water shoes for creek crossings. Instead, I forget all about them, then yesterday I manage to lose my brand new 3 day old boots in the creek while trying to be clever and keep them from getting wet.
Well, at least you still have shoes. We’re still going mountain climbing, right?
Nope. Blacktail Peak (8,675 ft.) is out. Not going to risk these old shoes completely disintegrating on me, and having to saunter back barefoot again. Besides, I’m no longer in any mood to ford La Bonte Creek. It looks easy, but the water is too high. You nearly got swept away yourself yesterday. Twice!
So what are we going to do?
Get water at Curtis Gulch campground, then head for Casper so I can buy another pair of boots. Don’t worry, you’ll have a riot barking at all those cows, horses, and antelope again on the way out of here. Come on, let’s get going!
On the drive to Casper, SPHP realized Lupe actually could go mountain climbing today, just not to Blacktail Peak as originally planned. S of Casper was the huge, long ridge of Casper Mountain(8,200 ft.). Lupe had already been to the summit of Casper Mountain once before. However, on the other side of Casper Mountain was another big ridge the American Dingo had never been to – Muddy Mountain(8,300 ft.).
SPHP hadn’t expected Lupe would get to Muddy Mountain (8,300 ft.) so soon on this trip. However, the unforeseen need for new boots was bringing her to the vicinity, so why not do it now? She’d have plenty of time to visit the mountain this afternoon.
After new boots were procured, and lunch was consumed in Washington Park, Lupe and SPHP drove S over Casper Mountain on Casper Mountain Road. The long, partially forested ridge of Muddy Mountain came into view.
SPHP had seen on the topo map that a road went all the way to the top of Muddy Mountain. Driving to the summit wasn’t the plan, however. Too easy. So lame for a peakbagging Carolina Dog! To enjoy the trek and get to really experience Muddy Mountain, Lupe would climb it from the low point in the valley between Casper and Muddy mountains.
This way, Lupe would get to enjoy a remote, lonely backroad trek up Muddy Mountain while gaining over 1,000 feet of elevation. At least, that was what SPHP expected. Reality was rather different. Driving down the S slope of Casper Mountain, SPHP was surprised by how much traffic there was. Casper Mountain Road turned to gravel and became Circle Drive, yet vehicles still passed by at regular intervals.
Not good. The wind was blowing. Getting a face full of dust every time a vehicle went by wasn’t the least bit appealing. The gravel road was no minor backcountry lane, either. Big, wide, and busy, it wasn’t a terribly charming place for a stroll. Lupe was going to have to leave the road and wander up Muddy Mountain through the fields and forests, if this was going to be much fun. No worries, though, that looked easy enough.
SPHP parked the G6 at the low point between the big ridges. A few other vehicles were parked here, too, but no one was around. Nearby, Circle Drive turned W, while Muddy Mountain Road continued S on up Muddy Mountain’s N slope. As SPHP got everything ready to go, more vehicles streamed by raising clouds of dust (2:34 PM, 67°F).
Lupe and SPHP crossed over Muddy Mountain Road entering a giant green field full of purple lupines. The sun was shining. The lupines danced in a lively breeze. Loopster took the lead, sniffing happily. Her destination was 4 or 5 miles away, somewhere along the N rim of the long ridge. Muddy Mountain was going to be fun after all!
NO, IT WASN’T! That sound! Lupe must have passed within 4 or 5 feet of where it was coming from. She was scarcely 25 feet from Muddy Mountain Road when an angry buzzing started as she went by. SPHP looked cautiously around for the deadly source. Oh, yeah. There it was, still rattling down in a small depression, ready to strike. A fairly big one.
Lupe was already a good 15 feet beyond the rattler. She was fine.
Loopster! STAY, SIT! Don’t move! Good girl! Stay right there!
SPHP sounded so serious, Lupe obeyed instantly.
Umm, what’s up? What’s wrong?
A rattlesnake, a pretty big one, you just went right by it. This hike is over, sweetheart! Wait there, I’ll lead you back around the evil serpent. It’s poisonous and very dangerous, even for an American Dingo.
We’re not going to Muddy Mountain?
Yes, yes we are. But suddenly I’ve been seized with a desire to drive every inch of the way to the top. Easy, squeezy-like, and hopefully serpent-free.
Only 10 minutes after starting out, the Carolina Dog was back at the G6 (2:44 PM, 67°F). A nice dusty drive clear to the top of Muddy Mountain ensued. To SPHP’s great surprise, a campground was right at the summit, complete with a big deck overlooking the view to the N. It turned out there was a fairly extensive trail system in the area, too. No wonder the road was so busy! The old topo map hadn’t shown all this.
Lupe and SPHP checked out the view of Casper Mountain from the observation deck.
A couple of large rocks sat a short distance E of the observation deck. They appeared to be the absolute highest point around. The American Dingo strolled over for a super easy peakbagging success. Peakbagging Muddy Mountain turned out to be scarcely any more effort than Prairie Dog Hill(6,400 ft.) had been yesterday.
Checking out the view from the observation deck and tagging the summit hadn’t taken long. Lupe still had one more task to perform up on Muddy Mountain, though. She could go look for the Muddy Mountain survey benchmark. The topo map showed it wasn’t actually at the summit, but at another slightly lower high point about 0.75 mile W.
SPHP drove over that way, parking the G6 along the road slightly E of where it seemed the survey benchmark ought to be. Lupe hopped out. She headed W exploring a narrow strip of open ground between the road and N rim of the mountain. SPHP followed, nervously keeping an eye out for rattlesnakes, while searching for the benchmark.
As Lupe sniffed her way along, she came to a nice view to the WNW.
Lupe went about 600 feet from the G6. No sign of the survey benchmark. The terrain was gradually dropping now, too. The benchmark wouldn’t be any farther W than this. Might as well turn around.
The Carolina Dog headed back E. Again SPHP followed, trying to search more thoroughly. Nothing. Lupe arrived back at the G6. Now what? SPHP checked the topo map again. It was possible the benchmark was a bit E of here.
SPHP had parked the G6 a little W of a few pine trees close to the N side of the road. Beyond them to the E was a nearly level field rimmed by pines to the N. The field, which was full of purple and yellow wildflowers, widened out to the E in the shape of a long triangle. Better go look over there, too.
Lupe scarcely got past the first few pine trees when she found it! The survey benchmark was right there, fixed in concrete, barely 50 feet from the G6 and only 10-12 feet N of the road. Sweet!
Well, that was that. What now? Maybe it would be fun to go take a look at the map of the trail system on Muddy Mountain. The main trailhead was nearly 0.5 mile E at an intersection on the S side of the road. Lupe was fine with going back to check it out, so SPHP drove over to the trailhead. A large map was on display.
The trail system map revealed that Muddy Mountain Road made a big loop from here. A little S of this trailhead was another campground, Lodgepole campground. Several different trails offered a variety of possible loops between Lodgepole and Rim campgrounds. The trails were all relatively easy. None involved more than a couple hundred feet of elevation change, if that.
No doubt there was little danger, but that rattlesnake was still too fresh on SPHP’s mind. Loop was going to skip any exploration of the Muddy Mountain trail system. More challenging things would soon be in store for the Carolina Dog, anyway. In the meantime, she could stop and look at some of the views from Muddy Mountain on the way back to Casper.
On the way up Casper Mountain(8,200 ft.), Lupe stopped for a final look back at Muddy Mountain(8,300 ft.). In the late afternoon sun, the views were beautiful. Off to the SW, light rain showers were seen in the distance. More mountains could be seen beyond the Laramie Range.
Lupe would eventually be headed that way, but not quite yet.
In Casper, SPHP grabbed a couple of cheeseburgers. Lupe shared in the cheeseburger feast on the drive E back to Douglas along I-25. Day ended with a gorgeous evening drive once again SW of Douglas on Hwy 91. Ahead Lupe could see where she would be adventuring next.
Tomorrow Lupe would try to climb both Squaw Mountain(9,313 ft.) and Buffalo Peak(9,387 ft.). Hopefully it was going to be a fabulous day!
Lupe’s visit to Muddy Mountain hadn’t been long or hard, but it had been plenty exciting. Too exciting, actually!
Start – 10:57 AM, 52°F, intersection of South Rapid Creek Road (USFS Road No. 231) & USFS Road No. 191.
Lupe’s summer of 2017 adventures were over. Her friend, Australian adventurer Luke Hall, who had recently paid her a visit here in the Black Hills, was gone. Things were finally back to normal! For the first time since early June, it was just Loopster and SPHP setting out on a Black Hills, SD expedition.
This expedition was looking promising, too! Cows, so many beautiful cows, were right here near the start! Lupe was thrilled. The cows less so. In fact, they looked on with deep concern. Wasn’t that one of those ferocious American Dingoes?!
The cattle needn’t have worried. They didn’t get chased, barked at, or devoured. Instead, SPHP started SSW on USFS Road No. 191, leading Lupe up Long Draw. When Lupe reached an intersection 0.5 mile later, she turned W on No. 191.1A.
In the next 0.5 mile, No. 191.1A curved S, then W again. Lupe reached another junction. She had been this far once before over 2 years ago on Expedition No. 138. That time she’d stayed in Long Draw, continuing W on No. 191.1A. This time, just for something different, she turned SSW up Lessering Draw on No. 191.1C.
Lupe had seen a small stream in Long Draw. A tiny, trickling tributary of it was here in the lower end of Lessering Draw. When the road entered a pine forest, Lupe spotted an abandoned cabin near the tiny stream. The Carolina Dog went to investigate.
SPHP wouldn’t let Looper go inside the old cabin for fear of rusty nails or broken glass, but she did peer in to see what it was like. “Dilapidated” pretty much sums it up. Clearly, many years had passed since this cabin was inhabitable, even in the most rustic sense of the word.
Lupe returned to No. 191.1C continuing SSW.
Not far from the old cabin, Lupe re-emerged from the forest. The road curved W passing through a lovely large meadow surrounded by low forested hills. Aspen trees, greatly in the minority along the edge of the pines, were showing a bit of fall color.
As Lupe proceeded through the meadow, No. 191.1C faded away to little more than a grassy track. At the far end was a barbed wire fence. An opening in the fence brought Lupe to USFS Road No. 125.
The Carolina Dog and SPHP continued W on No. 125. The road passed through a narrow, forested part of upper Lessering Draw, which soon divided. Lupe stuck with No. 125, as it curved N up one of the ravines to a minor pass.
Right at the pass was a barbed wire fence running roughly SW/NE. Lupe went over a cattle guard to get past it. (American Dingoes are highly skilled at crossing cattle guards!) From here, No. 125 went N down the other side of the pass. SPHP surmised it was heading for Maitland Draw.
Lupe needed to go more W than N. White Tail Peak(6,962 ft.), her objective for the day, was 1.5 miles WNW of the pass. Lupe left the road to follow the fence line WSW up a forested slope. Upon reaching a ridge, she abandoned the fence to follow the ridge NW toward High Point 6346. On the way, White Tail Peak came into view.
Loop easily leapt up onto the rock formation at the top of the ridge. She stood astride High Point 6346. That done, she pressed on to the NW toward White Tail Peak. She was looking for the easiest way to get there with minimal elevation loss. As it turned out, she could soon turn W toward the mountain without having to lose much at all. She even came across a road leading W. The road soon forked at Point 6424.
The road Lupe had been following was USFS Road No. 190, which angled NNW from here. A side road going SW was marked No. 190.1A. Lupe and SPHP had been on No. 190 before on prior expeditions to White Tail Peak. Lupe could eventually work up and around to the summit that way. A more direct route, though, would be to scale the mountain’s SE slope. Today, Lupe had a special reason for doing so.
It looked feasible. Lupe and SPHP left both roads behind, heading NW up a grassy slope of open forest. Scattered deadfall provided the only obstacles. The Carolina Dog purposely headed for the area between the mountain’s short and long SE ridges. After traveling some distance, Lupe arrived at the edge of a golden forest.
Lupe happily sniffed her way through the magical forest of gold. Above the golden forest, her climb steepened. Would she would encounter a blocking line of limestone cliffs? SPHP knew cliffs rimmed large portions of the upper E and S sides of White Tail Peak.
No cliffs appeared. The American Dingo’s ascent didn’t even get all that steep before the terrain started leveling out again. Lupe came to a faint road. She followed it a little S, reaching a line of ragged limestone outcroppings. This had to be it! The spine of White Tail Peak’s long SE ridge.
This was Lupe’s 4th Black Hills, SD Expedition to White Tail Peak. Yet to SPHP there had always been something lacking on her prior visits. Long ago, so long ago it had been before there was a Carolina Dog, SPHP had been here alone. Tattered, cobwebbed memories existed of a grand viewpoint at the end of a long march S.
To SPHP those memories were the essence of White Tail Peak. SPHP had always wanted Lupe to see those sweeping views, but she had never run across them again. Were the memories real, dreams, or confused with some other place?
On all of her prior expeditions here, Lupe had visited a limestone ledge SE of the summit where she’d enjoyed some very nice views. However, they had never seemed as dramatic as SPHP’s old memories of White Tail Peak. A sense of disappointment always lingered.
On one occasion, Lupe had specifically gone looking for the site of SPHP’s old memories. Somewhere W of her usual limestone ledge, she’d found a much longer ridge going S. Her exploration of it revealed some different vantage points. However, none seemed familiar or measured up to SPHP’s expectations. This wasn’t the place, either.
Today the plan was for Lupe to find out the truth. SPHP had never allowed her to do a truly thorough search before. And most helpfully, for the first time, SPHP had brought along a topo map.
The topo map revealed that White Tail Peak has 3 ridges protruding to the S – a short SE ridge, a long SE ridge, and a long SW ridge. Studying it had convinced SPHP that Lupe had never been to White Tail Peak’s long SE ridge. The long ridge she had visited must have been the long SW ridge. The other times she had only been to the limestone platform near the end of the short SE ridge.
Her successful ascent from the SE up a visible gap between ridges made SPHP confident Lupe now stood on the long SE ridge’s limestone spine right at this very moment! All that remained was to follow the ridge however far S or SE it went.
It was exciting to think Lupe was on the verge of discovery! First, though, SPHP thought it best to go find White Tail Peak’s non-descript summit. May as well make certain of locking in a successful full ascent before doing anything else. Peakbaggers think like that. Instead of going S, Lupe followed the faint road N.
Within minutes, the American Dingo reached a junction. Ahh, so this was the turn SPHP had always missed or dismissed before! Lupe was practically at the summit, it was only 100 feet to the NW. She went up to claim her peakbagging success.
Lupe had visited the short SE ridge every other time she’d come to White Tail Peak. Though the views didn’t completely measure up to SPHP’s old memories, they were still impressive for the Black Hills. It wasn’t far away. Lupe might as well go take another look at them while she was here. It was tradition now!
Looper and SPHP followed a familiar winding road SE through an immature pine forest. A few minutes brought Lupe to her usual White Tail Peak viewpoint. Time for a break and a look around. This was still a favorite place!
SPHP relaxed munching an apple. Lupe devoured Taste of the Wild. Water for all, though it wasn’t much needed. The day had gone from mostly cloudy to overcast and noticeably cooler than before. While Lupe and SPHP watched, even lower clouds streamed in from the NW. A chill breeze blew way up here. The incoming clouds were low enough so wisps of fog sailed by.
The low gray clouds were all part of one huge one. The monstrous cloud fanned out rapidly, spreading gloom across the Black Hills. Sunshine fled its influence, retreating far to the SE. The apple gone and Lupe satisfied, it was time for a few photos.
The photo session over, Lupe and SPHP left the short SE ridge, retreating NW back to White Tail Peak’s summit. Enveloped in a thickening fog, the mountain was growing colder and gloomier by the minute.
Good grief! After coming all this way, suddenly there wasn’t any point in exploring the mountain’s long SE ridge. Even if it led to the views SPHP remembered, Lupe wasn’t going to be able to see a thing. Disappointment reigned.
Nothing could be done about it. May as well forget about the whole thing. Another time. Would have had some nice fall colors, too. Should have gone there first! Sigh.
Reluctantly, SPHP led Lupe on the road N, away from the still unexplored long SE ridge. May as well head for USFS Road No. 190. It would take her E down off the mountain. Maybe Lupe could explore some sort of an interesting loop on the way back to the G6?
Lupe went all the way N to No. 190, and began following it E. She’d already lost some elevation, and was about to lose a bunch more, when suddenly the sky brightened. Uncertain, Lupe and SPHP paused. The trend continued.
Apparently conditions weren’t going to continue deteriorating after all. It wasn’t going to be so bad. The monstrous cloud wasn’t as dark or low as before. The breeze was dying down and the air felt warmer. Maybe Lupe could see something from the long SE ridge after all?
Worth a shot. Back Lupe went. To the summit again and beyond. Lupe made the turn onto the faint road, which wasn’t so faint near the intersection. She reached the limestone spine of the long SE ridge where she’d been before.
OK, this was it! The moment of discovery was at hand. Lupe explored S. Up and down, onto and off of the discontinuous limestone spine. Multiple times. For a while, the forest hid everything. Lupe went on, now heading SE. She lost elevation, but not too fast. Didn’t this have to be it?
Then there it was. A first small limestone ledge with a view to the SW, a view worthy of what SPHP remembered. Lupe was on the right track! Naturally, she went over to see this glorious sight.
To the SW, Lupe saw a broad canyon, created over eons by the North Fork of Castle Creek. The creek wasn’t visible, but far below aspen trees glowed with the fleeting glory of early autumn.
Across the gaping canyon was Peak6962, a remote mountain so alike to White Tail Peak(6,962 ft.), the summit was even the exact same elevation. Just below its forested upper reaches, limestone cliffs extended around the N and E edges of the mountain. Cliffs like those Lupe now perched above.
Looking SE along the edge of the long ridge Lupe was on revealed a series of similar viewpoints nearby.
Traveling onward, Lupe checked out viewpoints along both sides of the long SE ridge.
At the far SE end of the long ridge, Lupe finally found the big, nearly flat, open viewpoint SPHP remembered. Even on an overcast day, the panoramic views were fabulous!
Perhaps on some bright sunny day, Lupe will return to White Tail Peak for a 5th time to see it all again beneath crystal blue skies. For now, though, SPHP was content. Lupe had rediscovered this glorious vantage point overlooking a vast portion of the central Black Hills. White Tail Peak was everything dim memory had credited and cherished it as.
A cool breeze still blew. Hours had flown by. Time for the intrepid Carolina Dog to move on. Puppy ho! Lupe headed NW, back the way she had come.
As soon as practical, SPHP looked for a way for Lupe to get down off the long SE ridge. She soon came to one. Safely down, Lupe roamed the long slope to the SE, passing the same golden forest on her way back to the junction of USFS Roads No. 190 & 190.1A.
Lupe had fun on the way back to the G6. SPHP led her N on USFS Road No. 190 hoping to make a nice loop. The American Dingo wound up going much farther N than anticipated. A trail or road shown on the topo map failed to materialize. An unmarked side road SPHP did try did not turn E as hoped. Instead it began to fade away somewhere W of High Point 6217.
The failing road had to be abandoned. Lupe bushwhacked E a long way. Deadfall slowed progress considerably. The sun must have set or was close to it. Light was fading. Hurry, hurry!
Yes! A road! Good deal, and none too soon. SPHP quickly figured out that it was leading toward Long Draw. Immediately overconfident again, SPHP had Lupe take a turn into Maitland Draw instead.
In the dim light, Lupe saw, sniffed, or otherwise sensed a presence before SPHP realized it was there. Cows! Way out here. Enthusiastic Lupe streaked off barking.
The American Dingo returned before long, panting hard and apparently well satisfied with her romp. Certainly more pleased than the annoyed cows had been.
No more of that, Loopster! It’s getting dark anyway. Better stay close.
Just grand. The road didn’t go all the way through Maitland Draw like the map showed! It turned S instead of staying E. Maybe that wasn’t so bad? SPHP suspected Lupe was on USFS Road No. 125. Sure enough, she reached the cattle guard back up at the minor pass. The rest of the way to the G6 was known. Lupe had come this way earlier. She would soon be back in Lessering Draw.
A curious, and perhaps very sad thing had happened shortly before Lupe reached the minor pass. At first it seemed simply strange and unexpected. Lupe had quit barking at the cows some time ago, when suddenly there was an answer! A wild barking or howling, from off to the NW.
A coyote? Maybe. Lupe listened, but showed little interest and did not respond. After a few minutes, it was not heard any more. On the long dark trudge back to the G6, SPHP reflected, and eventually felt guilty and sad. Glittering stars in an ink black sky shone down with a cold, cruel light.
Maybe an answer should have been made?
The more SPHP thought about it, the more that wild sound had seemed desperate. Perhaps desperately searching. What if it hadn’t been a coyote? A poor lost or abandoned dog way out here? Maybe it had heard Lupe and thinking salvation was at hand, had come running a great distance with soaring hopes looking for her? If so, the disappointment at not hearing a response, and not knowing which way to turn, must have been crushing.
White Tail Peak had been a great and successful day for Lupe, but the accusatory thought persisted. Perhaps the day had also needlessly ended as a bitterly cruel one for an innocent, lonely creature in need of help? The uncertain truth remained somewhere out there, shivering alone in darkness, now miles away beneath eternally uncaring silvery stars. (End – 7:40 PM, 35°F)
Day 3 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range, Wyoming & Beyond!
SPHP drove slowly. Ahead Eagle Peak(9,167 ft.) was lit up by the early morning sunshine. The E face of the mountain looked tough. Not that it mattered now. Yesterday Lupe had come close to reaching the top of the mountain from the SE and SW sides. She hadn’t quite made it, though, and there wasn’t going to be another attempt today.
I hope we have better luck today at South Sawtooth, Loop.
SPHP spoke without much conviction. Those contours on the topo map were as tight near the top of South Sawtooth Mountain(8,723 ft.) as they were at Eagle Peak. Success was far from guaranteed.
Success was guaranteed at Prairie Dog Hill(6,400 ft.) a mile N of Esterbrook. County Road No. 5 went practically right over the top of it. Lupe sniffed her way through a nearly flat field. Elevation gain to what seemed to be as much the high point as anywhere else was trivial, less than 10 feet. Whoop-de-doo! At least there was a bit of a view.
Although South Sawtooth Mountain is only 9 miles NNW of Eagle Peak as the crow flies, it was many times that far by road. Lupe first had to go clear to Douglas, WY. While in town, SPHP picked up a few supplies. At very small Locomotive Park where the Douglas Railroad Interpretive Center is located, Lupe got to visit a very large Jackalope.
Lupe was disappointed to find that the Jackalope was merely a statue, but as large as the Jackalope was, perhaps that was for the best. In any case, the Carolina Dog was soon ready to move on.
The long drive out Hwy 91 SW of Douglas is one of SPHP’s favorites for gorgeous western scenery. Lupe likes it for all the cows and horses to bark at along the way. The highway eventually ends and turns to gravel. Many more miles of dusty road eventually brought Lupe to the Curtis Gulch campground along La Bonte Creek.
SPHP parked the G6 near the campground entrance. Lupe set out for South Sawtooth Mountain (10:36 AM, 68°F) heading SW on USFS Road No. 658. On the way in, SPHP had seen a sign for Big Bear Canyon about 0.33 mile away. Lupe soon reached this side road (USFS Road No. 657.01), which almost immediately led to a ford of La Bonte Creek.
The water was high this time of year. Although the surface looked calm, La Bonte Creek was wide at the ford, and over Lupe’s head. Upstream and downstream, the current was clearly strong. American Dingoes like wading, not swimming, but SPHP knew Lupe could swim if necessary. She ought to be able to manage this crossing.
Still, SPHP wasn’t thrilled to see the ford. Only 3 days ago, SPHP had bought new boots for this Dingo Vacation, and they weren’t waterproof. To keep from getting the new boots soaking wet, SPHP decided to take them off and wade the stream barefoot. SPHP stuffed a sock inside each boot, laced them together, and draped a boot over the back of each shoulder with the knotted laces across the throat.
While Lupe watched from shore, SPHP waded into La Bonte Creek. The current was fairly strong, and the water as much as thigh deep. Rocks on the bottom were loose and sometimes slippery. Concentration was required to maintain balance, but SPHP managed to get most of the way across uneventfully.
Was Lupe following? Yes and no. SPHP turned around to see the Carolina Dog still near the opposite shore. She wanted to come, and had waded chest deep into La Bonte Creek, but was reluctant to go any deeper.
Loopster was going to need some encouragement. SPHP waded the rest of the way across, then turned around again to call to her.
Meanwhile, desperate not to be left behind, all on her own Lupe had decided to try crossing La Bonte Creek on the downstream side of the ford. The water wasn’t as deep here, but the current was powerful. SPHP was alarmed to see Lupe neck deep struggling to cross without being swept downstream. Fortunately, her legs were just long enough for her paws to touch bottom. Lupe clawed her way forward despite the current.
In a flash, Lupe was past the moment of danger. She reached much shallower water, and came trotting across just fine.
Glad that’s over with Loop! Good girl! You did great, but maybe we can find a safer way across on the way back? Not looking forward to doing that again.
SPHP put socks and boots back on again. The trek along USFS Road No. 657.01 resumed. Lupe reached two more creek crossings in quick succession.
Fortunately, La Bonte Creek had already forked by the time these next stream crossings were reached. Flow was less than half of what it had been at the first ford. Lupe had no problems crossing now. SPHP again crossed barefoot each time, the creek still being too large to leap over.
USFS Road No. 657.01 now went steadily SSE up Big Bear Canyon. Lupe came to no more creek crossings for more than 0.5 mile. When she did reach more crossings, the creek was considerably smaller than before. SPHP could now leap across, avoiding the tedious necessity of removing the precious new boots each time.
The day was sunny and warm. Lupe was now enjoying cooling off and getting drinks from the stream.
Big Bear Canyon was heavily forested most of the way. Sometimes there were views of large rock formations hundreds of feet higher up along the E side of the canyon. Farther on, high forested mountainsides were visible on the W side of the canyon, too. Mostly though, the views were only of the forest along USFS Road No. 657.01.
Lupe followed USFS Road No. 657.01 for more than 3 miles all the way up Big Bear Canyon. The road gained elevation more quickly toward the end. About the time the rate of climb began to diminish again, SPHP spotted a mountain off to the NE. The view was partially obstructed by trees, but what could be seen was concerning.
Was that South Sawtooth Mountain? If so, Lupe wasn’t likely to have much luck reaching the summit. The rocky upper slopes looked nearly vertical. Sigh. Not another defeat! Nothing to do, though, but carry on. Maybe that wasn’t South Sawtooth, or there actually was a way up. Hard to tell from here. The mountain was still a couple miles away.
The terrain completely leveled out as the road left the upper end of Big Bear Canyon. Lupe soon arrived at a 3 way junction. A sign identified the road Lupe needed to take as Sawtooth Road. On the topo map it was USFS Road No. 615, which started out heading ENE from here.
Before taking No. 615 toward South Sawtooth, Lupe explored another road leading a short distance SW to USFS No. 610. She passed a sunny meadow full of lupines along the way.
Lupe went far enough to have some views of mountains off to the SW and NW before turning around. She then returned to the first junction, and started along USFS Road No. 615.
Before long, No. 615 emerged from the forest. The road began climbing steadily up a draw which was mostly meadow. At the upper end of the draw, Lupe re-entered the forest. The road wound around to the E and NE, but after a mile or so, turned N. The topo map showed that right after reaching a crest, No. 615 would turn W and start losing elevation. Ultimately it would dead end in a canyon.
Lupe reached the crest of USFS Road No. 615. Time to leave the road! Lupe and SPHP turned NE, and started climbing a heavily forested hillside. Little could be seen except trees until Loop reached the top of a broad ridge. Here there were big rocks and some open ground. From one of the higher rocks, the American Dingo had a view of the mountain SPHP had seen earlier.
Up on the broad ridge, there was enough open ground to make travel much easier than in the dense forest Lupe had left behind. Lupe and SPHP continued NE, skirting a series of rock formations along the NW side of the ridge.
Another large ridge could soon be seen. It trended NW to join the ridge Lupe was on. Beyond the junction, the combined ridge went N and narrowed somewhat. Lupe came to a rock formation larger than any of the others she had passed to this point. South Sawtooth Mountain was now less than a mile away.
Beyond the first large rock formation, Lupe came to some beautiful open ground leading to a second, even grander rock formation.
From the W side of the second rock formation, Lupe had the best view of South Sawtooth Mountain she’d seen yet. However, the sight caused SPHP to lose all hope that Lupe would succeed in reaching the top. The mountain was simply too vertical and rough. Most disappointing!
Maybe Lupe could still reach the top of the high point on the lower W ridge, though? That looked easy enough. At least the Carolina Dog had a new objective to pursue. Who knew, maybe things would look different from up there?
Lupe and SPHP tried to get around the E side of the second rock formation, but a long wall of rock blocked the way. Lupe was forced to retreat back to the W. What could be seen of the rest of the ridge leading to South Sawtooth looked forbidding. The ridge dropped sharply beyond this rock formation, before rising again and continuing N as an impossibly rough series of huge rock outcroppings. No way!
A grassy opening was visible to the W down at the bottom of a valley about 150 feet lower than where Lupe was now. Time to abandon the ridge. Lupe and SPHP started W down a fairly steep forested slope. As the ground began leveling out near the bottom, there was movement. Instantly, Lupe dashed away in hot pursuit!
SPHP never had a clear view of what she was after. Whatever it was had a huge lead, and bounded S through the forest at very high speed. Loop never got anywhere close, and soon gave up. SPHP got only tree-broken glimpses. The creature was gray and bounded like a rabbit, but it was far, far larger than any rabbit. Even Lupe was tiny by comparison.
A bear? Are bears still found in the Laramie Mountains? SPHP didn’t know. Maybe. Lupe returned with a huge grin on her face, panting hard. That was fun!
So what was it, Loop? A bear, or one of those giant jackalopes?
Lupe kept smiling, but didn’t say. Hardly mattered now. It was gone. Puppy, ho! Onward!
Lupe and SPHP reached the meadow at the bottom of the valley, crossed it to the W, and went over a small rise to another valley. This valley was mostly forested, and looked like it would take Lupe up to the saddle between South Sawtooth Mountain and the high point on the ridge to the W. Lupe turned N and began to climb.
Lupe made it up to the saddle with no problem at all. The whole W face of South Sawtooth Mountain was now in view. Unfortunately, no matter what route SPHP considered from here, there just didn’t appear to be a way for Lupe to reach the top. She could have climbed somewhat higher, but every possible path to the summit looked blocked by boulders or vertical rock walls somewhere along the way.
Defeat again! First at Eagle Peak, now here. No use fretting about it. The sky was clouding up. Rain showers looked like a possibility in some directions. If Lupe was going to reach the high point on the mountain’s W ridge, she had better get there before the weather deteriorated.
Piece of cake! Lupe was soon up on the W shoulder of South Sawtooth Mountain. A half acre of relatively flat ground contained two distinct high points. They were so close to each other in elevation, Lupe would have to climb both to be certain she’d reached the highest one.
Before Lupe climbed up on either high point, she took a general look around at some of the views available from various other vantage points.
Although not as good as they would have been if Lupe had been able to reach the summit of South Sawtooth Mountain, the views from the W shoulder were really quite nice. Lupe could see a lot of territory from up here.
After looking around some, Lupe got up on top of the N high point first, since it seemed easiest.
The best views of Middle and North Sawtooth Mountains were from rocks near the N high point. Though equally rugged, neither mountain was as high as South Sawtooth. Even here on South Sawtooth Mountain’s W shoulder, Lupe was higher than either Middle or North Sawtooth.
Shortly after visiting the N high point, Lupe went and climbed the S one. Even after being up on both, it wasn’t clear which was the highest.
Lupe and SPHP lingered up on South Sawtooth Mountain’s W Ridge for 30 or 40 minutes before starting back. The plan was to retrace the same route, except Lupe would try to cut through the forest and find USFS Road No. 615 again without getting up on the broad ridge S of South Sawtooth Mountain.
Loop left the W ridge going down to the saddle next to South Sawtooth Mountain. She then turned S traveling down the same valley she had originally come up. This valley would turn and take her too far W before long, so she soon had to make a jog to the E over a minor ridge into the next valley over.
After losing considerable elevation, Lupe gradually started regaining some as she traveled S through the forest. She was somewhere not too far W of the broad ridge she had reached N of High Point 8401 on the way to South Sawtooth, but it was hard to tell exactly where she was, or how much farther it might be to the road.
After a while, the terrain became a little rougher and rose more steeply. Some things looked vaguely familiar. Lupe continued S and eventually reached a meadow up on the ridgeline again. Now it was possible to see that Lupe was only a little SW of High Point 8401. That was good news! It meant that USFS Road No. 615 was close by.
Lupe headed SW down a forested slope. She soon reached No. 615. Now all she had to do was follow the road back to No. 657.01, which would take her back down Big Bear Canyon.
The sun had set and light was fading by the time Lupe made it all the way back down Big Bear Canyon. She was now approaching the last big creek ford across La Bonte Creek. As promised earlier, SPHP searched upstream of the ford for an easier place for Lupe to cross, but found nothing. Lupe was going to have to brave the ford one more time.
Once again, SPHP went barefoot with boots tied together and dangling behind the neck. Lupe wanted to cross the same downstream side of the ford where she had made it across before. SPHP went with her to keep a better eye on how she was doing. The water wasn’t as deep here as in the main part of the ford, but the current was far stronger.
Once again, it was alarming to see how close the Carolina Dog came to being swept downstream. As Lupe fought and clawed her way across La Bonte Creek, barely able to hang on against the swift current, SPHP started having problems, too. The creek bottom was covered with larger, slippery rocks here. They weren’t visible in the dim light. One of the rocks moved unexpectedly.
SPHP gyrated wildly trying to maintain balance. The American Dingo had made it! She stood safely on the opposite shore. SPHP recovered and avoided a fall, but out of the corner of an eye saw something hit the water. The new boots were bobbing away downstream! In seconds, they vanished from view.
Gone for good. Sheesh!
It was a good thing there wasn’t more gravel on USFS Road No. 658. The 0.33 mile barefoot trek back to the G6 was slow and painful enough as it was. Lupe ran back and forth on the road wondering what was wrong with SPHP? She was hungry! C’mon, hurry it up! Stars were shining by the time Alpo was served. (9:43 PM)
Although Lupe initially seemed tired out from the long trek to South Sawtooth Mountain, the Alpo soon revived her. She couldn’t sleep. SPHP finally let her out of the G6. She sniffed around in the night for a while, then laid down on the ground near the G6.
For a long time the Carolina Dog stayed out there alone, bathed in moonlight beneath the starry sky, watching the dim forest and listening to the soothing sound of the flowing waters of boot-eating La Bonte Creek.
Lucky Dingo! Australian adventurer Luke Hall was staying with her. For the second day in a row, Lupe was going to get to play host and tour guide. That could only mean another brand new adventure!
Yesterday Lupe had taken Luke up to Little Devil’s Tower(6,960 ft.) and Black Elk Peak(7,231 ft.), the highest mountain in South Dakota. Did Luke have any preference on what else he would like to see while still in the Black Hills region? Yes, he did, actually! Luke wanted to see Badlands National Park.
That was a great idea! Although the W end of Badlands National Park is only a little over an hour’s drive E of the Black Hills, Lupe had never been there before, either. Luke, Lupe and SPHP all piled into the G6. The miles flew by. It wasn’t long before SPHP turned onto Sage Creek Road a mile or two E of Scenic, SD.
The W end of the park’s N unit was still miles away, but Luke was ready to get out for a look around.
Once Lupe reached Badlands National Park, a series of overlooks along Sage Creek Rim Road provided increasingly dramatic views. The first views were of Sage Creek Basin. The sharply eroded hills and bluffs typical of the Badlands were still a little way off in the distance.
No one had to tell Lupe why this place was called the Badlands. It was easy to see there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in you know where of finding a squirrel out here! Most disappointing. Why on earth had Luke wanted to come way out to this wretched, forsaken land?
The answer was soon apparent. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of prairie dogs were living in large towns right along the road! Hundreds, maybe thousands, of fat squirrels right on the ground that couldn’t climb a tree even if there was one? It was an American Dingo’s dream come true! Badlands? Hardly, this place was a Dingo paradise! Luke was a genius!
Shockingly, SPHP was a total spoil sport. This could have been the greatest day of Lupe’s life! Instead, SPHP refused to let her go after those prairie dogs. Not even one! It was maddening. Sure, those prairie dogs had burrows, but this ground was soft and Lupe is a great digger. It would have been the most fun ever!
The Carolina Dog had to watch as a badger scurried across the road and disappeared down into a prairie dog burrow. Luke saw a coyote nearby. Poor Lupe could only stare out the window of the G6 and dream. SPHP decided it was best to drive on.
At the Hay Butte overlook, a plaque told about how pioneers had gone to great efforts to hay the grass off of the top of a long, flat butte seen in the distance. Why they felt compelled to do so was never fully explained. The Badlands are completely surrounded by prairie. What was so special about the grass growing on that butte?
It was a mystery of the universe. Some things can’t be explained, like why SPHP sided with the prairie dogs against the loyal Carolina Dog, a lifelong friend?
A short distance E of the Hay Butte overlook, Sage Creek Rim Road ended at the paved Badlands Loop Road, which winds through the most frequently visited part of Badlands National Park. Park headquarters and most trails, overlooks, and displays are located along the Badlands Loop Road.
Lupe’s first stop traveling E on Badlands Loop Road was at the Pinnacles overlook, where a couple of short trails led away from the road down to several viewpoints. Luke went down to investigate. American Dingoes couldn’t go on any of the trails, but the views were great right up by the road.
Most of the dramatic eroded buttes and spires of the Badlands are horizontally striped with many relatively thin layers of gray, white, or pink soils. At the Yellow Mounds overlook, however, a thick lower layer of yellow soil capped with red was exposed. The grays, whites and pinks could still be seen higher up. In some of the lowest parts of this region, the mounds were completely yellow, since the overlying layers had been eroded completely away.
While the soil colors can appear more dramatic near sunrise or sunset, or especially after a rain, even in sunshine at midday the Yellow Mounds were definitely worth a look.
10 or 12 miles E of the Yellow Mounds, Lupe arrived at a big parking lot next to the Fossil Exhibit Trail, a short loop trail where fossils are on display as originally found. Luke went to check out the trail, while Lupe and SPHP visited with a park ranger who had just finished a talk on various fossils found within Badlands National Park.
The Badlands are full of fossil-bearing sedimentary rocks. Fossils of many extinct animals from the Oligocene epoch 23 to 35 million years ago continue to be found here, including:
Leptomeryx – a small deerlike mammal
Oreodonts – common and sheeplike
Archaeotherium – a relative of pigs equipped with sharp canines
Mesohippus – an ancestor of modern horses
Hoplophoneus – an early saber-tooth cat
Metamynodon – a massive rhinoceros
After Luke got back from the Fossil Exhibit Trail, the next stop was at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Lupe couldn’t go in, but Luke and SPHP did, returning with brochures containing maps of the park. Several short trails were only a few miles away, so it was decided to go check them out.
Lupe had to wait in the G6, while Luke and SPHP went to explore the Window and Door trails.
The Window and Door Trails provided great views of some wild-looking badlands, but didn’t take long to explore. After returning to the G6, Luke continued on to explore the Notch Trail. Meanwhile, SPHP stayed with Lupe near the start of the trail.
Lupe enjoyed being out relaxing in the dry grass, surrounded by the beauty of the Badlands.
Luke was gone quite a while. People who had left after Luke did started returning. When SPHP inquired, two groups they said they had been all the way to the Notch at the end of the trail. Both groups had taken 40 to 45 minutes to make the round trip.
Lupe kept waiting. Eventually Luke reappeared.
Of course, Luke had made it to the end of the Notch Trail, too. He enjoyed the walk and the views, but especially the extra time he’d spent scrambling around on the Badlands formations.
The Badlands aren’t high at all by mountain climbing standards, but scrambling among them is tricky and potentially treacherous. The very steep sides of the formations are often loose and crumbly. Exercising considerable caution, Luke had successfully made it to the top of some of the highest formations near the Notch.
It was evening and time to start back when Luke returned. SPHP drove W back along the Badlands Loop Road. Lupe saw lots of animals to bark at from the G6. Pronghorn antelope, a buffalo, and bighorn sheep all got the enthusiastic Dingo treatment as Lupe sailed on by.
Lupe got to make a few stops to enjoy the scenery along the way, too.
The sun was sinking fast. Lupe, Luke and SPHP stopped at Panorama Point for a final look at the Badlands before it set. The evening was beautiful, and the sweeping views simply magnificent.
The sun disappeared from view. Lupe’s beautiful day in Badlands National Park with her friend Australian adventurer Luke Hall was over. It was her last big adventure with Luke before he would set out for Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks in Wyoming.
It was sad to think that Luke would be leaving soon, but Lupe and SPHP were both glad that he had taken the time to come and visit the Black Hills and Badlands of remote western South Dakota.
Day 2 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range, Wyoming & Beyond!
Lupe shot out into the night. No telling what hour it was. No doubt it was late, very late. Following a road to the top of Black Mountain(7,960 ft.) yesterday hadn’t been hard enough to wear the Carolina Dog out. She was all stirred up about being on a Dingo Vacation again, and had been staring out of the G6 watching the dark forest for hours. SPHP wasn’t all that sleepy, either. May as well join Looper out there.
The night air was pleasantly cool. Only a few stars could be seen through high, thin clouds. The nearly full moon was so bright, no other light was necessary. SPHP strolled S along USFS Road No. 633, while Lupe explored small fields nearby. The flowing waters of Horseshoe Creek and Lupe’s sniffing made the only sounds breaking the silence.
Forty minutes later, Lupe was back at the G6. She helped devour the rest of the leftover roasted chicken, then was finally able to fall asleep. By the time SPHP woke up again, the sun was shining. A surprisingly strong, cool breeze was blowing down the Horseshoe Creek valley. Lupe and SPHP spent a little time down by the stream. The sky clouded up.
The wind was strong enough so making breakfast was going to be a bother. SPHP decided to skip it. The roasted chicken in the night could serve as breakfast. Lupe was raring to go, anyway. Onward!
SPHP drove toward Lupe’s next peakbagging destination, following USFS Road No. 633 back to Esterbrook. From there Lupe enjoyed a scenic ride SW on Country Road No. 5. A huge herd of beautiful cows appeared ahead right on the road! Another cattle drive, or perhaps it was the same one Lupe had passed yesterday back at Prairie Dog Hill (6,400 ft.), was going on. In any case, another enthusiastic barkfest was in order.
Once safely a few miles beyond the cattle, SPHP stopped the G6 near a big rock outcropping providing a great view of Lupe’s next challenge. Eagle Peak(9,167 ft.) loomed to the S.
By 10:23 AM (67°F), the G6 was parked only a mile NW of Eagle Peak near the 3-way intersection of County Roads No. 5 & 71, and USFS Road No. 671. Lupe started out on No. 671, but quickly left it to follow a steep side road up an open slope. When the side road turned NE to rejoin No. 671, Lupe left it as well, climbing SE up into the forest.
The forest was full of cheerful yellow flowers.
The climb through the forest was fairly steep. Lupe soon reached a high point where she could not advance any farther toward Eagle Peak. Gah! She was going to have to lose some of her newly gained elevation. From high rocks, a flowery open saddle could be seen below to the SE.
Lupe ultimately lost 100+ feet of elevation working her way NE through thick forest and boulders before she came to a point where she could reach the open ground safely. She then had to head S back up to the flowery saddle. Not very efficient.
Great job of route finding, SPHP!
Pshaw! A minor setback. Puppy, ho! Onward!
From the flowery saddle, Lupe went SSW, skirting around the W side of another minor high point. She then turned SE, and quickly arrived at the edge of a small valley. A thickly forested hillside rose from the valley, climbing steeply toward the rocky upper NW face of Eagle Peak.
It looked like it might be possible to simply climb the NW face straight to the top of the mountain. Then again, maybe not. The rocky summit ridge was a long way up, still too far off to see details well. The topo map seemed to indicate it might be easier to approach the mountain from the SW.
High up on the mountain toward the S, an area of burnt forest was visible. Maybe Lupe should head toward that?
SPHP led Lupe across the small valley, entering the forest. Loop traveled SSE gaining elevation steadily. The immediate goal now was to reach the burnt forest high up on Eagle Peak’s SW slope. The Carolina Dog had a good time exploring the living forest, which went on for quite a long way. She stopped for water and to relax a few times when SPHP needed a break.
The living forest was nice and cool, but the morning’s clouds had mostly dissipated by the time Lupe reached the start of the burnt area. The day was sunny, bright, and getting warmer. Lupe could now see more of the territory higher up. The view improved as Lupe continued climbing. The top of the mountain was still hundreds of feet higher.
At first the burnt area was quite easy to navigate through, but as Lupe got higher up, she started encountering more deadfall, larger boulders, and some living trees as well that made progress increasingly difficult. Lupe and SPHP turned ESE to climb more aggressively, but the terrain grew worse. Finally, it became clear that the Carolina Dog was rapidly approaching the base of a nearly vertical wall of solid rock.
By now, Lupe wasn’t too far from the S end of the mountain. SPHP had her head that way, looking for a break in the rock wall that would let her get up on top. No dice. The vertical rock wall was continuous. Lupe finally reached the S end of it. She was now quite high on Eagle Peak, and had a good view of the 2 mile long ridge far below leading SSW to Jack Squirrel Peak(8,942 ft.).
SPHP had hoped Loop would be able to follow that SSW ridge to climb Jack Squirrel Peak after summiting Eagle Peak, but that clearly wasn’t in the cards. The ridge was way too rough. Nearly all of it had burned, and there would be a ton of deadfall down there, too. No way would there be time enough to navigate through all that!
Of course, there wasn’t much use in worrying about Jack Squirrel Peak yet, anyway. Lupe still hadn’t found a way to the top of Eagle Peak. A quick check of the topo map suggested that maybe she could go around the S end of the vertical rock wall and find a way up along the E side?
The rock wall was only a few feet thick at the S end. Lupe could now see spruce trees growing in a corridor to the E. The initial view was encouraging. May as well try it!
Lupe and SPHP circled around the S end of the vertical rock wall over to the E side. It was slow going amidst large boulders, and a mix of living trees and deadfall. However, Lupe and SPHP both made it, and found there was indeed a channel of forested land rising steadily to the N on the E side.
For a short distance, Lupe stayed right along the E base of the vertical rock wall as she climbed N. However, the wall rose higher to the N, too. Lupe wasn’t making any apparent progress toward being able to get up onto it.
The terrain immediately below the wall became increasingly difficult. Tightly packed spruce trees and boulders forced Lupe E away from the wall in order to make any progress at all. Even over here, the going was far from easy. Lupe was often down in cave-like spaces between boulders, while SPHP worked up and around them. Once SPHP was up, the crafty American Dingo always found a way to bound higher, too.
As Lupe climbed, she reached the W side of another, somewhat smaller rock wall along the E side of the corridor leading higher. After following this wall N up a short distance, several breaks appeared revealing large cliffs only a few feet away, and big views to the SE. SPHP was glad when those gaps ended a little higher up, and the unnerving cliff views were walled off again.
Lupe kept climbing N, but the rock wall to the W continued to get higher, too. If only she could scramble 30 or 40 feet up the wall, she would be on top, but there didn’t seem to be a way to do it. Finally, SPHP spotted a route that might work. If Lupe could reach a small green tree a little more than halfway up, the rest should be easy. It looked feasible.
By the time SPHP spotted this possible route via the small green tree, Lupe was nearing a pass only a little farther N. Maybe a more certain and easier way up would be visible N of the pass? Should probably check that out first! Hopes soared as Lupe approached the pass.
The view N from the pass was a colossal disappointment. All that could be seen was a line of enormous cliffs extending along the entire E side of the mountain. The continuous rock wall to the W offered not the slightest encouragement. Forget that!
The American Dingo retreated S from the pass back down to the potential route via the little green tree. It was Lupe’s last hope of reaching the summit from anywhere along this SE side of the mountain.
Lupe and SPHP went closer to investigate. The truth was plain within only a few minutes. No, there wasn’t any way Looper could get to that little green tree. It was all an illusion. The whole foray around the SE side of the mountain had been a huge waste of time and energy.
No hope remained over here. Lupe had to return to the W side of the mountain. Slowly, slowly, Loop and SPHP worked S back down the channel E of the vertical rock wall. Time ticked by. Lupe and SPHP made it back to the S end of the mountain, and around to the W side.
The plan once again was to stay near the base of the vertical rock wall, and follow it N until a way up could be found. SPHP was still optimistic Lupe would succeed over here, if she went far enough N.
Looper seemed happy and optimistic, too, but the slog N was painfully slow going. This high up, there were plenty of obstacles on the W side of the mountain, too. More giant boulders, more deadfall, more live trees.
On and on, yet no matter how high Lupe got, the top of the vertical rock wall was always out of reach. Sometimes not terribly far out of reach, only 40 or 50 feet in some places, but out of reach nevertheless. Frustration began setting in. Wasn’t there any way up?
As if it was needed, a new worry appeared. Off to the N was another long section of Eagle Peak’s summit ridge. It was separated by a saddle from the S end of the mountain where Lupe had been trying to get up. SPHP had tried to lead Lupe up the S end, partly because that was where the topo map showed the 9,167 ft. survey benchmark. However, another look at the map showed that both the N and S ends of the mountain had sizable areas enclosed by the 9,160 ft. contour.
Maybe the true summit of Eagle Peak was actually over at the N section of the summit ridge, instead of at or near the S section’s survey benchmark? Entirely possible. Lupe’s first view from this high up over at the N section revealed 3 vertical prongs of rock grouped close together. They looked high. Maybe higher than anything over here?
Fine, fine, Loop, just peachy fine! Have your little laugh, or big one if you like, but here’s the deal. If we can get to the top of either the S section or the N section of the summit ridge, we are going to call it good enough for Dingo work. You can then claim a peakbagging success on Eagle Peak and we can get out of here. Unless, of course, it’s completely clear from up on top that the true summit is definitely at the other section? What do you think?
OK, but I really think there’s no need to keep consulting your silly, misleading, inconclusive maps. Maybe it’s time to consult a psychiatrist, instead! You might get to the bottom of all this, if not the top.
Ha, ha! So hilarious! Come on, let’s get on with it. Either way, success or defeat, I’m about done with Eagle Peak.
Oh, maybe you still do have a marble or two left!
Lupe came close to making it. Twice she got within 20 feet or so of reaching the top of the vertical rock wall. One route looked possible, but too exposed. SPHP wouldn’t chance it. The other appeared effectively blocked by a single boulder.
If she could have gotten up on that wall, SPHP believed Lupe would have had an easy stroll with only minor additional elevation gain required to reach Eagle Peak’s summit. It never happened. All hope of reaching the top of the mountain’s S section of the summit ridge disappeared when the N end of it ended in big cliffs.
Attention shifted to trying to get to the top of the N section of the ridge. Unfortunately, the clearer view of it that Lupe had now was even more daunting than before.
Lupe would be approaching the 3 vertical prongs from the S where the steep rock offered little encouragement. Worse yet, what could be seen of the top of the ridge farther N looked like a narrow string of rock knobs difficult and dangerous to traverse, even if it was possible to get up there somehow. Towering cliffs were seen to the E, and it looked like there must be cliffs of lesser, unknown height to the W.
Nevertheless, staying toward the W, Lupe and SPHP headed down to the saddle leading to the N section of the summit ridge. Lupe crossed the saddle and succeeded in regaining some elevation, but as expected, there was no way to the top from here.
It was still entirely possible Lupe might be able to reach the top of the N section of the summit ridge from the NW. She had seen that much earlier in the day. From here, though, even trying it would mean a big down climb, and then another search for a route up working N along the W side of the long ridgeline. No way. Not today. SPHP was done.
Let’s get some photos from here Loop, and call it good.
Lupe barked happily! She was ready to call it a day, too.
On the way back down, Lupe passed through the burnt forest again.
SPHP made the mistake of leading Lupe N too soon. She should have lost more elevation first. This way the burnt forest went on and on. Maybe it was just the sense of defeat, but what should have been a relatively easy trek back, seemed much longer and steeper than the way up had been. When Lupe finally reached the live forest, it also seemed to go on forever. The American Dingo turned W, plunging relentlessly down the mountain. SPHP became afraid she was going to cliff out, but she didn’t.
Somewhere near the end, Lupe’s routes up and down crossed. At last, the Carolina Dog emerged from the forest, reaching relatively level open ground near County Road No. 710. The NW slope of Eagle Peak didn’t look all that daunting from down here.
Oh, well! What was done was done. Que sera. It was over. Next time Lupe would just go straight on up that NW slope! If there ever was a next time. Defeat bred pessimism.
Lupe reached the G6 again at 6:52 PM (72°F). Denied, after 8.5 hours on a mountain only a mile away, with less than 1,500 feet of elevation gain required to summit! How was that even possible? SPHP felt sunburnt, battered, bruised, scraped, and worn out. The plucky American Dingo looked fine, but you could bet even she wouldn’t be taking any long moonlit strolls tonight!
SPHP drove around the N end of Eagle Peak heading E on USFS Road No. 671. Lupe would spend the evening at a dispersed camping site off USFS Road No. 681 leading to Friend Park near Laramie Peak.
What a gorgeous evening! On the way to No. 681, SPHP stopped briefly NE of the mountain to let Lupe out for another look. Eagle Peak stood high and wonderful, its crown surrounded by an intriguing variety of cliffs and spires. Lupe had nearly reached the top. Almost, but not quite. The lofty summit remained the domain of eagles, not dingoes.
Start: Hwy 87/89, 0.25 mile NW of Sylvan Lake Lodge, 9:46 AM, 46°F
Wonder of wonders! Australian adventurer Luke Hall was actually here – in Lupe’s Black Hills of South Dakota! He’d arrived yesterday afternoon only a few weeks from the end of a 6 month trip exploring the western United States.
During his recent travels, Luke had scrambled up many notable mountain peaks, including Mt. Whitney(14,498 ft.) in California and Mt. Elbert(14,433 ft.) in Colorado, the two highest mountains in the lower 48 states. He’d spent a lot of time along the Pacific coast, and visited a great many national parks – Yosemite, Death Valley, Sequoia, King’s Canyon, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Mesa Verde, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Rocky Mountain – the list went on and on.
Surfing, swimming, backpacking, mountain biking, climbing – Luke had been a busy guy in 2017, but that was perfectly normal for him. In previous years, he’d explored western Canada, 10 different countries in South America, wandered through much of Europe, and toured Morocco and Egypt. He spent 2 years living and working in London, England, and another 2 years in Banff, Canada. Maybe it wasn’t so surprising that Luke had finally landed in the remote Black Hills of South Dakota after all? He did get around!
Fittingly enough, Lupe and SPHP had first met Luke Hall over a year ago on Gunsight Mountain(6,441 ft.) in Alaska. Now Luke was here to join Lupe on one of her Black Hills, SD expeditions. He had already dropped by Mt. Rushmore(5,725 ft.) on his way in, so Black Elk Peak(7,231 ft.), the highest mountain in South Dakota, seemed like a good destination. For Luke it would be an easy day, but maybe he wouldn’t mind dialing it down a notch after 5+ solid months of more strenuous adventures?
It was a lovely bright, clear day as Lupe, Luke and SPHP set out. First stop along the way was Sylvan Lake.
After a look at Sylvan Lake from the NW shore, Lupe, Luke & SPHP followed a trail that goes all the way around the lake back down below the dam. Lupe led Luke around to the NE & E sides of the lake.
Trail No. 9 from Sylvan Lake is the most direct and popular route to Black Elk Peak, but Lupe had another trail in mind. She led Luke past the picnic ground at the SE end of the lake, and took Trail No. 4 to the Little Devil’s Tower trailhead instead.
Taking Trail No. 4 was a longer route to Black Elk Peak, but had the advantage of giving Luke a chance to climb Little Devil’s Tower(6,960 ft.) along the way, and get a close look at the Cathedral Spires(6,840 ft.), too.
A 0.25 mile long spur trail leads from Trail No. 4 to the summit of Little Devil’s Tower. The end of the route involves a quick, easy scramble up the granite. Even small children can make it with a little supervision and an occasional boost.
Luke, Lupe and SPHP quickly arrived at the summit of Little Devil’s Tower(6,960 ft.). There were cliffs around, especially to the N, but they were of no concern. Although a bit rough, the uneven granite summit area is quite roomy.
The 360° views from Little Devil’s Tower are among the best in the Black Hills, with Black Elk Peak(7,231 ft.) to the NNW and the Cathedral Spires(6,840 ft.) to the SE being the most eye-catching.
At first, no one else was around up on Little Devil’s Tower. It wasn’t long, though, before a couple appeared. Bryan and Rene Jobo from Franklin, Tennessee joined Lupe, Luke and SPHP at the summit.
Bryan and Rene were on vacation in the Black Hills, and apparently having a good time relaxing and hitting some of the area’s highlights. Bryan, Rene, Luke and SPHP were soon chatting pleasantly. Lupe got involved posing for photos.
Bryan and Rene stayed chatting with Luke and SPHP for a while, but didn’t have time to accompany Lupe all the way to Black Elk Peak. They had other adventures in mind to press on toward. Soon after Bryan and Rene said good-bye; Luke, Lupe and SPHP resumed the trek to Black Elk Peak.
Trail No. 4 went N past some of the Cathedral Spires, and eventually linked up with a short section of Trail No. 3, which led in turn to Trail No. 9. Near the end of a spur trail off Trail No. 9, a metal stairway hidden in a narrow opening in the granite spiraled up to a rock stairway leading to the old fire lookout tower on Black Elk Peak(7,231 ft.).
Upon arrival at South Dakota’s highest point, Luke, Lupe and SPHP spent a few minutes out on the fire lookout tower’s W facing observation deck taking in the views. The wind had shifted to the NW by now, though, and was even colder than at Little Devil’s Tower.
Even Lupe was soon ready to retreat back into the lookout tower. The tower wasn’t very large inside, but Luke enjoyed exploring the winding passage down to the basement. An open doorway led out to a massive granite shoulder of the mountain immediately W of the tower. Everyone enjoyed a break in the shelter of a few pines growing out of the rock.
After snacks and water, it was time for photos from various points on the granite near the lookout tower.
All too soon, it was time to depart. On the way back to the G6, Lupe, Luke and SPHP followed Trail No. 9 all way to Sylvan Lake. The sun was sinking, but down out of the wind the evening was pleasant.
The light was fading fast by the time Lupe reached the G6 again at 6:45 PM (upper 50’s °F). Climbing mountains with Luke, and getting to show off her Black Hills home territory had been great fun!
The fun wasn’t over yet, though. There would be pizza and beer with Luke at home. (What, no beer for the faithful, peakbagging Carolina Dog!? No fair!) Even better, Luke was sticking around for a while. Another adventure was in store tomorrow.
Day 1 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range, Wyoming & Beyond
Nine months gone. Practically an eternity! Late in the evening, Lupe laid sad-faced and bored on the even sadder-looking old couch clawed up by 4 cats who no longer lived here. Did she ever even think anymore about those glorious days of her last and greatest 2016 Dingo Vacation when she’d gone all the way to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska?
If so, you couldn’t tell it. Of course, maybe she was thinking of those times, and how long ago and far away it all seemed was what was making her sad. Loopster heaved a sigh, staring vacantly over the edge of the couch. She looked like she had lost her last friend.
She hadn’t, of course. She’d been on lots of Black Hills expeditions full of adventures with SPHP over the last nine months. Fun times, but not the same as hitting the open road for days on end spent exploring exciting, beautiful, distant lands.
While Loop moped on the couch, SPHP was not idle. A warm, fragrant breeze stirred the air. Late spring by the calendar. Early summer by SPHP’s reckoning.
Better enjoy lounging around like that while you still can!
Lupe’s eyes shifted to watch SPHP busily checking equipment and supplies. Her expression didn’t change.
You’ll see, soon enough!
Promises, promises. Nothing fun happened. Dullsville.
The next morning SPHP was up early. Shower, breakfast, and then back and forth packing all this stuff into the G6. Lupe began to realize something really was up. A glimmer of hope in her eyes grew rapidly to increasing anticipation.
Mountain climbing season, Loopster! It’s here! You ready?
Was she ever! Only a few hours later, Lupe was in Wyoming, whizzing along in the G6 headed for her first adventure of her first Dingo Vacation of 2017. Had the mood ever changed from last night! Looper was ready to let the good times roll!
Lupe was headed for the Laramie Mountains in SE Wyoming. Only 8 days into June, it was still weeks early to head up into some of the higher Wyoming ranges for mountain climbing, since there would still be too much snow on the peaks. However, with the exception of Laramie Peak(10,272 ft.), the highest mountains of the Laramie Range top out only a little over 9,000 ft. There might still be some snow around in early June, but not enough to be a problem.
By early afternoon, Lupe reached Douglas, Wyoming. SPHP drove S from there on Hwy 94. The highway eventually turned to gravel and became County Road No. 5. A mile N of Esterbrook, SPHP had planned to let Lupe tag Prairie Dog Hill(6,400 ft.) as her first peak “climbed” in the Laramie Range this year. It wasn’t even really a climb at all, since County Road No. 5 goes almost right over the high point. Pathetically easy.
However, when Lupe arrived at Prairie Dog Hill, a cattle drive was in progress right on the road. Lupe was almost out of her mind with delight! She bounded from window to window of the G6 in a foaming-at-the-mouth barking frenzy. She was eager to get out and help drive some cattle herself! Not such a good idea. The cowboys might have an issue with that. SPHP drove on, turning E at Esterbrook on USFS Road No. 633.
No. 633 wound N & E for several miles. Shortly after passing Esterbrook Campground, the road began to lose elevation and turned S. Lupe’s first real peakbagging objective, Black Mountain(7,960 ft.), came into view.
Black Mountain was still 9 or 10 miles SSW from where it first came into view. On the way there, Lupe stopped by Horseshoe Creek, which flowed right along USFS Road No. 633 for a couple of miles.
Looking for USFS Road No. 667, SPHP turned off No. 633 at Camp Laramie Peak, a Boy Scout camp at Harris Park. Lupe and SPHP made inquiry at the main office on how to find No. 667 to Black Mountain.
Camp Laramie Peak was just opening up for the summer season. Councilors were already here, but the first Boy Scouts were just beginning to arrive. Fortunately, an official was available who told SPHP that USFS Road No. 667 (unmarked) to Laramie Peak went right through the camp. He pointed out a road that went S down a little hill.
The road would quickly deteriorate to a high-clearance proposition – it wasn’t going to be G6 friendly at all. This was known in advance from the topo map where No. 667 was marked 4WD. The intention all along had been to ditch the G6 somewhere, and follow the road on paw and foot. Fortunately, SPHP was free to park the G6 at Camp Laramie Peak at a small parking area near the main office.
At 3:08 PM (79°F), Lupe and SPHP set off. There had been one caveat mentioned at the office about taking USFS Road No. 667. The road went through Boy Scout property for the first half mile or so. Leaving the road was not permitted. No trespassing on Boy Scout land! Seemed like an odd demand from an organization dedicated in part to promoting the outdoors, but another official reiterated this rule as Lupe and SPHP ambled along the road through the camp.
Whatever, no problem. SPHP adhered rigidly to this restriction. The American Dingo, having spent most of the day cooped up in the G6, was somewhat less diligent. Lupe had a fun time roaming and exploring the forest not too far from the road.
After dipping down through camp, No. 667 crossed a small stream and then began to wind W climbing steadily. Bluebells were growing in profusion in the forests and fields. It was a pretty day, a bit warm, and Lupe was off to a good start. She was beyond forbidden Boy Scout territory in a jiffy. A mile from camp, she arrived at a minor saddle near large rock formations.
Still hidden from view more than a mile N of the minor saddle was Peak7320, another mountain SPHP hoped Lupe would get a chance to climb. First things first, though! The road turned due S from the saddle and climbed more steeply than before. Lupe followed it, continuing toward Black Mountain.
No. 667 soon turned SW and leveled out for a little way. Peak 7320 now came into view back to the N. The mountain was capped by a huge knob of solid rock. Lupe might not be able to get to the top, even if there was time enough later on for an attempt.
Off to the SW, the summit of Black Mountain had come into view, too. It was a little hard to recognize at first, but got easier to discern as Lupe continued along the road. A fire lookout tower was perched way up on the highest rocks.
No. 667 soon began to climb again fairly steeply. Before long, it made one big jog to the NW before turning sharply S. Once it made the turn, the road started leveling out. Lupe was still gaining elevation, but at an easy pace. The Carolina Dog now enjoyed a pleasant journey S to the summit along the big N ridge.
The views were increasingly beautiful! Albany Peak(7720 ft.) could be seen to the SSE. A little farther on, Laramie Peak(10,272 ft.) came into view to the SW.
Lupe continued S along No. 667 until it curled around a big rock formation, and suddenly ended at the base of the massive stone knob the fire lookout station was perched on. A steep metal stairway was the only way up.
The American Dingo didn’t like the look of those stairs! She stayed at the bottom, while SPHP climbed the first longest section. SPHP had to plead with her to follow. She finally did come up, but not until SPHP was about ready to go down and get her.
A metal platform turned 90°, and led in a few feet to a 2nd shorter flight of stairs. SPHP climbed this 2nd set, only to turn around and see Lupe running back down the 1st flight all the way to the bottom again. SPHP returned to the top of the 1st flight to resume pleading and coaxing. Looper finally relented. This time she made it all the way to the fire lookout station to claim her peakbagging success!
The day had been warm and the air calm all the way up the mountain. Even down at the base of the metal stairway, there hadn’t been much of a breeze. However, up at the fire lookout tower, it was considerably cooler. An annoyingly strong gusty wind was blowing out of the SSE. The last bit of elevation gain had made a surprising difference!
It was so windy, Loopster wanted to take shelter in the lookout tower. She was most disappointed that it was padlocked shut, and no one was around to let her in. The views were splendid in every direction. Somewhat reluctantly, the Carolina Dog cooperated with taking photos. She preferred to spend her time on the N side of the tower out of the wind.
Lupe and SPHP made several forays around the tower to check out the views, returning frequently to the N side for breaks from the wind.
Lupe spent a good 30 minutes up at the summit of Black Mountain(7,960 ft.). Before leaving, the Carolina Dog and SPHP took a longer break out of the wind on the N side of the lookout tower. Lupe had water and Taste of the Wild. Then it was time for one last look at Laramie Peak from the top, and a final stroll around the lookout tower.
In her eagerness to get out of the wind, Lupe showed no fear of the long metal stairway leading down to USFS Road No. 667. She raced to the bottom in nothing flat. It was still a little breezy back down at the road, but nothing compared to the gusty wind up at the tower.
SW of the lookout tower were some great viewpoints where Laramie Peak was on display. Lupe took a little time to sniff around and explore this area.
When Lupe was satisfied with her explorations of the summit area, she headed back N along USFS Road No. 667. She would retrace her route up following the road all the way back to Camp Laramie Peak.
Although SPHP had hoped Lupe would have time to take a crack at Peak 7320 on the way down, the sun was starting to get low. Since it looked like there wouldn’t be sufficient daylight to summit and get back to the road before dark, Lupe never made the attempt.
It was 9:11 PM (52 °F) when Lupe reached Camp Laramie Peak again. In fading light, she was treated to a ride S in the G6 down the Cottonwood Creek valley on County Road No. 71. SPHP wanted to check out potential access routes to Albany Peak. Maybe Lupe could climb it tomorrow?
There proved to be numerous homes on private property along County Road No. 71. “No Trespassing” signs were posted all over the place. SPHP found one possible access point, but it wasn’t clear if this route went across private property or not. From Black Mountain, Lupe had seen a very large rock formation at the top of Albany Peak. Maybe she couldn’t even get to the top of the mountain, even if there was access?
Reluctantly, SPHP decided Lupe should skip Albany Peak, at least on this trip. SPHP drove N again, as Lupe barked enthusiastically at antelope grazing in the fields at dusk. It was dark by the time Lupe stopped at a pullout along USFS Road No. 633 near Horseshoe Creek for the night.
Only 24 hours ago, Lupe had been bored and despondent on the tattered old couch back home. Yet today she’d had a blast traveling to Wyoming and climbing Black Mountain. The lucky American Dingo’s summer of 2017 adventures had only just begun!