Ever since SPHP ran across the site Peakbagger.com early in May, 2014, Lupe had been working on climbing all of the peaks she was able to on Peakbagger’s list of Black Hills 6500-foot Peaks. By now, she had been on top of almost all of them. Of course, the list contains a number of peaks Lupe will never be able to climb, because they are legally off limits or require climbing gear.
American Dingoes are purists. If a mountain requires climbing gear, they don’t even try it. They only bother to climb mountains they can summit completely unaided under their own power. They never rely on ropes, or crampons, or snowshoes, or ice axes, etc. At least that’s what American Dingoes claim. In practice, Lupe has fudged at a few peaks by allowing SPHP to lift her up onto the highest rocks.
On this beautiful October day, Lupe was intent on reaching a couple of the few remaining climbable peaks on the Black Hills 6500-foot Peaks list that she hadn’t been to yet, Zimmer Ridge(6,600 ft.) and Peak 6600. Both peaks are in the same general area 5-7 miles SW of Hill City. Lupe would begin her quest on USFS Road No. 387.1, about 0.5 mile from Hwy 385 (10:37 AM, 54°F).
Lupe and SPHP started the day following No. 387.1 as it wound its way NW through a narrow canyon. There was a creek near the road, which Lupe was glad to see, since it meant she could help herself to cold, clear water anytime she wished. The maps show different names for this creek. SPHP’s old USFS map show it as Whitehouse Creek. The Peakbagger.com topo maps show it as White Horse Creek.
The canyon widened out into a bigger valley, as Lupe continued NW. The road was wide and appeared to be built to county specs, which made it uninteresting. After Lupe had gone a mile or more, the confusion about the creek’s name cleared up. A little way ahead, Lupe saw a white horse standing with a few friends at the edge of the forest. Lupe assured SPHP that this was the actual White Horse of White Horse Creek, which seemed logical enough.
Toward the S end of the valley between Zimmer Ridge and Peak 6600, the USFS map shows 160 acres of private property in the shape of an upside down and reversed “L”. The horses Lupe was approaching were probably on that private land. To stay on USFS land, Lupe left No. 387.1 angling NE up Zimmer Ridge.
Lupe’s route grew progressively steeper as Lupe climbed through a dense forest of young trees. It had been sunny and warm down in the valley, but when Lupe and SPHP arrived up on the ridgeline, it was breezy and cool. Lupe was close to the S end of the high ground on the summit ridge. After a short break, Lupe went N looking for the summit.
Along the way, Lupe reached two false summits. The second false summit provided the first real views in any direction. Lupe could see to the SSE toward Sylvan Hill(7,000 ft.). She could also see the true summit of Zimmer Ridge. It was still farther N along the ridge.
The ridgeline going over to the true summit was broad and fairly level. It should have been an easy trek. However, there was a lot of deadfall timber. Several rocky spots and dense stands of thistles slowed SPHP down, too. It took SPHP a while to get over to the true summit. Lupe had plenty of time to sniff and explore.
Zimmer Ridge culminates in a couple clusters of boulders jutting up right next to each other at the true summit. The highest rocks were all very nearly the same elevation. Despite the purist intentions of the American Dingo, it was fudging time. SPHP had to lift Lupe the last few feet to get her up on top. She didn’t look all that comfortable perched high on Zimmer Ridge, but she did her best to act as if everything was just lovely.
SPHP was surprised to see that there was yet another high point on Zimmer Ridge about 0.33 mile to the NNE. It looked almost the same elevation as the true summit. SPHP had to consults the maps to make certain it wasn’t actually higher. The maps showed that it was only 6,583 ft., or 17 feet lower.
Even though Lupe had already reached the summit, it seemed like a shame not to go on and finish her explorations of Zimmer Ridge all the way to the N high point. The first part of the trek over there wasn’t bad, but as Lupe got closer, there were big rock formations to maneuver around. The deadfall timber and thistles were bad, too.
The N high point was a better place to relax than the true summit. Some flat ground provided a high perch with a great view to the N. Lupe and SPHP took a break there. After the break, Lupe finished her climb up a big rock pile to the top of the N high point.
With her explorations of Zimmer Ridge complete, it was time to start for Peak 6600, located 1.75 miles due W. Lupe and SPHP left the N high point heading WNW down the mountain. Lupe lost hundreds of feet of elevation, and arrived at USFS Road No. 387.1B a short distance NE of a saddle over to the next ridge. Lupe and SPHP followed the road up to the saddle.
SPHP had intended to just cross the road, and follow the ridgeline NW until it swept around to the W to a point where Lupe could turn S to Peak 6600. However, while Lupe might not be tired of the deadfall timber yet, SPHP was. Even though Lupe would lose more elevation that would have to be regained, it seemed easier to just stay on No. 387.1B.
So, Lupe remained on No. 387.1B continuing SW from the saddle. The road reached its low point where it turned NW to start gaining elevation again. A small pond was shining in the sunlight near the bend. Lupe was happy to see it. She ran to the pond, plunked herself down in it and had a big drink.
Fully refreshed from her pond break, Lupe shook herself off and was ready to go again. Lupe and SPHP followed No. 387.1B into the upper end of White Horse gulch. The road went NW 0.75 mile, turned W and soon came to a turnaround loop. Lupe was now at almost the same elevation as the ridge to the N. From the turnaround loop, it was only a short trek off the road to get on the ridgeline for a look at the country on the other side.
SPHP went to take a look at the view, but Lupe never made it that far. As Lupe approached, a gray and white rabbit suddenly dashed off and disappeared in the forest. Lupe lost all interest in the view. She preferred to sniff around excitedly trying to figure out where the bunny had gone. As it turned out, the rabbit must have had prior experience working with a magician. It had completely disappeared.
The road continued W beyond the turnaround loop, and climbed more steeply for a short distance up onto an even higher ridge. Peak 6600 was now just 0.75 mile to the S. Lupe and SPHP left the road to follow the ridgeline. Lupe came to several places where there was a view back to the E toward Zimmer Ridge.
It was late afternoon by the time Lupe reached the top of Peak 6600. The summit area features two high points enclosed by the 6600 foot contour on the topo map. Lupe arrived at the E summit first. Unfortunately, forest blocked the views. Lupe got up on the highest rock at the E summit, and struck a rather dramatic Carolina Dog pose.
Lupe left the E summit to check out the W one. It wasn’t very far away, but there was a huge amount of deadfall timber navigate through. The effort was worth it. A rocky ledge at the W summit provided good views off toward the high country in that direction. Lupe and SPHP stopped here to take a break. Lupe finished almost all of her Taste of the Wild. SPHP ate the last apple.
The forest made it hard to tell for certain, but in SPHP’s opinion the E high point was the true summit of Peak 6600. However, the views were better from the W one. Lupe and SPHP lingered on the W summit of Peak 6600, watching the sun sink toward the horizon.
A hoped for colorful sunset didn’t pan out. Lupe and SPHP left Peak 6600 heading S along the ridgeline. SPHP wanted Lupe to stay up on the ridge as long as possible before turning E to head back down into White Horse Creek valley. Lupe didn’t make it far, though. There was too much deadfall timber up on the ridge.
At the low point of the first big saddle S of Peak 6600, Lupe and SPHP left the ridge and started down. Lupe had to lose a lot of elevation before the deadfall diminished and the terrain started leveling out. As twilight was fading, Lupe strayed onto private property somewhere along the way.
Although this was White Horse Creek valley, a very friendly black horse noticed Lupe and SPHP passing through the forest. The most likely explanation in the horse’s view was that the Carolina Dog was bringing him a nice supply of fresh carrots to munch on. It whinnied a greeting, and trotted jauntily toward Lupe looking forward to carrots and company. Maybe Lupe was even bringing oats?
Lupe loves to bark furiously at cows and horses from the safety of the G6. This was different. Up close, the gigantic black horse approaching rapidly in the dark forest was quite unnerving for the American Dingo. Lupe mistook the black horse’s cheerful whinnying as a threat. The evil apparition was out to get her! Lupe dashed off, without so much as a single bow-wow.
At 7:05 PM (38°F), Lupe and SPHP arrived back at the G6. Lupe headed for home, content with her peakbagging successes. Meanwhile, a disappointed black horse heaved a sigh and resigned itself to its dull diet of dry grass. Some days it’s tough being a black horse in White Horse Creek valley.Want more Lupe adventures? Choose from Lupe’s Black Hills Expeditions Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index. Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.
The sign said “Enjoy Your Day, But Please Close the Gate, Cattle Summer Pasture in these Fields”. Well, OK. October 29th wasn’t really the time of year for summer pasture, and although mountain goats might like it, the steep forested slopes up ahead didn’t look like good pasture for cattle any time of year. Nevertheless, Lupe and SPHP went through and closed the gate.
Lupe was just starting out on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 102. She was only a couple of minutes from the G6, which SPHP had parked along a dirt road SSE of Hwy 385, about a half mile S of its junction with Hwy 87/89 (10:37 AM, 54°F). Her first peakbagging objective for the day was St. Elmo Peak(6,458 ft.), less than a mile to the S. Lupe would have to gain over 1,200 feet of elevation to get up on top.
Beyond the fence, Lupe and SPHP started climbing the rough remnant of a road up a steep gully. The road became an overgrown trail, and then disappeared. Lupe hadn’t gone too far when the terrain started leveling out. She reached a small saddle NW of St. Elmo Peak. Lupe and SPHP turned SE, and headed straight up the mountain.
Lupe came across a seldom used dirt road. Brief explorations revealed that it was going to lose elevation no matter which direction Lupe might choose. So, Lupe and SPHP abandoned the road to resume climbing. Somewhat higher up, Lupe came to another road. It went down to the S, but looked like it would gain elevation going N. Lupe and SPHP followed it N.
Within 5 minutes, Lupe came to a wide spot where there were clear views off to the N and NE. The road continued around to the N side of St. Elmo Peak, reaching its highest point at a closed gate. Beyond the gate, the road was blocked by deadfall timber as it started downhill. Once again, Lupe and SPHP resumed climbing straight up the mountain.
The climbing was now much tougher than before. The forest was dead. Countless pines lay shattered and scattered in every direction on the steep slope. Thistles and low thorny bushes had grown in thick profusion amidst it all. It took SPHP a long time to work up through the tangled mess. Even Lupe wasn’t enjoying this much. St. Elmo Peak itself was ugly, but there were great views to the N.
Finally, Lupe found a faint trail going up the mountain. Even better, with only a few exceptions, someone had cleared the deadfall off the trail. Lupe and SPHP started making much better progress. There was still a good climb ahead, but it didn’t take much time. The trail ended at a rock outcropping near the summit. Lupe and SPHP scrambled up.
Lupe was now on a surprisingly large, and fairly level, block of granite. To the E were cliffs and very steep slopes. There were wonderful views from the NW all the way around to the NE and SE. The view of Harney Peak(7,242 ft.) to the E was fabulous. This big granite ledge at the N end of St. Elmo Peak was easily the best viewpoint on the mountain.
Whew, time for a break to enjoy the views and let lungs catch up! Lupe and SPHP sat together on the big granite ledge. Lupe had Taste of the Wild and water. SPHP had water and carrots. Lupe and SPHP watched smoke billowing up in the distance to the NNE from hills E of Hill City.
Although the granite ledge was the best viewpoint, Lupe hadn’t quite reached the summit of St. Elmo Peak yet. The true summit was to the S, hidden by a mixed forest of pines and young aspen. After a few minutes spent recovering from the climb, Lupe and SPHP went S to find it.
The true summit was very close by. Although the forest hid a quite a few boulders, it didn’t take Lupe long to find the highest one. She leaped on top to claim her St. Elmo Peak peakbagging success!
Lupe and SPHP returned to the big granite ledge. Lupe agreed to pose for a few more photos. The smoke E of Hill City looked like it was spreading.
Lupe had made it to the top of St. Elmo Peak, but the longest and hardest part of Expedition No. 102 was still ahead of her. She was just getting started! Her next peakbagging goal was Peak 6733, which was still 3 miles to the S. It was time for Lupe to get going. Lupe and SPHP left the granite ledge, and headed back down the faint trail.
It turned out that the faint trail led all the way down to the wide spot on the upper road back where Lupe and SPHP had first started seeing views to the N. SPHP hadn’t noticed the faint trail here before. Lupe and SPHP got on the road and headed S. It lost elevation steadily at a modest pace. The road turned SW staying on the NW side of a long ridge coming down from St. Elmo Peak.
Eventually, the road curved W. When it turned NW, it was time to look for a new route. Walking over to the edge of a small rise, SPHP saw another road below to the SW. It looked like it was heading SE for Bear Gulch, exactly where Lupe needed to go. Lupe and SPHP left the upper road and headed down the slope.
The lower road was better than the one Lupe had left up above. Lupe was very happy to find a creek running near it. She laid down in the water to cool off and get a drink. Lupe and SPHP went SE, and soon came to a fork in the road. One fork continued to the ESE following the creek upstream into a narrow, densely forested part of the canyon. That road was marked USFS Road No. 302.1F.
The other road was not marked. It crossed the stream, and headed S gaining elevation along the W side of a big field. Lupe took the unmarked road. She gained a fair amount of elevation, and came to a side road marked as USFS Road No. 302.1H. It went E, and looked like it was going to go around the N end of a ridge to the SE. Lupe’s objective, Peak 6733, was 2 miles farther S along this same ridge.
SPHP thought about getting up on the N end of the ridge, but didn’t. Instead, Lupe and SPHP followed No. 302.1H all the way around the N end over to the E side. There, it turned out that No. 302.1H was absolutely choked with deadfall. SPHP was optimistic that it would end soon. Wrong! The deadfall went on and on. Lupe could get through it OK, but it was taking SPHP literally hours per mile.
The struggle through the deadfall was exhausting. Finally, No. 302.1H climbed fairly high up on the E side of the ridge. The deadfall lessened and Lupe reached a small clearing. Lupe and SPHP left the road to climb directly up to the top of the ridgeline. It had taken so long to get here, SPHP wasn’t certain if Peak 6733 was still to the S or back to the N. The top of the ridge was forested, so it was hard to tell.
It turned out the deadfall had slowed progress down even more than SPHP thought. After a little scouting around, it was clear that the highest ground along the ridgeline was still farther S. Peak 6733 had to be in that direction. Lupe and SPHP trekked S following the ridgeline. Lupe came to a series of successively higher points along the way. Each time she got to the top of one, another even higher one appeared ahead.
There was plenty of deadfall timber up on the ridgeline. It wasn’t as bad as back down on No. 302.1H, but it was certainly enough to make the going much slower than it should have been. Several times, SPHP thought Lupe had reached the top of Peak 6733, only to quickly realize she hadn’t. The sun was starting to sink toward the horizon. Lupe was running out of time to reach Peak 6733.
Thunderhead Mountain(6,567 ft.), where the Crazy Horse memorial carving is located, came into view to the SW. Lupe had to be getting close to Peak 6733. Up ahead, another high point came into view. This one was noticeably higher and steeper than the other high points Lupe had reached. SPHP’s hopes rose again that this might be Peak 6733.
By the time Lupe and SPHP arrived at the top, it was only half an hour before sunset. SPHP was already concerned with how Lupe was going to get back to the G6. It was far too late in the day to even consider returning through the massive tangle of deadfall. After checking out this high point, Lupe would have to try to find a way W to Hwy 385 before it got dark.
The top of this final high point had several high rock outcroppings of about equal elevation strung out along the E side of the ridge. There was another rocky high point off to the W, but the forest made it difficult to tell which of all these points was the true summit. Lupe would have to visit all of them.
A quick trek over to the W revealed that the rocks on the E side of the ridge were clearly higher. Crazy Horse looked pretty close by to the SW. Lupe returned to the high rock outcroppings on the E side of the ridge, exploring them all one by one. There was a lovely carpet of kinnikinnick growing in the saddle area between the E and W sides of the ridge.
Near the S end of the E side of the ridge, Lupe found the highest rocks of all at this high point. Lupe and SPHP managed to get up on the summit, which was a somewhat precarious rock only a foot or two wide. Lupe posed for a summit photo. It had to be a close up. There wasn’t any room for separation.
From the S end of the high point, Lupe could see a big saddle to the SSE. Beyond it was an even higher mountain than the one she was on. She could see that it was part of the ridge that swept around to the E, and then back N over to Sylvan Hill(7,000 ft.) at its highest point. If Lupe wasn’t already on the summit of Peak 6733, then that next mountain to the SSE had to be it.
The easiest way down off this high point was to go back to the N. From there, Lupe and SPHP went E down off the ridge. Lupe turned SSE, cutting through a field where the terrain wasn’t too steep. Arriving at the saddle between the two high points, Lupe discovered a road with a gate. The road wasn’t marked in either direction.
For a couple of minutes, SPHP considered going on to climb the higher peak to the SSE. There was a good chance it was the real Peak 6733. There really wasn’t time, though. Lupe might make it up there while it was still light out, but it would be completely dark by the time Lupe could even get back to the saddle. SPHP didn’t even know what return route Lupe should take from here, only that she couldn’t go back the way she’d come.
Nope, Lupe had to skip that peak to the SSE. Just forget about it! The best bet was to get a move on, and try to find a way W to Hwy 385. If Lupe could get to Hwy 385, she should be able to find the Mickelson Trail. Even in darkness, she could safely and easily follow the Mickelson Trail back to a point close to the G6.
So, Lupe and SPHP followed the road going SSW over the W side of the ridge. As Lupe searched for a way to Hwy 385, she saw Crazy Horse in the early twilight.
Lupe eventually found Hwy 385, but not until well after dark. Lupe and SPHP followed the Mickelson Trail N. The wind blew. Clouds swept by. It rained lightly. The sky cleared. Half a moon and myriad stars shone above. Far below the bridges, Tenderfoot Creek rippled along in the otherwise silent night. For many miles, the American Dingo trotted ahead on the long trail home. (9:00 PM, 44°F)
It wasn’t until the next day, when SPHP had a chance to look carefully at the photos taken on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 102 and compare them to the maps, that SPHP knew for certain whether Lupe had climbed Peak 6733, or not. She had not. The final high point that Lupe reached was High Point 6634, about 0.625 mile to the NNW.
Back on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 102 on 10-29-14, Lupe had approached from the N to successfully climb St. Elmo Peak(6,458 ft.), but despite a valiant effort, she failed to reach Peak 6733. Huge amounts of deadfall timber had choked the way. It slowed SPHP down so much that Lupe ran out of daylight before reaching Peak 6733, although she did make it as far as Peak 6634 just 0.5 mile to the NNW.
On this beautiful warm morning in early November, SPHP had a new plan of attack for Lupe. She would climb Sylvan Hill(7,000 ft.) and then follow the ridge around the S end of the valley to the W until she got to Peak 6733. Trekking along this high ridge might be quite an adventure. SPHP wasn’t certain how rugged it would be, but there could be some scenic and difficult to navigate large granite formations along the way.
Lupe didn’t get to find out. At least 2 miles from where SPHP had intended to park the G6, Hwy 87/89 was barricaded. The road was closed! SPHP had never seen this part of Hwy 87/89 closed before, but it was now. Well, what’s new? Adventures often require flexible planning. USFS Road No. 352 left Hwy 87/89 heading W right in front of the barricade. Time to see where it would lead.
SPHP expected No. 352 would head SW toward Peak 6733, and it did, but not until after it went NW first. About 0.75 mile from Hwy 87/89, No. 352 entered the NE end of the long valley between Sylvan Hill and Peak 6733, where the road divided. USFS Road No. 352.1B went W. A sign said “Private Drive”.
Lupe needed to go S, anyway, and No. 352 continued in that direction. Just a little past the fork in the road, SPHP parked the G6 along No. 352 (9:14 AM, 47°F). The immediately surrounding terrain was nice and level. The forest had been thinned and cleaned up. It looked almost like a park. Lupe was less than 0.5 mile S of St. Elmo Peak. She would start her trek to Peak 6733 from here.
Lupe and SPHP headed S along No. 352. With the change in starting points, SPHP had abandoned all thoughts of having Lupe climb Sylvan Hill, at least not before she climbed Peak 6733. Instead, she was going to follow the road to the S end of the valley, get up on the ridge, and go directly for Peak 6733.
No. 352 gained elevation at a steady, moderate pace. Within about 10 minutes, Lupe came to a green metal gate. No vehicles could get past this point, so it was just as well that the G6 was parked back where it was. Lupe and SPHP went around the gate and continued S, climbing steadily all the time.
The S end of the valley was less than 3 miles away. SPHP expected the road would gain elevation nearly all the way, but when Lupe was a little over halfway there, suddenly No. 352 turned SW and started losing elevation rapidly. The road went clear down to the bottom of the valley, where there was a junction with USFS Road No. 352.2A. No. 352.2A headed back to the NW following a little stream down Bear Gulch.
The route No. 352.2A took looked grassy and inviting, but was headed the wrong way. Lupe did go check out the stream for a big, cold drink before she was ready to leave this nice, secluded spot.
Lupe and SPHP got back on No. 352. The valley narrowed a great deal just to the S, with towering rock formations on both sides. The road led between them, following the creek upstream.
Once beyond the rock formations, Lupe was in the upper end of Bear Gulch. Here the valley widened out considerably. Much of the floor of the valley was a big grassy meadow. This hidden area, protected on all sides by high forested ridges, seemed like it would be a popular place for deer to graze, but Lupe saw none.
No. 352 continued S along the E side of the big meadow. Looking over at the big ridge to the W, SPHP saw a high point that was probably Peak 6634, the farthest point S Lupe had reached up on that ridge on Expedition No. 102. It was hard to be certain, though.
Lupe came to a junction with USFS Road No. 352.2B. It headed W across the meadow and disappeared into the forest. Lupe and SPHP stayed on No. 352. Soon another road, which was likely USFS Road No. 352.2D, branched off heading E. Lupe was getting close to the S end of the valley. She came to more little roads branching off in various directions.
SPHP was hoping to find USFS Road No. 352.2C, which should go SW before turning sharply to climb NNW up to a saddle on the ridge between Peak 6733 and Peak 6634. When Lupe reached a road going SW, SPHP took it. Soon unmarked roads were branching off of it in all directions. Clearly, this wasn’t No. 352.2C. The road continued SW deteriorating rapidly. Before long, it disappeared entirely. Lupe and SPHP were left climbing steeply straight up the ridge at the far SSW end of the valley.
Lupe reached the top of the ridge. There would have been some great views to the N and S, but the forest was too thick to see much. It looked like there might be a considerably higher point off to the SE hidden by the trees. Another less prominent high point was close by to the WNW. Peak 6733 had to be somewhere NW of there.
Down in the valley, No. 352 had been almost entirely free of any deadfall timber. Up here on the high ridge, there was plenty of it. Lupe explored while SPHP worked slowly along the ridgeline, picking a way through the deadfall. There were frequent granite outcroppings along the way, and occasionally some pretty good views toward St. Elmo Peak or Sylvan Hill.
Lupe and SPHP went up and down following the ridgeline from one granite outcropping to the next. Some of them were large enough to force SPHP around them. Others were easily traversed. Gradually the ridgeline curved to the NNW. Peak 6733 came into view. There was a considerable drop from the last high point Lupe went over down into the saddle leading to Peak 6733. On the way down, Lupe found the only really clear look at Peak 6733 ahead.
There was a lot of deadfall timber and several big granite outcroppings on the way up the SSE spine of Peak 6733, but Lupe and SPHP made it up the mountain. At the very top was a large steep granite formation. SPHP had to climb slowly and carefully up the last dozen feet, lift Lupe up on top, and then crawl up there, too.
The summit was surprising. A narrow band of granite a few feet wide, and all about the same elevation, snaked around for 20 or 30 feet. There were sheer, but not particularly high drop offs on both sides. Still, they were plenty high enough so one really should take care not to fall off. Lupe was fine up there, but SPHP crawled along the granite path looking for a more secure place.
Somewhat surprisingly, SPHP only had to crawl along the granite for ten feet or so before it became evident that there was a small patch of level ground nearby to the NW. It was almost as high as the summit. SPHP scrambled over there, and got off the granite.
Now both Lupe and SPHP could relax and enjoy the views. SPHP sat on the ground petting Lupe and taking a break. Water and Taste of the Wild for Lupe. Water and a golden apple for SPHP. After eating, it was time for a few photos from seldom visited Peak 6733.
Thunderhead Mountain(6,567 ft.), only 0.75 mile to the W, presented the most interesting view from Peak 6733. Lupe had a great view of the rarely seen E side of the Crazy Horse memorial carving on Thunderhead Mountain. The Crazy Horse carving has been in progress for decades, and is still far from being finished, but remains a popular tourist attraction in the Black Hills.
When it was time to leave Peak 6733, Lupe took a different route back than the way she had come up. Lupe and SPHP worked around the SW and then W sides of the large granite outcropping at the top of the mountain. The route was a real tangle of deadfall timber and thistles, but eventually Lupe regained the ridgeline N of Peak 6733. She fought through more deadfall going N along the ridge all the way to USFS Road No. 352.2C at the saddle just S of Peak 6634.
Getting to No. 352.2C brought relief from all the deadfall timber. Lupe and SPHP followed the road as it wound down into the upper end of Bear Gulch to the E. It eventually led to USFS Road No. 352.2B, which brought Lupe to No. 352.
There were still a couple of hours left before sundown. If Lupe was going to climb Sylvan Hill, now was the time to do so. SPHP dithered. Lupe had been on Sylvan Hill once before almost 6 months ago. She climbed it from a different direction on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 89 on 5-17-14. The views were fantastic, but there had been a lot of deadfall timber to contend with along the summit ridge.
From upper Bear Gulch where Lupe was, it was over an 800 foot climb with no roads or trails. Deadfall timber appeared to be strewn all over the steep ridge. No doubt it would take a long time to reach the top, and another long time to get back down. SPHP wanted to go, and Lupe was willing, but maybe it really wasn’t all that feasible even with several hours of daylight. No sense getting stuck in the dark in a horrible tangled dead forest.
So instead of climbing Sylvan Hill, Lupe turned N on No. 352. The road led her back between the big rock formations at the narrow part of the valley. Lupe reached the merry creek bubbling along near USFS Road No. 352.2A. It still looked inviting to explore the grassy valley along No. 352.2A. So, Lupe did. She eventually left No. 352.2A, and climbed up on some interesting granite formations where there was a nice view of St. Elmo Peak.
Lupe’s explorations of Bear Gulch led her to USFS Road No. 352.1D, which in turn took her back to No. 352. At 3:58 PM (55°F), Lupe was back at the G6. Despite having taken a relatively easy return route, it was only 30 minutes until sundown. Maybe that decision not to climb Sylvan Hill had been the right one!
It seemed a bit strange to be leaving for home before the sun was even down. Lupe was happy enough, though. She stood gazing intently out the windows of the G6 looking for deer, cows, horses or anything else it might be fun to bark at. She had a great day climbing Peak 6733, and wasn’t disappointed on the way home either!
Note: Starting on USFS Road No. 352, the easiest and most direct up Peak 6733 would have been to take No. 352.2B heading W in upper Bear Gulch. No. 352.2B leads to No. 352.2C. Don’t follow No. 352.2C all the way NNW up onto the ridge. Instead, at the very S end of No. 352.2C, leave the road and climb SW up to the saddle on the ridgeline. From the saddle turn NNW, and finish the climb up Peak 6733.
Snow was in the forecast. An approaching winter storm was supposed to hit tomorrow and dump half a foot of snow on the Black Hills. The next 10 days weren’t expected to get above freezing. Today was supposed to be nice, though, with highs in the 50’s. Last chance, for a while at least, for Lupe to go on a Black Hills Expedition!
Lupe’s peakbagging goal for Expedition No. 104 was a rather unusual Black Hills mountain – Inyan Kara(6,360 ft.). Inyan Kara is part of a line of forested ridges and hills in eastern Wyoming separated from the main body of the Black Hills in South Dakota by 5-10 miles of grasslands used mostly for ranching. Like Devil’s Tower(5,112 ft.) in NE Wyoming and Bear Butte(4,433 ft.) near Sturgis, South Dakota, Inyan Kara was considered sacred by the Lakota Sioux. General George Armstrong Custer is purported to have visited Inyan Kara on July 23, 1874.
Inyan Kara sits on roughly 2 square miles of the Black Hills National Forest completely surrounded by privately held ranch lands. To even reach the national forest land, Lupe would need permission from the ranchers. Lupe and SPHP had tried once before to get permission, way back on Black Hills Expedition No. 91 on 6-1-14, but had arrived at the ranch headquarters to find no one at home except the dog.
This time Lupe and SPHP were in luck! Lupe arrived at the headquarters of Douglas and Sheila Hunter’s ranch just E of Inyan Kara to find Mr. Hunter and a couple of helpers in his front yard busy loading a vehicle on a trailer. Mr. Hunter’s dog, Bear, was very interested in meeting Lupe, but Lupe just growled.
Despite Lupe’s less than cordial reaction to Bear, Mr. Hunter kindly and readily granted Lupe and SPHP permission to cross his ranch to access Inyan Kara. Mr. Hunter directed SPHP where to park the G6. By 10:15 AM (50°F), Lupe and SPHP were on their way.
Lupe and SPHP started out going W on a continuation of the dirt road that led to, and also went on by, the Hunter Ranch headquarters. Lupe passed some old buildings near a tiny, mucky creek, and soon afterward came to a junction with another road. Lupe and SPHP turned N on this other road, but left it before long to start climbing through the fields directly toward SE-facing cliffs on Inyan Kara. On the way up, Lupe and SPHP ducked under a fence, thereby leaving the Hunter ranch and entering the Black Hills National Forest.
Lupe and SPHP turned N to avoid the cliffs. Lupe still angled slightly up the slope to gain elevation slowly, but steadily. She was approaching the forest on the E side of Inyan Kara. Once in the forest, Lupe and SPHP continued N working gradually up the ridge to the W. When the top of the ridge became visible between the pines, Lupe and SPHP turned W and climbed directly up the steep slope to the crest of the ridge. Lupe could now see the igneous summit of Inyan Kara to the WNW.
Inyan Kara is an interesting mountain. It is shaped rather like a distorted horseshoe, with the opening of the horseshoe NE of the summit and facing N. A long ridge starts rising from the NE end of the horseshoe, and makes a big sweeping curve clear around to the E and then S of the summit, ultimately going clear over to the SW. This long ridge gains elevation rapidly at first, but much more slowly as it progresses SW.
The S and SW portions of the sweeping ridge are quite high. Close to the SW end, there is a significant saddle where some elevation must be lost going NE to approach a shorter, but higher ridge leading to the actual summit. This N ridge is characterized by large igneous rock formations, but is easily climbed. Several smaller saddles must be navigated while heading N along the summit ridge.
The N ridge angles NE shortly before reaching the top of Inyan Kara. The summit and nearby areas form the NW end of the horseshoe. Between the N and S ridges, a deep forested valley comprises the center of the horseshoe.
Lupe had reached the top of the lower sweeping ridge ESE of the summit. The easiest way to reach the top of the mountain was to just follow the ridge as it swept around to the S and then SW. From there, Lupe could traverse the saddle over to the higher N ridge and continue on to Inyan Kara’s summit.
The ridge was all forested and fairly narrow most of the way to the saddle, but it was never narrow enough to be a problem. Deadfall timber sometimes partially blocked the way for SPHP. It was only bad in one small area toward the SSW. As Lupe progressed around the ridge, there were a few places with great views to the SE, S or SW.
Lupe and SPHP followed the S ridge around to the SW. Lupe continued W far enough to make certain she had reached the highest part of the S ridge. She then headed NE down into the saddle on her way to the N ridge leading up to the summit. Lupe could have started NE down into the saddle a bit sooner, and she wouldn’t have lost quite as much elevation. It still didn’t take her long to cross the broad forested saddle to reach the N ridge.
The most interesting part of Lupe’s climb up Inyan Kara started upon reaching the N ridge. There were big rock formations. The rocks were tan or pinkish orange, and had little steps or contours in them. Lupe quickly climbed up to a high point at least as high as any spot along the S ridge. From here, she could see the Inyan Kara summit off to the NNE.
The rest of the way to the summit was a bit tricky. It involved some exploration and occasional back-tracking to find the easiest route. In general, it proved best to stay to the NW side of the N ridge until getting quite close to the summit, since there were places that ended in cliffs to the SE.
The top of Inyan Kara is an open rocky ridge from which there are grand views in most directions. Although it hadn’t been windy on the way up, there was a steady, cold wind out of the SW when Lupe reached the summit. With the darkly overcast sky and stiff breeze, it was beginning to look like the forecast snow storm might well be on its way. Lupe wasn’t going to get to enjoy the views for very long.
Right away, SPHP noticed a USGS benchmark out in the open just 10 or 12 feet E of the summit. SPHP was disappointed that it didn’t even say Inyan Kara on it. While SPHP was looking at the USGS benchmark, Lupe was sniffing curiously around a big juniper bush just 8 feet N of the summit. Upon investigation, stuffed inside the bush SPHP found a broken Tupperware container inside a couple of Ziploc bags. It was all held in place inside the bush by several rocks placed on top.
Inside the broken Tupperware container was a pen and notebook that serves as a registry log. There were also other papers relating to a wedding, a funeral service and other events that had been held on top of Inyan Kara. The registry went back to 2008 and contained quite a few names. Some of the individuals had climbed Inyan Kara multiple times, with one claiming to have made 6 ascents.
SPHP would have liked to spend more time reading the registry, but the wind made reading for very long unpleasant. It was difficult to hold the pages open and still without tearing them. SPHP entered Lupe’s name in the registry log, before putting it all back together and stuffing everything securely in the bush.
Despite the wind, Lupe and SPHP lingered up on Inyan Kara for a while to enjoy the views. Lupe had water and Taste of the Wild, and then huddled inside SPHP’s jacket to stay warm. SPHP ate an apple and a big carrot. For the Black Hills, the views were tremendous. Far below and all around Inyan Kara was open ranch land, dotted here and there with forested hills and ridges.
On the N horizon, Lupe could see Missouri Buttes(5,374 ft.), Devil’s Tower, and Warren Peaks(6,650 ft.). Cement Ridge(6,674 ft.) was off to the NE. Terry Peak(7,064 ft.) and the main body of the Black Hills were in view to the E. Sweetwater Mountain was SSE. Very far to the W are the Bighorn Mountains, which are easily seen from Inyan Kara on a clear day when the light is right. However, SPHP could only barely make out one small portion of the southern Bighorns on this overcast day.
When it was time to go, Lupe and SPHP took the same route back along the N ridge going SSW and then down into the saddle area between the N and S ridges. Instead of going on to retrace Lupe’s route along the S ridge, Lupe and SPHP ventured E down into the steep, deep forested valley between the ridges – the middle of the Inyan Kara horseshoe.
Lupe followed the valley all the way down to its exit onto the prairie NE of the Inyan Kara summit (the open end of the horseshoe). There was no trail at all in the upper portion of the valley, and only a faint one in the lower part, until Lupe reached a jeep trail near a couple of old rusting water tanks near the valley’s N end.
The trek down through the central valley proved to take much more time than the S ridge route. Except at the upper and lower ends, the valley is V-shaped nearly all the way. Even the very bottom was steep, rough ground. In places it was choked with deadfall timber killed by pine bark beetles, making the going very slow.
The valley did provide Lupe complete protection from the cold wind. About the only other advantage was a tiny intermittent trickle of a stream where Lupe could get a drink. Not much of an advantage when SPHP was porting water anyway. While the valley was fun to explore once, Lupe and SPHP definitely recommend the S ridge route instead for the splendid views, shorter hike, and easier terrain!
Once Lupe emerged from Inyan Kara’s horseshoe, she followed the jeep trail around the E side of the mountain. There were forests near the E ridge, but most of the time Lupe was out on the open range. The jeep trail led right back to the Hunter ranch headquarters.
Lupe arrived at the G6 at 4:24 PM (51°F). No one was around except Bear, who was standing on the front porch. Bear whined when he saw Lupe. Bear still wanted to play, but the tired Carolina Dog showed no interest, dashing the lonely ranch dog’s hopes.
Inyan Kara Mountain is about 4 miles W of Hwy 585 in NE Wyoming between Sundance and Four Corners. Turn W on County Road No. 198 about 15 miles S of Sundance. Follow it about 1.5 miles W. A sharp turn N on a dirt road eventually leads 2.5 miles NW to a fork in the road. The Douglas and Sheila Hunter ranch headquarters is a short distance down the right fork. Courtesy and respect for the landowner’s rights will go a long way toward securing permission to access Inyan Kara.
For more information on the interesting history of Inyan Kara, click here.
On November 10, 2014, 8″ of new snow fell at Lupe’s house. The weather turned very cold for more than a week with highs in the 10-12°F range and subzero lows every night. Another 4″ of snow fell. Lupe was bored waiting for it all to end. She stared out the window for hours, repeatedly sighing and putting her head down, then checking again a little bit later to see if anything had changed. Nope.
Finally it did warm up. A few days came when the highs got clear up into the 40’s or even 50’s. The snow started melting fast. Saturday the 22nd was Lupe’s big chance to get out on an expedition. The next day it was supposed to turn cold again. When Lupe realized SPHP was getting the backpack ready to go, she was one enthusiastic Carolina Dog!
By 9:04 AM (43°F), Lupe was eagerly leaping out of the G6. The G6 was parked at a little side road just W of Boulder Hill Road (USFS Road No. 358) about 0.5 mile N of Hwy 16. Lupe was about 0.75 miles S of Boulder Hill(5,331 ft.), and 0.5 mile NE of Silver Mountain(5,405 ft.). Lupe wasn’t going to Boulder Hill today. Instead, the plan was for her to go to Silver Mountain, and then on to Calumet Ridge(5,601 ft.) another 2.5 miles to the W.
Lupe and SPHP started out heading W on the little unmarked side road. There was still about 6″ of snow here. Glimpses of Silver Mountain could be seen between the trees to the SW. Lupe and SPHP soon left the road to start climbing toward it.
Lupe didn’t have to go too far from the road to leave the forest. She entered an open area where there was quite a bit of deadfall timber around. These trees hadn’t been killed by pine bark beetles. Almost all of Silver Mountain burned in the August, 2002 Battle Creek fire. Between the snow and the deadfall timber, the going was rather slow.
When Lupe started hearing gunfire off to the W, things got even slower. Lupe wanted to stop and hide. She kept begging SPHP to stop, trying to block the way forward by standing on her hind legs and leaning her front paws on SPHP. It took some doing, but SPHP finally persuaded her to keep going. Lupe soon reached the top of a little ridge. Ahead was a small snowy valley. Silver Mountain loomed just beyond it.
To avoid losing too much elevation, Lupe and SPHP went W along the ridgeline for a little way. Near the upper end of the small snowy valley, Lupe turned SW again to head directly for Silver Mountain. She lost a little elevation traversing the valley, but once across started regaining it quickly.
A band of live pines that had escaped the 2002 Battle Creek fire was still standing on the upper NE slopes of Silver Mountain. As Lupe got closer, SPHP realized the trees were swaying in the wind. It wasn’t windy at all down where Lupe and SPHP were, but apparently a strong wind had kicked up out of the SW. The higher Lupe climbed, the less protection the mountain gave her. By the time Lupe was out on the open ground up above the band of trees, the wind was just a gale. The strongest gusts were enough to make SPHP stumble on the rocky ground.
There were two separate rock formations up ahead in the summit area. One was to the E, and the other to the W. Lupe and SPHP were coming up between them. The E rock formation looked to be the highest. SPHP hoped it was. The W formation looked harder to climb. SPHP didn’t want to have to waste time searching around for an easy way up to the top in this hurricane. No way Lupe would want to either.
Lupe and SPHP headed for the E rock formation. Very close to it, Lupe passed by a crude 4-sided structure made out of small logs. It was too poorly built to have ever been a real cabin. It looked more like an elaborate kid’s fort. Lupe didn’t even bother investigating it. Gunfire was still continuing sporadically to the W. She stuck close to SPHP.
The E rock formation proved to be an easy little scramble. The wind was very strong, though. It really felt cold up on top. Even Lupe was shivering a little. SPHP sat down on the highest rocks and faced NE away from the wind. Lupe curled up on SPHP’s lap. She huddled together with SPHP in SPHP’s jacket to warm up. Protected from the wind in the jacket, snuggled up with SPHP, Lupe seemed happy and reassured. She was content to lay there warming up and gazing at the view.
There were a few low bushes at the top of the E rock formation, but no trees to block the views in any direction. Lupe and SPHP could see way out onto the plains E of the Black Hills. Boulder Hill was off to the NNE. Harney Peak(7,242 ft.) was off to the SW. Calumet Ridge, Lupe’s next peakbagging goal of the day, was off to the W.
One good thing. It was easy to see from here that the W rock formation wasn’t as high as the E one. Lupe wouldn’t have to climb it. Lupe was already on the true summit of Silver Mountain!
The views were great, but there was no sense staying up in the cold wind all day. Besides, Lupe still had her Calumet Ridge peakbagging goal ahead of her. Lupe and SPHP climbed down to the saddle area between the E and W rock formations. A little W of the “fort” there was a big rock. SPHP got Lupe up on it for a photo of Boulder Hill behind her. Lupe was having to look directly into the fierce SW wind. She refused to open her eyes. Oh, well!
Lupe and SPHP went over close to the W rock formation, and then began following it NW down the ridgeline. Lupe was on her way to Calumet Ridge. She lost considerable elevation coming down Silver Mountain. She was on exposed ground all the way, but the wind gradually diminished as she lost elevation.
Beyond the end of the W rock formation at the top of the mountain, Lupe passed by a series of other lower rock outcroppings along the way. The last of the large rock formations was fairly flat, but still high enough to offer some views. Lupe could still see Calumet Ridge and Mount Warner(5,889 ft.).
As Lupe continued NW losing elevation, the wind was weaker. That was a good thing, except that she could hear the gunfire coming from the W even better now. Lupe started becoming more and more anxious again.
Lupe made it beyond the burn area NW of Silver Mountain. She entered the forest again heading W. She came to a hillside where she could see USFS Road No. 366 just below. No. 366 went N/S, and Lupe would have to cross it to continue on to Calumet Ridge. Lupe was just E of the saddle at the highest point on the road.
But Lupe wasn’t going any farther. She was a nervous wreck. Volleys of 10 shots or more kept coming. She was much closer to them now than at Silver Mountain. Gunfire was heard to the W, SW and NW. At first SPHP had thought hunters were the source. The truth was, people were just out for some target practice, which is why the gunfire went on and on. It sounded like a war was in progress.
For a few minutes, SPHP stopped and looked at the maps. There was certainly time for Lupe to get to Calumet Ridge, and it was a very nice day out of the wind. SPHP ate some carrot sticks and pondered. Lupe wanted to hide right here until the coast was clear. The problem was, the coast wasn’t going to clear until it got too dark for target practice.
Lupe normally loves all of her Black Hills explorations, but she wasn’t having any fun now. She was convinced there was mortal danger all around. Her worries were unfounded, but there was no way to convincingly convey that to her. No reason to make her suffer. Time to turn around. Lupe would make it to Calumet Ridge another day, when target practice wasn’t in such vogue.
Lupe wasn’t relieved of her fears until she was back over to the E side of the NW ridge coming down from Silver Mountain. When she reached the G6 (12:09 PM, 50°F), she hopped right in ASAP! Turns out there are worse things than being bored – like fearing for your life!
It had been a very short Black Hills expedition, barely 3 hours, but Lupe did climb Silver Mountain. About half an hour after Lupe got home, Guille showed up unexpectedly. She brought a lot of food with her, including a beautiful big ham. Lupe and SPHP gorged on ham. Life was good.
Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving. The day everyone celebrates being totally over-stuffed with delicious turkey and all the trimmings by spending a fortune Christmas shopping online or at the mall. Well, not quite everyone. American Dingoes neglect their patriotic duty to keep the economy humming. They prefer to go on adventures instead!
At 10:06 AM (50°F), SPHP parked the G6 at the Newton Lake (a pond, really) trailhead a few miles NW of Hill City just off Deerfield Road. Time to start working off a few zillion calories! The N end of Smith Mountain(5,897 ft.) was immediately to the W. Lupe couldn’t just go W, though, to get there. The Newton Fork of Spring Creek, too big to simply leap across, was in the way.
Lupe and SPHP crossed Deerfield Road and got on the Mickelson Trail heading WNW. The trail was covered with 6″ of snow. Lupe and SPHP trudged along, burning calories already. The trail soon crossed Newton Creek at a very nice bridge. 0.5 mile after Lupe got on the trail, she was a little N of the N end of Smith Mountain. Lupe and SPHP left the Mickelson Trail, climbed up the embankment to Deerfield Road, and crossed over to the S side of the highway.
Smith Mountain was the first of 3 peakbagging objectives Lupe had for the day. The other two, Flag Mountain(5,896 ft.) and Campaign Hill(5,800 ft.), were both S of Smith Mountain. Smith Mountain is a nearly mile long ridge running N/S. Lupe and SPHP started climbing the slope at the N end of the ridge. There was quite a lot of deadfall timber to work past, and snow everywhere, too. By the time Lupe reached the first little saddle where she could see over to the W side of the mountain, the sun was so warm SPHP had to stop and take off a jacket.
Lupe gained the top of the ridge close to the highest point at the very N end of Smith Mountain. If there had been fewer trees blocking the view, she would have gone to the very top of the N high point to take a look at Lowden Mountain(6,055 ft.) a mile to the N. Instead, Lupe headed S along the ridge looking for the true summit of Smith Mountain. She came to a couple of high spots definitely higher than the N high point. SPHP thought the second one she came to was likely the true summit.
Lupe continued S along the Smith Mountain ridge. This part of the forest had been thinned before the pine bark beetle infestation started. There was far less deadfall timber to contend with. The remaining trees were healthier. More sunlight could reach the ground between them, so there wasn’t nearly as much snow around. It was far easier to move along, and Lupe and SPHP caught better glimpses of the views to E.
The ridge started angling a little more to the SSE. After having lost some elevation, Lupe was climbing again. As Lupe went higher and higher, SPHP began to realize that Lupe hadn’t actually reached the true summit of Smith Mountain yet; it was still ahead.
Lupe didn’t have very far to go to reach it. Soon she was sniffing around much bigger rock formations at the true summit of Smith Mountain. The highest rocks were so huge, she couldn’t actually get up on top of them, but she climbed up almost as high. SPHP lifted her up so she could put her front paws on the highest rock, just a foot or two below the very highest point, which was out of reach to the W.
From the true summit, Lupe and SPHP continued only a little way farther SSE along the ridge before turning more to the SSW to start losing elevation. Lupe stayed high enough on the mountain to avoid a couple of draws that drained W. Eventually the terrain sloped more to the SSW. Lupe and SPHP headed down.
Suddenly there was the sound of gunfire! Hunters were about. Lupe was instantly alarmed. She insisted on stopping. SPHP found a dry spot. Lupe and SPHP took a break just sitting on the pine needles on the forest floor. Lupe wasn’t hungry, but SPHP ate a tangerine and a few carrot sticks. The gunfire had come from quite some distance to the S or SW.
A little while after the gunfire ended, SPHP was ready to move on. Reluctantly, Lupe tagged along close by. Almost as soon as Lupe started off again, SPHP spotted a road ahead. SPHP didn’t realize it at the time, but this was USFS Road No. 386.1B. Lupe reached it at a bend at the NE corner of a big clearing. She could follow the road W or S. Lupe and SPHP headed S in the direction of Flag and Campaign mountains. There was quite a bit of snow and ice gradually melting on the road.
Eventually, No. 386.1B began turning E to go around the S end of Smith Mountain. Lupe left the road continuing S. Before long, she reached a big field extending E/W down in the Patterson Creek valley. Lupe crossed the field. Patterson Creek meandered along the S side of the field. It had plenty of water in it, and was flowing along quite nicely. Fortunately, the creek was just small enough to leap over. Both Lupe and SPHP made it across without difficulty.
Near the S side of Patterson Creek was a snowy road going E/W. A quick check to the W revealed a dead end. The road went farther E following the Patterson Creek valley downstream. Lupe went just a little way E on the road, before turning S to start the climb up Flag Mountain. There was quite a bit of snow on the ground here, and some deadfall timber, too. Lupe succeeded in avoiding most of the snow and some of the deadfall timber by climbing up a little ridge approaching Flag Mountain from the NNE.
The last 200 feet of elevation gain up the N slope of Flag Mountain was different. It was fairly steep, full of snow and choked with deadfall. Lupe had lots of time to sniff around in the shattered forest while SPHP struggled up the mountain. Meanwhile, the sunnier skies Lupe enjoyed earlier in the day disappeared. A cold breeze started up out of the WNW. The mood had turned a bit gloomy by the time Lupe and SPHP made it to the top of Flag Mountain.
The summit area was a little surprising. It was as big as several houses, and mostly level. The biggest part was toward the E where the ground was mostly grassy, with trees along the N and NE perimeters. The very highest point was near the W end, where the summit was much rockier and narrower. The rocks weren’t very large. Lupe hopped up on top for a look around. There were quite a few trees around, but she could see Harney Peak(7,242 ft.) to the SE.
The most wide open views from Flag Mountain were toward the E and S from the larger E portion of the summit area. There were a few bushes, but no trees along the SE perimeter to block the view. The most impressive view was SE toward Harney Peak, but Lupe also had a pretty good view off to the ENE toward Five Points(6,221 ft.).
Lupe had now climbed 2 of her 3 peakbagging goals for the day, Smith and Flag Mountains. Her 3rd goal, Campaign Hill was supposed to be just 0.5 mile S of Flag Mountain, but at first glance, SPHP did not see it. After looking more carefully from the SE edge of the Flag Mountain summit, SPHP saw the E end of a low forested hill to the S. It seemed too low to be Campaign Hill, but after consulting the maps again, that had to be it.
Campaign Hill wasn’t very far away, but the S slope of Flag Mountain was too steep to go directly down that way. SPHP got cold feet. No, really, truly cold feet. SPHP’s old boots leaked badly. After tramping around for hours in melting snow, SPHP’s feet were totally sopping wet. They had been that way essentially the whole day. Now, standing around on Flag Mountain in the cold breeze, SPHP’s feet felt like they were freezing up.
The sun was low in the sky, but there were still a couple of hours left before sunset. Lupe and SPHP hadn’t gone all that far as the crow flies, but it had taken a long time to get to Flag Mountain with all the snow and deadfall timber along the way. It might take quite a while to get back, too. SPHP needed to start moving to get the circulation going again. Decision time.
Well, no sense risking frostbite. Campaign Hill would still be there another day. Lupe and SPHP started slowly back down the N slope of Flag Mountain through the snow and deadfall timber again. Lupe went all the way back down the mountain to the Patterson Creek valley again.
Lupe and SPHP crossed Patterson Creek and went over to the N side of the field. Since there was no need to climb Smith Mountain again, Lupe and SPHP followed the fence along the edge of the field heading W up the valley to see what was there. The field branched out into two even bigger fields, one to the SW and one to the NW. Two big spruce trees stood near an old abandoned cabin where the fields met. It was a pretty spot.
Lupe continued along the NE edge of the field heading N along the fence line. The field soon divided again. One arm of it went off to the W. The other arm turned and went N a long way. SPHP could see a home way up toward the far N end. The fields were probably private property. Lupe and SPHP decided to angle NNE through the forest, hoping to find USFS Road No. 386.1B again somewhere W of Smith Mountain.
Lupe did find No. 386.1B again near the big clearing where she had first reached it earlier in the day on the way to Flag Mountain. This time, Lupe followed No. 386.1B going N. The road wound around a little, but most of the time made steady progress to the N. Along the way, Lupe was exploring new territory W of Smith Mountain. She saw deer and squirrels in the forest, so she was having some fun.
After a little while, SPHP saw an intersection up ahead. As Lupe got close to the intersection, her fun suddenly ended. A shot rang out very close by. Hunters again! This time much, much closer. Lupe wanted to hide near a big tree close to the intersection. SPHP complied. Several more shots rang out. SPHP knew Lupe wasn’t going anywhere until they stopped.
Ten minutes of silence went by. SPHP headed for the intersection. Lupe didn’t want to go, but was scared to be left behind. The side road was marked No. 386.1F. It went NNE and looked like a shortcut back to the G6 compared to No. 386.1B, which would take a very long way around to the NW. From the intersection, SPHP saw the hunter’s pickup truck parked not too far away along No. 386.1F.
Another shot rang out. Lupe and SPHP retreated SW to a big rock. SPHP sat and looked at maps, while Lupe huddled as close as she could get. The maps showed it would have been faster to take No. 386.1B around the E side of Smith Mountain from Patterson Creek. Too late for that! No. 386.1F was definitely a shortcut back to the G6 from here. It would save at least a mile compared to staying on No. 386.1B.
After it had been quiet for a while again, Lupe and SPHP returned to the intersection and started NNE on No. 386.1F. Within a few minutes, Lupe was past the hunter’s pickup truck. The road was snowy and icy. There were lots of tracks in the snow. There must have been quite a few hunters. Lupe saw a couple of them to the E higher up on Smith Mountain. One waved. SPHP waved back, but did not stop. No more shots were heard.
No. 386.1F led down into a big draw NNW of Smith Mountain. Lower down, the road became so choked with deadfall timber, Lupe and SPHP left it. The mountain slopes seemed easier going than the road. The sun set. For just a few minutes, there was a beautifully colored sky to the SW.
It was 4:59 PM (41°F), and getting pretty dark by the time Lupe and SPHP reached the G6 again. SPHP’s feet were still cold, but moving on the long march back had helped. They weren’t as cold as they had been standing around on top of Flag Mountain. Carolina Dogs have great circulation. SPHP felt Lupe’s paws. They were practically burning hot! It felt good just holding them! Lupe just grinned.
Days 40 & 41 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska
Night, Unknown Hour, Pre-dawn on Day 40 – Cold out, but at least Lupe wasn’t going to get snowed in at the Canadian Rockies. Last evening’s rain had stopped. Stars glittered in the black night sky. Back to sleep, if possible, no telling how many hours away dawn was. Lupe wasn’t going anywhere until then, not with the G6’s burnt out R headlight.
Day 40, 6:55 AM, 33°F – Whatever happened to that bright morning sunshine SPHP had expected? The clouds were back. In places there was fog along Icefields Parkway Hwy 93. It hadn’t snowed down here, but mountains visible between the clouds were sporting a dusting of new snow. The mood was more like the onset of winter than a day in early September.
Sadly, Lupe was leaving. Her Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska was all but over. She would have a couple more adventures on the way home, but they wouldn’t take long.
The miles flew by as Lupe watched the scenery from the comfort of the G6. She saw the grandeur of the towering Canadian Rockies. She passed by many a turn leading to fabulous adventures she’d had earlier on this Dingo Vacation or back in 2013 or 2014. As Lupe left the glorious mountains, the sky started to clear and the sun came out.
Lupe wasn’t the least bit sad. As far as she was concerned, the adventure was still on. In fact, it was getting even better! Ahead of her were more than 1,000 miles of farm and ranchlands. That meant one thing to the Carolina Dog – an abundance of cows, horses, haystacks, suspicious barns and outbuildings to bark at while leaping from window to window in the G6! Yes, it was going to be an exciting, busy, exhausting day!
And so it was. Barking at cows and horses from the G6 is a sport Looper never tires of, nor loses interest in. The unsuspecting cows and horses don’t have to do anything more than exist in order to egg her on. Seldom are they even aware of her brief, shrill, distant presence. Doesn’t matter a whit. Loop barks all the harder. The whole experience provides her with a sense of purpose, accomplishment and joy.
The only way to calm the energetic din, is to drive into a town or up into the mountains. Even the mountains can be noisy, but rarely are there enough deer and squirrels present as substitutes to make the experience at all comparable to the pleasures to be had in cattle country.
SPHP was granted a break while driving through Calgary, and another later on in Great Falls, Montana. In Great Falls, SPHP stopped to pick up fried chicken, potato wedges and Almond Joys. For a while SE of Great Falls, the potato wedges and Almond Joys kept Lupe distracted. By the time SPHP stopped at the Al Buck Memorial Park along Highway 89 N of the Little Belt Range, Lupe was too stuffed to share the fried chicken.
Day 40, 7:00 PM, 47°F – Lupe arrived at King’s Hill Pass on Hwy 89 in the Little Belt Mountains of W Central Montana very satisfied with how her day had gone. The excitement of being in cattle country was temporarily over up here, but the sun would be above the horizon for a little while longer. The American Dingo was still bursting with energy and eager for some exercise climbing King’s Hill(8,008 ft.).
From the pass, Lupe went SW through the forest until she reached USFS Road No. 487, which she followed for 0.75 mile going S along the W face of King’s Hill. By the time No. 487 turned E, she was almost up to the S end of the huge, nearly level summit area. Lupe went N along the wide summit ridge, as the last feeble rays of sunlight faded.
Lupe traveled NNW across the open ground until she reached the survey benchmark at the true summit near the N end of the mountain. Although the sun was still above the horizon, clouds filtered the remaining sunlight to the point where it was hard to tell it was even present. It certainly did nothing to cut the chill from the W wind sweeping over King’s Hill.
Off to the NNE, Lupe could see Big Baldy Mountain(9,177 ft.), the highest point in the Little Belt Range. Big Baldy already had snow on top!
Up in the cold wind, late in the day after being cooped up in the G6 so long, the American Dingo started getting ideas. Oh, no! SPHP recognized that look.
Suddenly Lupe vanished. In her place appeared the wild, ferocious were-puppy. Without hesitation the were-puppy attacked SPHP!
After a few minutes of struggle, during which the were-puppy lunged and leaped at SPHP with snapping jaws, SPHP managed to fend off the were-puppy. Lupe returned looking as innocent as she could be.
So, I take you adventuring not only to the Canadian Rockies, but way up to the Yukon and even Alaska, and this is what I get?
Why, whatever do you mean, SPHP? Are you feeling well?
Sly dog! Well, the wind was cold, and Lupe had made it to the top of King’s Hill. The sun really would be down behind Porphyry Peak(8,192 ft.) soon. No sense in sticking around waiting for the were-puppy to return. Lupe and SPHP started S toward the road leading back down to the G6.
Shots rang out. Gunfire! Hunters? The same American Dingo which had presented itself as the bold, ferocious, wild and invincible were-puppy only minutes ago, now pleaded with SPHP for reassurance and assistance.
Help! Help! Hide me! Save me! Hold me! Pet me! Love me! Carry me! All of the above me!
Sheesh, such drama! Come on Looper, you’ll be fine. Just stick close by. No harm will come to you.
As promised, Lupe returned safely to the G6, though shaken by her narrow escape (8:19 PM). She leaped into the G6 immediately. SPHP fed her Alpo and Taste of the Wild before putting her blankie over her. Soon the were-puppy was snoring peacefully. Outside, stars shone brilliantly accompanied by a half moon.
Day 41, First Light, 6:13 AM, 41°F – Lupe woke to the sound of rain and wind gusts. A small storm was blowing through. So much for any thought of climbing Porphyry Peak this morning. SPHP had hatched a different plan already, anyway. Look out cows, horses and haystacks, Lupe is on her way!
Lupe left the Little Belt Range behind. S of White Sulphur Springs near the junction of Hwys 12 & 89, Lupe & SPHP got out of the G6 to take a look at the dramatic sky remaining in the aftermath of the storm front.
Cows, horses, haystacks! Lupe had her fun. Ahh, this was the life! Another great day!
E of Lovell, Wyoming, Highway Alt 14 wound steeply up into the last big mountain range of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation. Lupe was back in the Bighorns for the first time since she’d climbed Cloud Peak(13,167 ft.) back in July. Her final peakbagging adventures of this Dingo Vacation would occur here.
A little after noon, on this cool breezy day, Lupe set out from the Bald Mountain campground for Bald Mountain(10,042 ft.) (12:09 PM, 56°F).
The mostly bare, rounded mountain was an easy climb. The only real obstacle was the SW wind, which blew harder and harder as Lupe gained elevation. Carolina Dogs are not great fans of wind, but Loopster persevered. There was nothing along the way to protect her from the wind, but on the other hand, the views were tremendous!
Lupe reached the survey benchmark at the true summit. The wind was worst here. She didn’t like it, but the Carolina Dog stayed long enough for photos. Lupe had been here before. Twice in 2012, once in 2013. More than 3 years had gone by since her last ascent.
Well, this was it. Lupe had done it. She had reached the summit of Bald Mountain. Only one task remained – to go find the place of names, and make the necessary repairs. Lupe’s name has been immmortalized in stone on Bald Mountain since July 11, 2013.
It had been more than 3 years since Lupe and SPHP were here last, but the place of names was found with relatively little difficulty. Lupe waited in the wind for an hour, while SPHP fixed things up. Finally, it was done.And that was that. There was nothing left to do. Enough of this wind! Lupe and SPHP began the easy trek back to the G6 with a grand view of Medicine Mountain ahead.
The wind was still blowing when Lupe reached the G6 at the Bald Mountain campground (3:13 PM, 53°F), but not as strongly as up on the mountain. She stayed in the area for more than an hour before heading E again on Highway Alt 14A toward Burgess Junction.
Later in the day, E of the magnificent Bighorn Range, Lupe resumed her happy duty watching for cows and horses to bark at along I90. She kept it up as long as there was light to see by. Yes, this really was the life, all these splendid days adventuring on and off the long road to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska and back, every minute spent with sweet Lupe!
After an adventure spanning 9,126 miles, 41 days & 40 nights, Lupe returned to her home in the Black Hills of South Dakota at 10:50 PM on 9-8-2016. She had gone thousands of miles farther than she had ever been before, seen countless magnificent sights, and had wonderful adventures all the way up to the Yukon and far into Alaska.
In the Brooks Range of northern Alaska, Lupe went her last mile N reaching the confluence of the Dietrich River and a stream NW of Dillon Mountain. From there she saw a mountain, farther N yet, privately designated the Mountain of the Midnight Sun. Whether Lupe ever sees the Mountain of the Midnight Sun and adventures in Alaska again is, at this moment, part of the unknown, uncertain future.
So long as Lupe is alive and well, hope remains that some day the Dingo of the Midnight Sun will return to roam and play once more beneath the pale blue Arctic sky.
The Owl & The Pussycat
The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money, wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above, and sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love, what a beautiful Pussy you are, you are, you are, what a beautiful Pussy you are.”
Pussy said to the Owl “You elegant fowl, how charmingly sweet you sing. O let usbe married, too long we have tarried; but what shall we do for a ring?”
They sailed away for a year and a day, to the land where the Bong-tree grows, and there in a wood, a Piggy-wig stood, with a ring at the end of his nose, his nose, his nose. With a ring at the end of his nose.
“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.”
So they took it away, and were married next day by the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince, which they ate with a runcible spoon.
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand, they danced by the light of the moon, the moon, the moon.
Start 10:06 AM, 67°F, USFS Road No. 304 near the lower end of Tree Draw, about 4 miles S of Deerfield Road
Well, this was it! Lupe trotted happily along the road leading up Tree Draw. At least there was some shade. It was already warm out. Only a few little white clouds dotted the sunny blue sky. Lupe’s pink tongue dangled so far out of her mouth, it looked like it ought to belong to a considerably larger Dingo.
Lupe was destined to spend a good deal of the day panting. Summer was here! Due to the heat, Expedition No. 207 would be her last Black Hills Expedition until cooler weather arrives in the fall.
The road went W for 0.5 mile, then turned S for 0.375 mile. Lupe was now approaching the upper end of Tree Draw. The road angled SW and started climbing more steeply. It faded away entirely at a barbed wire fence. Lupe ducked under the fence, and quickly reached a minor pass. This was the saddle NNW of Peak6720, her first peakbagging destination for the day.
A broad, gently rounded ridge led SSE up to the top of the mountain. On the way, Lupe dodged scattered deadfall timber. Near the summit, the deadfall was worse and had fallen over the barbed wire fence, which unfortunately came up here, too. SPHP lifted Lupe over the dangerous downed fence.
At the N end of the first sizable rock outcropping she came to, Lupe reached the true summit of Peak6720.
The summit ridge sloped gradually down toward the SSE. Beyond a gap of relatively level ground were more rock formations. Lupe left the true summit to explore them, too.
Fewer trees grew around the rock formations S of the true summit. Lupe enjoyed better views from here, even though she wasn’t quite as high on the mountain as before. She could see Sylvan Hill(7,000 ft.) off to the SE where she’d been only a week ago on Expedition No. 206.
It hadn’t taken long to get to Peak 6720, so Lupe wasn’t ready for much of a break yet. She remained on the summit ridge only 20 minutes. That was long enough to get a drink, scramble around on the rocks some, and see the views.
Medicine Mountain(6,878 ft.), 2 miles to the SSW, was next on the Carolina Dog’s peakbagging agenda. Lupe left Peak 6720 heading straight on down the SW slope. Progress was slow at first. SPHP had to navigate a band of loose rock directly below the spine of the mountain. This was followed by a much longer band of deadfall timber. The deadfall was considerably worse here than on the way Lupe had gone up.
Loose rocks and deadfall were left behind, though, well before Lupe reached the floor of the valley to the W. A dirt road in the valley headed straight for Medicine Mountain.
Loop had about a mile to go to reach USFS Road No. 297 down by Negro Creek, but the dirt road she was on veered off onto the W (R) slope of the valley after only half that distance. The Carolina Dog left the road to remain in the valley instead. Following an old cow path, she went around the E side of a large fenced area on the valley floor.
When a spring and small creek appeared, Lupe made good use of them.
Lupe reached USFS Road No. 297. She was halfway from Peak 6720 to Medicine Mountain. Negro Creek, a small stream, but much larger than the tiny tributary in the valley she’d just come through, was flowing through an interestingly shaped pond on the other (SW) side of the road. The pond was home to a family of Canadian geese.
Lupe and SPHP trudged S on USFS Road No. 297 far enough to get past a barbed wire fence before leaving the road to cross Negro Creek. While SPHP jumped across, Lupe hopped right in the creek and laid down. She then got up, and strolled up and down the creek a few times while drinking the cold water. When the Carolina Dog felt sufficiently refreshed, she leapt out of the creek to start climbing Medicine Mountain.
The day was hot. At least, it was hot for climbing mountains. Despite her revitalizing dip in Negro Creek, Lupe’s tongue was soon hanging out again. The heat sapped SPHP’s energy. Most of the mountain was forested, but Lupe came to a few sunny fields on the way up, too. Lupe and SPHP made numerous short rest stops in shady places.
Lupe explored the forest while SPHP kept chugging slowly up Medicine Mountain. There wasn’t much deadfall until almost to the top. Lupe arrived at the base of a narrow rock outcropping after coming up the N ridge. The outcropping looked only 20 feet high. A route existed where SPHP might be able to scramble directly up.
No problem with the little scramble, but the first 20 feet led only to a false summit. However, Lupe didn’t have much more to go. Loop and SPHP worked a little higher along the E side of a rocky ledge, while proceeding S. In a couple of minutes, Lupe was at the top of Medicine Mountain’s N summit. A line of rocks of roughly equal elevation along the ledge provided terrific views to the N.
This time, break first – then views. Lupe had water and Taste of the Wild. An apple, as usual, for SPHP. Lupe curled up in the shade of a tree, surrounded by delicate white wildflowers. Medicine Mountain was a busy place. Flies buzzed, bees hummed, butterflies chased each other in dizzying circles.
After a 10 minute rest, Loop and SPHP were ready for a look around. From the rocks of the N ledge, Lupe could see in every direction except S. The best views were toward the N & W.
So far, Lupe had only made it to the lower N summit of Medicine Mountain. If she wanted to see the views to the S and complete her peakbagging goal, she would have to go to the mountain’s true summit. A saddle with considerable deadfall timber led over to the higher S summit, which wasn’t far off. Lupe could be there in minutes.
Once she was across the saddle, Lupe found a short, faint trail leading up the NW side of the S summit. The highest point on Medicine Mountain(6,878 ft.) proved to be occupied by a young aspen tree.
The best views from the S summit were toward the rugged country around Black Elk Peak(7,231 ft.) to the SE.
Looper could see a long way to the S.
Lupe spent a little while near the true summit of Medicine Mountain. However, if she wanted to have enough time to actually get to Peak 6680 and Copper Mountain, she couldn’t dilly dally too long. Disappointingly, a little sniffing around revealed no medicine on Medicine Mountain, so Lupe moved on. She took the faint path leading back to the saddle, and began a descent down the mountain’s W slope.
The W slope was moderately steep and full of deadfall timber. Lupe was nearly down to a huge field in the next valley before she was out of it. She continued W across the field, and headed for a saddle ESE of Peak 6680. The saddle and much of the rest of the way up were covered with a forest of dense young pines 10 to 15 feet high.
The young pine forest would have been difficult to travel through, but fortunately, a series of lanes free of trees existed by which it was possible to weave up the mountain mostly unhindered. As Lupe approached the summit of Peak 6680, she came to an older forest and started seeing rock outcroppings.
Lupe had been to Peak6680 once before, way back on Expedition No. 96 on 9-20-14. It had been so long ago, SPHP couldn’t remember what the summit was like. Lupe rediscovered a 150 foot long summit ridge oriented E/W with large rocks scattered along the N edge where the slope below was steepest. This whole ridge was forested, but a few spots offered Loop glimpses of distant views.
Lupe had come up at the E end of Peak 6680’s summit ridge. The ridge was roughly level, but with slightly higher points at each end. Lupe could see a rock at the far W end which looked like it might be the true summit.
Naturally, the American Dingo had to go check it out.
Although it wasn’t really clear if the E or W high point was the true summit of Peak 6680, Lupe had now been to both. She could now claim peakbagging successes at 3 different mountains today. SPHP was pretty certain she still had time to get to Copper Mountain, too.
Copper Mountain was 2 miles due N. Loop wasted no time getting started. She went E back a little beyond the rocks at Peak 6680’s E high point, before turning N. She traveled down to a very wide saddle leading to the long S ridge that would take her to Copper Mountain. It was a bushwhack all the way through the forest until she came to a dirt road upon attaining the S ridge.
Now Lupe and SPHP could make good time. The dirt road followed the top of the ridge to Sixmile Road (USFS Road No. 301), a major gravel road. Lupe crossed No. 301 continuing N before eventually turning E. The sun was getting low, but would still be up for another hour or so, when Lupe reached the cliffs at the SE end of Copper Mountain(6,920 ft.).
The last time Lupe had been here was 14 months ago, when she’d first met her mountaineering friend Jobe Wymore. Jobe had used Lupe’s Black Hills scouting services, and come all the way from the west coast to visit Odakota Mountain. Lupe and SPHP had then gone with Jobe all the way to the Wildcat Hills of Nebraska.
Fun times, and it was fun to think about them again now! Neither Lupe nor SPHP had ever met a real mountaineer before. Jobe had turned out to be such a great guy with so many interesting tales to tell! Lupe hadn’t seen Jobe since that day, but it was possible she was going to see him again on one of her 2017 Dingo Vacations this summer!
The evening views from Copper Mountain were beautiful. Lupe and SPHP stayed a little while admiring them, talking about Jobe, and remembering. The sun was getting lower, though, and Lupe had a bit of a bushwhack ahead of her to get back to the saddle above Tree Draw near Peak 6720.
Lupe’s return trip went fine. The heat of the day was gone. Lupe and SPHP were both energized. Lupe saw many deer, a few squirrels, and one giant deer (elk) on the way. She had a blast! She made such good progress, she even had time for a quick side trek back up to the top of Peak 6720 to see the sun set.
Expedition No. 207 marked the end of Lupe’s Black Hills expeditions for a while. The first of her splendid Summer of 2017 Dingo Vacations full of more distant adventures would be starting soon! (9:11 PM, 52°F)
Start 7:35 AM, 46°F, USFS Road No. 352 just NW of the end of Sylvan Hill’s N ridge.
Expedition day! Lupe was excited! She frolicked and rolled in tall green grass, wet from overnight rain showers. Before SPHP was even ready to set out, Loop was already a soggy doggie, but happy as a clam. She led the way, trotting S on perfectly good USFS Road No. 352, expecting SPHP to follow.
Instead, SPHP left the road right at the G6, climbing a slope to the SE to begin the 1.75 mile trek up Sylvan Hill’s N ridge. The Carolina Dog doubled back. This was more good news! Loop loves off-road, off-trail exploring most of all.
Sylvan Hill(7,000 ft.) is the high point of Custer County, SD. Situated only 3 miles SW of Black Elk Peak(7,131 ft.), the highest mountain in South Dakota, and a mile W of Sylvan Lake, it lies near the heart of the most rugged territory in the Black Hills, an area characterized by large ancient granite formations.
As the Custer County high point, Sylvan Hill gets climbed more frequently than many Black Hills peaks. The vast majority of ascents are made by the shortest route possible starting from a dirt parking lot off Hwy 87/89 located 0.5 mile W of Sylvan Lake Lodge in Custer State Park.
From the dirt parking lot, a short trek up a switchback on a gated side road ends at a sod-covered water storage facility. A subsequent steep climb WSW through the forest skirts around the S end of a big granite formation, and leads to a saddle on a ridgeline with more granite to the S (High Point 6849). The summit of Sylvan Hill lies less than 0.25 mile NW of this saddle along a deadfall infested ridge.
This popular route from the E is no more than 0.75 mile one way, and involves less than 800 feet of net elevation gain. The first time Lupe climbed Sylvan Hill slightly more than 3 years ago on Expedition No. 89 (5-17-14), she had also used this route. Not today, though! Now she was intent upon exploring the longer N ridge.
Lupe gained a little under 200 feet of elevation going up the slope to the first high point on the N ridge. Scattered boulders were at the top, but no large rock formations. Lupe angled S, losing a little elevation. Off to the W, a short stretch of USFS Road No. 352 was in sight again a little lower down. Lupe had been right, it would have been easier to follow the road this far. Ahh, well. Que sera.
Continuing on, Lupe’s climb resumed. This next section was shorter, and led to more boulders strung out along a higher part of the ridge. Lupe got up on one of the biggest boulders offering a partial view of what lay ahead.
For a while, the ridge narrowed considerably. The edge was steeper than before. Sometimes Lupe could go over the top of rock formations she came to. Other times, it was easier to go around. SPHP often expected Lupe was about to have to lose some elevation, but she seldom lost much. A way through to higher ground always seemed to appear.
The ridge widened out again, and Lupe came to an abandoned road. The road was switchbacking its way up, so Loop followed it. Why not? It was the easiest way.
The road didn’t take Lupe very far. It ended at what appeared to be an old prospecting site where a hole had been blasted in the side of the ridge.
With the forest also blown away in this area, Lupe would have her first real shot at some distant views from rocks she could see above the blast site. Loop scrambled up for a look around. She had a nice look back to the N at Saint Elmo Peak(6,458 ft.) and Zimmer Ridge(6,600 ft.).
Dingo, ho! Lupe was climbing steadily now. The ridge was getting steeper. The longest, steepest part of her journey up the N ridge was underway. Loop was approaching the high forested area she had seen from the first big boulder early on. Before the final big push, she reached another high point with a view.
Onward! Up and up. After several hundred feet of sharp elevation gains, the terrain began to level out. Lupe was still going up, but at a more moderate pace. The forest started thinning out. Lupe came to meadows with minor high points a short distance off to the SSW. She went over near the top of the first one.
Lupe had her first view of Sylvan Hill’s true summit ahead.
The rest of the way was easy. The slope of the terrain was gradual. Lupe romped through open fields. To the E, she had views of impressive rock formations and many peaks she had been to before. The true summit wasn’t far off now.
The NW slope of the knobby summit would have been an easy climb, but was full of deadfall timber amid a thick stand of young aspens. Lupe found it easier to circle around to the SW, where she faced a momentary scramble between a few big rocks. A couple of bounds up, and she was there! Lupe sat comfortably on a small grassy spot on top of Sylvan Hill(7,000 ft.) for the first time in over 3 years.
The views from Sylvan Hill were magnificent! Lupe could see far off in every direction. The summit area was small, but not the least bit scary. The American Dingo had plenty of room to relax and take life easy. First, though, it was time to enjoy those views!
The cairn at the top of the mountain had been considerably improved upon since the last time Lupe had been here on Expedition No. 89. She got up near it for a good look around.
N of the true summit was another rock ledge Lupe could comfortably pose on. She happily agreed to get up on it for a few photos in this direction, too.
Before taking her break, Lupe returned to the summit cairn for another look. Of all the grand views available from Sylvan Hill, the best was toward Black Elk Peak, South Dakota’s loftiest mountain.
That was a bunch of pictures. Lupe was ready for her break. She curled up to enjoy her usual Taste of the wild. SPHP had nectarines instead of the usual apple. After devouring both nectarines, SPHP wandered around the summit a bit more while Lupe continued chilling out.
The weather had been becoming increasingly unsettled while Lupe came up the N ridge. After 20 minutes at the summit, the first of a series of squalls blew in. Suddenly, Lupe really was chilling out. SPHP feared a cold, drenching shower was imminent, but none materialized.
What did materialize was a snow storm! The micro-blizzard was dramatic, and came on driven by a frigid, stiff N breeze. The snow wasn’t flakes, but arrived as tiny pellets. Neither the Carolina Dog nor SPHP was particularly pleased with this turn of events, but snow was better than a bone-chilling rain.
The Sylvan Peak micro-blizzard lasted all of 3 or 4 minutes before it began to taper off again. Typical in this country. More squalls would come, but in the meantime, Lupe would have 20 minutes or more when the skies would clear somewhat and the sun might shine.
Loop was ready to move on. A few more minutes at the summit, and SPHP was ready, too.
Lupe’s next peakbagging goal for Expedition No. 206 was Peak6733, located nearly 1.5 miles SW of Sylvan Hill across the upper end of Bear Gulch. The plan wasn’t to head directly for it, but to explore the entire length of the long, undulating ridge going all around the S end of Bear Gulch.
The first part of Looper’s route to Peak 6733 would follow the same SE ridge which is the last segment of the popular route to Sylvan Hill from Hwy 87/89. SPHP remembered this trek from Lupe’s Expedition No. 89 as being dreadfully slow due to all the deadfall timber killed by pine bark beetles.
The deadfall situation hadn’t improved at all over the last 3 years.
Fortunately, it wasn’t nearly as far to the first big granite formation SE of Sylvan Hill as SPHP remembered. Despite the deadfall, Lupe made her way over there fairly quickly. She climbed most of the way up the granite into a narrow crack between nearly vertical walls.
Lupe was near High Point 6849 on the Peakbagger.com topo map. She needed to get past the highest vertical wall of granite blocking her way S. SPHP didn’t see an easy way over it, and was fearful of the potential drop that might be waiting for Lupe on the other side.
After a half-hearted search for a way over, Lupe and SPHP gave up. Lupe went W looking for a way around High Point 6849.
Loop had to lose more elevation than SPHP expected, but she did get around the W end of High Point 6849. Good thing Lupe went around it, and hadn’t tried too hard to go over the top! Looking back after regaining the ridgeline on the other side, it was clear that going around had been the only feasible option.
Now that she was past High Point 6849, Lupe followed the ridge SW. The ridge was broad, and the terrain wasn’t bad at all, with no big climbs or drops. Lupe still had excellent views to the S.
Despite these advantages, the ridge walk wasn’t fun. Deadfall timber was strewn so thickly about, Lupe’s progress was excruciatingly slow. She did reach one area that was kind of cool. A lumpy platform of solid granite had a few big puddles on it, and was free of the aggravating deadfall.
The views were great, but beyond the platform, Lupe was forced right back into the deadfall infested forest. Up ahead, High Point 6855 loomed as the next obstacle. It really didn’t look like Lupe could get all the way to the top, but she could clearly get quite high. She shouldn’t have a hard time finding a way past the summit.
Another squall came and went. Cold N breeze, same deal as before, except this time it was a mix of snow then rain. As before, it didn’t last long. These squalls might come and go for hours. If they turned completely to rain and got worse, Lupe’s long trek around the deadfall infested ridge was going to be unpleasant. She still had a long way to go to Peak 6733.
Upon reaching a saddle leading to the now imminent climb up High Point 6855, the American Dingo discovered a faint road. Lupe was doing fine, but SPHP was fed up with all the deadfall on the ridge. Come on, Looper, let’s just take this road down into Bear Gulch. Even though you’ll have to regain a lot more lost elevation, we’ll get to Peak 6733 way faster.
Lupe didn’t mind. In fact, she preferred the road, too. The road went by meadows where she could run around, instead of wasting her energy hopping over dead trees. The faint road led to a better one, which ultimately brought Lupe down into the upper end of Bear Gulch from the E.
Lupe came to USFS Road No. 352 again 2.5 miles S of where the G6 was parked along it. Nearby, a little stream crossed the road. Lupe crossed the road, too, staying S of the creek. Boggy forested terrain interlaced with small rivulets trickling through it all forced her SW.
Loop drank from the rivulets. She loved the feel of the soft, damp, boggy ground on her paws. SPHP was less enthused by the mud, but managed to avoid the worst of it. Before long, the Carolina Dog was beyond the bog and climbing a hillside. She had skipped past a big part of the long ridge to Peak 6733, but now she needed to get back up there again. SPHP had her aim for the saddle between High Point 6627 and Peak 6733.
About the time Loop regained the ridgeline, a third squall hit. This squall was mostly dark clouds and wind, accompanied by only a little rain. Apparently the squalls were weakening instead of strengthening. Good! Lupe turned NW following the ridge. She still needed to regain another 300 feet of elevation to reach Peak 6733’s summit.
In keeping with its annoying tradition, the upper part of the ridge was strewn with deadfall. At least it wasn’t quite as bad here as before.
The summit of Peak6733 is a block of granite with small cliffs facing NE. Lupe had an easy time scrambling up from the SE. The views were superb in most directions, except to the W toward Thunderhead Mountain(6,567 ft.) and the Crazy Horse Memorial where trees interfered.
After a look around, Lupe and SPHP took a break. Lupe had water and more Taste of the Wild. SPHP had foolishly devoured both nectarines back on Sylvan Hill.
By the time Lupe’s break was over, another squall could be seen coming in from the N.
This fourth squall was the weakest and final one of any note. The sun soon came out again. Lupe made another tour of Peak 6733’s summit before beginning her descent.
The easiest way down seemed to be to the SE back the way Lupe had come up.
Once Lupe was down off the summit, she stopped briefly by another high point a little to the SE. It was somewhat lower, of course, but offered a final, unobstructed view of Sylvan Hill(7,000 ft.) and Bear Gulch.
From here, Lupe headed N, passing below Peak 6733’s summit along the base of the NE facing cliffs.
Once beyond the cliffs, Lupe and SPHP stayed on the N ridge making a long trek through a battle zone of deadfall timber. The terrain was easy enough, but the deadfall was horrid the entire way. Lupe finally reached a road at a gated pass immediately S of High Point 6634.
Once again, Lupe was glad to reach the road! She made another descent into Bear Gulch. The road took her a long way back to the SE, before eventually curving N again. Lupe didn’t care. She was free of the deadfall. Now she could have fun sniffing around. She was entertained by numerous deer she saw along the way.
The road finally reached USFS Road No. 352 down by the creek at the bottom of Bear Gulch. Here, the side road Lupe had been following was marked as No. 352.2B. The G6 was still a good 2 miles N along No. 352.
It was only mid-afternoon. The sun would be up for hours. However, Lupe had gotten off to an early start this morning, and the long stretches of deadfall had been wearying. The Carolina Dog turned N on No. 352, and headed for her ride home. (5:01 PM, 59°F)
Note: USFS Road No. 352 (marked by a brown fiberglass wand) leaves the W side of Hwy 87/89 in Sunday Gulch (S of Hill City) less than 0.25 mile S of privately owned Horse Thief Campground & RV Resort just as the highway begins a 3 mile climb up to Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park.
Stay to the L at a “Y” where No. 352 levels out. Park along the road here (like Lupe did), or go a little farther to a small parking area at a locked gate in Bear Gulch less than a mile from the highway. High clearance vehicle not required.
Day 38 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska
Lupe’s morning started at 7:00 AM with a quick side trip into nearby Fort St. John for fuel for the G6. Then it was back N a few miles to the turn SW onto Hwy 29 to Chetwynd. Making that turn, Lupe left the Alaska Highway for the final time on her Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation.
Hwy 29 was a beautiful drive. For a while, the road followed a stretch of the Peace River valley. However, that feeling of being in the truly far N, which Lupe had while in the Yukon and Alaska, was fading fast. At Chetwynd, SPHP turned W on Hwy 97. It would eventually turn S and take Lupe to Prince George. This was still gorgeous, unspoiled territory, all wild, forested, and full of rivers and lakes, but Lupe saw no more snow-capped mountains, not even on the most distant horizon.
Nearly all day would be spent driving, but Lupe did have one adventure in store for her. She was going to take the trail up Teapot Mountain, sometimes touted as one of the best day hikes of central interior British Columbia. The trail isn’t long, only 0.9 mile (1.4 km). It climbs an ancient steep-sided basaltic plug which survived the last ice age, while gaining 650 feet of elevation (200 meters).
The sky clouded up. Light rain showers dampened the highway. Miles rolled by. Suddenly, ack! Talus Road! Wasn’t that it? Yes, and SPHP had missed the turn. Oh, well. At least the sign had been spotted. SPHP found a place to turn around. A few minutes later, Lupe was turning W onto gravel Talus Road.
A kilometer later, SPHP missed the R turn onto Caine Creek Forestry Road, too. The whole area seemed to be a maze of gravel roads, and the signage wasn’t great. Nevertheless, after a brief exercise in futility, Lupe did make it back to Caine Creek Forestry Road, which wound around for 2 miles (3 km) before crossing a bridge over a creek connecting a couple of skinny, swampy lakes on either side.
As the road started curving L after crossing the bridge, a sign could be seen tucked back at the edge of the trees near a dirt side road on the R. Nearby was enough parking space for several vehicles. The sign said Teapot Mtn. An arrow pointed into the forest along the side road. Not another soul or vehicle was around, but this had to be the trailhead.
SPHP parked, and Lupe got out of the G6. The sky was clearing a little again. The sun was trying to break through. On the way here, Lupe had seen densely forested Teapot Mountain a little to the W. It didn’t look very big after all the mountains Lupe had seen on this Dingo Vacation. The trip up Teapot Mountain(3,009 ft.) wouldn’t take long.
Lupe had plenty of time. Why not take a look at the swampy lakes and the creek from the bridge, before going up the mountain?
The water in the creek, which was actually the Crooked River, looked clean and clear. From the smaller skinny lake, it flowed N under the bridge. Both skinny lakes were part of the river system. Lupe didn’t see any fish in the river, but no doubt there must be some. The lakes had plenty of water and looked like great habitat.
In the 15 minutes Lupe spent sniffing around the Crooked River and the swampy lakes, 2 vehicles had arrived and parked at the Teapot Mountain trailhead. Hikers were already somewhere on the trail ahead of her by the time Lupe started out. The first part of the trail followed the side road, which curved NW as it led Lupe into the forest. The side road dead-ended after only a few hundred feet.
Where the side road ended, a wide path strewn with leaves led off to the W toward Teapot Mountain. Lupe hadn’t gained any elevation yet, but she was about to. The path started climbing steadily, slowly at first, but it quickly became steep.
The well worn trail was easy to follow, but soon became a real challenge for heart, lungs and legs. It worked its way over to the SE face of Teapot Mountain, where it began to climb even more steeply heading almost straight up the mountain.
The dense, lush forest hid all views. Many tree roots and rocks were exposed on the trail, which was hard packed. This part of the Teapot Mountain trail must be very slick when wet, but it wasn’t bad as Lupe made her ascent.
Teapot Mountain hadn’t looked that big from below, but felt bigger with each step up. The relentless steep rate of climb continued until Lupe reached a junction close to the top of the mountain. Here, the trail divided. Lupe could go L or R. It didn’t really matter which way she went, since both directions were part of the circular loop trail around the upper rim of Teapot Mountain. Lupe went R (N), hoping to catch a view of the Crooked River below.
Just because Lupe had reached the loop trail didn’t mean she could see anything. The top of Teapot Mountain was as densely forested as all the rest of it was. The trail had come up near the SE end of the mountain, at a part of the rim that proved to be a little lower than most of it. The summit area contained within the loop trail was acres in size. The interior terrain sloped gradually and unevenly up toward some unseen high point.
The loop trail was an easy, almost level stroll. Lupe didn’t have to go very far N before she came to a break in the trees where she could see a long, skinny lake down along the Crooked River off to the NE.
On her way around the N rim of Teapot Mountain, Lupe came to no more viewpoints until she reached some cliffs at the NW end of the mountain. Lupe could see a large shallow pond in a clearing far below.
From the cliffs at the NW viewpoint, Lupe didn’t have far to go to reach a big tan-colored rock formation at the SW end of the mountain. Up until now, Lupe hadn’t seen anyone along the trail. She found everyone here, congregated on the rock formation which offers the premier view from Teapot Mountain.
A friendly dog wanted to play with Lupe, but with cliffs so close by, the humans put a quick end to all the mad dashing and chasing around. A wooden bench was nearby to the E. Lupe got up on it for a look at the big view. Summit Lake, which is quite large and has an interesting irregular shape, was the main attraction. Lupe could see the N end of Summit Lake dotted with forested islands not too far away to the S.
While everyone else remained congregated on the tan rock formation, Lupe and SPHP went off in search of the true summit of Teapot Mountain. The highest point Lupe found was a nice mossy spot at the end of a very faint trail into the interior. The summit wasn’t far from the SW viewpoint at all.
Lupe returned to the loop trail. People were getting ready to depart. Before long, Lupe had the premier viewpoint on Teapot Mountain all to herself.
For a little while, Lupe and SPHP stayed together up on the tan rock formation enjoying the view of the lakes and forests of central British Columbia. Before long voices were heard approaching from the E. More hikers. Time to go and let them enjoy this beautiful spot in peace. Loop still had many miles to go today anyway.
Lupe saw more teapots placed on rocks and in trees along the S rim of Teapot Mountain as she completed the loop back to the trail down. The clouds hadn’t so much as sprinkled any rain for a while. On her way down, Lupe encountered several more groups of people who had decided to come up. Apparently, Teapot Mountain really is quite a popular hike.
It was mid-afternoon by the time Lupe arrived back at the G6 (2:55 PM, 50°F) ready to resume the long drive S. Teapot Mountain had been a pleasant break from being cooped up. The whole trek had taken a little over 2 hours at a leisurely pace.
By evening, Lupe was far SE of Prince George near the small town of McBride. Her day ended with a pleasant twilight stroll exploring a quiet park next to the Fraser River. Up until her Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation, Lupe had never been even this far N before in her whole life. Tomorrow she would return to more familiar territory in Jasper and Banff National Parks in the fabulous Canadian Rockies!