South Sawtooth Mountain, Laramie Range, Wyoming (6-10-17)

Day 3 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range, Wyoming & Beyond!

SPHP drove slowly.  Ahead Eagle Peak (9,167 ft.) was lit up by the early morning sunshine.  The E face of the mountain looked tough.  Not that it mattered now.  Yesterday Lupe had come close to reaching the top of the mountain from the SE and SW sides.  She hadn’t quite made it, though, and there wasn’t going to be another attempt today.

Eagle Peak in the early morning sunshine. Yesterday Lupe had nearly reached the top of the mountain, but failed to find a way up the last few tens of feet. She wasn’t going to make another attempt today. Photo looks WNW.

I hope we have better luck today at South Sawtooth, Loop.

SPHP spoke without much conviction.  Those contours on the topo map were as tight near the top of South Sawtooth Mountain (8,723 ft.) as they were at Eagle Peak.  Success was far from guaranteed.

Success was guaranteed at Prairie Dog Hill (6,400 ft.) a mile N of Esterbrook.  County Road No. 5 went practically right over the top of it.  Lupe sniffed her way through a nearly flat field.  Elevation gain to what seemed to be as much the high point as anywhere else was trivial, less than 10 feet.  Whoop-de-doo!  At least there was a bit of a view.

Lupe on Prairie Dog Hill, a trivial peakbagging accomplishment. It was so flat it was hardly even a hill. At least she had a distant view of Laramie Peak (10,272 ft.) (L) and Eagle Peak (9,167 ft.) (R). Photo looks SW.

Although South Sawtooth Mountain is only 9 miles NNW of Eagle Peak as the crow flies, it was many times that far by road.  Lupe first had to go clear to Douglas, WY.  While in town, SPHP picked up a few supplies.  At very small Locomotive Park where the Douglas Railroad Interpretive Center is located, Lupe got to visit a very large Jackalope.

Lupe visits the giant Jackalope at Locomotive Park in Douglas, WY. Douglas is the Jackalope capital of the world!

Lupe was disappointed to find that the Jackalope was merely a statue, but as large as the Jackalope was, perhaps that was for the best.  In any case, the Carolina Dog was soon ready to move on.

The long drive out Hwy 91 SW of Douglas is one of SPHP’s favorites for gorgeous western scenery.  Lupe likes it for all the cows and horses to bark at along the way.  The highway eventually ends and turns to gravel.  Many more miles of dusty road eventually brought Lupe to the Curtis Gulch campground along La Bonte Creek.

SPHP parked the G6 near the campground entrance.  Lupe set out for South Sawtooth Mountain (10:36 AM, 68°F) heading SW on USFS Road No. 658.  On the way in, SPHP had seen a sign for Big Bear Canyon about 0.33 mile away.  Lupe soon reached this side road (USFS Road No. 657.01), which almost immediately led to a ford of La Bonte Creek.

Almost as soon as Lupe reached USFS Road No. 657.01 to Big Bear Canyon, the road led to this ford of La Bonte Creek. Photo looks SW.

The water was high this time of year.  Although the surface looked calm, La Bonte Creek was wide at the ford, and over Lupe’s head.  Upstream and downstream, the current was clearly strong.  American Dingoes like wading, not swimming, but SPHP knew Lupe could swim if necessary.  She ought to be able to manage this crossing.

Still, SPHP wasn’t thrilled to see the ford.  Only 3 days ago, SPHP had bought new boots for this Dingo Vacation, and they weren’t waterproof.  To keep from getting the new boots soaking wet, SPHP decided to take them off and wade the stream barefoot.  SPHP stuffed a sock inside each boot, laced them together, and draped a boot over the back of each shoulder with the knotted laces across the throat.

While Lupe watched from shore, SPHP waded into La Bonte Creek.  The current was fairly strong, and the water as much as thigh deep.  Rocks on the bottom were loose and sometimes slippery.  Concentration was required to maintain balance, but SPHP managed to get most of the way across uneventfully.

Was Lupe following?  Yes and no.  SPHP turned around to see the Carolina Dog still near the opposite shore.  She wanted to come, and had waded chest deep into La Bonte Creek, but was reluctant to go any deeper.

Lupe waded chest deep into La Bonte Creek, but was afraid to go any deeper.

Loopster was going to need some encouragement.  SPHP waded the rest of the way across, then turned around again to call to her.

Meanwhile, desperate not to be left behind, all on her own Lupe had decided to try crossing La Bonte Creek on the downstream side of the ford.  The water wasn’t as deep here, but the current was powerful.  SPHP was alarmed to see Lupe neck deep struggling to cross without being swept downstream.  Fortunately, her legs were just long enough for her paws to touch bottom.  Lupe clawed her way forward despite the current.

In a flash, Lupe was past the moment of danger.  She reached much shallower water, and came trotting across just fine.

Lupe trots the rest of the way across La Bonte Creek after clawing her way past a dangerous deeper part on the downstream side of the ford. Photo looks NE.

Glad that’s over with Loop!  Good girl!  You did great, but maybe we can find a safer way across on the way back?  Not looking forward to doing that again.

SPHP put socks and boots back on again.  The trek along USFS Road No. 657.01 resumed.  Lupe reached two more creek crossings in quick succession.

Lupe in lower Big Bear Canyon between creek crossings. The rocky mountain seen in the background is on the N side of La Bonte Canyon close to Curtis Gulch campground. Photo looks NE.

Fortunately, La Bonte Creek had already forked by the time these next stream crossings were reached.  Flow was less than half of what it had been at the first ford.  Lupe had no problems crossing now.  SPHP again crossed barefoot each time, the creek still being too large to leap over.

USFS Road No. 657.01 now went steadily SSE up Big Bear Canyon.  Lupe came to no more creek crossings for more than 0.5 mile.  When she did reach more crossings, the creek was considerably smaller than before.  SPHP could now leap across, avoiding the tedious necessity of removing the precious new boots each time.

The day was sunny and warm.  Lupe was now enjoying cooling off and getting drinks from the stream.

Lupe enjoys cooling off in the diminished stream on the way up Big Bear Canyon.

Big Bear Canyon was heavily forested most of the way.  Sometimes there were views of large rock formations hundreds of feet higher up along the E side of the canyon.  Farther on, high forested mountainsides were visible on the W side of the canyon, too.  Mostly though, the views were only of the forest along USFS Road No. 657.01.

Lupe on her way up Big Bear Canyon on USFS Road No. 657.01. Photo looks SSE.
About halfway up Big Bear Canyon, Lupe reached this pond. The creek flowed through it. Photo looks SW.

Lupe followed USFS Road No. 657.01 for more than 3 miles all the way up Big Bear Canyon.  The road gained elevation more quickly toward the end.  About the time the rate of climb began to diminish again, SPHP spotted a mountain off to the NE.  The view was partially obstructed by trees, but what could be seen was concerning.

Was that South Sawtooth Mountain?  If so, Lupe wasn’t likely to have much luck reaching the summit.  The rocky upper slopes looked nearly vertical.  Sigh.  Not another defeat!  Nothing to do, though, but carry on.  Maybe that wasn’t South Sawtooth, or there actually was a way up.  Hard to tell from here.  The mountain was still a couple miles away.

The terrain completely leveled out as the road left the upper end of Big Bear Canyon.  Lupe soon arrived at a 3 way junction.  A sign identified the road Lupe needed to take as Sawtooth Road.  On the topo map it was USFS Road No. 615, which started out heading ENE from here.

Lupe reaches a 3 way junction at the flat, forested saddle beyond the upper end of Big Bear Canyon. USFS Road No. 615, which Lupe would need to take partway to South Sawtooth, is seen winding away into the forest. Photo looks E.

Before taking No. 615 toward South Sawtooth, Lupe explored another road leading a short distance SW to USFS No. 610.  She passed a sunny meadow full of lupines along the way.

Lupe among the lupines.

Lupe went far enough to have some views of mountains off to the SW and NW before turning around.  She then returned to the first junction, and started along USFS Road No. 615.

Before long, No. 615 emerged from the forest.  The road began climbing steadily up a draw which was mostly meadow.  At the upper end of the draw, Lupe re-entered the forest.  The road wound around to the E and NE, but after a mile or so, turned N.  The topo map showed that right after reaching a crest, No. 615 would turn W and start losing elevation.  Ultimately it would dead end in a canyon.

Lupe reached the crest of USFS Road No. 615.  Time to leave the road!  Lupe and SPHP turned NE, and started climbing a heavily forested hillside.  Little could be seen except trees until Loop reached the top of a broad ridge.  Here there were big rocks and some open ground.  From one of the higher rocks, the American Dingo had a view of the mountain SPHP had seen earlier.

Yes, that was it.  That had to be South Sawtooth Mountain (8,723 ft.)!

From a rock on the broad ridge, Lupe catches sight of South Sawtooth Mountain! Photo looks N.
Lupe reaches the broad ridge at a perfect point! She had arrived up on the ridge just far enough NE to avoid having to go over High Point 8401, seen behind her. The open ground on the gently sloping ridge was easier to traverse than going through the forest. Photo looks SSW.

Up on the broad ridge, there was enough open ground to make travel much easier than in the dense forest Lupe had left behind.  Lupe and SPHP continued NE, skirting a series of rock formations along the NW side of the ridge.

Another large ridge could soon be seen.  It trended NW to join the ridge Lupe was on.  Beyond the junction, the combined ridge went N and narrowed somewhat.  Lupe came to a rock formation larger than any of the others she had passed to this point.  South Sawtooth Mountain was now less than a mile away.

Beyond the ridge junction, Lupe came to a larger rock formation (L of Center) than any of the others she’d been passing by. She got around the SW (L) side of this one. South Sawtooth Mountain is seen in the distance now less than a mile away. Photo looks N.

Beyond the first large rock formation, Lupe came to some beautiful open ground leading to a second, even grander rock formation.

Approaching the 2nd, even larger, rock formation (R). South Sawtooth Mountain is now on the L. Photo looks N.

From the W side of the second rock formation, Lupe had the best view of South Sawtooth Mountain she’d seen yet.  However, the sight caused SPHP to lose all hope that Lupe would succeed in reaching the top.  The mountain was simply too vertical and rough.  Most disappointing!

Maybe Lupe could still reach the top of the high point on the lower W ridge, though?  That looked easy enough.  At least the Carolina Dog had a new objective to pursue.  Who knew, maybe things would look different from up there?

At the second and largest rock formation Lupe reached on the ridge, she had her best view yet of South Sawtooth Mountain. The daunting S face crushed hopes that Lupe could reasonably expect to reach the top. The high point of the lower W ridge (L), became Lupe’s new reduced objective. Photo looks N.

Lupe and SPHP tried to get around the E side of the second rock formation, but a long wall of rock blocked the way.  Lupe was forced to retreat back to the W.  What could be seen of the rest of the ridge leading to South Sawtooth looked forbidding.  The ridge dropped sharply beyond this rock formation, before rising again and continuing N as an impossibly rough series of huge rock outcroppings.  No way!

A grassy opening was visible to the W down at the bottom of a valley about 150 feet lower than where Lupe was now.  Time to abandon the ridge.  Lupe and SPHP started W down a fairly steep forested slope.  As the ground began leveling out near the bottom, there was movement.  Instantly, Lupe dashed away in hot pursuit!

SPHP never had a clear view of what she was after.  Whatever it was had a huge lead, and bounded S through the forest at very high speed.  Loop never got anywhere close, and soon gave up.  SPHP got only tree-broken glimpses.  The creature was gray and bounded like a rabbit, but it was far, far larger than any rabbit.  Even Lupe was tiny by comparison.

A bear?  Are bears still found in the Laramie Mountains?  SPHP didn’t know.  Maybe.  Lupe returned with a huge grin on her face, panting hard.  That was fun!

So what was it, Loop?  A bear, or one of those giant jackalopes?

Lupe kept smiling, but didn’t say.  Hardly mattered now.  It was gone.  Puppy, ho!  Onward!

Lupe and SPHP reached the meadow at the bottom of the valley, crossed it to the W, and went over a small rise to another valley.  This valley was mostly forested, and looked like it would take Lupe up to the saddle between South Sawtooth Mountain and the high point on the ridge to the W.  Lupe turned N and began to climb.

Lupe on her way up the valley leading to the saddle between South Sawtooth Mountain (R) and the high point on the ridge to the W (L). Photo looks N.

Lupe made it up to the saddle with no problem at all.  The whole W face of South Sawtooth Mountain was now in view.  Unfortunately, no matter what route SPHP considered from here, there just didn’t appear to be a way for Lupe to reach the top.  She could have climbed somewhat higher, but every possible path to the summit looked blocked by boulders or vertical rock walls somewhere along the way.

Defeat again!  First at Eagle Peak, now here.  No use fretting about it.  The sky was clouding up.  Rain showers looked like a possibility in some directions.  If Lupe was going to reach the high point on the mountain’s W ridge, she had better get there before the weather deteriorated.

The W face of South Sawtooth Mountain. Although Lupe could have climbed partway up, SPHP couldn’t see any safe route to the top. There were too many large boulders and vertical rock walls. Photo looks E.

Piece of cake!  Lupe was soon up on the W shoulder of South Sawtooth Mountain.  A half acre of relatively flat ground contained two distinct high points.  They were so close to each other in elevation, Lupe would have to climb both to be certain she’d reached the highest one.

Before Lupe climbed up on either high point, she took a general look around at some of the views available from various other vantage points.

South Sawtooth Mountain from a rock on the W shoulder. Photo looks E.
Laramie Peak (10,272 ft.) is seen beyond Lupe. Photo looks SE from the same rock.
Blacktail Peak (8,675 ft.) is the highest mountain seen straight up from Lupe’s head. Photo looks WSW.
View to the NW. Warbonnet Peak (9,414 ft.) is the high point on the horizon L of Center. Also on the horizon straight up from Lupe are Squaw Mountain (9,313 ft.) (L) & Buffalo Peak (9,387 ft.) (R).

Although not as good as they would have been if Lupe had been able to reach the summit of South Sawtooth Mountain, the views from the W shoulder were really quite nice.  Lupe could see a lot of territory from up here.

After looking around some, Lupe got up on top of the N high point first, since it seemed easiest.

Loop climbed up on top of the N high point of South Sawtooth Mountain’s W ridge first. Photo looks NW.
South Sawtooth Mountain from the N high point. Photo looks ESE.

The best views of Middle and North Sawtooth Mountains were from rocks near the N high point.  Though equally rugged, neither mountain was as high as South Sawtooth.  Even here on South Sawtooth Mountain’s W shoulder, Lupe was higher than either Middle or North Sawtooth.

Lupe had a great view of Middle Sawtooth (R) and North Sawtooth (L). Neither of them looked like anything Lupe could climb, but she was already higher than either one right here. Photo looks NE.
Middle Sawtooth Mountain (8,502 ft.). Photo looks NE with help from the telephoto lens.
North Sawtooth Mountain (8,306 ft.) (R). Photo looks NNE.
South Sawtooth Mountain (8,723 ft.) is the highest of the 3 Sawtooths in the area. Photo looks E.

Shortly after visiting the N high point, Lupe went and climbed the S one.  Even after being up on both, it wasn’t clear which was the highest.

Lupe completes her peakbagging for the day up on the S high point. Photo looks SSW.
South Sawtooth Mountain from the W ridge’s S high point. Photo looks E.
Another look from the S high point.
American Dingoes can occasionally be spotted in the Laramie Mountains of Wyoming.

Lupe and SPHP lingered up on South Sawtooth Mountain’s W Ridge for 30 or 40 minutes before starting back.  The plan was to retrace the same route, except Lupe would try to cut through the forest and find USFS Road No. 615 again without getting up on the broad ridge S of South Sawtooth Mountain.

 

High Point 8401 on South Sawtooth Mountain’s long S ridge is seen straight up from Lupe. She had followed the broad ridge from there over to the meadows seen on the L on the way to the mountain. On the way back S, she would stay down in the forest on the near (W) side of the same ridge. Photo looks S.

Loop left the W ridge going down to the saddle next to South Sawtooth Mountain.  She then turned S traveling down the same valley she had originally come up.  This valley would turn and take her too far W before long, so she soon had to make a jog to the E over a minor ridge into the next valley over.

Lupe starts back down the same valley she had come up on the way to South Sawtooth Mountain. She had a great time exploring the forest again. Photo looks SSE.

After losing considerable elevation, Lupe gradually started regaining some as she traveled S through the forest.  She was somewhere not too far W of the broad ridge she had reached N of High Point 8401 on the way to South Sawtooth, but it was hard to tell exactly where she was, or how much farther it might be to the road.

After a while, the terrain became a little rougher and rose more steeply.  Some things looked vaguely familiar.  Lupe continued S and eventually reached a meadow up on the ridgeline again.  Now it was possible to see that Lupe was only a little SW of High Point 8401.  That was good news!  It meant that USFS Road No. 615 was close by.

Lupe headed SW down a forested slope.  She soon reached No. 615.  Now all she had to do was follow the road back to No. 657.01, which would take her back down Big Bear Canyon.

Lupe finds USFS Road No. 615 again SW of High Point 8401. All she had to do now was follow this road back to No. 657.01, which would take her back down Big Bear Canyon. Photo looks S.

The sun had set and light was fading by the time Lupe made it all the way back down Big Bear Canyon.  She was now approaching the last big creek ford across La Bonte Creek.  As promised earlier, SPHP searched upstream of the ford for an easier place for Lupe to cross, but found nothing.  Lupe was going to have to brave the ford one more time.

Once again, SPHP went barefoot with boots tied together and dangling behind the neck.  Lupe wanted to cross the same downstream side of the ford where she had made it across before.  SPHP went with her to keep a better eye on how she was doing.  The water wasn’t as deep here as in the main part of the ford, but the current was far stronger.

Once again, it was alarming to see how close the Carolina Dog came to being swept downstream.  As Lupe fought and clawed her way across La Bonte Creek, barely able to hang on against the swift current, SPHP started having problems, too.  The creek bottom was covered with larger, slippery rocks here.  They weren’t visible in the dim light.  One of the rocks moved unexpectedly.

SPHP gyrated wildly trying to maintain balance.  The American Dingo had made it!  She stood safely on the opposite shore.  SPHP recovered and avoided a fall, but out of the corner of an eye saw something hit the water.  The new boots were bobbing away downstream!  In seconds, they vanished from view.

Gone for good.  Sheesh!

It was a good thing there wasn’t more gravel on USFS Road No. 658.  The 0.33 mile barefoot trek back to the G6 was slow and painful enough as it was.  Lupe ran back and forth on the road wondering what was wrong with SPHP?  She was hungry!  C’mon, hurry it up!  Stars were shining by the time Alpo was served.  (9:43 PM)

Although Lupe initially seemed tired out from the long trek to South Sawtooth Mountain, the Alpo soon revived her.  She couldn’t sleep.  SPHP finally let her out of the G6.  She sniffed around in the night for a while, then laid down on the ground near the G6.

For a long time the Carolina Dog stayed out there alone, bathed in moonlight beneath the starry sky, watching the dim forest and listening to the soothing sound of the flowing waters of boot-eating La Bonte Creek.

Sometime after midnight, a tuckered out Dingo finally snoozes peacefully in the G6 after her South Sawtooth Mountain adventure.

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s 2017 Laramie Range, Wyoming & Beyond Adventure IndexDingo Vacations Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota with Australian Adventurer Luke Hall (9-27-17)

Lucky Dingo!  Australian adventurer Luke Hall was staying with her.  For the second day in a row, Lupe was going to get to play host and tour guide.  That could only mean another brand new adventure!

Yesterday Lupe had taken Luke up to Little Devil’s Tower (6,960 ft.) and Black Elk Peak (7,231 ft.), the highest mountain in South Dakota.  Did Luke have any preference on what else he would like to see while still in the Black Hills region?  Yes, he did, actually!  Luke wanted to see Badlands National Park.

That was a great idea!  Although the W end of Badlands National Park is only a little over an hour’s drive E of the Black Hills, Lupe had never been there before, either.  Luke, Lupe and SPHP all piled into the G6.  The miles flew by.  It wasn’t long before SPHP turned onto Sage Creek Road a mile or two E of Scenic, SD.

The W end of the park’s N unit was still miles away, but Luke was ready to get out for a look around.

Australian adventurer Luke Hall on Sage Creek Road, a less frequented route into the W end of Badlands National Park’s most famous N unit. The park was still 10 miles away from here, but Luke wanted to take a look at the prairie lands typical of the surrounding area. Photo looks N.

Once Lupe reached Badlands National Park, a series of overlooks along Sage Creek Rim Road provided increasingly dramatic views.  The first views were of Sage Creek Basin.  The sharply eroded hills and bluffs typical of the Badlands were still a little way off in the distance.

Lupe at one of the first viewpoints inside the park along Sage Creek Rim Road. Photo looks SSE.
The badlands scenery grew more dramatic and impressive at each succeeding viewpoint heading E along Sage Creek Rim Road. Photo looks SE.
Lupe & Luke with another view of Sage Creek Basin. Photo looks SW.

Farmers, ranchers! Don’t let this happen to your property! Lupe stands next to a prime example of an erosion control program gone seriously awry. Photo looks S.

No one had to tell Lupe why this place was called the Badlands.  It was easy to see there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in you know where of finding a squirrel out here!  Most disappointing.  Why on earth had Luke wanted to come way out to this wretched, forsaken land?

The answer was soon apparent.  Hundreds, maybe thousands, of prairie dogs were living in large towns right along the road!  Hundreds, maybe thousands, of fat squirrels right on the ground that couldn’t climb a tree even if there was one?  It was an American Dingo’s dream come true!  Badlands?  Hardly, this place was a Dingo paradise!  Luke was a genius!

Hundreds of prairie dogs could be seen in towns right along the road.

Shockingly, SPHP was a total spoil sport.  This could have been the greatest day of Lupe’s life!  Instead, SPHP refused to let her go after those prairie dogs.  Not even one!  It was maddening.  Sure, those prairie dogs had burrows, but this ground was soft and Lupe is a great digger.  It would have been the most fun ever!

The Carolina Dog had to watch as a badger scurried across the road and disappeared down into a prairie dog burrow.  Luke saw a coyote nearby.  Poor Lupe could only stare out the window of the G6 and dream.  SPHP decided it was best to drive on.

Oh, what might have been, if SPHP hadn’t interfered!

At the Hay Butte overlook, a plaque told about how pioneers had gone to great efforts to hay the grass off of the top of a long, flat butte seen in the distance.  Why they felt compelled to do so was never fully explained.  The Badlands are completely surrounded by prairie.  What was so special about the grass growing on that butte?

It was a mystery of the universe.  Some things can’t be explained, like why SPHP sided with the prairie dogs against the loyal Carolina Dog, a lifelong friend?

A short distance E of the Hay Butte overlook, Sage Creek Rim Road ended at the paved Badlands Loop Road, which winds through the most frequently visited part of Badlands National Park.  Park headquarters and most trails, overlooks, and displays are located along the Badlands Loop Road.

Lupe’s first stop traveling E on Badlands Loop Road was at the Pinnacles overlook, where a couple of short trails led away from the road down to several viewpoints.  Luke went down to investigate.  American Dingoes couldn’t go on any of the trails, but the views were great right up by the road.

At the Pinnacles overlook. Hay Butte is the long, flat butte in the distance on the L with clearly badlandy sides. Luke is a mere speck checking out the views from the end of the trail on the R. Photo looks SW.
The view to the SE from the Pinnacles overlook revealed a sweet, happy Carolina Dog. Abundant weird landforms were seen in this same area, too. Photo looks SE.

Most of the dramatic eroded buttes and spires of the Badlands are horizontally striped with many relatively thin layers of gray, white, or pink soils.  At the Yellow Mounds overlook, however, a thick lower layer of yellow soil capped with red was exposed.  The grays, whites and pinks could still be seen higher up.  In some of the lowest parts of this region, the mounds were completely yellow, since the overlying layers had been eroded completely away.

While the soil colors can appear more dramatic near sunrise or sunset, or especially after a rain, even in sunshine at midday the Yellow Mounds were definitely worth a look.

Luke & Lupe at the Yellow Mounds. Here the yellow soil is seen as a lower layer at the bottom of a small valley. Photo looks NW.
Looking NNE directly across the same valley.
Looking ENE down the same valley. More of the yellow soil is exposed here. One of the smaller lower mounds in the valley is almost entirely yellow.
Yellow mounds were present on the S side of the road, too. Luke gives Lupe a lift to help get her more into the scene. Photo looks WSW.
Lupe enjoyed being toted around the Yellow Mounds area by Luke. Photo looks S.

10 or 12 miles E of the Yellow Mounds, Lupe arrived at a big parking lot next to the Fossil Exhibit Trail, a short loop trail where fossils are on display as originally found.  Luke went to check out the trail, while Lupe and SPHP visited with a park ranger who had just finished a talk on various fossils found within Badlands National Park.

The Badlands are full of fossil-bearing sedimentary rocks.  Fossils of many extinct animals from the Oligocene epoch 23 to 35 million years ago continue to be found here, including:

  • Leptomeryx – a small deerlike mammal
  • Oreodonts – common and sheeplike
  • Archaeotherium – a relative of pigs equipped with sharp canines
  • Mesohippus – an ancestor of modern horses
  • Hoplophoneus – an early saber-tooth cat
  • Metamynodon – a massive rhinoceros
Stark views of the Badlands like this one were common along the Badlands Loop Road.
People wander along the Fossil Exhibit Trail where fossils are on display as originally found. Luke took this trail while Lupe and SPHP stayed at the parking lot chatting with a ranger who had just finished a talk about fossils found in Badlands National Park.

After Luke got back from the Fossil Exhibit Trail, the next stop was at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center.  Lupe couldn’t go in, but Luke and SPHP did, returning with brochures containing maps of the park.  Several short trails were only a few miles away, so it was decided to go check them out.

Lupe had to wait in the G6, while Luke and SPHP went to explore the Window and Door trails.

The very short Window Trail ended at a metal railing at the edge of a deep gully. Across the gully was this view of steep, wild badlands. Photo looks E.
Luke on the Door Trail, which passed through a narrow gap to reach this large area of badlands. Photo looks E.
Luke farther along the Door Trail. A series of numbered posts showed the way. Photo looks SE.
Door Trail. Photo looks NW.
Luke stands near a twisting maze of steep, deep gullies typical of the badlands. Photo looks SE.
Badlands from the Door Trail. Photo looks SE.

The Window and Door Trails provided great views of some wild-looking badlands, but didn’t take long to explore.  After returning to the G6, Luke continued on to explore the Notch Trail. Meanwhile, SPHP stayed with Lupe near the start of the trail.

Lupe enjoyed being out relaxing in the dry grass, surrounded by the beauty of the Badlands.

Lupe relaxes in the dry grass near the start of the Notch Trail while waiting for Luke to return. Photo looks ESE.

Luke was gone quite a while.  People who had left after Luke did started returning.  When SPHP inquired, two groups they said they had been all the way to the Notch at the end of the trail.  Both groups had taken 40 to 45 minutes to make the round trip.

Lupe kept waiting.  Eventually Luke reappeared.

Luke returns from the Notch Trail. Photo looks SSE.

Of course, Luke had made it to the end of the Notch Trail, too.  He enjoyed the walk and the views, but especially the extra time he’d spent scrambling around on the Badlands formations.

The Badlands aren’t high at all by mountain climbing standards, but scrambling among them is tricky and potentially treacherous.  The very steep sides of the formations are often loose and crumbly.  Exercising considerable caution, Luke had successfully made it to the top of some of the highest formations near the Notch.

Near the start of the Notch Trail. Photo looks E.
View along the Notch Trail on the way to the Notch.
Luke up on top of Badlands formations near the end of the Notch Trail. Photo looks SE.
Looking SE. Most of the Badlands lie along a long, relatively narrow area. Views of the surrounding prairie are never far away.
Looking SW. The area near the Ben Reifel Visitor Center is on the far R.
Looking E.
Looking NW.

It was evening and time to start back when Luke returned.  SPHP drove W back along the Badlands Loop Road.  Lupe saw lots of animals to bark at from the G6.  Pronghorn antelope, a buffalo, and bighorn sheep all got the enthusiastic Dingo treatment as Lupe sailed on by.

Lupe got to make a few stops to enjoy the scenery along the way, too.

Scenery on the drive back W along the Badlands Loop Road.
Slanting evening light highlights the sharply eroded Badlands terrain.
Loopster enjoys a short outing along the Badlands Loop Road. Photo looks WNW.

The sun was sinking fast.  Lupe, Luke and SPHP stopped at Panorama Point for a final look at the Badlands before it set.  The evening was beautiful, and the sweeping views simply magnificent.

Approaching sunset from Panorama Point.
Australian adventurer Luke Hall at Panorama Point. Photo looks E.
Lupe, Luke & SPHP watched the sun set behind a distant jagged Badlands horizon.
Luke takes a photo from Panorama Point before the last rays of sunlight disappear.
Looking E from Panorama Point with help from the telephoto lens.
Lupe’s beautiful day in Badlands National Park draws to a close.

The sun disappeared from view.  Lupe’s beautiful day in Badlands National Park with her friend Australian adventurer Luke Hall was over.  It was her last big adventure with Luke before he would set out for Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks in Wyoming.

It was sad to think that Luke would be leaving soon, but Lupe and SPHP were both glad that he had taken the time to come and visit the Black Hills and Badlands of remote western South Dakota.

Lupe at Panorama Point, Badlands National Park, 9-27-17.

Links:

Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 208 – Little Devil’s Tower & Black Elk Peak with Australian Adventurer Luke Hall (9-26-17)

Luke Hall’s travel & adventure blog

Badlands National Park

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Eagle Peak, Laramie Range, Wyoming (6-9-17)

Day 2 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range, Wyoming & Beyond!

Lupe shot out into the night.  No telling what hour it was.  No doubt it was late, very late.  Following a road to the top of Black Mountain (7,960 ft.) yesterday hadn’t been hard enough to wear the Carolina Dog out.  She was all stirred up about being on a Dingo Vacation again, and had been staring out of the G6 watching the dark forest for hours.  SPHP wasn’t all that sleepy, either.  May as well join Looper out there.

The night air was pleasantly cool.  Only a few stars could be seen through high, thin clouds.  The nearly full moon was so bright, no other light was necessary.  SPHP strolled S along USFS Road No. 633, while Lupe explored small fields nearby.  The flowing waters of Horseshoe Creek and Lupe’s sniffing made the only sounds breaking the silence.

Forty minutes later, Lupe was back at the G6.  She helped devour the rest of the leftover roasted chicken, then was finally able to fall asleep.  By the time SPHP woke up again, the sun was shining.  A surprisingly strong, cool breeze was blowing down the Horseshoe Creek valley.  Lupe and SPHP spent a little time down by the stream.  The sky clouded up.

Lupe by Horseshoe Creek. A surprisingly strong, cool breeze was coming down the valley. Photo looks S.

The wind was strong enough so making breakfast was going to be a bother.  SPHP decided to skip it.  The roasted chicken in the night could serve as breakfast.  Lupe was raring to go, anyway.  Onward!

SPHP drove toward Lupe’s next peakbagging destination, following USFS Road No. 633 back to Esterbrook.  From there Lupe enjoyed a scenic ride SW on Country Road No. 5.  A huge herd of beautiful cows appeared ahead right on the road!  Another cattle drive, or perhaps it was the same one Lupe had passed yesterday back at Prairie Dog Hill (6,400 ft.), was going on.  In any case, another enthusiastic barkfest was in order.

Once safely a few miles beyond the cattle, SPHP stopped the G6 near a big rock outcropping providing a great view of Lupe’s next challenge.  Eagle Peak (9,167 ft.) loomed to the S.

Eagle Peak from a hillside near County Road No. 5. Photo looks S.
Eagle Peak was Lupe’s next peakbagging challenge. With no roads or trails to follow, it would prove to be much harder than Black Mountain had been yesterday.
N face of Eagle Peak. Eagle Peak is nearly 4 miles W of Laramie Peak, the highest mountain of the Laramie Range.

By 10:23 AM (67°F), the G6 was parked only a mile NW of Eagle Peak near the 3-way intersection of County Roads No. 5 & 71, and USFS Road No. 671.  Lupe started out on No. 671, but quickly left it to follow a steep side road up an open slope.  When the side road turned NE to rejoin No. 671, Lupe left it as well, climbing SE up into the forest.

The forest was full of cheerful yellow flowers.

Soon after Lupe departed for Eagle Peak, she found herself climbing through a forest full of pretty yellow flowers.

The climb through the forest was fairly steep.  Lupe soon reached a high point where she could not advance any farther toward Eagle Peak.  Gah!  She was going to have to lose some of her newly gained elevation.  From high rocks, a flowery open saddle could be seen below to the SE.

Lupe ultimately lost 100+ feet of elevation working her way NE through thick forest and boulders before she came to a point where she could reach the open ground safely.  She then had to head S back up to the flowery saddle.  Not very efficient.

Lupe reaches the flowery saddle. Photo looks S.

Great job of route finding, SPHP!

Pshaw!  A minor setback.  Puppy, ho!  Onward!

From the flowery saddle, Lupe went SSW, skirting around the W side of another minor high point.  She then turned SE, and quickly arrived at the edge of a small valley.  A thickly forested hillside rose from the valley, climbing steeply toward the rocky upper NW face of Eagle Peak.

It looked like it might be possible to simply climb the NW face straight to the top of the mountain.  Then again, maybe not.  The rocky summit ridge was a long way up, still too far off to see details well.  The topo map seemed to indicate it might be easier to approach the mountain from the SW.

High up on the mountain toward the S, an area of burnt forest was visible.  Maybe Lupe should head toward that?

Beyond the flowery saddle, Lupe arrives at the edge of the small valley seen directly ahead. A thick forest rose steeply from the valley up the NW face of the mountain. The topo map seemed to suggest the easiest route to the summit might be from the SW, not the NW. For that reason, SPHP led Lupe toward the burnt area seen high up on the R (S). Photo looks SE.

SPHP led Lupe across the small valley, entering the forest.  Loop traveled SSE gaining elevation steadily.  The immediate goal now was to reach the burnt forest high up on Eagle Peak’s SW slope.  The Carolina Dog had a good time exploring the living forest, which went on for quite a long way.  She stopped for water and to relax a few times when SPHP needed a break.

Enjoying the forest somewhere on the lower NW slopes of Eagle Peak.
The living forest went on for what seemed like quite a long way as Lupe headed SSE. It was too thick to permit any views of how much progress she was making.

The living forest was nice and cool, but the morning’s clouds had mostly dissipated by the time Lupe reached the start of the burnt area.  The day was sunny, bright, and getting warmer.  Lupe could now see more of the territory higher up.  The view improved as Lupe continued climbing.  The top of the mountain was still hundreds of feet higher.

Looper enters the burnt area on Eagle Peak’s upper SW slopes. She had a somewhat better view of things from here, but the top of the mountain was still at least several hundred feet higher up. Photo looks ENE.

At first the burnt area was quite easy to navigate through, but as Lupe got higher up, she started encountering more deadfall, larger boulders, and some living trees as well that made progress increasingly difficult.  Lupe and SPHP turned ESE to climb more aggressively, but the terrain grew worse.  Finally, it became clear that the Carolina Dog was rapidly approaching the base of a nearly vertical wall of solid rock.

By now, Lupe wasn’t too far from the S end of the mountain.  SPHP had her head that way, looking for a break in the rock wall that would let her get up on top.  No dice.  The vertical rock wall was continuous.  Lupe finally reached the S end of it.  She was now quite high on Eagle Peak, and had a good view of the 2 mile long ridge far below leading SSW to Jack Squirrel Peak (8,942 ft.).

SPHP had hoped Loop would be able to follow that SSW ridge to climb Jack Squirrel Peak after summiting Eagle Peak, but that clearly wasn’t in the cards.  The ridge was way too rough.  Nearly all of it had burned, and there would be a ton of deadfall down there, too.  No way would there be time enough to navigate through all that!

At the S end of Eagle Peak, Lupe had a great view of the 2 mile long SSW ridge leading to Jack Squirrel Peak (8,942 ft.), seen in the distance. SPHP had hoped Lupe might be able to follow this ridge to tag the summit of Jack Squirrel Peak after climbing Eagle Peak. However, it was completely clear from here that was way too ambitious, and simply out of the question. Photo looks SSW.

Of course, there wasn’t much use in worrying about Jack Squirrel Peak yet, anyway.  Lupe still hadn’t found a way to the top of Eagle Peak.  A quick check of the topo map suggested that maybe she could go around the S end of the vertical rock wall and find a way up along the E side?

The rock wall was only a few feet thick at the S end.  Lupe could now see spruce trees growing in a corridor to the E.  The initial view was encouraging.  May as well try it!

Looking NNE back up at the vertical rock wall at the S end of Eagle Peak. Lupe had worked her way S to this point along the W (L) side of it without finding a way up, but maybe she could find a way up from the E (R) side? It was worth a shot!

Lupe and SPHP circled around the S end of the vertical rock wall over to the E side.  It was slow going amidst large boulders, and a mix of living trees and deadfall.  However, Lupe and SPHP both made it, and found there was indeed a channel of forested land rising steadily to the N on the E side.

For a short distance, Lupe stayed right along the E base of the vertical rock wall as she climbed N.  However, the wall rose higher to the N, too.  Lupe wasn’t making any apparent progress toward being able to get up onto it.

The terrain immediately below the wall became increasingly difficult.  Tightly packed spruce trees and boulders forced Lupe E away from the wall in order to make any progress at all.  Even over here, the going was far from easy.  Lupe was often down in cave-like spaces between boulders, while SPHP worked up and around them.  Once SPHP was up, the crafty American Dingo always found a way to bound higher, too.

As Lupe climbed, she reached the W side of another, somewhat smaller rock wall along the E side of the corridor leading higher.  After following this wall N up a short distance, several breaks appeared revealing large cliffs only a few feet away, and big views to the SE.  SPHP was glad when those gaps ended a little higher up, and the unnerving cliff views were walled off again.

Looking back at Jack Squirrel Peak from the corridor Lupe was following higher on the E side of the S end of Eagle Peak. Photo looks SSW.

Lupe kept climbing N, but the rock wall to the W continued to get higher, too.  If only she could scramble 30 or 40 feet up the wall, she would be on top, but there didn’t seem to be a way to do it.  Finally, SPHP spotted a route that might work.  If Lupe could reach a small green tree a little more than halfway up, the rest should be easy.  It looked feasible.

After climbing N almost as far as she could, it looked like Lupe could reach the top of this rock wall and Eagle Peak, if she could get to the small green tree seen here 25 feet above her. A crack in the rocks visible from some angles went SW from the little tree up what appeared to be an easy route the rest of the way to the top. Photo looks NW.

By the time SPHP spotted this possible route via the small green tree, Lupe was nearing a pass only a little farther N.  Maybe a more certain and easier way up would be visible N of the pass?  Should probably check that out first!  Hopes soared as Lupe approached the pass.

The view N from the pass was a colossal disappointment.  All that could be seen was a line of enormous cliffs extending along the entire E side of the mountain.  The continuous rock wall to the W offered not the slightest encouragement.  Forget that!

Lupe reaches the pass on the E side of Eagle Peak. The view was a colossal disappointment! All that could be seen farther N was an unbroken line of huge cliffs. Lupe didn’t stand the slightest chance of scaling the mountain from anywhere along in here. Photo looks N.

The American Dingo retreated S from the pass back down to the potential route via the little green tree.  It was Lupe’s last hope of reaching the summit from anywhere along this SE side of the mountain.

Lupe and SPHP went closer to investigate.  The truth was plain within only a few minutes.  No, there wasn’t any way Looper could get to that little green tree.  It was all an illusion.  The whole foray around the SE side of the mountain had been a huge waste of time and energy.

Lupe and SPHP returned from disappointment at the N pass on the E side of Eagle Peak for a closer look at this last possible route to the top from the SE end of the mountain. SPHP quickly concluded this route wasn’t going to work either. Lupe had no hope of reaching the little green tree seen at the upper R, which success entirely depended upon. Photo looks NNW.

No hope remained over here.  Lupe had to return to the W side of the mountain.  Slowly, slowly, Loop and SPHP worked S back down the channel E of the vertical rock wall.  Time ticked by.  Lupe and SPHP made it back to the S end of the mountain, and around to the W side.

The plan once again was to stay near the base of the vertical rock wall, and follow it N until a way up could be found.  SPHP was still optimistic Lupe would succeed over here, if she went far enough N.

Looking up once again at the vertical rock wall at the S end of Eagle Peak, as Lupe returned to the W side of it. Photo looks NNE.

Looper seemed happy and optimistic, too, but the slog N was painfully slow going.  This high up, there were plenty of obstacles on the W side of the mountain, too.  More giant boulders, more deadfall, more live trees.

On and on, yet no matter how high Lupe got, the top of the vertical rock wall was always out of reach.  Sometimes not terribly far out of reach, only 40 or 50 feet in some places, but out of reach nevertheless.  Frustration began setting in.  Wasn’t there any way up?

As if it was needed, a new worry appeared.  Off to the N was another long section of Eagle Peak’s summit ridge.  It was separated by a saddle from the S end of the mountain where Lupe had been trying to get up.  SPHP had tried to lead Lupe up the S end, partly because that was where the topo map showed the 9,167 ft. survey benchmark.  However, another look at the map showed that both the N and S ends of the mountain had sizable areas enclosed by the 9,160 ft. contour.

Maybe the true summit of Eagle Peak was actually over at the N section of the summit ridge, instead of at or near the S section’s survey benchmark?  Entirely possible.  Lupe’s first view from this high up over at the N section revealed 3 vertical prongs of rock grouped close together.  They looked high.  Maybe higher than anything over here?

As Lupe worked her way N beneath the vertical rock wall on the W side of Eagle Peak, a new worry appeared. Even farther N, a group of 3 vertical prongs of rock came into view. They looked very high. Was the true summit of Eagle Peak actually over there? SPHP couldn’t tell, but it was certainly possible. Photo looks N.
Soooo, SPHP, let me get this straight! After we’ve spent hours circling uselessly around as much of this big wretched S end of the mountain as possible, you now think maybe the summit is actually way over there?
Oh, don’t mind me! Think I’ll just lay on this comfy moss in the sun and laugh for a while.

Fine, fine, Loop, just peachy fine!  Have your little laugh, or big one if you like, but here’s the deal.  If we can get to the top of either the S section or the N section of the summit ridge, we are going to call it good enough for Dingo work.  You can then claim a peakbagging success on Eagle Peak and we can get out of here.  Unless, of course, it’s completely clear from up on top that the true summit is definitely at the other section?  What do you think?

OK, but I really think there’s no need to keep consulting your silly, misleading, inconclusive maps.  Maybe it’s time to consult a psychiatrist, instead!  You might get to the bottom of all this, if not the top.

Ha, ha!  So hilarious!  Come on, let’s get on with it.  Either way, success or defeat, I’m about done with Eagle Peak.

Oh, maybe you still do have a marble or two left!

Lupe came close to making it.  Twice she got within 20 feet or so of reaching the top of the vertical rock wall.  One route looked possible, but too exposed.  SPHP wouldn’t chance it.  The other appeared effectively blocked by a single boulder.

Twice Lupe nearly made it to the top of the big S section of Eagle Peak’s summit ridge. Here she’s only about 20 vertical feet from being there. So close, yet so incredibly far, too!

If she could have gotten up on that wall, SPHP believed Lupe would have had an easy stroll with only minor additional elevation gain required to reach Eagle Peak’s summit.  It never happened.  All hope of reaching the top of the mountain’s S section of the summit ridge disappeared when the N end of it ended in big cliffs.

Attention shifted to trying to get to the top of the N section of the ridge.  Unfortunately, the clearer view of it that Lupe had now was even more daunting than before.

Lupe would be approaching the 3 vertical prongs from the S where the steep rock offered little encouragement.  Worse yet, what could be seen of the top of the ridge farther N looked like a narrow string of rock knobs difficult and dangerous to traverse, even if it was possible to get up there somehow.  Towering cliffs were seen to the E, and it looked like there must be cliffs of lesser, unknown height to the W.

Nevertheless, staying toward the W, Lupe and SPHP headed down to the saddle leading to the N section of the summit ridge.  Lupe crossed the saddle and succeeded in regaining some elevation, but as expected, there was no way to the top from here.

Lupe nears the N section of Eagle Peak’s long summit ridge. Photo looks N.

It was still entirely possible Lupe might be able to reach the top of the N section of the summit ridge from the NW.  She had seen that much earlier in the day.  From here, though, even trying it would mean a big down climb, and then another search for a route up working N along the W side of the long ridgeline.  No way.  Not today.  SPHP was done.

Let’s get some photos from here Loop, and call it good.

Lupe barked happily!  She was ready to call it a day, too.

Looking back at the rock wall along the S half of Eagle Peak where Lupe and SPHP had spent most of the day trying and failing to reach the top. Photo looks SE.
Laramie Peak from between Eagle Peak’s N & S summit ridges. Photo looks E.
Another look at Laramie Peak (10,272 ft.) from Eagle Peak (9,167 ft.). Photo looks E.
County Road No. 710 winds away to the SW.
Jack Squirrel Peak (8,942 ft.) with help from the telephoto lens. Photo looks SSW.

On the way back down, Lupe passed through the burnt forest again.

Lupe roaming in the burnt forest near the start of the return trip down off the mountain. Photo looks SW.
Windy Peak (R of Center) from the upper W slopes of Eagle Peak. Photo looks NW.

SPHP made the mistake of leading Lupe N too soon.  She should have lost more elevation first.  This way the burnt forest went on and on.  Maybe it was just the sense of defeat, but what should have been a relatively easy trek back, seemed much longer and steeper than the way up had been.  When Lupe finally reached the live forest, it also seemed to go on forever.  The American Dingo turned W, plunging relentlessly down the mountain.  SPHP became afraid she was going to cliff out, but she didn’t.

Somewhere near the end, Lupe’s routes up and down crossed.  At last, the Carolina Dog emerged from the forest, reaching relatively level open ground near County Road No. 710.  The NW slope of Eagle Peak didn’t look all that daunting from down here.

Lupe W of Eagle Peak at the end of the day not far from County Road No. 710. Eagle Peak didn’t look all that daunting from down here. Photo looks E.

Oh, well!  What was done was done.  Que sera.  It was over.  Next time Lupe would just go straight on up that NW slope!  If there ever was a next time.  Defeat bred pessimism.

Lupe reached the G6 again at 6:52 PM (72°F).  Denied, after 8.5 hours on a mountain only a mile away, with less than 1,500 feet of elevation gain required to summit!  How was that even possible?  SPHP felt sunburnt, battered, bruised, scraped, and worn out.  The plucky American Dingo looked fine, but you could bet even she wouldn’t be taking any long moonlit strolls tonight!

SPHP drove around the N end of Eagle Peak heading E on USFS Road No. 671.  Lupe would spend the evening at a dispersed camping site off USFS Road No. 681 leading to Friend Park near Laramie Peak.

What a gorgeous evening!  On the way to No. 681, SPHP stopped briefly NE of the mountain to let Lupe out for another look.  Eagle Peak stood high and wonderful, its crown surrounded by an intriguing variety of cliffs and spires.  Lupe had nearly reached the top.  Almost, but not quite.  The lofty summit remained the domain of eagles, not dingoes.

Sometimes that’s the way it goes.

Lupe NE of Eagle Peak on the beautiful evening of 6-9-17.

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Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 208 – Little Devil’s Tower & Black Elk Peak with Australian Adventurer Luke Hall (9-26-17)

Start: Hwy 87/89, 0.25 mile NW of Sylvan Lake Lodge, 9:46 AM, 46°F

Wonder of wonders!  Australian adventurer Luke Hall was actually here – in Lupe’s Black Hills of South Dakota!  He’d arrived yesterday afternoon only a few weeks from the end of a 6 month trip exploring the western United States.

During his recent travels, Luke had scrambled up many notable mountain peaks, including Mt. Whitney (14,498 ft.) in California and Mt. Elbert (14,433 ft.) in Colorado, the two highest mountains in the lower 48 states.  He’d spent a lot of time along the Pacific coast, and visited a great many national parks – Yosemite, Death Valley, Sequoia, King’s Canyon, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Mesa Verde, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Rocky Mountain – the list went on and on.

Surfing, swimming, backpacking, mountain biking, climbing – Luke had been a busy guy in 2017, but that was perfectly normal for him.  In previous years, he’d explored western Canada, 10 different countries in South America, wandered through much of Europe, and toured Morocco and Egypt.  He spent 2 years living and working in London, England, and another 2 years in Banff, Canada.  Maybe it wasn’t so surprising that Luke had finally landed in the remote Black Hills of South Dakota after all?  He did get around!

Fittingly enough, Lupe and SPHP had first met Luke Hall over a year ago on Gunsight Mountain (6,441 ft.) in Alaska.  Now Luke was here to join Lupe on one of her Black Hills, SD expeditions.  He had already dropped by Mt. Rushmore (5,725 ft.) on his way in, so Black Elk Peak (7,231 ft.), the highest mountain in South Dakota, seemed like a good destination.  For Luke it would be an easy day, but maybe he wouldn’t mind dialing it down a notch after 5+ solid months of more strenuous adventures?

It was a lovely bright, clear day as Lupe, Luke and SPHP set out.  First stop along the way was Sylvan Lake.

Lupe and Luke together again in the Black Hills for the first time since meeting over a year ago on Gunsight Mountain (6,441 ft.) in Alaska. Black Elk Peak, the highest mountain in South Dakota was today’s ultimate destination. Photo looks E.
Only 10 or 15 minutes after setting out, Luke and Lupe reach the NW shore of Sylvan Lake.
The small dam creating Sylvan Lake, which features a short walkway with a railing, is seen beyond Luke. Photo looks N.
Looking NE across the lake.
A few ducks were out on the calm water.

After a look at Sylvan Lake from the NW shore, Lupe, Luke & SPHP followed a trail that goes all the way around the lake back down below the dam.  Lupe led Luke around to the NE & E sides of the lake.

Looking SW from the rock formations along the N shore.
Sylvan Lake is located at the far NW corner of Custer State Park. Though small, the lake nestles among scenic granite formations.  It’s a popular destination for tourists and locals alike with a swimming beach and picnic ground.  Paddle boat rentals, a convenience store and Sylvan Lake Lodge are all nearby. Photo looks W.
Lupe showing her buddy Luke around Sylvan Lake. Photo looks WNW.
Loopster and Luke on a large granite formation that extends out into Sylvan Lake from the E shore. Photo looks SW.
Looking NNW at the N half of Sylvan Lake.

Trail No. 9 from Sylvan Lake is the most direct and popular route to Black Elk Peak, but Lupe had another trail in mind.  She led Luke past the picnic ground at the SE end of the lake, and took Trail No. 4 to the Little Devil’s Tower trailhead instead.

Taking Trail No. 4 was a longer route to Black Elk Peak, but had the advantage of giving Luke a chance to climb Little Devil’s Tower (6,960 ft.) along the way, and get a close look at the Cathedral Spires (6,840 ft.), too.

Luke & Lupe along Trail No. 4 to Little Devil’s Tower.
A 0.25 mile long spur trail off Trail No. 4 leads to the summit of Little Devil’s Tower. Here Lupe is near the spur trail with a view of the Cathedral Spires. Photo looks E.
Luke & Looper on the way to Little Devil’s Tower. Cathedral Spires in the background. Photo looks E.

A 0.25 mile long spur trail leads from Trail No. 4 to the summit of Little Devil’s Tower.  The end of the route involves a quick, easy scramble up the granite.  Even small children can make it with a little supervision and an occasional boost.

Luke & Loop nearing the top of Little Devil’s Tower. Photo looks N.

Luke, Lupe and SPHP quickly arrived at the summit of Little Devil’s Tower (6,960 ft.).  There were cliffs around, especially to the N, but they were of no concern.  Although a bit rough, the uneven granite summit area is quite roomy.

The 360° views from Little Devil’s Tower are among the best in the Black Hills, with Black Elk Peak (7,231 ft.) to the NNW and the Cathedral Spires (6,840 ft.) to the SE being the most eye-catching.

Luke and Loopster arrive at the uneven granite summit of Little Devil’s Tower. Photo looks ESE.
Another view with some of the Cathedral Spires (also known as the Needles) in the background. Photo looks ESE.
Lupe with the Cathedral Spires in the background. This was Lupe’s 5th ascent of Little Devil’s Tower. Photo looks SE.
Although the day had started out clear and bright, quite a few clouds were around by the time Lupe reached the top of Little Devil’s Tower. A chill breeze was blowing out of the S, too. Photo looks SE.
Looking NNW toward Black Elk Peak. For those with insufficient time to climb Black Elk Peak, the shorter trip on Trail No. 4 up to the top of Little Devil’s Tower can provide similarly striking views of the Black Hills.
Sylvan Hill (7,000 ft.) is the long ridge 2.5 miles away with the high point poking up just R of Center. Photo looks WSW.

At first, no one else was around up on Little Devil’s Tower.  It wasn’t long, though, before a couple appeared.  Bryan and Rene Jobo from Franklin, Tennessee joined Lupe, Luke and SPHP at the summit.

Bryan and Rene were on vacation in the Black Hills, and apparently having a good time relaxing and hitting some of the area’s highlights.  Bryan, Rene, Luke and SPHP were soon chatting pleasantly.  Lupe got involved posing for photos.

Australian adventurer Luke Hall poses with Bryan & Rene Jobo from Franklin, TN up on Little Devil’s Tower. Photo looks SE.
Despite a cool SW breeze, Lupe wasn’t about to get left out. Here she poses with Bryan & Rene, too.
In addition to posing with an American Dingo up on Little Devil’s Tower while in the Black Hills, Bryan & Rene were looking forward to attending the Custer State Park annual buffalo roundup in a couple more days. Lupe would have loved to go to help herd buffalo around, too. Unfortunately, SPHP never seems to think that a huge buffalo herd will appreciate a noisy Dingo, so Lupe has never gotten to go.

Bryan and Rene stayed chatting with Luke and SPHP for a while, but didn’t have time to accompany Lupe all the way to Black Elk Peak.  They had other adventures in mind to press on toward.  Soon after Bryan and Rene said good-bye; Luke, Lupe and SPHP resumed the trek to Black Elk Peak.

Luke near the Cathedral Spires on the way back to Trail No. 4 to resume the trek to Black Elk Peak. Photo looks E.

Trail No. 4 went N past some of the Cathedral Spires, and eventually linked up with a short section of Trail No. 3, which led in turn to Trail No. 9.  Near the end of a spur trail off Trail No. 9, a metal stairway hidden in a narrow opening in the granite spiraled up to a rock stairway leading to the old fire lookout tower on Black Elk Peak (7,231 ft.).

Luke reaches the old fire lookout tower at the summit of Black Elk Peak. Photo looks N.
Until August 11, 2016 when the U.S. Board of Geographic Names voted unanimously in favor of the name Black Elk Peak, the highest mountain in South Dakota had been known as Harney Peak. Luke poses by a plaque at the lookout tower which has not been updated yet.  In May, 2015, the South Dakota State Board of Geographic Names had proposed renaming the mountain Hinhan Kaga (Making of Owls), but that recommendation was never enacted.  Lupe would have preferred Squirrel Mountain, or at least Chipmunk Mountain, but, oh well!
Looking ENE from the Black Elk Peak summit. The most distant big square block of granite at Center is the back side of Mt. Rushmore.

Upon arrival at South Dakota’s highest point, Luke, Lupe and SPHP spent a few minutes out on the fire lookout tower’s W facing observation deck taking in the views.  The wind had shifted to the NW by now, though, and was even colder than at Little Devil’s Tower.

View to the NNW from the fire lookout tower observation deck on Black Elk Peak.

Even Lupe was soon ready to retreat back into the lookout tower.  The tower wasn’t very large inside, but Luke enjoyed exploring the winding passage down to the basement.  An open doorway led out to a massive granite shoulder of the mountain immediately W of the tower.  Everyone enjoyed a break in the shelter of a few pines growing out of the rock.

After snacks and water, it was time for photos from various points on the granite near the lookout tower.

Luke and Lupe NW of the fire lookout tower. The tower was last staffed in 1967. Made of stone, it has held up remarkably well during the ensuing 50 years, despite the efforts of any huffing and puffing big, bad Dingoes. Photo looks SE.
Luke & Lupe up on rocks N of the tower. Photo looks NE.
Adventure buddies Lupe and Luke
Lupe on Black Elk Peak. This was her 7th visit to the mountain. Her last visit was over 2 years ago on 9-7-15. Back then the mountain was still officially Harney Peak, as it had been since 1896. Photo looks W.
Helicopters giving tours of the Mt. Rushmore area often make a pass around Black Elk Peak. Lupe loves barking at helicopters! She’s spotted one now!
The view to the SE.
Cathedral Spires (L) and Little Devil’s Tower (R) are in view beyond Lupe & Luke. Photo looks S.
Black Elk Peak was Luke’s 3rd US State high point after Mt. Whitney in California and Mt. Elbert in Colorado. Photo looks S.

All too soon, it was time to depart.  On the way back to the G6, Lupe, Luke and SPHP followed Trail No. 9 all way to Sylvan Lake.  The sun was sinking, but down out of the wind the evening was pleasant.

Starting down. Sylvan Hill is seen in the distance. Photo looks SW.
On Trail No. 9 before the junction leading to Little Devil’s Tower (R). On the return trip Luke & Lupe stuck with Trail No. 9 all the way, the most direct route back to Sylvan Lake. Photo looks SSW.
Little Devil’s Tower from Trail No. 9. Luke & Loopster had been up there only a few hours ago! Photo looks SW.
A view to the NW from Trail No. 9.
Loop & Luke at the last big viewpoint along Trail No. 9 on the way to Sylvan Lake. Photo looks NNE.
Australian adventurer extraordinaire Luke Hall presents the Black Hills of South Dakota!
Looper takes a break on a lovely bench provided by the Highpointers Foundation. This bench is along Trail No. 9 at the first good viewpoint toward Black Elk Peak (formerly Harney Peak) on the way up from Sylvan Lake.

The light was fading fast by the time Lupe reached the G6 again at 6:45 PM (upper 50’s °F).  Climbing mountains with Luke, and getting to show off her Black Hills home territory had been great fun!

The fun wasn’t over yet, though.  There would be pizza and beer with Luke at home.  (What, no beer for the faithful, peakbagging Carolina Dog!?  No fair!)  Even better, Luke was sticking around for a while.  Another adventure was in store tomorrow.

It just doesn’t get any better than that!

Adventurer Luke Hall originally hails from Sydney, Australia. Lupe & SPHP were thrilled that he took the time to come pay a visit to the beautiful Black Hills of western South Dakota!
Adventuring buddies Luke & Lupe on Black Elk Peak, 9-26-17

Links:

Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 208 – Badlands National Park with Australian Adventurer Luke Hall (9-27-17)

Gunsight Mountain, Talkeetna Range, Alaska (8-23-16)

Luke Hall’s travel & adventure blog

Want more Lupe adventures?  Check out her Black Hills, SD & WY Expeditions Adventure Index, Master Adventure Index, or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures!

Black Mountain, Laramie Range, Wyoming (6-8-17)

Day 1 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range, Wyoming & Beyond

Nine months gone.  Practically an eternity!  Late in the evening, Lupe laid sad-faced and bored on the even sadder-looking old couch clawed up by 4 cats who no longer lived here.  Did she ever even think anymore about those glorious days of her last and greatest 2016 Dingo Vacation when she’d gone all the way to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska?

If so, you couldn’t tell it.  Of course, maybe she was thinking of those times, and how long ago and far away it all seemed was what was making her sad.  Loopster heaved a sigh, staring vacantly over the edge of the couch.  She looked like she had lost her last friend.

Forlorn Lupe.

She hadn’t, of course.  She’d been on lots of Black Hills expeditions full of adventures with SPHP over the last nine months.  Fun times, but not the same as hitting the open road for days on end spent exploring exciting, beautiful, distant lands.

While Loop moped on the couch, SPHP was not idle.  A warm, fragrant breeze stirred the air.  Late spring by the calendar.  Early summer by SPHP’s reckoning.

Better enjoy lounging around like that while you still can!

Lupe’s eyes shifted to watch SPHP busily checking equipment and supplies.  Her expression didn’t change.

You’ll see, soon enough!

Promises, promises.  Nothing fun happened.  Dullsville.

The next morning SPHP was up early.  Shower, breakfast, and then back and forth packing all this stuff into the G6.  Lupe began to realize something really was up.  A glimmer of hope in her eyes grew rapidly to increasing anticipation.

Mountain climbing season, Loopster!  It’s here!  You ready?

Was she ever!  Only a few hours later, Lupe was in Wyoming, whizzing along in the G6 headed for her first adventure of her first Dingo Vacation of 2017.  Had the mood ever changed from last night!  Looper was ready to let the good times roll!

Lupe returns to the great state of Wyoming at the start of her first Dingo Vacation of 2017. Oh yeah, this is gonna be good!

Lupe was headed for the Laramie Mountains in SE Wyoming.  Only 8 days into June, it was still weeks early to head up into some of the higher Wyoming ranges for mountain climbing, since there would still be too much snow on the peaks.  However, with the exception of Laramie Peak (10,272 ft.), the highest mountains of the Laramie Range top out only a little over 9,000 ft.  There might still be some snow around in early June, but not enough to be a problem.

By early afternoon, Lupe reached Douglas, Wyoming.  SPHP drove S from there on Hwy 94.  The highway eventually turned to gravel and became County Road No. 5.  A mile N of Esterbrook, SPHP had planned to let Lupe tag Prairie Dog Hill (6,400 ft.) as her first peak “climbed” in the Laramie Range this year.  It wasn’t even really a climb at all, since County Road No. 5 goes almost right over the high point.  Pathetically easy.

However, when Lupe arrived at Prairie Dog Hill, a cattle drive was in progress right on the road.  Lupe was almost out of her mind with delight!  She bounded from window to window of the G6 in a foaming-at-the-mouth barking frenzy.  She was eager to get out and help drive some cattle herself!  Not such a good idea.  The cowboys might have an issue with that.  SPHP drove on, turning E at Esterbrook on USFS Road No. 633.

No. 633 wound N & E for several miles.  Shortly after passing Esterbrook Campground, the road began to lose elevation and turned S.  Lupe’s first real peakbagging objective, Black Mountain (7,960 ft.), came into view.

Black Mountain (L) comes into view from USFS Road No. 633. Laramie Peak, the highest mountain of the Laramie Range is seen in the distance on the R. Photo looks SSW.
Black Mountain (Center) was Lupe’s first real peakbagging goal of her 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range & Beyond. Photo looks SSW.

Black Mountain was still 9 or 10 miles SSW from where it first came into view.  On the way there, Lupe stopped by Horseshoe Creek, which flowed right along USFS Road No. 633 for a couple of miles.

Lupe stops by scenic Horseshoe Creek on the way to Black Mountain. She would later spend the night at the pullout off USFS Road No. 633 seen beyond her.

Looking for USFS Road No. 667, SPHP turned off No. 633 at Camp Laramie Peak, a Boy Scout camp at Harris Park.  Lupe and SPHP made inquiry at the main office on how to find No. 667 to Black Mountain.

Lupe stopped at Camp Laramie Peak to inquire about how to find USFS Road No. 667 to Black Mountain. She was a good deal more enthusiastic about how this day was going than the boy outside the Boy Scout camp’s main office.

Camp Laramie Peak was just opening up for the summer season.  Councilors were already here, but the first Boy Scouts were just beginning to arrive.  Fortunately, an official was available who told SPHP that USFS Road No. 667 (unmarked) to Laramie Peak went right through the camp.  He pointed out a road that went S down a little hill.

The road would quickly deteriorate to a high-clearance proposition – it wasn’t going to be G6 friendly at all.  This was known in advance from the topo map where No. 667 was marked 4WD.  The intention all along had been to ditch the G6 somewhere, and follow the road on paw and foot.  Fortunately, SPHP was free to park the G6 at Camp Laramie Peak at a small parking area near the main office.

It turned out that USFS Road No. 667 (a 4WD road) to Black Mountain goes right through Camp Laramie Peak. The officials at the camp said SPHP was free to park the G6 at a small lot not far from the main office, so Lupe’s trek up Black Mountain started right here.

At 3:08 PM (79°F), Lupe and SPHP set off.  There had been one caveat mentioned at the office about taking USFS Road No. 667.  The road went through Boy Scout property for the first half mile or so.  Leaving the road was not permitted.  No trespassing on Boy Scout land!  Seemed like an odd demand from an organization dedicated in part to promoting the outdoors, but another official reiterated this rule as Lupe and SPHP ambled along the road through the camp.

Whatever, no problem.  SPHP adhered rigidly to this restriction.  The American Dingo, having spent most of the day cooped up in the G6, was somewhat less diligent.  Lupe had a fun time roaming and exploring the forest not too far from the road.

After dipping down through camp, No. 667 crossed a small stream and then began to wind W climbing steadily.   Bluebells were growing in profusion in the forests and fields.  It was a pretty day, a bit warm, and Lupe was off to a good start.  She was beyond forbidden Boy Scout territory in a jiffy.  A mile from camp, she arrived at a minor saddle near large rock formations.

Loopster among the bluebells.

About a mile from Camp Laramie Peak, Lupe reached these large rock formations at a minor saddle. Photo looks NNE.

Still hidden from view more than a mile N of the minor saddle was Peak 7320, another mountain SPHP hoped Lupe would get a chance to climb.  First things first, though!  The road turned due S from the saddle and climbed more steeply than before.  Lupe followed it, continuing toward Black Mountain.

No. 667 soon turned SW and leveled out for a little way.  Peak 7320 now came into view back to the N.  The mountain was capped by a huge knob of solid rock.  Lupe might not be able to get to the top, even if there was time enough later on for an attempt.

Peak 7320 from USFS Road No. 667 on the way to Black Mountain. Photo looks N.

Off to the SW, the summit of Black Mountain had come into view, too.  It was a little hard to recognize at first, but got easier to discern as Lupe continued along the road.  A fire lookout tower was perched way up on the highest rocks.

The summit of Black Mountain (far L) came into view here, but it was still so far off, it was hard to recognize at first. Photo looks SW.
Getting closer! The fire lookout tower on the summit (Center) is now discernable. Photo looks SW.
The fire lookout tower at the summit (R of Center) with help from the telephoto lens. Photo looks SW.

No. 667 soon began to climb again fairly steeply.  Before long, it made one big jog to the NW before turning sharply S.  Once it made the turn, the road started leveling out.  Lupe was still gaining elevation, but at an easy pace.  The Carolina Dog now enjoyed a pleasant journey S to the summit along the big N ridge.

The views were increasingly beautiful!  Albany Peak (7720 ft.) could be seen to the SSE.  A little farther on, Laramie Peak (10,272 ft.) came into view to the SW.

Albany Peak is seen straight up from Lupe on the L. Photo looks SE.
Laramie Peak, the highest mountain of the entire Laramie Range, comes into view. Photo looks SW.
Lupe traveling the big N ridge. The summit is in view, still a little way off. Photo looks S.

Lupe continued S along No. 667 until it curled around a big rock formation, and suddenly ended at the base of the massive stone knob the fire lookout station was perched on.  A steep metal stairway was the only way up.

Lupe arrives at the end of USFS Road No. 667. She did not like the steep stairway leading to the fire lookout station. Photo looks ESE.

The American Dingo didn’t like the look of those stairs!  She stayed at the bottom, while SPHP climbed the first longest section.  SPHP had to plead with her to follow.  She finally did come up, but not until SPHP was about ready to go down and get her.

A metal platform turned 90°, and led in a few feet to a 2nd shorter flight of stairs.  SPHP climbed this 2nd set, only to turn around and see Lupe running back down the 1st flight all the way to the bottom again.  SPHP returned to the top of the 1st flight to resume pleading and coaxing.  Looper finally relented.  This time she made it all the way to the fire lookout station to claim her peakbagging success!

Despite the long, scary metal stairway, Lupe makes it to the fire lookout station on Black Mountain (7,960 ft.) to claim her peakbagging success! Photo looks S.

The day had been warm and the air calm all the way up the mountain.  Even down at the base of the metal stairway, there hadn’t been much of a breeze.  However, up at the fire lookout tower, it was considerably cooler.  An annoyingly strong gusty wind was blowing out of the SSE.  The last bit of elevation gain had made a surprising difference!

It was so windy, Loopster wanted to take shelter in the lookout tower.  She was most disappointed that it was padlocked shut, and no one was around to let her in.  The views were splendid in every direction.  Somewhat reluctantly, the Carolina Dog cooperated with taking photos.  She preferred to spend her time on the N side of the tower out of the wind.

Lupe and SPHP made several forays around the tower to check out the views, returning frequently to the N side for breaks from the wind.

Of course, the most impressive view from Black Mountain was toward Laramie Peak (10,272 ft.), the highest mountain in the entire Laramie Range. Photo looks SW with help from the telephoto lens.
Looper checks out the view of Laramie Peak. Photo looks SSW.
The view to the N.
Another look to the N.
Albany Peak (7,720 ft.) (L) from Black Mountain. County Road No. 71 down in the Cottonwood Creek valley is seen in the foreground. Photo looks SSE.
Another look at Albany Peak a little later on with help from the telephoto lens. Photo looks SE.
Haystack Peaks are seen in the foreground on the R. Beyond them in the distance is Bear Head Mountain (8,359 ft.). Photo looks SSW.
Another look SSW, this time with more help from the telephoto lens. Haystack Peaks are in the foreground. Bear Head Mountain in the distance.
Laramie Peak (R) dominates Haystack Peaks (L foreground) and Bear Head Mountain (L distant). Photo looks SW.
The view to the NW. USFS Road No. 667 is seen below.

Lupe spent a good 30 minutes up at the summit of Black Mountain (7,960 ft.).  Before leaving, the Carolina Dog and SPHP took a longer break out of the wind on the N side of the lookout tower.  Lupe had water and Taste of the Wild.  Then it was time for one last look at Laramie Peak from the top, and a final stroll around the lookout tower.

A last look at Laramie Peak from the Black Mountain fire lookout tower. Photo looks SW.
After half an hour up at the windy fire lookout tower on Black Mountain, Lupe waits on the sheltered N side of it for the signal from SPHP that it’s OK to start down and get out of the wind once and for all. Photo looks S.

In her eagerness to get out of the wind, Lupe showed no fear of the long metal stairway leading down to USFS Road No. 667.  She raced to the bottom in nothing flat.  It was still a little breezy back down at the road, but nothing compared to the gusty wind up at the tower.

SW of the lookout tower were some great viewpoints where Laramie Peak was on display.  Lupe took a little time to sniff around and explore this area.

Laramie Peak from SW of the lookout tower. Photo looks SW.
Looking NE back up at the fire lookout tower.

When Lupe was satisfied with her explorations of the summit area, she headed back N along USFS Road No. 667.  She would retrace her route up following the road all the way back to Camp Laramie Peak.

Bluebells on the way back.

Although SPHP had hoped Lupe would have time to take a crack at Peak 7320 on the way down, the sun was starting to get low.  Since it looked like there wouldn’t be sufficient daylight to summit and get back to the road before dark, Lupe never made the attempt.

Peak 7320 (Center) seen a little before sunset on the way down Black Mountain. Unfortunately, Lupe wouldn’t have enough daylight to climb it and find her way back to the road before dark. Photo looks N.

It was 9:11 PM (52 °F) when Lupe reached Camp Laramie Peak again.  In fading light, she was treated to a ride S in the G6 down the Cottonwood Creek valley on County Road No. 71.  SPHP wanted to check out potential access routes to Albany Peak.  Maybe Lupe could climb it tomorrow?

There proved to be numerous homes on private property along County Road No. 71.  “No Trespassing” signs were posted all over the place.  SPHP found one possible access point, but it wasn’t clear if this route went across private property or not.  From Black Mountain, Lupe had seen a very large rock formation at the top of Albany Peak.  Maybe she couldn’t even get to the top of the mountain, even if there was access?

Reluctantly, SPHP decided Lupe should skip Albany Peak, at least on this trip.  SPHP drove N again, as Lupe barked enthusiastically at antelope grazing in the fields at dusk.  It was dark by the time Lupe stopped at a pullout along USFS Road No. 633 near Horseshoe Creek for the night.

Sunset in the Laramie Range of Wyoming.

Only 24 hours ago, Lupe had been bored and despondent on the tattered old couch back home.  Yet today she’d had a blast traveling to Wyoming and climbing Black Mountain.  The lucky American Dingo’s summer of 2017 adventures had only just begun!

Laramie Peak from Black Mountain, 6-8-17

Links:

Laramie Peak, Wyoming (8-9-15)

2016 Laramie Mountains, Wyoming Adventure Index

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s 2017 Laramie Range, Wyoming & Beyond Adventure IndexDingo Vacations Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

Black Hills, SD & WY Expedition No. 91 – Peak 6888, Bald Hills, the Weston County, Wyoming High Point, Peak 6645, & Laird Peak (6-1-14)

There’s nothing so rare as a day in June, and June had just arrived!  Both Lupe and SPHP were raring to go, even though scattered thunderstorms were in the afternoon forecast.  The plan was to head way out into the high country of the NW Black Hills for some peakbagging fun.  First up were Peak 6888 and the Bald Hills (6,690 ft.), both within a few miles of the Wyoming border.

Although there were already clouds around, the sun was still shining when SPHP parked the G6 more than 0.5 mile W of County Road No. 117 along USFS Road No. 109 (Parmlee Canyon Road) at 9:39 AM (59°F).  Lupe and SPHP started out taking Bear Canyon Road S from No. 109.  Bear Canyon Road was just a dirt road that looked like it seldom gets any traffic.  It passed through a field in a shallow valley and then entered the forest, winding its way up a low ridge at a pretty decent clip.

The climb was a short one.  Bear Canyon Road soon leveled out, and reached a clearing where there was an intersection with more faint roads.  Several whitetail deer ran off into the forest as Lupe approached the intersection.  Peak 6888 is about 0.75 mile S of Parmlee Canyon Road.  SPHP figured Lupe still had to go a bit farther S to get there.  The road continuing S was marked as USFS Road No. 117.5J.

Lupe followed No. 117.5J up a couple of little rises.  The road leveled out again after each one.  When the road seemed to be at its highest point, SPHP stopped to check the topo map.  The summit of Peak 6888 was supposed to be a little W of the road.  The entire area looked quite level, although the forest did look a bit higher off to the NW.  Lupe and SPHP left the road exploring the forest to the NW, while searching for an obvious high point or marker.

Lupe found neither.  A big area was almost as flat as a pancake.  Nothing seemed discernably higher or lower than anywhere else.  Lupe saw more deer, but summits were scarce.  Well, Loop, looks like this is all the summit!  SPHP encouraged Lupe to hop up onto a big log.  This can be your summit photo, Lupe!  Might as well call it good, and go on to the Bald Hills.

Lupe seemed happy enough to call this log the summit of Peak 6888. There were no views in any direction, just more flat forest extending all around.
Lupe seemed happy enough to call this log the summit of Peak 6888. There were no views in any direction, just more flat forest extending all around.

Peak 6888 was now in Lupe’s bag, but it hadn’t been too exciting.  At least there was a little excitement when Lupe and SPHP returned to No. 117.5J.  Lupe saw a female elk crossing the road.  The elk saw Lupe and SPHP, too.  It took off running, but seemed confused on which way it wanted to go.  It finally disappeared off to the SE.

Lupe and SPHP continued S on No. 117.5J.  Almost right away, Lupe came to a big square mud puddle where the road started angling SW.  Lupe ran over to wade around and get a big drink of mineral water.

Lupe discovers the mineral water pond on Peak 6888.
Lupe discovers the mineral water puddle on Peak 6888.
The mineral water pond looked like it could have been milk chocolate flavored.
The mineral water puddle looked like it could have been milk chocolate flavored.

From the milk chocolate colored mineral water puddle, No. 117.5J started losing elevation slowly, but steadily, as it went SW for about 0.75 mile.  The road appeared to end in a small valley near a couple of stock ponds.  There were several barbed wire fences in the area.   Lupe and SPHP headed S across the little valley, and climbed up the next low ridge ahead.  Up on top, Lupe found USFS Road No. 113 at a green gate.

By now the sky was completely overcast, and it began to rain steadily.  SPHP wore a blue plastic rain poncho, but Lupe was doomed to become a progressively more soggy doggie.  Lupe and SPHP marched W on No. 113 in the mud and rain.  The clouds grew darker.  The downpour strengthened, and the woods filled with fog.

Although Lupe ordinarily loves to get wet playing with the garden hose on warm, sunny days, the dreary downpour seemed to dampen her spirits.  For 2 miles, Lupe and SPHP slogged W on No. 113.  SPHP began to wonder what ever happened to the “scattered” part of the scattered T-storms in the forecast.  It looked like it could rain buckets all day.

After going 2 miles, Lupe started passing by minor side roads that SPHP was expecting to see, and No. 113 gradually turned S.  The road had been fairly level most of the time, but now began to lose some elevation.  That didn’t last long.  It was soon gaining the elevation back.  Lupe reached a high spot on the road as it turned W.  The road continued W, but it was clear it was about to lose serious elevation in that direction.

About this time, the rain stopped.  Suddenly the sky was getting brighter again.  SPHP stopped to check the maps.  The little green hill on the N side of the road had to be the summit of Bald Hills.  Lupe was practically there!

The remains of a campfire were on the N side of the road, too.  Unfortunately, trash was scattered all around it.  While SPHP collected trash, Lupe sniffed around, encouraged by the rapidly clearing sky.

Lupe just S of the summit of Bald Hills. The top was just up this little green hill. Photo looks N.
Lupe just S of the summit of Bald Hills. The top was just up this little green hill. Photo looks N.
A rather damp Lupe among pretty yellow flowers S of the summit of Bald Hills.
A rather damp Lupe among pretty yellow flowers S of the summit of Bald Hills.

When the trash was all gathered up, Lupe and SPHP climbed the little green hill to the summit.  The summit area was a bit surprising.  It was a big flat open field, completely surrounded by pine trees.

Trees killed by pine bark beetles were still standing along the W edge of the meadow.  When they eventually fall over, the view will improve dramatically.  As it was, Lupe and SPHP could only get glimpses of Mount Pisgah (6,380 ft.) five miles away in Wyoming.

Lupe in the big flat meadow at the summit of Bald Hills. Photo looks W. The sky is beginning to clear!
Lupe in the big flat meadow at the summit of Bald Hills. Photo looks W. The sky is beginning to clear!
Looking W.
Looking W.
Lupe starting to dry out in the sunshine. Photo looks NE.
Lupe starting to dry out in the sunshine. Photo looks NE.

The meadow on Bald Hills was quite pretty and full of little flowers.  It was kind of a shame there wasn’t a more open view anywhere, but that’s the way it was.  As Lupe and SPHP ambled around the field, the last of the storm clouds drifted away to the E, and the sun began to shine.

Lupe and SPHP left the summit taking what was supposed to be a shortcut back to No. 113 by heading directly E.  There proved to be a fair amount of deadfall timber to deal with in the forest.  While Lupe might have saved some distance, it was debatable how much time was really saved.

Once on No. 113 again, Lupe and SPHP followed it back E.  Where dark clouds, rain and fog had prevailed only a short time ago, now a sunny, fresh, bright green Dingo Paradise existed.  Lupe’s spirits soared!  She dashed through the damp woods sniffing excitedly at every tree and bush.  Lupe came to a series of small pools scooped out along the road.  She made frequent use of them.

One of several pools of rainwater along USFS Road No. 113. The day was warming up rapidly. Lupe made frequent quick stops at the pools for refreshing drinks.
One of several pools of rainwater along USFS Road No. 113. The day was warming up rapidly. Lupe made frequent quick stops at the pools for refreshing drinks.

When Lupe reached the green gate across No. 113 again, she turned N leaving the road.  Lupe and SPHP went down off the ridge into the small valley, this time passing above (E of) the higher pond.  Lupe returned to No. 117.5J.  Soon Lupe and SPHP were back up on Peak 6888 again.

Lupe took a Taste of the Wild break while resting under a fallen tree trunk.  SPHP sat on the tree trunk eating an apple and looking at the maps.  After the break, Lupe and SPHP once again wandered around on Peak 6888, still looking for an obvious high point, but with the same negative results.  Lupe chose a bright green meadow for her 2nd Peak 6888 summit shot of the day.

Lupe near the upper pond on her way back to Peak 6888. This area is a little W of the Beaver Creek Cow Camp on the USFS map.
Lupe near the upper pond on her way back to Peak 6888. This area is a little W of the Beaver Creek Cow Camp on the USFS map.
Lupe takes a Taste of the Wild break while resting under a fallen tree on Peak 6888.
Lupe takes a Taste of the Wild break while resting under a fallen tree on Peak 6888.
Lupe chose this bright green meadow to commemorate her 2nd ascent of Peak 6888 of the day. Photo looks WSW.
Lupe chose this bright green meadow to commemorate her 2nd ascent of Peak 6888 of the day. Photo looks WSW.

SPHP had noticed while looking at the maps that 0.33 mile to the NE of Peak 6888 there was a small area enclosed by a 6,900 foot contour line.  Since that was somewhat higher ground, Lupe and SPHP crossed over No. 117.5J to go check it out.

NE of No. 117.5J, Lupe did seem to gain a little elevation, but it didn’t amount to much.  Lupe still found no obvious high point.  There weren’t any big views anywhere over here either, just more forest.  Lupe and SPHP went W back to Bear Canyon Road and turned N.  By 1:48 PM (65°F), Lupe was back at the G6.

Lupe’s next two peakbagging goals were both located 10 miles to the NNW.  Lupe and SPHP jumped in the G6, and enjoyed a very scenic drive through gorgeous Black Hills high country near the Wyoming border.  The last part of the drive was along another USFS Road No. 109.  (Not the No. 109 that leads to Parmlee Canyon.)  This No. 109 led N out of the Beaver Creek valley.  It eventually turned NW toward the Wyoming border.

SPHP was really hoping there would be some kind of a sign and a fence at the border.  Lupe’s third peakbagging goal of the day was the Weston County, Wyoming High Point (6,620 ft.).  The high point is located about 0.375 mile S of where No. 109 reaches the Wyoming border.  The whole key to finding the Weston County High Point was knowing where the border was.

The luck of the Dingo prevailed!  There was a Wyoming sign at the border.  There was also a cattle guard, a fence, and a convenient level place to park on the South Dakota side (2:28 PM, 57°F).  Lupe and SPHP left the G6, crossed the cattle guard into Wyoming, and headed S along the border fence.

The entire area was forested and rolling, but without significant elevation changes.  Logging trails ran this way and that through the woods.  When it seemed easier, Lupe and SPHP just followed the logging trails, but never got very far from the border fence.  Pretty soon, Lupe came to two high points right along the state line.  One of them had to be the Weston County High Point.

The two high points were close enough to each other so it was possible to see both at the same time.  However, they were so similar in elevation, SPHP wasn’t certain which was truly the highest point.  The first one Lupe came to, the one to the N, seemed like it was highest, but it was hard to tell for sure.  Naturally, Lupe visited both high points.

Lupe at the N candidate for the Weston County, WY high point. She is sitting just past the border fence on the South Dakota side of the border. SPHP believes this is the true high point, but there was another possible candidate in view a short distance to the S. Photo looks E.
Lupe at the N candidate for the Weston County, WY high point. She is sitting just past the border fence on the South Dakota side of the border. SPHP believes this is the true high point, but there was another possible candidate in view a short distance to the S. Photo looks E.

From the N high point, a small, nearly level ridge extended W about 100 feet into Wyoming.  It was possible the Weston County High Point was actually somewhere along this ridge instead of right on the border with South Dakota.  Lupe explored the W ridge out to where it ended at 10 foot high limestone outcroppings.  SPHP was of the opinion the actual high point was back at the WY/SD border, rather than anywhere along the ridge.

Lupe seemed to enjoy looking for the Weston County High Point. Here she is looking happy while exploring the small ridge W of the border and the N high point candidate.
Lupe seemed to enjoy looking for the Weston County High Point. Here she is looking happy while exploring the small ridge W of the border and the N high point candidate.
Although Lupe explored this entire ridge W of the N candidate on the WY/SD border for Weston County, WY High Point, SPHP didn't believe the actual high point was anywhere out on this ridge. To SPHP, the land seemed marginally higher right at the border. Lupe never did really come out and say what she thought.
Although Lupe explored this entire ridge W of the N candidate on the WY/SD border for Weston County, WY High Point, SPHP didn’t believe the actual high point was anywhere out on this ridge. To SPHP, the land seemed marginally higher right at the border. Lupe never did really come out and say what she thought.
The W end of the ridge ended at these 10 foot high limestone outcroppings. Photo looks SE.
The W end of the ridge ended at these 10 foot high limestone outcroppings. Photo looks SE.

After exploring the W ridge, Lupe and SPHP went over to the S high point candidate along the Wyoming/South Dakota border.  A small area on the Wyoming side near the S high point had been clear cut.  There were slash piles laying all around.  The S high point was a limestone outcropping right at the border.  There wasn’t any ridge extending out to the W here.  The ground went downhill immediately W of the high point.

Lupe at the S candidate along the WY/SD border for Weston County, WY High Point. Photo looks S.
Lupe at the S candidate along the WY/SD border for Weston County, WY High Point. Photo looks S.

Wherever the actual Weston County High Point truly was, Lupe had now been there, having explored both possible candidates, plus the W ridge.  The forest blocked any views, so there was no reason to linger.  A short distance up a little hill to the E just inside the South Dakota border was Lupe’s fourth peakbagging goal of the day, Peak 6645.

Why Peak 6645 is on Peakbagger.com’s official list of Black Hills 6500-foot Peaks is completely beyond SPHP.  There are numerous other higher points close at hand that are not on the official list.  A little over 0.1 mile to the NE is High Point 6651, a mile to the SE is High Point 6807, and a little farther E is High Point 6906.  The topo map shows many other examples of higher points close at hand, too.  Nevertheless, Peak 6645 is on the official list and the others aren’t.

Since Peak 6645 was on the official Black Hills 6500-foot Peaks list, Lupe was going to visit it.  At least it had the great virtue of being located very conveniently close to the Weston County, WY High Point.  Lupe and SPHP made the short trek up the hill.  Between the trees was a hint of a view off to the WSW, but that was all.  Nevertheless, Lupe seemed completely happy with Peak 6645.

One cheerful Carolina Dog on Peak 6645! Photo looks WSW at a little meadow. Lupe is about 30 feet W of the actual highest point on the hill, but it was only 4 or 5 feet higher than where she is here.
One cheerful Carolina Dog on Peak 6645! Photo looks WSW at a little meadow. Lupe is about 30 feet W of the actual highest point on the hill, but it was only 4 or 5 feet higher than where she is here.

Lupe on Peak 6645, 6-1-14

Lupe on the very highest part of Peak 6645. Photo looks NE.
Lupe on the very highest part of Peak 6645. Photo looks NE.

The actual summit of Peak 6645 was an otherwise unremarkable 5 foot high mound in the woods.  Lupe sniffed around for a couple of minutes, but even she didn’t find anything particularly fascinating.  While Lupe was sniffing around, clouds were moving in again.  Thunder started rumbling off to the NW.  Lupe and SPHP hurried NE on to High Point 6651.

From High Point 6651, Lupe was able to see USFS Road No. 109 just below to the NE.  Instead of going right on down to the road, though, Lupe and SPHP turned NW, following the ridge.  The ridge soon played out, and sloped on down to No. 109 closer to the G6.  A quick 0.25 mile road trek, and Lupe was back at the G6 (3:17 PM, 57°F).

Hwy 85 near Buckhorn was only a couple of miles NW on USFS Road No. 809 (the road number changes from No. 109 at the Wyoming border), but it was already raining again by the time Lupe reached the highway.  Another  thunderstorm was passing through.  SPHP stopped in at the Buckhorn Bar & Grill to grab a hamburger.  Lupe stayed in the G6, entertained by barking at black cows across the road.

Lupe sniffs around outside the Buckhorn, WY Bar & Grill.
Lupe sniffs around outside the Buckhorn, WY Bar & Grill.

The owner and the cook/waitress were the only people in the Buckhorn Bar & Grill.  They were both friendly, and after a reasonable delay produced a pathetic-looking over-priced hamburger, which didn’t even come with fries or chips.  SPHP took the sad little thing out to the G6 to share it with Lupe while waiting for the rain to stop.  Lupe’s opinion of the hamburger was far different from SPHP’s.  She greeted it with enormous enthusiasm, and would have eagerly consumed far more than her fair share, if SPHP had permitted.

The hamburger was gone in a flash.  Lupe retired to the back seat of the G6 for a nap, while the rain continued outside.  SPHP munched an apple and looked at the maps.  Lupe’s 5th and final peakbagging goal for the day was Laird Peak (6,906 ft.), which was only 6 or 7 miles to the NE, and less than a mile from Hwy 85.  Climbing Laird Peak wouldn’t take long.  Gradually a new plan came to mind.  Lupe could go on into Wyoming to Inyan Kara (6,360 ft.), a more isolated and interesting peak!

However, the rain went on and on.  Thunder rumbled repeatedly from very dark clouds overhead.  Lupe snoozed contentedly full of hamburger.  The windows of the G6 fogged up.  SPHP finally decided that if the storm didn’t end by 6 PM, Lupe would have to forget about Inyan Kara.

At 5:30 PM, a tiny white spot appeared in the clouds to the NW.  For a few minutes, the white spot grew.  A little patch of blue appeared.  Maybe the storm was about over?  SPHP started the G6 and drove SW on Highway 85.  Within a few miles, it was clear that the storm was passing.  By the time Lupe reached Four Corners, the rain had stopped.  Growing patches of blue sky were off to the W.  SPHP turned NW on Hwy 585.

The drive toward Inyan Kara was gorgeous.  The sun broke through the clouds to shine on the mountains and high plains, all fresh and green from the rain.  Inyan Kara was still shrouded by dark clouds, but they were likely to dissipate soon.  SPHP initially missed the turn W on County Road No. 198, but came back to it.

A lot of rain had fallen.  County Road No. 198 was muddy.  Despite the mud, the G6 made it 1.5 miles W of the highway to an intersection.  SPHP took the sharp turn N and drove down a hill.  From the G6, Lupe barked at cows grazing in the green fields.  The road turned W again at some corrals shortly before disappearing beneath an enormous puddle.  Beyond the puddle, SPHP could see deep muddy ruts in the road.

No way the G6 would get through this!  SPHP parked near the corrals.  Lupe and SPHP began a march W around the huge puddle, and then along the mucky road.

Inyan Kara is dead ahead! Lupe is on the muddy access road, which goes to two private ranches. Photo looks W.
Inyan Kara is dead ahead! Lupe is on the muddy access road, which goes to two private ranches. Photo looks W.

It was a longer march that it looked like at first.  Even where the road looked good, it was very soft.  It was a beautiful evening, though.  Lupe and SPHP enjoyed the trek, despite the mud.  When Lupe finally got close to Inyan Kara, she reached a fork in the road.  To the W were some buildings and a “No Trespassing” sign.  Lupe and SPHP tried the other fork going NNW down a hill first.

Lupe hadn’t gone very far, when she came to a sign saying the county road ended here.  It also said “No Trespassing without Owner’s Permission”.  A yellow house was in view not much farther down the road.  Lupe and SPHP continued on to beg the owner’s permission to cross the private ranch to Inyan Kara.

A bluish dog about Lupe’s size started barking as Lupe and SPHP got close to the fenced yard around the house.  The bluish dog was all excited.  He whined and wanted to play with Lupe.  SPHP petted him, but Lupe just growled.  No one came out of the house.  SPHP yelled a few helloes, but there was no response.  Too bad, this was the best place to gain access to Inyan Kara.

Lupe and SPHP left the disappointed bluish dog behind to go back and try the W fork of the road.  The results were much the same.  Two dogs were at the house at the end of that road, but again no people.  A fat little Corgi stayed up on a deck and barked.  A white and black dog barked as it came running up to meet Lupe.  As soon as it got close enough, the white and black dog promptly peed on SPHP’s boot.  Lupe growled again, this time with more justification.

Sigh.  That was it.  No one was around at either place to grant permission to access Inyan Kara.  So much for that idea.  Lupe and SPHP headed back on the muddy road toward the G6.  It was still a beautiful trek.

Lupe E of Inyan Kara on her way back to the G6. Looking N from the county road.
Lupe E of Inyan Kara on her way back to the G6. Looking N from the county road.
Looking SW.
Looking SW.

As Lupe and SPHP neared the corrals where the G6 was parked, there was a bit of a surprise.  A herd of 30 or 40 black cows was congregated on the road near the G6.  Lupe would have to go right past them.  SPHP put Lupe on the leash.  Lupe tried to be good, but it was just too much temptation.  When she got very close to the cows, she started barking.  She felt amazingly powerful and ferocious when the whole herd stampeded away.

Well, not quite the whole herd.  One cow was unfazed by Lupe.  When Lupe and SPHP went right on by, the bold cow decided to follow.  In fact, the bold cow had apparently decided that SPHP must have something good to eat.  It started trotting along eager to partake of whatever delicious repast SPHP had stuffed in the backpack.  The cow completely ignored Lupe, who was somewhat startled by the notion that barking at this cow made it want to come toward her instead of running away.  Up close, it was an awful lot bigger than the noisy Carolina Dog!

Even more startling, was the reaction of the rest of the herd.  When the other cows saw that the bold cow was not being devoured by an American Dingo, but was actually anticipating a delicious treat from SPHP, they suddenly decided they were about to miss out on something good.  The whole herd came thundering back, anxious to partake in whatever happy event was about to unfold.

SPHP wasn’t too keen on being crushed by a herd of overly enthusiastic hungry cattle.  Lupe and SPHP made a run for the G6, barely getting inside before being completely surrounded.  Whew!  Back inside the safety of the G6, Lupe regained her confidence and resumed barking furiously at the herd pressing in on every side.  By now, though, the cows were totally unimpressed.  They went back to munching grass, feeling a bit put out.

Slowly and cautiously, SPHP eased the G6 through the herd, stopping every few seconds to wait for another opening a little farther forward.  Lupe continued having her fruitless conniption fit the whole time.  Nearly all the cows continued totally ignoring her.  After a few minutes, the G6 broke free of the herd.  Lupe and SPHP escaped back to the highway.

The Inyan Kara jaunt had been a failure.  There was still time, though, to return to the original plan.  Lupe and SPHP headed for Laird Peak.  A mile W of O’Neil Pass on Hwy 85, SPHP turned N on USFS Road No. 106.  Less than a mile from the highway there was a big open area on the E side of No. 106, shortly before reaching a junction with Willow Springs Road coming in from the W.  SPHP parked the G6 in the open area (8:04 PM, 47°F).

Lupe and SPHP started out going E up a little valley along a grassy road.  Lupe passed a small stock pond on the S side of the road, and soon came to a water tank.  Water was overflowing the tank, creating a small muddy stream that ran down to the stock pond.  One of SPHP’s maps showed Tom Spring in this location.

Beyond Tom Spring, the grassy road disappeared for a stretch.  Lupe soon found it again, now angling NE up into the trees.  The road climbed until it reached a flat area where a number of roads converged.  Lupe was already quite high here.  Despite the forest, it was possible to get a glimpse over the other side of the mountain toward the SE.

At the intersection, Lupe took a good road N until it passed a fence.  She then left the road to follow the fence E toward a 50 foot rise where SPHP expected to find the summit of Laird Peak.  Near the top, Lupe and SPHP caught a last look at the fiery sun about to drop below the horizon.

Sunset on Laird Peak.
Sunset on Laird Peak.

The sun sank below the horizon within minutes, but Lupe had no problem finding the survey marker and benchmark at the summit of Laird Peak to complete her 5th and final peakbagging success of the day.

The Laird Peak survey marker and benchmark.
The Laird Peak survey marker and benchmark.

Lupe reached the G6 again at 9:00 PM on the dot (47°F).  She’d had quite a big day in the NW Black Hills.  Four mountains climbed for the first time, plus a Wyoming county highpoint reached!  Perhaps the most memorable mountain, though, was Inyan Kara, the one she didn’t get to climb!

Lupe on Laird Peak at dusk.
Lupe on Laird Peak at dusk.

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s Black Hills Expeditions Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 92 – Peak 6735 (6-9-14)

After rain and fog all weekend long, Monday had dawned clear and bright.  Rain wasn’t at all unusual this time of year.  In fact, today was the 42nd anniversary of the Black Hill’s June 9, 1972 flood, when 238 people lost their lives.  Nothing remotely close to that dramatic and tragic was going to happen today.  SPHP registered at the entrance to the Black Elk Wilderness near the Horsethief Lake trailhead (10:36 AM, 59°F).

Lupe and SPHP took off heading SSW on Horsethief Lake Trail No. 14.  The normally pleasantly bubbling little creek was gushing right along, overflowing its banks and parts of the trail.  Most of the time, it wasn’t hard to get over or around the wet spots.  The rushing creek in the leafy canyon between towering granite spires was actually rather cheerful and beautiful.

A leafy side channel of the creek along Horsethief Lake Trail No. 14. Ordinarily, this would have been dry ground.
A leafy side channel of the creek along Horsethief Lake Trail No. 14. Ordinarily, this would have been dry ground.

The creek was left behind by the time Lupe reached a junction with Centennial Trail No. 89 about 0.75 mile from the trailhead.  Lupe and SPHP turned right, taking a short stretch of trail going W that is part of both Horsethief Lake Trail No. 14 and Centennial Trail No. 89.  When the trails separated again, Lupe turned left, staying on Horsethief Lake Trail No. 14.

As Lupe continued SSW, she started encountering a fair amount of deadfall timber fallen across the trail.  Huge numbers of ponderosa pine trees infested with pine bark beetles have died in the Black Hills in recent years.  Over time, high winds blow over increasing numbers of the dead trees.  Lupe and SPHP had to spend quite a lot of time off the trail going around the deadfall.

After about 2 miles, Lupe reached the S end of Horsethief Lake Trail No. 14 at a “T” intersection.  Lupe turned right, following Grizzly Bear Creek Trail No. 7.  The trail wound around heading generally W or NW.  Lupe didn’t need to follow Grizzly Bear Creek Trail No. 7 very far, only about 0.375 mile.  Lupe’s peakbagging goal for the day was Peak 6735, more than a mile to the SW.  There is no trail to Peak 6735.

SPHP started looking for a way across Grizzly Bear Creek, a larger stream than the one near the start of Horsethief Lake Trail No. 14.  Naturally, Grizzly Bear Creek was also running high.  Fortunately, it didn’t take too long to find a place where a few boulders enabled SPHP to jump over.  The American Dingo, of course, had no problem getting across.

On the SW side of Grizzly Bear Creek, Lupe found herself in a meadow that sloped gradually up to the W.  Parts of the meadow were soggy and marshy, but by the time Lupe and SPHP reached the trees again, Lupe was back on dry ground.  An old dirt road headed S around the E side of the mountain ahead.  Lupe and SPHP followed it S for a little way.

The road gradually gained elevation, but reached a high point.  From here, the road turned SE.  Lupe needed to go SW, and she didn’t need to lose elevation.  Lupe and SPHP left the dirt road, and started climbing the mountain.

The first part of this climb was about the only place all day where Lupe didn’t have to contend with a lot of deadfall timber.  She raced this way and that sniffing around in the forest, while SPHP trudged ever upwards.  Before too long, the mountain began to narrow.  Deadfall and a series of large granite rock formations appeared.  The climb became progressively steeper and more difficult.

Happy Lupe enjoying the climb.
Happy Lupe enjoying the climb.

As Lupe and SPHP continued up, the rock formations were larger and closer together.  Most of the time it was easier to go around to the S of them, although occasionally it was easier to make forays to the N.  Lupe was able to climb up on top of a few of the rock formations.  Eventually, SPHP was able to see that Lupe was getting up in the world.  Huge granite walls were visible on nearby mountains, especially in the area to the N leading up to Harney Peak.

From each rock formation, another higher one came into view up ahead.  Finally, it looked like Lupe was getting close to the top of the mountain.  SPHP expected Lupe to emerge up on Peak 6710, about 0.25 mile NW of her Peak 6735 goal.  When Lupe reached the high point, though, the view was disappointing.  Things didn’t look right at all.  There was no way Lupe was on Peak 6710.

Actually, the scenery was great!  The trouble was that SPHP could see another mountain ahead to the SW.  It was several hundred feet higher!  So, if Lupe wasn’t on Peak 6710 now, where was she?  SPHP already had a pretty good notion, even before checking the maps.

Sly Dingo Lupe arrives up on a high point looking like she knows something SPHP doesn't!
Sly Dingo Lupe arrives up on a high point looking like she knows something SPHP doesn’t!

Yes, the depressing news was true.  That higher mountain to the SW had to be Peak 6710.  Despite how long it had taken to get here through all the wretched deadfall timber and toiling around the big rock formations, Lupe hadn’t gone nearly as far as SPHP had thought.  She wasn’t as high up, either.  Lupe was on top of Peak 6411, still 0.33 mile NE of Peak 6710.

Lupe on High Point 6411. She is still 0.33 mile NE of Peak 6710 seen on the L.
Lupe on High Point 6411. She is still 0.33 mile NE of Peak 6710 seen on the L.

It was time for a rest.  SPHP had intended for Lupe to bypass Peak 6411 to the N.  Instead, Lupe and SPHP had climbed SW up the spine of the mountain to get here.  Lupe still had to continue on to Peak 6710, or at least close to it, on her way to Peak 6735.  To get there, she was going to have to lose over 100 feet of elevation going down to a saddle before she could resume climbing.

The task of getting to Peak 6710 looked daunting.  More rock formations, an exhausting maze of deadfall timber, and another steep climb were still ahead.  As discouraging at it was, there was nothing to do, but get on with it.  One step at a time.  The rest break was over.  Lupe and SPHP headed slowly down into the saddle SW of Peak 6411.  Nothing had changed.  The way forward was a lot like Lupe’s climb up Peak 6411.

Finally, it was over.  Lupe and SPHP were close to the top of Peak 6710.  The summit was a big, high steep granite rock formation.  Lupe and SPHP got to within 10 feet of the top.  SPHP could probably scramble up on top, but there was no way for Lupe to get up there, even with SPHP’s help.  The granite was just too vertical.  SPHP couldn’t quite see the top, but it felt like the summit might be a scary high place.  Getting back down safely didn’t look very easy, either.

Well, it would have been nice to reach the absolute summit of Peak 6710, but Lupe’s real goal was Peak 6735.  If she could reach the top of Peak 6735, that would just have to be good enough.  SPHP gave up on Peak 6710.  Lupe and SPHP headed SE down toward the saddle over to Peak 6735.

Lupe lost nearly 250 feet of elevation crossing the saddle.  Due to the deadfall, it was all miserably slow going.  The true summit of peak 6735 is more toward the S end of the summit area.  Lupe and SPHP skirted the N end of the high ground to the W.  Lupe had another steep climb, but eventually it got easier.  There was somewhat less deadfall timber near the end.  Lupe and SPHP started making faster progress.

The top of Peak 6735 was much easier to navigate than Peak 6710 had been.  The whole area was rocky, but it was easy to approach the very highest rocks at the true summit by circling around a bit to the S.  After a long, hard struggle, Lupe had done it.  She stood on top of Peak 6735!

Lupe on top of Peak 6735! Harney Peak (L) is the highest point on the horizon. Peak 6710 is closer and can also be seen on the L. The cliffs on the SW (L) side of Peak 6710 are in clear view. Lupe and SPHP hadn't been able to see the cliffs ahead coming from the NE (R). It may be a good thing SPHP didn't climb the last 10 feet to the top of Peak 6710!
Lupe on top of Peak 6735! Harney Peak (L) is the highest point on the horizon. Peak 6710 is closer and can also be seen on the L. The cliffs on the SW (L) side of Peak 6710 are in clear view. Lupe and SPHP hadn’t been able to see the cliffs ahead coming from the NE (R). It may be a good thing SPHP didn’t climb the last 10 feet to the top of Peak 6710!

Peak 6735 featured marvelous 360° views.  As annoyingly difficult as it was to get here, SPHP was pretty certain Peak 6735 must not be visited very often.  Not many people or American Dingoes have ever been treated to these views.  Lupe and SPHP were glad to be here!

It had been a long, exhausting climb through rugged territory.  By far the worst obstacle, though, had been the shattered dead forest.  Lupe and SPHP needed a rest break, a much longer one than Lupe had taken on High Point 6411.  Rest, water, snacks and big views were all part of a most welcome respite.

The Cathedral Spires (6,840 ft.) (L) are behind the dead tree, Little Devil's Tower (6,960 ft.) (L) is just to their right. Peak 6920 (Center) is directly above Lupe's ear. Harney Peak (7,242 ft.) is the high peak on the R, with Peak 6710 seen below and slightly to the R of Harney. Photo looks NW.
The Cathedral Spires (6,840 ft.) (L) are behind the dead tree, Little Devil’s Tower (6,960 ft.) (L) is just to their right. Peak 6920 (Center) is directly above Lupe’s ear. Harney Peak (7,242 ft.) is the high peak on the R, with Peak 6710 seen below and slightly to the R of Harney. Photo looks NW.
Looking NW with the same peaks in view as in the photo above.
Looking NW with the same peaks in view as in the photo above.
Looking S from the summit of Peak 6735. The fact that so many of the dead trees hadn't fallen over yet made it relatively easy to move around on Peak 6735. Clearly it will get harder in the future!
Looking S from the summit of Peak 6735. The fact that so many of the dead trees hadn’t fallen over yet made it relatively easy to move around on Peak 6735. Clearly it will get harder in the future!
Harney Peak and Peak 6710 using the telephoto lens. Photo looks NW.
Harney Peak and Peak 6710 using the telephoto lens. Photo looks NW.
A Carolina Dog takes a well-deserved break on Peak 6735. Photo looks NE.
A Carolina Dog takes a well-deserved break on Peak 6735. Photo looks NE.

After the rest break was done, it was time to do some exploring of the summit area.  A big granite arm of the mountain extended off to the SW without losing too much elevation.  Lupe had clear sweeping views to the S from this granite ridge.  Nothing she saw to the S was as high as Peak 6735!

A beautiful green carpet of kinnikinnick was growing on parts of the summit area. Here Lupe is enjoying the kinnikinnick just below the true summit.
A beautiful green carpet of kinnikinnick was growing on parts of the summit area. Here Lupe is enjoying the kinnikinnick just below the true summit.
The SW arm of Peak 6735. Northeast Cicero Peak (6,240 ft.) is the highest point on the horizon just L of Center.
The SW arm of Peak 6735. Northeast Cicero Peak (6,240 ft.) is the highest point on the horizon just L of Center.
Looking SW from the SW ridge.
Looking SW from the SW ridge.
Looking SE.
Looking SE.
Looking back to the N toward the summit. Harney Peak is on the L.
Looking back to the N toward the summit. Harney Peak is on the L.

After a leisurely exploration of the SW arm of the mountain and around to the SE, Lupe and SPHP returned to the summit of Peak 6735 for a final look.

Lupe was in dazzlingly bright sunshine on Peak 6735, but it wasn't going to last. It was already getting late in the afternoon.
Lupe was in dazzlingly bright sunshine on Peak 6735, but it wasn’t going to last. It was already getting late in the afternoon.
A final look WNW from the summit at the Cathedral Spires (L) and Little Devils Tower (R), both near the center of this photo.
A final look WNW from the summit at the Cathedral Spires (L) and Little Devils Tower (R), both near the center of this photo.

It would have been nice to explore the high ground N of where Lupe had come up the mountain, but it had taken a very long time to get up here.  The slanting rays of the sun gave notice that it was already late afternoon.  Lupe’s time on Peak 6735 was running out.  The N ridge wasn’t quite as high as where Lupe had already been, anyway.

Although the world was beautiful from up on Peak 6735, it was time to move on.  When darkness fell, SPHP didn’t want to be lost wandering in a wilderness of steep terrain, deadfall timber, cliffs and huge rock formations.  Lupe and SPHP left Peak 6735 heading N.

Looking NE just before leaving Peak 6735. (Note Lupe down in the shadows on the lower L.)
Looking NE just before leaving Peak 6735. (Note Lupe down in the shadows on the lower L.)

It was now a race against time to get back to a trail before darkness fell.  There was no need to go back up Peak 6710 again.  This time, after crossing the saddle to Peak 6710, SPHP led Lupe N along the E side of the mountain aiming for the saddle over to High Point 6411.

Upon reaching the saddle, Lupe and SPHP crossed it continuing N.  Lupe wasn’t going back to High Point 6411, either.  The plan was to go directly down to Grizzly Bear Creek Trail No. 7.  The terrain started dropping steeply.  SPHP feared Lupe would lose hundreds of feet of elevation only to find herself at the top of a cliff.  If she did, there would be no choice but to climb all the way back up before trying another route.

The steep descent went on for what seemed like a long time.  Close by to the E, a huge wall of granite appeared.  Across the valley to the N, SPHP could see similar steep declines that ended in sheer cliffs below.  Lupe was losing a lot of elevation.  Luckily, the terrain wasn’t getting any steeper.  Lupe forged ahead of SPHP.  She could maneuver on the slope much better than SPHP could.

At last, looking down from above, SPHP saw Lupe sitting motionless, panting happily.  Lupe had found it!  She was sitting right on Grizzly Bear Creek Trail No. 7.  SPHP joined her on the trail.  Good work, Lupe!  SPHP praised her.  Lupe beamed.  The shortcut had worked, and there was plenty of daylight left, even though the trail was in the shadow of the mountains.  Lupe and SPHP set off heading E down the trail.

It was much farther, and took much longer, than SPHP anticipated to get back to Horsethief Lake Trail No. 14.  There was the usual deadfall timber plus half a dozen creek crossings to deal with along the way.  SPHP managed to find a way to jump over the high-flowing creek each time.  For Lupe, the stream crossings were a piece of cake.  She leaped across with ease.

By the time Lupe and SPHP made it back to Centennial Trail No. 89, it was getting dark.  The flashlight had to come out for the last stretch of Horsethief Trail No. 14 after leaving the Centennial Trail.  In the darkness, it was much harder to avoid all the water flowing over the trail.

Lupe’s long adventure to Peak 6735 and back ended at 9:53 PM (52°F).  Nearly 11.5 hours had gone by, most of it spent in rugged terrain choked with deadfall.  Lupe didn’t complain.  She never does.  She hopped in the G6 and curled up for the ride home.

SPHP didn’t complain either.  The views from Peak 6735 had been splendid.  The sense of remote isolation, complete.  In truth, it had been a fun and challenging day.  So much fun that SPHP thought Lupe should return to Peak 6735 some day.  Maybe some day, she will.Harney Peak and Peak 6710 from Peak 6735.Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s Black Hills Expeditions Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

Crazy Peak, Montana – On the Verge of EPIC with Mountaineer Jobe Wymore (7-22-17)

Day 15 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Wind River Range, Wyoming & Select Peaks in Montana

Dawn.  Lupe sat bright-eyed on SPHP’s lap listening to Morning Dew by the Grateful Dead.  She gazed intently out the window of Jobe’s silver Jeep Rubicon.  Jobe was expounding on Jerry Garcia’s musical talents as he drove.  Lupe listened politely as Jobe & SPHP chatted.  In truth, she was more interested in the possibility of seeing cows, deer, or squirrels along the 4WD road.

The sun was above the horizon by the time Jobe parked his Rubicon at a 6,900 foot elevation saddle on Crazy Peak’s SE ridge.  An old pickup truck was already parked nearby, but no one was around.  Good.  This was it!  Lupe’s big chance to climb Crazy Peak (11,209 ft.) with Jobe had arrived!  Crazy Peak wasn’t just any mountain.  With Crazy Peak done, Jobe would be on the verge of EPIC!

Sunrise from Crazy Peak’s SE Ridge.
Jobe leads the way as Lupe sets off for Crazy Peak. Photo looks WNW.

This opportunity to climb Crazy Peak with Jobe had been set in motion a couple of months ago.  While looking at the results of Jobe’s week long mid-May 2017 trip to the East Coast on Peakbagger.com, SPHP discovered Jobe was now very close to completing a huge peakbagging feat – one he had been working on for more than 20 years.  Jobe was only 2 peaks away from completing the EPIC List for all 50 US states!

Millions of people have enjoyed a hike to the top of the highest mountain in one or more US states.  In fact, it’s not that hard to reach the highest point in quite a few states.  However, only the truly dedicated ever seriously dream of climbing the highest mountain in all 50 states – in addition to the travel time and expense involved, that list contains some difficult peaks requiring equipment and technical climbing skills.  Yet those 50 highest peaks are only part of what we’re talking about here.  Jobe had already been to the top of the highest mountain in every state.  The EPIC List goes way beyond that.

Elevation is only one statistical measure of a mountain’s claim to grandeur.  There are others.  The EPIC list also considers Prominence and Isolation.  Prominence is a measure of the minimum elevation one would have to lose from a mountain’s summit to travel to a higher peak by any route, no matter how long, difficult or impractical.  Isolation measures how far away it is in a direct line to the closest higher mountain.

In 19 US states, the highest mountain is also the most prominent and has the most isolation.  The same mountain ranks 1st in all three categories.  However, in the other 31 states, 2 or 3 different peaks can claim to be either the highest, most prominent, most isolated, or some combination thereof.  Consequently, the EPIC List for the 50 US states includes not just 50, but 96 different peaks.

Only Bob Packard among all Peakbagger.com account holders has climbed all 96 peaks on the EPIC List.  Now Jobe was only 2 peaks away!  What caught SPHP’s eye was where those remaining unclimbed peaks were.  Both were in Montana, a state that borders South Dakota where Lupe lives.  Mount Cleveland (10,466 ft.) with 98.18 miles of isolation is the most isolated peak in Montana.  Located in the far NW part of the state in Glacier National Park, anti-Dingo regulations prevent Lupe from ever doing anything there.

The other summit Jobe was lacking was Crazy Peak (11,209 ft.).  With 5,709 ft. of prominence, Crazy Peak is the most prominent mountain in Montana.  Located in S central Montana in the Gallatin National Forest, it wasn’t nearly as far away as Mount Cleveland.

Crazy Peak has a spot on a lot of peakbagging lists, not just the EPIC list.  Early in 2017 SPHP had considered including Crazy Peak among the mountains Lupe might want to climb this summer.  A little research on Peakbagger.com had squelched that idea.  Every trip report was on the same ascent route, and most mentioned Class 4 terrain on the way to the summit.  SPHP didn’t know much about the rating system, but knew enough to realize that Lupe needed to stay far away from anything approaching Class 4.

Now a new idea crept into SPHP’s noggin.  Even if Lupe couldn’t climb Crazy Peak, wouldn’t it be fun to go there when Jobe with his superior skills climbed it?  Lupe and SPHP could still go partway up the mountain, and congratulate Jobe on his success when he returned from the summit on his way back down.  Lupe could still bask in her friend Jobe’s glory!

Well, maybe.  Lupe and SPHP didn’t really know Jobe very well.  In response to an email from Jobe, Lupe had scouted out conditions on Odakota Mountain (7,200 ft.) in the Black Hills back in late March of 2016 prior to a trip he was planning to western Nebraska and possibly South Dakota.  When Jobe subsequently arrived in the Black Hills on April 2nd, 2016, Lupe went with him to Odakota Mountain.

Lupe and SPHP had even followed Jobe all the way to the Wildcat Hills of Nebraska for an adventure down there that same day.  Jobe had treated Lupe very kindly the whole time.  When Lupe’s paws got sore, Jobe carried her to safety past the painful cactus that grew in profusion all over those desolate Nebraska hills.  Since then Jobe had occasionally stayed in touch via email.

Jobe was a great guy, but perhaps he had other plans for Crazy Peak with more experienced and capable climbers, or maybe he’d rather go solo than bother with a Carolina Dog?  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Didn’t hurt to ask.  On 5-23-17, SPHP sent Jobe an email.  When was Jobe planning on taking on Crazy and Cleveland?  Which would he tackle first?

A response came within a couple hours.  Jobe would likely take on Crazy Peak first.  The unique permitting process for climbing Mount Cleveland in Glacier National Park might cause an attempt on that peak to be delayed longer than Jobe would like.

On 5-25-17, SPHP sent another email.  This one popped the big question.  Lupe would be gone all of August, 2017, but if Jobe was planning on climbing Crazy Peak before then, would he mind if Loop and SPHP tagged along partway up?  Loop and SPHP had no delusions of reaching the top, and promised not to hold Jobe back from getting there himself.

Again came a quick response – an unexpected one.  All Jobe said was “Here’s some forwarded pics of Victor Zhou’s solo ascent of Crazy’s East Ridge from last summer.”  Eleven photos were attached.  SPHP got excited.  Those photos showed a big long ridge that got progressively rockier approaching Crazy’s summit.  The first part of the ridge was cake!  Lupe could get way higher on Crazy Peak than SPHP had thought.  Maybe she could even reach the summit!  It was hard to tell from the last few photos just what dangers might lurk among all that rock?

What was this, though, about an East Ridge route?  All the trip reports on Peakbagger.com mentioned coming up the W ridge.  Some mentioned going down the N ridge.  None of the reports or GPS tracks showed an attempt from the E.  Victor Zhou had climbed Crazy Peak on 7-20-16, but like most climbers, had not submitted a trip report or GPS track.  There were two E ridges, too.  One to the NE and one to the SE.  Which one did Victor climb?  After a look at the topo map, SPHP concluded Victor must have gone up the SE ridge.

SPHP fired off another email to Jobe expressing these thoughts.  Again Jobe responded quickly:

The route Victor climbed is unconventional and I have no idea why others haven’t climbed it with more regularity in the past.  It’s almost like everyone reads a particular trip report that mentions a specific route and that automatically becomes the only option?  The “normal” route is Class 4 where Victor’s is no more than Class 3 tops.  Might get a little sharp but not scary.  It’s definitely not the NE Ridge he ascended but I can ask him the definitive route (start location) and get back to ya.  He calls it the “East Ridge”.  If you want to meet and take a crack at it somewhere around July 22nd, I’m all in.

That’s all it took.  Crazy Peak was a go!

Now Lupe was really here!  Her chance to climb Crazy Peak with Jobe via Victor Zhou’s route had arrived!  Jobe led the way.  SPHP trailed behind, with Lupe bouncing back and forth between.  The first part of the trek was through forest.  Jobe headed WNW staying toward the S edge of the ridge.  Below was the deep canyon of the South Fork of Big Timber Creek.

An early glimpse to the SW down into the canyon of the South Fork of Big Timber Creek.

Progress through the forest was good.  A steady, but unremarkable climb.  After a little while, the forest began to give out.  Lupe and Jobe reached a minor high point where it was possible to get a good look at the first stretch of open terrain ahead.  Nothing fancy, or anything to be the least bit concerned about was in view, just a continuation of the steady climb minus trees.

The forest eventually gave out. From this minor high point Loopster has a good view of the open terrain ahead. Pretty easy to tell which way to go from here! Photo looks NW.
Jobe assesses the situation. The ridge on the R is also part of Crazy Peak’s massive SE ridge. The high point in view where the terrain converges is likely HP 8448. Photo looks NW.

Two “minor” sub-ridges, both part of Crazy Peak’s massive SE ridge converge near HP 8448.  (See the Peakbagger.com topo map.)  Lupe, Jobe and SPHP had been following the S one.  This caused no issues on the way up, but would be important to remember on the way down.

Jobe now beyond HP 8448. The terrain is still easy. Photo looks NW.
A better look from higher up at the South Fork of Big Timber Creek canyon. Photo looks SW.
Jobe leads the charge up. Lupe looking good not far behind.

Some distance beyond HP 8448, Jobe led Lupe and SPHP around to the N side of the ridge.  For a while, the terrain was a little easier here.  The slope down into the canyon to the N wasn’t as steep.  On the way to HP 9761, the summit of Crazy Peak came into view, still more than 2 miles to the WNW.

On the way to HP 9761, the summit of Crazy Peak came into view, still more than 2 miles to the WNW.
Jobe leads the way again after a stop to let SPHP catch up.

Even before the ridge became really rocky, SPHP was having a hard time keeping up with Jobe.  Lupe could easily enough, but the effects of the climbs of the past 2 days, and Lupe’s long adventures earlier in the Wind River Range were taking a toll on SPHP.  Though Jobe repeatedly stopped and waited, or went slowly for him, SPHP was falling farther and farther behind.

This came as no surprise.  Jobe is in far superior condition.  A mountaineer with tremendous experience and dedication to staying fit, he didn’t even look like he was trying.  Effortlessly, Jobe glided over terrain that SPHP trudged or stumbled through.  Jobe made it look so easy!  Meanwhile SPHP was having to stop repeatedly to catch breath.

The faithful American Dingo stuck mostly with SPHP as Jobe forged ahead.  SPHP’s slower pace gave her plenty of time to sniff around and relax.  She could even take short Dingo naps.

Lupe takes a little Dingo nap while SPHP pauses to catch breath. SPHP couldn’t go at the pace Jobe & Lupe were capable of, but so far, things were still looking good.

Despite falling behind, even SPHP was making reasonable progress.  Things were still looking good for reaching the summit of Crazy Peak!  The situation gradually changed, though, as the big ridge steadily narrowed and became rockier.

Getting closer, but as Lupe approached HP 9761, the ridge was already getting considerably narrower and rockier. Photo looks WNW.

By the time Looper made it to HP 9761, the ridge had narrowed down a lot.  Vegetation was nearly gone.  The ridgeline was rocky and uneven.  Both sides of the ridge were steep, and comprised of a lot of loose rock.  Here, the S side of the ridge wasn’t as bad as the N.

Jobe’s superior strength and stamina were now augmented by superior balance, too.  No contest at all now.  Jobe managed to simply walk the ridgeline in lots of places where SPHP felt compelled to down climb to get around rough spots.  That burned a lot of extra time.

The agreement all along had been that Jobe should not wait for SPHP.  While conditions were favorable, he really needed to get to the top of Crazy Peak.  Time to check this one off the EPIC List!  It would be great if Lupe and SPHP could get to the top, too, but there wasn’t the same degree of urgency.  Lupe could still try to summit a little later than Jobe.

As the ridge became more difficult for SPHP, Jobe surged ahead.  Lupe watched him go.  Of course, her best bet for getting to the top of Crazy Peak would have been to just go with Jobe.  Maybe she would have liked to, but she wouldn’t abandon SPHP.

Lupe watches as Jobe surges ahead. He’s now just a red spec on the ridge.
Lupe’s best bet for reaching the summit of Crazy Peak would have been to go with Jobe, but she wouldn’t abandon SPHP. She would still get there, if SPHP could make it.
Looking back. Here Lupe is past HP 9761 seen in the distance on the R. Photo looks E.

Looper and SPHP continued on, following Jobe who was getting farther and farther away.  Eventually Jobe paused at a high point and looked back, checking on Lupe’s progress.  For a moment he stood there, looking small, far away, and already much higher.

Jobe pauses and looks back to check on Lupe & SPHP a final time before disappearing from view. He was already a lot higher and quite a long way off. The telephoto lens makes Jobe look much closer than he really was. Photo looks WNW.

Jobe knew what he had to do.  A moment later, he was gone.  Lupe and SPHP were alone.  There was nothing else to do, but keep chugging along.

Lupe presses on, still optimistic, though Jobe has disappeared from view. Photo looks S.
Looking back down the SE ridge. HP 9761 in view. Photo looks SE.
A long way to go yet. That high point ahead isn’t even the summit. Photo looks WNW.
Looking SW.

Lupe was still making progress up Crazy Peak’s big SE ridge, but SPHP was frustrated with the pace.

Oh, Looper, I’m sorry, but maybe you should have gone with Jobe!

What!  Why?

I’m just too slow on this steep, loose stuff.  Our pace isn’t exactly scintillating, as you may have noticed.

Yes, but we’re getting there.  We’ll just keep going like we always do.

True.  So far so, good.  Nothing’s stopped us yet, but I’m afraid we’ll run out of time.  We can’t be coming back in the dark like we often do.  Jobe has a 14 hour drive back home after this.  He needs to hit the road so he can get back to work.  Besides, this doesn’t seem to be getting any easier and who knows how bad the terrain is up ahead?  Those last photos that Victor Zhou took looked questionable.  We might not even be able to get there.

So Jobe might not get to the top of Crazy Peak?  That would be terrible!

No, no.  Don’t worry about that.  Victor Zhou made it.  Jobe will make it, too.  But I’m not Victor or Jobe, not by a long shot.  I’m not saying we won’t get there, but it seems like we’ve already been at this quite a while, and there’s no sign we’re anywhere near the top yet.

Well, hurry it up then!

I’m coming, sweet puppy.  Lead on!

Lupe encourages SPHP up the next steep section. Photo looks WNW.

The summit of Crazy Peak had been out of view now for a while.  It was hard to tell how encouraged or discouraged one should be.  Lupe led the way up a couple of steep sections that went pretty well.  The rocks were larger and more stable here.  SPHP managed to make the climbs fairly rapidly.  Maybe there still was enough time for Lupe to reach the top of Crazy Peak?  Hope rekindled.  It sure looked like Lupe was getting high!

After a spurt up a couple of steep sections, hope was rekindled that Lupe would still have time to reach Crazy Peak’s summit. The views were already terrific! Photo looks SE back down the ridge.
Progress, but was it enough? Photo looks SE.

When the summit of Crazy Peak came into view again, it was a sobering sight.  Despite SPHP’s spurt, Lupe remained a long way from the top of the mountain.

When the summit of Crazy Peak (R) came back into view again, it was a sobering sight. Lupe was still a long way from the top. Photo looks WNW.

Ugh!  The summit’s still way over there, Looper.

Don’t give up!  We’re getting closer.

Yah, keep going, but seems like Jobe’s been gone quite a while now.  Sooner or later he’s going to reappear.  Probably sooner I would think, and we aren’t going to be close enough to justify continuing on then.

Jobe didn’t appear, though.  Lupe and SPHP carried on.  Unfortunately, the ridge was messier again.  SPHP kept down climbing to get around troublesome spots.  Slow, slow, slow!  Not good at all.

LOL, SPHP. We aren’t ever going to make it if you can’t stay up here! Lupe has a chuckle at SPHP’s endless down climbing.

Onward, bit by bit.  Time ticked by.  Though SPHP didn’t realize it then, the next big high point Lupe could see up ahead was 10,900+ feet.  The ridge was ragged, but Lupe could get there!  The summit would only be another 300 feet higher.

The high point on the L is 10,900+ feet, only 300 feet lower than Crazy Peak’s summit (seen beyond a little to the R). It looked like Lupe could at least get that far! Photo looks NW.

Pretty soon, though, a red dot appeared.  A red dot headed this way.  Jobe was returning!  Had he made it to the summit?  He’d been gone quite a long while – surely he’d made it?  What news would he bring?

A red dot appeared on the ridge ahead. Jobe was returning! Had he made it to the summit?

There’s Jobe, SPHP!

Yes, I see him, too.

Aren’t we going to go meet him?

No, let’s wait here Looper.  Jobe’s moving fast.  He’ll be here soon enough.  Let’s see what he has to say first.

Lupe and SPHP waited as Jobe worked his way back along the ridge.

A look through the telephoto lens at Jobe with Crazy Peak’s summit in the background. Photo looks NW.

As Jobe drew steadily nearer, SPHP took a few pictures of the views from this point Lupe had reached.  It wasn’t completely clear yet if she would be going any farther.

Crazy Lake is seen below from the point Lupe reached on Crazy Peak’s SE ridge. Photo looks W.
Big Timber Peak (10,795 ft.) (R) is connected to Crazy Peak by the sheer jagged ridge seen on the L. Probably the most challenging and technical route possible to Crazy Peak. No one goes that way. Photo looks N.
Looking back the way Lupe had come. Photo looks ESE.

Jobe arrived all smiles.  Success!  Yes, he’d made it to the top.  Crazy Peak was finally done.  Only Mount Cleveland was left to do on his 50 states EPIC List!  He graciously accepted congratulations from Lupe and SPHP.

Jobe returns all smiles! Yes, he’d made it to the top of Crazy Peak. Photo looks E.
The grand view from Crazy Peak’s summit. Photo by Jobe Wymore.
Jobe signed the Crazy Peak register. He had now completed the 50 US state most prominent peak list! Photo by Jobe Wymore.
Lupe and Jobe celebrate Jobe’s success. Photo looks E.

Surprisingly, Jobe had met 3 young women at the summit who came up from yet another route.  They’d camped overnight down at Crazy Lake, and had made a long trek on a steep, loose scree slope directly up the mountain.  They were concerned about the prospect of the impending rather scary trip back down to camp.  Jobe had spent some time talking to them, which was part of why he had been gone as long as he had.

So what was the rest of the route like?  Jobe said there were a few spots that were kind of sketchy with some exposure.  He’d gotten through just fine, though.  He wasn’t sure what SPHP might think, or how Lupe would fare.  A bit scary perhaps?  Jobe nodded his head indicating Lupe and SPHP were free to go on and take a crack at it.  Evidently he must have thought it was at least possible for Lupe to succeed.  It was very kind of him to be willing to wait.

First – two more key questions.  Jobe’s smart phone would have the answers.  What time was it, and what elevation had Lupe reached here?

Early afternoon.  Lupe is at 10,400 feet.

The summit of Crazy Peak looked a long way off.  (It was actually only a little over 0.5 mile away.)  Another 800 feet of elevation gain left, including some rough, sketchy territory with exposure ahead.  Most importantly, it was now afternoon.  Seven hours gone by already?  At the pace SPHP was going it would take Lupe another two hours to reach the top of the mountain.  By then it would be mid-afternoon.  That meant part of the return trip would be in darkness.

There had been plenty of time to think about things while Jobe was gone.  The terrain hadn’t stopped Lupe yet, but as much as SPHP would have liked for Lupe to succeed at climbing Crazy Peak, SPHP hesitated only a moment.

No, Jobe, we’ve timed out.  Let’s head down.

Right decision.  Lupe was happy.  Jobe was happy.  It was a relief to be going back down.  The day was a big success!  Jobe had made it to the top of Crazy Peak.  Lupe and SPHP had shared in the joy, and kept their promise not to delay him – at least not by too much.  Only Mount Cleveland to go!  Jobe indicated he might take on Mount Cleveland sometime in early August, only 2 or 3 weeks away.

Well before the sun went down, Lupe and SPHP were back in Jobe’s air-conditioned Jeep Rubicon, bouncing along comfortably.  Morning Dew and Terrapin Station by the Grateful Dead were playing.  Jobe resumed his enthusiastic dissertation on Jerry Garcia’s musical talents.  A good time, a really good time.

All too soon, Lupe was back at the G6, giving Jobe’s hand a final shake next to the Rubicon.

Pals Lupe and Jobe.
Lupe extends final congratulations to Jobe on his great success at Crazy Peak.

Brief good-byes and well wishes, then onward!  Jobe roared off in the Rubicon.  Minutes later, Lupe and SPHP were in the G6 going down the same dusty road.  Lupe resumed her usual watch for cows and horses to bark at.

After a fun day on Crazy Peak, Lupe resumes her watch for cows and horses to bark at.

SPHP soon stopped the G6 for a last look back.

Lupe’d had success climbing several nice peaks with Jobe on the previous two days.  Nevertheless, Crazy Peak (11,209 ft.) would always be the one that stood out from the others.  There it was, that long tantalizing SE ridge, forever leading skyward to the joyful moment when Lupe had stood with mountaineer and friend Jobe Wymore on the verge of EPIC!

Crazy Peak from the ENE.
Lupe and Jobe Wymore on the verge of EPIC. Crazy Peak, Montana – July 22, 2017.

Thanks to Victor Zhou for sharing the route on the SE ridge that Jobe used to summit Crazy Peak, and gave Lupe some hope of doing the same.

Epilogue

Although Lupe and SPHP were confident Jobe would be successful climbing Mount Cleveland in early August, 2017, Lupe wouldn’t know for certain how Jobe fared until she returned from her Summer of 2017 Dingo Vacation in September.

Lupe arrived home on 9-13-17, to find an email from Jobe waiting for her entitled “Mount Cleveland denial.  Weep, weep.”   Jobe had arrived at the National Park visitor center only to be turned away due to forest fires that had started only the evening before.  All backcountry permits via Goat Haunt had been cancelled.

So at the time of this post’s publication, Jobe remains on the verge of EPIC, only short Mount Cleveland from completing the 50 States of the USA EPIC List.  Of course, in due time Jobe will be back.  Lupe and SPHP wish him a speedy, successful and safe ascent! – 9-22-17

Links:

EPIC List – States of the USA (showing all peaks and dates of Jobe’s ascents)

EPIC List – States of the USA  (showing front runners with the most ascents)

To the Wildcat Hills of Nebraska with Mountaineer Jobe Wymore (4-2-16)

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s 2017 Wind River Range, Wyoming & Select Peaks in Montana Adventure IndexDingo Vacations Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 95 – Peak 6720 & Medicine Mountain (9-13-14)

SPHP wanted to park the G6 at the start of Tree Draw on the W side of Newton Creek Road (USFS Road No. 304), but there wasn’t any place to park there.  Lupe and SPHP had to abandon the G6 at a wide spot along the road about 0.25 mile farther S (11:04 AM, 53°F).  Lupe trotted ahead of SPHP on No. 304 back down to Tree Draw.

The side road going W across Newton Creek was marked as ATV trail No. 6918, but SPHP’s old map showed it as USFS Road No. 304.1B.  Whatever its proper designation these days, Lupe and SPHP followed it W up Tree Draw.

It was a beautiful, clear, bright morning.  Less than 72 hours earlier, on the night of September 10/11, the Black Hills had experienced its earliest measureable snowfall on record.  The records went all the way back to 1888.  Parts of the Black Hills had received up to 8″ of snow.  Lupe, of course, was delighted!  She had a blast frolicking in big patches of snow still melting in shady spots.

Lupe loved the rapidly melting snow along USFS Road No. 304.1B going up Tree Draw.
Lupe loved the rapidly melting snow along USFS Road No. 304.1B going up Tree Draw.

No. 304.1B went W for 0.5 mile, then turned SSW for another 0.5 mile.  The road ended at a barbed wire fence shortly before reaching the top of a saddle along a high ridge.  Lupe and SPHP got past the fence, and continued up to the saddle.  On the other side of the saddle, a herd of black cows was grazing in the upper reaches of a wide grassy valley.

Lupe’s first peakbagging goal of the day, Peak 6720 was in sight about 0.25 mile to the SSE along the ridgeline.  A fair amount of deadfall timber laying across the ridge looked like the only obstacle in the way of an otherwise easy stroll up to the summit.

Lupe's route up Peak 6720 from the NNW. The deadfall timber was the only real obstacle to an otherwise easy climb.
Lupe’s route up Peak 6720 from the NNW. The deadfall timber was the only real obstacle to an otherwise easy climb.

At the top of Peak 6720, Lupe found 3 separate high points strung out along the ridge.  Each high point featured a rocky outcropping.  The middle rock outcropping was the true summit, but fewer standing trees made the views better from the N and S high points.

Although the rock formations at the high points weren’t all that large, they were somewhat tricky to navigate.  The presence of significant amounts of deadfall timber, and an annoying bumper crop of thistles didn’t help.  Lupe and SPHP spent at least half an hour up on Peak 6720.  Part of that time was used up just moving around between the high points.

Peak 6720 is the highest point along a long ridge that runs for several miles in a NNW/SSE direction.  Although there are a number of other points nearly as high along the ridge, Lupe and SPHP had good views over a wide swath of territory in most directions.

Medicine Mountain (6,878 ft.) from Peak 6720 using the telephoto lens. Photo looks SSW.
Medicine Mountain (6,878 ft.) from Peak 6720 using the telephoto lens. Photo looks SSW.
Lupe on Peak 6720.
Lupe on Peak 6720.
A splendid view to the WNW from Peak 6720. Gillette Prairie is seen in the distance on the R. Copper Mountain (6,920 ft.) and Green Mountain (7,164 ft.) are in view along the high distant ridge on the L.
A splendid view to the WNW from Peak 6720. Gillette Prairie is seen in the distance on the R. Copper Mountain (6,920 ft.) and Green Mountain (7,164 ft.) are in view along the high distant ridge on the L.
Lupe on the true summit of Peak 6720. Odakota Mountain (7,200 ft.), the 2nd highest mountain in South Dakota, is the high point along the far ridge near the center of the L side of this photo. Photo looks WSW.
Lupe on the true summit of Peak 6720. Odakota Mountain (7,200 ft.), the 2nd highest mountain in South Dakota, is the high point along the far ridge near the center of the L side of this photo. Photo looks WSW.
Harney Peak (7,242 ft.) is the high point on the far ridge. Photo looks SE from the S high point on Peak 6720.
Harney Peak (7,242 ft.) is the high point on the far ridge. Photo looks SE from the S high point on Peak 6720.

Lupe visited all 3 of the high points on Peak 6720 before heading NW down the mountain into the long valley SSW of the saddle to Tree Draw.  Well down the slope, Lupe passed to the N of a tall rock formation, turned SW, and proceeded down to the bottom of the valley.

A dirt road went along the W side of the valley.  Black cows were grazing near it, but moved off up the valley as Lupe and SPHP approached.

Medicine Mountain from the valley W of Peak 6720. Photo looks SSW.
Medicine Mountain from the valley W of Peak 6720. Photo looks SSW.
These cows W of Peak 6720 decided it was best to trot on up the valley to avoid meeting Lupe and SPHP.
These cows W of Peak 6720 decided it was best to trot on up the valley to avoid meeting Lupe and SPHP.

Lupe and SPHP followed the road, which was probably USFS Road No. 297.3E, going SSW down the valley.  SPHP knew there would be more cows ahead, having seen several herds from up on Peak 6720.  When the next herd came into view, Lupe and SPHP crossed a tiny stream on the W side of the valley and headed up into the trees.

After going high enough to avoid disturbing the cows while passing by, Lupe and SPHP tried going SSW along the side of the hill.  For a while it worked out OK.  In fact, it was a rather interesting trek.  The hillside had some interesting geology.  Very shiny fine-grained rocks and nice specimens of white quartz formed part of the rock formations Lupe came to.  There were even some pieces of rose quartz.  SPHP wondered what made the shiny rocks so glittery?

The hillside became steeper.  A deep, narrow side ravine coming down from the NW blocked Lupe’s way forward.  Lupe and SPHP had to go down off the hillside.  At the base of the hillside, Lupe found the tiny creek again.  However, it wasn’t so tiny as it had been upstream.  It still wasn’t all that large, but there was quite a bit of black mucky marshy ground around it.

Finding a way across the marshy creek took a little while, but Lupe and SPHP managed to get across out into the main part of the valley again.  The road had disappeared.  The valley was full of tall grass and scattered stands of trees.  Even though this was all Black Hills National Forest land, Lupe came to several barbed wire fences.

At the lower end of the valley, Lupe found a faint road (a remnant of USFS Road No. 297.3E?) again.  It soon led Lupe and SPHP to USFS Road No. 297, a major gravel road.  Not too far away, a pond on Negro Creek was on the other side of No. 297.  Lupe’s next peakbagging goal, Medicine Mountain (6,878 ft.) could be seen beyond the pond.

The faint road in the lower part of the valley SW of Peak 6720 shortly before it reached USFS Road No. 297. Photo looks SW.
The faint road in the lower part of the valley SW of Peak 6720 shortly before it reached USFS Road No. 297. Photo looks SW.
The pond on Negro Creek near USFS Road No. 297. Medicine Mountain, Lupe's next peakbagging goal, is seen almost a mile beyond the pond. Photo looks S.
The pond on Negro Creek near USFS Road No. 297. Medicine Mountain, Lupe’s next peakbagging goal, is seen almost a mile beyond the pond. Photo looks S.

To get around some private property (the pond was part of it), Lupe and SPHP followed USFS Road No. 297 S less than 0.25 mile.  Lupe then bounded over Negro Creek, and went W across a field to the edge of the forest.  A rather striking hill with two big rock outcroppings at the top was back to the SE across No. 297.

This striking hill with 2 big rock outcroppings at the top was SE of where Lupe started her climb up Medicine Mountain.
This striking hill with 2 big rock outcroppings at the top was SE of where Lupe started her climb up Medicine Mountain.
Looking SE using the telephoto lens.
Looking SE using the telephoto lens.

Lupe and SPHP started climbing Medicine Mountain from the NNE.  There was no road or trail.  At first there was quite a bit of deadfall timber to contend with, and the going was slow.  About 1/3 of the way up, Lupe came to a meadow.  Lupe and SPHP headed W across the meadow, still gaining elevation.  At the end of the meadow, Lupe turned S climbing again through the forest.

The mountain got steeper higher up, but fortunately there wasn’t as much deadfall.  Medicine Mountain has two high points separated by a large saddle several hundred feet long.  The N high point is somewhat lower than the S one.  Near the end of the climb, Lupe and SPHP arrived at the base of cliffs at the N end of the N high point.

Lupe and SPHP couldn’t climb the cliffs.  A short exploration to the E revealed discouragingly steep terrain littered with deadfall timber.  The W side of the mountain looked more encouraging.  The cliffs forced Lupe and SPHP to lose some elevation going around to the W, but then there was a place where it might be possible to climb up.  Lupe and SPHP managed to scramble up without much difficulty.

Even though the N high point wasn’t the true summit of Medicine Mountain, Lupe was already here.  It made sense to explore the N high point first.  The views from the cliffs at the very N end were great.  An unobstructed 180° panorama was on display.  It seemed like a terrific place to take a break.  SPHP filled Lupe’s bowl with Taste of the Wild, and then sat down to eat an apple while admiring the scene.

Green Mountain (L Center), Copper Mountain (Center), and Gillette Prairie (R) from the N end of Medicine Mountain. Photo looks N.
Green Mountain (L Center), Copper Mountain (Center), and Gillette Prairie (R) from the N end of Medicine Mountain. Photo looks N.
Odakota Mountain (Center) from the N end of Medicine Mountain. Photo looks NW.
Odakota Mountain (Center) from the N end of Medicine Mountain. Photo looks NW.
The tallest branch of the dead white tree points straight up at Peak 6720. To the left is the valley that Lupe came down. Near the end of it, there is a glimpse of the pond on Negro Creek down by USFS Road No. 297. Photo looks NNE.
The tallest branch of the dead white tree points straight up at Peak 6720. To the left is the valley that Lupe came down. Near the end of it, there is a glimpse of the pond on Negro Creek down by USFS Road No. 297. Photo looks NNE.

Lupe was too busy to eat her Taste of the Wild.  A chipmunk scurrying around on the rocks had her bamboozled, but she remained very interested in its sudden appearances and disappearances.  The entertainment went on for several minutes.  SPHP wasn’t paying any attention when suddenly Lupe made a low “woof”.

Lupe searches for the Houdini chipmunk up at the N end of the N high point on Medicine Mountain. Bear Mountain (7,166 ft.) is the high ridge on the horizon. Photo looks SW.
Lupe searches for the Houdini chipmunk up at the N end of the N high point on Medicine Mountain. Bear Mountain (7,166 ft.) is the high ridge on the horizon. Photo looks SW.

Glancing over at Lupe, SPHP saw that she was standing stock still.  She had forgotten all about the chipmunk.  Now she was staring intently at some low juniper bushes close to SPHP.  The fur on the back of her neck and all along her spine was standing on end.

Lupe didn’t move a muscle.  For a couple of minutes she stood staring at the bushes.  She made several deep, menacing “woofs”.  What the heck was it?!  SPHP hardly dared to move.  Had Lupe caught wind of a mountain lion?  Had it stalked Lupe and SPHP clear to the top of Medicine Mountain?  The idea seemed preposterous, but something sure had Lupe’s attention.

Suddenly the menacing creature broke from the juniper bushes making a mad dash.  It disappeared in a flash.  A white bunny rabbit?!  That was the fur-raising threat?  Well, no doubt it was for the best that there hadn’t been a mountain lion, but a white bunny rabbit seemed ridiculously disappointing.  Couldn’t there at least have been a bobcat or something?

SPHP laughed at Lupe.  Seriously, Lupe, a bunny rabbit?  I’ve never seen you react that way before to such a harmless creature!  What a big, brave American Dingo!  You almost had me believing there was a mountain lion or some ferocious predator.

Oh, I see.  This is Medicine Mountain and the white bunny was full of bad medicine, right?  It really wasn’t what it seemed when it dashed away.  Probably transformed by old Indian magic and evil spirits from its true form!  SPHP laughed again.

Lupe paid no attention to SPHP’s teasing.  She knew what she knew.  Lupe gave up on disappearing rabbits and chipmunks.  Now that the bunny was gone, she relaxed.  Things were back to normal.

Lupe suddenly realized how hungry she was.  She devoured her Taste of the Wild.  SPHP shared part of an energy bar with her.  When Lupe was fueled up again, it was time to go explore the true summit at the S end of Medicine Mountain.

The saddle to the S high point was easily crossed.  A faint trail led up to the summit from the NW.  The S end of the summit area was grassy and open.  Once again, Medicine Mountain provided an unobstructed 180° panorama, this time to the S.

Harney Peak (7,242 ft.) (L) and Little Devil's Tower (6,960 ft.) (R) from Medicine Mountain. Photo looks SE.
Harney Peak (7,242 ft.) (L) and Little Devil’s Tower (6,960 ft.) (R) from Medicine Mountain. Photo looks SE.
Lupe on Medicine Mountain. Photo looks SW.
Lupe on Medicine Mountain. Photo looks SW.
Peak 6680 is the rounded forested hill in the foreground below the high ridge on the L. Odakota Mountain is seen on the R. Photo looks W.
Peak 6680 is the rounded forested hill on the L in the foreground below the high ridge. Odakota Mountain is seen on the R. Photo looks W.
Looking S.
Looking S.
Looking SE.
Looking SE.
Looking NNE at Peak 6720 (Center).
Looking NNE at Peak 6720 (Center).

Lupe and SPHP dawdled for more than half an hour on Medicine Mountain.  When it was time to go, Lupe took the faint trail NW down to the saddle area.  From the saddle, Lupe and SPHP went W down the slope.  It was slow going.  Deadfall timber lay strewn in every direction.  To avoid some of it, Lupe and SPHP turned SW, finally reaching some open ground.

Lupe lost elevation rapidly and came to a road.  SPHP led her W across the road to a little hill with a view toward Peak 6680.  Peak 6680 was supposed to have been Lupe’s 3rd peakbagging goal of the day.  It was only a mile to the WNW, but there was a big valley between here and there.  The fields down in the valley would have been easy to cross, but they were private property.

Gunfire started up off to the N.  Lupe didn’t want to go anywhere.  She wanted to stop and hide.  SPHP did stop to pet and reassure her.  The sun was starting to get kind of low.  OK, Lupe, no more mountains.  Let’s get away from the gunfire, instead.  Lupe and SPHP went back to the road and followed it SW.  The road reached a “T” intersection with another road.

SPHP didn’t know it at the time, but this was USFS Road No. 297.3M.  Lupe and SPHP followed No. 297.3M going SE, and then S about 0.75 mile down a long valley.  The road then turned E and wound around the S end of a low ridge.

Looking NE back up at the S end of Medicine Mountain shortly after reaching USFS Road No. 297.3M.
Looking NE back up at the S end of Medicine Mountain shortly after reaching USFS Road No. 297.3M.

Looking NE at the S end of Medicine Mountain from USFS Road No. 297.3M, 9-13-14

A last look back to the N at Medicine Mountain from USFS Road No. 297.3M.
A last look back to the N at Medicine Mountain from USFS Road No. 297.3M.
A little squirrel found safety from an overactive barking American Dingo up in a dead tree along USFS Road No. 297.3M.
A little squirrel found safety from an overactive barking American Dingo up in a dead tree along USFS Road No. 297.3M.

When Lupe reached the main gravel road, SPHP mistakenly assumed she was a little farther S than she really was.  SPHP turned N thinking this was County Road No. 317, which Lupe could follow several miles to USFS Road No. 304, and then several more miles back to the G6.

In reality, No. 317 was a little bit farther S.  Lupe was actually on No. 297.  SPHP kept watching for a turn to the E that never came.  It didn’t take too long to figure out what had happened.  It was OK.  Lupe could just keep going N on No. 297 until she got close to the pond on Negro Creek.  Then she could go back up the valley of black cows to the saddle over to Tree Draw.

Along the way, Lupe came to a striking hill to the E of No. 297.  It looked similar to the one she had seen just before starting her climb up Medicine Mountain.  This one had three big rock outcroppings at the top.  SPHP guessed that the two rock outcropping hill must not be much farther N.  Pretty soon, Lupe saw the two rock outcropping hill, and then the pond on Negro Creek.

The 3 rock outcropping hill E of USFS Road No. 297. Photo looks N.
The 3 rock outcropping hill E of USFS Road No. 297. Photo looks N.
Looking N along USFS Road No. 297 at the 3 rock outcropping hill. The 2 rock outcropping hill was still a little farther ahead, and beyond it the pond on Negro Creek.
Looking N along USFS Road No. 297 at the 3 rock outcropping hill. The 2 rock outcropping hill was still a little farther ahead, and beyond it the pond on Negro Creek.

The sun was already down, and the light was fading by the time Lupe had traversed the valley of black cows to reach the saddle to Tree Draw.  Lupe and SPHP went over the saddle and followed No. 304.1B back down to Newton Creek Road and the G6 (7:46 PM, 44°F).  Stars were shining above.  Lupe wanted to linger and sniff the air near the G6.  Well, why not?  It was a gorgeous evening.

Sunset from the saddle N of Peak 6720 to Tree Draw.
Sunset from the saddle N of Peak 6720 to Tree Draw.

Thirty minutes later, all twilight had faded from the night sky.  Myriad stars glittered in the blackness above.  Lupe was finally ready to go home.  On the drive N along Newton Creek Road back to Deerfield Road, Lupe and SPHP both saw it!  A big white animal dashed across the road heading E.  It was gone in a flash.  A huge white coyote, a ghost coyote!

Lupe’s hackles were up.  The fur on the back of her neck and all along her spine was standing on end.  The rabbit up on the N high point of Medicine Mountain had been white, too.  You, don’t think?

Nah, no way, couldn’t be!

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Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 97 – Harney Peak & Little Devil’s Tower (9-25-14)

Mush and David were in the Black Hills on vacation.  Before they went back to Indiana, they wanted to hike up Harney Peak (7,242 ft.), the highest mountain in South Dakota.  Naturally, Lupe and SPHP were eager to join in on the fun!

It was going to be a hot day, in the 90’s °F out on the western South Dakota prairies.  Even Harney Peak would get pretty warm.  A relatively early start would help make the trek more pleasant.  By 8:00 AM, David was parking the Honda Fit near Sylvan Lake Lodge.  The morning was totally clear, calm, and a still pleasant 60°F.

Harney Peak is located in the Black Elk Wilderness, which features a fairly extensive trail system.  The most popular, and one of the shortest routes up Harney Peak, is Trail No. 9 from Sylvan Lake.  The trail starts at the SE corner of Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park and climbs pretty steadily for most of the 3.5 mile (one way) trek.

Fairly early in the hike, not too long after passing by a junction with Lost Cabin Trail No. 2, there is a flat granite outcropping near Trail No. 9.  This granite outcropping offers views off to the N, and a first good look at Harney Peak up ahead.

Mush and David stop by the granite outcropping near Trail No. 9. Photo looks N.
Mush and David stop by the granite outcropping near Trail No. 9. Photo looks N.
Harney Peak (Center) is the highest point in the distance. The summit won't be this clearly visible again from the Sylvan Lake route until almost at the top.
Harney Peak (Center) is the highest point in the distance. The summit won’t be this clearly visible again from the Sylvan Lake route until almost at the top.

There were plenty of hikers on the trail on this beautiful, warm early fall day.  A small crowd was already at the lookout tower on Harney Peak by the time Mush, David, Lupe and SPHP arrived at the summit.  A woman named Vera and her friend, Marsha, took a liking to Lupe right away.  Lupe basked in the attention showered on her.  Vera and Marsha were here with their husbands Emil and Stan from the Washington D.C. area.

After checking out the views from the tower’s observation deck, and the tiny platform at the top of the steep narrow stairs inside the tower, it was time to make somewhat of an escape from the crowd by heading out onto the massive granite W shoulder of Harney Peak.  David relieved Lupe of most of her usual photographic duties.

David on the W shoulder of Harney Peak. Photo looks W.
David on the W shoulder of Harney Peak. Photo looks W.
Sylvan Hill (7,000 ft.) is the high point on the R on the closest ridge. Photo looks SW.
Sylvan Hill (7,000 ft.) is the high point on the R on the closest ridge. Photo looks SW.
An American Dingo was sighted on the massive granite W shoulder of Harney Peak! It was a very healthy-looking, bright-eyed, and energetic specimen.
An American Dingo was sighted on the massive granite W shoulder of Harney Peak! It was a very healthy-looking, bright-eyed, and energetic specimen.
Cathedral Spires (6,840 ft.) (L), Little Devil's Tower (6,960 ft.) (R), and Peak 6920 (R edge) from Harney Peak. Photo looks S.
Cathedral Spires (6,840 ft.) (L), Little Devil’s Tower (6,960 ft.) (R), and Peak 6920 (R edge) from Harney Peak. Photo looks S.
Looking E back toward the lookout tower at the summit of Harney Peak.
Looking E back toward the lookout tower at the summit of Harney Peak.

David on Harney Peak, 9-25-14David on Harney Peak, 9-25-14David on Harney Peak, 9-25-14It was warm and breezy up on Harney Peak.  Lupe had fun watching chipmunks, and barking at a helicopter that flew by giving tours.  After a leisurely break for snacks and soaking in the views, it was time to go.  Mush and David intended to just return to Sylvan Lake by the same route along Trail No. 9.  SPHP, however, suggested making a loop past the Cathedral Spires over to Little Devil’s Tower.

Mush and David were a little leery of the idea, especially when SPHP admitted there was a bit of scrambling required to get to the top of Little Devil’s Tower.  SPHP assured them the loop wouldn’t add too much time and distance to the return trip, and that the scrambling was pretty easy.  With just a bit of caution, there was little or no risk.  The views up on Little Devil’s Tower would be worth the effort!

Mush and David agreed to at least try the loop trail, but they weren’t certain about actually scrambling up Little Devil’s Tower.  That would depend on what the scramble really looked like up close and personal.

After leaving Harney Peak, Lupe led the way on the loop by leaving Trail No. 9 to follow a short stretch of Norbeck Trail No. 3.  Norbeck Trail No. 3 linked up with Trail No. 4 to Little Devil’s Tower.  The trail passed near some of the Cathedral Spires along the way.

Mush and David nearing part of the Cathedral Spires.
Mush and David nearing part of the Cathedral Spires.
Photo looks SW.
Photo looks SW.
Cathedral Spires from Trail No. 4. Photo looks SE.
Cathedral Spires from Trail No. 4. Photo looks SE.

Taking a short (0.33 mile?) spur trail off Trail No. 4 is necessary to actually reach Little Devil’s Tower.  Sometime in the past few years, the spur trail has been re-routed.  The new route is shorter, easier, and more scenic than the old route.  The spur trail now leaves Trail No. 4 at a high point with a view of the Cathedral Spires to the E.  Good signage makes the turn hard to miss.

Most of the spur trail is gently rolling as it passes along the top of a ridge.  Nearing Little Devil’s Tower, the trail dips down briefly, and then climbs steeply up a short badly eroding section featuring a lot of loose rocks.  Above the loose rocks, the trail levels out at a little pass between large granite formations.  A sharp turn to the left reveals a narrow cleft in the granite.  The scrambling begins here.  White or blue diamonds painted on the granite show the way.

David had no problems, but Mush was rather apprehensive during the scramble.  With just a little encouragement, she made it to the top.  Although there are some pretty high cliffs off the edge of Little Devil’s Tower, the summit area features fairly large areas that are quite level.  Mush was able to relax on Little Devil’s Tower, and seemed glad she’d made the trip up.

Shortly after Lupe reached the summit, Lupe’s new friends Vera, Marsha, Stan and Emil appeared on Little Devil’s Tower, too!  Lupe got more loving attention, and had a good time posing with them.

L to R: Emil, Stan, Vera and Marsha from the Washington D.C. area pose with Lupe on top of Little Devil's Tower. Photo looks SE toward the Cathedral Spires.
L to R: Emil, Stan, Vera and Marsha from the Washington D.C. area pose with Lupe on top of Little Devil’s Tower. Photo looks SE toward the Cathedral Spires.
Mush and Lupe on Little Devil's Tower.
Mush and Lupe on Little Devil’s Tower.
Lupe shows off her Black Hills.
Lupe shows off her Black Hills.

Mush had relaxed so much up on Little Devil’s Tower, that by the time she was on the way down, she was busy pointing out the route and encouraging others who were still on their way up.  The side trip to Little Devil’s Tower was a big success.  Both Mush and David enjoyed it.

Lupe returned to Trail No. 4 using the same spur trail.  From there, Mush, David, Lupe and SPHP all continued on Trail No. 4 toward the Little Devil’s Tower trailhead on Hwy 87/89.  This was an easy downhill hike through a scenic valley all the way.

Mush on Trail No. 4 nearing the Little Devil's Tower trailhead on Hwy 87/89.
Mush on Trail No. 4 nearing the Little Devil’s Tower trailhead on Hwy 87/89.

Lupe was disappointed that the little creek near the Little Devil’s Tower trailhead was dried up this time of year.  However, it was only another 0.25 mile or so from the Little Devil’s Tower trailhead to the picnic ground at Sylvan Lake.

Used to Indiana elevations, Mush and David were pretty tired by the time they reached Sylvan Lake again.  It was hot out.  Mush and David went wading at the Sylvan Lake beach.  Carolina Dogs aren’t allowed on the beach, so Lupe and SPHP hung out along a nearby stretch of shoreline.  A bright orange stand of grassy reeds by the shore made for a colorful shot of the lake.

Lupe at Sylvan Lake.
Lupe at Sylvan Lake.

When Mush and David were done wading at the beach, everyone continued N on the Lakeshore Trail along the E side of Sylvan Lake.  Mush went down close to the shore again when the area near the dam came into view.  Here it was OK for Lupe to go wading and get a drink.  Lupe was happy to take her turn cooling her hot paws off.

Mush at Sylvan Lake. The small dam is in the far corner of the lake near the center of this photo. Photo looks W.
Mush at Sylvan Lake. The small dam is in the far corner of the lake near the center of this photo. Photo looks W.
Lupe gets a drink and some relief for her hot, tired paws.
Lupe gets a drink and some relief for her hot, tired paws.

Lupe, Mush, David, and SPHP continued on the Lakeshore Trail around to the area below the dam N of the lake.  From there, Lupe took a very short stretch of the Sunday Gulch trail.  By 4:40 PM, Lupe was back at the Honda Fit.

Everyone agreed that the loop to Little Devil’s Tower on the return trip had been a really nice scenic addition to the hike up Harney Peak.  It really hadn’t added that much distance or difficulty to the day, although it did add some time spent up on Little Devil’s Tower.  Lupe’s Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 97 had been a success!

The Sunday Gulch trail on the way to the Honda Fit from Sylvan Lake.
The Sunday Gulch trail on the way to the Honda Fit from Sylvan Lake.

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