Start – Intersection of Hwy 385 & USFS Road No. 710, 10:26 AM, 40°F
Lupe was late, a whole week late, but it wasn’t her fault. She’d spent the last several days of 2017 in the Denver area visiting babies Felix and Owen, and having adventures with cousin Dusty. The weather had been frigid, anyway, in the Black Hills. It was still 5 below zero when Lupe returned home on New Year’s Eve 2017, and that was the high on New Year’s Day 2018.
Loop had climbed Peak 6046 for the first time on New Year’s Eve 2012 way back when she was barely 2 years old. Since then, returning near the end of each year or the beginning of the next, had evolved into a tradition. As far as the American Dingo and SPHP were concerned, Peak 6046 had become New Year’s Eve Peak (6,046 ft.). Now, even though Lupe was a week late, returning to New Year’s Eve Peak seemed like a must for her first Black Hills, SD Expedition of 2018.
It’s odd that it would matter, but this year felt a bit different due to the later date. SPHP decided to shake things up a bit. Lupe would take a slightly different route from her favorite one in recent years. Instead of following USFS Road No. 710 W up a valley N of Peak 5800, Lupe would start by climbing Peak 5800 instead. She’d only been on Peak 5800 once before. She’d climbed the mountain from the W after visiting New Year’s Eve Peak first on New Year’s Day 2016.
Lupe didn’t care what route SPHP wanted to try. The Carolina Dog was just glad that it was finally warm enough to go out on an expedition in the hills! So instead of taking USFS Road No. 710, SPHP had her skip the road entirely and head SW straight for Peak 5800.
Despite the recent bitter cold temperatures, this part of the Black Hills hadn’t received much snow so far this winter. Several inches blanketed the NE slopes of Peak 5800, but that was only half as much as Lupe was used to seeing in this area in recent years.
Without any definite route in mind, Lupe and SPHP wandered up the mountain. Peak 5800 has two NE ridges. Looper soon chanced upon on the one farthest S, which ultimately leads to the lower SE part of the big main summit ridge. The Carolina Dog was in snowy forest most of the way up. As she got higher, she started coming to rock formations, some of which provided decent viewpoints.
Lupe reached the top of Peak 5800’s long, broad summit ridge near a high point close to its SE end. This high point wasn’t the true summit, which was still some distance to the NW. Since the broad ridge isn’t heavily forested, Loop already enjoyed some rather nice panoramas.
After a look around from the SE end of the summit ridge, Looper sniffed her way NW to the true summit. An easy 10 minute stroll and she was there.
The sweeping views from Peak 5800 were actually grander than what Lupe would see from New Year’s Eve Peak, but Loop was still going on. A chilly W breeze encouraged her not to linger too long at Peak 5800’s summit. She left it heading W, and was soon picking her way down through boulders on the mountain’s W face.
Once below the boulder field, Lupe and SPHP headed NW across rolling fields and hills. This is a favorite area. A fire had burned the forest here years ago. Young pines now dot the landscape in some places, but most of the terrain is grassy. Sharp rock formations exist scattered along the edge of high ground overlooking territory that slopes S down toward the Horse Creek valley.
Approaching High Point 5917 from the SE, Lupe rejoined her usual route to New Year’s Eve Peak. She turned W staying S of High Point 5917, and crossed a saddle leading to the SE end of New Year’s Eve Peak’s S ridge. On the W side of the saddle she faced two steep snowy climbs in succession. Neither was particularly long, but the first one was both longest and steepest.
Looper reached Pistol Point, a traditional stopping point on the way to New Year’s Eve Peak. SPHP had named it Pistol Point after a large rock that looks like the handle of a big pistol jutting up out of the ground. The Carolina Dog could see the top of New Year’s Eve Peak (6,046 ft.) from here.
After climbing around on the rocks checking out the views from Pistol Point, Lupe headed W. She was already on New Year’s Eve Peak’s S ridge, which soon swept around to the N. The ridge became narrower, rockier, and more heavily forested as Lupe continued on, before finally widening out again upon reaching New Year’s Eve Peak’s upper S slope.
A few more minutes and Lupe was there, standing atop the boulder at the summit of New Year’s Eve Peak (6,046 ft.).
The first two times Lupe had climbed New Year’s Eve Peak, the summit area had all been heavily forested. It had been hard to get much more than a glimpse of a view in any direction. New Year’s Eve Peak used to have a shady, dark, gloomy feel to it, an atmosphere which fit in with being here alone at the end of a dying year.
Sometime during 2015, loggers had come. When Lupe had arrived on New Year’s Day 2016, the S end of the summit area and part of the S slope below it had been cleared. Lots of slash and dead logs had been left to stumble around upon. The affected area was relatively small, but the logging created good, open views to the S and SE. Ever since then, the summit has been brighter and cheerier.
Somehow Lupe and SPHP preferred it the old way, yet that didn’t mean there was any reason not to take a look around.
A chilly 20 mph W wind was blowing. It had been 40°F when Lupe and SPHP left the G6 this morning. It didn’t feel like the day had warmed up a bit since then. Lupe and SPHP sat huddled together at the W edge of the summit facing the cold wind, pondering the beautiful winter scene, the passage of 2017, and start of 2018.
Lupe munched on Taste of the Wild. She had been eating snow, and didn’t want any water. SPHP hadn’t brought anything else.
It’s funny what the mind is capable of. Every other time Loop had been here, the mood had been melancholy, especially when she’d been here right on New Year’s Eve. There was something psychologically depressing about watching the sun sink toward the horizon, and the light of day disappear for the last time on a year that had been part of the unknown future not so long ago. A year now rapidly passing away never to be seen or experienced again.
The years when Loop had been here on New Year’s Day instead of right on New Year’s Eve, some of that sadness still lingered. However, it was already being counterbalanced to a degree by the hope, brilliance and excitement of the new year just beginning.
Perhaps it was partially because Lupe was here earlier in the day today than on previous years, while the sun was still relatively high in the sky. As the Carolina Dog and SPHP sat facing the cold wind, it no longer felt possible to truly mourn the passing of 2017. Surprisingly, with only 2% of 2018 now history, the new year no longer seemed quite as completely bright and shiny as it had been a week ago, either. The mind had already made the adjustment and moved on.
It only felt cold. And like Lupe really had arrived late. Not terribly late, but late. It was good to be here, though, together again, on top of New Year’s Eve Peak peering out at the quiet, familiar wintry scene last gazed upon a little more than a year ago. Loopster’s 2018 adventures were now underway. That was a good thing. 2017 had been a fabulous year, and 2018 was still a 98% clean slate with many adventures to come. Her annual pilgrimage to New Year’s Eve Peak complete, Lupe was ready to press on.
Puppy ho! She was right, no sense sitting in the cold wind too long. Lupe returned briefly to the summit boulder.
Even though this year’s experience wasn’t quite the same, coming here today had been better late than never. Lupe and SPHP bid farewell to New Year’s Eve Peak, promising to return again, hopefully right when New Year’s Eve finally rolled around again many adventures from now. Then Lupe led the way down the mountain’s S slope to retrace her route along the S ridge back to Pistol Point.
It felt good to be moving again. Lower down the W wind was demoted to a mere breeze. The slanting afternoon sunlight highlighted details of the terrain. Growing shadows added contrast. All the way back to the G6, Lupe ran and played in a beautiful world. 2018 was finally off to a good start! (3:42 PM, 33 °F)