Ferris Mountain, Charlie Brown Range, Wyoming (6-17-17)

Day 10 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range & Beyond!

As you drive along I-80 through Rawlins WY, you can see in the distance about 35 miles north a mountain range with a very striking feature: a zigzagging white cliff band running nearly the entire length of the range from left to right.  That band is the Madison formation, an upended layer of limestone which has subsequently been eroded into a series of V-notches by a succession of streams coming down from the crest above.  I first noticed this mountain range in the late 1980s, and that zigzagging line reminded me of the zigzagging line across the bottom of the shirt that Charlie Brown wears.  For this reason, I personally dubbed the range the “Charlie Brown Mountains”.  – excerpt from Edward Earl’s trip report on his 9-5-2014 ascent of Ferris Mountain on Peakbagger.com

Rain!  Not good.  If it rained too hard, the dirt road would turn to mud.  The G6 might get stuck way out here NW of Bairoil.  Better get back to pavement, now!

It was still dark out, but Lupe was already awake.  SPHP had just come to.  In pre-dawn rain and fog, SPHP drove back to Bairoil.  The rain had already let up to a light sprinkle, by the time Lupe reached the pavement on Hwy 73.  May as well keep going.

Eight miles E of Muddy Gap, SPHP turned S off Hwy 220 onto Carbon County Road No. 499.  The rain and fog were gone, but dark clouds still hid the Charlie Brown Range.  It was light out now, but still very early.  Lupe was ready for action!  SPHP wasn’t.

Gimme a few more hours snoozing time, Loop.  Need to wait a bit to see what the weather’s going to do anyway.  And with that, SPHP parked the G6 and went back to sleep.

A few hours later, SPHP was ready.  Time for Lupe to take on dreaded Ferris Mountain (10,037 ft.), high point of the entire Charlie Brown Range!  Of course, that was provided she could even get close enough to make an attempt feasible.

The first part of the way ought to be easy enough.  Lupe could follow directions in peakbagging hero Edward Earl’s trip report.  She was already at the first place Mr. Earl mentioned, the sign for Pete Creek Road & Cherry Creek Road at the turn off Hwy 220.

The BLM sign off Hwy 220 at the turn onto Carbon County Road No. 499. Whiskey Peak (9,225 ft.) (L), which Lupe had good time climbing yesterday, is in view. Photo looks SW.

Mr. Earl’s trip report contained detailed instructions on how to get to Ferris Mountain.  The next thing to look for was 0.9 mile from Hwy 220 along Carbon County Road No. 499, where a road branching off to the R was marked only by an unreadable sign.  This intersection quickly came into view.

The intersection 0.9 mile from Hwy 220 (L) where an unmarked road branches to the R off County Road No. 499 quickly came into view. Photo looks SE.

Mr. Earl’s instructions said to go straight at this first intersection, avoiding the R turn on the unmarked road.  2 miles from Hwy 220 was another R turn, this time onto Cherry Creek Road, which was also to be avoided.  Lupe and SPHP stayed on Carbon County Road No. 499 both times, and came to the Handcart Ranch sign 2.5 miles from Hwy 220.

Lupe by the unreadable sign at the first turn to the R, which is the wrong way to go. The G6 is parked along Carbon CR No. 499, which is the correct way.
Stay straight on Carbon County Road No. 499. Loop is on the correct route here.
At the 2nd turn to the R, which goes to Cherry Creek. Lupe did not take this side road either.
Lupe at the Handcart Ranch sign mentioned by Edward Earl as being 2.5 miles from Hwy 220. There was no turn off Carbon County Road No. 499 here.
These pronghorn antelope got Lupe excited!

Edward Earl mentioned a fork in the road 4.3 miles from Hwy 220.  The R branch goes to a ranch, while Carbon County Road No. 499 continues to the L.  Lupe arrived at this fork just as Mr. Earl said.

At the fork in the road 4.3 miles from Hwy 220. Carbon County Road No. 499 goes L here. The road to the R goes to a private ranch headquarters.

Edward Earl also said that the condition of Carbon County Road No. 499 worsened beyond this intersection.  He cited frequent mud holes which were dry when he was here, but correctly surmised they were mud puddles during wet weather.

SPHP had scarcely made the L turn at the fork, when there was trouble ahead.  A large mud puddle fed by a small stream completely blocked the road.  Lupe and SPHP got out for a look.

Lupe inspects the mud puddle and small stream blocking Carbon County Road No. 499.

Nope!  Not gonna try it!  This mud puddle was as far as the G6 was going.  Mr. Earl’s trip report indicated that it wouldn’t be much farther before high clearance would be needed anyway.  Even though the base of the Charlie Brown Range where Mr. Earl had parked his Nissan pickup truck was still 6.5 miles away, it was going to be paw and foot for Lupe and SPHP from here.  Loopster was in for a very long day!

SPHP parked the G6 in the field next to Carbon County Road No. 499, and proceeded to get ready for Lupe’s long march.  The ranch headquarters was in sight from this location, not too far away.  Soon a vehicle was seen leaving HQ.  A couple minutes later, Lupe and SPHP met Kyra Torgensen and her son.  The G6 was parked on the ranch Kyra and her husband own.  Naturally, she wanted to know what was going on.

The Torgensen’s ranch HQ was in view from where the G6 was parked. Kyra Torgensen and her son soon drove up wanting to know what was going on.

SPHP explained that Lupe was here to climb Ferris Mountain.  It was only another 0.2 mile to BLM land.  SPHP would have parked over there, but the G6 couldn’t get past the mud puddle.  Did she mind if the G6 was parked here for the day?

Mrs. Torgensen was a little reluctant at first.  However, Carbon County Road No. 499 had to be a public right-of-way, which she must have known.  SPHP didn’t mention this fact, though, hoping to avoid an argument.  In the end, while she may not have been thrilled with the idea, Kyra Torgensen was fine with the G6 where it was.  Before she drove away, she warned SPHP not to stay out too late, and to beware of wolves.

A few minutes later, Lupe and SPHP jumped the little stream, and began the long trek to Ferris Mountain (10:17 AM, 68°F).  Only 0.2 mile farther, the Carolina Dog went through a gate onto BLM land.  The road forked again.  Following Edward Earl’s instructions, Lupe took the road to Pete Creek.

After leaving the Torgensen’s ranch, Lupe took BLM Road No. 3148 to Pete Creek. The Charlie Brown Range was still more than 6 miles away.

Lupe and SPHP weren’t worried about wolves.  However, Ferris Mountain had long been the most dreaded peakbagging goal of this entire Dingo Vacation.  The mountain itself wasn’t the worry.  Distance wasn’t either.  Forewarned by Edward Earl’s trip report, SPHP had realized all along that Lupe would likely have a 6+ mile trek just to get to the Charlie Brown Range.

The problem was the sagebrush prairie Lupe would have to cross.  Two of Lupe’s nemeses might well be out there – cactus and rattlesnakes.  If Lupe became scared of cacti, she would refuse to move.  Rattlesnakes, of course, would be far worse.

For these reasons, SPHP encouraged Lupe to stay very close, preferably right on the road.  Most of the time she did.

A few cacti did grow out on the high prairie. Fortunately, they weren’t too abundant.
On the way to the Charlie Brown Range on Pete Creek Road.
Wildflowers blooming on the normally arid prairie.

Fortunately, Lupe saw only a few cactus and no rattlesnakes.  Meanwhile, the weather remained questionable.  Dark clouds hung around.  Sometimes they obscured virtually the entire Charlie Brown Range.  Other times, they lifted to reveal the mountains.  A significant storm was brewing off to the SE.  For a while it came closer, but eventually it sailed off to the NE.

Roughly 4 miles from the G6, Lupe came to a cairn on the L side of Pete Creek Road.  Edward Earl mentioned 3 cairns in this area, but the Loop only saw 1.

Lupe on the only cairn she saw on the L side of Pete Creek Road. Ferris Mountain, her ultimate goal, is straight up from Lupe’s head. Photo looks S.
Lupe at the wire gate described by Edward Earl 9.2 miles from Hwy 220. The view of the mountains ahead shrouded in clouds wasn’t too encouraging at this point.

6.5 miles from the G6, Lupe finally reached the base of the Charlie Brown Range on a grassy ridge E of the mouth of Pete Creek Canyon.  A white pickup truck was parked here near the edge of the forest, right about where Edward Earl must have parked his Nissan pickup.  Pete Creek Road, which had been going due S for miles, turned SE here.

Lupe at the base of the Charlie Brown Range close to where Edward Earl must have parked his Nissan pickup truck in 2014. Pete Creek Road (No. 3148) (R) heads SE from here. Photo looks SE.

Lupe still had another 0.5 mile to go on Pete Creek Road along the base of the mountains.  On the way, she lost 120 feet of elevation crossing the Rush Creek drainage, where she saw a salt lick noted by Edward Earl.  By the time she reached a green metal gate near the mouth of Pole Canyon, she had regained all of the lost elevation and a good deal more.

Beyond the green metal gate, Loop finally left Pete Creek Road.  She headed into Pole Canyon, and quickly came upon a different faint road heading up the valley.

A pronghorn antelope near Pole Creek, which is hidden in the trees. Photo looks E.
Lupe reaches the green metal gate after crossing the Rush Creek drainage on Pete Creek Road. The mouth of Pole Canyon is seen beyond her. Loop left Pete Creek Road near this point. Photo looks S.
Starting up Pole Canyon. Photo looks SW.

Edward Earl had followed this same road up Pole Canyon.  His trip report mentioned fallen trees and a few marshy spots, but Mr. Earl had been here in September when conditions are much drier.  Pole Creek was no occasional marshy spot in the middle of June, but a clear running stream.  It was easy enough to wade across, however, and Lupe enjoyed the cold water.

Lupe at the first crossing of Pole Creek.

The road crossed Pole Creek more than once.  Lupe also came to marshy glades, where the road hardly existed, but she could usually find it again a little higher up.  After a while the road completely disappeared, lost for good.

At another Pole Creek crossing.
Loop cools her paws in Pole Creek. By now, the road she had been following had faded away. So far, it was still pretty easy traveling up the R (NW) side of the canyon. The easiest routes usually weren’t right down by the creek.

At 8,450 feet, Loop arrived at the place where Pole Canyon splits.  When Edward Earl had been here, only the R (W) branch had flowing water.  Both branches had flowing water now.  Like Edward Earl, Lupe stayed L (E).  As she continued gaining elevation, the creek was increasingly hidden beneath snow.

Loop (behind the tree on the right) reaches the 8,450 foot level where Pole Canyon and the stream divide. She would follow the stream seen on the L here up the E branch of the canyon. Photo looks S.
As Lupe continued to gain elevation, the creek was increasingly hidden by snow. Photo looks S.

Lupe stayed to the W (R) of the creek, but it started getting harder to make progress.  The forest was dense, and the American Dingo came to more and more rocks and deadfall.  The canyon sides steepened, becoming more difficult to traverse.  SPHP decided Loop might have an easier time up on the ridge W of the creek.

For a while, leaving the canyon seemed like a good decision.  Lupe had no problem reaching the ridgeline.  It went straight S rising relentlessly at a pretty good clip, but there was less deadfall to deal with.  Sometimes there was even some open ground.  When she did come to rock formations, they usually weren’t much trouble to get around.  Lupe gained elevation rapidly.

After abandoning the canyon to get up on the ridge to the W, Lupe gained elevation rapidly. Here she is perched on the largest rock formation she had to maneuver around in the early going. Photo looks N.
Terrain like this open spot on the ridge was a lot easier to deal with than all the rocks and deadfall in the canyon Loop had left behind. Photo looks S.

It was a long way up.  Lupe gained lots of elevation, but the ridge started getting ever steeper and rockier.  Huge rock formations appeared above.  Looper ended up on steep slopes of broken rock interspersed with spruce trees.  This was challenging terrain.  SPHP began to fear there wouldn’t be a way to the top.

Lupe had gained a lot of elevation, but the ridge route became increasingly challenging. Lupe found herself on steep slopes of broken rock interspersed with spruce trees. This was slow going. Photo looks SSE.

The ridgeline had basically disappeared.  Lupe now seemed to be going straight up the N face of a mountain.  She needed to get to easier terrain.  SPHP led her up a very steep rocky chute toward a forested saddle between two massive rock formations.

Loop never made it to the saddle.  Everything got so steep, progress ground to a halt.  At the top of a long, narrow snow bank, SPHP realized that even if Loop could get up to the saddle, she probably didn’t stand much chance of getting over or around the giant rock formations towering above.  She would be trapped between them.

Lupe at the top of the snow bank where SPHP realized she needed to down climb and go around this part of the mountain. Photo looks N.

Lupe had to down climb.  She needed to get farther E.  She didn’t have to lose all that much elevation, but it took a lot of time.  Fortunately, it wasn’t terribly far around the huge rock formation above her.  Once she managed to get around it, things became easier.  The Carolina Dog was still on steep, rocky stuff, but the route up was more manageable.

Once Lupe worked her way around to the E of the massive rock formation that had towered over her, this route up was much more manageable. Photo looks SSE.

Loop climbed and climbed.  She was very high, and getting close to the top of something!  Her luck needed to hold only a little longer.  It did.  Suddenly she was there!  Lupe stood next to a wooden pole at the top of a big cairn.  The views were spectacular!

Lupe climbed and climbed. SPHP could see she was getting close to the top of something. Suddenly she was there, standing on top of a big cairn next to a wooden pole! Photo looks NE.

Had Lupe arrived at the top of Ferris Mountain (10,037 ft.)?  The grand views, and presence of the big cairn with the pole sticking out of it made SPHP think so.

A more careful look at the views and a glance at the topo map revealed this wasn’t the case.  Lupe was already nearly as high as the true summit, but she was actually on Ferris Mountain’s most westerly sub-peak over 10,000 feet.  The true summit was in view from here, still 0.5 mile away to the SE.

Although SPHP initially thought Lupe might have reached the top of Ferris Mountain here, the true summit (R), which wasn’t much higher, was actually still 0.5 mile away. Photo looks SE.

Clearly, the vast majority of the work of climbing Ferris Mountain (10,037 ft.) was done.  Getting over to the true summit didn’t look hard.  This appeared to be the 2nd highest point on the mountain, and an amazing place.  Lupe had time to take a rest break and enjoy the views.

Looking NW along the Charlie Brown Range from the westernmost 10,000+ ft. subpeak of Ferris Mountain.
The rocky crag seen below on the L is Ferris Mountain North (9,740 ft.). Far beyond it out on the prairie, part of Pathfinder Reservoir is in view. Photo looks NE.
Another look NW with help from the telephoto lens.
Looking down on Lupe’s route up. Pole Canyon divides near the center of the photo. Lupe had started up the R (E) branch, but soon got up on the forested ridge between the divided canyons. After that it was mostly straight on up, with a short down climb to get a bit farther E. Pole Canyon empties out onto the prairie on the R. Photo looks N.
Lupe takes a break on Ferris Mountain West. Photo looks NW.

After relaxing on fabulous Ferris Mountain West, it was time to move on.  The ridge Loop had to follow wasn’t difficult.  Her first objective along it was a slightly lower subpeak only 0.1 mile E.  She was soon there, looking down on the 9,900 foot saddle where Edward Earl had first reached the ridgeline.

The route along the ridge leading to the true summit of Ferris Mountain (R) didn’t look too difficult. Lupe’s first objective, a slightly lower subpeak 0.1 mile E of Ferris Mountain West is seen on the L. Photo looks ESE.
Heading toward the 9,900 foot saddle. Ferris Mountain’s true summit (Center) is seen straight up from Lupe. Ferris Mountain Middle (10,000 ft.) is across the saddle toward the R. Photo looks SE.

Loop went down to the 9,900 foot saddle and crossed it.  Edward Earl hadn’t gone all the way up to Ferris Mountain West, but the American Dingo was back on his trail again here.  She was now approaching Ferris Mountain Middle (10,000 ft.), the next high point along the ridge.

Looking down on Ferris Mountain North, the rocky crag on the R, from the 9,900 ft. saddle. Photo looks NNW.
Lupe approaches Ferris Mountain Middle, the next 10,000+ ft. high point along the ridge. Lupe went around the N (L) side of it before climbing up to the top from the E. Photo looks SE.

The Carolina Dog stayed high as she went around the N side of Ferris Mountain Middle looking for a way to the top.  She had to get E beyond the high point before she found a route.  Ferris Mountain Middle (10,000 ft.) was another rather dramatic place to be!

After circling around the N (R) side of Ferris Mountain Middle, Lupe found a route to the top from the E. This was a rather dramatic place to be! Photo looks NW.
At the top of Ferris Mountain Middle. Photo looks NW.
Ferris Mountain West, where Lupe had first come up, is seen in the distance slightly L of Center. Photo looks NW.

Ferris Mountain’s true summit was now no more than 0.25 mile away.  A lot of time had gone by.  Lupe and SPHP were anxious to get there.  The terrain wasn’t difficult, so Loop made great progress.

Approaching the true summit. Photo looks ESE.

Near the very end, everything was rocky.  Fortunately, it still wasn’t too hard getting around.  Lupe seemed to be running out of mountain, when suddenly the summit appeared ahead.  Right below the highest rocks, a metal sign said “Ferris Peak, Continental Divide, 10,037 ft.”  Lupe had made it!

This what we’ve been looking for, SPHP? …. Yes, ma’am, that’s it, sweet Puppy!
On Ferris Mountain at the top of the Charlie Brown Range. Photo looks S.
Ferris Mountain summit. Photo looks S.

What a tremendous mountain!  The views were superb.  The weather was vastly improved from what it’d been this morning.  Beauty shone forth in every direction in the early evening light.  A glorious day!  SPHP congratulated Lupe on her grand success, shaking her freckled paw.

Scrambling the short remaining distance to the highest rocks, Lupe came across two survey markers.  At the very top, tucked among rocks near the metal sign, she found a plastic jar.  Inside was a registry.  SPHP was eager to have a look at.

Was it there?  Yes, it was!  Happy day!  SPHP found the entry by Edward Earl.

One of two survey markers Lupe found on Ferris Mountain.
Survey marker No. 2.
The plastic jar containing the registry in its hiding place behind the metal sign.
Edward Earl’s 9-5-2014 entry in the Ferris Mountain registry.

Seeing that Edward Earl had written about the Charlie Brown Mountains made SPHP smile.  Lupe had been to quite a few mountains with assistance from Mr. Earl’s detailed trip reports.  Once again, she was at the top of a mountain Edward had been to before her.  Sadly, Lupe would never get to meet him.

Edward Earl had perished tragically nearly 2 years ago on 6-19-2015, drowned in the rushing Jago River in the Brooks Range in NE Alaska following two failed attempts to climb Mount Isto (8,976 ft.).

Others appreciate Edward Earl’s excellent route descriptions, too. John Stolk of Redmond, WA mentioned Edward in his registry entry dated 8-21-16.
Lupe’s entry in the Ferris Mountain registry.
Lupe taking it easy in the least uncomfortable spot she could find on Ferris Mountain while waiting for SPHP to finish with the registry. The registry showed that 4 other people had been here earlier today, but Loop never saw anyone.

Lupe rested among the rocks, while SPHP fiddled with the registry.  When SPHP was finally done, it was time to spend a while contemplating the tremendous views.

Lupe looking beautiful in the evening light up on Ferris Mountain. Photo looks N.
View to the SE.

Looking S. Edward Earl was once where Lupe was now.
Final moments at the top.
Looking NW from the summit. Ferris Mountain’s westernmost 10,000+ foot high point where Lupe came up is in the distance on the L.
Lupe had seen these same dome-like hills from Whiskey Peak (9,225 ft.) a day earlier. Photo looks NW with help from the telephoto lens.
Pathfinder Reservoir from Ferris Mountain. Photo looks NE with help from the telephoto lens.
The Pedro Mountains rise on the far side of the southern end of Pathfinder Reservoir. Photo looks E with help from the telephoto lens.

All too soon, the angle of the sun insisted it was time to move on.  Lupe left Ferris Mountain starting back the way she’d come up.  SPHP figured the American Dingo still had some time to spare.  She revisited the summit of Ferris Mountain Middle.

Lupe returns to the top of Ferris Mountain Middle. On the way back the plan was to visit Ferris Mountain North, the rocky knob on the R, too. Photo looks NW.
Ferris Mountain North (R) from Ferris Mountain Middle. Photo looks NW.
Ferris Mountain West (L) from Ferris Mountain Middle. Lupe wasn’t going all the way back over there on her way down.

From Ferris Mountain Middle, Lupe went down to the 9,900 foot saddle.  She was about to leave the mountain’s main ridgeline.  Before continuing down, she took a last look at the huge expanse of prairie S of the Charlie Brown Range.

Before leaving the 9,900 foot saddle, Lupe took a final look at the huge expanse of prairie S of the Charlie Brown Range. Photo looks SW.

She then turned her attention to her final peakbagging objective of the day, Ferris Mountain North (9,740 ft.).

Looking down on Ferris Mountain North from the 9,900 foot saddle. Photo looks N with help from the telephoto lens.

Looper headed down to the 9,700 foot saddle leading to Ferris Mountain North.  She went N toward the high point.  As she got close, she circled around to the E where it wasn’t as steep.  Lupe quickly found a rocky route to the top.

Approaching the top of Ferris Mountain North from the SE.

To the S, were the forested upper N slopes of Ferris Mountain leading to the ridge where the Carolina Dog had spent the last several hours atop the Charlie Brown Range.  To the N, thirsty sagebrush prairie stretched away to distant hills.  Shadows of ridges made the land look like ripples on a sea.

Lupe on Ferris Mountain North with a view of the NE side of the Charlie Brown Mountains. Photo looks NW.
Ferris Mountain (L), Ferris Mountain Middle (Center), and the 9,900 foot saddle (R) from Ferris Mountain North. Photo looks SE.
Looking down on the 9,700 foot saddle from Ferris Mountain North. The 9,900 foot saddle is seen up on the ridge on the L. Ferris Mountain Middle is the high point on the far L. Photo looks S.
A commanding view to the N.
Looking NNW.

Lupe couldn’t linger long on Ferris Mountain North.  She was 2 miles from the green metal gate near the mouth of Pole Canyon.  Another 7 miles to the G6.  After a good look around, and a little time spent in contemplation, Lupe headed back to the 9,700 foot saddle.

Downhill all the way now!  The Carolina Dog plunged N down into the E branch of Pole Canyon.  The forest was a maze of 3 to 5 foot high snow drifts and deadfall timber, but this route was easier than the way Lupe had gone up.  The terrain was only moderately steep, and not too rocky.

Loop soon discovered that the roughest ground was at the bottom of the canyon.  For a long way, she stayed E and higher up, sometimes more than 100 feet above the creekbed.  The snowbanks shrank and became less numerous, as she lost elevation.

By the time Lupe was low enough so most of the snow was gone, the deadfall wasn’t as bad either.  She now made fast progress, which was a good thing.  The sun, though still up, was hidden behind the mountains.  Sunset couldn’t be too far off.

As Lupe drew near the point where both branches of Pole Canyon converge, the terrain changed.  Lupe made her way to the bottom of the canyon, and leapt over to the W side of the creek.  She soon came to the stream confluence, and had to make one more crossing.  For a while she traveled down Pole Canyon staying W or NW of the stream.

To avoid the larger stream crossings and swampy ground closer to the mouth of Pole Canyon, Lupe eventually got up on the side of the ridge to the NW.  Nearing the base of the Charlie Brown Range, she reached the ridgeline.  The sun was down, the land dark.  Thin clouds glowed brilliantly orange in a pale sky.

The colorful display faded to gray.  Lupe managed to reach the green metal gate before it was too dark to see.  Still 7 miles to go, but Loop had made it to Pete Creek Road.  After crossing the Rush Creek drainage, the road turned N.  All gently downhill from here.

Lupe and SPHP marched away from the Charlie Brown Range, never looking back.  Only blackness was behind.  Ahead, distant headlights on Hwy 220.  The infinite universe glittered above.

Every now and then Lupe heard something, and went racing away into the night.  Antelope?  Rabbits?  No telling.  Fortunately, the luck of the Dingo held.  She always came streaking back, panting happily.  No cactus had stabbed her.  No rattler had bit her.  No wolves had devoured her.

Ferris Mountain had been a fabulous day!  Yet, things don’t always go one’s way.  Luck can run out.  Perhaps weariness, or the silent black night was to blame, but during the long trek back it was hard not to think about another adventurer who had come this way.  An adventurer who ultimately helped make this day a success for beloved Lupe, but whose luck had run out nearly 2 years ago.

It was hard not to ponder the life and times, and tragic fate of Edward Earl.  (12:05 AM)

Sunset in the Charlie Brown Range, 6-17-17.

Links:

Edward Earl on Peakbagger.com

Edward Earl’s trip report on his 9-5-2014 ascent of Ferris Mountain

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 Expedition No. 215 – Peak 3950, Oyster Mountain & Sly Hill (11-12-17)

Start – Fort Meade National Cemetery near Sturgis, 8:46 AM, 35°F

Lupe arrived at Fort Meade National Cemetery the day after Veteran’s Day.  The cemetery was officially closed this time of year.  Loop wouldn’t have gone in even if it wasn’t.  Some might consider an American Dingo prancing around a cemetery disrespectful, even though she wouldn’t have done any harm.

Lupe arrived at the Fort Meade National Cemetery the day after Veteran’s day on a bright, crisp morning.

Lupe was actually here to visit a few peaks near Sturgis she’d never been to before.  Once SPHP was ready, she crossed the road W of the cemetery, and started climbing along a ridgeline through a pine forest.  She didn’t have far to go before reaching a broad meadow of tall grass.

W of Fort Meade Cemetery, Lupe reaches a meadow of tall grass near the start of her way up Peak 3950. Photo looks W.

In the meadow, Loop happened upon a dirt road that curved SW.  She followed it higher back up into the forest.  A huge dead tree had fallen over the road, blocking it completely.  From the trunk of the dead tree, Lupe could see Bear Butte (4,422 ft.) off to the NE rising dramatically from the surrounding prairie.

From the trunk of the dead tree, Lupe saw Bear Butte rising dramatically from the surrounding prairie. Photo looks NE.
Bear Butte’s summit is the N end of Centennial Trail No. 89 which winds 111 miles through eastern portions of the Black Hills all the way to Wind Cave National Park.

The road climbed steadily through the forest.  Before long, though, the terrain began to level out.  The forest became more open and park-like, and the road curved NW.

Off to the SW, it looked like there might be views from the edge of the mountain.  Lupe left the road to explore in that direction.  Several deer fled as she approached the edge.  Loop had a nice view of the valley S of Sturgis.

Lupe came to this nice view of the valley S of Sturgis. Photo looks SSW.

Peak 3950 was Lupe’s destination.  The summit was only 0.5 mile NW from here.  Lupe traveled NW near the sharp SW edge of the mountain.  At first, the terrain was level or rolling.  The American Dingo had her choice of staying in the pine forest or out on another tall grass meadow, and did some of both.  Bear Butte was still in view from the meadow.

On the way to the summit of Peak 3950, Lupe spent part of her time in this big tall grass meadow, from which she could still see Bear Butte. Photo looks NE.

In the meadow, Loop came upon the road again.  She followed it NW back into the forest, gaining elevation at a moderate pace.  Lupe stayed on the road until she was close to Peak 3950’s summit.  The final part of the climb was an easy romp through the woods.

On the road again getting close to the top of Peak 3950. Photo looks NW.

Peak 3950’s summit area was large and relatively level.  The highest part was near the N end.  No single point stood out as the exact location of the true summit, but Lupe was satisfied.  Climbing Peak 3950 had been easy and fun.

Lupe at the top of Peak 3950. Climbing the mountain had been quick and easy. Photo looks SSE.
On Peak 3950’s flat summit. Photo looks E.

At the top of Peak 3950, trees hid the views in most directions.  However, along the edge of the steep W slope, Lupe found rock outcroppings from which she could see the town of Sturgis.

From rocks along the W rim, Lupe could see the town of Sturgis. Photo looks WNW.
Sturgis, SD from Peak 3950. Photo looks NW.
A look at the downtown area with a little help from the telephoto lens. Photo looks NW.
Looking W.

Lupe could also see her next two peakbagging objectives.  Oyster Mountain and Sly Hill were both in sight to the NW.

Lupe’s next peakbagging objectives were in view.  Oyster Mountain (4,040 ft.) is the forested ridge on the L. Sly Hill (3,920 ft.) is straight up from the blue water tank on the R. Photo looks NW.

Names, dates, and initials had been carved into the rocks Lupe was standing on.  One rock S of the summit area even had a whole phrase carved into it.

Many names, dates, and initials were carved into rocks along the W edge of the mountain. Someone had gone to the trouble of carving the phrase “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” into this rock.

Lupe lingered on Peak 3950 for a little while, but didn’t stay terribly long.  She still had more peakbagging to do.  After sniffing around some and enjoying the views, it was time to head back to the G6.

On her way back down, Lupe returns to the upper tall grass meadow SE of Peak 3950’s summit. Photo looks SE.

Once Loop made it back to the G6 (10:41 AM), SPHP drove into Sturgis looking for a way to Oyster Mountain or Sly Hill.   A mile NW of town, a road went N over a saddle on the ridge connecting the two mountains.  A mile beyond the saddle, SPHP parked the G6 again (11:10 AM, 49°F).

Lupe got out ready to climb Oyster Mountain’s NE ridge.  At first, she was in a mixed oak and pine forest, but she didn’t have far to go before reaching a meadow.  Bear Butte was once again in view.

Lupe at the first meadow she came to on the way up Oyster Mountain. Photo looks SW.
Bear Butte (4,422 ft.) from the lower slopes of Oyster Mountain’s NE ridge. Photo looks NE.

Just like on Peak 3950, Lupe found a dirt road in the meadow which took her higher and back into the forest.  Loop followed this road SW most of the way up Oyster Mountain’s NE ridge.  Sometimes she had glimpses of views along the way, but usually there were too many trees to see much of anything.

The road eventually reached a saddle.  Loop would start losing elevation if she stayed on the road, so she left it.  She headed W, still climbing steadily.

Before long, the Carolina Dog arrived at the top of a small hill.  Maybe this was Oyster Mountain’s summit?  SPHP wasn’t certain.  The topo map had been forgotten in the G6.

Not long after leaving the dirt road, Lupe reached the top of this small hill. At the time, SPHP thought this might possibly be Oyster Mountain’s summit. Photo looks WSW.

Lupe continued W from the small hill, and soon reached a slightly higher hill.  A ridge nearly the same height was in view to the SW across a small valley.  The valley drained toward a depression to the W.

SPHP remembered the topo map had shown a depression close to Oyster Mountain’s true summit.  Loop ought to be able to find the summit by crossing the valley, then following the ridge on the other side.

So that’s what she did.  When Lupe made it up onto the ridge, she could see I-90 in the valley below on the other side.

After crossing the small valley, Lupe climbed up onto this ridge where she could see I-90 below. Photo looks SW.

Lupe followed the ridge WNW.  The terrain was nearly level for a little way, but soon Loop saw slightly higher ground ahead.  The summit had to be over there.

Oyster Mountain’s S slope from the ridgeline. The summit isn’t much farther ahead in the trees on the R. Photo looks WNW.

Shortly before reaching the top of Oyster Mountain, Loop came to a sparsely forested sunny hillside.  Snow was visible on Terry Peak (7,064 ft.) on the far horizon.  Closer by, Lupe had a nice view of heavily forested Crook Mountain (4,930 ft.).

Snow is visible on Terry Peak’s ski runs on the far horizon (L). Heavily forested Crook Mountain is in view on the R. I-90 is seen in the valley below. Photo looks SW.

Oyster Mountain’s summit proved to be a relatively narrow, 150 foot long, flat ridge.  Forest blocked any views.  Minor rock outcroppings that didn’t amount to much were on the S side near the far W end.

Lupe on top of Oyster Mountain. Photo looks ESE.
Carolina Dogs are rarely seen on Oyster Mountain. However, the mountain’s odd and mysterious name was part of the allure that brought Lupe here. Oyster Mountain seems an unlikely name for a mountain in the Black Hills. Lupe was about as far from an ocean here as you can get in North America.
Lupe goofing around trying to be silly and dramatic from the little rock outcroppings near the W end of the summit ridge. Photo looks E.

Loopster took her only Taste of the Wild break of the day up on Oyster Mountain.  The shady summit ridge was a pleasant place.  Traffic noise from I-90 only partially marred the sense of isolation.

On the way back to the G6, Lupe stopped by the sunny slope E of the summit again for a final look.  She then left the ridgeline, cutting down to the depression in the small valley.  The depression was bone dry now, but looked like a seasonal pond forms here during wet periods.

As she left Oyster Mountain, Loop swung back by this sunny slope E of the summit for a final look. Photo looks S.
Lupe near the depression on Oyster Mountain. The depression was bone dry now, but looked like a seasonal pond must form here during wet periods. Photo looks W.

After leaving the depression, the American Dingo retraced her route up all the rest of the way down.  Lupe had fun running and sniffing around, but it was only 1.25 miles back to the G6.  It didn’t take her all that long to get there.  (1:09 PM)

Loop still had one more peak to climb near Sturgis.  SPHP drove to the saddle between Oyster Mountain and Sly Hill, parking near a fence surrounding a “rubble site” (1:16 PM, 52°F).  A sign nearby indicated Dingoes might not be entirely welcome on Sly Hill, the top of which was only 0.5 mile to the SE.  Hmmm.

American Dingoes can be quite foxy, and the name of her objective was Sly Hill, after all.  Lupe wouldn’t hurt a thing.  Off she went, slinking through the forest.  It didn’t take her long to reach a wide flat meadow rimmed with pines.  The topo map showed this area as the true summit of Sly Hill (3,920 ft.).

Lupe at the official top of Sly Hill according to the topo map. SPHP was skeptical that this was actually the true summit. Photo looks NW.
The Sly Dingo on Sly Hill feeling pretty foxy.
Near the S rim of Sly Hill, a bit SW of the official summit according to the topo map. Photo looks WSW.

The topo map showed another high point on Sly Hill only 0.25 mile to the SE.  High Point 3917 was supposed to be almost as high as the official summit.  Maybe Lupe should go on over there to check it out while she was still in the area?  It seemed like the thing to do.

Off Lupe went.  She lost a bit of elevation exploring a narrower part of the ridge that forms Sly Hill.  Soon Loop was approaching High Point 3917, a far smaller area that came to much more of a definite peak than the official summit.  She caught a glimpse of Bear Butte as she began the short climb.

Looking back along the ridge linking Sly Hill’s official summit and High Point 3917. Photo looks NW toward the official summit.
As Lupe started the short climb up to High Point 3917, she caught this glimpse of Bear Butte. Photo looks NE with help from the telephoto lens.
On the way up to High Point 3917. Photo looks SE.

Climbing High Point 3917 was easy.  Lupe got up on the top rocks at the foot of a big pine tree.  Up until now, SPHP hadn’t been totally certain where Lupe was on Sly Hill, but the views from here confirmed her position.  Parts of Sturgis could be seen, though trees obscured some of the town.

Loopster on the highest rocks at High Point 3917 on Sly Hill.
Western parts of Sturgis are in view here from High Point 3917. Photo looks S.
Looking SE from High Point 3917. A small portion of eastern Sturgis is in view on the R.

Lupe’s exploration of Sly Hill was now complete, except for one thing.  On the way to the official summit shown on the topo map, Lupe had passed N of some high ground that seemed like it might actually have been higher than the official summit.

So Lupe returned to Sly Hill’s official summit, then proceeded W looking for the high ground she’d bypassed earlier.  She climbed a heavily forested narrow ridge.  The official summit could not be seen from here, but SPHP would have bet money that this high point to the W was actually the true summit of Sly Hill.

Lupe on top of the high point W of the official summit. SPHP would have bet money that this was actually the true summit of Sly Hill (3,920 ft.). Photo looks WNW.

Lupe had done about all there was to do up on Sly Hill.  The Carolina Dog left the W high point (and likely true summit) traveling NW along the ridgeline.  This proved to be the most rugged terrain she’d come to on Sly Hill.  She went by several interesting rock formations on the way down.

Loop on one of the rock formations she came to on the way down. Photo looks S.
On the most impressive rock. Photo looks NW.

The Sly Dingo of Sly Hill made it back to the G6 without incident (2:34 PM).  At least a couple of hours of daylight remained.  With visions of Lupe making one more peakbagging attempt at yet another modest, seldom-visited hill, SPHP drove Lupe to the Whitewood area.  She even got close to Spearfish.  However, she had no luck at any other hills or mountains.

So Sly Hill was Lupe’s final peakbagging success of Expedition No. 215.  That didn’t bother the Carolina Dog at all.  She didn’t mind riding around barking at deer, cattle and horses at all!  She had a blast the whole time, yipping and yapping until it was way too dark to see.

Looking across the saddle separating Sly Hill from Oyster Mountain (Center). Photo looks NW.

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Whiskey Peak, Wyoming (6-16-17)

Day 9 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range & Beyond!

Though shown on the road map, Lamont didn’t even seem to be a town.  Sagebrush, a few cattle, and a highway intersection was about it.  After turning W off Hwy 287, SPHP found a place to park.  Lupe got out for a look around.  Off to the NW, she could see her next peakbagging objective, Whiskey Peak (9,225 ft.), the highest point in the Green Mountains.

Whiskey Peak from Lamont, Wyoming. Photo looks NW.

The view was encouraging.  Whiskey Peak looked like an easy climb for the Carolina Dog.  The big question was access.  If Lupe could get to Whiskey Peak, SPHP was certain she could climb it.  The only roads into the area that the G6 might be able to manage were NW of the town of Bairoil.  Even those roads might quickly deteriorate to high clearance or 4WD vehicles only.

Hwy 73 was paved all the way to Bairoil.  So far, so good.  Bairoil didn’t really seem to be much of a town either, but there was a lot more here than at Lamont.  Bairoil appeared to be more of an energy-related industrial center.  Metal buildings, industrial equipment, and vehicles were widely scattered along a network of dirt and gravel roads.  There didn’t seem to be a whole lot going on right now.  Maybe because energy prices were still relatively low in 2017?

A pronghorn antelope in the thriving industrial metropolis of Bairoil, Wyoming.

The street layout in Bairoil didn’t seem to match up very well with what was shown on the old topo map.  SPHP drove NW through town, staying mostly to the L at turns, and continued this same practice once Lupe was N of town.  A number of gravel roads headed out this direction, none marked in any way that meant anything to SPHP.

After bumping along for 2 or 3 miles, SPHP parked the G6 near an intersection on relatively flat, sparsely vegetated ground.  There hadn’t been any signs indicating private property or prohibiting public access on the way here.  Close enough!  Situation excellent!  This was about as far as SPHP had dared hope the G6 would be able to make it, anyway.  Lupe could start for Whiskey Peak from here.  (10:35 AM, 62°F)

Lupe a few miles NW of Bairoil about to start out for Whiskey Peak. Part of the Abel Creek drainage is seen in the foreground. Photo looks NE.

A strong breeze was blowing out of the W as Lupe set out.  She didn’t head straight for Whiskey Peak, which was now to the NE, but followed a road leading NW from the intersection.  This road, which was in such good condition the G6 might easily have followed it farther, appeared headed for a ridge a few miles away.  The ridge was mostly bare, but dotted with scattered pines or junipers.

A fairly strong W wind was blowing as Lupe began following this road. The road headed toward Whiskey Ridge, but Lupe didn’t follow it very far. Photo looks NW.

A fence ran parallel to the road, not too far off to the R (NE).  Lupe stuck with the road only until the fence ended.  Staying on the road would have taken Loop up to Whiskey Ridge, but a more direct route to Whiskey Peak appeared to be an option.  Up on more heavily forested slopes along a higher part of Whiskey Ridge straight N from here, another road could be seen.

Lupe followed the road she started out on only to this point where the fence turned. A different road, which was a much more direct route to Whiskey Peak, is seen at upper L going up the ridge. Lupe headed for it from here. Photo looks NNE.

Lupe abandoned the road she’d been following, and headed NE avoiding the fence.  She crossed the Abel Creek drainage, which was dry and fairly shallow here.  A faint, grassy road led out of the drainage to a better road that headed for Whiskey Ridge.  Loop followed it N across high prairie toward the forest, gradually gaining elevation all the way.

On the way N to Whiskey Ridge. The high ridge on the L is Stratton Rim. The small high point seen straight up from Lupe’s back is Stratton Rim North (8,740 ft.). The less uniform ridge on the R is part of Whiskey Ridge. Photo looks W.

The road Lupe was on led right to the road she’d seen from a distance high up in the forest on Whiskey Ridge.  As she got near the trees, the slope began to increase dramatically.  Soon Lupe was climbing steeply.  The road up was in bad shape.  For a long way, it was deeply eroded and full of loose rocks.  As a road, it was nothing but a disaster, though it still made a good trail.

By now, it was quite warm in the sun.  The steepness of the route caused SPHP to stop many times to rest.  Lupe was eager to escape the heat.  She curled up in the shade whenever SPHP stopped, and frequently accepted water.

By and by, Lupe finally reached the top of the ridgeline.  The remnant of the road she’d been following went right on over the saddle where she came up.  Oddly enough, what appeared to be a large electrical service box was close by.

Lupe reaches the top of Whiskey Ridge at this saddle. She’s standing on the faint remnant of the road she’d been following. This road went right on over the saddle past the unexpected electrical service box seen beyond Loop. Photo looks N.

Not realizing how much of a shortcut Lupe had taken, SPHP was puzzled to find no other roads around.  The topo map showed a road following closely along the top of Whiskey Ridge for nearly 2 miles from a pass NE of Stratton Rim North.  The plan had been for Lupe to follow this road all the way to Whiskey Peak.  However, it was nowhere in sight.

SPHP failed to realize Lupe had arrived at the 8,730 foot saddle at the E end of the 2 mile stretch where the road to the summit abandons the ridgeline.  Very close to where Looper was, it jogged N going downhill a short distance before turning SE to head for Whiskey Peak.  If Lupe had just stuck with the road she’d been on a bit farther, she would soon have come to it.

Instead, Loop and SPHP turned E, and began climbing a grassy slope which led to a forested high point.  It seemed like the most reasonable thing to do, since it was clear Whiskey Peak was still well to the E from here.  As Lupe went up the grassy slope, she started getting her first look at some impressive views.

As Lupe climbed the grassy slope, she got her first look at this wild looking territory N of Whiskey Ridge. Photo looks NNW.
Looper coming up the grassy slope. Whiskey Ridge leads toward Stratton Rim in the distance on the L. The road Lupe had just missed coming to that winds along Whiskey Ridge, is seen on the R. Lupe had arrived at the saddle below coming up through the trees on the L. Photo looks WSW.

Loop entered the forest above the grassy slope, and continued on up to the high point.  The high point itself wasn’t heavily forested.  Lupe could see a tower up on Whiskey Peak from here.

SPHP was surprised by how close Lupe was already.  She was over 9,000 feet, and the summit was only a mile away.  Getting there would be a cinch!  A long grassy slope went all the way to the top.

Lupe reaches the first high point over 9,000 feet. SPHP was surprised by how close she was to the top of Whiskey Peak already. The tower (L) was only a mile away.

A small ridge led E from the first high point Lupe had reached to another slightly higher one no more than 0.25 mile away.  (High Point 9041 on the topo map)  Loopster started for the next high point following this little ridge.

Lupe following the small ridge leading to High Point 9041. Whiskey Peak is dead ahead. Photo looks E.

Lupe never got to High Point 9041.  Instead, she spotted a small pond to the N at the bottom of a short slope.  The pond looked refreshing!  Naturally, the American Dingo had to go check it out.

Before she got to High Point 9041, Lupe spotted this small pond. Photo looks N.
Oh, yeah! Lupe doesn’t like to swim, but wading in the pond was fun and refreshing.
The ridge Lupe had been following is seen on the L. Photo looks W.

After wading around to cool off and drinking her fill, Lupe left the pond.  She traveled E through an open forest where yellow wildflowers grew in sunny glades.

Among the yellow wildflowers.

Beyond the forest, Lupe reached the long grassy slope that went the rest of the way up to the top of Whisky Peak.  As she approached, a small herd of 5 horses watched with concern.  These horses seemed to be wild, and living up on Whiskey Peak permanently.  They were curious, but gave Lupe and SPHP a wide berth.

This small herd of horses watched the Carolina Dog’s approach with a mix of concern and curiosity. They gave Lupe a wide berth, but never left the broad grassy slopes W of the summit. They seemed to be wild and living on Whiskey Peak on a permanent basis.

Lupe reached the summit of Whiskey Peak (9,225 ft.).  The highest point was near the S end of a long, spacious ridge.  Pink, orange, tan and white rocks and boulders were plentiful.  The biggest, most eye-catching view was off to the ESE toward Ferris Mountain (10,037 ft.).

Lupe at the summit of Whiskey Peak. Ferris Mountain (Center) was the most eye-catching view from here. Photo looks ESE.
Ferris Mountain from Whiskey Peak. Photo looks ESE with help from the telephoto lens.

Whiskey Peak featured plenty of impressive views in other directions, too.  Lupe and SPHP hung out around the summit quite a while taking it all in.

The W wind hadn’t been bad most of the way up, but was practically a gale on top of Whiskey Peak.  Loop took little breaks now and then between photo sessions.  She usually sought out the lee side of rocks, or sat next to SPHP for shelter.

Mighty breezy up here, SPHP!  Is this it?

Sure is, Loop.  Is this what?

The top of the mountain, silly.   Is this it?

Oh, yes, of course!  Yeah, this is the top, alright.  Look at those views!

Yes, yes, quite splendid.  And windy.  So it’s time to celebrate, right?

Oh, sure!  Congratulations, Looper, you’ve climbed another magnificent mountain!  All the way to the top.  Great job, Loop!

Thanks for shaking my paw and all, SPHP.  I do appreciate your sentiments, but I was hoping for a bit more actually.  This is sort of a special place, right?

Yes, I suppose it is special.  What were you hoping for?  Water, Taste of the Wild?  I brought plenty of both.

Umm, no.  Those are fine usually, but I was hoping for something a little more appropriate for the occasion.

Huh, like what?

You’re a bit slow as usual SPHP.  Where are we after all?

Whiskey Peak.

Exactly!

Ruh, roh!  Lupe gazed expectantly up at SPHP, her eyes shining merrily with a big smile on her face.  The wind ruffled her fur, but she was momentarily unperturbed.

For a moment, not knowing what to do, SPHP did and said nothing.  Gradually, the smile began to fade from Looper’s face.  As SPHP began to pet her, Loop’s ears drooped.  Gone was the look of a 4 year old on Christmas morning.  Tears glistened in her always trusting light brown eyes.

Sorry, Loop.

So, there’s nothing else in the pack for me, for us, then?

No, sorry Loop.

No Glenfiddich?  Not even a little Jack Daniels?

Not a drop.  Guess, I didn’t think.  I didn’t realize you might be expecting anything like that.

Lupe blinked back the tears.

Oh, it’s OK.  I suppose I should have known.  We’ve been to Elk Mountains and there haven’t been any elk.  Deer Mountain and there weren’t any deer.  Bear Mountain and there weren’t any bears.  I never will understand you humans.  I just thought that this time, after all the mountains we’ve been to, maybe this one was a really special place.  Maybe this time you really were planning a special celebration for me.  I got my hopes up.

Sorry to have disappointed you, dearest Dingo.  I’ll make it up to you somehow, before too long.  Whiskey Peak is a really special place.  Just like all the other mountains we’ve been on.  There are countless mountains in the world, and we will only ever see the world from a tiny fraction of them.  Seeing these fabulous views, even if for only a little while, and even if we never ever come back to see them again, makes this place special.  And what makes it really special is that we are both here to share it together, sweet Dingo of mine!

Lupe sighed, then smiled weakly.

I know you’re right, SPHP.  But promise me one thing.  If we ever do come back to Whiskey Peak, you won’t disappoint me again.  Deal?

Deal!  Shake?

Lupe lifted her freckled paw and let SPHP shake it.

OK, SPHP.  Let’s go see what else there is to see from here before I get blown off clear to the next county.

Looking S toward the little community of Bairoil. The views were terrific, but Loopster was not enjoying the gale out of the W.
Hiding out from the wind. Photo looks SE.
Much of Whiskey Peak’s summit ridge is in view here. Loop is on some of the very highest rocks. Lupe found no cairns, but Whiskey Peak did sport the fairly sizeable stone fort seen beyond her. Photo looks NNW.
View to the WNW.
Looper in the stone fortress. Photo looks WNW.
Looking NE toward Muddy Gap.

After taking a break and spending a while near Whiskey Peak’s true summit, Lupe went N along the summit ridge toward the tower close to the N end.  The ground near the tower was definitely lower than where she’d already been, but this area provided a different vantage point for another look around.

Nearing the tower at the N end of Whiskey Peak’s long summit ridge. Photo looks N.
Ferris Mountain from the N end of the summit ridge. Photo looks ESE.
Lupe found the Rapid survey benchmark on a rock N of the tower.
View to the NNW.
Looking W from near the tower.
Looking S along Whiskey Peak’s summit ridge. The stone fort near the true summit is in view on the L.
Another look at the interesting dome-like hills to the NNW.
Looking NW.

Lupe still had a long way to go, so she couldn’t stay up on Whiskey Peak too long.  The wind being what it was, she was glad of that.  From the tower, she started down the huge grassy slope to the W.  The wild horses saw her coming again, and circled back around the S side of the slope up towards the true summit to stay out of the Carolina Dog’s way.

The wild horses circled away from Lupe back up toward the true summit.

On the way down, Loop stuck to the road that came up the center of the grassy area for a considerable distance.

Lupe stuck to the road coming down the center of the grassy area for a while, but eventually headed back to the pond she’d passed in the forest on the way up. Photo looks E.
Purple wildflowers on Whiskey Peak.

Lupe eventually left the road to go back to the pond she’d gone wading in on the way up.  From the pond she went NW through the forest, hoping to avoid having to climb the high point W of the pond again by staying N of it.

This turned out to be the worst possible route back to the saddle where she’d first reached Whiskey Ridge.  Either staying on the road from the tower, or climbing from the pond back up to the high point would have been better.  The forest NW of the pond was full of deadfall timber, plus a steep drainage that was a bother to cross.

Nevertheless, Loop made it back to the grassy slope leading down to the saddle where she’d first reached Whiskey Ridge.  The shortest route back to the G6 would have been to leave the saddle going S right back down the steep rocky road she’d come up earlier in the day.  However, by now, SPHP had seen the road following Whiskey Ridge farther WSW, and understood where Lupe was on the topo map.

Instead of going straight back to the G6, following the road along the ridge would eventually get Lupe to where she could peakbag Stratton Rim North (8,740 ft.) today, too.  This was a long detour, but Loop still had time enough to do it.  It seemed like a fun idea, and she wasn’t likely to ever have another chance like this one.

So from the saddle, Lupe followed the ridge road.

Following the road winding WSW along Whiskey Ridge. Lupe’s next peakbagging goal, Stratton Rim North, is the little high point at Center. Photo looks SW.
Orange wildflowers growing near the road on Whiskey Ridge.

After 2 miles on the winding road traversing Whiskey Ridge, Lupe reached Low Pass.  Several roads intersected here.  Stratton Rim North was still another 0.75 mile away.  Only an ATV trail went the remaining distance to it, but that was plenty good for Loop.

After following the road along Whiskey Ridge for 2 miles, Lupe arrives at Low Pass.
Several roads intersected near Low Pass. The one seen here heads down into a valley to the N. Loop wasn’t going this way.
Only this ATV route continued the remaining 0.75 mile to Stratton Rim North from Low Pass, but it was a great trail for Lupe to follow. Photo looks W.
Almost there! Approaching Stratton Rim North. Photo looks SW.

The ATV trail didn’t go quite all the way to the top of Stratton Rim North, passing N of the high point only a short distance below it.  The wind was howling here, even worse than it had been up on Whiskey Peak.  Lupe wasn’t thrilled with the idea, but she did manage to climb to the top of Stratton Rim North (8,740 ft.).

SPHP was glad she did.  The views were really terrific!

Loop arrives at the summit of Stratton Rim North. Whiskey Peak (L), where she’d just come from, and more distant Ferris Mountain (R) are in view. Photo looks E.
Ferris Mountain from Stratton Rim North. Lupe wasn’t enjoying the wind at all. It was much gustier here than it had been earlier in the day. Periods of relative calm existed between sudden blasts. Photo looks E with help from the telephoto lens.
The rest of Stratton Rim from Stratton Rim North. Photo looks SW.
High Point 8729 is the small bare hill L of Center ringed by a few trees near the top. A long snow bank is seen below the E lip of Stratton Rim’s long N ridge. Photo looks NW.
Looking N.
Ferris Mountain (R) with help from the telephoto lens. Photo looks ESE.
Whiskey Peak (R of Center) with help from the telephoto lens. Photo looks ENE.

Lupe’s journey to Whiskey Peak and Stratton Rim North had been a success!  However, the American Dingo was anxious to escape the powerful blasts of the gusty W wind.  SPHP briefly considered the possibility of going straight on down Stratton Rim North’s E slope, but decided it was too steep to be worth the trouble.  May as well take the ATV trail back to Low Pass.

Before she got all the way back to Low Pass, though, Loopster did take a shortcut.  She left the ATV trail descending E down a minor ridgeline into a valley.  She intercepted a road going S down the valley from Low Pass.  The road gradually curved SE.

Lupe was still high enough to have panoramic views to the S and E, but far enough down so Stratton Rim sheltered her from the wind.  The evening trek back to the G6 was easy, beautiful, and fun.  Lupe saw a larger herd of wild horses, and several pronghorn antelope on the way.

Happy times out of the wind on the way back to the G6. Ferris Mountain (L) is in the distance. Photo looks ESE.
View to the S on the way back from Stratton Rim North.
Red wildflowers.
On the way back, Lupe passed this sign. It understated the distance to Whiskey Peak (at least following the road) by a good mile. Photo looks NW.
Lupe passed by this larger herd of wild horses, too.
Pronghorn antelope

It was still light out when Lupe got back to the G6 (7:42 PM, 65°F).  After having her evening Alpo, she wanted out again.  She wandered around sniffing for a bit, then found a place to curl up.  This far from Stratton Rim, the W wind swept over her, though not nearly so strongly as up on the ridge.

And there Lupe stayed, listening and watching, as clouds swept past overhead and light of day faded away.  Whiskey Peak disappeared from view as the world turned black.  And if SPHP had had any Glenfiddich or Jack Daniels, Lupe surely would have gotten a shot or two before bed, but alas, the poor doggie had none!

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 Expedition No. 214 – The Search for Elk Mountain with Rizzo, Buddy & Josh Hilpert (11-4-17)

October 21st dawned bright and breezy, the air exceptionally crisp and clear.  Puffy white clouds sailed the blue sky.  SPHP knew instantly that cancelling had been a mistake, but nothing could be done about it.  Yes, this was a breezy day, but nothing approaching the forecast 40+ mph wind gusts would ever materialize.

Lupe’s opportunity to meet new friends had been rescheduled.  November 4th arrived, and she was finally on her way!   What a day this was, though!  Heavily overcast, dark and cold.  Only a couple of days ago, the forecast had looked fine.  Now this!  Again too late to do anything about it.  Expedition No. 214 was on, come what may!

At 7:59 AM, with exactly one minute to spare, Lupe arrived at the Latchstring Inn at Savoy in Spearfish Canyon.  No sign of Rizzo, Buddy & Josh, yet.  No worries, they’d be here soon enough.  In the meantime, Lupe went over to take a look at the Spearfish Canyon Lodge.

The Spearfish Canyon Lodge at Savoy normally has wonderful views of some of Spearfish Canyon’s most impressive limestone cliffs. Today it was socked in with fog.

Looper also had time to check out Little Spearfish Creek.

At Little Spearfish Creek. Two of the best waterfalls in the Black Hills are on Little Spearfish Creek. Spearfish Falls is only 20 or 30 feet downstream of where Lupe stands here. Roughlock Falls is less than a mile upstream. Lupe wouldn’t get to see them today.

Rizzo, Buddy & Josh soon arrived.  Rizzo and Buddy were so excited about going on an expedition, they weren’t about to hold still for a group photo.  Lupe and her new friend, Josh, posed together, though.

Lupe and new friend Josh Hilpert at Savoy in Spearfish Canyon.

The date wasn’t the only thing that had changed for this first outing together.  Only a couple of days ago, Plan A’s chosen destination had fallen through.  A major disappointment at the time, but now clearly a good thing given the weather.

Josh had expressed interest in any routes Lupe knew of up into the country E of Spearfish Canyon.  On prior expeditions Lupe had explored two such routes.  Plan B was that Loop would take Rizzo, Buddy and Josh on one of them.  Two specific destinations became Expedition No. 214’s objectives – Elk Mountain (6,422 ft.) and the cliffs overlooking Savoy.

Lupe’s route to Elk Mountain started at Annie Creek Road near Elmore, 4 miles up Spearfish Canyon from Savoy.  The weather remained cold and heavily overcast, even a bit foggy, but everyone was in good spirits as the trek began.  (8:36 AM, 32°F)

Lupe and her new friend Buddy near the start of Annie Creek Road. Photo looks N.

Annie Creek Road went N for 0.75 mile.  Upon reaching the side canyon Annie Creek flows down, it turned NE for another 0.75 mile.  The snowy road was an easy romp, being nearly level this whole way.  It was a good place for everyone to become acquainted.

Lupe wasn’t used to having so much company, but the dogs all got along just fine.  Buddy and Rizzo were adventure dogs, too!  In fact, Rizzo and Josh have been enjoying their own weekly adventures in the Black Hills even longer than Lupe and SPHP.  Buddy wasn’t as experienced in the adventuring business, having only recently joined the Hilpert family.  However, it was clear he was relishing his good fortune.

The first big decision came at an intersection 1.5 miles from the start.  The only time Lupe had been to Elk Mountain before was nearly 1.5 years ago.  Back then, she had taken the road to the L, which went W back to Spearfish Canyon before turning NW.  The road stayed level, but ultimately came to two places where old bridges had collapsed.  Lupe had made it past the first resulting gap, but not the second.  In the end, she’d had to climb a very steep slope, though once on top, this had ultimately proven to be a good direct route to Elk Mountain.

The other option was take the road to the R, which went NE up the Annie Creek valley.  Last time, looking for a shortcut back to the G6 late in the day, Lupe had gone down a different steep slope that had brought her into this valley.  SPHP remembered it had looked like Lupe could have followed roads all the way down, if she had been willing to take a somewhat longer route.

Nearing the first intersection. A decision would have to be made soon – go L or R? Josh crouches to stay in the photo (which he didn’t have to do). Buddy on the L while Rizzo circles around behind Josh. A familiar furry face out front and center. Photo looks N.
Same spot, but showing better how foggy it was. Josh pats Buddy while Rizzo helps himself to some snow.

It was cold and damp.  Ice and snow might make hillsides treacherous.  It seemed best to avoid the steep climb up from the road to the L.  The decision was made to turn R, following the road up Annie Creek valley.

Another intersection was reached only 0.25 mile farther on.  Rizzo and Buddy crossed Annie Creek for a brief exploratory foray on a side road going SE up Lost Camp Gulch.  That wasn’t the way to Elk Mountain, though, so they quickly returned.

Buddy (L) & Rizzo (R) return from a brief foray up Lost Camp Gulch. The small stream is Annie Creek. Photo looks SE.

Lupe and SPHP had never been this far up Annie Creek before, but it seemed reasonable to continue on the road following the creek a little farther before looking for a way up onto higher ground to the N.  Rizzo, Buddy and Josh had never been here before either, so they simply tagged along.

The road following Annie Creek headed NE, beginning to gain significant elevation above the stream on the way.  Eventually a minor side road appeared on the L.  It went N up a steep, forested slope.  N was the right direction, so the side road seemed like a good way to reach higher ground quickly.

After a steep climb, the side road leveled out as expected.  The forest was pretty foggy up here.

Buddy and Lupe on the minor side road once it leveled out. The forest was cold and quite foggy up here. Photo looks NNW?

Elk Mountain couldn’t have been much more than 1.5 miles to the NW as the crow flies from here.  Due to the fog, though, the mountain wasn’t in sight.  No other landmarks more than a couple hundred feet away could be seen, either.  As long as Lupe kept heading N or NW, though, SPHP was confident she would eventually find the mountain.

The minor road eventually faded and curved off in the wrong direction.  Lupe and SPHP led everyone N or NW, traversing snowy slopes.  The terrain was more convoluted here than where Lupe had been on her first visit to Elk Mountain.  Lupe tried to keep gaining elevation, but often she had to lose some.  She finally came to a big fence.

Reaching the fence was encouraging!  Beyond it were extensive gold mining operations.  Lupe had seen them before.  She had followed this fence N on her first trip to Elk Mountain.  She hadn’t had to follow it more than 0.25 mile before she’d seen a big pond inside the fence.  If the American Dingo could find that pond again today, SPHP was certain of the rest of the route to Elk Mountain.

Everyone trudged NW along the fence.  The terrain went up and down, but eventually seemed to be going more down than up.  On and on, much farther than Lupe had followed the fence the first time.  SPHP had expected it to be farther coming this way, but quite a bit of time went by.  The pond didn’t materialize.  By now it was so foggy Lupe might not even be able to see it.

Why hadn’t the pond appeared?  Had the Carolina Dog passed it in the fog?  Could it really be this far?  Josh and SPHP stopped to consult the topo map and discuss things.  The problem was, the topo map SPHP had was old.  The mining operations, which had altered a great deal of terrain, were newer and not shown on the map.  SPHP knew the mine was SE of Elk Mountain, but only had a general idea of how far SE.

Consulting the map without being able to see some landmark shown on it, was no help.  Even more disturbing, it turned out that Josh and SPHP had completely different ideas on what direction Lupe had been going!  Knowing the truth about that was sort of important.  Critical, one might say.

15 or 20 feet beyond the fence, a mine worker was standing on a knoll.  He was busy watching or directing someone else operating a truck or other equipment that could be heard, but wasn’t in sight from outside the fence.  Josh suggested asking him where this spot was on the map.  Sure, why not?

The miner was friendly, and glad to be of service.  He said this was the Wharf Mine.  No doubt that was true.  Other than that, he was a wealth of misinformation.  Before even looking at the topo map, he volunteered that Lupe and company were somewhere between Foley Mountain (6,640 ft.) and Terry Peak (7,064 ft.).

What!?  Impossible!  If true, Lupe had been going in completely the wrong direction for a long time.  Another glance at the map convinced SPHP that couldn’t possibly be right.  Lupe would have had to take the road up Lost Camp Gulch to be anywhere close to the area between Foley Mountain and Terry Peak.  Rizzo and Buddy had started up that road, but that hadn’t been where everyone had ultimately headed.

Josh and SPHP showed the miner the topo map.  He ultimately pointed out a different area ESE of Elk Mountain, and said that was where this place was.  That didn’t seem right either, but it wasn’t outlandish.  Lupe might not be too far S of there.  If so, that was good news.

Nearby, a road headed away from the fence.  The miner said to follow it to get to Elk Mountain.  Worth a shot, maybe.  After thanking the miner for his assistance, everyone took the unmarked road.

The snowy road was fairly level.  The forest was foggier than ever.  Away from the fence, all sense of direction, accurate or not, was lost.  Rizzo, Buddy, Lupe, Josh & SPHP arrived at a fork in the road.  Which way?  The road to the L led to a hill.  The road to the R was level or losing elevation gradually as it disappeared into the fog.

Rizzo in the fog that was threatening to confound Expedition No. 214.
After leaving the fence at the edge of the gold mine behind, Rizzo, Buddy, Lupe and Josh arrive at a fork in the road suggested by the miner. Which way now?
Buddy on the L, Rizzo again behind Josh. In the fog, Lupe was having a hard time even finding Elk Mountain. Photo looks ?

On the vast majority of mountains, the summit is kept at the top.  SPHP suggested taking the L fork going up the hill.  If Lupe was anywhere on the slopes of Elk Mountain, going up would eventually get everyone to the summit.

The hill proved to be a small one.  The road soon leveled out.  It began curving to the L, then disappeared beneath a pile of deadfall.  In every direction, the terrain sloped down.  Gah!  SPHP thought higher ground was visible in a small opening between trees off to the R, then became convinced it might only have been fog.

Josh had a compass!  He’d mentioned it before.  SPHP was completely turned around, so when Josh mentioned the compass again, suddenly it seemed to be the crucial missing link.  Was the compass accurate?  Josh was convinced it was.  According to the compass, this road up the hill had been going W before turning SW.

No one was going to get to Elk Mountain going SW!  SPHP still believed the mountain was NW from here, but NW was down a slope.  Lupe and SPHP led everyone N off the road, into the forest.  The terrain to the N lost elevation, too, but more slowly than going NW would have.  It wasn’t long before Lupe was gaining elevation again.  SPHP found a road!  Yes!

No!  Josh had the temerity to point out this was the very same road that had just been left behind.  Really?  Yeah, really.  There were the fresh foot and paw prints.  Proof positive.  Good grief!  Better go back to the fork and try the road to the R.  Josh headed off in the wrong direction.  Everyone arrived again at the place where the road turned SW and disappeared under the deadfall.  Company halt!  About face, and march!

Back once again at the fork, the road to the R was the next subject of exploration.  After 5 or 10 minutes, a long straight section was reached that stretched ahead as far as could be seen into the foggy forest.  What direction was that?  Josh checked the compass.  The road went W.

This wasn’t going to work either.  SPHP was convinced Lupe was still too far S.  Going a long way W would only bring everyone to cliffs at Spearfish Canyon.  A lot of time was being chewed up wandering all these roads.  Best to go back to the fence at the mine, and keep following it as before.  If that didn’t work, Expedition No. 214 was doomed to failure.  Sad, but true.

The terrain went down at first, as Lupe followed the fence.  This didn’t seem right, but she hadn’t gone far when suddenly, there was the pond!  It was faintly visible in the fog beyond the fence.  Confusion vanished.  Lupe was going to get Rizzo, Buddy and Josh to the top of Elk Mountain after all!  Puppies, ho!  Onward!

After crossing shallow McKinley Gulch, a rough road was reached.  This road went NE to an intersection near the upper end of the gulch.  A much better road ran E/W here.  W was now the way to go!  Still unseen, Elk Mountain was only 0.5 mile away.

On the road to success! Looking W on the road near the upper end of McKinley Gulch. Rizzo at Josh’s feet.

The road W soon arrived at another fork.  Lupe took the L branch going SW.  She followed it looking for one more turn, a driveway on the R.  Found it!  Gaining elevation all the way, the driveway headed W to the S side of Elk Mountain, then curled all the way around to the mountain’s E and then N slopes.

Rizzo and Buddy charge on ahead. The summit of Elk Mountain wasn’t much farther now! Photo looks NW.

It was only early November, but the top of Elk Mountain was a winter wonderland!  Snow, frost, cold and fog.  It could have been January, the way things looked and felt.

Lupe, Buddy & Rizzo on the final stretch to the summit. It was only early November, but Elk Mountain was a winter wonderland! Photo looks S.
A better look at Rizzo at lower L.
Buddy’s turn up front.

Due to the fog, the success of the whole expedition had been in doubt for hours, but everyone made it to the top of Elk Mountain (6,422 ft.).

Buddy and Josh Hilpert with Looper up on Elk Mountain. Rizzo’s here too, a little way off in the background.
Rizzo next to the playhouse at the summit of Elk Mountain. Rizzo once fell out of a truck at 60 mph, and is lucky to still be able to go exploring the Black Hills. Rizzo is a very experienced Black Hills explorer, and has been many places Lupe’s gone to, plus more besides!
Buddy at the summit. Buddy is a recent addition to the Hilpert clan. Lucky guy! He loves his weekly outings in the Black Hills with Josh and Rizzo. Buddy had one oddity about him. When he stood, one of his back legs would often start quivering and shaking as though he was very cold. Josh says this is normal for Buddy. It happens even when it’s warm out.

Of course, all views from Elk Mountain on this glorious day were hidden in the fog.  Right on the summit, though, was a sight that brought cheer to the whole group.  Lupe and SPHP had known it was here, but it was a complete and welcome surprise to Rizzo, Buddy & Josh.

At the top of the mountain is a small octagonal structure with 7 windows and a little door.  It appears to be a child’s playhouse.  Nothing of significance was inside.  Hundreds, maybe thousands of dead flies covered the carpeted floor.  On this cold, snowy day, that didn’t matter.

The playhouse was unlocked, a little warmer, and much drier than being outdoors.  It was just large enough so Rizzo, Buddy, Lupe, Josh & SPHP could all get inside.  Everyone got in to rest and warm up a bit.  Lupe had water and her usual Taste of the Wild.  Rizzo and Buddy tried some Taste of the Wild, too, and found it to their liking.

Josh and Buddy near the octagonal child’s playhouse on Elk Mountain. This structure came as a complete surprise to Rizzo, Buddy & Josh, but they were glad to see it on this cold day.
Of course, Lupe and SPHP had seen the playhouse before. In good weather, it has a fantastic view of the Wharf gold mine. Today, it was just large enough to serve as a shelter for the entire expedition.

Josh and SPHP discussed options for the rest of the day.  Unfortunately, it had taken so long to find Elk Mountain, there wasn’t going to be much time for extras.  The other original objective for the day, going to the cliffs overlooking Savoy, was out.  It would take too long to get there, and nothing would be gained from going to a fabulous viewpoint in the fog, anyway.

Ragged Top Mountain (6,200 ft.) was only 1.25 miles NW, but other than peakbagging for peakbagging’s sake, again there didn’t seem to be any point in the fog.  The old townsite of Preston was closer, but consists mainly of a single decaying old building.  Not too scintillating.  It wasn’t enough of an enticement on such a wintery day.

In the end, no other easily attainable objectives nearby came to mind.  Days are short in November, and it was already early afternoon.  In this weather it would get dark even earlier than normal.  Just getting back to the vehicles was going to take hours.

So once everyone had taken a break and warmed up a little in the charming, dead-fly decorated playhouse, it was time for another look around Elk Mountain’s summit before beginning the journey back.

Josh and Rizzo on Elk Mountain. The weather hadn’t improved any during break time in the playhouse. Photo looks SW.
Rizzo awaits departure time.
Josh grasps a post to which a small metal crucifix (not pictured) is attached while Buddy looks on. A certain Black Hills dingo is still in the vicinity, too. Photo looks NNE from near the playhouse.
Rizzo near the crucifix post. Photo looks NNW.
Looking W.
A self-flocking frosty tree.
Despite the weather, Lupe’s Elk Mountain guide service had ultimately been fruitful.

With no views to linger for, final inspection of Elk Mountain’s relatively small summit ridge didn’t take much time.  Soon the descent through the mountain’s winter wonderland began.

Rizzo & Buddy start the descent.
Josh and either Rizzo or Buddy on the upper N slope of Elk Mountain. Photo looks N.
Loopster blends in with the winter wonderland, not too far below the summit yet. Photo looks SSW.

The first part of the journey back was a simple retracement of the ascent.  By the time everyone was S of McKinley Gulch, back at the fence on the W side of the Wharf gold mine again, the fog had lifted to a degree.  The pond Lupe had been looking for on the way to Elk Mountain was now in clear sight.

On the journey back, the fog lifted to a degree. The pond at the Wharf gold mine was now in view from the fence around the mine. This pond is less than a mile SE of Elk Mountain. Photo looks N.

While heading S from the pond not far from the fence, SPHP saw terrain to the SW that looked familiar.  Hadn’t Lupe been over there the first time she went to Elk Mountain?  Yes!  A quick foray in that direction brought the expedition to a road Lupe had been on before.

From here, it was possible to follow a series of unmarked roads S or SE that ultimately led back down to Annie Creek.  The clouds had lifted enough to reveal partial views from a few points along the way.

Looking SW toward Spearfish Canyon.
Josh, Buddy & Lupe on the way down to Annie Creek. The W end of Foley Mountain (6,640 ft.) is in view. Photo looks SE.
Fellow Black Hills explorer and adventurer Josh Hilpert with Lupe.

Light was beginning to fade by the time the last intersection 1.5 miles from the vehicles was reached.  The rest of the way back was a snap from here.  Maybe enough time remained for a little more exploring?  SPHP talked Josh into checking out the road Lupe had taken to Elk Mountain the first time.

It was farther along this road to where the first bridge had collapsed than SPHP remembered.  After 0.5 mile or more, it was time to forget it and turn around.

In increasing darkness, the march back along Annie Creek Road seemed longer than it had early in the day.  The adventure dogs all had a fine time, though, while Josh and SPHP chatted.

There had been plenty of opportunities to visit during the day.  It had been fun to compare notes and have wide ranging discussions on peaks, places, and a variety of other topics.  Rizzo, Buddy and Lupe had gotten along well together.  The weather hadn’t been conducive to enjoying scenery, but had made Expedition No. 214 seem far more mysterious and challenging than it otherwise would have been.

It had been a good day, a fun time for all.  Rizzo, Buddy & Josh Hilpert live in Sturgis, SD, so perhaps more adventures are in store with Lupe’s new friends from time to time.  It’s something to look forward to!

With new adventuring friends Buddy & Josh on Elk Mountain. Camera-shy Rizzo was around here somewhere, too!

Links:

Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 172 – Elk Mountain, Ragged Top Mountain & Twin Peaks (5-14-16)

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

Pine Mountain, the Sweetwater County, Wyoming High Point (6-15-17)

Day 8 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range & Beyond!

Colorado!  For pity sake!  Edward Earl’s trip report had warned that the sign for the turnoff to Pine Mountain was difficult to see from the highway.  Supposedly, SPHP had been watching carefully for it.  Not carefully enough, apparently!  SPHP turned the G6 around.  Lupe headed N back into Wyoming.

After leaving Prior Flat and the Shirley Mountains this morning, most of the day had been spent traveling.  The afternoon drive S from Rock Springs on Hwy 430 had been gorgeous.  High, remote ridges and hills stretched to the horizon, separated by dusty oceans of undulating sagebrush prairies.  Classic Wyoming!

On the way S, Lupe had finally seen a mountain SPHP figured might well be Pine Mountain (9,550 ft.).  Even with this advance warning that Lupe must have been getting close, the turnoff had been missed.

30 or 40 miles S of Rock Springs on Hwy 430, this mountain came into view to the SSW. Maybe it was Pine Mountain? Photo looks SSW.
Getting closer. SPHP never really figured out if this was actually Pine Mountain, or another one close by. Photo looks SW.
This road leading into a scenic valley W of Hwy 430 looked intriguing, but Lupe didn’t get to explore it. It turned out this road wasn’t far from the Colorado border. Lupe had already missed the turn to Pine Mountain by the time she reached this point. Photo looks W.

The turnoff to Pine Mountain was supposed to be about 5 miles N of the Colorado border.  Of course, Edward Earl had been here way back in July, 2002.  Maybe the sign at the turn he referred to in his trip report was damaged, no longer existed, or had fallen over?  SPHP drove slowly N staring down each dirt road leading W from Hwy 430.

Maybe SPHP was just driving super slow, but it seemed like Lupe had gone well over 5 miles from the Colorado border.  Still nothing.  SPHP was considering turning around again for another pass at it going S, when at the top of a rise, there it was!  A BLM sign in perfectly good condition said “Pine Mountain 12”.  How had SPHP missed that?  Didn’t matter, Lupe was on her way!

The BLM sign at the turnoff was small, but in perfectly good condition. The turn is at the top of a rise on the W side of Hwy 430 between mile markers 49 & 50. Photo looks WSW.

It remained to be seen how far Lupe would get, however.  Edward Earl mentioned several sharply eroded ruts across the road within the first couple of miles.  Maybe the G6 wouldn’t be able to get past them?  That would be bad news.  A hot, dry 10 mile one-way march just to get to Pine Mountain wasn’t going to happen.

Fortunately, the sharply eroded ruts no longer seemed to exist.  Most encouraging!  The road was supposed to be good the rest of the way.  The next landmark Mr. Earl said to watch for was a fork in the road 4 miles from the highway.  A BLM sign on the L would say 8 miles to Pine Mountain.

At 3 miles, and again at 4 miles, Lupe came to unsigned 4-way intersections at minor crossroads.  Hmm.  Edward Earl hadn’t mentioned these.  SPHP drove straight at each one.  5 miles from the highway, Lupe did come to a fork in the road.  A BLM sign near the L fork said “Red Creek Basin, County Road #71, Titsworth Gap”.  No mention of Pine Mountain, or any clue as to where the road to the R went.

Pine Mountain was nowhere in sight.  The sign looked fairly new, but even if it had been replaced since Edward Earl was here, why didn’t it mention Pine Mountain?  None of the places listed meant anything to SPHP.  Still, the road to the L was going the right general direction.  It was probably the way.  Maybe best, though, to go a little farther on the road to the R, just to make certain another fork wasn’t coming up soon?

A 0.5 mile jaunt down the R fork revealed nothing other than that the road deteriorated rather quickly.  No other turns to the L could be seen for at least another 0.5 mile.  That settled it.  Lupe returned to the “Y” and took the road to the L.

A stuffed monkey hangs for no obvious reason from the new BLM sign at the “Y” about 5 miles from Hwy 430. Pine Mountain is nowhere in sight, but the road to the L, seen here winding off to the SW, is the right way to go!

Six miles later, SPHP parked the G6 at the base of Pine Mountain’s long NE ridge in a saddle just S of High Point 8510, a small butte mentioned by Mr. Earl.  It was getting late in the afternoon (5:17 PM), and the 9,550 ft. summit was still more than 4 miles away.

After being cooped up in the G6 most of the day, Lupe was ready for action!  A road goes all the way to the top of Pine Mountain, so getting to the summit would be a cinch.  The sun stays up late in June, so even on paw and foot Lupe and SPHP would have plenty of time.  Maybe Loop would even get to enjoy a nice sunset up there?

The trek had barely started, when SPHP nearly stepped on a baby pronghorn antelope hiding on the ground.  It was very much alive.  Lupe was already off racing around the fields, so she hadn’t seen it.  Best that she didn’t.  SPHP hurried over to the road leading up the mountain.  Lupe never did see the baby pronghorn.  No doubt she would have loved to, but it wouldn’t have been a good thing.

Lupe never did see this baby pronghorn antelope hiding on the ground.
The G6 is parked in the saddle S of High Point 8510 (L), the small butte mentioned by Edward Earl. The road on the R goes all the way to the top of Pine Mountain. It was fairly steep in places, and had one rough section at the end of a big switchback, but overall it was quite good. Even the G6 might have made it to the top. Where’s the fun in that, though? Photo looks NNW.

Despite its woodsy name, only the N side of Pine Mountain turned out to be forested.  Most of the mountain was bare or sported only scattered trees.  The road to the top never entered the forest.  Consequently, Lupe had big sweeping views all the way up the mountain.  They only got better as she gained elevation.

Only the N slopes of Pine Mountain were forested. Lupe never entered the forest. She enjoyed huge panoramic views all the way up the mountain. The road to Hwy 430 is seen below. Photo looks NE.

The first 1.5 miles were by far the steepest.  Near the end of it, the road made a single giant switchback followed by a short rocky section.  After that the slope of the mountain decreased steadily.

Looking up the steepest part of the climb. Not bad at all, really! Beyond the high point seen above, the slope of the mountain decreased steadily. Photo looks SSW.
Yellow wildflowers like these dotted the slopes of Pine Mountain.
Still early in the climb. The tan tank in the distance may be the water tank Edward Earl referred to in his trip report. The main road to the top of Pine Mountain used to go by it, but has been rerouted. The mountain in the distance is Diamond Peak (9,640 ft.) in Colorado. Photo looks SSE.
View to the NE in early evening light.
Four J Basin from Pine Mountain’s NE ridge. Photo looks ESE.

Once past the steep part, the road headed SW up a wide, grassy, but otherwise barren slope.  The view from the road would remain boringly the same for more than 2 miles.  Far to the R was the edge of the forest.  Far to the L was the SE edge of the mountain.

Yes, that’s right! The view along the road was like this for more than 2 miles. Boring! That’s why I went L over to follow the edge of the mountain. Great views over there! Photo looks SW.

After trudging nearly half of this dull distance on the road, even SPHP began to realize this trek would be a lot more fun over by the edge where Lupe could see the big views to the SE.

The edge of the mountain provided splendid views the entire way.  The only disadvantage was that the higher Lupe went, the windier and colder the edge became.  Loop didn’t care for the wind, but it wasn’t unbearable.

The wind makes Lupe squint, but she had a fantastic view of Middle Mountain (9,559 ft.) (R) and Diamond Peak (9,640 ft.) (Center in the distance) to the SE.
Loopster along the SE edge of Pine Mountain. Photo looks SW.

The highest part of Pine Mountain forms a huge crescent pointing SW.  The terrain features mostly small rocks, small plants, and is otherwise barren and flat.  The topo map shows two high points near the S edge.  At the far SE end, the former site of an old radio tower is shown as having an elevation of 9,546 ft.  Nearly half a mile to the WNW is the official summit with an elevation of 9,550 ft.

Lupe arrived at the SE high point first.  A small concrete platform only 3′ x 3′ was all that seemed to remain of the radio tower.  The platform was located next to the start of a long fence which swept around to the W from here near the S edge of the mountain.

At the SE end of Pine Mountain, Lupe reached this concrete platform, apparently all that remains of an old radio tower installation. As near as SPHP could tell, this was High Point 9,546 on the topo map. Photo looks W.
Near the old radio tower site looking SSE. The mountains in the distance are all in Colorado. Lupe is less than 2 miles from the border here.
The snow-capped peaks barely visible on the far horizon on the L are likely part of the Uinta Range in Utah. Photo looks WSW.

A two track dirt road ran along the N side of the fence close to the edge of the mountain.  Since she still hadn’t made it to Pine Mountain’s official summit, Lupe followed this road W, continuing on it as it curved gradually to the WNW, then NW.

Following the road N of the fence, Lupe came to several piles of old fence posts along the way. Photo looks N.

Edward Earl had mentioned that each of the two spot elevations on the topo map appeared higher when viewed from the other.  In Mr. Earl’s opinion, HP 9546 near the old radio tower site was likely the true summit, not HP 9550 which was the true summit according to the map.

Like Mr. Earl, Lupe visited both of these points.  In the end, SPHP had no firm opinion where the true summit actually was, only that Lupe must have reached it somewhere along the way.  No matter where Lupe was along the rim of the mountain, the terrain in the distance always looked definitely somewhat higher!

Perhaps the American Dingo knew exactly when she reached the true summit, but she maintained silence on the point.  Dingoes don’t fret about such things.  As far as Lupe was concerned, she’d done her peakbagging job and reached the top of Pine Mountain (9,550 ft.).

Near the SW end of the mountain, not too far from the official 9,550 ft. summit on the topo map, Lupe came to a green gate in the fence.  She went through the gate, and started a little down the slope before stopping near the edge of the steepest part.  A fairly strong wind still blew out of the SW, making things rather chilly on the totally exposed edge.

As far as the Carolina Dog could see, unspoiled open territory stretched past grand valleys and hills to distant mountains, some snow-capped, on the far horizon.

Lupe enjoying tremendous views along the SW edge of Pine Mountain. Photo looks W.
Barely visible snow-capped peaks are on the horizon. Perhaps part of the Uinta Range in NE Utah? Photo looks SW.
The same snowy peaks with lots of help from the telephoto lens. Photo looks SW.
The forested hill in the foreground is Kleins Hill (9,048 ft.) in Colorado. Photo looks S.

Nearly an hour remained before sunset.  Other than the wind, which seemed to be gradually weakening as the sun sank, there wasn’t a reason in the world why Lupe shouldn’t stay to enjoy the show.  Seldom has she had such a tremendous vantage point near the end of a day, plus a great route back to the G6 that would be easy to follow even after dark.

Lupe had water and Taste of the Wild, then curled up in the breeze to see how the evening would turn out.

Loop waits for sunset from her great vantage point on Pine Mountain. Photo looks NW.

For a while, the already splendid scene didn’t change much.  The sun was still too far above the horizon.  Lupe and SPHP sat huddled together against the breeze, gazing off toward Colorado and Utah, enjoying the solitude.

For a while, the views didn’t change much. The sun was still too far above the horizon. Enough clouds were around, though, to encourage the notion that the sunset might be a good one. Photo looks SW.

Slowly, the sun’s rays slanted more sharply.  A golden glow crept over the land.  Contrasts deepened between light and shadow, highlighting features of the terrain.  In the distance, outlines stood out, sky now easily differentiated from mountains and ridges.

Slowly a golden glow spread over the land highlighting features of the terrain. Photo looks W.

Lupe bathed in the golden glow, too.

Looking SSW.

The light intensified rapidly in the final brief moments before sunset.  Lupe was transformed to a brilliantly illuminated Dingo goddess!

Lupe stands brilliantly illuminated during the final brief moments before sunset. Photo looks S.
The Dingo goddess.

The golden glow faded.  Shadow spread over the earth.  Sunlight retreated to the realm of sky and clouds.

Sunlight retreated to the realm of clouds and sky. Photo looks SW.
Looking NNW.

The show wasn’t over yet, though.  Not until the sun disappeared completely did the evening sky rise to its colorful peak of glory.

Not until the sun disappeared completely did the evening sky rise to its most colorful peak of glory. Photo looks WNW.

And then it was over.  Colors collapsed.  The sky turned gray, the earth black.  Lupe had remained to the end.  Now the former Dingo goddess started the long trek back, traveling in deepening shadow the barren, breezy surface of this lofty dark underworld.

The sky grew black.  So black, the ancient dim light of stars and galaxies blazed above, a shining echo from the edge of infinity of what once was eons ago.  Miles to the E, a single small grouping of bright electric lights.  On the far N horizon, a faint glow that must have been Rock Springs.  Elsewhere, the pitch black unbroken reign of night.

On the move, heading down, the beautiful, quiet evening slipped by.  The dying breeze brought the only news, subtle hints from the wild, to a still curious, quivering nose on Pine Mountain.  (10:52 PM)

Lupe on Pine Mountain, 6-15-17

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Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 213 – Crows Nest Peak (10-29-17)

Start: 8:35 AM, 42°F, at the first pullout SE of USFS Road No. 157 along West Deerfield Road near Castle Creek

A week shot by.  The American Dingo was back!  The G6 was parked no more than a mile NW of where it had been at the start of Expedition No. 212 only 7 days ago.  Back then Lupe had gone N visiting 4 peaks along the E edge of the limestone plateau.  Today she would be going mostly W farther into the high country.

A short walk NW along West Deerfield Road brought Loop to the start of USFS Road No. 157.  Close to the intersection, a bridge went over Castle Creek.  Lupe had started off Expedition No. 212 by checking out Castle Creek.  May as well make it a tradition!  Before crossing the bridge, Lupe went down near the stream.  As always, Castle Creek was looking good!

Just like on Expedition No. 212 a week ago, Lupe started off Expedition No. 213 with a quick visit to Castle Creek. The creek was looking good, and a cheery American Dingo was expecting another great day exploring the Black Hills.

Returning to No. 157, Lupe crossed the bridge.  The road went past a house over to the SW side of the Castle Creek valley, before turning SE for 0.5 mile.  Lupe could still see the G6.  Beyond it was a forested ridge featuring an impressive limestone cap.  This late October morning was cool and bright.  Everything was bathed in sunlight.  What a beautiful day!

Lupe on USFS Road No. 157. The red G6 is in view parked near West Deerfield Road on the other side of the Castle Creek valley. Photo looks NNE.

The first part of the plan for the day was to take No. 157 from the Castle Creek valley up into the limestone plateau country.  Lupe didn’t start gaining elevation until she was getting close to a big bend where No. 157 makes a nearly 180° turn going around the SE end of a forested ridge.  After making the turn, the road climbed steadily heading WNW high on the SW side of the ridge.  Private property down in the Silver Creek valley could be seen below.

About 0.33 mile from the big bend, Lupe reached an intersection with USFS Road No. 157.1A.  Loop had followed No. 157 up the Silver Creek valley at least a couple of times on previous Black Hills expeditions, but she’d never been on No. 157.1A before.  The topo map showed that No. 157.1A stayed higher up near the spine of the ridge, and would eventually feed back into No. 157 again in a couple of miles.

Why not?  Exploring a new route is usually fun.  Lupe took No. 157.1A.

No. 157.1A went NW for a while.  Low juniper bushes provided scattered ground cover beneath a pine forest.  The terrain sloped moderately up to the NE.  The road stayed within a few hundred feet of the top of the ridge.

Lupe gained a fair amount of elevation.  However, the day’s early sunshine seemed to have vanished.  It actually seemed colder now than when Lupe had started out.  The mood of the day had really changed.  Gone was the bright cheerfulness.  Suddenly the forest felt quiet, remote, sullen – like late fall of a dying year, with more than a hint of winter.

Lupe might get a decent look at the Castle Creek valley from the top of the ridge, if a place could be found where trees didn’t block the view.  As she went on, a few rocks appeared near the ridgeline.  Close to one of these rocks a narrow, gray opening could be seen between the pines.  Might as well take a look!  Lupe sniffed her way through the forest to the top of the ridge.

No wonder the mood had turned grim and chill!  Lupe could see Castle Creek valley alright, but the sky was completely overcast.  Not a speck of blue anywhere.  Mountaintops across the valley were shrouded in fog.

At this little opening along the ridge near USFS Road No. 157.1A, Lupe could see Castle Creek valley below. However, the mountaintops were now cloaked in fog, and the day’s earlier cheerful, sunny mood had vanished. Photo looks N.

Lupe went NW through the forest a little way, then returned to the road.  She reached it near a “Y” intersection.  USFS Road No. 157.1C branched off to the N here, going over a small saddle.  The maps showed it would eventually dead end.

The American Dingo stuck with No. 157.1A, which headed more W than before.  The road climbed more steeply for a little way before leveling out.  Lupe had left the edge of Castle Creek valley behind now.

Continuing W on USFS Road No. 157.1A.

As Loop traveled onward, it appeared as though there were high points off to the SW which might provide a view of Silver Creek valley.  She didn’t bother going over there, though.  Probably not worth the effort with low clouds and fog around.  The Carolina Dog stayed on the road, which wound around still heading W.

Lupe continues W on USFS Road No. 157.1A. The scene varied somewhat along the way. Lupe saw high points off to the SW that she didn’t bother visiting that might have provided a view of the Silver Creek valley. Sometimes there were rock formations to the N or NE. This area had quite a bit of deadfall timber.

Suddenly, Lupe noticed a pickup truck ahead parked on the road.  Two men dressed in camouflage were standing near it.  Hunters!  Lupe and SPHP had to go right by them.  Neither looked or acted friendly.  The younger one asked SPHP only where Lupe was going, and seemed suspicious of the answer – Crows Nest Peak.  Meanwhile, the older man fiddled with a bow and ammunition.

No doubt Crows Nest Peak (7,048 ft.) was an unlikely response.  Crows Nest Peak was still miles away.  Furthermore, though one of the highest points in the Black Hills, Crows Nest Peak wasn’t much of a peak at all, just a spot in the woods nominally higher than the surrounding terrain.  Why would anyone be going there?  Wandering alone way out here on a gloomy day like this was probably suspicious enough itself.  Crows Nest Peak must have seemed a doubly suspicious and evasive answer.

Lupe went right on by the hunters.  SPHP had no intention of stopping to explain.  If the hunters were surprised to see Lupe, seeing them had been a surprise, too.  Best to avoid any possibility of getting into a quarrel with armed strangers with unfriendly dispositions, especially in such a remote place.  These guys were weird – in an unbalanced, slightly threatening way.

That was it, though.  Nothing happened.  Lupe reached the end of USFS Road No. 157.1A where it met up with No. 157 again.  This was familiar territory, although it had been 2 years since Looper had last been here.  For more than a mile, she continued WNW on No. 157.  She reached a junction with No. 157.1F, which headed N to Fulton Draw.

Lupe didn’t need to go to Fulton Draw.  It only led back down to Castle Creek.  She stayed on No. 157, which gradually began curving SW.  The terrain was flat along in here.  Lupe had already gained most of the elevation she would need to on the way to Crows Nest Peak.

More than 0.67 mile beyond No. 157.1F, Lupe reached another junction.  An unmarked road branched off to the R.  Just beyond this intersection, a barbed wire fence crossed No. 157.  Lupe made a short foray along the unmarked road.  She came to a place where ice rested in large, muddy ruts at a curve in the road.

A short exploratory foray along the unmarked road brought Lupe to these ice-filled muddy ruts at a curve.

Hmm.  If Lupe managed to make it to Crows Nest Peak today, it would be her 4th successful ascent.  However, she had only reached it once before coming from this general  direction.  On that occasion, traveling through the forest, Lupe had come to a small pond with cattails.

Was the cattail pond where this road was heading?  It seemed likely.  SPHP remembered a road near the pond, but Lupe hadn’t taken it.  Instead, from the cattail pond she’d followed a barbed wire fence a long way N or NW through the woods.  Although Lupe had ultimately made it to Crows Nest Peak, she’d gone a long way through a trackless stretch of forest with no real landmarks.  Trying that again in this weather seemed unwise.

Lupe returned to No. 157 and continued past the barbed wire fence.  SPHP expected her to reach a road going to Procunter Spring pretty soon, but she didn’t.  Odd.  After more than 0.5 mile, Lupe reached a “Y”.  Only the branch to the R could possibly be the way to Procunter Spring, but even it didn’t seem quite right.

Lupe reaches another road intersection. Did the road to the R lead to Procunter Spring? SPHP knew Lupe was near the N end of Coulsen Hughes Draw, but being here in the fog was disorienting, as though Lupe was in a dream.

The Carolina Dog had been here before.  Loop wasn’t far from Coulsen Hughes Draw.  SPHP was certain of that.  Yet it had been years since she had been at this exact spot.  Being here now in the fog felt like a dream where things look familiar, yet are all jumbled up.  Which way?

SPHP checked the map.  Somewhere around here, Loop was supposed to leave No. 157 and travel NW staying on high ground.  The actual terrain didn’t seem to match up very well with what the map showed, though.  Slightly higher ground was back the way Lupe had come to reach this intersection.  Maybe it made sense to retrace her route a little before plunging into the forest?

So that’s what Lupe did.  She went back to a place where there was a bit of a hill off to the L.  Despite misgivings, SPHP then followed her into the trees.  In the fog, the forest seemed mysterious, abandoning the road faintly dangerous.  The only real landmark Lupe would come to was a huge field 1.5 to 2 miles off to the NW.  It might be terribly easy to get turned around and lost before ever getting there.

Lupe hadn’t gone far before there was reason for concern.  She’d climbed the small forested hill, but the high ground she was supposed to follow NW from here didn’t seem to exist.  Instead, the forest sloped gradually down in every direction.  Not far ahead, a meadow could be glimpsed through the trees, which didn’t seem right either.  May as well check it out, though.

Lupe reached the edge of the meadow.  What she saw was surprising, almost shocking.  The meadow was wide and very long, so long the end couldn’t be seen in either direction.  It made no sense.  How could Lupe have missed this huge meadow on her prior attempts to reach Crows Nest Peak from this direction?  It seemed impossible, yet here it was.

Which way?  Lupe looked expectantly at SPHP.  What was the holdup?  SPHP stood staring at the meadow, pondering the view first in one direction, then the other.  Not a clue.  Everything looked wrong.  Nothing made sense.  There had to be an explanation, though.  What was it?

Confusion vanished.  Certainty came flooding back.  Oh, yeah, it all made sense now!  This long meadow was the NW branch of Coulsen Hughes Draw.  Had to be!  SPHP had become disoriented in the fog, apparently even before Lupe had left the road.  This meadow didn’t run E/W like SPHP initially believed.  Lupe had been traveling W, not N, going over the hill.  This meadow went N/S.

Lupe turned N, gradually gaining elevation.  As expected, the American Dingo soon came to an old wooden sign where the road to Procunter Spring crossed Coulsen Hughes Draw.  Whew!  Back on track.  Simply amazing how easy it had been to get turned around in the fog!

When Lupe found this sign along USFS Road No. 157 in Coulsen Hughes Draw, SPHP was finally certain where she was again. It was amazing how easily disoriented SPHP had become in the fog! Photo looks NE.

Puppy, ho!  Lupe still had a long way to go to get to Crows Nest Peak.  At least she knew which way to go now.  From the sign, Loop followed No. 157 going NE.  When the road curved E, she took a side road heading N through a gap in a fence.

The side road had a lot of deadfall timber on it.  Lupe soon left it heading WNW across the upper end of Coulsen Hughes Draw.  Moderately higher ground was ahead.  Lupe reached the top of a broad forested ridge.  This was part of the high ground she had been supposed to take NW, though she was farther W on it than SPHP had intended.  No matter, Lupe could get to Crows Nest Peak this way.  Onward!

On the broad ridge NNW of Coulsen Hughes Draw. Photo looks N.

For 0.75 mile, Lupe traveled N or NW on top of the broad ridge.  It was still overcast, but not as foggy up here as it had been back at Coulsen Hughes Draw.  Lupe ran and sniffed.  There was no road or trail to follow.  Lupe loved exploring, and things seemed to be going well.

Farther N on the ridge, Lupe came to this nice stand of white-barked aspens. Photo looks NW.

At the N end of the ridge, the terrain began sloping down.  Lupe came to another road, which seemed vaguely familiar.  Lupe had been here on one of her previous expeditions, hadn’t she?  The American Dingo followed the road downhill to the W a short distance, before leaving it to continue N.

More pretty white aspens seen on the way down off the ridge. Photo looks WNW.

Lupe went over a small forested hill, and quickly arrived at the edge of a big field.  Yes!  Reaching this field meant Loop was less than a mile from Crows Nest Peak.

Finally at the big field. Reaching this point meant Loopster was less than a mile SE of Crows Nest Peak. Photo looks SW.

At the far side of the field, Lupe could see a road heading N into the forest.  This might well be USFS Road No. 266.  Lupe crossed the field.  The road wasn’t marked, but it was going the right way.  Loop and SPHP took the road.

After passing through a stretch of forest, what looked like the level top of an earthen dam for a stock pond could be seen off in the woods.  Lupe went over to check it out.  Sure enough, a small iced-over shallow pond was on the other side.  Not 15 feet away, down next to the pond, was the carcass of a deer.

Something alive was feeding on the carcass!  An instant after Lupe arrived on the scene, a head turned and fixed a beady yellow eye on her.  Unhappy at being disturbed, a huge feathery eagle launched into the sky and flew off.  It wasn’t a bald eagle, but the giant bird was still a sight to see.  You would have had to been there, though.  SPHP was way too slow to get a photo.

Lupe (L) at “Eagle Pond”. Photo looks SW.
Another look at Eagle Pond. Lupe on the L again. Photo looks W.
This deer carcass the eagle had been feeding on was only a couple feet from the frozen pond.

From Eagle Pond, the road Lupe was following turned W or WNW.  Loopster hadn’t gone too far on it when another road came in from the ENE.  A marker showed this was USFS Road No. 377.1B.

At the junction with USFS Road No. 377.1B. Finding No. 377.1B confirmed that Lupe had been following No. 266 since crossing the big field. Photo looks NE.

Finding No. 377.1B confirmed that Lupe had been following USFS Road No. 266 since crossing the big field.  Lupe took the road leading W from the junction.  Crows Nest Peak was no more than 0.25 mile away now.  In fact, Loop could soon see a hill N of the road.  The summit had to be up there.

Even though it was a slightly longer route, the Carolina Dog stuck with the road.  When she reached a familiar meadow SW of the summit, she turned N on a spur road that would take her there.  The spur is so seldom traveled that it didn’t even seem much like a road anymore.  It was more like a single track trail.

Nearly there! This spur road, which is so infrequently traveled it now seems more like a single track trail, curls up to the top of Crows Nest Peak from the SW. Photo looks SSW.

The spur road went N climbing a hill before leveling out.  A little farther on it curved E.  Lupe immediately arrived at the frozen remnant of a tiny pond.  She climbed up on a mound of red dirt at the W end.  She’d made it to Crows Nest Peak!  This wasn’t the official summit, which was still a football field E, but had to be about as high, and was the landmark Lupe always went by.

On the mound of red dirt at the W end of the tiny frozen pond. This pond is only a few hundred feet W of Crows Nest Peak’s summit. Photo looks SW.
The browns, pale blue, and white of the frozen pond were kind of pretty.
Looking E from the red mound on the W side of the frozen pond. The official summit of Crows Nest Peak is straight ahead a short distant into the trees slightly R of Center.

Lupe had come a long way.  Time to claim her peakbagging success!  The Carolina Dog left the frozen pond heading E.  She crossed a small grassy area.  There used to be a road here, but no trace of it remained.  At a small opening in the forest maybe 60 or 70 feet back into the trees, Lupe came to a survey stake and benchmark.

This was it!  This flat place in the forest entirely lacking views in any direction, a total and complete mockery of its name, was one of the highest spots in the whole Black Hills.  Lupe was at the official summit of Crows Nest Peak (7,048 ft.).

Intrepid explorer and adventurer, Lupe the Carolina Dog, reaches the summit of Crows Nest Peak for the 4th time. Photo looks NE.
105 years have passed since this survey benchmark was placed on Crows Nest Peak in 1912. While much of the rest of the world has been transformed since then, Crows Nest Peak can’t have changed too much, at least not yet. Lupe and SPHP like it that way.
Crows Nest Peak summit. Some crow’s nest! This joint is flat as a pancake and devoid of views. Yet this remote high ground is still one of Lupe and SPHP’s favorite spots in the entire Black Hills. Photo looks E.
Yes, I made it! You didn’t really think a little fog was going to stop an American Dingo, did you?

It had been a long, and occasionally confusing trek.  Lupe and SPHP took a half hour break near the survey marker.  Taste of the Wild, water, and an apple.  Tiny snowflakes drifted down on a light swirling breeze.  The temperature must have been at or below freezing, but the tiny flakes all melted as they hit.

Cold, humid, quiet.  SPHP sat on the ground petting Lupe’s soft fur.  She liked that.  Snowflakes filled the air.  It felt again like winter was coming.  Hidden in the remote high country, despite the absence of views, Crows Nest Peak was still a magical place.

This foggy, overcast day had been the perfect day to come here.  It didn’t matter that there weren’t any views.  Lupe wouldn’t have been able to see them anyway, even if there had been some.  Her journey here had felt more mysterious and adventurous beneath the close gray sky.

It seemed like Lupe still had plenty of time; she’d gotten off to a fairly early start this morning.  Hard to tell for certain, though, without being able to see the sun.  It was one thing to wander around in the fog, entirely another to get caught in darkness away from any road on a cold, snowy night.  Lupe at least better get back to No. 157 before it got dark.

On the way back, Lupe had many more adventures.  Although she was following the same basic route, she varied it enough to explore a fair amount of previously unseen territory along the way.  The temperature slowly dropped.  It didn’t snow all the time, but it did more and more often.  Never too hard, and the snowflakes were never too big.

Starting back. Lupe near the tiny frozen pond toward the W end of Crows Nest Peak. Photo looks WSW.
At the junction of USFS Roads No. 266 & 377.1B, this unmarked road went S. Lupe explored it all the way back to the big field. Photo looks S.
Upon reaching the big field somewhere SW of where Lupe had crossed it before, the unmarked road went past this larger pond. Photo looks ENE.
Back at the big field. Photo looks SSE.
On another road after crossing the big field. Loop is now heading for the start of the big trackless ridge leading back to Coulsen Hughes Draw and USFS Road No. 157. The N end of that ridge begins only a little SE of here. Photo looks NW.

This seemed to be a big day for discovering frozen ponds.  A little E of the ridge Lupe had followed N from Coulsen Hughes Draw earlier, Loop found yet another one in a shallow valley.

On the way back, Lupe discovered this pond E of the big ridge she had followed N from Coulsen Hughes Draw earlier in the day. Photo looks S.

A faint road leading S from this pond ultimately proved to be the same one where she’d left USFS Road No. 157 hours ago.  This proved that the pond was situated at the far, far N end of Coulsen Hughes Draw.

Upon reaching No. 157 again, Lupe followed it E.  She hadn’t gone too far, when she came to a barbed wire fence.  Beyond it was the old cattail pond!

Lupe reaches the cattail pond along USFS Road No. 157. Photo looks NE.

The cattail pond was the last pond of the day.  No. 157 turned S here, and quickly led Lupe past the muddy ruts with ice in them she had seen before.  Another mystery solved!

The Carolina Dog’s explorations were nearly over now.  Lupe stuck to No. 157 going E.  She passed by No. 157.1F again.  She returned to No. 157.1A.  The weird hunters were gone.  Good!

It snowed harder.  In a few places, a little began to stick.  A 15 minute off-road foray to a potential viewpoint revealed only snow and fog.  OK, that was it.  The rest of the way back was all business.  Lupe watched, but didn’t even bark at a herd of cows grazing near the junction of USFS Roads No. 157.1A and No. 157.

Near the junction of USFS Roads No. 157.1A and No. 157. Lupe watched, but didn’t even bark at these cows. Photo looks S.
Heading down USFS Road No. 157. The Silver Creek Valley is below on the R. Photo looks SE.

Lupe hopped into the G6 without hesitation (5:57 PM, 29°F).  Moments later, a frigid wind came out of the NW blowing snow much harder than before down Castle Creek valley.

During October, 2017, Lupe had visited many of the highest peaks in the Black Hills along the E edge of the limestone plateau.  In most cases she hadn’t been to these peaks in more than 2 years.  Expedition No. 213 had been a fun day out, but suddenly it was looking like Crows Nest Peak would be the last the Carolina Dog would see of the high country this year.

On USFS Road No. 157 back in the Castle Creek valley at the end of the day. Photo looks NW.

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The Shirley Mountains High Point & Quealey Benchmark, Wyoming (6-14-17)

Day 7 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range, Wyoming & Beyond!

S of Casper, roughly a mile W of Hwy 77, the wide, dusty gravel road (County Road No. 105) came to a “Y”.  Off to the SW, beyond an expanse of prairie, rose an isolated mountain range.  Although reaching more than 9,000 feet in elevation, these mountains didn’t appear particularly high, rugged or striking.  The Shirley Mountains looked more like a collection of big forested ridges.

The isolated Shirley Mountains weren’t particularly rugged, appearing more like a collection of big forested ridges. Photo looks SW.

Lupe was coming to visit the Shirley Mountains High Point (9,151 ft.), but SPHP knew next to nothing about this place.  Copies of an old topo map showed a long dotted road winding 7 miles or so in from the N that passed near the high point.  A 4WD road?  Probably.  In that case, the G6 wouldn’t be able to do it.

That wasn’t the real issue.  The Carolina Dog could travel the 7 miles on her own easily enough.  Two other questions loomed larger.  First, was there even access?  This might be all private land.  In that case, some landowner would have to be sought out, and permission obtained to even enter the area.

Second, even if access was available or could be obtained, did the road shown on the map exist in good enough condition so Lupe could follow it?  If not, the American Dingo might end up lost in the forest, as SPHP tried to make sense of a multi-mile bushwhack based solely on the old topo map.  These mountains didn’t appear to have many prominent features to orient by.  Wandering around up there might prove confusing.

A sign at the “Y” was somewhat encouraging.  Left was BLM Road No. 3115 (E end).  Right was the way to BLM Road No. 3115 (W end) in 6 miles, County Road No. 291 in 19 miles, and Miracle Mile in 25 miles.  A BLM road going up into the Shirley Mountains at least meant there was public access!

SPHP took a L driving S toward (on?) BLM Road No. 3115 (E end).  Lupe rode with her head out the window.  She was loving this!  Herds of pronghorn antelope were out on the prairie.  Unlike cows and horses, the antelope paid attention to the yippy-yappy Dingo.  Racing across the prairie, they inspired even more vigorous, frantic Dingo antics.  No doubt about it, as far as Loop was concerned, the day was off to an exciting, exhilarating start!

SPHP wasn’t nearly as thrilled.  The whole trip S on BLM Road No. 3115 (E end) was a fiasco.  After exploring 3 more “Y’s”, including a useless trip W partway into the impressive Creek Land & Livestock Company ranch, a road could be seen going W up into the Shirley Mountains.  The stony, rutted remnant of a road the G6 was on appeared to link up to it a few miles farther on.

No way!  The G6 was getting beat to death on this miserable excuse for a road.  Continuing without high clearance and a rugged suspension system was a disaster waiting to happen.  Disaster wasn’t likely to hold off much longer, either.  SPHP did the prudent thing and turned around.

Another jarring, nerve-wracking, exciting ride back past the antelope ensued.  To SPHP’s great relief, Lupe reached the first “Y” again.  This time, SPHP drove W on County Road No. 105.  This road did not deteriorate, and some 6 miles farther on Lupe reached another intersection.  A sign indicated that a side road going S was Shirley Mountains Loop Road No. 3115.  Prior Flat Campground was 0.4 mile away.

Hmm.  It was a bit odd that BLM Road No. 3115 (West End) apparently entered the Shirley Mountains from the N instead of W, but whatever.  No point in quibbling.  SPHP was actually rather pleased.  This might be the same road shown on the topo map, in which case Lupe would have public access all the way to the Shirley Mountains High Point.

SPHP made the turn S.  0.4 mile up a grassy slope, Lupe arrived at Prior Flat Campground.

Lupe arrives at Prior Flat Campground. The campground is tucked up against the trees at the N end of the Shirley Mountains, and features an expansive view of Prior Flat, a huge open prairie to the N.

Prior Flat Campground was awesome!  Two loops with campsites were tucked up in or near the trees at the base of the N end of the Shirley Mountains.  To the N was an expansive view of Prior Flat, a broad prairie.  Beyond were thirsty-looking low mountains, ridges and hills.

The whole place felt remote, abandoned.  Not a soul seemed to be around, and apparently the campground was free!  No mention of fees or registrations required anywhere.  A most excellent situation!  Lupe and SPHP grabbed a spot along the W loop, backing the G6 into the shade of aspen trees near a picnic table.

Lupe on open ground within the rail fence serving as the N boundary of Prior Flat CG. On the R, Country Road No. 105 winds away off to the W. In the foreground, Shirley Mountain Loop Road No. 3115 goes right through the CG. Photo looks W.

After a quick bite to eat, Lupe and SPHP left the G6 at the campground, and started up Shirley Mountain Loop Road No. 3115 (11:04 AM, 52°F).  For nearly a mile, the road went steadily SW up a forested valley.  SPHP was quickly convinced this was Prior Draw.  Lupe was on the exact same road on the old topo map that would lead her close to the Shirley Mountains High Point.

At the upper end of Prior Draw, the road turned E near a saddle on a ridge to the S.  Lupe left the road and climbed up to the saddle.  She had a view to the SW, but was more interested in a lone snow bank back in among the trees.  After frolicking and cooling off on the snow, Loop returned to the road.

At the upper end of Prior Draw, Lupe was more interested in this nice, cold snow bank than the view. Photo looks SSW.

No. 3115 now went 0.5 mile SE, then 1.0 mile S.  Lupe gained elevation the whole time.  The forest sometimes gave way to large, open meadows.  A high, distant mountain could be seen off to the W, but SPHP was uncertain what mountain that might be.  After passing by driveways to a couple of cabins in a more wooded area, Lupe reached flatter, open ground.

The Carolina Dog was getting fairly high up now.  Ahead she could see a tower at the top of a ridge.  This tower was at High Point 8712 on the topo map.

Approaching the tower at High Point 8712. Photo looks SE.

Lupe followed No. 3115 to the top of the ridge.  Two side roads, not far from one another, led off in different directions.  The first road went NE to the tower, which was now close at hand.  The second road disappeared into a forest to the WSW.  Instead of going to the tower, Loop took the road into the forest.  This had to be the way to Peak 8720.

Peak 8720 was a Brian Kalet peak, meaning simply that Brian Kalet, a prolific peakbagger, had entered the mountain into the Peakbagger.com database that Lupe also uses to track her ascents.  Early in 2017, Lupe had visited quite a number of Brian Kalet peaks in the southern Black Hills.

Since the Peak 8720 summit was only a 0.5 mile side trip, Lupe might as well visit this Brian Kalet peak, too!  She’d already basically climbed it.  The top of the mountain was no more than 40 to 60 feet higher than where she was now.

The side road going through the forest brought Lupe to a humongous snow drift.  The road disappeared beneath it.

The side road going WSW through the forest brought Lupe to this humongous snow drift!

The giant snow bank was just inside the W edge of the forest.  The snow must have drifted in last winter driven by winds sweeping over a huge flat meadow that was directly ahead beyond the trees.  Since the road disappeared beneath the snow, Lupe had no choice but to go right over the drift, a task she thoroughly enjoyed.

On the other side of the snow bank, the road reappeared.  Lupe followed it as it emerged from the forest and continued through the meadow.  The terrain was flat as a pancake.  The meadow extended all the way to the edge of a canyon, but the road turned N halfway there.  Lupe left the road to go find out what could be seen from the meadow’s edge.

A strong W wind swept across the meadow.  Lupe was traveling right into the teeth of it.  The wind grew stronger and stronger as she neared the edge of the meadow.  By the time she got there, Loop was standing in a gale.  She had a good view of the Cave Creek valley below, and mostly forested mountains and ridges beyond.

Looking W across Cave Creek valley from Peak 8720. The W wind coming from behind Lupe was a gale here near the edge.

The view was nice, but Lupe didn’t want to linger in this gale any longer than she had to.  According to the topo map, the true summit of Peak 8720 was somewhere in the nearby forest to the N.  Among the trees and away from the edge, it wouldn’t be nearly so windy over there.  Lupe was more than happy to go looking for the summit.

As the map indicated, the terrain was somewhat higher in the forest than in the meadow, but not by an awful lot.  This whole area varied very little in elevation.  Lupe and SPHP marched around for a while looking for a clear high point, but found nothing obvious.  Close enough for Dingo work!  Lupe posed for a photo at a point that seemed to be about as high as anywhere else, and called it good.

At the official Dingo summit of Peak 8720! Calling it good, right here!

No more time to waste on this!  Lupe still had miles to go to get to the Shirley Mountains High Point.  She left Peak 8720’s official Dingo summit heading back out of the woods and across the big, windy meadow.

After visiting Peak 8720’s Dingo summit, Lupe heads back across the windy meadow. The humongous snow drift is still ahead out of sight on the L at the edge of the line of trees in the distance. Photo looks SE.

Lupe returned to BLM Road No. 3115 again near the tower at High Point 8712.  No. 3115 had been quite a good road all this way.  SPHP might easily have driven the G6 this far.  This would have been about it, though.  As Lupe continued SE on No. 3115, the road lost elevation steadily and became rougher than the G6 would have liked.

More than a mile S of the tower, No. 3115 bottomed out where it crossed a small, clear stream only a few feet wide.  This was Cave Creek.  Lupe took a little break here for water and Taste of the Wild.  She had lost more than 450 feet of elevation since leaving Peak 8720, and was about to have to regain all of it and more.

Break time done, Lupe crossed Cave Creek.  A long, dull, dusty road trek ensued.  No. 3115 went SW for 0.80 mile, ultimately climbing a good way up a steepish hill.  It then turned and went S more than a mile before bending to the SE.  Most of the terrain was forested, but Lupe came to scattered meadows, too.  A few brief downhill sections broke an otherwise steady grind higher.

Lupe passed a few minor side roads, which went who knows where?  None of these roads, including No. 3115, had any traffic at all.  Signage was missing or meaningless.  No. 3115 eventually topped out at a large, tree-rimmed meadow.  The road turned E here, then began losing elevation.  Lupe quickly came to what appeared to be a more significant intersection.

A sign at the intersection meant nothing to SPHP, but less than a mile off to the SE Lupe could see a forested hill a couple hundred feet higher than where she was now.  The Shirley Mountains High Point?  Although certainly ready to get there by now, SPHP hoped that wasn’t it.  It didn’t look like Loop would see anything but trees from there.

This sign at the intersection meant nothing to SPHP, but Lupe could see a higher forested hill from here less than a mile to the SE. SPHP suspected that hill might be the Shirley Mountains High Point. Photo looks N.

Lupe stayed on No. 3115 going E from the intersection.  The road dipped a little more, then angled SE climbing the forested hill she had seen.  When No. 3115 looked like it was about to start losing elevation again, Lupe left it.  If this hill was really the Shirley Mountains High Point, the summit ought to be only a couple hundred yards to the SW from here.

A small meadow sloped up toward open forest.  In the forest, Loop found several rock outcroppings higher than anything else around.  The two highest were separated by 200 feet.  A big snow bank was melting quietly away on part of the ground between them.

The rock formation to the S, a short ridge of white rocks 15 feet taller than the surrounding terrain, was clearly the highest point on this hill.  Lupe scrambled up.  Ten feet S of the highest rocks at the N end of the little ridge, Lupe found what she was looking for – a survey benchmark stamped “Shirley”.

This was it, the Shirley Mountains High Point (9,151 ft.)!

Lupe discovered this survey benchmark 10 feet S of the highest rocks in the Shirley Mountains. Either the benchmark was placed in 1951, or a dyslexic surveyor stamped the wrong elevation on it. According to the topo map, the high point is 9,151 feet, not 1,951.

Old pieces of wood and long strands of smooth wire no longer serving any discernable purpose were scattered around the summit ridge near the benchmark.  Odd.  Lupe went and stood on the highest rocks at the N end of the little ridge to claim her peakbagging success.

Sadly, after coming all this long way, Lupe had no views of anything other than the forest from the Shirley Mountains High Point.  Unsurprising after seeing this forested hill from the NW, but still disappointing to SPHP.  Lupe seemed happy enough, though.

Lupe on the highest rocks of the Shirley Mountains. This view was about what SPHP expected after seeing this forested summit from the NW. Lupe seemed happy enough to be here, though! Photo looks NW.
On top of the Shirley Mountains! Photo looks SW.
Some of the smooth wire is seen draped around the rocks below Loop. What purpose it ever served was unclear. Photo looks SW.
Still on top. Photo looks NNW.

Lupe’s last rest break back at Cave Creek had been a while ago.  Now that she’d made it to the Shirley Mountains High Point, it was time for another one.  Loop went NNW from the summit over to the snow bank closer to the 2nd highest rock formation.  Here she had some Taste of the Wild and relaxed in the shade.

Lupe rests in the shade (lower L) near the melting snow bank. The N rock formation, which was the 2nd highest point on the mountain, is seen on the R beyond the snowbank. Photo looks NW.

Lupe had followed No. 3115 a good 7 miles to get here.  Yes, it was great that Loopster had reached the Shirley Mountains High Point, but SPHP remained dissatisfied with the lack of any significant views.  From the top of an entire mountain range, you’d think you would see something.  Not here.  Even on the long trek, Lupe hadn’t seen too much of interest.

Hours had gone by and it was a long way back, but maybe Lupe wasn’t done yet?  The map showed another benchmark on another mountain 1.25+ miles to the SE as the crow flies.  Quealey Benchmark (9,150 ft.) was only 1 foot lower than the Shirley Mountains High Point.  Maybe Lupe could see something from over there?

Going to Quealey Benchmark actually meant another mile E on BLM Road No. 3115, plus a 0.67 mile bushwhack S of the road.  By the time Lupe reached Quealey Benchmark, she would be nearly 9 miles from Prior Flat Campground.  Worth it?  Unknown.  Now or never, though.  When her break was done, Lupe returned to BLM Road No. 3115 and headed E.

A long forested ridge came into view.  Not too promising.  Somewhere near the S end of it was Quealey Benchmark.  The road lost 250 feet of elevation before starting to climb the ridge.  Instead of following the road all the way to its next high point, Lupe cut SE through the forest to save a little distance.

Once the American Dingo reached the ridgeline, she turned S.  The broad ridge sloped gradually upward.  This was easy terrain.  At first, Loop was in open forest.  She eventually came to meadows, but even at the meadows, forest always prevailed along the edges of the ridge.  No views.

Exploring a snow bank (of course!) on the Quealey Benchmark ridge. Photo looks S.

At the first big meadow Lupe came to, a rocky high point was in view not too far away.  She went to it and scrambled to the top.  No sign of the actual benchmark.

On top of the first high point in the first big meadow. Lupe found no sign of the actual Quealey Benchmark here. Photo looks SSE.

Onward!  Continuing S, suddenly there was movement!  Close by, a coyote emerged from the forest heading E across the meadow.  When Lupe saw it, she trotted toward the coyote wagging her tail.  She recognized it as another canine and was hoping to make a new friend.

The coyote didn’t want to be friends with Lupe, and most certainly didn’t want to be friends with SPHP.  As Lupe approached, the coyote fled.  Instantly, the emboldened American Dingo gave chase!

Loop (R) dashes after the fleeing coyote (L). Photo looks SE.

It was an exhilarating moment, but the coyote was gone in a flash.  Lupe returned to SPHP.  She continued S finding more rock formations, each one higher than the last.  Lupe investigated them all, but turned up nothing.

Lupe investigates another big rock formation on the Quealey Benchmark ridge. Still nothing. Photo looks WNW.

The big meadow ended.  Forest was ahead.  Lupe plunged right into it.  She was still gaining elevation, so it was no wonder she hadn’t found the Quealey Benchmark yet.  She emerged from the forest at a second big meadow.  Another rock formation, largest of any she’d come to so far wasn’t far off.

As Lupe drew near it, SPHP could see some wood and smooth wire up there.  Oh, that was promising!  Lupe led the way up.

Lupe at the top of the first large rock formation of the second big meadow. This was the highest rock formation so far. The wood and smooth wire seen here gave SPHP hope the Quealey Benchmark might be up here. Photo looks SW.

When SPHP joined Lupe at the top, it was clear in an instant that this was the highest point on the ridge.  Another substantial high point off to the SW wasn’t quite as high as this one.  Everywhere else, the terrain was sloping down.  Best of all, Lupe had a sweet view of a big snow-capped mountain far to the S from here.

Lupe was at the true summit of this whole long ridge!  The Quealey Benchmark had to be around here somewhere, didn’t it?

A shiny metal hubcap was hidden under a juniper bush.  Moving the hubcap aside revealed – yes, a survey benchmark!

Hidden beneath a low juniper bush almost at the top of the rock formation was this shiny metal hubcap. When moved aside, the survey benchmark was revealed.

To SPHP’s surprise, the benchmark was not stamped “Quealey” as shown on the old topo map.  Instead it was stamped “Que Ley”, Spanish for “What Law?”.

To SPHP’s surprise, the survey benchmark was not stamped “Quealey” as shown on the topo map. Instead it was stamped “Que Ley”, Spanish for “What Law?” Now that was cool!

Quealey or Que Ley, which was right, the map or the survey benchmark?  No telling.  Lupe and SPHP preferred Que Ley!  What Law? was a cool name for a mountain.  It conjured up images of outlaws hanging around in this territory back in the days of the Old West.  Maybe a really Old West, if the Spanish had named this place.

At any rate, Que Ley Benchmark (9,150 ft.), though officially one silly foot lower than the Shirley Mountains High Point, was everything the Shirley Mountains High Point was not.  Coyotes roamed this place.  The Que Ley name was cool.  The view of the distant snow-capped peak was awesome.  The summit was farther from the road, and felt even more remote.  SPHP was glad Lupe had come here!

Yes, Que Ley Benchmark was worth the extra effort!

At the top of Que Ley Benchmark. Photo looks SSW.
On the summit of Que Ley. Coming here was worth it, and felt like it had really made the day, even though Lupe had already made it to Peak 8720 and the Shirley Mountains High Point as well.
The big view to the S from Que Ley Benchmark. Elk Mountain (11,156 ft.) (Center) is the snow-capped peak on the far horizon. The even more distant ridge on the L is the Snowy Range in the Medicine Bow National Forest. Binoculars would have been nice to have up here.
Elk Mountain as seen from Que Ley Benchmark with help from the telephoto lens. Photo looks S.
Lupe remained at the top of Que Ley Benchmark while SPHP climbed down and circled around to the S to get this shot. Photo looks N.
Lupe’s success at Que Ley Benchmark felt like the high point of the day.

After enjoying the views up on Que Ley Benchmark, Lupe went to visit the other high point to the SW.  Just to make absolutely certain it wasn’t higher, you know.  It wasn’t, but also offered some decent views.

Looking S toward Elk Mountain (Center) on the far horizon again, this time from the SW high point.
Looking SE.
At the top of the SW high point. Photo looks WSW.

And that was that.  Except for the long trek back, nearly all of it retracing her route here, Lupe’s big adventure in the Shirley Mountains was over.

Of course, the Carolina Dog made the most of the return trip!  She ran, explored, and sniffed.

She rolled in snow banks.

Enjoying a snow bank on the Que Ley Benchmark ridge on the return trip.

She sniffed and examined beautiful flowers.

One of hundreds of natural floral arrangements growing right along BLM Road No. 3115.

She returned again to the Shirley Mountains High Point (9,151 ft.).

Back at the Shirley Mountains High Point for a second ascent after her journey to Que Ley Benchmark. Photo looks S.

Loop even made the 0.5 mile side trip back to look for Peak 8720’s Dingo summit again. The sun was down by the time she got to the big, flat meadow.  The wind, which hadn’t been much of an issue up on the Shirley Mountains High Point or Que Ley Benchmark, was still blowing here, though not nearly as powerfully as earlier in the day.

Back on the big, flat meadow on Peak 8720. The wind was still blowing, but not nearly as strongly as it had been earlier in the day. Photo looks E.

Lupe and SPHP searched around for the same Dingo summit as before, but couldn’t find it.  Light was fading and the forest was getting gloomy, so a new Dingo summit had to be selected.  Naturally, this still counted as an official ascent as far Lupe and SPHP were concerned!

At the 2nd Dingo summit of Peak 8720. This wasn’t the exact same spot Lupe was at earlier in the day, but that high point couldn’t be found. The whole area was so flat, this place had to be about the same elevation anyway.

Once Looper was back at BLM Road No. 3115 following her 2nd visit to Peak 8720, it was all downhill the remaining 2.5 miles to Prior Flat campground.  The Carolina Dog was still on high ground, but twilight was fading fast, when she saw the distant high peak to the W again.

What peak was that?  No telling.  The sky grew black, then lit up with stars.  SPHP still pondered the question as Lupe arrived back at Prior Flat campground (10:12 PM).  To this mystery remains an unresolved mental souvenir of Lupe’s long, happy day spent high in the remote Shirley Mountains of Wyoming.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 Expedition No. 212 – South Castle Rock, Castle Rock, Nipple Butte & Flag Mountain (10-22-17)

Start – 10:28 AM, 46°F, at the first pullout along West Deerfield Road near Castle Creek W of the intersection with Deerfield Road (County Road No. 306)

Fall colors were over and done with.  Sad, but the glories of autumn fade quickly.  Nothing new about that.  Lupe was still enthused!  This bright, comfortably cool day in late October was made to order for a continuation of the Carolina Dog’s recent tour of some of the highest peaks of the Black Hills along the E edge of the western limestone plateau.

Today, Lupe would visit 4 such peaks.  She’d been to all of them before more than once, but it had been well over two years since her most recent visit and would be fun to see them again.  Besides, SPHP had promised Loop she would get to explore a whole new canyon on the way back at the end of the day.

Something old, something new, that’s what we’re gonna do!

If that’s supposed to be poetry, SPHP, don’t quit the day job.

Hah, too late, I already have!

My, what a big deficit you’re running, SPHP!

Never mind that, the better to go adventuring with you, my dear Dingo!

Loopster was totally in favor of that.  She started off with a quick look at pretty Castle Creek, which somehow always has good flow even during seasonally dry periods like this.  Then the American Dingo crossed West Deerfield Road and began the climb toward her first peakbagging objective, South Castle Rock (6,840 ft.).

Expedition No. 212 begins with a quick look at Castle Creek. Photo looks NNW.
Looking NW up the Castle Creek valley after crossing West Deerfield Road.

A short climb through a pine forest brought Loop to a grassy field.  The upper S face of South Castle Rock was already in view.  This was going to be a nice, easy stroll most of the way.  Lupe headed N through the field, passed through another forested stretch, and was soon back out in the open again.  The only short steepish part of the whole climb was up in the trees directly ahead.

After a short climb through a pine forest, Loop reaches a grassy field. The upper S face of South Castle Rock is already in view in the distance. Photo looks N.
Getting closer! Lupe squints in the bright morning sunshine. Photo looks N.
The only steep part of the climb up South Castle Rock is in the trees ahead. Photo looks NNW.

The best views from South Castle Rock aren’t from the summit, but from limestone cliffs high up on the far S ridge.  That was right on Lupe’s way to the summit, so she went there first.  She had a great panoramic view to the S and E from here.  To the N, Loop could see the end of nearby Castle Rock’s E ridge.

From limestone cliffs along South Castle Rock’s far S ridge, Lupe had sweeping views to the S & E. Photo looks SE past Deerfield Reservoir.
The end of Castle Rock’s E ridge is seen on the R. South Castle Rock and Castle Rock are different parts of the same mountain. Photo looks N.
At the edge of South Castle Rock’s S ridge. Photo looks N.

South Castle Rock has two high points.  Being slightly higher, the N high point is the actual summit.  From the cliffs along the S ridge, Lupe circled well W of the S high point before turning N again.

The summit wasn’t far off, but the discouraging sight of all the deadfall timber Lupe had to traverse to get to there made SPHP realize the Komperdell trekking poles generously gifted by Jobe Wymore had been forgotten in the G6.  Doh!  SPHP had used them for the first time a week ago on Expedition No. 211.  The poles had been quite useful for nagivating deadfall then, and would have been handy to have here.  Oh, well!

After circling around the S high point, the sight of all the deadfall on the way to the true summit made SPHP realize the Komperdell trekking poles had been forgotten in the G6. They would have been mighty handy to have here! Photo looks N.

The true summit of South Castle Rock (6,840 ft.) sits at the N end of a fairly large limestone cap surrounded by low cliffs.  Getting through the deadfall to reach the cap was the hard part.  That done, Lupe circled to the SW where the cliffs were lowest.  One mighty, unassisted, clawing leap, and she was on top!

At the highest point at the N end, someone had built a cairn since Lupe was last here.  Trees hid the views in most directions, but Loop did have a tremendous view of Reynolds Prairie to the E.  She also had a clear view of Castle Rock’s E ridge to the NE.

Lupe arrives at the S end of South Castle Rock’s limestone cap. She was able to leap on top from a point farther W (L). Photo looks NW.
At the summit. Someone had built the small cairn next to her since the last time Lupe was here in June, 2015. Although forest hides the views in most directions, Lupe could see much of Reynolds Prairie to the E. Photo looks E.
The slightly lower summit of Castle Rock (6,783 ft.) is on the ridge seen beyond Lupe. That’s where she was heading next. Photo looks NE.

After a short break near the cairn, Lupe left South Castle Rock’s limestone cap at the same SW point where she’d leapt up.  Less than a 0.25 mile trek brought her to Castle Rock’s E ridge.

The E ridge was 200 feet wide and rounded, sloping down toward cliffs on both sides.  The top was nearly level along most of its length.  Lupe followed the ridge ESE all the way to where the ground started dropping toward the cliffs at the far end.  The true summit seemed to be here near the ESE end, but it was hard to tell for certain.  Having traveled the whole length of the ridge, Loop must have been at the actual high point somewhere along the way.

The apparent summit of Castle Rock (6,783 ft.) was forested and clogged with deadfall, but Lupe had great views from the cliffs along the edges of the ridge in every direction except back to the W.

At the summit of Castle Rock as near as SPHP could determine. A glimpse of the N end of Reynolds Prairie is seen below. Photo looks NE.
South Castle Rock as seen from Castle Rock. The summit is on the R. Photo looks SW.
Looking SE from Castle Rock’s E ridge. Parts of Deerfield Reservoir are seen beyond Reynolds Prairie. The distant high ridge on the R is Green Mountain (7,166 ft.).
Nipple Butte (6,810 ft.) (L) and Flag Mountain (6,937 ft.) (Center), Lupe’s 2 remaining peakbagging destinations for the day, from Castle Rock’s E ridge. Photo looks N.

After visiting Castle Rock’s summit on the E ridge, Lupe headed back W.  Although the mountain’s long, skinny N ridge is somewhat lower, she went out onto it.  A big, flat, barren area at the southern end of the N ridge provides good views to the W and NE.  This area is Lupe and SPHP’s favorite part of Castle Mountain.  Despite the openness, the whole place has a secluded, tucked-away feel.

Loop on the big barren area near the S end of Castle Peak’s long, skinny N ridge. This is a favorite spot! Flag Mountain is seen beyond Nipple Butte on the R. Photo looks N.
An expansive view of the N end of Reynolds Prairie. Photo looks NE.
Looking W from Castle Peak’s N ridge. SPHP promised Lupe she would get to explore this big canyon on the way back to the G6 later on.
Flag Mountain is partially hidden by Nipple Butte on the L. Custer Peak (6,804 ft.) is the distant high point on the R. Photo looks N with help from the telephoto lens.

The easy way off Castle Rock’s N ridge is found on the E side almost at the S end.  Lupe followed an animal trail down there.  She lost elevation traveling N well below Castle Rock’s N ridge where the slope wasn’t too bad.  This was a forested area full of long grass hiding an annoying amount of deadfall timber.  SPHP was soon wishing for those Komperdell trekking poles again.

Nipple Butte (6,810 ft.), Lupe’s next destination, was 0.5 mile away.  The deadfall didn’t let up until she reached the saddle leading to Nipple Butte from Castle Rock.  Once she traversed the saddle, the climb steepened quickly.  Lupe was approaching from the S, but the best way up is a chute on the WNW side of the mountain, so she circled around to the W as she went higher.

The top of Nipple Butte is a ragged, rugged chunk of limestone with lots of broken rock below on most of the surrounding slopes.  Of all the peaks Lupe was visiting on Expedition No. 212, Nipple Butte was the only one that was at all scrambly.  The Carolina Dog got a bit too high, too soon, reaching the rocky slopes while she was still SW of the summit.

Loop reaches the rocky zone while still SW of Nipple Butte’s summit. Photo looks NE.

It would have been faster, if Loop and SPHP had circled around farther to the W before getting so high, but it didn’t really matter.  Lupe crossed a slope of broken limestone scree, and reached the chute on the WNW side of the mountain.

At the start of the steep chute up to the summit area. This chute is on the WNW side of Nipple Butte. Photo looks NE.

The chute was steep, but not long.  Lupe was at the top in no time.  Before going to Nipple Butte’s true summit, she got up on the high point N of the upper end of the chute.

On Nipple Butte’s N high point. Flag Mountain is in view at Center. Photo looks N.

From the top of the chute, a six foot high wall of limestone was all Lupe had to get up to reach the summit.  The six feet were simply too high and vertical for her to manage on her own.  However, there were a couple of rocks SPHP could stand on from which she could be boosted to the top.

Meekly, the American Dingo lifted one of her front paws.  She needed help and was ready for assistance.  SPHP picked her up, stepped into position, and lifted her to the small limestone platform at the top of Nipple Butte.  SPHP then scrambled up after her.

A single chunk of limestone 1.5 feet higher than the rest of the summit platform is the true summit.  It was large enough for Lupe to stand on.  So easy, yet dramatic.  She’d made it!  There Lupe stood, on the tiny absolute top of Nipple Butte (6,810 ft.) with 360° views!

Oh, yeah!  Nice work, Loop.  Photo time!

Loop at the summit of Nipple Butte. Photo looks SW.
Most of the summit platform is in view here. Photo looks SW.
Oh, so beautiful, Looper! If your big soft Dingo ears were any larger, you look like you could use ’em to take off and fly away. Don’t try it, though!
Looking SW. The summit rock is now in the foreground on the R.
Next to the summit rock. Still looking SW.
The N end of Reynolds Prairie. The N high point of Nipple Butte, which Lupe was on earlier is seen on the L. Photo looks NE.
Flag Mountain (6,937 ft.) (R) from Nipple Butte. USFS Road No. 189 is in view. Photo looks N.
The middle of Reynolds Prairie. Photo looks E.

Lupe and SPHP sat together up on Nipple Butte for a little while.  The sense of space and airiness from the tiny platform is among the best on offer anywhere in the Black Hills.

When the time came to go, SPHP climbed down first.  The American Dingo remained on top for one last photo atop the summit rock.

The summit as seen from Nipple Butte’s N high point. The 6′ high limestone wall SPHP boosted Loop up is at Center. The vegetated area below is the top of the chute Lupe climbed to get here. The forested ridge on the L is Castle Rock. Photo looks S.
The S end of Reynolds Prairie, bits of Deerfield Reservoir, and the distant high ridge of Green Mountain (R) from Nipple Butte. Photo looks SSE.

One more peak to go!  SPHP helped Loopster off the summit platform.  Puppy, ho!  Back down the steep WNW chute to broken limestone scree leading to scattered boulders, and finishing it all off with the usual deadfall infested trek in the forest.

Heading down the WNW slope. Photo looks W.

Lupe reached USFS Road No. 189 at the saddle leading to Flag Mountain.  Half a mile NW of here a spur road leaves No. 189.  The spur winds 0.75 mile NE almost to the top of Flag Mountain.

Nah, not that way!  Instead, Loop crossed No. 189 heading N.  Traveling directly up Flag Mountain’s S ridge would be shorter and more fun.  An hour after leaving Nipple Butte, the Carolina Dog was standing in the remnant of the old fire lookout tower on Flag Mountain (6,937 ft.).

Lupe in the remnant of the old fire lookout tower on Flag Mountain. Photo looks E.
Perched up on the wall, feeling good about her 4th successful ascent of the day!
Looking S back where Lupe had come from. Nipple Butte is seen in front of Castle Rock (Center).
Looking W along Flag Mountain’s summit ridge.
Near the remnant of the fire lookout tower. Photo looks E.
Another look from a bit farther W.

Flag Mountain was the highest of any of the peaks Lupe climbed today.  The views were grand, though this much larger summit area did not give quite the same feeling of exposure and airiness she’d had up on Nipple Butte.

Early in the day, there had only been a light NW breeze.  By the time Lupe reached Nipple Butte, the wind had switched to the SW and picked up to about 15 mph.  The same SW wind was still blowing up here.  With the sun now noticeably progressing toward the horizon, the breeze felt a bit chilly.

Lupe and SPHP lingered up on Flag Mountain anyway.  This was warm compared to what would likely be coming before too long.  Who knew how many more weeks it would be before cold and snow would take over up in this western high country?

Lupe lingers on Flag Mountain. Who knew how much longer it would be until snow and cold would take over in this western Black Hills high country? Reynolds Prairie is on the L. Both Nipple Butte and Castle Rock are on the R. Photo looks SSE.
White Tail Peak (6,962 ft.) is the long ridge at Center. Lupe had enjoyed some fabulous views from there only 3 weeks ago on Expedition No. 209. The more distant mountain on the R is Terry Peak (7,064 ft.). Photo looks N.
From the wall of the old lookout tower, Peak 6962 (Center) is in view. Photo looks NNW.
Black Elk Peak (7,231 ft.) is the high point on the far horizon at Center. As the highest mountain in South Dakota and the Black Hills, many of Lupe’s expeditions feature a view of Black Elk Peak from one direction or another. Photo looks SE.

With 4 successful ascents, Lupe had completed all of her peakbagging objectives for Expedition No. 212.  The time had come for SPHP to honor the promise to let her roam some never before explored territory in the big canyon W of South Castle Rock, Castle Rock and Nipple Butte.

Final moments up on Flag Mountain’s summit ridge before descent. Photo looks NE.

Lupe left Flag Mountain traveling W.  She ultimately took a route down similar to her path up, following the S ridge much of the way.   An early turn to the SW served as shortcut to USFS Road No. 189.

Once across No. 189, the American Dingo began her explorations of the big canyon traveling SSW.  It was downhill from here all the way to West Deerfield Road.

NNW of Nipple Butte looking forward to starting the long trek down the big canyon. Photo looks SSE.

Lupe saw lots of deer.  She got muddy paws and drank from a small stream, a tiny tributary of Horsethief Creek, itself no great torrent.  Looper was one busy Carolina Dog the whole way, free to run and play.

In the upper part of the canyon W of Nipple Butte. This seldom, if ever, used road went most of the way down the canyon. Photo looks SSW.
Miss Muddy Paws after a drink from the tiny stream. The road was reduced to a single track trail here. Photo looks S.
Somewhere W of Castle Rock or South Castle Rock. The faint road is back. Looking S.
Near Horsethief Creek in the lower end of the canyon, now more of a wide valley. Photo looks NNE.

The sun was close to setting by the time Lupe neared West Deerfield Road.  The G6 was a only short walk SE along the road.  Expedition No. 212’s adventures were almost complete.  Behind Loop, the top of South Castle Peak still glowed in the last light of day.

South Castle Rock glows in the last light of another great day spent in Lupe’s Black Hills. Photo looks NNE.

That glow was gone before Lupe even got to the G6 (6:01 PM, 36°F).  Expedition No. 212 might be officially over, but Lupe’s fun wasn’t.  She was back early enough so twilight would last a long time.

For nearly an hour on the ride home, a frantic American Dingo watched for deer, cows and horses to bark at.  Many decibels provided near constant earsplitting proof of the success of this project.  No doubt a hugely satisfying encore to a splendid day!

South Castle Rock.

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Buffalo Peak & Twin Peaks in the Laramie Mountains of Wyoming (6-12-17 & 6-13-17)

Part 2 of Day 5, plus Day 6 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range, Wyoming & Beyond!

Reluctantly, Lupe left the huge old squirrel tree at the edge of the beautiful green glade.  She quickly forgot about squirrels, sniffing her way NNE.  The Carolina Dog came to a burned forest, passed through it, and entered another section of live forest where she crossed a dirt road. By the time she reached the W side of the Meadow Creek valley, Loop was back in burned out forest again.

Lupe reaches the burned out forest in the Meadow Creek valley on her way to Buffalo Peak. Photo looks N.

After having a great time climbing nearby Squaw Mountain (9,313 ft.) earlier in the day, Loop was on her way to Buffalo Peak (9,387 ft.).  The summit was now less than a mile to the NE.  Unfortunately, the weather was deteriorating.  Clouds were moving in.  A sudden wind arose, and distant thunder could be heard.  Better take cover, but where?

Glancing around, SPHP spotted a square recess in a big rock formation.  The opening appeared to have a bit of an overhang.  The recess was 70 feet higher up a moderately steep slope to the SW.  Lupe could hide out there until this squall passed.

No other option was readily available.  Loop and SPHP climbed the slope up to the square recess.  The opening was large enough to accommodate both Lupe and SPHP, with sufficient overhanging rock to provide decent protection from rain or hail.  Sweet!

Lupe at the square recess in the rock where she would take shelter from the storm. Photo looks W.

While the American Dingo watched from the safety of the square recess in the rock, storm clouds swept across the sky from the SE.  Only a small patch of blue sky remained to the N.  Lupe saw a single bolt of lightning miles to the E.  An eerie, angry buzzing or humming sound filled the whole valley.  The peculiar noise went on and on.

The wind blowing among the dead trees must be making that strange sound!  From here, Lupe could see nothing but burnt forest in Meadow Creek valley.  On the other side of the valley, the entire SW face of Buffalo Peak had burned, too.

Thunder rumbled constantly.  While Lupe waited for the storm to hit, SPHP had plenty of time to check maps and study the SW face of Buffalo Peak.  The plan had been to go N up the Meadow Creek valley, gradually turning NE.  When Lupe got high enough she would turn SE, approaching the mountain from the NW.  The topo map seemed to suggest this would be the easiest way up.

However, the SW face of Buffalo Peak didn’t look all that bad.  It appeared Lupe might be able to go right on up a long, wide slope between two large rock ridges.  Above this wide chute, she would need to turn E to reach the top of the mountain, but that looked feasible from down here, too.

From her square recess in the rocks, Lupe could see the whole SW face of Buffalo Peak. SPHP thought she could probably climb the mountain from this direction, instead of circling around to the NW as originally planned. Photo looks NE.

After a huge, suspenseful buildup, nothing happened.  No hail, no rain – not even a drop.  The distant thunder and the odd buzzing sound both faded away as storm clouds sailed off to the NW.  Blue skies returned.  Buffalo Peak was in sunshine.  More than 40 minutes had gone by.  This was her chance!  Lupe had better get going!

The American Dingo headed NE down into the valley.  She crossed Meadow Creek, which was only a small stream.  Soon she reached the base of the long slope up the SW face of Buffalo Peak.  Even from here, it didn’t look bad.

Lupe began climbing.  The long chute was very wide, bordered by large rock formations on both sides.  At first, Looper encountered quite a lot of deadfall timber.  Higher up, less deadfall existed.  The slope was steep, but not at all scary.  Lupe traversed a mix of bare ground, scattered yellow flowers, and numerous small to medium-sized loose rocks.

The American Dingo made great progress, especially after SPHP got above the worst of the deadfall.  Lupe made it up to the top of the long chute.  She now needed to angle more to the E.  What appeared to be Buffalo Peak’s summit was still a good 300 feet higher.  Getting up there looked somewhat more complicated from here than it had appeared from below.  However, Lupe was able to gain elevation traveling ENE below a high ridge of rock.

Lupe near the upper end of the long steep slope she climbed from the SW. From here, she gained elevation traveling ENE (R) through more complicated rocky terrain than expected. Photo looks N.

Shortly after reaching the upper end of the SW chute, it became clear another squall was on the way.  More clouds were approaching rapidly, blown in on a strong SE breeze.  No lightning was seen, but initially faint thunder grew steadily louder.  Time to seek refuge again!

A great many large rocks were in the area, but places to hide beneath an overhang were scarce.  Lupe and SPHP scouted out possibilities with increasing urgency.  A couple of tight spots were all that could be found.  SPHP stuffed the backpack beneath a small overhang.  Loop and SPHP jammed together into a different barely large enough space under a big rock nearby.

As another squall approached, Lupe and SPHP searched for a place to take shelter. Lupe and SPHP wound up jammed together in the small space under the rock seen to the L of Lupe. Photo looks SSE.

Wind blew.  Thunder rumbled, but no lighting was seen.  A series of threatening clouds raced by.  From the cramped space, SPHP had a glimpse of wild-looking clouds and blue sky far to the S.

Ho hum.  Dullsville.  Lupe had gotten used to this routine.  She dozed on SPHP’s lap, waiting for the squall to pass.

In cramped quarters under a large rock, Lupe dozes on SPHP’s lap, while waiting for the storm to pass.

Eventually, the distant blue sky to the S appeared to be heading this way.  Once again, not a drop of rain, despite all the sound and fury!  When thunder could no longer be heard, and sunshine reached Squaw Mountain 1.5 miles away, Lupe and SPHP clambered out from under the boulder.

With skies starting to clear again, Lupe emerged from beneath the boulder she’s standing on to resume her ascent of Buffalo Peak. Photo looks NE.

Another 30 minutes had been lost.  The summit of Buffalo Peak was still 200 feet higher.  Lupe resumed her ascent.

Within 10 minutes, the American Dingo had scrambled up enough boulders to reach a large amphitheater where the ground sloped toward the NW.  The amphitheater contained burnt trees, quite a few large low rocks, and a fair amount of bare earth with little vegetation.  Around the perimeter were 3 large ridges of rock, with openings to the SW and NW.

Lupe reaches the amphitheater near the top of Buffalo Peak. The true summit is unseen a short distance beyond the high rocks on the L. Photo looks N.

Of the 3 high points on the rocky ridges around the amphitheater, the lowest was clearly the one to the SW.  From below, the one to the SE had appeared to be the mountain’s summit.  However, from the amphitheater it looked fairly certain the large ridge to the N was actually highest.

Lupe went to check out the SE ridge first, in case part of it was hidden from view.  The possibility that the true summit was over here hadn’t been completely ruled out yet.  As soon as Loop got up on top, though, it was clear this was not the true summit.  Nevertheless, the views were awesome!

Loop reaches the top of Buffalo Peak’s SE high point. This turned out not to be the true summit. Photo looks NE.
Retreating clouds make for a dramatic scene from Buffalo Peak’s SE high point. Photo looks NNE.
Squaw Mountain (9,313 ft.) (Center) is the high burnt ridge to the R of Lupe. The much more distant high point seen above her rump is Warbonnet Peak (9,414 ft.). Photo looks SE.
The lower SW ridge is in view on the R. The territory Lupe had come up through to reach the amphitheater from the SW is seen on the R. Photo looks SW.
The summit of Buffalo Peak as seen from the SE high point. Photo looks NNW.

From the high point on the SE ridge, the true summit of Buffalo Peak was clearly seen off to the NNW.  Lupe had to get over there to claim her peakbagging success.  Off Lupe went.  A scramble up from the SE was easily accomplished.  The mighty Carolina Dog stood at the very top of Buffalo Peak (9,387 ft.)!

Loop stands on the true summit of Buffalo Peak. Photo looks NW.
Lupe’s odd summit stance makes the situation look much more precarious than it actually was.
Looking N from the true summit.
Buffalo Peak’s SE high point is seen beyond Lupe. Squaw Mountain is the long, high burnt ridge even farther away. The plastic jar by the summit rock on the R contained a registry. Photo looks SSE.

A plastic jar tucked next to the two highest rocks on the mountain contained a registry.  Six people ranging from 10 to 64 years old had made the trek up Buffalo Peak and started the registry on Memorial Day, 2013.  Since then, only one other person had signed in on 7-12-16.  Naturally, Lupe’s name got added.

The Buffalo Peak registry had gotten off to a good start on Memorial Day, 2013, but had seen little use since then.

It was a good thing Lupe made it to the top of Buffalo Peak when she did.  Before long, the weather was deteriorating again.  The entire sky grew dark.  Distant peaks disappeared in a soft, gray haze.  Nearby peaks could still be seen clearly, except when wisps of fog streamed by on the relentless SE breeze.  Thunder roared threats from afar.

SPHP started down first.  At the top of Buffalo Peak, Lupe stood alone in the wind waiting for the signal to come.

Alone on Buffalo Peak waiting for the signal to follow SPHP down. Photo looks NW.

The signal was given.  Lupe bounded down.  Now it was a race against the storm!  She scrambled down to the amphitheater of dead trees, crossed it heading S, and started descending the mountain’s SW slope.  Loop hadn’t lost much elevation before it was necessary to hide again.

Another overhanging rock was found to squeeze in beneath.  This time there was room for the backpack, too.  Lupe and SPHP waited.  No blue sky could be seen, only a light band of weird yellow sky on the SW horizon.  The wind picked up. Sprinkles of rain dashed against the rocks.

Under the rock, waiting out the latest storm threat on the descent.

Thunder echoed closer than before, but Lupe remained calm.  She dozed while SPHP stroked her warm fur and soft ears.  It rained harder.  Water began dripping into Lupe’s refuge, ultimately becoming a steady stream.  The Carolina Dog curled up on SPHP’s lap, comfortable and dry, while SPHP sat on increasingly muddy ground.

Half an hour passed with no changes.  How long was this going to go on?  The Carolina Dog might be fine here, but SPHP was not looking forward to a long night crammed under a rock.  That was what it would come down to if the storm didn’t let up.  Getting drenched didn’t seem like a good plan either.  Better stay as dry as possible.  No reasonable choice other than to wait it out.

An hour went by.  It began to hail.  Nothing major.  Pea-sized hailstones ricocheted off nearby rocks.  A few struck stinging glancing blows, but did no real damage.  Fun, fun!

After 10 minutes, the hail let up.  It had been the storm’s last hurrah.  A SE breeze remained, but now the sky was clearing again.  Not a moment too soon, either.  The sun was getting low.  Better make tracks.  Lupe and SPHP set off down Buffalo Peak, retracing the Carolina Dog’s earlier route up.

A profusion of yellow wildflowers like these grew on the slopes of Buffalo Peak.

The sun was still up when Lupe reached the top of the long, wide SW chute leading down to the Meadow Creek valley.  By the time she reached the worst of the deadfall timber at the lower end of the slope, sunlight remained only high up on Squaw Mountain.

The sun was still up as Lupe began her descent of the wide, SW chute leading to the Meadow Creek valley. Photo looks SW.

Puppy, ho!  Onward!  No time to lose.  Lupe crossed Meadow Creek again, and turned S.  As twilight weakened, she passed through the burnt forest and reached the live forest.  A dark, shady gloom prevailed.  Lupe kept going.  Across the dirt road, out of the gloom, and into another burnt forest.

Little light remained by the time Lupe made it back to the gnarled old squirrel tree.  The tent and sleeping bags hung in it were only slightly damp.  At least that had worked.  In almost total darkness, SPHP pitched Lupe’s “tiny house” beneath a starry sky.  What a day it had been!  Sweet success!  Lupe had managed to climb both Squaw Mountain (9,313 ft.) and Buffalo Peak (9,387 ft.).

Once safely inside her “tiny house”, Lupe was ravenous.  She gobbled down her Alpo, before curling up on her red sleeping bag.  In no time, she was out like a light.  (End of Day 5)

It was a cold night.  The wind blew for hours, yet the American Dingo hardly stirred.  When she did, SPHP kept wrapping the red sleeping bag over her for warmth.  She must have snoozed well, much better than SPHP.  When dawn arrived, Loopster was ready for action.  She demanded to be let out!

No problem.  Loop wouldn’t run off, not with a giant squirrel tree right outside.  SPHP unzipped the tent door.  Out she went.  An excited yipping and yapping commenced immediately.  The squirrel tree hadn’t failed her.  An annoyed squirrel scolded the Carolina Dog for rudely breaking the early peace and tranquility of the new day.  The scolding only egged her on.

The excitement finally died down and became an occasional thing.  SPHP dozed fitfully for another 2 hours, checking on Looper every so often.  She was always there, waiting and watching beneath the huge squirrel tree.

The sun was well up by the time SPHP managed to spring back to life.  A stroll out in the sunny green glade to take off the morning chill was in order.  The warm sunlight felt good.

Lupe next to her “tiny house” at the edge of the green glade. The huge squirrel tree is beyond her. Photo looks N.
In the warm sunshine of the green glade. Photo looks S.

The original plan had been for Lupe to climb Buffalo Peak today, but she’d already done it.  Fortunately, there was something else fun to do on the way back to the G6.  Looper could climb Twin Peaks (9,280 ft.) again.  Twin Peaks was the mountain Lupe had climbed a year ago where she’d first spotted Squaw Mountain and Buffalo Peak.

Lupe stood guard at the base of the squirrel tree while SPHP packed everything up.  When all was ready, Loop had to leave the squirrels in peace.  She didn’t mind.  By now she was ready for more exploring.  She crossed the green glade heading S and entered the forest.

Back in the forest.

It was 2 miles back to the minor pass S of the big rock formation close to where Lupe had left Twin Peaks Trail No. 618 yesterday.  On the way, Loop stayed W of the route she had taken to Squaw Mountain.  Much of the time she was in forest, but a brighter, more open forest than she’d been in before.

Loop made it back to the minor pass.  SPHP ditched the tent and sleeping bags near some rocks.  The Twin Peaks summit was only 0.5 mile S from here.  Lupe crossed Twin Peaks Trail No. 618 and took off into the forest again, starting her ascent. At first, she had only the forest and deadfall timber to contend with.  Higher up, she reached rock formations, much steeper ground, and even some snow.

On the way up Twin Peaks, Lupe reaches rockier territory and even some snow. Photo looks SSW.

The Carolina Dog came to a rocky high point SPHP recognized from last year.  As she continued higher, the mountain seemed more and more familiar.  For the most part, Lupe took a more direct route straight up from the N this time.  She didn’t scramble up onto the same NW ridge she had approached from last year until very near the summit.

On the way up the N slope, the NW ridge protected Loopster from the weather.  Upon attaining the summit, however, she was exposed to the full force of a gale blowing out of the SW.  Puffy white clouds floated swiftly by.  The sky was mostly blue, and the day sunny, but it wasn’t warm or relaxing up here.

Lupe detested the wind.  She stood on the summit long enough for a short photo session.  After that, SPHP could gaze at the views without her.  Loop hid down in a grassy slot between some of the highest rocks where she was at least partly sheltered from the relentless, stiff breeze.  The American Dingo had some sense, even if SPHP did not.

Lupe stands on the tip top rock on Twin Peaks (9,280 ft.) again for the first time in a year and 12 days. It was windy! Squaw Mountain (9,313 ft.), which Lupe had climbed yesterday is seen on the L. Photo looks NE.
Part of Squaw Mountain (Center) is seen near Lupe’s forehead. Buffalo Peak (9,387 ft.) is the barren rounded peak a little to the L. Photo looks NE.
Laramie Peak (10,272 ft.) (Center) is the most distant high point. Warbonnet Peak (9,414 ft.) is the highest point closer by on the R. Photo looks SE.
A Carolina Dog leans into the stiff SW gale up on the summit of Twin Peaks. Photo looks E.
Loopster takes shelter from the roaring SW wind in the slot between Twin Peak’s summit rocks. The open end of the slot faces W, so the protection wasn’t perfect, but it was a lot better than standing up on top of these same rocks. Photo looks E.

The views from Twin Peaks were fabulous!  Seeing them again was great fun, especially looking over at Squaw Mountain and Buffalo Peak now that Lupe had been to both.  While Lupe hid out, SPHP endured the gale a little longer.

Looking W. The very last part of Lupe’s ascent was from this direction.
It was especially fun seeing Buffalo Peak (L) and Squaw Mountain (R) from Twin Peaks again now that Lupe had climbed both! Photo looks NE.
The valley Lupe would travel through on her way back to the Twin Peaks trailhead is seen below. Squaw Mountain is on the L. Photo looks ENE.
Buck Peak (9,061 ft.) is the conical mountain at Center. Photo looks NNW.

It was a shame it was so windy up on Twin Peaks, but SPHP was glad Lupe had returned.  Still, 20 minutes of this gale, and even SPHP was ready to retreat.  Lupe was more than happy to start the descent.  She definitely preferred roaming the forest to the conditions at the top.

Heading down the N slope of Twin Peaks. Lupe much preferred the forest where she was sheltered from the wind. Finding hidden snowbanks like this one was an added bonus!

Looper returned to the minor pass N of Twin Peaks.  SPHP retrieved the tent and sleeping bags.  Together, Lupe and SPHP started E back down Twin Peaks Trail No. 618.

At 2:19 PM, Loop arrived back at the trailhead.  After a bite to eat, both Lupe and SPHP were overcome with weariness.  Adventuring can take it out of you!  Nothing wrong with taking a nap, is there?

Naptime lasted nearly 3 hours.  When she awoke, Lupe’s adventures in the Laramie Mountains were about over for now.  During the last 6 days, she’d had peakbagging successes and failures, spent countless hours sniffing and exploring, seen many beautiful things, and even faced some dangers.  As wonderful as it had all been, the moment had come to move on.

On the way back to Douglas, Lupe rode with her head out the window of the G6, barking vigorously and happily at everything she saw along the way.  SPHP stopped at several scenic spots. The SW wind still blew hard, but that didn’t detract from the beautiful western scenery.

Near Bear Rock along Cold Springs Road, Lupe faces into the sun and SW wind. Photo looks NE.
Lupe on her way back to Douglas, WY. She’s leaving behind adventures in some truly beautiful territory. Bear Rock (L), Squaw Mountain (Center) and Buffalo Peak (R). Photo looks SW.
Bear Rock seen through the telephoto lens. Photo looks SW.
A pronghorn antelope dashes away across the rolling high plains. Lupe loves watching antelope run!
Lupe stopped by the fancy entrance to the gorgeous Powderhorn Ranch. Buffalo Peak (Center) is in the distance. Photo looks SW.
The Powderhorn Ranch SW of Douglas, WY. Buffalo Peak (L) in the distance. Photo looks SW with help from the telephoto lens.

Upon reaching Douglas, WY, Lupe and SPHP headed W on I-25.  A side trip S to Ayer’s Natural Bridge ended in disappointment.  A sign said the park closes at 5 PM, and it was more than an hour later than that.  Didn’t matter.  The sign also said no pets allowed.  Oh, well.

Lupe was happy anyway, barking at the buffalo she saw from the G6 in a big field along the gravel road.

Buffalo near the road to Ayer’s Natural Bridge.

Back at I-25, SPHP drove W.  Bright-eyed Lupe rode up even with the dash, comfy on her pile of pillows and blankets.  With the Laramie Mountains to the S, and high plains to the N, the sinking sun shone upon her eager face.  Loop was on the road to adventure once more!  Tomorrow she’d be in unexplored territory beyond the Laramie Range.

Links:

Part 1:  Squaw Mountain, Laramie Range, Wyoming (6-12-13)

Twin Peaks, Laramie Mountains, Wyoming (6-1-16)

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 Expedition No. 211 – Bear Mountain & Odakota Mountain (10-15-17)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back at Bear Mountain!

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