Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 211 – Bear Mountain & Odakota Mountain (10-15-17)

Start: 10:54 AM, 44 °F, junction of USFS Roads No. 299 (Bobcat Road) & No. 299.1C.

Wow, surprising!  Snow on the road here.  Only a dusting really, but it was the first snow Lupe had seen up in the Black Hills so far this fall.  A harbinger of things to come, but probably not in quantity for another month yet.  American Dingoes love snow, if there’s not too much of it.  Lupe was in a cheerful mood as she began her trek up Bear Mountain along USFS Road No. 299.1C.

Bear Mountain (7,166 ft.) was only a couple miles SW, so it wouldn’t take her long to get there.

Lupe was excited to see snow on USFS Road No. 299.1C as she started up Bear Mountain. Photo looks W.

More than 0.5 mile from where she’d started, Lupe reached an intersection.  USFS Road No. 299.1C turned N here.  Loop took No. 299.1J heading W instead.  Up until now, the road had been in the forest, but No. 299.1J soon curved SW entering more open territory.

USFS Road No. 299.1J curves SW as Lupe continues up Bear Mountain. Photo looks WSW.

Although Lupe came to no more intersections, by the time she reached a barbed wire fence practically at the top of the mountain, a marker said she was on No. 299.1K.  Exactly where the transition occurred wasn’t clear.  It hardly mattered.  Lupe didn’t care.  The important thing was she had made it to the top of Bear Mountain.

Lupe went over to the base of the fire lookout tower to claim her latest peakbagging success!

Lupe arrives at the base of the fire lookout tower on Bear Mountain. This was her 3rd ascent of the 3rd highest mountain in the Black Hills. Photo looks SW.

This was Lupe’s 3rd ascent of the 3rd highest mountain in the Black Hills.  On one of her previous visits, Lupe had actually gone all the way to the top of the lookout tower.  She and SPHP had paid a visit to the friendly forest ranger on active duty inside the ranger quarters.

No one was around today.  With no opportunity for another social visit in the comfort of the ranger station, Lupe didn’t bother to climb the tower.  A chilly 15 mph breeze blew out of the N.  The cold wind would only be worse higher up.

Instead, Lupe went to a small limestone outcropping SE of the tower to check out the views.

Lupe up on the limestone SE of the ranger tower. Black Elk Peak (7,231 ft.) (Center) is the high point seen in the distance. Photo looks E.
Looking back at the fire lookout tower. Photo looks NW.

The best views were off to the E where Black Elk Peak (7,231 ft.), the highest mountain in South Dakota, dominated the scene.  Lupe also enjoyed a panoramic view to the S.  The American Dingo could see much of the southern Black Hills from here.

Black Elk Peak (Center) is 11 miles due E of Bear Mountain.
Looking ESE with a bit of help from the telephoto lens. Black Elk Peak is now on the L.
From Bear Mountain, Lupe also had a sweeping view of much of the southern Black Hills. The highest point in the distance on the L is Northeast Cicero Peak (6,240 ft.). Photo looks S.

Climbing Bear Mountain was only the beginning for Lupe.  The plan was to visit Odakota Mountain (7,200 ft.) nearly 4 miles to the N, too.  Since Lupe and SPHP had gotten off to a rather late start, it was already past noon.  With days getting short in mid-October, Lupe couldn’t linger on Bear Mountain too long.

After checking out the views, Loopster briefly dropped by the Bear Mountain fire lookout tower again before continuing on her way.

Lupe at the fire lookout tower on Bear Mountain again before leaving for Odakota Mountain. Photo looks E.
Loop ready to depart Bear Mountain. Photo looks N, the direction she would be heading to get to Odakota Mountain.

Both Bear Mountain and Odakota Mountain lie along the E edge of the high limestone plateau country of the western Black Hills.  The first part of Lupe’s journey N to Odakota Mountain would be along the E rim of the high country.

From the Bear Mountain fire lookout tower, Lupe took the same road she had come in on NE a short distance.  When she got close to the E rim, she followed another road that angled N.  This road eventually turned NW.  Lupe left the road to continue N along the rim.  Odakota Mountain was already in sight!

Lupe near the E rim of the high country of the limestone plateau. Her next objective, Odakota Mountain is the high ridge seen beyond her. Photo looks N.

The terrain along the E rim was hilly.  The area was forested, but generally not too densely.  However, a fair amount of deadfall timber existed in spots.  In a couple of places, the deadfall was dreadfully thick.

Back this summer, Lupe’s mountaineering friend Jobe Wymore had given SPHP a free pair of excellent Komperdell trekking poles.  SPHP had never used trekking poles before, and until today had done nothing with Jobe’s gift.  SPHP quickly discovered that the poles really did help going through the deadfall!

For 1.5 miles, Lupe traveled N near the E rim of the limestone plateau country.  When the American Dingo finally reached a road, SPHP knew she had arrived at an intermediate objective, the Boy Scout overlook.

Coming from the W, USFS Road No. 291.3K leads almost to the edge of the E rim here.  A short path goes from the highest ground down to a large, flat limestone platform perched at the top of sheer cliffs.  A pond a mile to the NE near the Medicine Mountain Boy Scout camp can be seen far below.  The platform also provides sweeping views of the Black Hills to the E.

Lupe reaches the limestone platform known as the Boy Scout overlook. Photo looks ENE.
The short path leading to the Boy Scout overlook is seen on the L. Photo looks ENE.

The Boy Scout overlook is a favorite spot.  Lupe had been here before on other Black Hills expeditions.  Before taking a Taste of the Wild and water break, Lupe took a look at the glorious views.

Lupe on the Boy Scout overlook, a large platform of limestone perched at the E edge of the high country of the western Black Hills. Bear Mountain, where Lupe had just come from, is the high ridge seen beyond her in the distance. Photo looks S.
Looking E from the Boy Scout overlook. Black Elk Peak is on the horizon beyond Lupe.
Black Elk Peak (L), Peak 6920 (Center) and Little Devil’s Tower (6,960 ft.) (R) plus some of the Cathedral Spires (6,840 ft.) (R). Photo looks E with help from the telephoto lens.
Looking NE now. Peak 6720 is the rounded semi-barren hill on the L. Medicine Mountain (6,878 ft.) is the double humped hill with the high point straight up from Lupe’s back. Farther away a bit more to the R is Five Points (6,221 ft.).

Although Odakota Mountain was now only 2.5 miles away to the N as the crow flies, Lupe’s break at the Boy Scout overlook had to be kept short.  To actually get to Odakota Mountain, she had to swing more than 1.5 miles W going down Grand Vista Draw.  She would then have to go another 1.5 miles back E again on her way up Long Draw.  All that extra mileage, plus the distance N!

Loop curled up next to SPHP on the limestone platform for a few minutes, but soon it was back to business.  Lupe left the Boy Scout overlook heading W on USFS Road No. 291.3K.

In the upper end of Grand Vista Draw, Lupe reached an intersection.  The Carolina Dog left No. 291.3K to take No. 291.3A down the wide, shallow canyon.  Beautiful light brown grass lined the road.  Lupe passed through a stand of aspens where a few colorful leaves still held on.

Beautiful light brown grass stood along USFS Road No. 291.3A on the way down into Grand Vista Draw. Photo looks WNW.
Passing the aspens. A few colorful leaves still clung to the trees. Photo looks WNW.

The trek down Grand Vista Draw was easy.  On the way, Lupe saw scattered limestone formations along the canyon sides, but they weren’t high or dramatic.  Meadows dominating the upper end of the draw gave way to pine forests lower down.  Finally, near the low point where Grand Vista Draw and Long Draw meet, Lupe reached a line of boulders placed across the road.

Lupe reaches a line of boulders across the road in the area where Grand Vista Draw and Long Draw meet. Photo looks N.

A few boulders couldn’t stop Lupe!  She continued N on the road, but it ended abruptly in the forest.  A short, shady trek brought Lupe to Spring Creek.

Lupe reaches Spring Creek at the start of Long Draw. Photo looks N.

Loop and SPHP crossed Spring Creek (those Komperdell trekking poles proving useful once again!), and climbed through a small meadow to reach a minor road.  The minor road quickly brought Lupe to USFS Road No. 693, which she could follow all the way up Long Draw.

Long Draw did seem long.  Along the way, Lupe saw deer.  She found squirrels to bark at.  She had a fun time, but at last the Carolina Dog reached the high point of No. 693 at the upper end of Long Draw where the road turned N.

Loopster in the upper end of Long Draw. Photo looks E.

At the high point, Lupe abandoned the road.  The summit of Odakota Mountain was now only 0.25 mile ESE through the forest.  SPHP was surprised when Lupe drew near the small, slightly higher ridge where the summit is located.  A barbed wire fence crushed in many spots by collapsing trees killed by pine bark beetles had been repaired since Lupe was last here.

The repaired fence was good news!  Lupe has been seriously injured by downed barbed wire several times in the past.  This had been a dangerous place.  It still was to some degree.  Even though the fence was fixed, a tremendous amount of deadfall timber still infested the area.  Lupe and SPHP cautiously picked a way through the mess.

Lupe found the small cairn near the E end of the relatively short summit ridge.  She had made it to the top of Odakota Mountain (7,200 ft.), the 2nd highest mountain in South Dakota!

Lupe reaches the summit cairn on Odakota Mountain, the 2nd highest mountain in South Dakota. Photo looks WSW.
The summit ridge on Odakota Mountain is a jungle of deadfall timber. Photo looks WSW.

Although Odakota Mountain is the 2nd highest in South Dakota, the summit doesn’t provide much in the way of views.  Despite how many trees have died and fallen over, more still remain.  A tree-broken view to the S was about all there was to see.

A tree-broken view to the S is all the summit of Odakota Mountain has to offer. Lupe could see Bear Mountain (the long high ridge in the distance) where she had come from, and the small pond near the Medicine Mountain Boy Scout camp (far L).

Cliffs at the far SE end of Odakota Mountain do offer unobstructed views.  Lupe had seen them once, long ago.  However, getting there from the summit requires a bushwhack through a significant stretch of bad deadfall timber.  Lupe didn’t have time to go see those views today.

Lupe relaxed next to the summit cairn.  Once again, a short break was all she could afford to take.

Lupe relaxes next to the summit cairn. Another short break was all she could take here. Photo looks NW.

Odakota Mountain is one of the mountains Lupe has visited most.  This was her 8th time at the summit.  The first time the Carolina Dog had come here nearly 3.5 years ago, there hadn’t even been a cairn.  The last time she’d been here was over 1.5 years ago, when she had first met her friend Jobe Wymore and guided him to the mountain.  Sadly, Jobe wasn’t here to share the mountain with her today.

Snap out of it, Loop!  Enough reminiscing!  We’ve got to get going.  You still have to go all the way back to Bear Mountain and then back down to the G6!

The American Dingo sprang to her paws!  Time for action?  She was ready!  Isn’t she always?

Leaving Odakota Mountain, Lupe got to do something she had never done before.  For over 0.5 mile, she explored the high ground along the edge of the mountain’s SW ridge.  SPHP wanted to see if she could find any unobstructed views from this area.  She did, too!

Bear Mountain, the long high ridge on the R is where Lupe was heading back to from Odakota Mountain now. Part of the pond down at the Medicine Mountain Boy Scout camp is seen below on the L. Photo looks S.
Lupe did find beautiful, unobstructed views from Odakota Mountain’s SW ridge. Black Elk Peak is on the horizon beyond Lupe’s face. Photo looks ESE.
Exploring Odakota Mountain’s SW ridge. Photo looks WSW.

Lupe had a great time exploring Odakota Mountain’s SW ridge, but only got to go about halfway along it.  Too much deadfall timber was slowing things down, and the American Dingo no longer had time to waste.  She returned to Long Draw.  Lupe traveled through the fields paralleling the road.

Day nears an end as Lupe travels back down Long Draw. Photo looks SW.

Hurry, hurry!  Now it was a race against time.  The sun sank ever lower, then disappeared.  Lupe and SPHP made good time, but twilight was fading fast as Lupe came back up Grand Vista Draw.

Looper followed USFS Road No. 291.3A S beyond its junction with No. 291.3K.  For a while she stuck with it, but when the road turned SW it was decision time.  Staying on the road meant miles and miles of extra distance.  The other option was to bushwhack SE to the E edge of the limestone plateau country on the most direct route to Bear Mountain.

SPHP led Lupe SE.  Leaving the road was contrary to long-standing rules against trying to bushwhack after dark.   On the other hand, Lupe had already traveled much of this same territory earlier in the day.  SPHP felt confident that having the E rim to follow meant she wouldn’t get lost.

Faint twilight lingered only far to the W now.  Stars shone above, but no moon.  Black night took over.  Somehow the Carolina Dog always seems able to navigate in the dark without any problem.  Not SPHP, who was walking unseeing straight into waist-high pines.

SPHP ran into a barbed wire fence.  No damage done.  Lucky!  SPHP was blind as a bat.  Better bring out the flashlight.  The fence was good news, actually, it meant Lupe was getting close to the E rim.  Deadfall timber was bad here, though.  The Komperdell trekking poles were enormously helpful!  SPHP would have tripped and fallen a jillion times without them.

After getting past the worst of the deadfall, Lupe reached the E rim!  She saw a great many lights glittering far to the NE.  That was Rapid City!  An amazing number of lights were also scattered toward the SE in the general direction of Custer, but the town was not in view.  Guided by the lights of Rapid City, Lupe and SPHP worked S along the E rim.  Sooner or later, Looper would come to Bear Mountain again.

Despite initial confusion over exactly where Lupe was upon reaching a road, she had made it!  She was back at Bear Mountain.  A cold N wind still blew up here.  Despite the wind, Lupe returned to the fire lookout tower.  So what if it was cold, windy and dark?  She’s a peakbagging Dingo, and this was another successful ascent!  (End – 9:10 PM, 30°F)

Back at Bear Mountain!

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