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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nah, no way, couldn’t be!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lupe at Sylvan Lake.
Lupe at Sylvan Lake.

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

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

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

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

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

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Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 98 – The Northern Hills Day of Deterioration (10-2-14)

About 5 miles SW of Lead in the northern Black Hills, SPHP found a spot to park the G6 (9:59 AM, 45°F).  Lupe started Expedition No. 98 along the E side of USFS Road No. 194 a short distance N of Hwy 85.  The skies were blue, the air was calm, and the cool morning air felt good.  The forecast called for a high in the low 60’s °F (although at lower elevations) with an outside chance (20%) of rain.

Deer Mountain (6,652 ft.), site of a local downhill ski resort, was only 0.5 mile away.  Lupe and SPHP followed No. 194 N gaining elevation, but soon left the road to turn NE and head up through the forest toward the summit.  The climb was moderately steep, but not terribly long.  The day had hardly started when Lupe and SPHP arrived on top of Deer Mountain.

Lupe arrives at the chair lift on top of Deer Mountain.
Lupe arrives at the chair lift on top of Deer Mountain.
There was quite a view to the NE toward the town of Lead, SD from the top of Deer Mountain. The view might be particularly impressive when conditions are all white and right for skiing. Since Carolina Dogs hardly ever go skiing, Lupe was happier with this beautiful, sunny morning. The only thing disappointing about Deer Mountain to Lupe was that there weren't any deer. However, she did see a jackrabbit. Lupe now thinks of Deer Mountain as Jackrabbit Mountain.
There was quite a view to the NE toward the town of Lead, SD from the top of Deer Mountain. The view might be particularly impressive when conditions are all white and right for skiing. Since Carolina Dogs hardly ever go skiing, Lupe was happier with this beautiful, sunny morning. The only thing disappointing about Deer Mountain to Lupe was that there weren’t any deer. However, she did see a jackrabbit. Lupe now thinks of Deer Mountain as Jackrabbit Mountain.
Although Deer Mountain at 6,652 ft. is a pretty high peak for the Black Hills, Terry Peak 2 miles to the N is even higher at 7,064 ft. Photo looks N.
Although Deer Mountain at 6,652 ft. is a pretty high peak for the Black Hills, Terry Peak 2 miles to the N is even higher at 7,064 ft. Photo looks N.

Lupe and SPHP left Deer Mountain heading N back down to USFS Road No. 194.  Terry Peak (7,064 ft.), site of another downhill ski resort just 2 miles N of Deer Mountain, was Lupe’s next peakbagging goal.

Lupe on the N slopes of Deer Mountain with Terry Peak in the background. Photo looks N.
Lupe on the N slopes of Deer Mountain with Terry Peak in the background. Photo looks N.
Terry Peak using the telephoto lens.
Terry Peak using the telephoto lens.

Lupe and SPHP followed No. 194 almost all the way up to the top of Terry Peak.  It would have been possible to drive up, although the road did deteriorate some toward the end.

Looking SSE from USFS Road No. 194 a little below the summit of Terry Peak. Custer Peak (6,804 ft.) is the pointy peak on the L. Harney Peak (7,242 ft.) is on the far horizon near the center. Deer Mountain is the rounded hill in the foreground on the R.
Looking SSE from USFS Road No. 194 a little below the summit of Terry Peak. Custer Peak (6,804 ft.) is the pointy peak on the L. Harney Peak (7,242 ft.) is on the far horizon near the center. Deer Mountain is the rounded hill in the foreground on the R.

The top of Terry Peak is cluttered with assorted towers, metal buildings, and power lines.  The ski facilities are a bit lower down toward the NE.  An apparently abandoned lookout tower sits at the very summit.  A huge observation deck with 2 different stairways up to it crowned the entire building.

The lookout tower’s appearance was suffering from a lack of maintenance, but there wasn’t anything wrong with the views from the platform on top!

Lupe up on top of the Terry Peak lookout tower. Photo looks S.
Lupe up on top of the Terry Peak lookout tower. Photo looks S.
Low gray clouds were starting to pass over the Terry Peak lookout tower while Lupe was up on the observation deck. It became quite windy and cool as each cloud sailed by overhead. This photo looks WNW. The long distant ridge on the R is part of the Black Hills in Wyoming known as the Bear Lodge Mountains.
Low gray clouds were starting to pass over the Terry Peak lookout tower while Lupe was up on the observation deck. It became quite windy and cool as each cloud sailed by overhead. This photo looks WNW. The long distant ridge on the R is part of the Black Hills in Wyoming known as the Bear Lodge Mountains.
Looking N at the Terry Peak lookout tower after Lupe came down off the viewing platform. Some of the clouds were starting to look pretty dark.
Looking N at the Terry Peak lookout tower after Lupe came down off the viewing platform. Some of the clouds were starting to look pretty dark.

Lupe and SPHP enjoyed 360° views from the huge observation deck.  Lupe and SPHP lingered up there for a while, but the weather started to deteriorate.  The skies had been mostly clear earlier in the morning, but now puffy white clouds were sailing by.  Some of them were pretty big.  Each cloud brought a cold wind with it.  The sky started to darken.  The clouds kept getting bigger and grayer.

Lupe wanted to get down out of the wind.  SPHP finally agreed.  Lupe and SPHP left the observation deck, and wandered over to the base of a tall tower to the N for a look at a couple of Lupe’s next peakbagging goals without towers in the way.

Foley Mountain hardly even looks like a hill looking down from Terry Peak. The top of Foley Mountain was in the trees beyond and to the R of the white building near the center of this photo. Photo looks NNW.
Foley Mountain hardly even looks like a hill looking down from Terry Peak. The top of Foley Mountain was in the trees beyond and to the R of the white building near the center of this photo. Photo looks NNW.
Bald Mountain at least looked like a hill from Terry Peak. It is the rounded hill with all the dead trees on it just R of center in the foreground. The hill beyond it is Mount Theodore Roosevelt (5,680 ft.). Photo looks NE.
Bald Mountain at least looked like a hill from Terry Peak. It is the rounded hill with all the dead trees on it just R of center in the foreground. The hill beyond it is Mount Theodore Roosevelt (5,680 ft.). Photo looks NE.

SPHP had originally planned for Lupe to head down the N slope of Terry Peak to Foley Mountain (6,640 ft.), but there appeared to be a lot of private property in the area.  The weather continued to deteriorate, too.  Maybe it was best not to get too far from the G6.

Lupe and SPHP returned to USFS Road No. 194, and followed it all the way back to the G6 (1:24 PM, 54°F).  Along the way, Lupe was pelted a number of time with crusty, round snow granules.  None of these snow showers lasted very long, and there was no accumulation.  The snow granules all melted as they hit the ground.

SPHP had been gathering Lupe Treasures along No. 194.  After depositing them in the trunk of the G6 for future recycling, Lupe and SPHP got in and headed NW on Hwy 85 to Nevada Gulch Road.  SPHP drove all the way up to the Barefoot Resort, which had been visible from Terry Peak.

The Barefoot Resort seemed to be quite close to the top of Foley Mountain.  SPHP found an empty parking lot behind a long, low building and parked the G6 (1:41 PM, 45°F).  Almost as soon as Lupe and SPHP left the car, someone started shooting guns close by.  Lupe bolted back into the safety of the G6.  Fortunately, the gunfire didn’t last long.  After a few minutes of silence, SPHP managed to persuade the doubtful Dingo to come back out.

The long building seemed to be abandoned.  Although there was a nice big gravel parking lot behind it, when Lupe and SPHP went around to the front to get a look at Terry Peak, the yard was nothing but thistles and tall weeds.  There was a pretty good close-up view of Terry Peak from the NNW, though.

Terry Peak from the NNW.
Terry Peak from the NNW.

Lupe and SPHP went back behind the building.  A gravel road headed uphill going N out of the parking lot into the forest.  After about 100 yards, the road ended near more buildings.  There was still slightly higher ground to the N, so Lupe left the road and went on through the forest.

After about 5 minutes, Lupe reached a fairly big rock outcropping.  This appeared to be the summit of Foley Mountain.  Lupe and SPHP scrambled up easily enough.  From up on top, it was clear that this rock formation was, indeed, the summit.  A 3″ diameter capped pipe stuck up out of the ground at the very highest point.  Lupe got up next to it to claim her 3rd peakbagging success of the day.

Lupe at the summit of Foley Mountain. The summit area was all forested, so there weren't any views.
Lupe at the summit of Foley Mountain. The summit area was all forested, so there weren’t any views.

Since the top of Foley Mountain was all forested, there weren’t any clear views.  There was little reason for Lupe and SPHP to linger.  After peering between the trees as much as possible, it was time to go.  Lupe scrambled back down off the rock formation.  Within 10 minutes, she was back at the G6 (2:16 PM, 44°F).

Lupe on her way down the rock formation at the top of Foley Mountain. Photo looks NE.
Lupe on her way down the rock formation at the top of Foley Mountain. Photo looks NE.

By now the sky was overcast.  A chill breeze blew.  Lupe still had a 4th peakbagging goal, Bald Mountain (6,617 ft.).  Bald Mountain was only a mile to the E, but Wharf Resources had gold mining operations between Bald Mountain and Foley Mountain.  SPHP would have to drive to a better access point.  Along the way, Lupe and SPHP stopped at a pullout along Nevada Gulch Road with a good view of Bald Mountain.

Bald Mountain from a pullout near Foley Mountain along Nevada Gulch Road. Photo looks E.
Bald Mountain from a pullout near Foley Mountain along Nevada Gulch Road. Photo looks E.

SPHP had to drive quite a distance down Nevada Gulch Road to find a decent place to park the G6.  Lupe and SPHP started back up Nevada Gulch Road on paw and foot.  It wasn’t too far to a side road with a sign for Lost Miner’s Lodge.  After a short trek along this side road, Lupe turned N climbing up the forested S slope of Bald Mountain.  Lupe crossed a couple more roads along the way, but they appeared to be seldom, if ever, used.

The drive down Nevada Gulch Road had lost a lot of elevation.  Lupe had to gain over 850 feet to reach the summit of Bald Mountain.  As Lupe neared the top of the mountain, the terrain started to level out.  Meanwhile, snow showers started in again.  This time they were heavier and lasted longer than the ones after Lupe left Terry Peak.  There still wasn’t any accumulation, however.

Finally, Lupe reached the top of Bald Mountain.  It really hadn’t been a bad climb.  Although traffic could be heard from down on Nevada Gulch Road, Bald Mountain still seemed much wilder than anywhere else Lupe had been this day.  Quite a few trees on the summit had fallen over, killed by mountain pine bark beetles.  Consequently, it was possible to get a bit of a view in some directions.

Lupe on top of Bald Mountain. She collected a lot of burrs in her tail on the way up! Photo looks NE.
Lupe on top of Bald Mountain. She collected a lot of burrs in her tail on the way up! Photo looks NE.
Lupe seems to have thought of something absolutely hilarious, but she didn't let SPHP in on the joke.
Lupe seems to have thought of something absolutely hilarious, but she didn’t let SPHP in on the joke.
The top of Bald Mountain also featured a 3" diameter pipe. This pipe was taller than the one on Foley Mountain, painted white, and uncapped. Photo looks SW toward Terry Peak.
The top of Bald Mountain also featured a 3″ diameter pipe. This pipe was taller than the one on Foley Mountain, painted white, and uncapped. Photo looks SW toward Terry Peak.

The summit area on Bald Mountain was large and flat.  It was hard to tell where the exact highest point might be.  Lupe found a pipe sticking up out of the ground.  Just like on Foley Mountain, the pipe seemed to be at about the highest point around.

The views from Bald Mountain weren’t the greatest.  Too many trees were still standing.  Pretty soon, it was time to leave.  Lupe and SPHP started back down the S slope again.

Lupe shortly after starting back down the S slope of Bald Mountain. Photo looks S.
Lupe shortly after starting back down the S slope of Bald Mountain. Photo looks S.

The snow showers held off while Lupe was up on top of Bald Mountain, but shortly after she started back down, the snow started in again.  This time the snow showers persisted much longer.  The ground started to turn white.

As Lupe lost elevation, though, the snow turned to rain.  Lupe was cold and soaking wet by the time she got back to the G6 (4:33 PM, 39°F).  SPHP turned on the heater full blast, and put a jacket over Lupe to help her warm up.

The burrs in Lupe’s tail must have been bugging her.  As SPHP drove to Lead, Lupe started tearing burrs out of her fur with her teeth.  SPHP found a place to park in Lead, and commenced to help Lupe get rid of the pesky burrs.  Lupe had a few hundred burrs in her fur, so it took quite a while.  By the time de-burring operations were over, the windows of the G6 were all fogged up.  De-fogging operations began.

It was still raining.  Lupe and SPHP stopped by a Subway in Lead.  After sharing a sandwich, despite the conditions, Lupe and SPHP made a quick trip up one more mountain.  It was cold, windy and snowing hard when Lupe left the G6 at 5:45 PM (32°F).  The mountaintop wasn’t far away, but by the time Lupe reached it, blizzard conditions had set in.

Snow was piling up fast.  The wind absolutely howled.  Fog and developing darkness made it hard to see, especially while being pelted by the driven snow.  Lupe flattened her soft ears and posed for one last peakbagging photo.  Lupe and SPHP were both freezing.  A mad dash back to the G6 ensued (6:16 PM, 32°F).

Well, Loopster, that was quite a day!  Five peaks climbed!  Think we will call this one the Northern Hills Day of Deterioration!

A cold, sodden Carolina Dog stared back at SPHP.  Think I’ll just call you nuts!Lupe on Green Mountain, 10-214Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s Black Hills Expeditions Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 99 – Peak 6820 & Crook’s Tower (10-8-14)

11:00 AM (60°F).  Rather a late start for Lupe’s expedition, but she would still have fun.  She was about to spend the rest of this glorious early fall day roaming the high country of the western Black Hills.  The sky was a clear blue with a few wispy clouds.  The air was calm, stirred only by an occasional light breeze.  The American Dingo was raring to go!

The G6 was parked just S of the W end of Besant Park at the junction of USFS Road No. 206 (Besant Park Road) and No. 206.2D.  As soon as SPHP let Lupe out of the G6, she streaked off across No.  206 racing N into a huge field that was part of Besant Park.  Oh, no!  She had T-bone steak on her mind!  Two black cows fled at the sudden noisy appearance of the bold Carolina Dog.  SPHP hadn’t noticed them, but Lupe sure had.

Lupe barked a couple of times just for good measure as she gave up the chase.  From far away, a brown and white streak came racing back across the field to SPHP.  The cows, also now very far away, mooed unhappily at having been disturbed.  A couple minutes later, Lupe arrived back at SPHP out of breath and panting hard.  She had a huge grin on her face.  Yes, this was already a glorious day!

It was time to move on before Lupe really got into trouble.  While she had been running around in Besant Park, SPHP saw something Lupe hadn’t noticed.  Quite close by, off in a much smaller unfenced field to the SW, a huge black bull was grazing.  SPHP hurried Lupe S on No. 206.2D.  Let’s go find Peak 6820 and leave the cows alone!

Peak 6820 was Lupe’s primary peakbagging goal for the day.  SPHP wasn’t entirely certain Lupe hadn’t been there once before.  Back on Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 58 on 5-11-13, Lupe had climbed a high ridge somewhere not too far to the E.  Maybe it was possible that ridge was part of Peak 6820?  It would be fun to find out.

Lupe didn’t stay on No. 206.2D very long.  After she had gone several hundred yards, SPHP noticed a trail heading E.  Peak 6820 was only about a mile to the E, so Lupe and SPHP followed the trail.  It climbed through the forest and arrived up on a high ridge.  SPHP recognized the ridge as the same one Lupe had been to on Expedition No. 58.  It wasn’t part of Peak 6820, though.  About 0.75 mile away, SPHP could see a modestly higher forested hill to the E.  That hill had to be Peak 6820!

Even though it wasn’t going to take Lupe any closer to Peak 6820, Lupe and SPHP explored the ridge Lupe was on around to the NNE.  At first the ridge was fairly broad, open and grassy.  The N end, though, was all in the forest.  SPHP had been hoping for a view of Besant Park to the N, but any view was hidden by the trees.  Lupe and SPHP returned S to where Lupe had come up.

Lupe could have gone down into the valley heading straight toward Peak 6820. However, it looked like she might not have to lose so much elevation, if she followed the ridge she was already on to the S.  It looked like this ridge would eventually swing around to the E toward Peak 6820.

Lupe and SPHP headed S following the ridgeline.  The ridge stayed about the same elevation, but gradually grew narrower.  Lupe came to several rock outcroppings, but the rock formations ended as Lupe approached a shallow saddle.  The saddle led over to the next ridge to the S.  Down in the saddle, Lupe found a dirt road, possibly another part of No. 206.2D.  She followed the road only a short distance before leaving it to angle SE up onto the next ridge.

The next ridge did go E.  As Lupe followed this second ridge, she could sometimes see White Tail Peak (6,962 ft.) to the S.  The second ridge started out as a broad, level mix of forest and meadows, but became narrower and rockier as Lupe went E.  The level part of the ridge ended at a small limestone cliff.  Lupe and SPHP had to double back to the W, and then turn SE to get past the cliff.

Lupe came to another saddle.  Everything to the NE was down in a thickly forested valley in the direction of Peak 6820.  To the SW, the land sloped down more gently into a sunnier, thinly forested area.  Ahead, another ridge rose to the SE.  Lupe and SPHP went up to the high point.  Lupe could see Peak 6820, but she wasn’t much closer to it.  Peak 6820 was still 0.5 mile away, but now to the NNE.

By now, it was clear that Lupe was going to have to lose some elevation to get to Peak 6820.  Lupe and SPHP went NW back down to the saddle, turned NE and plunged down into the forest.  There was quite a bit of deadfall timber, which slowed SPHP down considerably.  It wasn’t too far to the bottom of the valley, however, and once down there, Lupe came to a faint road.

Lupe followed the road NNW, slowly regaining elevation.  She soon arrived at an odd place.  Hidden down here in a small glade, was a huge metal water tank.  Nearby stood a an old tower with a rickety ladder leading up to a small warped platform at the top.

Lupe reaches the hidden water tank and tower down in the forest SW of Peak 6820. Photo looks N.
Lupe reaches the hidden water tank and tower down in the forest SW of Peak 6820. Photo looks N.

The water tank was nearly full to the top with a rusty brown water so murky SPHP could see only an inch or two into it.  Perhaps the tower had featured a windmill at some point in time?  A horizontal pipe stuck out over the water tank from near the base of the tower.

This photo shows the horizontal pipe hanging out over the water tank, and the sagging platform at the top of the tower. Photo looks NE.
This photo shows the horizontal pipe hanging out over the water tank, and the sagging platform at the top of the tower. Photo looks NE.

Not too far to the NNE, Lupe came to another odd place.  A square area about 25 feet long on each side was fenced off by a barbed wire fence.  Inside the fence was a wooden framed structure only 6 inches high.  The wooden framework was completely covered with sheets of metal nailed to it.

Lupe sniffs around near the possible mine shaft cover SW of Peak 6820.
Lupe sniffs around near the possible mine shaft cover SW of Peak 6820.

SPHP didn’t like the looks of it.  The only reason SPHP could think of for such an odd structure was that it served as a cover for a large, deep mine shaft.  If so, it was there to protect people or animals from a potentially fatal fall.  The cover looked like it had been here for years.  Who knew how structurally sound it still was, or how deep the hole hidden beneath it?

One thing about SPHP’s theory didn’t make sense.  There didn’t seem to be a tailings pile anywhere around.  There should have been a pretty big one nearby, if this was really the site of an old mine shaft.  Very strange!  Whatever the explanation, SPHP didn’t think anything good could come from lingering around here.  Lupe continued NNE toward Peak 6820.  She soon found another old road, or maybe it was the same one that had led to the water tank and tower.

The old road went NNE up the side of Peak 6820.  Parts of the road were clear, but much of it was choked with deadfall timber.  Lupe and SPHP spent more time off the road than on it trying to get past all the deadfall.  Shortly before reaching the top, the road veered E.  It emerged up from the forest at a fairly large clearing on Peak 6820.

The first thing Lupe noticed was a mud puddle large enough to bathe in.  She ran over to it, plunked herself down to cool off, and lapped up lots of very murky-looking water.  She emerged refreshed and well supplied with both essential and non-essential minerals, evidently quite satisfied with the experience.

The summit area on Peak 6820 is large and flat.  Much of it is open meadow, but the meadow is entirely fringed by forest.  There was hardly even a glimpse of a view in any direction.  Lupe and SPHP set off to explore the area.  The highest ground seemed to be a little way E of where Lupe had come up.

Lupe on Peak 6820. This point toward the S central part of the summit area seemed to be as much the true summit as anywhere else.
Lupe on Peak 6820. This point toward the S central part of the summit area seemed to be as much the true summit as anywhere else.

After exploring to the S and E, Lupe and SPHP returned to the mud puddle on the way to explore the N and W parts of the mountaintop.  Naturally, Lupe couldn’t resist taking another dip.

Double-dipper Lupe emerges from her Dingo-sized mud hole on Peak 6820 for a 2nd time.
Double-dipper Lupe emerges from her Dingo-sized mud hole on Peak 6820 for a 2nd time.

Explorations to the N and W revealed only that the jeep trail Lupe had followed up the mountain continued over the top and on down the other side to the NNE.  There were some cliffs lower down toward the NW, but they weren’t terribly tall and were buried so deeply in the trees that even the cliffs didn’t provide any views.

With the summit area now fully explored, Lupe and SPHP left Peak 6820 heading WNW.  This time Lupe went down into the valley between Peak 6820 and the ridge to the W.  The terrain forced SPHP to the WSW for a little while, but eventually Lupe and SPHP were able to turn WNW again.  There was no trail and a considerable amount of deadfall timber to contend with, but this was a more direct route back to the G6.

The climb back up onto the ridge to the W was rather slow due to the deadfall, but once there, Lupe and SPHP made rapid progress again.  Lupe followed the ridge N to the trail she had been on early in the day.  She followed the trail W back to No. 206.2D, and then N to the G6 (2:46 PM, 66°F).

Approaching the G6, SPHP saw that there was now a big herd of black cows across USFS Road No. 206 in Besant Park.  This time, Lupe didn’t get to run after them.

Lupe would have loved to have more fun with these cows in Besant Park, but party pooper SPHP wouldn't permit it.
Lupe would have loved to have more fun with these cows in Besant Park, but party pooper SPHP wouldn’t permit it.

There was still plenty of time left in the day for Lupe to do some more exploring.  Crooks Tower (7,137 ft.) was only 3 miles away to the WSW as the crow flies.  Lupe had been there before, but it would still be fun to see it again.  It was still quite a long winding way to Crooks Tower from here, though.  To save some time, Lupe and SPHP hopped in the G6 and drove around to a closer point.

SPHP parked the G6 again at 3:09 PM (61°F).  Lupe was now only 0.33 mile W of Crooks Tower at the intersection of USFS Roads No. 189 and No. 189.4A.  Lupe and SPHP headed E on No. 189.4A.  Before long, Lupe had completed her 5th ascent of Crooks Tower!

Lupe relaxes on Crooks Tower. This was her 5th ascent.
Lupe relaxes on Crooks Tower. This was her 5th ascent.

The summit of Crooks Tower is a relatively small (large room-sized), level limestone platform.  Although Crooks Tower is one of the very highest mountains in the Black Hills, there are plenty of ridges almost as high in the area.  The ridges and forest block the views in most directions, but Harney Peak (7,242 ft.) can be seen far to the SE.  There is a less dramatic distant view off to the N, too.

SPHP had never realized it before, but by standing at just the right spot and peering between tree branches, it was possible to get a look at Inyan Kara (6,360 ft.) off to the WNW in Wyoming.

Harney Peak (L) can be seen on the far horizon from Crooks Tower. Photo looks SE.
Harney Peak (L) can be seen on the far horizon from Crooks Tower. Photo looks SE.
Looking N from Crooks Tower.
Looking N from Crooks Tower.

After enjoying the views from Crooks Tower, Lupe and SPHP returned to the G6.  There were still at least a couple of hours of daylight left.  SPHP pondered what Lupe should do next?  The top alternatives were a visit to Clayton Pond, or exploring USFS Road No. 189.4B.  Since Lupe was practically at No. 189.4B already, it won out.

Lupe and SPHP left the G6 where it was, and went right on by to USFS Road No. 189.4B.  The only marker at the start of the road wasn’t entirely legible, but seemed to indicate this was No. 189.4C or 189.6C, but that didn’t agree with SPHP’s USFS map.

No. 189.4B led Lupe WNW down a shallow valley.  The ridge to the N was sunny and thinly forested.  The S side of the valley was shady and densely forested.  Tall grass, taller than Lupe, lined both sides of the road.  Lupe virtually disappeared on her little side excursions.  She soon tired of having to leap up to see where she was, and stayed mostly on the road.  The road gradually and steadily lost elevation.

After more than a mile, there was a fence with a gate.  Ten minutes after going through the gate, Lupe reached an intersection.  USFS Road No. 189.4C went S.  No. 117.6B went N.  Off to the NNW, a curve in No. 117 could be seen up ahead across a big open field in a larger, wider valley.  Lupe and SPHP followed No. 117.6B all the way to No. 117.

USFS Road No. 117 as seen from No. 117.6B. This corner of No. 117 was as far as Lupe managed to get on her explorations WNW of Crooks Tower. Photo looks WNW.
USFS Road No. 117 as seen from No. 117.6B. This corner of No. 117 was as far as Lupe managed to get on her explorations WNW of Crooks Tower. Photo looks WNW.

By the time Lupe reached No. 117, she was 2 miles from the G6.  The sun was getting low.  It was time to turn back.  SPHP checked the maps for an alternate route, hoping Lupe could make a loop.  No, she really couldn’t.  Other roads in the area were too long, and it was too late in the day to cut directly through the forest.  Lupe and SPHP returned on No. 189.4B, this time going up the valley, instead of down.

On the way back, SPHP started thinking it might be fun to watch the sunset from Crooks Tower.  Even though forest hid the views to the W at the very summit, there was a ridge almost as high just S of USFS Road No. 189.4C a short distance SSW of the true summit.  Maybe Lupe could see the sunset from there?

Lupe arrived up on the ridge with a little time to spare.  The W end of the ridge ended at a small limestone cliff.  It wasn’t high enough to really get a good view to the W, but the view in that direction was better than it would have been at the true summit of Crooks Tower.  SPHP sat down next to a tree to wait.  A chipmunk darting around on the rocks nearby entertained Lupe.

Lupe watching the chipmunk (not pictured).
Lupe watching the chipmunk (not pictured).

The chipmunk eventually ran off.  Lupe rested on the ground near SPHP.  The edges of her big, soft attentive ears glowed in the last rays of sunlight.Lupe near Crooks Tower, 10-8-14

Waiting for sunset.
Waiting for sunset.

Sunset from SSW high point on Crooks Tower, 10-8-14When the show was over, Lupe and SPHP continued on to the true summit of Crooks Tower.  Lupe made her 2nd ascent of the day, and 6th all time.  The full hunter’s moon was due to come up soon.  Darkness fell and stars began to appear.  Lupe and SPHP waited.  As the pale moon rose, a lone coyote began to howl.  Lupe was entranced.

For several minutes, the lone coyote howled, pausing now and then to listen.  At last, very faintly from far to the W came a few answering howls.  That was good.  The coyote had a friend.  So did SPHP.  It was time to take her home.  (7:06 PM, 41°F)Lupe at sunset SSW of Crooks Tower, 10-8-14Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s Black Hills Expeditions Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 100 – Round Mountain, Peak 6740, Limestone Hill & Elliot Ridge (10-16-14)

Only yesterday it had been 80°F.  Now it was much cooler.  A cold front moved through overnight, and a fairly strong wind still blew out of the NW, but it wasn’t bad down here.  SPHP had just parked the G6 near the intersection of USFS Roads No. 422 and 284.1C (9:54 AM, 47°F).  Lupe was 0.33 mile N of Custer County Road No. 284, and 5 miles W of where “The Fort” used to be S of Crazy Horse on Hwy 385.  She was about to begin her 100th official Black Hills, SD Expedition!

Lupe and SPHP had an ambitious peakbagging day planned for Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 100.  Lupe was going to visit 4 mountains she had never been to before.  Her first goal was Round Mountain (6,600 ft.), the N end of which was only 0.5 mile to the W.  Lupe and SPHP headed W directly for the mountain.

Lupe started gaining elevation right away, slowly at first, but the mountain grew steadily steeper.  The area was all forested, but the forest had been thinned on the lower slopes.  Near the top, the forest was much thicker.  The climb was pretty easy, and soon Lupe arrived at a break in a line of small limestone cliffs near the N end of the mountain.  Lupe and SPHP quickly scrambled up on top.

Round Mountain’s summit ridge is about 0.20 mile long, and runs N/S.  The mountain is capped by a layer of limestone.  Small cliffs tend to form along the edges of the limestone cap.  The summit ridge is quite narrow at the N end, but wider toward the S.  Since Lupe and SPHP came up near the N end of the mountain, Lupe checked things out in that direction first.

At the N end of Round Mountain, the narrow limestone ridge ended in small cliffs on all three sides.  Pines hid most of the field of vision, but Lupe did get a partial look at Peak 6740 to the N.  It was windy and cold here.  Lupe didn’t stay long.  Lupe and SPHP went back to the little notch in the limestone cliffs to get out of the wind.  SPHP checked the topo map.  The true summit was supposed to be toward the S.

From the notch, it was easiest to just go S along the base of the W side of the cliffs until another break provided a way up on top again.  Lupe and SPHP continued S on the ridgeline.  For the most part, the forest blocked the views.  At least the forest was providing protection from the wind!  Occasionally Lupe could see distant peaks SPHP recognized to the E.  All that could be seen to the W was a high forested ridge less than a mile away.

The stroll along the top of the ridgeline was easy and almost level.  Lupe gained elevation slowly.  She passed over the true summit of Round Mountain, but continued on a little farther to the cliffs at the S end.  Lupe found the best views from Round Mountain here.  From on high, she could see a very long way S.

Lupe reaches the S end of Round Mountain. The big view here was easily the best from anywhere on the mountain. Photo looks S.
Lupe reaches the S end of Round Mountain. The big view here was easily the best from anywhere on the mountain. Photo looks S.

After checking out the view, Lupe and SPHP went N back to the true summit.  The summit area was very flat and hidden in the forest.  A small patch of exposed limestone seemed to be close to the highest point around.  Lupe posed for a photo.  Round Mountain was her first peakbagging success of Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 100!

Lupe at the summit of Round Mountain. Photo looks N.
Lupe at the summit of Round Mountain. Photo looks N.

Before leaving Round Mountain, Lupe and SPHP returned to the very N end of the summit ridge once again.  Lupe posed uncomfortably on the rocks in the cold wind.  As soon as her photo op was over, she was anxious to leave!  Lupe and SPHP went back to the notch, climbed down to the E, and turned N along the base of the limestone cliffs.  Soon Lupe was beyond them and on her way down the N slope of Round Mountain.

Lupe sits uncomfortably in the cold wind at the N end of Round Mountain. Her next peakbagging objective, Peak 6740, is the forested ridge seen to her L. Photo looks N.
Lupe sits uncomfortably in the cold wind at the N end of Round Mountain. Her next peakbagging objective, Peak 6740, is the forested ridge seen to her L. Photo looks N.
Looking back at the small limestone cliffs at the N end of Round Mountain. Photo looks SSW.
Looking back at the small limestone cliffs at the N end of Round Mountain. Photo looks SSW.

Lupe’s next peakbagging objective was Peak 6740, which Lupe had seen part of from the N end of Round Mountain.  Peak 6740 was less than a mile away.  As the terrain started leveling out, Lupe and SPHP crossed USFS Road No. 241.1C.  Continuing N a couple hundred yards, Lupe found another grassy road which must have intersected with No. 241.1C back to the SW.

Like at Round Mountain and many other western Black Hills peaks, a layer of limestone forms the top of Peak 6740.  As a result, there are cliffs along most edges.  On Peak 6740, the limestone is thicker and the cliffs are higher than at Round Mountain.  SPHP scanned the SE facing cliffs, hoping to see a break where Lupe could climb up.  There appeared to be a couple of possibilities, but the mountain looked pretty steep.  It was hard to tell if there was actually a realistic route up from the SE.

The grassy road Lupe had just reached went N along the lower E slopes of Peak 6740.  SPHP decided it might be best for Lupe to stay on the road.  Maybe there would be an easier way up from the N?  The road was almost level and an easy trek.  Very conveniently for Lupe and SPHP, it went past the E side of Peak 6740 and curved around to the N side.  The grassy road then started looping down to the NE toward Custer County Road No. 292, which could be seen not too far below.

By the time the grassy road turned NE, Lupe and SPHP could see a broad, thinly forested valley ahead.  It rose at a moderate pace toward the SE up to the top of the ridgeline on Peak 6740.  Lupe and SPHP left the road and started climbing.  Lupe was exposed to the NW wind here, but it was a much easier way up than anything SPHP had seen from the SE.

Lupe climbed up to the highest point at the N end of the ridge.  There were great views from the edge of the cliffs here!  Time for a break.  Lupe had water and Taste of the Wild.  She then spent her time sniffing through low juniper bushes with a great deal of interest, although what was so fascinating about them was not apparent to SPHP.  While Lupe was thusly entertained, SPHP ate an apple and enjoyed the scenery.

St. Elmo Peak (6,458 ft.) (L), Harney Peak (7,242 ft.) (Center), Thunderhead Mountain (6,567 ft.) (R where the Crazy Horse carving is), and Sylvan Hill (7,000 ft.) (highest point on the ridge seen above and just L of Crazy Horse). Photo looks NE from the cliffs of the NE prong of the Peak 6740 anchor.
St. Elmo Peak (6,458 ft.) (L), Harney Peak (7,242 ft.) (Center), Thunderhead Mountain (6,567 ft.) (R where the Crazy Horse carving is), and Sylvan Hill (7,000 ft.) (highest point on the ridge seen above and just L of Crazy Horse). Photo looks NE from the cliffs of the NE prong of the Peak 6740 anchor.
Lupe on the high cliffs at the end of the NE prong of the Peak 6740 anchor. She is distracted by something in the low juniper bushes off the L side of this photo. Photo looks N at Bear Mountain (7,166 ft.)
Lupe on the high cliffs at the end of the NE prong of the Peak 6740 anchor. She is distracted by something in the low juniper bushes off the L side of this photo. Photo looks N at Bear Mountain (7,166 ft.).

Peak 6740 has an unusual shape, rather like an anchor.  The bottom of the anchor is positioned to the SE.  The main shaft extends to the NW.  From the bottom of the anchor, prongs curve to the W and NE.  The topo map shows five particularly high spots on the mountain – two along the main shaft, one at the bottom of the anchor, and one near the end of each prong.  All of these high spots are connected by long broad ridges that are only marginally lower.

Lupe had reached the top of the ridge at the high spot near the end of Peak 6740’s NE prong.  However, it wasn’t clear if this was the true summit of Peak 6740, or not.  The high points are separated from each other by as much as 0.5 mile.  Due to the forest and the terrain, the high points aren’t all in view from one another.  The Peakbagger.com topo map shows the high points are very close to the same elevation.

To make certain Lupe reached the true summit, she was going to have to visit the other high spots on the mountain, too.  Lupe and SPHP left the NE prong heading for the SE high point near the bottom of the anchor.  Along the way, Lupe found there was a small break in the cliffs.  She really could have come up the mountain from the SE!  It would have been a much shorter and steeper route than the one she actually took by circling around to the N.

Round Mountain (Center) came back into view as Lupe headed toward the SE tip of the Peak 6740 anchor. Near this spot was a narrow break in the cliff wall which would have been a much shorter and steeper route up. Photo looks S.
Round Mountain (Center) came back into view as Lupe headed toward the SE tip of the Peak 6740 anchor. Near this spot was a narrow break in the cliff wall which would have been a much shorter and steeper route up. Photo looks S.

The cliffs at the very SE tip of the Peak 6740 anchor provided a great look back to the S at Round Mountain.

Lupe at the SE tip of Peak 6740. Photo looks S at Round Mountain.
Lupe at the SE tip of Peak 6740. Photo looks S at Round Mountain.

From the cliffs at the SE tip of Peak 6740, Lupe and SPHP went NW up a modest slope and found the closest high spot at the base of the anchor.  It seemed at least as high as the NE prong had been, and maybe a bit higher.  From here, SPHP could also see the high spot at the W prong.  It looked almost as high, but instead of going directly to the W prong, Lupe went NW to explore the main shaft of the Peak 6740 anchor.

Lupe found a small patch of exposed limestone here at the high spot near the SE bottom of the Peak 6740 anchor. Photo looks SE.
Lupe found a small patch of exposed limestone here at the high spot near the SE bottom of the Peak 6740 anchor. Photo looks SE.

The main shaft of the anchor was more heavily forested than the rest of the mountain.  At first, the terrain didn’t look promising.  Lupe started out losing elevation.  After 5 or 10 minutes, though, she came to two high spots along the way.  The first high spot was a flat, elevated limestone outcropping.  The second high spot was close enough to be seen ahead a bit farther to the NW.  It looked like a 5 foot high limestone rock.

When Lupe and SPHP got close to the second high spot, Lupe discovered that the rock was actually three pillars of limestone very close together, all about 5 feet high.  Lupe and SPHP continued NW beyond the limestone pillars until it became clear there wasn’t any higher ground ahead.  The forest had been thinned in this area, and Lupe could see the high point at the NE prong of the anchor.  It looked every bit as high as where Lupe and SPHP were, and probably higher.

Lupe and SPHP returned to the limestone pillars high point.  Lupe got up on top of one of the pillars for a photo.

Lupe up on the 3 pillars high point on Peak 6470. This is the high point at the NW end of the main shaft of the anchor.
Lupe up on the 3 pillars high point on Peak 6470. This is the high point at the NW end of the main shaft of the anchor.

SPHP peered through the forest out over a small valley back toward the W prong.  Even though Peakbagger.com marks the true summit of Peak 6740 at the middle of the main shaft of the anchor, the W prong looked higher than the high points along the main shaft.  Lupe had better visit the W prong, too!  It didn’t take Lupe all that long to get there.

Lupe at the high spot on the W prong of Peak 6740.
Lupe at the high spot on the W prong of Peak 6740.

By now, Lupe had been to all five of the high points on the Peak 6740 anchor.  Wherever the true summit was, she had been there.  If SPHP had to guess, the SE high spot at the bottom of the anchor was the true summit.  The W prong was a close second.  If Lupe thought differently, she didn’t say so.

It was time for Lupe to press on to her next peakbagging goal, Limestone Hill (6,620 ft.).  To get there, Lupe left the W prong of Peak 6740 taking a shortcut N down into a small valley.  She then climbed back up to the three pillars high point on Peak 6740.  She went a little farther NW, and then turned W following a lower ridge down through a dense forest of young trees.

Limestone Hill was only 0.33 mile away.  Lupe soon came to a shallow saddle where there was a jeep trail.  Lupe and SPHP followed the old jeep trail to a slight rise, which was the summit of Limestone Hill.  The summit area ended at a band of low limestone cliffs to the W.

Getting to Limestone Hill from Peak 6740 had been a snap!  SPHP took a break.  Lupe could have taken one, but she was too busy.  A chipmunk had taken refuge in a patch of low bushes at the edge of the cliff.  Lupe searched excitedly for it, but the chipmunk had all the advantages.  SPHP ate an apple and checked the maps.  Lupe’s final peakbagging objective for the day was Elliot Ridge (6,700 ft.), about 3 miles NW as the crow flies.

Lupe on Limestone Hill. The Bear Mountain quarry can be seen in the background. Photo looks NW.
Lupe on Limestone Hill. The Bear Mountain quarry can be seen in the background. Photo looks NW.

Lupe couldn’t go to Elliot Ridge as the crow flies, though.  Down in the broad open valleys to the W and N of Limestone Hill, the fields were all private property.  Lupe would have to go S to get around it.  Lupe and SPHP returned to the jeep trail and started following it SE.

The jeep trail turned out to be USFS Road No. 284.1I.  It wound around quite a bit to the W of Peak 6740, but eventually turned S and arrived at Custer County Road No. 284.  Lupe and SPHP followed it 0.25 mile W to its junction with the S end of USFS Road No. 291 (Ditch Creek Road).  As soon as Lupe and SPHP reached the junction, gunfire erupted off to the N.

Someone had started target practice up at the Bear Mountain quarry.  The plan had been to go N on No. 291, but Lupe would have to pass by quite close to the quarry.  Since Lupe hates the sound of gunfire, SPHP stopped to consult the maps.  Was there another way around to Elliot Ridge?

Yes, there was, but it wasn’t as direct.  Unfortunately, it was too late in the day to consider the long route.  SPHP encouraged Lupe to head N on No. 291.  Lupe did her best to convince SPHP deadly danger awaited.

Limestone Hill is pretty enough, but doesn't look all that high or impressive from USFS Road No. 291. Photo looks E.
Limestone Hill is pretty enough, but doesn’t look all that high or impressive from USFS Road No. 291. Photo looks E.

With Lupe constantly insisting it was wise to turn back, progress going N on USFS Road No. 291 was slow until a couple of squirrels and some free range cattle diverted Lupe’s attention from the gunfire.  Fortunately, target practice ended before too long.  Lupe was then happy to trot right along.

Lupe and SPHP reached the intersection with USFS Road No. 293, which goes NNE to Bear Mountain.  On the other side of No. 291, a jeep trail led W into the forest.  SPHP was eager to leave No. 291, and hoped the jeep trail would turn NW toward Elliot Ridge.  It soon turned SW instead.  Lupe and SPHP left the jeep trail heading NW through the forest.

It wasn’t far to a small valley.  USFS Road No. 472 was down there, but Lupe just crossed it and continued NW up onto the next ridge.  From the top, Lupe and SPHP could see the larger Bear Spring Creek valley.  The other side of the valley was all barren.  This area had burned in the Jasper Fire back in August, 2000.

The story is that back on August 8, 2000, a woman stopped along the highway a couple miles W of Jewel Cave National Monument to pee.  For some reason, she thought it would be a good idea to light a match and drop it on the ground.  Before departing, she watched as pine needles caught fire and the fire started to spread.  The resulting Jasper Fire burned 83,000 acres of the Black Hills.  Elliot Ridge is in the burn area.

Lupe and SPHP headed down to Bear Spring Creek.  SPHP was surprised to see it was still flowing this time of year.  Lupe a long cool drink from the tiny creek.  It was the only stream she had come to all day.  From the creek, Lupe and SPHP continued NW up the other side of the valley.  Partway up, Lupe came to a dirt road, which may have been USFS Road No. 469.1A.  Lupe and SPHP followed the road SW a short distance, but left it at its high point to turn NW again and keep climbing.

As Lupe gained elevation, she started coming to rock outcroppings at high points along the way.  It was slow going.  There were many dead tree trunks and branches laying on the ground, bleached by years in the sun.  Even though the area is all in the Black Hills National Forest, Lupe kept coming upon barbed wire fences, too.  Lupe finally reached the top of the ridge.  Despite the unbroken views, SPHP was uncertain which way Lupe needed to go to reach Elliot Ridge.

It was still windy and getting progressively cooler out.  SPHP consulted the maps, but the wind was a real pest.  SPHP finally concluded that Lupe was far enough N.  Elliot Ridge was off to the SW from here.  Lupe and SPHP headed SW staying on the highest ground possible.  Out in the open, Lupe saw several herds of deer, both mule deer and whitetails.  Of course, they also always saw Lupe and SPHP and bounded away.

Lupe on her way to Elliot Ridge. The hill ahead proved to be a false summit. Photo looks SW.
Lupe on her way to Elliot Ridge. The hill ahead proved to be a false summit. Photo looks SW.

The first big hill Lupe climbed heading SW proved to be a false summit, but the true summit of Elliot Ridge could be seen ahead from the top.  Lupe and SPHP continued on, and Lupe finally arrived at the summit of Elliot Ridge.

Lupe comes running back to SPHP from one of her explorations. The summit of Elliot Ridge is just ahead. Photo looks SSW.
Lupe comes running back to SPHP from one of her explorations. The summit of Elliot Ridge is just ahead. Photo looks SSW.

Elliot Ridge itself was not very beautiful with all the dead trees laying around.  The fire had certainly opened up the views, though.  In the cool wind, everything looked and felt stark and desolate.  Lupe could see far to the SW into Wyoming.  SPHP could even make out Laramie Peak (10,272 ft.) very faintly on the farthest horizon.

Lupe seems quite pleased to have arrived at the summit of Elliot Ridge. Photo looks SE.
Lupe seems quite pleased to have arrived at the summit of Elliot Ridge. Photo looks SE.

Lupe and SPHP continued S from the summit of Elliot Ridge.  Lupe came to a series of minor high points as she followed the ridgeline.  As the sun started sinking in the W, the wind finally began to die down.  It was really beautiful out.  The sense of isolation was inspiring.  On the E side of the ridge, there was a great view of the S end of the Bear Springs Creek valley N of Custer Country Road No. 284.

Lupe somewhere S of the summit of Elliot Ridge as the day nears its end.
Lupe somewhere S of the summit of Elliot Ridge as the day nears its end.

SPHP hoped for a great sunset, but it didn’t develop.  Too many clouds moved in off to the W.  There was never more than just a little color that could be seen.  The world turned gray.Sunset from S end of Elliot Ridge, 10-16-14When the sun disappeared, Lupe and SPHP descended from the ridgeline heading SE down into the Bear Springs Creek valley.  Twilight was already well advanced by the time Lupe reached Custer Country Road No. 284 at the S end of the valley.  Lupe was still 5 or 6 miles from the G6.  Lupe and SPHP started trudging SE on No. 284.

It was dark out by the time Lupe had gone over a mile to the southernmost point on No. 284 where it turns NE.  A guy named Mitch came by in a pickup truck.  Mitch very kindly offered Lupe and SPHP a ride.  Lupe accepted immediately!  She thought a ride was a splendid idea!  She leaped way up into the big truck without the least bit of hesitation.

Mitch had a cabin somewhere farther W, but he was on his way E to his father’s ranch near Crazy Horse to get his hunting dog.  Mitch was a hunting guide, and had been out hunting coyotes.  The wind had ruined his calls, however, and the hunt had been unsuccessful.  Secretly, Lupe and SPHP were glad.  Lupe and SPHP are on the coyotes’ side.

SPHP asked to be dropped off at Round Mountain.  Mitch soon stopped the truck so Lupe and SPHP could get out.  As Mitch drove off, SPHP realized the drop off point didn’t look familiar.  The night was blacker than black.  SPHP couldn’t see anything – not the road, not a hand held in front of SPHP’s face, nothing except a few stars.  Good thing SPHP had brought the little flashlight!

Lupe was puzzled.  For 45 minutes, SPHP wandered repeatedly back and forth along the same stretch of No. 284 and a side road.  Which way was it to the G6?  Finally SPHP figured it out.  Lupe arrived back at the G6 at 8:26 PM (43°F).

It had been a long day.  Part of the night would have been long too, if Mitch hadn’t come along!  Expedition No. 100 had been a 4 mountain peakbagging success.  Time to head home for a big bowl of Alpo and a nice long snooze!Lupe S of Elliot Ridge, 10-16-14

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Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 101 – Zimmer Ridge & Peak 6600 (10-23-14)

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.

Lupe on the 2nd false summit she came to on Zimmer Ridge. The dead tree points just to the R of Sylvan Hill (Center). Photo looks SSE.
Lupe on the 2nd false summit she came to on Zimmer Ridge. The dead tree points just to the R of Sylvan Hill (Center). Photo looks SSE.

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.

Lupe acts as if its just grand up on the true summit of Zimmer Ridge, even though it looked like she had an uncomfortable perch. Photo looks W.
Lupe acts as if its just grand up on the true summit of Zimmer Ridge, even though it looked like she had an uncomfortable perch. Photo looks W.
High rocks of the other cluster of boulders at the summit of Zimmer Ridge. Photo looks E.
High rocks of the other cluster of boulders at the summit of Zimmer Ridge. Photo looks E.

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.

Lupe on the high point at the N end of Zimmer Ridge. It is only 17 feet lower than the true summit. Photo looks SSW at the true summit.
Lupe on the high point at the N end of Zimmer Ridge. It is only 17 feet lower than the true summit. Photo looks SSW at the true summit.

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.

The pond near the low point of USFS Road No. 387.1B. Lupe cooled off here and enjoyed a big drink, before continuing on her way to Peak 6600. Photo looks SW into the glare of the sun.
The pond near the low point of USFS Road No. 387.1B. Lupe cooled off here and enjoyed a big drink, before continuing on her way to Peak 6600. Photo looks SW into the glare of the sun.

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.

Lupe on her way to Peak 6600. Zimmer Ridge is seen in the distance. Photo looks ESE.
Lupe on her way to Peak 6600. Zimmer Ridge is seen in the distance. Photo looks ESE.

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 strikes a dramatic Carolina Dog pose on the E summit of Peak 6600. Photo looks SW.
Lupe strikes a dramatic Carolina Dog pose on the E summit of Peak 6600. Photo looks SW.

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.

Lupe on the rocky W summit of Peak 6600. Photo looks N.
Lupe on the rocky W summit of Peak 6600. Photo looks N.
Lupe checks out the view.
Lupe checks out the view.

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.Lupe on Peak 6600, 10-23-14Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s Black Hills Expeditions Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 102 – St. Elmo Peak & the Search for Peak 6733 (10-29-14)

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.

Lupe reaches the big granite viewing platform on top of St. Elmo Peak. She wasn't quite at the summit yet, but pretty close to it. Harney Peak (Center) is seen in the distance. Photo looks ESE.
Lupe reaches the big granite viewing platform on top of St. Elmo Peak. She wasn’t quite at the summit yet, but pretty close to it. Harney Peak (Center) is seen in the distance. Photo looks ESE.

Harney Peak from St. Elmo Peak, 10-29-14

Harney Peak (7,242 ft.) (L) and Little Devil's Tower (6,960 ft.) (R).
Harney Peak (7,242 ft.) (L) and Little Devil’s Tower (6,960 ft.) (R).

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.

Smoke was billowing up from hills E of Hill City. Photo looks N.
Smoke was billowing up from hills E of Hill City. Photo looks N.

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 on the true summit of St. Elmo Peak! Photo looks ENE.
Lupe on the true summit of St. Elmo Peak! Photo looks ENE.

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.

Zimmer Ridge (6,600 ft.) is seen beyond Lupe. Photo looks NW.
Zimmer Ridge (6,600 ft.) is seen beyond Lupe. Photo looks NW.
Zimmer Ridge.
Zimmer Ridge.
The smoke E of Hill City looked like it was still spreading.
The smoke E of Hill City looked like it was still 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.

Looking NE back at St. Elmo Peak from USFS Road No. 302.1H at the N end of the ridge that Peak 6733 is part of 2 miles farther S.
Looking NE back at St. Elmo Peak from USFS Road No. 302.1H at the N end of the ridge that Peak 6733 is part of 2 miles farther S.

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.

Looking NNE back at St. Elmo Peak (L) from the high rocks on the E side of the ridge at the last high point Lupe climbed on her search for Peak 6733.
Looking NNE back at St. Elmo Peak (L) from the high rocks on the E side of the ridge at the last high point Lupe climbed on her search for Peak 6733.
Sylvan Hill (7,000 ft.) from the last high point. Photo looks E.
Sylvan Hill (7,000 ft.) from the last high point. Photo looks E.
Lupe on the kinnikinnick carpet in the saddle area. Photo looks NE.
Lupe on the kinnikinnick carpet in the saddle area. Photo looks NE.

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.

Lupe on the summit of the final high point of the day. SPHP had to lean back to get all of Lupe in the picture. Success, but it still wasn't clear if this was Peak 6733 or not!
Lupe on the summit of the final high point of the day. SPHP had to lean back to get all of Lupe in the picture. Success, but it still wasn’t clear if this was Peak 6733 or not!
Nearing sunset at the summit.
Nearing sunset at the summit.
Crazy Horse on Thunderhead Mountain taken from the summit.
Crazy Horse on Thunderhead Mountain taken from the summit.

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.

Crazy Horse

P1050625Lupe 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.

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Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 103 – Peak 6733 (11-6-14)

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.

St. Elmo Peak from USFS Road No. 352. Photo looks N.
St. Elmo Peak from USFS Road No. 352. Photo looks N.

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 cools down in the merry little stream flowing down Bear Gulch.
Lupe cools down in the merry little stream flowing down Bear Gulch.

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.

Part of the big meadow in upper Bear Gulch. Peak 6634, the high point farthest S that Lupe reached along the ridge on Expedition No. 102, may be the one on the L.
Part of the big meadow in upper Bear Gulch. Peak 6634, the high point farthest S that Lupe reached along the ridge on Expedition No. 102, may be the one on the L.

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.

Peak 6733 lies ahead! Photo looks NNW.
Peak 6733 lies ahead! Photo looks NNW.
Lupe and SPHP climbed directly up this SSE spine of Peak 6733.
Lupe and SPHP climbed directly up this SSE spine of Peak 6733.

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.

Lupe up on the narrow ridge of granite on top of Peak 6733. Photo looks WNW.
Lupe up on the narrow ridge of granite on top of Peak 6733. Photo looks WNW.
Lupe relaxes enjoying her Peak 6733 peakbagging success! Photo looks SW.
Lupe relaxes enjoying her Peak 6733 peakbagging success! Photo looks SW.

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.

St. Elmo Peak (L) looks a lot smaller from Peak 6733! Photo looks N.
St. Elmo Peak (L) looks a lot smaller from Peak 6733! Photo looks N.
Sylvan Hill (Center) from Peak 6733. Photo looks NE.
Sylvan Hill (Center) from Peak 6733. Photo looks NE.

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.

From Peak 6733, Lupe had this great view of the Crazy Horse carving on Thunderhead Mountain. The Crazy Horse memorial is a popular Black Hills tourist attraction, but most tourists normally see it from the other side. Photo looks W.
From Peak 6733, Lupe had this great view of the Crazy Horse carving on Thunderhead Mountain. The Crazy Horse memorial is a popular Black Hills tourist attraction, but most tourists normally see it from the other side. Photo looks W.

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.

St. Elmo Peak from some granite formations down in Bear Gulch. Photo looks N.
St. Elmo Peak from some granite formations down in Bear Gulch. Photo looks N.

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.

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Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 105 – Silver Mountain (11-22-14)

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.

Lupe sits on a stump up on the first little ridge she reached on her way up Silver Mountain. Photo looks SW at Silver Mountain.
Lupe sits on a stump up on the first little ridge she reached on her way up Silver Mountain. Photo looks SW at Silver Mountain.

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.

Approaching the E rock formation from the NW.
Approaching the E rock formation from the NW.

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.

Lupe on top of Silver Mountain. Photo looks SW toward Harney Peak. Hwy 16 is seen below.
Lupe on top of Silver Mountain. Photo looks SW toward Harney Peak. Hwy 16 is seen below.
St. Elmo Peak (6,458 ft.) is the high point on the horizon on the R.
St. Elmo Peak (6,458 ft.) is the high point on the horizon on the R.

Lupe on Silver Mountain, 11-22-14One 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!

Looking toward the W rock formation from the E one. The E rock formation where Lupe is was clearly higher. Lupe wouldn't have to bother climbing the W one. She already had her peakbagging success! Calumet Ridge is seen in the distance. Photo looks W.
Looking toward the W rock formation from the E one. The E rock formation where Lupe is was clearly higher. Lupe wouldn’t have to bother climbing the W one. She already had her peakbagging success! Calumet Ridge is seen in the distance. Photo looks W.

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 kept her eyes shut facing into the strong SW wind. Boulder Hill is the highest point seen beyond her R of Center. Photo looks NNE.
Lupe kept her eyes shut facing into the strong SW wind. Boulder Hill is the highest point seen beyond her R of Center. Photo looks NNE.

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.).

Calumet Ridge is seen beyond Lupe. Photo looks W from the NW slope of Silver Mountain.
Calumet Ridge is seen beyond Lupe. Photo looks W from the NW slope of Silver Mountain.
Mount Warner is the high point at the center. Photo looks WSW.
Mount Warner is the high point at the center. Photo looks WSW.

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.

Part of the burn area NW of Silver Mountain. Photo looks NW.
Part of the burn area NW of Silver Mountain. Photo looks NW.

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.

SPHP was certain Lupe was completely stuffed when she started taking pieces of ham out to the back yard to bury them for future feasts.  Carolina Dogs think ahead, you know!Calumet Ridge from the NW slopes of Silver Mountain, 11-22-14Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s Black Hills Expeditions Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to new Lupe adventures.

Black Hills, SD Expedition No. 106 – Smith Mountain and Flag Mountain (11-28-14)

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 at the 2nd high point S of the northernmost high point on Smith Mountain.
Lupe at the 2nd high point S of the northernmost high point on Smith Mountain.

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.

Lupe at the true summit of Smith Mountain. She climbed higher than shown here, and SPHP lifted her up so her paws could touch the big rocks within just a foot or two of the very top. That was close enough! The American Dingo was claiming a peakbagging success! Dingoes are practical, not purists. Photo looks W.
Lupe at the true summit of Smith Mountain. She climbed higher than shown here, and SPHP lifted her up so her paws could touch the big rocks within just a foot or two of the very top. That was close enough! The American Dingo was claiming a peakbagging success! Dingoes are practical, not purists. Photo looks 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.

Lupe reaches the summit of Flag Mountain. Photo looks SE toward Harney Peak.
Lupe reaches the summit of Flag Mountain. Photo looks SE toward Harney Peak.

Lupe on Flag Mountain, 11-28-14Lupe on Flag Mountain, 11-28-14The 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.).

Harney Peak from Flag Mountain. Photo looks SE.
Harney Peak from Flag Mountain. Photo looks SE.
Five Points is the wavy ridge on the R. Privately named False North Point is the pointy peak on the L. Looking ENE from Flag Mountain.
Five Points is the wavy ridge on the R. Privately named False North Point is the pointy peak on the L. Looking ENE from Flag Mountain.

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.

Looking W up the Patterson Creek valley on the way back to the G6.
Looking W up the Patterson Creek valley on the way back to the G6.

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.

This old abandoned cabin is about 1 mile SSW of Smith Mountain. Photo looks SSW.
This old abandoned cabin is about 1 mile SSW of Smith Mountain. Photo looks SSW.

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.

Sunset from down in the draw along USFS Road No. 386.1F near the NW end of Smith Mountain.
Sunset from down in the draw along USFS Road No. 386.1F near the NW end of Smith Mountain.

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