At 10:41 AM, SPHP parked the G6 at the junction of USFS Road No. 710 and Hwy 385, just a few miles S of Pactola Reservoir in the central Black Hills. Lupe was late, a whole day late. A week or more of cold weather had lasted right on up through New Year’s Eve. The cold had kept Lupe and SPHP from coming until now.
Today, however, was different. It was New Year’s Day 2016! The Black Hills were warming up. Although the temperature would only gain another couple of degrees the rest of the day, it was already 38°F out. Plenty warm for one of Lupe’s Black Hills Expeditions, and a great way to start 2016 out!
Late though she was, Lupe started out trotting W along USFS Road No. 710. Here in the shade of Peak 5800, there were 3 or 4 inches of snow on the ground. Lupe was really happy to be out on an adventure again. Soon she was racing around through the snow off the road, sniffing madly as she went. No. 710 climbed slowly and steadily up a little forested valley. After nearly a mile, No. 710 started turning S as it emerged from the valley into more level and open ground.
Lupe and SPHP left No. 710 as it curled back to the SE. Lupe went S up to the edge of some high hilly ground. Much of this area had burned some time ago, and there were very few trees left. Without the trees, there were some pretty nice views to the E, S & W. Small outcroppings of jagged dark rocks, often standing on end, were exposed, and added interest to the scene.
Lupe was on her way to Peak 6046. The first time Lupe and SPHP ever climbed Peak 6046 was back on New Year’s Eve 2012. At the time, SPHP had privately designated Peak 6046 as New Year’s Eve Peak (6,046 ft.). Lupe had returned on the last day of 2014, too. So in both 2012 and 2014, Lupe and SPHP had watched the sun set on the last day of the year up on New Year’s Eve Peak. It has become a little bit of a tradition.
Even though the cold weather caused Lupe and SPHP to miss sunset on the last day of 2015 up on New Year’s Eve Peak, it still seemed appropriate to try to make up for it by showing up on New Year’s Day 2016.
Lupe and SPHP wandered among the barren hills heading W towards Pistol Point. Pistol Point is just a private name for the high point at the S end of a ridge that comes sweeping down to the SSE from New Year’s Eve Peak. From Pistol Point, Lupe would just follow this ridge to reach the summit of New Year’s Eve Peak.
As Lupe and SPHP neared the summit of New Year’s Eve Peak, it became apparent that there had been changes since the last time Lupe was here a year and a day ago. There had been a fair amount of logging done to thin the trees on the S side of the summit. Although the logging hadn’t done a thing for the appearance of the local vicinity, SPHP anticipated it might have opened up the views quite a bit.
When Lupe arrived at the highest rock outcropping on New Year’s Eve Peak, she found that someone had placed a small cairn there. With a lot of the trees gone from the S side of the summit area, the mountain looked and felt different. The summit used to be in the gloomy dark shade of tall pines. Now it was much more open and bright. Nearby were sunny expansive views to the S.
It appeared that only a small part of the S side of the summit area had been logged. In other directions, New Year’s Eve Peak looked pretty much the same.
After posing for pictures on New Year’s Eve Peak, Lupe had some Taste of the Wild. SPHP ate an orange. A chill breeze out of the N stirred up now and then. New Year’s Eve Peak sure seemed different.
The change was partly due to the logging opening up the view, but mostly psychological. Lupe and SPHP were here hours earlier in the day than in either 2012 or 2014. Back then, Lupe had been here near sunset on the last day of the year. The mood had been reflective, one of looking back at a year gone by – a year still alive and glowing, but about to disappear never to see the light of day again. A year imminently fading into history. New Year’s Eve Peak had been a lonely, remote, and faintly sad place.
Now, it was lighter and brighter out. The fact that it was New Year’s Day instead of New Year’s Eve, created a mood of a new beginning, the start of something. New Year 2016 was here, all shiny, new, full of promise and possibilities, none of which had been missed or wasted yet. New Year’s Eve Peak was only the tiniest start of the journey to all the adventures in store for Lupe in 2016.
Lupe and SPHP did something they hadn’t had time to do on New Year’s Eve Peak before. Lupe went to explore the N and E ridges. The N ridge wasn’t very long. It ended at a huge tangle of deadfall timber. Beyond it, Lupe could see the Seth Bullock Lookout Tower on Scruton Mountain (5,922 ft.). SPHP had wanted to get a good look at it, but with all the deadfall around, it was best to just get Lupe out of there.
It was a little longer trek, still under 10 minutes, over to the high point of the E ridge of New Year’s Eve Peak. There was a much bigger rock outcropping there, but the highest point was clearly somewhat lower than the true summit Lupe had been to already. Furthermore, the area was pretty heavily forested. There weren’t views in any direction.
Even though Lupe hadn’t found anything of particular interest at either the N or E ridges of New Year’s Eve Peak, it was still fun to have explored the mountain a little better. With the explorations complete, Lupe and SPHP returned to the S ridge to retrace Lupe’s route back toward the G6. SPHP had one more peakbagging goal for Lupe that would alter part of that route – Peak 5800.
On at least a couple of prior occasions, Lupe and SPHP have considered climbing Peak 5800. SPHP remembers once standing with Lupe at the base of the rocky W face contemplating the climb. It had been late on a dark gray day, though, with some snow already on the ground, and more light snow already swirling in the air. It didn’t seem like a smart move at the time, so Lupe and SPHP had just returned to the G6.
Under the bright, cool, cloudless skies of New Year’s Day 2016, though, it looked like it should be possible to climb Peak 5800 without difficulty, if a reasonable route existed up the rocky W face. After reaching Pistol Point again, Lupe and SPHP left the S ridge from New Year’s Eve Peak, and headed E toward Peak 5800, still retracing Lupe’s earlier route.
As Lupe started getting close to Peak 5800, she wandered a bit to the S, away from her earlier route. She checked out views from some of the high points of the barren, rocky hills. Back to the NW, the high forested ridge of New Year’s Eve Peak started to look small and far away.
Lupe and SPHP continued E toward Peak 5800. Suddenly Lupe saw something she very rarely sees out on her Black Hills Expeditions. People! Two people were near some rocks to the SE. One of them had a rifle. The other was just a boy. They weren’t too far away. Lupe stayed very close to SPHP. The man and boy started moving toward Peak 5800.
About the only places Lupe and SPHP ever see people in the hills are highways and some major gravel roads, where they are plentiful. Sometimes there are people on minor roads and ATV trails, but almost without exception, they are with some kind of vehicle – an ATV, a jeep, a motorcycle, something. Only on a few of the major maintained trails does Lupe ever see anyone on foot – yet here were two people on foot at least a mile from any significant road or trail.
Lupe and SPHP followed the hunter and the boy toward Peak 5800, and soon caught up with them. What were they hunting? The man pointed down to a track in the snow. Mountain lions. They were hunting a big Tom that they knew had been here recently. The track looked old, though. It wasn’t very distinct. The hunter knew the big cat could be very far away by now.
The boy seemed very impressed with the notion that lions were around here somewhere. He was an outdoor kid, something pretty rare these days. He talked in hushed tones about catching a 5 lb. monster trout in Pactola Lake just a few weeks ago. He liked the looks of Lupe, but didn’t try to pet her. Lupe just stood close to SPHP during the quiet conversation with the hunter and the boy. She didn’t interrupt in any way.
By now, Lupe and SPHP were pretty close to Peak 5800. The W face loomed almost directly ahead. SPHP explained to the hunter that Lupe planned to climb the mountain and go down over the other side, where the G6 was parked close to Hwy 385. The hunter and boy intended to stay here, W of Peak 5800.
Lupe and SPHP went on. In just a few minutes, Lupe started the climb up the W face. It was steep and quite rocky, with scratchy brambles clinging to the soil between the rocks. There was always a good route up, though, and the climb wasn’t really all that far, just a couple hundred feet of elevation gain at most.
Near the top, the mountain was suddenly much less steep. The rest of the way was a pretty easy stroll. At the highest point, a big, flat slab of rock tilted perhaps 20 degrees down toward the NW. Lupe and SPHP clambered up on the rock to reach the summit of Peak 5800.
The sun was still up. There might be an hour of daylight left before sunset. The world looked very pretty in the slanting rays of the sun. Lupe looked around. If Peak 5800 was the home of mountain lions, they had all fled at the approach of a fearsome Carolina Dog, for no lions were to be seen anywhere.
The top of Peak 5800 is a fairly broad and level ridgeline, most of which extends out to the SE from the true summit. Lupe and SPHP explored as far as the highest point near the SE end just before the mountain begins to drop off much more steeply.
From a point a little N of the SE high point, Lupe and SPHP headed down the NE slopes of Peak 5800. The heavily forested slope was steeper than expected, and a bit slippery in the snow, but not too much of a challenge. Lupe sniffed around not finding so much as a squirrel, never mind a mountain lion, while SPHP slowly worked on down the mountain.
Lupe and SPHP reached the G6 again at 4:07 PM (32°F). New Year 2016 was off to a great start, with Lupe’s 150th Black Hills, SD Expedition a success. Nevertheless, it was a little sad that Lupe and SPHP hadn’t gotten to New Year’s Eve Peak in time for a proper final good-bye to 2015, a year in which Lupe had many glorious adventures.
With a little luck, Lupe and SPHP will return to New Year’s Eve Peak in time to say good-bye to 2016, but not until after many more long, daring and inspiring American Dingo adventures yet to come!
Happy New Year 2016 to all from Lupe! May your 2016 be full of fun adventures and dreams come true!