Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 138 – White Tail Peak (9-19-15)

It was already 11:13 AM on 9-19-15 by the time SPHP parked the G6 at the junction of County Road No. 231 and USFS Road No. 191.  Hot weather the previous weekend had prevented SPHP from taking Lupe on one of her Black Hills expeditions, so Lupe had been pretty bored for days.  She was most anxious to get going.  The cloudless blue sky promised another warm day, but it wasn’t supposed to get as hot as a week ago.

Lupe’s peakbagging goal for the day was to be her 3rd ascent of White Tail Peak (6,962 ft.), one of a long line of peaks along the E edge of the high limestone plateau country of the western Black Hills.  Like most of the other “peaks” along this line, White Tail Peak is a long, high forested ridge characterized by limestone cliffs near the top.

It’s easy enough to simply drive to a point just a 10-15 minute walk from the summit on USFS Road No. 190, which passes just to the N of White Tail Peak.  Even the G6 can get that far with no problem.  With an ATV or high-clearance vehicle, USFS Road No. 190.1Q, a somewhat rough and narrow road, goes right to the summit itself and beyond.

Lupe and SPHP, however, were starting down at the South Fork of Rapid Creek, more than 3 miles away to the ENE as the crow flies.  Like most of Lupe’s expeditions in the Black Hills, the idea is to explore the area and see new places, not just check off a peakbagging goal.

Looking W up the valley of the South Fork of Rapid Creek.
Looking W up the valley of the South Fork of Rapid Creek.  County Road No. 231 is seen heading towards Black Fox Campground about 4 miles away.

It was calm and 63°F out as Lupe and SPHP set out on USFS Road No. 191 heading S across the South Fork of Rapid Creek.  Lupe passed some cows munching on the grass and some old dilapidated outbuildings.  The road was shady and pleasant as it headed into the forest at the edge of the main valley.  It gradually gained elevation as it went up a smaller side valley.  A tiny stream trickled down the valley on its way to join the South Fork of Rapid Creek.

Less than 0.5 mile from County Road No. 231, Lupe came to a road that turned W to continue up the valley.  This was USFS Road No. 191.1A leading up Long Draw.  SPHP liked the looks of this road.  It went in the right direction, so Lupe followed it.

Road No. 191.1A turned W to head up Long Draw.
Road No. 191.1A turned W to head up Long Draw.

It was a week or two early for the height of fall colors.  In the Black Hills, fall colors mainly consist of groves of aspens with yellow leaves, although some types of bushes or ground cover can turn red or orange to add variety.  SPHP hoped to find some aspens that were starting to turn.  USFS Road No. 191.1A went around a corner heading SW.  Ahead was the prettiest grove of aspens Lupe encountered all day long.

Aspens near USFS Road No. 191.1A. Not really a spectacular example, but these were the best fall colors Lupe found all day.
Aspens near USFS Road No. 191.1A. Not really a spectacular example, but these were the best fall colors Lupe found all day.

Not too long after passing the aspens, there was a series of old defunct ponds.  The tiny creek that ran through them had silted them in and broken through the low earthen dams.  Luxuriant grasses, and sometimes cattails, grew in the soft mud filling the old ponds.

The tiny creek in Long Draw sparkles in the sunlight as it flows through a breach in the old earthen dam.
The tiny creek in Long Draw flows through a breach in the old earthen dam.  The small pond that used to be here is silted in.  Lush grass grows in the damp mud where the pond used to be.  There were several old pond sites like this in succession.

A bit farther up the valley, the creek disappeared.  The road grew faint, but could still be followed easily enough.  Up ahead was a high ridge with limestone cliffs up at the top.  It was in the general direction of White Tail Peak, but SPHP wasn’t certain if this was it or not.  Down in the valley, Lupe saw cows ahead.

Ahead to the W is a high ridge that is N of White Tail Peak. Lupe was more interested in the cows at the far end of the valley.
Ahead to the W is a high ridge that is N of White Tail Peak. Lupe was more interested in the cows at the far end of the valley.

The cows were not used to having company in this remote valley.  They really didn’t care for it much.  At first, they headed S into the trees.  Lupe and SPHP stayed on the road and got past most of them.  Suddenly a few of the cows in the trees decided to head W farther up the valley.  The others all got the same idea within just a minute or two.  (Cows are known for their herd mentality.)  They all started running and wound up passing Lupe and SPHP again.  They didn’t stop until they were on the road.

Without meaning to be, Lupe and SPHP were now on a cattle drive.  Every time the American Dingo drew near, the cows took off trotting farther ahead up the road.  Lupe thought it was all very interesting.  She liked being a cow Dingo.  Since the cows persisted in staying on the road, SPHP finally took Lupe off the road and into the trees.  Efforts to pass the cows by going around them through the forest failed.  The cows kept pace heading up the road.  By now the road had turned S.  It seemed to be reaching some kind of minor pass.

Before reaching the pass, Lupe came to a side road that headed NW.  It was marked as No. 125.1D.  There was a 4 foot tall boulder near the junction.  Lupe and SPHP climbed up on it and took a little break.

Lupe had water and Taste of the Wild.  SPHP gave her two pieces of chocolate chip cookie.  Lupe buried them for future use.  Lupe often does this when she isn’t really hungry yet.  She has cookies, dog treats, pieces of meat, sandwiches and similar supplies stashed at lots of different places in the Black Hills.  She is getting ready for a famine, but SPHP can only think of one time she ever returned to reclaim one of her treasures.  It wasn’t in the best of shape, but Lupe gobbled it down anyway.

During the break, one cow stood on the road staring at Lupe and SPHP through the trees.  It finally got bored and moved on.  SPHP wanted to follow No. 191.1A up to the little pass to see what was on the other side, but there were still lots of cows up there.  Lupe headed NW on the side road, No. 125.1D.  It was a nice little road through the forest.  The cows got left behind.  Things were going fine, when suddenly No. 125.1D ended.

The high ridge Lupe and SPHP had seen was still to the SW.  Lupe and SPHP continued through the forest heading W.  Lupe followed various game trails.  SPHP did too, still gradually gaining elevation.  SPHP was hoping to find USFS Road No. 190 coming down from a high pass just to the N of White Tail Peak, but Lupe didn’t come across any roads at all.  SPHP caught a glimpse of an elk crashing through the forest ahead.

Eventually, Lupe and SPHP came to a wall of rock blocking the way towards the NW.  The wall wasn’t terribly high, perhaps 30 or 40 feet.  The terrain forced Lupe and SPHP to turn more to the WSW.  The rock wall gradually diminished until Lupe and SPHP reached a pass.  There was no road.  To the NW was the big canyon where Black Fox Campground is located.

Lupe was clearly too far N.  She had to climb the steep slope to the S to get up on the high ridge.  She could then continue S towards White Tail Peak.  Lupe and SPHP climbed 200 or 300 feet up the forested slope.  It started out steep and got steeper.  SPHP hoped Lupe wouldn’t find cliffs near the top, but of course that was exactly what Lupe ran into.

At the top of the steep slope, Lupe's advance was blocked by this cliff.
At the top of the steep slope, Lupe’s advance was blocked by this cliff.  SPHP had forgotten to bring her SuperDingo cape in the pack, so she wasn’t able to just fly up to the top.

The cliff wasn’t terribly high.  SPHP hoped to find a break in the cliff wall that would let Lupe get up on top.  First Lupe tried going right (W).  Almost immediately, she found a way up.  In a flash, Lupe was at the top of the cliff staring back down at SPHP.  It was steep, but there were trees and rocks to hang onto.  Soon SPHP was up above with the intrepid Dingo.

Lupe finds the way up the cliff.
Lupe finds the way up!

Up on top of the cliff there were a number of viewpoints.  Terry Peak (7,064 ft.) could be seen to the N.  To the NE was Custer Peak (6,804 ft.).  To the NW was the canyon where Black Fox Campground is located.  Lupe was at the very N end of the high ridges to the N of White Tail Peak.  Lupe now had to head S to reach her peakbagging goal.  SPHP wasn’t sure how far Lupe S would have to go.  It was certain she would come to USFS Road No. 190 somewhere along the way.  Then SPHP would be sure exactly where she was.

Lupe at the far N end of the high ground N of White Tail Peak. Photo looks NW.
Lupe at the far N end of the high ground N of White Tail Peak. Photo looks NW.

The trek to the S was longer than SPHP expected.  Lupe stayed near the cliffs at the E side of the long ridge.  In some places there were clear 180° views to the E.  Lupe kept going up and down small hills along the way, but overall she continued to gain elevation.

A look S along the cliffs.
A look S along the cliffs.
Lupe near the cliffs. These cliffs are well N of White Tail Peak. Photo looks S.
Lupe near the cliffs. These cliffs are well N of White Tail Peak. Photo looks S.

 

Cliffs N of White Tail Peak 9-19-15SPHP was beginning to wonder if Lupe was ever going to find USFS Road No. 190.  The line of cliffs went on and on.  It was the same line of cliffs Lupe and SPHP had seen from down in the valley where the cows were.  Finally, Lupe reached an especially high hill.  It was all forested, so there wasn’t much to be seen.   Shortly after starting down the SW slope of this hill, USFS Road No. 190 came into view.  Lupe and SPHP crossed it and climbed up the next hill.  Lupe was all excited when a helicopter flew low right overhead.Helicopter near White Tail Peak 9-19-15It wasn’t far now to the true summit of White Tail Peak.  The summit is actually at a small clearing surrounded by trees.  USFS Road No. 190.1Q goes right through it.  Lupe and SPHP followed the narrow road to the summit.  Since there really wasn’t much to be seen there, Lupe and SPHP and continued on the road heading SE.  The road led through the forest to a limestone cliff where there are some views.

Nearing the viewpoint, SPHP heard voices ahead.  A couple of guys with ATV’s were already there.  Lupe and SPHP stayed hidden in the forest a little way off to let them enjoy White Tail Peak in peace.  In the meantime, Lupe had more Taste of the Wild.  SPHP ate chocolate chip cookies, an apple and some pudding.  The feast lasted long enough for the ATV guys to leave.  Soon they roared off to the NW along the road.

Lupe and SPHP went to the viewpoint.  It was a bit disappointing, because there weren’t many places with unobstructed views.  The limestone was surrounded by dead trees killed by pine bark beetles.  Where there weren’t dead trees, there were live ones.  When the dead trees eventually fall over, there will be great views.

Lupe on White Tail Peak.
Lupe on White Tail Peak.
Looking N at the line of cliffs that Lupe had come along to reach White Tail Peak.
Looking N at a small section of the line of cliffs that Lupe had come along to reach White Tail Peak.  Terry Peak is sticking up in the distance.
Looking NE towards Custer Peak from White Tail Peak.
Looking NE towards Custer Peak (highest point on horizon towards the left) from White Tail Peak.

Lupe lost interest in the views as soon as she noticed a squirrel.  She dashed off to give it a good barking at.  The tree the squirrel was taking refuge in wasn’t terribly tall, so Lupe was very enthusiastic about her prospects for barking the squirrel right out of the tree.  The squirrel refused to cooperate, however.

Dingo and Squirrel tree on White Tail Peak. If you were looking for Moose and Squirrel, that must be a different blog.
Dingo and Squirrel tree on White Tail Peak. If you were looking for Moose and Squirrel, that must be a different blog.
The ever-hopeful American Dingo.
Lupe, the ever-hopeful American Dingo.

After a while, SPHP persuaded Lupe to give the beleaguered squirrel a break.  It was time for a last photo to commemorate Lupe’s 3rd summit of White Tail Peak.

Lupe on White Tail Peak on 9-19-15. This was her 3rd time here. The first time was over 3 years ago when she was only 1.5 years old.
Lupe on White Tail Peak on 9-19-15. This was her 3rd time here. The first time was over 3 years ago when she was only 1.5 years old.

With the views enjoyed, the squirrel sufficiently annoyed, and Lupe’s peakbagging goal accomplished, it was time to head back to the G6.  Lupe and SPHP returned to USFS Road No. 190.  After a brief exploration to the NW, Lupe and SPHP headed E along No. 190 over the pass and then down into the shadow of White Tail Peak.

On the return trip, Lupe made a loop by taking USFS Roads No. 190, 190.1B, and 191.  Along No. 190, SPHP hoped to get a clear view back W towards White Tail Peak, but only glimpses came into view through the forest.  However, there was a place with a nice view to the SW toward Flag Mountain (6,937 ft.).

Looking SW from USFS Road No. 190 toward Flag Mountain (L).
Looking SW from USFS Road No. 190 toward Flag Mountain (L).

The sun had just set when Lupe saw a giant deer (elk) ahead.  It saw Lupe and SPHP too, and quickly disappeared into the forest.  A little later on, Lupe started barking at a big tree right next to the road.  SPHP figured she was taking another squirrel to task.  Instead, a huge owl flew out of the tree.  Near the G6, cows were still grazing near the dilapidated old outbuildings.

Lupe reached the G6.  It was 7:14 PM and 44°F.  The day was done.  Twilight was coming on.  For a few minutes, Lupe stayed relishing the moment.  She sniffed the cool air, decoding the secret messages borne by the slightest of breezes.P1070250Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s Black Hills Expeditions Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

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