Start: 9:20 AM, 36°F at the Boulder Hill trailhead of Flume Trail No. 50 on USFS Road No. 358 (Boulder Hill Road)
Going to Boulder Hill with Mark and Hillary on Expedition No. 219 had reminded SPHP that while Lupe had been to Boulder Hill half a dozen times, she had never been to nearby Storm Hill. Wasn’t it about time she went?
Of course, Lupe was in favor of any idea that would get her out of the house for another Black Hills adventure! Soon she was setting out for Storm Hill(5,192 ft.) from the same Boulder Hill trailhead of Flume Trail No. 50 where she had so recently been with Mark and Hillary.
For the first 0.33 mile, Lupe followed Flume Trail No. 50. The trail went SE up to a saddle between Boulder Hill and Storm Hill. With only an inch of snow on the ground, Lupe could have run around exploring easily enough. Instead, she nervously stuck close to SPHP. Distant gunfire could be heard coming from somewhere off to the W. Someone was doing target practice.
At the saddle, Lupe was between Boulder Hill to the SW, and Storm Hill to the NE. A spur of Flume Trail No. 50 goes all the way up to the top of Boulder Hill, but there isn’t any trail going up Storm Hill. Lupe would have to bushwhack through the forest.
Carolina Dogs love bushwhacking! Despite the distant gunfire, Lupe grew bolder after leaving the Flume Trail. She followed the saddle NE over to Storm Hill. She was going away from the gunfire, which helped her confidence.
Upon reaching the SW slope of Storm Hill, Lupe traveled right on up a rocky spine of the mountain. The climb would have been easier if she had simply avoided the rocks. However, she did get glimpses of Boulder Hill from the rocks she wouldn’t have otherwise had.
The SW spine of the mountain topped out near the S end of a broader ridge. This broader ridge was also quite rocky, but wasn’t as steep. Lupe gained elevation more slowly as she followed it N. To the E, Loop could see little but forest. However, she did come across places where she had views off to the SW or W.
The summit of Storm Hill was close to the N end of the broad ridge. A fairly large summit area, perhaps 30 or 40 feet in circumference, was the highest part of the mountain. Pine trees obscured the views in some directions. However, Lupe enjoyed a panoramic view to the N and NE from the top of small cliffs.
By moving around the summit area, Lupe found at least partial views in other directions.
Storm Hill has a double summit. Two widely separated areas contained within 5,160 foot contours are on the topo map. Lupe was at the W high point where a site elevation of 5,192 feet was shown. SPHP presumed this was the true summit of Storm Hill. It was hard to get much of a look at the E high point, but there was a spot from which it could be seen.
The E high point was a long, skinny ridge. It was steeper and more rugged-looking territory. The highest parts of the E ridge appeared to be about as high as where Lupe was, but SPHP was pretty certain they weren’t any higher. Satisfied that Lupe had actually reached the true summit of Storm Hill, SPHP didn’t make her spend the extra hour it might have taken to visit the E ridge, too.
Lupe returned to the true summit of Storm Hill, before taking a little break. Meanwhile, SPHP took a few more photos of the views.
Lupe spent 20 minutes enjoying the summit of Storm Hill before moving on. The Carolina Dog started back retracing her route S along the broad ridge. She soon left the ridge, however, veering SW to explore easier terrain in the forest below. She reached Flume Trail No. 50 again well N of the saddle where she’d originally left it.
By 11:06 AM (42°F), Loop was back at the G6. Storm Hill had been fun, but had taken her less than 2 hours. Plenty of time left in the day for more adventures! SPHP drove S. Lupe had fun barking at cows, horses, and eventually even some buffalo.At 1:52 PM (41°F), SPHP parked the G6 at the mouth of a grassy valley N of USFS Road No. 336 (Flynn Creek Road) less than a mile S of Northeast Cicero Peak(6,240 ft.). Lupe had been to Northeast Cicero Peak twice before, but her most recent ascent was now more than 2.75 years ago. For fun, she would try a new route up.
Lupe started out climbing NW up a thickly forested ridge on the W side of the grassy valley. She eventually emerged from the trees. An open hilltop was only a short distance away. Loop went to the top for a look around. She was a little S of High Point 5821. Cicero Peak(6,166 ft.) was in view not quite a mile to the SW.
Continuing onward, Lupe skirted High Point 5821 to the NE. The partially forested slope was so steep, she might just as easily have gone to the top of High Point 5821, but she didn’t. Upon reaching the saddle N of High Point 5821, the American Dingo turned N. She climbed a mostly open slope up to a high grassy area with a commanding view.
From the high grassy area, Lupe headed NE gaining elevation at a slower pace. Most of this part of her climb was in a forest containing scattered lumpy rock outcroppings. In the shade of the pines, snow was several inches deep.
The final approach to the summit from the WSW was a gentle climb up a grassy slope. A N/S running rock ledge only 2 or 3 feet high was at the top of the mountain. A lone boulder sat a short distance beyond the ledge. That boulder, which appeared to be slightly higher than the ledge, was the true summit of Northeast Cicero Peak(6,240 ft.).
The summit area was large and grassy. A few pines along the N edge blocked views to the NW, while a dense forest hid views to the S and SE. In other directions, Lupe could see big swaths of the Black Hills. The most interesting views were of higher country to the N.
A cool W breeze blew. A low, weary sun, partially obscured by a bank of clouds, dangled listlessly above the horizon. Northeast Cicero Peak felt forlorn, sad. Mid-afternoon, but it felt late. Late in the day. Late in the year. Winter solstice was only 3 days away. Christmas soon after that. A week later, 2017 would be over. Another year gone forever. A depressing thought.
Neither Lupe nor SPHP knew it yet, but Northeast Cicero Peak was the last mountain Lupe would climb in 2017.
Northeast Cicero Peak was the highest mountain this far S in the Black Hills. The views were impressive. Yet the somber mood of the mountain made SPHP restless after only 10 minutes on top. Maybe action would add some cheer? Lupe set off into the forest, intent on exploring the mountain’s S ridge on the way down.
The S ridge wasn’t a very good route. It was full of obstacles. Dense stands of young pines, slick snowy spots, rough rock outcroppings, deadfall timber, all the usual rigamarole except fences to deal with. Not much in the way of views as compensation, either. For what seemed like a long way, the Carolina Dog didn’t lose much elevation.
Lupe finally came to a rare open spot in the forest where the going was easier. Beyond it, the descent began in earnest.
Once the descent really got going, it was one steep slope after another. Lupe avoided rocky areas as much as possible, which became progressively easier the lower she went. She eventually turned SW, ultimately reaching the floor of the valley W of the S ridge. Here, the American Dingo found a faint road leading back to the G6 (4:08 PM, 36°F).
The last of 33 Black Hills, SD Expeditions in 2017 was over.
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Day 4 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Wind River Range, Wyoming & Select Peaks in Montana
Lupe wanted out. SPHP unzipped the door of her “tiny house”, and she vanished into the night. A nearly full moon hung over the mountains bathing the world in a ghostly glow. It was late, very late. Hours of light rain showers were over. Fortunately, the tiny house and everything in it had escaped being drenched. The clear sky was a welcome sight.
SPHP scanned nearby terrain tying to pick out the Carolina Dog. She was nowhere to be seen. Many secrets remain concealed beyond the pale power of moonlight to reveal. SPHP listened. Nothing but a soft breeze sighing.
Ten minutes later, she came racing back all out of breath.
Out having adventures in the night without me, aye Looper?
Maybe. A short one.
Want to tell me about it?
Nope, gonna go back to sleep now.
Smart. You’ll need some of that energy for Wind River Peak in the morning.
SPHP zipped the door of the tiny house shut as soon as Lupe was in. Best get as much shuteye as possible. Dawn couldn’t be more than a few hours away.
The moon was gone the next time Loop wanted out. Sol blazed well above the horizon. Morning! This was it! Breakfast. Final preparations. Everything ready. The great moment arrived. Now or never! Wind River Peak or bust! Lupe and SPHP headed N abandoning the tiny house. Nothing but up, now! 2,000 feet should about do it.
Lupe, who had been too tired to eat yesterday evening, was chock full of energy and ambition. She ran this way and that sniffing around big rocks. No squirrels, today! The American Dingo was already above tree line. SPHP was feeling the effects of the thin air, and two long days struggling to get to base camp above Tayo Lake. At the top of the first steep rise, SPHP paused to catch breath.
The S slopes of Wind River Peak(13,192 ft.) were directly ahead. The way up seemed straightforward enough. Just keep climbing while avoiding any steep snow. Lupe would work her way NW to gain a S ridge that looked snow-free all the way to the top. It would be a long boulder hop, but that was OK. American Dingoes are great scramblers! Nothing was in view that should prevent Lupe from reaching the summit.
Lupe and SPHP continued on, pausing now and then to look around and let SPHP catch breath. The terrain grew rockier. Lupe gained elevation steadily, but reaching the rocks slowed SPHP down considerably. The Carolina Dog had plenty of time to wander, sniff and survey the tremendous views.
Looper couldn’t completely avoid the snow fields, but had no problem traversing them. She enjoyed the snow, and crossed at points that SPHP could manage. She made it above the last big snowfield, and gained the upper S ridge she’d been aiming for. The rest of the trek was just a long, long scramble up the rocks.
The morning had been breezy until now, but it was just plain windy way up here on the S ridge. A gusty 20 to 30 mph wind blew out of the W. Occasionally the air was calm for a moment or two between gusts, but most of the time the wind was powerful enough to be an annoyance. Lupe stayed E of the ridgeline for a little protection whenever possible.
After a long scramble up countless rocks, the S ridge began to level out. Loopster had to be getting close to the top! She encountered a couple of larger rock formations, but had no problem scrambling around them. Ahead the ridge broadened out to perhaps an acre or more of gently sloping jumbled rock. Was that the summit?
A rock formation at the far N end looked noticeably higher than anything else in sight. Lupe headed for it. Even before she got there, it became apparent she was indeed approaching the summit of Wind River Peak(13,192 ft.). SPHP was overjoyed! The Carolina Dog had made it! Lupe leapt up onto the rock formation. She stood proudly in the breeze atop the glorious mountain.
SPHP joined Lupe at the top of the mountain. The sky was a bit hazy, whether due to smoke or humidity was hard to say. Even so, the views were simply superlative! SPHP congratulated Lupe on her peakbagging success, and shook her paw. For 10 minutes, Loop and SPHP sat in the wind up on the highest rocks, while SPHP stroked her soft ears and fur.
It wasn’t noon yet, but seemed like time for at least a snack. Lupe and SPHP got down off the summit rocks, and took shelter from the wind next to them. While Lupe devoured Taste of the Wild, SPHP had a Cliff bar, then searched around for a survey benchmark shown on the topo map. Nothing. SPHP couldn’t find a Nalgene bottle that was supposed to contain a summit register, either.
Puzzling. Wasn’t this the summit? It seemed obvious that it was. There were a couple of competing high points that didn’t look too much lower, though. One was to the E and the other along the W edge of the summit area. Better have Loop check them out, too, just in case.
Yeah, that was a good idea. Lupe had discovered a pika living among the summit rocks and was chasing it. The pika knew its home well, and had an easy time avoiding the Carolina Dog bent on its destruction. Completely fascinated by the elusive pika, Lupe was racing and bounding around oblivious to monstrous cliffs only a few feet away. Better put a swift end to this merry chase before it was Dingo overboard and the pika scored a victory!
Lupe found nothing among the large rocks at the E high point. Since she was close to the E edge of the summit area, she went a little further to check out the views over there.
Having seen the views to the E, Lupe visited several of the highest rocks along the mountain’s W edge. No sign of any benchmark or registry turned up here, either. However, the views to the W were even more glorious, due in no small part to the eye-catching proximity of Temple Peak(12,972 ft.) and East Temple Peak(12,600 ft.).
Beyond Haystack Mountain(11,978 ft.), Lupe could see the famed Cirque of the Towers, a gorgeous area she had been to before in 2015. Closer by, a slice of Black Joe Lake was in view more than 2,900 ft. below the American Dingo’s lofty vantage point.
Unfortunately, there was enough humidity, smoke or whatever it was in the air to ruin any really distant views Loop would have had on a totally clear day. With 360° of incredibly beautiful nearby panoramic splendor to admire, though, it hardly mattered.
While Loop relaxed, SPHP took some close ups.
Loop? Loop, where are you?
The American Dingo had been resting at SPHP’s feet just a minute or two ago, but she wasn’t here now. SPHP quickly scanned Wind River Peak’s summit area. Nada. Where had she gone off to?
Suddenly there she was, leaping and scrambling madly around the rocks over at the true summit. She hadn’t forgotten that pika, and had slunk off to pursue it again. No doubt mountaintop pika hunting was great sport, but it involved an element of real danger for both pika and Dingo.
Once more, SPHP put an end to the merriment.
Lupe stayed up on the summit only a short while longer. An hour had flown by already. Maybe it was time to think of moving on? Many hours of daylight remained, but as slow as SPHP is climbing a mountain, SPHP somehow manages to be even slower going down rocky slopes like those on Wind River Peak.
Partly for the pika’s sake, and partly to get on with it, Lupe and SPHP left Wind River Peak’s true summit for the final time ambling S. Loop got up on a boulder for a last look at Temple Peak.
Lupe and SPHP continued S toward the rock formations near the start of the steeper descent down the S ridge. Of course, the views here were tremendous, too. Lupe delayed the start of her descent until SPHP had taken a few more photos of the magnificent Wind River Range.
An hour and a half after she’d arrived at the summit of Wind River Peak, Lupe began her descent in earnest. The Carolina Dog did lots of exploring, sight-seeing and waiting around as SPHP slowly clambered down the long rocky slopes. Two hours passed before Lupe was below the big snowfields again.
Another two hours passed before she arrived back at her “tiny house”. Although Wind River Peak didn’t look 2,000 feet higher from here, it most certainly was. Lupe and SPHP could both vouch for that now. At least 4 hours of daylight remained, but it had been another strenuous long day already. Lupe joined SPHP inside her tiny house for a needed nap.
It was evening by the time Lupe emerged again feeling refreshed. The rest had done SPHP some good, too. SPHP proposed a stroll over to Lake 11,145. Lupe was enthusiastic about the idea, but she never made it all the way to the lake. Streams and marshes blocked the final approach, and SPHP didn’t want to get wet feet.
Loop circled around to the S end of the big ridge her tiny house was pitched on. For a long time, Lupe and SPHP sat together on a rock overlooking Tayo Lake watching the evening light fade from the mountains.
When the mosquitoes got bad, it was time to return to the tiny house. Lupe remained outside while SPHP arranged things inside for the coming night. When all was ready, SPHP went back out.
N farther up the ridge, more than 100 feet away, Lupe was all alone. She rested on the ground, still scanning the vast darkening wilderness. She saw SPHP, but didn’t come. For 10 minutes Lupe and SPHP watched each other from a distance. Loop didn’t move a muscle. What was she pondering all by herself?
Hard to say. SPHP would never really know, but if a guess had to be made, she may have been thinking about the elusive pika she would never see again that lives at the very top of towering Wind River Peak.
Start: 12:24 PM, 58°F at the intersection of Song Dog Road & USFS Road No. 373
Lupe hopped out of the G6. 20 expeditions and almost 8 months ago, she had come here to climb the Twin Sisters Range High Point(4,980 ft.). She’d made it to the top easily enough, but when she’d gone farther E to explore more of the area, the buzz of an unseen rattlesnake had put a quick end to that notion.
Even though it was an incredibly warm day for December, rattlesnakes weren’t likely to be stirring now. Lupe should be able to do all the exploring she wanted to today. The Carolina Dog started out heading E on USFS Road No. 373.
A mile from the G6, Lupe left the road and started the short, but steep climb up a SW slope to the W end of the Twin Sisters Range. Despite a few brief stops for SPHP to catch breath, Looper was soon at the top.
A dangerous, rusty barbed wire fence was laying on the ground. SPHP made certain Lupe didn’t get into it. A 20 mph wind blew out of the NW. Normally, it would have been frigid here in December with a wind like that. Today, though, it was so warm out the wind was only a nuisance.
Much of this area had burned in a forest fire years ago. As a result, Lupe had sweeping views of barren, forlorn vistas. Dull, dry, dead grass covering the land did little to add any cheer.
The actual high point of the Twin Sisters Range was still another 0.25 mile E. After enjoying the views from the W end of the ridge, Lupe and SPHP set off for the cairn at the summit.
The stroll to the summit was easy. Lupe had great views the whole time from the open ridge. It wasn’t long before Loop was at the summit cairn. Of course, the NW wind was blowing here, too. Not enjoying the wind, Lupe stayed only long enough at the summit for photos by the cairn, and a fairly quick look at the sights.
Loop and SPHP left the Twin Sisters Range High Point continuing E down to a lower part of the ridge. Loop regained some lost elevation climbing up to High Point 4872. High Point 4872 was windy, too, but Lupe paused briefly for a few photos.
At High Point 4872, Lupe was already well beyond where she’d been back in April on Expedition No. 199. The topo map showed another lower hill a mile off to the SE known as Elk Knob(4,752 ft.).
Elk Knob became Lupe’s next objective. She started down High Point 4872’s S slope, and was quite happy when she finally reached a valley where the wind was barely stirring.
The trip up Elk Knob was easy. Lupe first went to a saddle N of the hill, then followed the N slope up. The hill was heavily forested, until she got near the top. Lupe liked being in the forest on Elk Knob a lot better than on the bare, windy Twin Sisters Range ridge. She had a good time racing around sniffing and exploring.
The summit of Elk Knob proved to be a big, flat grassy area rimmed with pines. The pines were dense toward the N, but more sparse elsewhere. For a fairly low hill in this area, Elk Knob had some pretty good views. The wind wasn’t too bad, either, except near the more exposed W end.
Lupe took a break on Elk Knob. The usual water and Taste of the Wild, with an apple for SPHP. Then it was time for more exploring. Loop went NE down off Elk Knob, before turning E and SE. She wandered along several dirt roads. Only one had a sign, which said she was on USFS Road No. 373.1D.
The Carolina Dog ventured down into a fairly deep canyon. She followed a faint remnant of a road at the bottom, but it eventually ended. Loop climbed up the NE side of the canyon, and reached a ridge she took SE. The sun was getting low by the time she reached a big fence. This had to be the fence along the W side of Wind Cave National Park.
The fence was as far E as Lupe could go. It was getting late enough so she needed to start back anyway. On her return trip she avoided the canyon by staying farther N. She eventually passed back over the saddle N of Elk Knob heading NW.
The sun wasn’t quite down yet as Lupe neared the Twin Sisters Range again. Why not return to the summit? Well, there was the wind, for one thing. It wasn’t bad at all down here, but was still blowing up there. However, seeing the sunset from a mountaintop seemed more important. Up Lupe went.
The last bit of the sun was disappearing behind High Point 5017 when Lupe reached the Twin Sisters Range High Point(4,980 ft.) again. The sky was almost completely clear, with only a few small clouds to the W. With so few clouds, the sunset never really got a chance to develop into anything special.
For a little while, Lupe and SPHP sat together in the wind on the barren, forlorn mountaintop, watching the light fade until hopes for a colorful sky died old and gray. Time to go.
Being on the move again felt good. It was fun picking a way down the steep rocky slope, and marching across a field back to the road. Next came a mile of shared silence and solitude beneath a darkening sky. At the G6, a few stars glittered above. Water, a little more Taste of the Wild, and Lupe was homeward bound. (5:03 PM, 46°F)
Day 3 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Wind River Range, Wyoming & Select Peaks in Montana
Lupe hadn’t seen the stars all night. In the wee hours, SPHP woke to the sound of raindrops on her “tiny house”. Not good. The rain cover had been lost years ago. If it rained hard at all, everything would get soaking wet. Lupe wanted out to sniff around in the darkness. SPHP unzipped the door and let her go.
The Carolina Dog returned before too long, content to lay down on her red sleeping bag again. SPHP folded it over her for warmth. Light rain continued intermittently for hours. A gray dawn finally heralded the new day. Everything was damp. Better get going nonetheless.
After a brief bite to eat, it was time to find out what fate had in store.
May as well leave things here while we do a quick reconnaissance, Loop. This might all be over before we even get started.
Over! Last night, you said you had a plan!
Yes, two plans actually. The first one is no doubt doomed from the start. We’ll know for certain in a few minutes. The second plan might well suffer the same fate. Maybe, though, it will leave us with some hope, at least for a while.
Oh! Doesn’t sound too good. Are we going back soon, then?
Yes, Looper, if neither plan works, we won’t have any choice. Our Wind River Peak dreams will be kaput. Come on! Let’s go down to the river, and get this over with.
The Middle Popo Agie River was only a couple minutes away from the tiny house. Surprisingly, the river had actually dropped an inch or two overnight. It wasn’t enough, not nearly enough. Plan A was a failure. Lupe would still have to traipse 80 feet or more through a shallow lake just to get to the river channel where the ford was. No way! The river was way out of its banks, and far too dangerous.
That was Plan A, SPHP? You’re kidding, right? You knew the river would still be flooding!
Of course, but yeah, hoping that the river had gone down enough to ford it was Plan A. We at least had to come and take another look, didn’t we? Thought maybe it would look more possible this morning than when I was tired last night. It doesn’t. Let’s go check out Plan B.
Plan B had better be a doozie compared to Plan A!
Lupe had spent the night camped only 0.25 mile away from the intersection of Trails No. 707 & 706 up in Tayo Park. From there, she would have had two possible routes to Wind River Peak(13,192 ft.). She could have taken No. 706 N to Deep Creek Lakes, or No. 707 W to Tayo Lake.
The original idea was to make a nice loop up via Deep Creek Lakes and down by Tayo Lake. SPHP had seen trip reports where others had done it that way. However, the Wind River Range still had tons of snow in the high country. Snow melt was flooding the Middle Popo Agie River. Loop couldn’t even get to the ford on Trail No. 707, never mind across the river.
Lupe and SPHP returned to her tiny house, then took a shortcut S to Middle Fork Trail No. 700. On the way, Lupe could see Tayo Creek on the opposite side of the valley roaring down a hillside to join forces with the Middle Popo Agie River only a little upstream of the ford. That sight was what had given SPHP hope yesterday evening. Maybe Loopster wasn’t totally thwarted yet in her efforts to get to Wind River Peak?
Lupe reached Middle Fork Trail No. 700 a little S of where she’d left it yesterday evening to take Trail No. 707 to the flooding Middle Popo Agie River. A small wooden sign along No. 700 read simply “Tayo Park”.
Hey, Loop, look at that! We’re already at Tayo Park! Lower Tayo Park, that is. The topo map only shows Tayo Park on the other side of the Middle Popo Agie River 120 feet higher than where we are now. Guess there’s an Upper and a Lower Tayo Park? At least now we can say you did make it to Lower Tayo Park, if not the upper one.
Nothing’s really changed, though? We’re no better off than we were?
Not yet, sweet Dingo! We’ll know soon if there’s any hope of improvement.
Lupe and SPHP followed Middle Fork Trail No. 700 going S toward Sweetwater Gap. The Middle Popo Agie River snaked through flooded Lower Tayo Park just W of the trail.
The S end of Lower Tayo Park was only 0.2 mile away. When Lupe got to it, SPHP led her off Trail No. 700 over to the Middle Popo Agie River.
Hey, you’re in luck Looper! It’s on! Let’s go back and get the tiny house and rest of the gear.
Plan B is going to work?
Well, at least at the start. We’ll just have to see how far we can get. No guarantees at all.
So what is Plan B exactly?
Divide and conquer.
Meaning we’re coming back to cross the Middle Popo Agie right here. Most of the flow at the ford comes from Tayo Creek, which is actually by far the larger of the 2 streams above their confluence in Lower Tayo Park. After crossing the Middle Popo Agie, we’ll still be on the wrong side of Tayo Creek. You will have to keep following it upstream until either there’s a way across, or some impassable obstacle blocks the way forward. The farther we can make it upstream, the more tributaries we’ll get by, the smaller Tayo Creek will be, and the better our chances of reaching the trail again somewhere.
So in the meantime, we’re going to let the waters divide, and conquer them one smaller stream at a time?
Precisely, dear Dingo!
So there won’t be a trail?
Nope, a total bushwhack for miles, probably.
Oh, I love bushwhacks, SPHP! Plan B sounds like a great adventure!
Doesn’t it, though?
What are we waiting for? Let’s run!
Lupe streaked back to Trail No. 700. Of course, SPHP was much slower, so Loop had to keep returning to bark encouragement. It wasn’t too long, though, before SPHP had retrieved the tiny house and all the gear. Once again, Lupe stood on the E bank of the Middle Popo Agie River at the S end of Lower Tayo Park.
The Middle Popo Agie River was still a good-sized, fast flowing stream, but much smaller here than farther downstream where Tayo Creek added its torrential flow. SPHP forded the river first. Loop followed close behind. The waters were still pretty deep for her, but she managed to get across without any help. Plan B was underway!
Loop headed N along the W side of Lower Tayo Park. The whole bottom of the valley was a bog or worse. Lupe climbed a little up onto drier ground along the valley’s edge. She passed over a small forested ridge and came to a field on the other side, much of which also proved to be boggy. Loop crossed the wet field, and again climbed to drier ground in the forest.
The roar of Tayo Creek could be heard ahead. Lupe continued climbing steadily through open forest toward the noise. The terrain wasn’t bad at all. Mosquitoes were, though. Those miserable blood suckers were awful again today. 0.25 mile N of where Lupe had crossed the Middle Popo Agie, she reached a rock where she could see Tayo Creek rushing down a narrow channel below a steep bank. A small island was surrounded by whitewater.
Somewhere not too far away on the other side of Tayo Creek was Trail No. 707 to Upper Tayo Park. As fully expected, Lupe had no way to cross the raging stream yet. Lupe and SPHP turned W staying in the forest and following Tayo Creek upstream.
After gaining only a little over 100 feet of elevation, the terrain began to level out. Lupe had reached the S side of Upper Tayo Park. The surface of Tayo Creek was calm here, though ripples showed the water was still moving fast. A bog full of bushes prevented the Carolina Dog from getting anywhere close to the creek, which looked deep. On the far side, the bog extended hundreds of feet beyond the stream.
The American Dingo continued WSW following Tayo Creek. Beyond Upper Tayo Park, she started gaining elevation again. Tayo Creek reverted to a whitewater torrent. Though most of the ground in the open forest was dry, Lupe and SPHP crossed many snowdrifts. Despite the mosquitoes, Loop was having a fantastic time! Squirrels were everywhere! The Carolina Dog’s incessant yipping and yapping echoed through the valley.
SPHP’s promise, recently made back at Jack Squirrel Peak(8,942 ft.) in the Laramie Range, to bring Loop to higher mountains where there would be squirrels galore was being fulfilled!
Tayo Creek was becoming even more wild as Lupe continued upstream. SPHP feared it would eventually flow right up against cliffs, or other obstacles on the S side of the valley that Lupe couldn’t get past. So far, though, it hadn’t. Instead of finding herself blocked, Lupe discovered a lovely waterfall.
Lupe came to two separate waterfalls on Tayo Creek. They weren’t far apart. The lower falls were the largest. Staying in the forest, the American Dingo had no problem continuing upstream beyond them.
Loop didn’t have to travel very far beyond the waterfalls before the valley began to open up more. The American Dingo could now see some of the high country ahead.
Loop had been making good progress. SPHP realized that the valley opening up meant the Carolina Dog was fast approaching Poison Lake. If she couldn’t get around it, Poison Lake would spell the end of Plan B’s success.
Poison Lake! You never said anything about a Poison Lake, SPHP!
Oh, don’t worry about it Loopster. I can’t imagine it’s actually poisonous.
Ridiculous humans! Then why on earth would it be called Poison Lake?
How should I know? Someone once had a poor experience, I suppose.
Well thanks so much for the heads up, SPHP! Think I’ll just keep eating snow and drinking from these smaller streams, if you don’t mind.
Suit yourself, Loop. I think you could drink gallons from Poison Lake and be none the worse for the wear, though.
Lupe went over the crest of a little saddle, and there it was. Charmingly named Poison Lake, dead ahead! Loop went right on down to the shore, but did not wet her whistle. The view was reassuring. Yeah, Loopster shouldn’t have any problem getting around the S side of the lake. That was welcome news! Poison Lake had been a potentially serious obstacle.
Lupe headed S through the forest close to the E shore of the lake. The steepest terrain was near the SE end of Poison Lake. Lupe had to climb some distance above the shoreline. She came upon a big rock platform with a great view of the lake. Loop could even see Wind River Peak from here!
The sky was finally clearing. The day was brighter, more cheerful, and pleasantly warm. The mosquitoes, which had been bad until now, were less troublesome on the big rock. Plan B was going well, much better than SPHP had feared. Time for a break to celebrate Lupe’s success in reaching this lovely spot!
Lupe and SPHP lingered on the big rock overlooking Poison Lake for close to half an hour, enjoying the views and successful execution of Plan B to this point.
When break time was over, Lupe and SPHP continued the rest of the way around the S side of Poison Lake to the W shore. Lupe then began following Tayo Creek farther upstream. SPHP had hoped Loop would find a way across the stream beyond Poison Lake, but those hopes were quickly dashed.
The whole valley was boggy anywhere near Tayo Creek. The creek was smooth surfaced again as it flowed through nearly level terrain. The stream was so wide, it was hard to tell where Poison Lake ended and Tayo Creek began.
Eventually Tayo Creek narrowed down enough so it was clear Loop was beyond Poison Lake. She finally came to a place where relatively dry ground went almost all the way to the creek’s edge. Loop and SPHP both made it onto a big white rock where it was possible to peer down into the water.
Good heavens! The water was very clear, but remarkably deep. It was easily over SPHP’s head, and perhaps twice that depth.
Since crossing Tayo Creek was still totally out of the question, Lupe pressed on. She had to stay quite a distance from the stream channel due to surrounding bogs. Looper traveled mostly in the forest or along its edge. The Carolina Dog was making progress, but even the hillsides were soaking wet now. Rivulets of snow melt ran down every ravine, and pooled in every low spot.
Often it was advantageous to travel over huge snowdrifts at the forest’s edge. Usually the drifts held even SPHP’s weight. For Lupe, they were Dingo super highways. As SPHP marched onward, Lupe dashed about the forest in a relentless search for the next squirrel to annoy, frequently enjoying success.
Nearly a mile from Poison Lake, Lupe finally reached a major obstacle. A stream much larger than any other tributaries of Tayo Creek she had come to so far cascaded down rocky rapids from the S. This had to be the stream from Mountain Sheep Lake.
Crossing the tributary from Mountain Sheep Lake was an absolute necessity. Success would be a huge step forward in the divide and conquer plan. Failure meant defeat plain and simple – Lupe would have to turn back without ever having reached Wind River Peak.
Loop had reached the tributary at a bad spot. It didn’t look safe to cross here. The search began for a better place. The American Dingo needed to find one fast. The map showed that Mountain Sheep Lake probably wasn’t any more than 0.1 mile away. If Lupe reached the lake without finding a decent ford, it was all over.
The luck of the Dingo was with her! Going upstream, Lupe soon came to a place where the rocks were smaller. The creek spread out widely and evenly without deep spots. She could do this!
Lupe had no problem fording the stream from Mountain Sheep Lake all by herself. This success was a huge boost to her chances of reaching Wind River Peak. Once across, Loop and SPHP turned NW. Tayo Lake wasn’t much more than 1.5 miles away now!
Before long, Lupe could see a signpost sticking up out of a snowbank ahead. She’d reached a trail junction! Both trails were hidden beneath the snow, but one sign pointing W was for Trail No. 705 to Coon Lake. The other sign was for Trail No. 707 to Tayo Lake!
Beyond the snowbank, Lupe found the actual trail to Tayo Lake. She quickly lost it again beneath more snow, and was almost immediately confronted with another big stream. This was the tributary of Tayo Creek coming down from Crow Lake to the W. After searching around in a bog not far from the trail intersection, Lupe found a way across this relatively large stream, too. More progress!
A steady climb NW through the forest began as Loop forged ahead looking for the trail to Tayo Lake. It took a while to find it again. Even once it was found, it was hard to keep it that way. The trail was a fairly minor single track here. It kept disappearing beneath more snow, or disguising itself as a small stream.
About 0.5 mile from the trail intersection, the terrain leveled out. Trail No. 707 hardly existed here, but cairns showed Lupe was still on the right track. She was getting close to the final big creek crossing. Fording Tayo Creek could be delayed no longer.
Trail No. 707 was nowhere in sight when Lupe reached Tayo Creek again. A cairn on the opposite N shore showed that this was the ford, though. The creek was greatly reduced from the torrent it had been miles downstream. Divide and conquer had worked! SPHP waded across.
Even though Tayo Creek was greatly reduced, the water was still over Lupe’s head by the S bank where she reached it. An icy plunge into the swift stream was still intimidating. SPHP encouraged her to come, but Looper sat forlornly on the far bank looking worried.
Poor Loopster was afraid. How many scary, icy river crossings did she have to make in a single day, anyway? SPHP decided to go help her, and turned around momentarily to drop the backpack. Even more afraid of being abandoned than she was of Tayo Creek, Loop plunged in and crossed all by herself. What a trooper!
Lupe’s climb resumed up a forested hill. Once again, the terrain soon leveled out. Up ahead, beyond a boggy plain, Loop saw a snowy saddle. That saddle was where Tayo Creek flows out of Tayo Lake. Lupe was almost there!
After crossing the bog, Lupe started climbing. She stayed NE of the snowy saddle following avalanche tracks through a stunted forest. Views behind her improved rapidly as Loop gained elevation. The view of Mt. Nystrom(12,356 ft.) was particularly impressive.
Finally, 250 feet above the boggy plain, Lupe saw her objective – Tayo Lake! Plan B – Divide & Conquer had worked! Despite what SPHP had thought were poor odds, Lupe had made it. She was really here!
Tayo Lake was absolutely gorgeous! A layer of snow and ice floated on most of its surface. Impressive rock walls guarded the S and W shores. Two miles N, and nearly 2,500 feet higher, Wind River Peak(13,192 ft.) beckoned. Tomorrow Lupe would have a chance to climb it. For the first time, her prospects for success suddenly seemed bright!
To the N & E of Tayo Lake, a long, broad ridge rose steadily toward the NW. Parts of the ridge were covered with stunted forests, but most of it was open ground. To further improve the chances of a successful ascent of Wind River Peak tomorrow, Lupe and SPHP started up the ridge.
From the broad ridge, Lupe could soon see a large waterfall plunging into a canyon to the E.
Lupe climbed more than 400 feet above Tayo Lake to a flat part of the ridge straight N of the lake. Although the afternoon had been mostly sunny, rain showers were now threatening. SPHP didn’t put up Lupe’s “tiny house” right away. Instead, Lupe and SPHP took a tour of the ridge to see the sights. An even higher mini-Tayo Lake, Lake 11,145, was in view to the W.
It was early evening and had been another long day. Lupe and SPHP were weary. Both curled up together beside a big rock where there was a grand view of Tayo Lake 400 feet below. The rock had an overhang offering partial protection from any rain showers. Drowsiness set in. Before long, Lupe and SPHP were completely out it.
The nap was helpful. When it was over, the sky was clearer. Lupe and SPHP set off to the N on top of the ridge looking for a place to pitch Lupe’s “tiny house”. A good spot was hard to find. Although it looked grassy, the ridge was actually rather rocky and dotted with boulders. Finally Lupe came to a place at around 11,250 feet elevation where the ground was lumpy, but not rocky. This would do.
SPHP put up the tiny house. Lupe had a great view of Lake 11,145 to the W from here. She could see Wind River Peak to the N. It was supposed to be more than 2,000 feet higher, but didn’t look that high. No doubt that was an illusion. Tayo Lake wasn’t in sight, but a 500 or 600 foot stroll to the S was all it took for a grand view.
What a day it had been! Lupe had tons of fun racing around the woods barking at squirrels. She had forded 4 major streams, countless small creeks, crossed numerous soggy bogs and huge snow drifts, climbed on rocks, and traveled many a mile. Divide and Conquer had worked! The Carolina Dog was now in position for an ascent of Wind River Peak tomorrow.
She’d had hardly anything to eat all day, though. Part of a Cliff bar and a single bowl of Taste of the Wild. Didn’t matter. Lupe was too tired to eat. The sun wasn’t down quite yet, but Loop was ready to go inside her “tiny house” and curl up on her sleeping bag.
Outside, clouds were gathering. A few raindrops struck the tiny house. SPHP pulled some of her sleeping bag over the exhausted Carolina Dog.
So far, so good, Loopster. You did great again today, sweet Dingo! Just hope we don’t get drenched tonight.
Lupe didn’t hear it. She was already in Dingo dreamland still barking happily at all those lovely squirrels.
A mile N of Hazelrodt picnic ground, SPHP parked the G6 off USFS Road No. 341 at a pullout by French Creek (10:28 AM, 50°F). Lupe leapt out. She ran down to the creek for a look. Even though the last 3 weeks of November had been very warm and dry, the edge of the stream was rimmed with ice.
Mt. Coolidge(6,023 ft.) was Lupe’s peakbagging goal for Expedition No. 218. She’d been there once before, but it had been a very long time ago. Lupe had only been 15 months old when she’d climbed Mt. Coolidge for the first time way back on Expedition No. 13.
Today Lupe was trying a new route. She would explore the mountain’s SW ridge. The Carolina Dog started out traveling ENE on the S side of French Creek. At first, she was in a forest of large pines that had been thinned out. This was easy ground, but didn’t last long. Soon Loop was leaving French Creek and the large pines behind.
The climb up the SW ridge began in earnest on a steep slope crowded with young pines. After gaining close to 150 feet of elevation, Lupe reached a small rocky ridge. Off to the SW, she could see the NE face of Northeast Cicero Peak(6,240 ft.).
Beyond this first small ridge, Lupe passed through a forest of larger pines again. She emerged from the forest at the edge of a big meadow. Ahead was a sparsely forested hill.
Looper headed for the hill. When she reached the top, she got her first look at Mount Coolidge ahead. Behind her, the view of Northeast Cicero Peak was better than before.
Lupe turned E following a ridgeline. Much of the area had burned at some point, which opened up views in various directions.
The irregular ridge wound E and N. Lupe came to a succession of high points, each one higher than the last. The high points were separated by shallow saddles where Looper lost a bit of elevation, but she always regained it quickly.
It was too bad this was such an overcast day. A little blue sky and sunlight would have made some of the views far more striking.
Lupe had a good time sniffing and exploring. She was making progress, too. Each time Mt. Coolidge came into view, she was closer than before.
After more than a mile on the winding, partially burnt ridge, Lupe finally reached the end of the burn area. The last couple of high points she came to were far more heavily forested. On one slope, spindly dog hair pines grew so thickly, it was slow going trying to force a way through.
After passing through the dog hair pine forest, Lupe arrived at the bottom of the deepest saddle of her whole trek to Mt. Coolidge. She came across a dirt road here, but followed it only a little way. She left the road to start the longest, steepest part of the climb up Mount Coolidge. The forest had been thinned here, and the slope was full of leftover slash.
Near the top of the long slope, the slash gave way to jumbled rocks. The rocks were easier to deal.
The rocky part led to a larger rock outcropping at the SW end of a nearly level ridge. Loop was now so close to Mt. Coolidge that she could see the road that leads to the lookout tower on top.
Loop headed for the access road. Once she reached it, she stayed on it the rest of the way. It circled around to the N clear over to the opposite side of Mt. Coolidge. Lupe ended up approaching the summit from the NE, even though she had spent nearly all her time coming up the SW ridge.
The access road is closed this time of year. There wasn’t a soul around when Lupe and SPHP reached the top of Mount Coolidge(6,023 ft.). The first thing Loop did was check out the lookout tower.
Lupe went up to the observation deck. A sign said no Dingoes allowed. Hmmph! Loop didn’t stay long before retreating, since that’s the way they wanted to be about it.
Lupe and SPHP went over to the NW side of the summit area. Some of the highest territory in the Black Hills was in sight. After a few photos, it was time for a break.
Lupe drank some water, then curled up on the ground next to her silver bowl. She ate a little Taste of the Wild, but not too much. There hadn’t been much of a breeze at all on the way up, but now a chilly wind blew out of the SW, moaning in the trees and antenna wires. In solitude, Lupe and SPHP gazed out across the hills.
Lupe was last here 205 Expeditions ago. More than 5.5 years had gone by. The first time she’d come, Loop was still basically a puppy. SPHP sat petting Lupe, stroking her soft fur. Her birthday was coming soon. Not long afterwards, 2017 would draw to a close. Time marches on. Best not to think about it too much.
C’mon, Looper! Guess we’ve seen what there is to see up here today. Too bad the sun didn’t come out. Mt. Coolidge is a sweet viewpoint, but the light just isn’t what it might have been. All our photos are kind of faded and washed out. I feel kind of the same way for some reason.
Loop was ready. One more photo before going, then the Carolina Dog took off down the mountain. She went SW, skipping most of the winding route the access road takes, and headed directly for the SW ridge.
It felt good to be on the move again. Going back down Mt. Coolidge’s long SW ridge with all its ups and downs, twists and turns, was fun. Lupe had a blast sniffing and investigating whatever caught her attention.
The G6 was only 2 miles away. SPHP was surprised at how late it was when Lupe got back (3:37 PM). Less than 1.5 hours of daylight remained. Still time enough to do a little something, but not what SPHP had originally intended.
Half an hour’s ride in the G6 brought Lupe to a trailhead (4:11 PM, 52°F). The sky had finally started clearing off, but sunset was imminent. As light faded, Lupe enjoyed a mile long trek. At first she followed a creek, but most of the way was over a rolling prairie with views. Clouds brightened, then darkened again as the sun abandoned the Black Hills.
Loop reached a minor high point, only a small hill, but a peakbagging goal nonetheless. By now it was so dark, the flash had to be used. No dawdling! This was it for Expedition No. 218. Lupe turned and started back. SPHP hurried, trying to keep up, as the Carolina Dog headed for home (5:23 PM).
Note: Most visitors to Mt. Coolidge drive to the summit on a wide, gravel access road which originates along Hwy 87 in Custer State Park. The access road is closed during the off-season.
Days 1 & 2 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Wind River Range, Wyoming & Select Peaks in Montana
Wow! Was that it? SPHP suspected it was. Although the G6 said it was 97°F outside, Lupe was riding in air-conditioned comfort. She was still E of Shoshoni on Hwy 20/26 in central Wyoming. Far to the SW, the SE end of the fabulous Wind River range had come into view.
The sight of a towering white peak looming above all the others was faintly unsettling even from here. Shimmering through the desert heat, Wind River Peak(13,192 ft.) and the surrounding high mountains had far more snow on them than SPHP had expected. So much snow up there more than a week into July? Maybe Lupe didn’t stand a chance.
The day had started off well enough. Right away the American Dingo knew something was up. For hours she’d followed SPHP’s every footstep, yipping and prancing anxiously. Finally, just as she was losing hope, everything was ready. Into the G6! Suddenly Lupe was setting off on her 2nd Dingo Vacation of the summer of 2017 (11:09 AM)!
Only 20 days ago, after the fiasco at Jack Squirrel Peak(8,942 ft.) in the Laramie Mountains at the end of her previous Dingo Vacation, SPHP had promised to take Lupe to even higher mountains where she would find plenty of squirrels. Loop hadn’t dared to hope SPHP would keep that promise so soon. Once she reached Wyoming, though, she knew good things were in store. Happy days ahead!
By 6:00 PM, Lupe reached Lander at the foot of the Wind River Range. At the S end of 3rd Street, Lupe found Lander’s sweet city park by the Middle Popo Agie River. Saturday night, but even so, SPHP was astonished at how busy it was! The place was packed with people, kids and dogs. A DJ was playing music. Free camping is allowed! Tents and RV’s were all over the place. The park felt like a festival was in progress.
Yeah, this was going to be fun! Lupe would spend the night here, too. Nearby, a bridge arched over the Middle Popo Agie River. On the other side was another, less-developed park. It would be quieter over there. Loop and SPHP went over the bridge, then took a walk along a mowed path to the bank of the river. It was still hot out. The Carolina Dog promptly got in the Middle Popo Agie to cool off and get a drink.
Lupe had never been to Lander before, so an evening tour of the town was in order. Looper was particularly interested in a couple of statues that caught her imagination.
After seeing some of Lander’s sights, SPHP ran in to Safeway to buy some fried chicken for dinner. Then it was back to the city park for the rest of the evening. SPHP set up Lupe’s “tiny house” for her. Loop feasted on chicken, then spent the rest of the evening exploring and playing. When the sun went down, the music stopped and the party was over. Lupe was still excited. It took a while for SPHP to persuade her to hit the hay.
The next morning, the American Dingo rose bright and early. Time for action! Today Lupe would start for fabulous Wind River Peak!
At the S end of 5th Street, SPHP drove out of Lander on Hwy 131. Lupe was soon approaching Sinks Canyon. She had time to get out and take a look around Sinks Canyon State Park. SPHP parked the G6 at a pullout near “The Rise”.
If Lupe had been a bear, “The Rise” would have been quite a fascinating place! The Middle Popo Agie River resurfaces from underground caverns here. Lupe could see water pouring into a large pool from various points along the side of the canyon. The pool was full of big trout which couldn’t swim any farther upstream.
American Dingoes don’t fish much, though, so Lupe and SPHP went on to see “The Sinks”.
The Sinks was only 0.25 mile upstream. Here the Middle Popo Agie River disappears into a limestone cavern. Ordinarily the entire river goes underground. This morning the Middle Popo Agie was such a torrent that it entirely flooded the cavern. Plentiful overflow continued down a surface channel.
After visiting The Sinks & The Rise, Lupe and SPHP continued up Sinks Canyon on Hwy 131. The highway eventually became Louis Lake Road, which wound very high up onto the upper SE side of the canyon. The view looking back down the canyon was impressive.
After a tremendous elevation gain, Louis Lake Road finally started to level out shortly before passing by Frye Lake. A mile past Frye Lake was a R turn on USFS Road No. 302 to Worthen Meadow Reservoir. Most of No. 302 was fine, but parts of it were very rough for the G6. Nevertheless, the G6 made it through, and Lupe arrived at Worthen Meadow Reservoir.
Well, this was it! Lupe would start for Wind River Peak from here. The Carolina Dog snapped at flies while SPHP got everything ready. The trek should take three days and two nights. Loop and SPHP shared some of the remaining fried chicken by the lake, then went in search of the TH on the W side of USFS Road No. 302. Soon Lupe was on Stough Creek Lakes Trail No. 702 (10:45 AM, 71°F).
This first part of the trail was wide and very well worn. Lupe traveled through an evergreen forest gradually gaining elevation. After 0.67 mile, she reached her first objective, Roaring Fork Lake.
There were people and a few dogs at Roaring Fork Lake. Most were hanging out at some big rocks along the N shore. Lupe went out on the rocks, too. The small lake was pretty. Lupe could see high cliffs and peaks with snow in the distance beyond the lake.
Nearby, Roaring Fork Creek flowed N out of the lake. The creek was deeper and much broader than SPHP expected, though the current looked gentle. Where did the trail cross the creek? SPHP had expected a bridge, but none was in sight. Maybe it was a little downstream from here?
Lupe and SPHP followed what seemed to be a trail N through the forest near the E side of the stream. The trail went a short distance, then vanished. No trail and no sign of a bridge anywhere. This couldn’t be right! Lupe returned to Roaring Fork Lake. SPHP talked to a few people. None knew where the trail went, or where there was a bridge. Roaring Fork Lake was as far as they intended to go.
When all else fails, consult the map! The map showed the trail crossing Roaring Fork Creek right at the N end of the lake. Hmm. Lupe returned to the stream where it exited Roaring Fork Lake. On the far shore, the trail was in plain sight. No bridge! That wasn’t good news at all. The current didn’t look strong, but Lupe had never forded anything like this before.
SPHP waded into the stream. Lupe followed. Soon she was swimming. A large rock protruded out of the water about 2/3 of the way across. The water was mid-thigh deep by the time SPHP reached the downstream side of the rock. Even though the current was gentle, Loop was having a hard time swimming against it. She was in danger of being swept downstream.
SPHP grabbed Lupe and plucked her out of Roaring Fork Creek, placing her on the big rock. SPHP continued on across, leaving the Carolina Dog stranded.
Loop was safe on the rock, but she wasn’t sure what to do next. SPHP encouraged her to jump back into the river and swim. She hesitated. Carolina Dogs aren’t water dogs. Roaring Fork Creek was way over her head.
When Lupe made up her mind, she gave it her all. With a mighty leap she launched herself into Roaring Fork Creek. She sank below the surface, then popped up a moment later. She’d leapt so far she only had to swim a few feet before she could touch bottom and scramble to shore. Good girl!
Lupe shook herself off. SPHP continued on the trail. Soon Loop was leading the way. The creek had been refreshing.
It had also been worrisome. Lupe would have to cross other streams on the way to Wind River Peak. Weren’t there going to be any bridges? Eventually Loop would have to cross the Middle Popo Agie River. She had seen what a torrent the Popo Agie was back at The Sinks. How on earth could she get across that without a bridge? The obvious answer was – she couldn’t.
The trail led SW through the forest gaining elevation more rapidly than before. 0.75 mile from Roaring Fork Lake, the trail leveled out as it emerged from the forest at the edge of a vast marsh. A wooden walkway went all the way across the marsh. That was reassuring. Lupe trotted across.
Beyond the marsh, Trail No. 702 went W up a valley, gaining elevation at an increasing pace. Higher up, Lupe came to a long series of big switchbacks. It was warm out now, and just plain hot going uphill. Loop and SPHP stopped periodically for water and to catch breath. Never for long, though. Mosquitoes and flies were a constant bother. SPHP slathered on Deet, but it was only partially effective.
The trail became rockier. For the first time, Lupe started getting views back down the valley. She could see Frye Lake and Fossil Hill(9,089 ft.) beyond it.
The long uphill grind seemed like it would never end. After Lupe had gone 2 miles from the marsh and gained 1,000 feet of elevation, it finally did. The American Dingo reached a saddle N of High Point 10,965. For the first time since the marsh, Lupe was out of the forest. The saddle was open meadow. Lupe could see!
What the Carolina Dog saw was a massive mountain dominating other high peaks nearby. Still 8 miles away as the crow flies, Wind River Peak(13,192 ft.) was unmistakable.
The mountain still looked far away. SPHP was already tired. It began to dawn on SPHP that Lupe’s journey to Wind River Peak and back was likely to take more than 3 days and 2 nights. Better go easy on the supplies, which were none too ample to begin with.
Still the view wasn’t entirely discouraging. Although there was a lot of snow on the mountain, there were bare patches, too. The terrain didn’t look bad either. If Lupe could get to Wind River Peak, it looked like she stood a good chance of reaching the summit.
Lupe continued on. Trail No. 702 started turning SW and headed back into the forest. Lupe still got occasional glimpses of Wind River Peak, but none so good as she’d had back at the saddle. She was now losing elevation. Slowly at first, but eventually more rapidly as she reached some switchbacks. The trail turned N and went around a hillside before dropping sharply.
More than a mile from the saddle, Lupe came to flatter terrain. The ground was damp many places, and the trail muddy. Orange colored ponds were scattered in the forest, and the mosquitoes were terrible. The trail turned SW again and Lupe regained a little elevation. The trail was increasingly muddy. In some places it was just a stream. SPHP kept expecting Lupe to come to an intersection, but none appeared.
SPHP started to believe Lupe had somehow missed a turn onto Trail No. 704. However, rushing water could be heard not too far ahead. May as well check that out before turning back. Lupe soon reached a rushing stream that poured out of a small lake nearby.
The stream was Stough Creek, though that wasn’t apparent at first. A couple hundred feet downstream, Lupe did come to a trail intersection. Good thing she hadn’t turned back! A sign didn’t give any trail numbers, but the trail to the L led straight to a bridge over Stough Creek. The sign said that trail went 3 miles to Stough Creek Lakes, so it had to be Trail No. 702 continuing onward.
The trail to the R was signed as leading in 2 miles to the Middle Fork Trail. That had to be Stough Creek Basin Trail No. 704, the way Lupe needed to go.
Lupe headed W on Stough Creek Basin Trail No. 704. She was soon losing elevation steadily. The trail was never far from Stough Creek, which could always be heard in the forest. At one point the trail was right next to the creek. The stream looked even bigger here, reinforced by some major tributary.
Only 0.25 mile from the trail intersection, the Stough Creek Basin Trail reached the bottom of a valley where Stough Creek flowed N. The trail vanished straight into the stream! No bridge!
Good grief! Another ford, and a far more worrisome one. The trail could be seen emerging from the stream on the far bank. However, the water was high and moving swiftly, completely filling the channel. It was hard to tell how deep it was. Stough Creek was already much larger than it had been farther upstream. It wasn’t as wide as Roaring Fork Creek had been, but looked much more dangerous. 60 or 70 feet downstream of the ford, Stough Creek roared over whitewater rapids.
The more SPHP stared at the ford, the more unnerving it appeared. Yes, it looked possible, but the current was clearly strong. One slip might bring disaster. Lupe would have to be carried over. If SPHP fell and dropped her, Loop would have only 5 or 10 seconds to escape before the current would sweep her into the whitewater to be battered mercilessly against the rocks.
SPHP thought of Edward Earl, drowned in the Jago River. Absolutely not! Lupe wasn’t going to attempt this ford with the water so high. Either there was a better place to cross, or Wind River Peak wasn’t happening.
Lupe and SPHP looked around. Immediately upstream, the valley widened out. Stough Creek went around several sharp bends. The water was still moving at a good clip, but the surface looked calmer, less threatening. Maybe one of those bends would be a better spot to try? Worth investigating.
Low bushes grew thickly on both sides of the creek. The ground they were on was all wet and marshy. Lupe and SPHP forced a way through to the edge of the stream. No deeper than Roaring Fork Creek here. The water moved fast, but wasn’t turbulent. No rapids nearby. If there was a slip, Lupe would have lots more time to escape the river.
Definitely a better situation. Not great, but should be OK. Maybe Lupe could even swim across? SPHP put her leash on so she wouldn’t get separated. SPHP waded into Stough Creek. Thigh deep again, but no more. Harder to move and maintain balance, though. The current was faster here than back at Roaring Fork Creek.
Lupe came swimming after SPHP. She was instantly swept downstream, but the leash held her. It wasn’t that far across, but the leash was choking her and making it hard for Loop to hold her head above water. SPHP was nearly across, but Loopster was struggling and needed help. SPHP stopped, pulled her in with the leash, and picked the cold, drenched Dingo up. A couple more steps, and Lupe leapt to safety.
SPHP waded out. Lupe was fine and shaking herself off. The crossing hadn’t been too bad. The whole ordeal had taken only 30 seconds. Still it was good to be across. The experience was a little too intense for comfort. SPHP vowed Lupe would find a better way across Stough Creek on the way back from Wind River Peak.
Just beyond the ford was another trail intersection. A look at the map showed that the trail to the R (No. 703) would follow Stough Creek downstream for miles to Three Forks Park. Lupe needed to stick with Stough Creek Basin Trail (No. 704), which went straight.
The terrain was fairly flat for 0.25 mile as Lupe followed No. 704 W from the intersection. The trail then turned NW and started a steady decent. The forest here was full of snowdrifts 2-4 feet high. The trail vanished beneath them. Lupe and SPHP continued down the valley trying to guess where the trail had gone.
After 15 minutes of wandering through the forest, Lupe had lost enough elevation so she was below most of the snow. The Carolina Dog found the trail again E of where SPHP had been looking. Back on track!
No. 704 continued losing elevation. It was an easy stroll for SPHP, and Lupe was having a great time! SPHP had promised to take her to higher mountains where there were squirrels, and there were squirrels aplenty in this forest. The Carolina Dog sprinted from tree to tree. The whole valley echoed with shrill Dingo barking. A glorious fun time, for sure!
Shortly after finding the trail again, Lupe came to a small opening in the forest. From a big rock, she saw Wind River Peak once more for the first time in a while.
Stough Creek Basin Trail No. 704 finally ended at another junction near the Middle Popo Agie River. Lupe had lost 1,000 feet of elevation since leaving the saddle where she’d first seen Wind River Peak. Now she would start regaining elevation going up the Middle Popo Agie River valley on Middle Fork Trail No. 700 to Tayo Park. Before heading for Tayo Park, she went to take a look at the Middle Popo Agie River.
The sign at the trail junction said it was only 1.5 miles to Tayo Park. The moment of truth was coming. Lupe would have to cross the Middle Popo Agie River to reach Tayo Park. There had better be a bridge! The river was simply too large and swift to consider fording.
After more than a mile on Trail No. 700, Lupe came to yet another trail intersection. She took a right on Trail No. 707. If No. 707 had a bridge across the Middle Popo Agie River, the American Dingo would arrive at Tayo Park in less than 0.33 mile.
Once she was on Trail No. 707, Loopster didn’t have far to go to reach the point where the trail crossed the Middle Popo Agie. She was soon there. Lupe had come miles and miles from Worthen Meadow. The view was most disheartening.
Trail No. 707 disappeared into a shallow lake that filled the river valley. It was a good 80 feet through the water just to reach ripples that showed where the channel of the Middle Popo Agie River was. No bridge. No way forward.
All this way, and no bridge! The river was at flood stage, way out of its banks. SPHP stared across the shallow lake toward the ford. Wade 80 or 100 feet out there, just to reach the river channel? No! No telling how deep or fast the water was over there. It may look fairly calm, but a tremendous volume of water was flowing by. Lupe had seen that all the way up here. The current would be plenty strong.
Lupe and SPHP scouted along the dry land a little farther upstream. The American Dingo had a lovely view of a mountain beyond the valley, but the situation wasn’t really any different. Despair set in. Clearly it would be foolish to attempt this ford. Had Lupe met with defeat? Yeah, this was the picture of defeat alright.
Farther upstream, a steady roar came from across the river valley. Lupe could see Tayo Creek rushing down a hillside to join forces with the Middle Popo Agie River. That started SPHP thinking.
It was evening. It had been a long, long day. The mosquitoes were awful. On a hillside near the river, there was a nice spot to pitch Lupe’s “tiny house” beneath some trees. SPHP assembled it as rapidly as possible and threw everything inside. Loop came in, too. Peace, at last from those infernal bugs!
Loop had hardly eaten anything all day. SPHP split the last of the fried chicken with her. She got half a can of Alpo, and a large helping of Taste of the Wild, too. Meanwhile, SPHP studied the Bridger-Teton national forest map. It showed few details. The original plan had called for Loop to either be at Tayo Lake or Deep Creek Lakes this evening. Not going to happen. Both were still a long way away. To get to either, Lupe needed to get across the river to Tayo Park.
Slowly, though, an idea was growing.
I’m exhausted. C’mon Loop, let’s get some sleep. We’re staying here tonight. No sense in doing anything rash. At least, we’ve got a plan. It’s a long, long shot, but might work. We’ll see how feasible it is in the morning.
That Brian Kalet! He does get around. Lupe’s 2017 had started off with visits to a number of southern Black Hills peaks Brian had added to the Peakbagger.com data base in the spring of 2016. SPHP hadn’t noticed until months later that about the same time Lupe was climbing in the southern hills, Brian had been visiting even more peaks along the NE edge of the Black Hills and adding them to the database, too.
So Lupe’s 2017 was going to end more or less the way it began, on the cold trail of Brian Kalet’s footsteps.
Loop had already been to one of the NE Brian Kalet peaks when she visited Peak3950 near Sturgis a couple of weeks ago on Expedition No. 215. Today she would tackle two more near Whitewood. SPHP parked the G6 at Whitewood City Park (9:18 AM, 47°F).
Looper set off in search of Peak4400 about 1.5 miles to the SW. She crossed a ravine, then started up a forested hill. She soon came to a dirt road, and followed it higher to a better one.
The better road took Lupe SW up to a level area where there was a big meadow. Loop was close to High Point 4238 on the topo map. Everything was going fine until Lupe heard gunfire. Hunters? The gunfire originated from somewhere off to the W, but sounded quite far off.
Lupe hates gunfire or explosions of any sort no matter how faint or far away. She was instantly a nervous wreck and wanted to forget all about Peak 4400. When the gunfire continued sporadically every few minutes, SPHP was certain it wasn’t from hunters. Someone must be doing some target practice. SPHP persuaded Lupe to continue, though she had lost all her enthusiasm. She slunk along, staying close to SPHP.
A maze of minor dirt roads went through the forest. Eventually, SPHP figured Lupe must be getting close to Peak 4400, and stopped to consult the topo map. Suddenly a man appeared, walking straight toward Lupe through the woods.
The man hailed SPHP. It turned out he was an employee of a company that leases 2,500 acres in this area. He said this was all private property, not national forest land. He was out with his young son checking cameras set up to monitor wildlife. Lupe was right next to one. The gunfire was indeed coming from a shooting range not terribly far NW of here.
The man was friendly, but insisted on taking Lupe and SPHP in his ATV winding N through the forest to a road that led out of the leased acreage down a valley to the E. He and his son then roared away in the ATV.
Well, shucks. Lupe started down the road to the E. She hadn’t made it to the top of Peak 4400. She hadn’t been too far SE of it either, from what SPHP had been seeing on the topo map. Now she was 0.5 mile N of it. Decisions. Maybe it wasn’t the thing to do, but Loopster was already here. This was the one and only time she would ever be, given the situation. Lupe and SPHP left the road, heading S through the forest.
It didn’t take long for the American Dingo to reach a hilltop that looked like it might be the summit of Peak 4400. This was just a high spot in the forest devoid of views, but Lupe posed on a tree stump for a couple of photos anyway.
Lupe had scarcely left the hilltop when she caught a glimpse of Bear Butte(4,433 ft.) through a small opening in the trees.
The topo map showed quite a large area inside the 4,400 foot contour on Peak4400. In fact, there were two such areas 0.25 mile apart. Lupe was in the N one now, which was where Brian Kalet had placed the true summit without further comment.
Maybe Lupe should look around here a bit more, just to make sure she’d reached the actual high point in the N contour? She could then go check out the terrain in the S contour. It wouldn’t take long.
A short search of the N contour area did show a higher point than where Lupe had been on the tree stump. The true summit was actually a little farther SW, near the W edge of the mountain.
Satisfied that she’d reached the true summit of Peak 4400, because SPHP congratulated her and told her so, Loop was surprised to learn that she still had to visit a S 4,400 foot contour before she would be completely done with Peak 4400. However, she was glad to head off in that direction, because it meant getting farther away from the sporadic gunfire still heard coming from the shooting range.
Off Lupe went, heading SE. She reached the saddle leading to the S 4,400 foot contour, and crossed it. Soon she was at the S edge of the mountain, where the terrain dropped away rather sharply. Peak 4400’s S summit was nearby, close to a fence on a section line.
The S summit didn’t have much of a view, but shortly before reaching it Lupe had gotten a good look at Crook Mountain(4,930 ft.), and her next objective, Peak4240.
Well, Lupe had done it. She had been to the true summit of Peak 4400. Whether the N or S summit had been highest was uncertain. Due to the forest, they couldn’t be seen from one another. Brian Kalet had picked the N summit as the highest. Both Loop and SPHP were happy enough to go along with that choice, right or wrong.
In any case, Lupe had been to both the N and S summits. Better skedaddle, and leave Peak 4400 once and for all! Going clear back to the road to the N that the nice man had shown SPHP as being the best route out of here would have been the long way around now. Instead, Loop returned to Whitewood on a route pretty similar to the way she’d come up.
Once back at the G6 (12:33 PM, 65°F), Lupe and SPHP left Whitewood driving SW on Crook City Road. SPHP parked the G6 again near the start of Oakbrook Road (12:45 PM). Lupe’s next peakbagging goal, the summit of Peak4240, was scarcely 0.25 mile SE of here. Loop and SPHP took a stroll down Oakbrook Road looking for a way up.
At the W end of Peak 4240, an ATV trail left Oakbrook Road heading E up the narrow ridge straight for the summit. Perfect!
The ATV trail started out in pine forest climbing steadily. Soon Lupe came to a line of small S facing cliffs. The ATV trail stayed a little N of them. The cliff tops provided progressively better views, as the Carolina Dog journeyed up the hill.
The short climb didn’t take Lupe long. Soon she was at the top of the mountain. As she’d seen from Peak 4400, the top of Peak 4240 was mostly bare. The forest didn’t extend quite all the way to the summit. Even though Peak4240 wasn’t as high as nearby surrounding hills, the views were pretty decent.
It was fun to see so many mountains Lupe had been to before from Peak 4240! She lingered, admiring the views. Loopster couldn’t stay too long, though, if she wanted to climb another mountain today. After a Taste of the Wild snack, the Carolina Dog was ready to move on.
The last mountain Lupe would be climbing today wasn’t a Brian Kalet peak. Lookout Peak(4,478 ft.) had been added to the Peakbagger.com data base a long time ago by Doug Melton, another prolific peakbagger. Lookout Peak is the dominant mountain E of I-90 at Spearfish, SD. When Lupe got back to the G6 (1:29 PM), SPHP drove her to Spearfish.
Late November, yet it was an amazing 72°F when SPHP parked the G6 at a little park at the S end of Saddle Horn Drive (1:57 PM). Lupe hopped out. Very few of her mountain ascents had ever started in a town, but this one was going to. Lupe and SPHP strolled 0.5 block N on Saddle Horn Drive, before turning W on Branding Iron Drive.
SPHP had no idea what the situation was on access to Lookout Peak, but on the way in from the SE had seen a road zigzagging up the mountain’s S slope above a residential subdivision. There were towers on Lookout Peak, so there must be a way up somewhere. Loop wasn’t far from that zigzagging road now. Would it really be as easy as simply sauntering through the neighborhood to get to it?
Branding Iron Drive curved SW. Loop took a R on Pony Express Lane. Ahead, at the upper end of this short street, a dirt road curved L out of sight. Most promising! When Lupe got to the end of the street, a sign showed that this was the access road to Lookout Mountain Park. The sign listed a few simple rules, none prohibiting Dingoes.
And it was as easy as that! Lupe trotted up Lookout Peak’s S slope on the zigzagging road. The road brought Loop to a forested high point ESE of the summit. From there, it continued across a saddle to the base of the summit knob.
At the base of the summit knob, a trail left the road going right on up to the top. The trail was rocky and a bit scrambly, but short. In minutes, Lupe was approaching the towers at Lookout Peak’s summit.
The area right around the true summit was crowded with towers and buildings. Approaching from the E, the summit had appeared like a big knob, but once Lupe was on top, she could see it was more elongated and ridge-like toward the W. The terrain sloped down in that direction, yet looked like it might be the best place to check out the views.
Lupe trotted W past the true summit to see what she would find.
Lupe came to exposed ledges of large flat rocks at the far WNW end of the summit ridge. Although at the low point of the entire summit area, the ledges provided some of the finest views from Lookout Peak.
On the way back to the G6, Lupe stopped by the true summit for a photo. Then it was all downhill from here. Some of the views on the way down were really nice, too.
While Loop had been up at the summit, she’d had the whole mountain to herself. Apparently, this was just a lucky fluke, at least on a gorgeous day like today. On the way down, she started meeting lots of people and dogs coming up. Lupe enjoyed all the sniffing that went on. She wagged her curly tail at the little dogs, and growled at the big ones.
The sun was still up, when Lupe got back to the G6 (3:34 PM, 62°F). Loop and SPHP spent the remaining hour of daylight driving around scoping out Peak 4433, another Brian Kalet peak of interest in the area. Perhaps someday Lupe will return to climb it, too. But that will be another Black Hills, SD Expedition and a different adventure.
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