Lucky Dingo! Expedition No. 216 was going to have two parts. Mark and Hillary were in the Black Hills! Their time was limited, but they could spend a few hours hiking with Lupe and SPHP. Boulder Hill (5,331 ft.) would be a good destination. A trail goes all the way to the rocky top, and the summit offers some pretty nice views for moderate effort.
Loop and the gang arrived at the Boulder Hill trailhead of Flume Trail No. 50 before noon. Everyone hit the trail, heading SE through a Ponderosa pine forest which had been greatly thinned since the last time Lupe and SPHP were here. Only 0.33 mile from the trailhead, a saddle was reached between Boulder Hill and Storm Hill to the NE.
Beyond the saddle, a spur off Flume Trail No. 50 followed a dirt road S. The spur soon left the road, leading around the S side of Boulder Hill to the SW. Although Boulder Hill was only 0.5 mile S of the trailhead where Lupe had started, by the time she had circled around to the SW base of the rocky summit ridge, the Carolina Dog had already gone more than 0.75 mile.
The fun part of the climb was all that was left now! The trail leading up the ridge wound around among the rocks, passing near numerous viewpoints along the way.
The trek to the top only took 5 or 10 minutes, plus a little time spent checking out views along the way. Although this was Lupe’s 6th ascent of Boulder Hill, Mark and Hillary had never been here before. They both seemed pretty happy with the interesting hike up, and the views available from the summit.
Of course, Lupe and SPHP never tire of seeing the world from a nice high point like Boulder Hill. Having Mark and Hillary’s company was a big added bonus!
Boulder Hill has two separate summit areas. They are practically right next to each other, and of about equal height. Naturally, Lupe, Mark, Hillary & SPHP visited both. It was only about 40°F and a chilly breeze was blowing, so the stay on top of the mountain was fairly brief. Soon everyone started down again.
Lower down, on part of the ridge better protected from the breeze, everyone stopped to relax and have a longer look around. Mark & Hillary had brought sandwiches. SPHP had apples and chocolate chip cookies. Lupe had Taste of the Wild.
Surprisingly, it turned out that Lupe wasn’t the only Carolina Dog conducting tours of Boulder Hill today. Another Carolina Dog named Legos appeared! Legos was snappily dressed, and leading a man and a girl up the trail. In an odd coincidence, it turned out Mark and Hillary had met the man at a store only yesterday.
Legos eventually led his party on up the trail. Mark and Hillary needed to get going, too. They had a social engagement this evening, and would return home to Colorado tomorrow. Except for the return trip to the trailhead, Lupe’s trip to Boulder Hill was over.
Lupe had enjoyed the outing, and SPHP really had fun visiting with Mark and Hillary. They’d had a good time, too, and felt Boulder Hill had been a great choice for the amount of time they’d had available.
The next morning the lucky Dingo was back in action, again! Things were back to normal. Just Loop and SPHP set out on Deerfield Trail No. 40 going up Rapid Creek from Silver City (10:13 AM, 41°F).
Lupe has been on this section of the Deerfield Trail many times. In fact, she first came here in January, 2012 on both Black Hills, SD Expeditions No. 1 & No. 2. In a sense, this was where her life of adventures began. SPHP had a new peakbagging destination in mind for her today, but the first part of the journey along Rapid Creek, was familiar territory.
Lupe had a great time exploring the forests alongside the trail. She was mainly looking for squirrels to bark at. She found a few, which made her very happy. She checked out the views along Rapid Creek. She visited an old abandoned horizontal mining shaft which she ventures into every time she comes this way. The shaft is only 20 or 25 feet long, but would make a great Dingo shelter in wet weather.
Deerfield Trail No. 40 is a beautiful, easy trek along Rapid Creek. After she’d gone about 2 miles, though, Lupe was getting close to the Canyon City area where she would leave the trail.
No town or much of anything else is at Canyon City these days. It’s only a spot along the trail, and a point on the map. About 0.25 mile before she got there, Lupe left Deerfield Trail No. 40 and Rapid Creek behind. She turned N following a path up Kelly Gulch.
Kelly Gulch was the start of Lupe’s search for her peakbagging goal for the day, the summit of Tunnel Ridge (5,905 ft.). Loop wasn’t in Kelly Gulch very long, though. After only 0.2 mile, she came to a little parking area. Two roads left this point. The better road continued on up Kelly Gulch. Lupe took USFS Road No. 142.1D up Spurgeon Gulch instead.
Lupe had gained very little elevation down along Rapid Creek. She gained some coming up Kelly Gulch. Her climb really began in earnest, though, here in Spurgeon Gulch. The Carolina Dog gained elevation steadily now. She came to an unmarked intersection where a side road turned W, but she continued straight ahead. USFS Road No. 142.1D, if that’s what it still was, deteriorated and steepened.
After going 0.75 mile up Spurgeon Gulch, Lupe arrived at a saddle in a small grassy open area where the road reached a “T” intersection. Some heavily forested hills could be seen from here. They weren’t far away, and the terrain seemed confusing. SPHP wasn’t certain which way Lupe should go.
Loop needed to work her way N, but straight N went down into another deep ravine. Staying on the roads, she had her choice of NE or W. The American Dingo tried the road going NE first. This road climbed gradually and seemed promising, but it soon turned R wrapping around a hillside until the position of the sun told SPHP that Loop was going S.
Going S wasn’t going to work at all. Lupe had a decent view of the hills nearby. It didn’t look like there was any way this road could turn N without losing a bunch of elevation.
Loop turned around and returned to the saddle. Time to try the road going W. Almost immediately, it angled NW and started gaining elevation steadily. Promising once again, but Lupe hadn’t gotten too far before she reached a bend where this road curved sharply around to the S, too. Hmm. What now?
At the bend, the ravine the road had been climbing continued NW. Lupe could see a stand of large brown-barked Ponderosa pines on a slope below rock outcroppings. Why not keep going that way? It seemed like the best option. Lupe left the road, continuing NW up the ravine.
Loop only had to follow the ravine a little way before she appeared to be approaching the upper end of it. She turned N, scrambling up between the rock formations to reach a small ridge. On the other side, not very far below her, Loop saw another road heading NW. That was promising! Lupe worked her way down to the road and followed it.
Loopster was still gaining elevation, though more slowly than before. Eventually this new road joined another one heading NNW, exactly the direction Lupe needed to go.
The road leading NNW gained only a little more elevation before topping out. The terrain ahead was now mostly flat to rolling. Lupe had succeeded in reaching the top of Tunnel Ridge, but exactly what part of it wasn’t clear yet.
Tunnel Ridge (5,905 ft.) is roughly 3 miles long N/S, and as much as 0.50 to 0.75 mile wide E/W. It was all forested, so it was hard to see very far ahead. There didn’t seem to be any definite ridge line to follow. Loop was probably only 0.33 to 0.50 of the way from the S end. The true summit was near the N end, which meant it was probably 1.5 to 2 miles N of Lupe’s position.
The road eventually bent NW and started going downhill. By now, Lupe had seen occasional glimpses of higher ground perhaps a mile or more to the NNW. Trying not to lose elevation, Lupe left the road traveling N through a level forest, hoping this area would connect somehow with the higher ground she’d seen in the distance.
Instead, Loop eventually found that the terrain dropped off rather steeply. This was a dead end. She had to return to the road. This happened once more, a little farther on. The road went NW downhill again, and Lupe made another foray off the road. She climbed N toward a high point, but on the other side, the terrain dropped steeply.
From the high point, Lupe went NW down a long slope, rejoining the road again at a gate near a saddle. At the saddle was a “T” intersection with another road passing E/W over the mountain. No road continued N from here, but the land sloped up, so Lupe left the road a third time.
Lupe was only partway up when she saw the high point to the N again. She was definitely getting closer.
By now, SPHP was confident Lupe was closing in on the summit of Tunnel Ridge. The topo map showed 4 separate areas enclosed within 5,880 foot contours. The central contour enclosing the most area contained a site elevation of 5,905 feet, which was likely the true summit. On the way there, Lupe explored the SW 5,880 foot contour, which contained the 2nd largest amount of territory.
The terrain within the SW 5,880 foot contour was pretty flat, but Lupe found a spot with a view toward Black Elk Peak (7,231 ft.).
From the SW high point, Lupe headed for the true summit. As she got close, she reached yet another unmarked road.
A short trek on this latest road led Lupe gradually up to a flat area which had to be the true summit. No views, really. The summit of Tunnel Ridge (5,905 ft.) was just another slightly higher spot in the woods.
Partly to check out another small area enclosed within a 5,880 ft. contour, and partly just to see what was there, Lupe left the true summit to explore a broad ridge to the SE. Loop went all the way to the end. The terrain was all lower than where she’d just been.
There wasn’t anything much different to see on the SE ridge, so Lupe returned to the true summit. On the way, she posed on a mighty, massive rock outcropping.
It was only mid-afternoon, but the sun was already low in the sky. The G6 was 5+ miles away. Loop needed to get going. There wasn’t much reason to hang around the summit, anyway. On the way back, Lupe retraced virtually the exact same route she’d taken to Tunnel Ridge, minus some of the unnecessary forays that led to dead ends in the forest.
Looper’s journey to Tunnel Ridge had been a peakbagging success. She’d made it up onto the ridge and found the true summit. Of course, other than the pretty spots down along Rapid Creek, she hadn’t really come to much in the way of views. Due to the forest, Tunnel Ridge didn’t have much to offer in the way of scenic rewards.
Yet the journey to Tunnel Ridge had been a good day. The maze of unmarked roads and promising routes that led nowhere had been confusing, but solving the puzzle was a fun challenge. Lupe and SPHP enjoyed unbroken peace and solitude from start to finish. And now a previously unknown part of the map was at least partially explored.
Just being on the move, exploring and sharing this cool day outdoors in the pine forest, made Lupe’s journey to Tunnel Ridge another adventure worth remembering (5:14 PM, 35°F).