Day 8 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Wind River Range, Wyoming & Select Peaks in Montana
Before the sun was up, Lupe wanted out of her “tiny house”. SPHP unzipped the door and let her go. The Carolina Dog must have slept well. She hadn’t been so perky last evening after her long trek to Porcupine Pass from Lower Green River Lake. SPHP dozed a bit longer. When SPHP finally emerged, Loop was busy watching 3 deer and a marmot.
Sweet! Having a great time watching wildlife, aye Looper?
Oh, yes! It turns out this Porcupine Pass is a terrific spot. Don’t make any sudden movements, and please be quiet so the deer don’t run away!
Sorry, but we’ve got to get going, Loop. Today’s the big day. Squaretop Mountain or bust! Before we head for New Benchmark, want to take a stroll up Porcupine Pass Peak for a better look at what we’re facing?
Sure! Let me know when you’re ready. I’m going to keep watching these deer till then.
Porcupine Pass Peak(10,890 ft.) is a barren hill on the SW side of Porcupine Pass. Lupe gained less than 200 feet of elevation on her way to the top. The stroll was an easy one, free of obstacles except for a steep snowbank just below the rim of the summit area. Fortunately, the snowbank wasn’t large. SPHP found a way around most of it. The snow presented no problem at all to the American Dingo, who powered her way right on up, chomping snow for moisture as she went.
The top of Porcupine Pass Peak proved to be a large, gently rounded area, carpeted with green alpine plants. Not a tree or bush anywhere. Medium-sized rocks laid thinly scattered across the field. In every direction, Lupe gazed upon magnificent mountains and huge valleys.
Beauty was everywhere, but the view to the E from Porcupine Pass Peak was disconcerting. Beyond Porcupine Pass, Lupe had her first good look at New Benchmark(11,850 ft.). The mountain was bigger, higher, and considerably more rugged than SPHP expected.
New Benchmark was the first of two major obstacles Lupe would face on her intended route to Squaretop Mountain(11,695 ft.). Once safely past it, she would reach more favorable terrain on the way to Peaks11,820 and 11,590. The second obstacle she would come to was a steep drop down to a narrow saddle leading to Peak 11,415. If Loop could cross that saddle, the remaining 1.5 miles N to the summit of Squaretop should be relatively easy.
Easy? Too funny! Staring only at maps, SPHP had been optimistic Lupe wouldn’t face anything more serious than a long ridge walk to get to Squaretop Mountain from Porcupine Pass today. Now that the Carolina Dog was actually here, staring at the reality of New Benchmark, it was clear nothing about this was going to be easy.
Come on, Loopster! We’ve got a gargantuan day ahead of us. We’d best get on with it!
Down at Porcupine Pass, SPHP disassembled Lupe’s tiny house. It was now perfectly clear she wasn’t likely to get all the way to Squaretop Mountain and back again in a single day. Everything had to come with.
Lupe and SPHP left Porcupine Pass. The Carolina Dog lost a bit of elevation heading ESE over to the base of a long, steep, scree and talus slope. This slope was the first big climb on the way up New Benchmark.
Lupe started climbing NE up the rough slope. Looper had no trouble maneuvering around, but SPHP was slow as always. Steady progress was being made, but it took a long time. While SPHP struggled up, Lupe enjoyed scanning the rocky terrain from increasingly lofty perches. Now and then, she encouraged SPHP to keep climbing.
After a long way up, the terrain finally became less steep. The rocks were bigger here, which was sometimes a help and sometimes a hindrance. Lupe appeared to be coming to some kind of a top.
Loop reached a top alright, but it wasn’t the top of New Benchmark. She was only halfway there on a false summit. The false summit was a large area of rough ground full of big rocks and boulders. Overall it was fairly level. It wasn’t hard to move around here, which was encouraging. SPHP was finally able to pick up the pace.
The highest parts of the false summit were toward the SSE, but Lupe went only partway there. A broad, relatively shallow saddle came into view leading NE to New Benchmark.
Much to her delight, the American Dingo got to romp across a big, gently sloping snowfield on her way down to the saddle. At the saddle, she saw two beautiful pale blue tarns surrounded by ice and snow in a cirque below her to the NW.
Once across the saddle, Lupe angled E. The second big climb was about to begin. Loop would have to gain just as much elevation as on the first leg up, but the terrain wasn’t quite as steep here. It wasn’t nearly as rocky, either, which helped SPHP tremendously. Lupe followed lanes of vegetation staying above, and safely away from, huge SW-facing cliffs.
Suddenly, things were going well! SPHP was able to climb much faster here. Heart, lung and leg power were the only limitations. SPHP could plod steadily upward instead of scrambling slowly among rocks. Lupe was going to make it to the top of New Benchmark! The question now was, what would she find on the other side? Could she continue on to Squaretop Mountain?
Lupe and SPHP approached the summit full of hope. Before long, the Carolina Dog was there, perched atop New Benchmark’s highest rocks! New Benchmark(11,850 ft.) was a glorious peak in its own right. The views of the Wind River Range were fantastic!
New Benchmark’s summit area was fairly large and flat. The highest rocks were along the NW edge. Lupe and SPHP searched around for a registry or a survey benchmark, but found neither.
While the views were grand in all directions, some of the most spectacular peaks were off to the E and SE along the continental divide. Lupe could see Gannett Peak(13,804 ft.), the highest mountain in Wyoming.
Reaching the summit of New Benchmark was a peakbagging victory for Lupe. Her ultimate objective, however, was still Squaretop Mountain(11,695 ft.). She could see it from New Benchmark, about 3.5 miles to the NE as the crow flies. In fact, she was looking down on it.
The news wasn’t good, though. To get to Squaretop Mountain, Lupe needed to be able to get from New Benchmark over to easier terrain near Peak11,820 to the E. Cliffs eliminated any possibility of going directly E or SE, but the topo map showed Lupe ought to be able to go down New Benchmark’s NNE slope and reach a saddle leading E. This route shouldn’t be any steeper than the route Lupe had taken up New Benchmark.
Lupe started down New Benchmark’s NNE slope, only to discover a huge, long snowbank wrapped around the N and NE side of the mountain. The snow curved steeply away out of sight. How far down the snow went, and how steep it became was impossible to tell. Unequipped, SPHP wasn’t willing to walk out on the snow far enough to tell. A slip might easily become a rocket slide hundreds of feet onto deadly rocks below.
The sky had been partly cloudy all morning. For the last several hours, it had been especially cloudy to the NE. It hadn’t look threatening, though, and Lupe had spent a full hour up on New Benchmark’s superb summit. Now, as Loop stood on rocks above the steep snowbank gazing E, dark clouds and rain were sweeping over the continental divide not too many miles beyond Squaretop Mountain.
Not looking too good, is it, SPHP?
No, not really, Loop. So frustrating! This route has been more challenging than I expected, but it should have worked. If this snowbank wasn’t here, I still believe we would have been able to scramble down this slope easily enough and continue E.
Would we have made it to Squaretop then?
Not sure, but we certainly could have gotten a lot closer. Once beyond New Benchmark, it looks like a cinch to get at least as far as Peak 11,590. Beyond that, who knows? Can’t tell from here. Maybe there isn’t a safe route across the saddle to Peak 11,415? That would have been the last real obstacle, though.
So now what? Are we beaten?
Looks like it, Loopster. We’re staring at defeat here as far as Squaretop Mountain is concerned. Weather’s looking kind of iffy, anyway. Even if we could continue on, it might not be the smartest thing to spend the rest of the day sauntering around on exposed mountaintops.
Well, don’t take it too hard, SPHP. We made it to New Benchmark, didn’t we? That was a peakbagging victory. New Benchmark is a splendid mountain, wouldn’t you say?
Oh, yes, indeed! New Benchmark is awesome! It’s a grand consolation prize as your peakbagging goes. Still, as far as our original intentions went, this day has been a small victory, and a major defeat. Had my heart set on Squaretop Mountain for you. Thought we would be there today. Really did.
Oh, whaa, whaa! Get over it, SPHP. Look at where we are, high in the glorious Wind River Range! Let’s have fun! We going back to Porcupine Pass now?
Yeah, I suppose we better. No sense arguing with reality in the mountains, especially mountains as big as the Winds. Onward, sweet puppy!
Now you’re talking! Maybe the deers and marmot will still be there? I hope so!
By the time Loop made it around to the W side of New Benchmark to start the first big descent, a storm could be seen approaching. The surprising thing was that it was coming from the W where the sky had been relatively clear, instead of from the E. The storm was quite some distance away, so it appeared the Carolina Dog still had time to carry on for a while.
Halfway down to the saddle leading to the false summit, suddenly the whole sky turned gray. Clouds were forming directly overhead. Light rain fell. More was certainly on the way. Continuing down the mountain, SPHP started looking for a place where Lupe could take shelter. Some tall rocks with a slight overhang was all that was on offer. Lupe reached this refuge moments before the downpour began in earnest.
It rained hard for half an hour, with pea-sized hail thrown into the mix toward the end just for fun. Lupe was fairly well protected by the little overhang. The Carolina Dog emerged from the experience only a bit damp. SPHP, however, was thoroughly drenched. Only SPHP’s head and shoulders had been spared.
Ha, ha! Look at you, SPHP! For once, you’re the drowned rat. Usually I’m the soggy doggie!
Heh, that was a bit more refreshing than it needed to be, alright. Come on, Looper, let’s move it! The storm isn’t over yet. Let’s get down to the saddle during this break.
Good idea. I remember some really big rocks down there. We can find a better place to hide!
Stray raindrops continued falling all the way down to the saddle. Lupe was right about the big rocks. The saddle featured a collection of huge boulders all jumbled together. Loop and SPHP found a much larger overhang, almost like a cave. Not a moment too soon, either. No sooner was the American Dingo safe inside than the next downpour began.
This time it didn’t rain quite as hard. A cold wind blew instead. Another shot of pea-sized hail fell. The cave wasn’t very big. It would have been considerably more comfortable, if the ceiling had been higher and dripped less. SPHP sat scrunched over on a small rock, watching water trickle down the wet ceiling, while Loop stared out of the cave. Hopefully it would all be over soon. This wouldn’t be such a great way to spend the night.
After 20 minutes, the rain tapered off. A small patch of blue sky appeared. Lupe watched the patch grow for 10 minutes before it seemed safe to venture out. Scattered raindrops carried on the breeze continued falling as Lupe and SPHP headed SW toward the false summit. By the time Lupe was there, the rain was over.
As Lupe began the final big descent, the sky began to clear. The lucky American Dingo would enjoy sunshine the rest of the way back to Porcupine Pass. As usual, it took SPHP a long time going down the steep, rocky slopes. It didn’t matter, though. The air was fresh and clean, the sky blue, the mountains gorgeous.
Victory and defeat! This was living the life of Lupe. She had it better than Riley ever did!
Days 6 & 7 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Wind River Range, Wyoming & Select Peaks in Montana
The morning after Lupe’s return from her successful 4 day journey to Wind River Peak(13,192 ft.) was a lazy one. The Carolina Dog had certainly earned a rest day! SPHP picked up some fried chicken and a salad at Safeway in Lander. Lupe took a couple of easy walks down by the Middle Popo Agie River across from Lander City Park.
By 11:00 AM, it was plenty hot out. McDonald’s had ice cream cones on sale for 50 cents. Even cheapskate SPHP was willing to spring for that! Lupe got lessons in how to eat an ice cream cone. By watching SPHP’s example, she became quite proficient at it. It turns out Carolina Dogs are naturals at eating ice cream cones!
Lupe’s next peakbagging objective, Squaretop Mountain(11,695 ft.), was clear over on the other side of the Wind River Range at the far NW entrance to Green River Lakes. It would take all afternoon to drive over there, so right after the ice cream cones vanished, Lupe and SPHP left Lander and hit the road.
On her grand summer of 2015 Dingo Vacation, Lupe had spent a day reconnoitering Squaretop Mountain. SPHP has an old book called Wind River Trails by Finis Mitchell, who spent most of his life running a fishing camp in the Wind River Range near the Big Sandy entrance. In it, Mitchell describes a route up Squaretop Mountain from the E leaving the Highline Trail near Beaver Park.
Mitchell wrote that his route up Squaretop Mountain was “not difficult”. He had taken scouting groups, and even a 4 year old child up this way once, yet Lupe had arrived at Beaver Park in late August 2015 only to see towering cliffs. The topo map showed 3,500 feet of elevation gain in less than a mile. No doubt Mitchell knew what he was talking about, but Lupe’s reconnaissance left SPHP desiring a more detailed route description than Finis had provided in Wind River Trails.
On the way back to Green River Lakes, Lupe had met Chad, a friendly forest ranger. Did Chad know of a route up Squaretop? Chad said he’d been to the top of Squaretop himself. He said Mitchell’s route was hard to find since some of the landmarks in his route description (burnt areas) had changed. SPHP asked if there wasn’t a feasible route from the W via Porcupine Pass? Chad confirmed there was one, but it was longer, and he didn’t know the details.
Now, almost two years later, Lupe was on her way to Green River Lakes hoping to find that route from Porcupine Pass to Squaretop Mountain! Hopes were high, bolstered by her success in reaching the summit of Wind River Peak.
The last part of the road to Green River Lakes, which used to be rough, was greatly improved. It was still dusty and washboardy, but wasn’t nearly as stony as in 2015. Gophers were abundant, and frequently dashed across the road as the G6 approached. Lupe was enthusiastic about the gophers, and barked frantically at them as she sped by.
Lupe arrived at the trailhead near Lower Green River Lake at 5:00 PM. Loop and SPHP were both anxious to go down to the lake to get a good look at gorgeous Squaretop Mountain again.
Lower Green River Lake and Squaretop Mountain were every bit as lovely as Lupe and SPHP remembered. Of all the mountains in the Wind River Range, Finis Mitchell had chosen Squaretop for the cover of his book Wind River Trails.
Lupe and SPHP both went wading in Lower Green River Lake. The mosquitoes were bad, though, and eventually put an end to the fun. Lupe then went down to the Highline Trail bridge where the Green River exits the lake. A sign said that the bridge over Clear Creek (near the opposite end of Lower Green River Lake) was out due to flooding.
The Green River was running high, full of water from bank to bank. Having just seen how full the creeks were, and how much snow still existed in the high country near Wind River Peak, Lupe wasn’t surprised. With the bridge over Clear Creek out, Lupe wouldn’t be able to take the Highline Trail (No. 94) to Porcupine Pass tomorrow. Fortunately, an alternate route exists. Lupe could still take the Lakeside Trail (No. 144).
Even though Lower Green River Lake is at 7,961 feet elevation, the evening was hot. The mosquitoes were bad. Lupe and SPHP ended up staying in the G6, periodically running the AC to keep cool. While SPHP caught up the journal, Lupe watched gophers. Every now and then, she just had to be let out to bark at squirrels, or sniff at a gopher hole.
The next morning it was time for action! Lupe and SPHP went down to Lower Green River Lake again to admire Squaretop Mountain(11,695 ft.) before setting out for Porcupine Pass. (8:44 AM, 7-14-17, 66°F).
After a good look at her magnificent objective, Lupe followed the Lakeside Trail S along the W side of Lower Green River Lake. Despite it’s name, the Lakeside Trail is seldom down by the shore. Most of the time the trail stayed in the forest 50 to 150 feet above the lake. Only once in a while did Lupe come to an opening with a good view of the lake and mountains beyond.
Lupe was less than halfway along Lower Green River Lake, when a backpacker approached from the opposite direction. He turned out to be quite an interesting fellow. Radek Hecsko was 48 years old, and from the Czech Republic. He billed himself as “Czech Mix”.
Czech Mix was hiking the entire 3,100 mile Continental Divide Trail from Mexico to Canada! He had started on May 2 in New Mexico, and hoped to reach the Canadian border by mid-September. In 2015, he had previously hiked the entire 2,600 mile Pacific Crest Trail, which also goes all the way from Mexico to Canada.
Czech Mix jokingly called the Continental Divide Trail the “IPA Trail”. He said he typically hikes 30 miles per day, though not in the most rugged territory, and does take occasional rest days. Depending on the kindness of strangers, he hitchhikes to towns whenever possible to resupply. On the trail he often goes hungry, but in towns he packs in the calories feasting on hamburgers, coffee and IPA’s.
Czech Mix said he might eventually take on the 2,190 mile Appalachian Trail to complete the “Triple Crown”, a feat very few people have ever accomplished. He hadn’t really decided yet, though. It was another massive undertaking. For now he was staying concentrated on enjoying and completing the Continental Divide Trail. Completing the CDT would be a rare accomplishment in itself, since it was the longest of the 3 trails and by far the least traveled.
After petting Lupe, and a nice chat with SPHP, Czech Mix pressed on.
Well, that Czech Mix was mighty impressive, Loopster! Can you imagine tackling a 3,000+ mile long trail through high mountains like that? It’s just plain heroic!
Oh, are we gonna do that?
I’ve no doubt you could, Loop, but I’m not up for it. Completing any one of those trails is a gigantic endeavor! I’ll be happy, if we can just make it to Squaretop Mountain.
Oh, I’m sticking with you, SPHP. I’ll be happy if we can find some squirrels!
Lupe continued meeting people along the Lakeside Trail. They came strung out in small groups, but were all members of a youth group that had been camped at Twin Lakes. The group leaders were all concerned about an 18 year old, who had wandered off on his own and never showed up at camp last night. Their anxiety was only increased by the knowledge that his father was an attorney.
Two miles from where she’d started, Lupe reached the end of Lower Green River Lake. Another 0.25 mile brought her to a trail junction. Loop turned R on the Porcupine Trail (No. 137). She would be gaining elevation nearly all the way to Porcupine Pass, a good 6 or 7 miles away as the trail goes.
The Porcupine Trail didn’t begin climbing immediately, however. For almost another 0.25 mile it remained level until Loop reached Porcupine Creek. No bridge! Another ford. Lovely! Lupe had forded a lot of big streams on her way to Wind River Peak, but SPHP had been hoping for a bridge here. No such luck.
Actually, that wasn’t entirely true. Upstream of the ford, a log extended over the creek. A thin cable, which could be easily grabbed for support, was stretched high above it. The log’s circumference wasn’t all that large, however, especially toward the far end. Lupe couldn’t grab the cable, and might easily fall. It was a drop of several feet into Porcupine Creek. This makeshift bridge wasn’t going to do.
The near side of the ford was shallow, slow-moving water. The far side was deeper, and a great volume of water seemed to be racing by. What bothered SPHP far more than the ford itself, however, was what was right below it. Only 20 feet below the ford, Porcupine Creek made a sharp bend. This bend was clogged with sunken logs, branches and other debris. The water was over Lupe’s head. If she got swept downstream, she would be pinned with great force against the debris.
Czech Mix hadn’t come this way. The entire youth group had, however. No one had mentioned any problems crossing Porcupine Creek. SPHP didn’t like the setup, but decided to carry Lupe across.
The bottom where the creek was deepest was stony. Fortunately, perhaps due to traffic on the trail, the stones weren’t very slippery. Porcupine Creek turned out to be only knee deep, but SPHP still had a hard time maintaining balance on the uneven bottom against the force of the swift current. The Carolina Dog was glad to be let gently back down on solid ground again, when SPHP managed to struggle across safely.
The Porcupine Trail now began to climb aggressively, switchbacking SW up a steep forested slope. Partway up, Lupe could hear Porcupine Falls somewhere off in the woods to the N, but she never saw it. After gaining 800 feet of elevation, the trail gradually started leveling off. Eventually Porcupine Creek came back into view.
Shortly after leveling out, the trail turned NW and forded Porcupine Creek again. It could be seen continuing up a hillside beyond the far bank. Thinking that was just the way to Twin Lakes, SPHP skipped the turn, and led Lupe SW beyond a trail junction staying on the SE side of Porcupine Creek.
The trail Lupe was on soon disappeared in a bog. SPHP was puzzled when it couldn’t be found again on the other side. Where had it gone? No matter. Lupe and SPHP continued onward, bushwhacking through the forest up hilly terrain.
After more than 0.25 mile, Lupe did find the Porcupine Trail again! Belatedly, SPHP suddenly realized the trail to Twin Lakes hadn’t branched off until the Porcupine Trail had crossed over to the W side of the creek. To stay on the trail, Lupe should have taken the ford that SPHP had her skip.
Oh, well. No harm done. Lupe had managed to bushwhack her way through, and it was actually better this way when the creek was so high. The American Dingo’s bushwhacking had avoided 2 stream fords in the process. Puppy, ho! Onward!
The trail was in great condition where Lupe found it. It headed SW up a huge valley. Porcupine Creek was often in view flowing through wide green meadows. The trail almost always stayed out in the open, but gradually deteriorated, becoming muddy and passing through bogs in some places. Lupe had wonderful views of rugged mountains towering over the far side of the valley.
More than 0.5 mile from where Lupe had picked up the trail again, Porcupine Creek turned W to go around a small forested hill. This was an especially nice spot, and seemed like a good place to take a break. Lupe left the main trail to follow a short side spur down to the stream. Wildflowers grew in abundance. Lupe laid down for a rest. Mosquitoes were a nuisance for the first time today, but they weren’t too bad.
After a pleasant break, Lupe and SPHP continued on. The Porcupine Trail climbed the small forested hill, but soon exited the forest again. For a while the trail was wet and boggy. However, the valley eventually narrowed. The trail became rockier, steeper, and re-entered the forest. Up ahead were mountains with more snow on them than the scattered patches seen up to this point.
After a long march, the Porcupine Trail finally emerged from the forest again. It approached Porcupine Creek, closely following the E bank. As Lupe continued S, the trail disappeared straight into a huge snowbank. Efforts to pick up the trail on the far side of the snowbank failed. Sigh. What now?
Lupe had been making good progress toward the upper end of the long valley. Ahead was another stretch of forest, but it couldn’t be too much farther to open ground again. There seemed to be no choice, but to resume bushwhacking and see where it led. The American Dingo climbed back into the forest.
The forest was denser here than where Lupe had bushwhacked before. It wasn’t too hard to get around, though. Loopster soon came to two substantial tributaries of Porcupine Creek in quick succession. They were wild, whitewater streams that plunged W down from mountains on the E side of the valley.
Fortunately neither tributary was so large that Lupe couldn’t find a safe place to ford them in short order. Looper hadn’t gotten too far beyond the second stream when she reached the end of the forest. She started crossing a meadow, and came across the Porcupine Trail yet again.
SPHP didn’t realize it at the time, but the trail had once again crossed over to the W side of Porcupine Creek for a short distance before returning to the E side. So what? Lupe’s bushwhacking had avoided another 2 fordings. She was close to the end of the valley now. Porcupine Pass was less than a mile away! The trail went SE, heading straight for it.
The trail became progressively steeper and steeper. Soon Lupe was on switchbacks. The forest began to thin out. The trees became stunted. When Lupe reached treeline, Porcupine Pass was in view. It was nothing like SPHP expected.
Porcupine Pass is at 10,700 feet elevation. Yet due solely to its name, SPHP had always thought of it as being forested. Thought of it as a place one might find porcupines – not that finding a porcupine was a good idea. An encounter with one might end very badly for Lupe.
No worries, though, on that score! Only scattered trees remained in view ahead. None at all were up on the high saddle which appeared to be Porcupine Pass. Lupe was still hundreds of feet below the pass. A very long, steep snowbank led up to the top. Egads!
Lupe continued up the trail, now hidden beneath snow, until she got close to the steep final slope leading up to Porcupine Pass. Here she left the trail, and traveled E climbing a rocky hill. She got up high enough for a good look around at the terrain in most directions.
The view to the E was the critical one. It was decision time. SPHP had originally planned for Lupe to go all the way on up to Porcupine Pass. From there she would head E tomorrow for New Benchmark(11,850 ft.) and Peak11,820 on her way to Squaretop Mountain(11,625 ft.).
However, an alternate route skipping New Benchmark entirely might be possible by continuing E from here without ever going all the way up to Porcupine Pass. The topo map seemed to suggest this might be an easier route.
SPHP hesitated. The view to the E was not all that reassuring. Going E didn’t look clearly possible or impossible for Lupe. There was a lot of rough, rocky ground. Half a mile away or more was a wall of rock. From here, SPHP couldn’t see enough detail to tell for certain if Loop might be able to skirt it to the S, or not.
A significantly longer, but perhaps less rugged option was also in sight to the NE. That route all depended on whether Lupe could manage to get up on a big ridge at the end of a valley. She probably could, but she’d have to travel quite a distance to find out for sure.
Maybe all of the routes would work? Maybe none of them would. The decision on which way to go was an important one, perhaps critical if Lupe was going to have any success in reaching Squaretop Mountain. Yet the right thing to do wasn’t at all clear. Lupe could only try one approach. SPHP wasn’t carrying enough supplies for any more than that.
Only short sections of the trail switchbacking 400 feet up the steep slope to Porcupine Pass were visible. The vast majority of the trail was buried beneath a long steep snowfield. However, a lane of snow-free ground existed E of the trail. It was very steep, but Lupe could climb that slope easily enough. SPHP could probably manage it, too.
In the end, SPHP decided to stick with the original plan. Lupe began the climb up to Porcupine Pass.
It was a good thing the slope wasn’t any steeper, or SPHP wouldn’t have made it. There were places where there was nothing firm to hang onto. Traction wasn’t always good. Yet it wasn’t long before Loop and SPHP were safely up at Porcupine Pass. The views were impressive!
Porcupine Pass was beautiful, but barren. It felt cold, remote and forlorn. Lupe hadn’t seen anyone since leaving the Lakeside Trail many miles ago. It had been a long day. For hours during the afternoon there had been dark clouds off to the NW, but now that it was evening, the sky had partially cleared. There were still clouds around, but they didn’t look threatening.
Congratulations, Loopster! This is it. Porcupine Pass. You made it!
We’re staying here?
Yeah, for tonight. I’ll set up your tiny house in a minute. Want to climb that hill to the W for a look around, once it’s up? It’s Porcupine Pass Peak(10,890 ft.). Won’t take long.
Can we do it in the morning, SPHP? I’m hungry, and ready for a snooze. Mosquitoes are bugging me even up here. I’d sort of like to get in the tiny house, and call it a day.
Sure, we can do that. I’d wish for a breeze to blow the bloodsuckers away, but its probably not a good idea.
I have a feeling Porcupine Pass would be an absolute hurricane if the wind came up. We’re lucky it’s a calm evening, even if we have to put up with some bad bugs. Anyway, you’re right. Tomorrow’s our big push for Squaretop Mountain. We may as well eat and rest up for it as much as possible. Just getting to New Benchmark(11,850 ft.) might be an ordeal, and Squaretop is miles beyond it.
Are we going to have problems?
Dunno. Maybe. New Benchmark looks far more challenging than I’d expected. However, once we’re beyond it, you’ll have gained all the elevation you need to, and the terrain ought to be a lot easier. It better be, if we’re ever going to make it to Squaretop. We’ll see, though. One thing is for certain, tomorrow will be another long day.
Whatever. What’s for dinner?
For you, Alpo and Cliff bar.
Oh, that doesn’t sound bad at all! Hurry up and get the tiny house assembled, would you? I’m famished!
Day 5 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Wind River Range, Wyoming & Select Peaks in Montana
The sun was up, and so was SPHP, busily engaged in breaking camp. Was Lupe OK? For once, it was the American Dingo that still seemed tired. Lupe remained relaxing in her “tiny house” until SPHP was ready to disassemble it.
Come on out of there, Loop! It’s a glorious morning, and we have a long day ahead of us.
I wish, but no, we aren’t. As much as I hate to leave such beautiful territory, it’s time to head back to civilization. The rush is that this whole trip was only supposed to take 3 days, and this is the 4th day. I’ve already had a bite to eat this morning, but now all I have left is one Cliff bar. No doubt you’ll want at least half of it.
We’re out of food!?
I am. You still have plenty Taste of the Wild. At least, until I start chowing down on it, which will happen tomorrow for sure, if we don’t get out of here. It’s a long way back to Worthen Meadow Reservoir.
What flavor did you say that Cliff bar was?
I didn’t, but it’s chocolate coconut, if you must know.
Oh, that does sound good! Let’s get going!
Only 500 or 600 feet S of base camp, Tayo Lake came into view. Most of the lake was still covered in snow and ice. What a beautiful sight it was! It really was a shame to have to leave.
Loop had just been feeling lazy back in her tiny house. There wasn’t a thing wrong with her. On the way down to Tayo Lake, she was bursting with energy. She had a great time racing across the open heather and frisking on big snowbanks.
When Lupe got close to the end of Tayo Lake, SPHP suggested leaving the ridge to go down to the shore near the Tayo Creek outlet. Loopster was in favor of that. She hadn’t actually been to the lake shore on the way to Wind River Peak. This was her last chance to see it.
The water was perfectly still. High rock ridges reflected in the silvery smooth surface. Lupe could hear the nearby gurgling of Tayo Creek starting down the valley. Beyond Tayo Lake was the big green ridge where she’d spent the past two nights in her tiny house at base camp. From there she’d been able to look down on Lake 11,145, now hidden in a cirque above Tayo Lake. Wind River Peak towered over it all. Only yesterday, Lupe had been up there.
After a few minutes lost in contemplation of the magnificent scene, Lupe reminded SPHP it was time to press on. SPHP led Loopster back up onto the ridge. She then started S down wide snowy lanes flanked by stunted forest.
As Lupe descended, SPHP kept watching for the route she had taken up to Tayo Lake 2 days ago, but never really found it. Uncertain whether the Carolina Dog was too far W or E, SPHP led her back and forth in both directions. Lupe traveled over snowfields SPHP was certain she hadn’t been to before. Gradually it dawned on SPHP that Loop was too far W. It wouldn’t really matter, though, would it? The terrain should eventually funnel all routes down to the same general area.
The first indication of a potential problem came when Lupe reached a rushing stream. Cascading swiftly down a narrow channel, the stream was large enough to be Tayo Creek, yet Lupe was W of it. How could that be? Lupe had started off E of Tayo Creek when she left Tayo Lake, and hadn’t crossed it. SPHP was also certain Looper hadn’t crossed or even seen this stream on the way up to Tayo Lake 2 days ago. The maps revealed nothing. Hmm.
Lupe followed the gushing stream down to a large clearing where it fed into a pond. A short distance below the pond, a smaller stream flowed down from the NW to join the larger one. The smaller stream almost certainly had to be Tayo Creek. Tayo Creek wasn’t particularly wide here, but was fairly deep.
Loop needed to get across Tayo Creek, but SPHP didn’t relish the idea of fording it. Near the confluence of the creeks, snow bridges extended over both streams. All the snow banks Lupe had crossed higher up had been strong enough to hold even SPHP’s weight. These snow bridges looked substantial, too.
Just below the confluence, another snow bridge went over the combined streams. If the snow bridge over Tayo Creek collapsed, Lupe might get swept under the downstream bridge where SPHP couldn’t help her.
SPHP tested the snow bridge by the edge of Tayo Creek. It seemed plenty sturdy enough. Lupe would be fine, if she went first.
Lupe dashed across the snow bridge with no problem. SPHP followed. The snow bridge held. Well, that was easy! Way easier than fording the creek would have been.
Lupe was now W of Tayo Creek. She wouldn’t have to cross it again, but knew from experience other big streams were still ahead. The American Dingo followed Tayo Creek S. She ran and sniffed happily in open green forest. Meanwhile, the stream plunged into a narrow canyon. Lupe was losing elevation much more slowly. Tayo Creek was soon far below her.
Tayo Creek disappeared from view. Lupe continued through the forest in a S or SE direction, still losing elevation. A mere 15 minutes after crossing Tayo Creek, Lupe arrived at yet another large stream. This was the stream flowing E from Coon Lake.
The stream from Coon Lake was too wild to ford where Lupe reached it. Loop and SPHP followed it upstream looking for a place to cross. After 15 minutes, SPHP saw a single flat rock that the entire stream was flowing over. The water was shallow and evenly spread. Lupe could cross there!
Lupe had other ideas. While SPHP started for the flat rock, she found some other place to cross the creek. Suddenly, there she was on the opposite S bank!
Having made it over the creek all on her own, Lupe was anxious for SPHP to follow. The big flat rock wasn’t far away, but rocks, trees and a considerable quantity of deadfall made it a struggle to get there. SPHP shouted to Lupe to stay where she was. For several minutes, she did. However, Loop became increasingly concerned as SPHP continued crashing around obstacles on the opposite shore.
When SPHP reached the flat rock, it was possible to see a good snow bridge only a little farther upstream. That would be an even better place to cross! SPHP pleaded with Lupe to remain where she was, but when SPHP turned away she couldn’t wait any longer. Suddenly she was at SPHP’s feet again, fine and dandy. She’d crossed the stream unseen a second time.
Upon reaching the snow bridge, Lupe could see she wasn’t far below a massive snowfield that extended out of sight up the slope to the W. Coon Lake must be up there somewhere, perhaps not too far away. Unfortunately, the already long day ahead meant Lupe didn’t have time for a side trip to go see it. She crossed the creek from Coon Lake for the third time on the snow bridge with SPHP.
S of the creek again, Loop headed SE through the forest. Half an hour went by before she reached another big stream. This was the stream from Mountain Sheep Lake.
Once again, Lupe had reached the stream at a poor place to attempt a crossing. She traveled upstream looking for a better spot, and soon stumbled upon Mountain Sheep Lake itself. The pretty lake was long, narrow, and tucked in a deep side valley off the main canyon Tayo Creek flows through.
A short break was taken to admire Mountain Sheep Lake. When it was over, the problem of where to cross the outlet stream still needed to be resolved. There seemed to be two choices. Not too far downstream from the lake, the creek flowed through a rocky area where it might be possible to rock hop most of the way over.
The other choice was to ford the creek right at the outlet from Mountain Sheep Lake. The stream was wide here, but relatively shallow most of the way. The current was slower, too.
SPHP thought maybe the outlet was the better choice. Convinced Lupe wouldn’t have a problem, SPHP started across, but Loop didn’t follow. SPHP made it to the opposite bank only to turn around and see poor Loop still stranded on the other side. She was intimidated by the width of the stream.
SPHP shouted encouragement to Loop. She could do this!
Lupe hesitated, clearly torn over what to do. She went back and forth along the far bank looking for an answer to her predicament. Finally, as she stood on a rock projecting into the stream, another urging from SPHP seemed to embolden her. She went back to the bank, then waded into the cold water. She had to swim, but only a little bit. Lupe made it across.
SPHP had rewarded Loop with pieces of the last chocolate coconut Cliff bar after she’d crossed Tayo Creek, and again after she’d crossed the creek from Coon Lake. Lupe looked at SPHP expectantly.
Guess, I knew all along you’d get most of this Cliff bar. Here you go, Loop.
I earned it!
Yes, I know. You did great, Looper.
Lupe wouldn’t face another major stream crossing for a long way now. The next landmark she would go by would be Poison Lake, about a mile to the NE. Lupe had a fantastic time in the forest, staying well S of Tayo Creek. The Carolina Dog displayed great energy and enthusiasm, crossing many minor streams and numerous big bogs. She frolicked and cooled off on snowbanks melting away in the soggy forest. She was back in prime squirrel territory, and spent much of her time barking happily.
Going around the SE end of Poison Lake, Lupe returned to the rock platform overlooking the lake she’d been to before on the way up. The sun was almost directly overhead. Time for another break. Lupe and SPHP sat together with a view of Wind River Peak far beyond Poison Lake. What little was left of the chocolate coconut Cliff bar met its doom.
Beyond Poison Lake, Lupe continued following the Tayo River downstream. She didn’t stay as close to it as she had on the way up, since she didn’t need to find a way across. She did see one of the two waterfalls she’d discovered on the way up, but whether it was the upper or lower falls, SPHP didn’t remember.
Lupe had a wonderful time in the forest, but she finally reached Lower Tayo Park again and came to the Middle Popo Agie River. She forded it at the S end of Lower Tayo Park just as she’d done before.
Lupe had finally made it back to a trail! SPHP was curious to see what conditions were like now back at the ford where Trail No. 707 crosses the Middle Popo Agie River below its confluence with Tayo Creek. The situation really hadn’t changed much at all. The ford was still as badly flooded as it was before.
Lupe returned to Middle Fork Trail No. 700, and followed it NE downstream along the Middle Popo Agie River. She was getting close to the junction with Stough Creek Basin Trail No. 704 when a backpacker appeared ahead. He was the first person Lupe and SPHP had seen in 75 hours – more than 3 days.
The backpacker was from Flagstaff, Arizona. He said he was on his way to Tayo Lake, but had nearly turned back at the Stough Creek ford. SPHP explained the situation he would soon face at the flooded ford in Lower Tayo Park, and also described how Lupe had bushwhacked all the way to Tayo Lake and Wind River Peak.
The backpacker went on. Lupe would never know if he made it to Tayo Lake using her bushwhacking route or not. She soon left the Middle Popo Agie River on Trail No. 704 to Stough Creek.
Until now, Lupe had been going downhill nearly all day long. Now she had to climb. The American Dingo did great. She still had plenty of energy to run around looking for squirrels in the forest. SPHP felt played out, though. Going uphill was tough. At least a lot of snow had melted since Lupe had last been here, so it was easier to follow the trail.
Lupe reached the ford at Stough Creek. The situation had not changed from 3 days ago. SPHP still didn’t like the looks of it. Stough Creek was too fast, deep and scary! SPHP was going to have Lupe cross a little upstream of the ford again, then remembered the bridge over Stough Creek near the next trail intersection higher up. Maybe Lupe could just bushwhack up to that bridge?
Loop abandoned the trail for the final bushwhacking session of her Wind River Peak adventure. She hadn’t gone far when she came to a sizable tributary of Stough Creek. Loop forded this lesser creek, and entered a lovely green field that proved to be sopping wet. Another bog! She traipsed across it, and a second one, too, before finally reaching the forest and dry land on the other side.
The off-trail climb through the forest was steep. Lupe came to another major tributary of Stough Creek. It was all whitewater where Lupe reached it.
Lupe followed the tributary upstream to where the terrain leveled out. Here she could ford the tributary without much of a problem. Shortly after crossing the tributary, she found a trail. Lupe followed the trail N. Within 300 feet she arrived at the bridge over Stough Creek. Yes!
Lupe had finally reached Stough Creek Lakes Trail No. 702. It would take her the rest of the way back to the Worthen Meadow trailhead, still a good 5 miles away. Only one major creek crossing remained, Roaring Fork Creek which would come near the end. Onward!
The Carolina Dog was now in a nearly level part of the forest. She soon came to the area where stagnant yellow and orange ponds were scattered among the trees. Up until now, the mosquitoes hadn’t been bad, but here they were terrible.
The climb back up to the high saddle N of High Point 10965 where Lupe had first seen Wind River Peak on her way in was torturous for SPHP, who was nearly exhausted by now. The plucky American Dingo was unfazed. Mosquitoes drove SPHP on. Even when Lupe reached the high saddle, they were bad enough to prevent any long delay. Lupe and SPHP did pause for a few moments, though, to gaze upon the grandeur of Wind River Peak for a final time.
It was still 3 miles back to the Worthen Meadow trailhead from the high saddle. Nearly all of it was downhill, which helped SPHP a great deal. The constant whine of mosquitoes was maddening, but all the Deet was long gone. Lupe busied herself looking for squirrels in the forest. Rest assured American Dingoes never tire of this sport.
At long last, the final ford over Roaring Fork Creek next to Roaring Fork Lake appeared. Lupe ran down to the stream and plunked herself down in the water to cool off.
Roaring Fork Creek didn’t look any different than it had 3 days ago. The water was just as high as before. No matter. In a cloud of mosquitoes, SPHP prepared to cross, then simply went for it.
This time, SPHP stayed upstream of the big rock. The water wasn’t mid-thigh deep here like it was downstream of the rock, but was still several inches over the knee. The even gravelly bottom and gentle current made this ford seem trivial now after all the streams and rivers Lupe had crossed on the way to Wind River Peak and back.
Lupe hadn’t come, though. The water was over her head for a long way. SPHP tried coaxing her from the opposite bank, but without the aid of the enticing chocolate coconut Cliff bar, Lupe stayed put. Seeing further entreaties were futile, SPHP dumped the backpack and waded back into the stream.
As soon as Lupe saw help was on the way, she plunged into Roaring Fork Creek and started swimming toward SPHP. She remembered being on the big rock SPHP had put her on before midstream and swam to it. However, the rock was steep where she reached it. She tried, but Lupe couldn’t get up on it by herself. The current carried her out of sight behind the rock.
Lupe didn’t reappear downstream. What was happening? No doubt she was still striving to get up on the rock, but SPHP couldn’t see her. Before SPHP could get there, Loop grew fearful and gave up. Suddenly she was in view again heading back to shore. SPHP continued over to get her.
SPHP picked the cold, drenched Carolina Dog up, and carried the grateful, dripping Dingo across Roaring Fork Creek. Lupe’s last adventure of her 4 day journey to Wind River Peak was over.
At Worthen Meadow Reservoir, Lupe lost no time hopping into the G6 (9:00 PM). She curled up on her pillows and blankets, licked herself clean, and devoured an entire can of Alpo. She still had room for a McDonald’s cheeseburger in Lander an hour later. The night time scene at Lander City Park was astonishing. The place was absolutely packed with tents and RV’s.
SPHP took the last parking spot available. It was right beneath a bright streetlight. For some strange reason the streetlight cycled on and off at 30 second intervals. After Lupe’s long march all the way from Tayo Lake, it was only a minor annoyance. Lupe and SPHP were both fast asleep, dead to the world, still dreaming of fabulous Wind River Peak.
Day 4 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Wind River Range, Wyoming & Select Peaks in Montana
Lupe wanted out. SPHP unzipped the door of her “tiny house”, and she vanished into the night. A nearly full moon hung over the mountains bathing the world in a ghostly glow. It was late, very late. Hours of light rain showers were over. Fortunately, the tiny house and everything in it had escaped being drenched. The clear sky was a welcome sight.
SPHP scanned nearby terrain tying to pick out the Carolina Dog. She was nowhere to be seen. Many secrets remain concealed beyond the pale power of moonlight to reveal. SPHP listened. Nothing but a soft breeze sighing.
Ten minutes later, she came racing back all out of breath.
Out having adventures in the night without me, aye Looper?
Maybe. A short one.
Want to tell me about it?
Nope, gonna go back to sleep now.
Smart. You’ll need some of that energy for Wind River Peak in the morning.
SPHP zipped the door of the tiny house shut as soon as Lupe was in. Best get as much shuteye as possible. Dawn couldn’t be more than a few hours away.
The moon was gone the next time Loop wanted out. Sol blazed well above the horizon. Morning! This was it! Breakfast. Final preparations. Everything ready. The great moment arrived. Now or never! Wind River Peak or bust! Lupe and SPHP headed N abandoning the tiny house. Nothing but up, now! 2,000 feet should about do it.
Lupe, who had been too tired to eat yesterday evening, was chock full of energy and ambition. She ran this way and that sniffing around big rocks. No squirrels, today! The American Dingo was already above tree line. SPHP was feeling the effects of the thin air, and two long days struggling to get to base camp above Tayo Lake. At the top of the first steep rise, SPHP paused to catch breath.
The S slopes of Wind River Peak(13,192 ft.) were directly ahead. The way up seemed straightforward enough. Just keep climbing while avoiding any steep snow. Lupe would work her way NW to gain a S ridge that looked snow-free all the way to the top. It would be a long boulder hop, but that was OK. American Dingoes are great scramblers! Nothing was in view that should prevent Lupe from reaching the summit.
Lupe and SPHP continued on, pausing now and then to look around and let SPHP catch breath. The terrain grew rockier. Lupe gained elevation steadily, but reaching the rocks slowed SPHP down considerably. The Carolina Dog had plenty of time to wander, sniff and survey the tremendous views.
Looper couldn’t completely avoid the snow fields, but had no problem traversing them. She enjoyed the snow, and crossed at points that SPHP could manage. She made it above the last big snowfield, and gained the upper S ridge she’d been aiming for. The rest of the trek was just a long, long scramble up the rocks.
The morning had been breezy until now, but it was just plain windy way up here on the S ridge. A gusty 20 to 30 mph wind blew out of the W. Occasionally the air was calm for a moment or two between gusts, but most of the time the wind was powerful enough to be an annoyance. Lupe stayed E of the ridgeline for a little protection whenever possible.
After a long scramble up countless rocks, the S ridge began to level out. Loopster had to be getting close to the top! She encountered a couple of larger rock formations, but had no problem scrambling around them. Ahead the ridge broadened out to perhaps an acre or more of gently sloping jumbled rock. Was that the summit?
A rock formation at the far N end looked noticeably higher than anything else in sight. Lupe headed for it. Even before she got there, it became apparent she was indeed approaching the summit of Wind River Peak(13,192 ft.). SPHP was overjoyed! The Carolina Dog had made it! Lupe leapt up onto the rock formation. She stood proudly in the breeze atop the glorious mountain.
SPHP joined Lupe at the top of the mountain. The sky was a bit hazy, whether due to smoke or humidity was hard to say. Even so, the views were simply superlative! SPHP congratulated Lupe on her peakbagging success, and shook her paw. For 10 minutes, Loop and SPHP sat in the wind up on the highest rocks, while SPHP stroked her soft ears and fur.
It wasn’t noon yet, but seemed like time for at least a snack. Lupe and SPHP got down off the summit rocks, and took shelter from the wind next to them. While Lupe devoured Taste of the Wild, SPHP had a Cliff bar, then searched around for a survey benchmark shown on the topo map. Nothing. SPHP couldn’t find a Nalgene bottle that was supposed to contain a summit register, either.
Puzzling. Wasn’t this the summit? It seemed obvious that it was. There were a couple of competing high points that didn’t look too much lower, though. One was to the E and the other along the W edge of the summit area. Better have Loop check them out, too, just in case.
Yeah, that was a good idea. Lupe had discovered a pika living among the summit rocks and was chasing it. The pika knew its home well, and had an easy time avoiding the Carolina Dog bent on its destruction. Completely fascinated by the elusive pika, Lupe was racing and bounding around oblivious to monstrous cliffs only a few feet away. Better put a swift end to this merry chase before it was Dingo overboard and the pika scored a victory!
Lupe found nothing among the large rocks at the E high point. Since she was close to the E edge of the summit area, she went a little further to check out the views over there.
Having seen the views to the E, Lupe visited several of the highest rocks along the mountain’s W edge. No sign of any benchmark or registry turned up here, either. However, the views to the W were even more glorious, due in no small part to the eye-catching proximity of Temple Peak(12,972 ft.) and East Temple Peak(12,600 ft.).
Beyond Haystack Mountain(11,978 ft.), Lupe could see the famed Cirque of the Towers, a gorgeous area she had been to before in 2015. Closer by, a slice of Black Joe Lake was in view more than 2,900 ft. below the American Dingo’s lofty vantage point.
Unfortunately, there was enough humidity, smoke or whatever it was in the air to ruin any really distant views Loop would have had on a totally clear day. With 360° of incredibly beautiful nearby panoramic splendor to admire, though, it hardly mattered.
While Loop relaxed, SPHP took some close ups.
Loop? Loop, where are you?
The American Dingo had been resting at SPHP’s feet just a minute or two ago, but she wasn’t here now. SPHP quickly scanned Wind River Peak’s summit area. Nada. Where had she gone off to?
Suddenly there she was, leaping and scrambling madly around the rocks over at the true summit. She hadn’t forgotten that pika, and had slunk off to pursue it again. No doubt mountaintop pika hunting was great sport, but it involved an element of real danger for both pika and Dingo.
Once more, SPHP put an end to the merriment.
Lupe stayed up on the summit only a short while longer. An hour had flown by already. Maybe it was time to think of moving on? Many hours of daylight remained, but as slow as SPHP is climbing a mountain, SPHP somehow manages to be even slower going down rocky slopes like those on Wind River Peak.
Partly for the pika’s sake, and partly to get on with it, Lupe and SPHP left Wind River Peak’s true summit for the final time ambling S. Loop got up on a boulder for a last look at Temple Peak.
Lupe and SPHP continued S toward the rock formations near the start of the steeper descent down the S ridge. Of course, the views here were tremendous, too. Lupe delayed the start of her descent until SPHP had taken a few more photos of the magnificent Wind River Range.
An hour and a half after she’d arrived at the summit of Wind River Peak, Lupe began her descent in earnest. The Carolina Dog did lots of exploring, sight-seeing and waiting around as SPHP slowly clambered down the long rocky slopes. Two hours passed before Lupe was below the big snowfields again.
Another two hours passed before she arrived back at her “tiny house”. Although Wind River Peak didn’t look 2,000 feet higher from here, it most certainly was. Lupe and SPHP could both vouch for that now. At least 4 hours of daylight remained, but it had been another strenuous long day already. Lupe joined SPHP inside her tiny house for a needed nap.
It was evening by the time Lupe emerged again feeling refreshed. The rest had done SPHP some good, too. SPHP proposed a stroll over to Lake 11,145. Lupe was enthusiastic about the idea, but she never made it all the way to the lake. Streams and marshes blocked the final approach, and SPHP didn’t want to get wet feet.
Loop circled around to the S end of the big ridge her tiny house was pitched on. For a long time, Lupe and SPHP sat together on a rock overlooking Tayo Lake watching the evening light fade from the mountains.
When the mosquitoes got bad, it was time to return to the tiny house. Lupe remained outside while SPHP arranged things inside for the coming night. When all was ready, SPHP went back out.
N farther up the ridge, more than 100 feet away, Lupe was all alone. She rested on the ground, still scanning the vast darkening wilderness. She saw SPHP, but didn’t come. For 10 minutes Lupe and SPHP watched each other from a distance. Loop didn’t move a muscle. What was she pondering all by herself?
Hard to say. SPHP would never really know, but if a guess had to be made, she may have been thinking about the elusive pika she would never see again that lives at the very top of towering Wind River Peak.
Day 3 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Wind River Range, Wyoming & Select Peaks in Montana
Lupe hadn’t seen the stars all night. In the wee hours, SPHP woke to the sound of raindrops on her “tiny house”. Not good. The rain cover had been lost years ago. If it rained hard at all, everything would get soaking wet. Lupe wanted out to sniff around in the darkness. SPHP unzipped the door and let her go.
The Carolina Dog returned before too long, content to lay down on her red sleeping bag again. SPHP folded it over her for warmth. Light rain continued intermittently for hours. A gray dawn finally heralded the new day. Everything was damp. Better get going nonetheless.
After a brief bite to eat, it was time to find out what fate had in store.
May as well leave things here while we do a quick reconnaissance, Loop. This might all be over before we even get started.
Over! Last night, you said you had a plan!
Yes, two plans actually. The first one is no doubt doomed from the start. We’ll know for certain in a few minutes. The second plan might well suffer the same fate. Maybe, though, it will leave us with some hope, at least for a while.
Oh! Doesn’t sound too good. Are we going back soon, then?
Yes, Looper, if neither plan works, we won’t have any choice. Our Wind River Peak dreams will be kaput. Come on! Let’s go down to the river, and get this over with.
The Middle Popo Agie River was only a couple minutes away from the tiny house. Surprisingly, the river had actually dropped an inch or two overnight. It wasn’t enough, not nearly enough. Plan A was a failure. Lupe would still have to traipse 80 feet or more through a shallow lake just to get to the river channel where the ford was. No way! The river was way out of its banks, and far too dangerous.
That was Plan A, SPHP? You’re kidding, right? You knew the river would still be flooding!
Of course, but yeah, hoping that the river had gone down enough to ford it was Plan A. We at least had to come and take another look, didn’t we? Thought maybe it would look more possible this morning than when I was tired last night. It doesn’t. Let’s go check out Plan B.
Plan B had better be a doozie compared to Plan A!
Lupe had spent the night camped only 0.25 mile away from the intersection of Trails No. 707 & 706 up in Tayo Park. From there, she would have had two possible routes to Wind River Peak(13,192 ft.). She could have taken No. 706 N to Deep Creek Lakes, or No. 707 W to Tayo Lake.
The original idea was to make a nice loop up via Deep Creek Lakes and down by Tayo Lake. SPHP had seen trip reports where others had done it that way. However, the Wind River Range still had tons of snow in the high country. Snow melt was flooding the Middle Popo Agie River. Loop couldn’t even get to the ford on Trail No. 707, never mind across the river.
Lupe and SPHP returned to her tiny house, then took a shortcut S to Middle Fork Trail No. 700. On the way, Lupe could see Tayo Creek on the opposite side of the valley roaring down a hillside to join forces with the Middle Popo Agie River only a little upstream of the ford. That sight was what had given SPHP hope yesterday evening. Maybe Loopster wasn’t totally thwarted yet in her efforts to get to Wind River Peak?
Lupe reached Middle Fork Trail No. 700 a little S of where she’d left it yesterday evening to take Trail No. 707 to the flooding Middle Popo Agie River. A small wooden sign along No. 700 read simply “Tayo Park”.
Hey, Loop, look at that! We’re already at Tayo Park! Lower Tayo Park, that is. The topo map only shows Tayo Park on the other side of the Middle Popo Agie River 120 feet higher than where we are now. Guess there’s an Upper and a Lower Tayo Park? At least now we can say you did make it to Lower Tayo Park, if not the upper one.
Nothing’s really changed, though? We’re no better off than we were?
Not yet, sweet Dingo! We’ll know soon if there’s any hope of improvement.
Lupe and SPHP followed Middle Fork Trail No. 700 going S toward Sweetwater Gap. The Middle Popo Agie River snaked through flooded Lower Tayo Park just W of the trail.
The S end of Lower Tayo Park was only 0.2 mile away. When Lupe got to it, SPHP led her off Trail No. 700 over to the Middle Popo Agie River.
Hey, you’re in luck Looper! It’s on! Let’s go back and get the tiny house and rest of the gear.
Plan B is going to work?
Well, at least at the start. We’ll just have to see how far we can get. No guarantees at all.
So what is Plan B exactly?
Divide and conquer.
Meaning we’re coming back to cross the Middle Popo Agie right here. Most of the flow at the ford comes from Tayo Creek, which is actually by far the larger of the 2 streams above their confluence in Lower Tayo Park. After crossing the Middle Popo Agie, we’ll still be on the wrong side of Tayo Creek. You will have to keep following it upstream until either there’s a way across, or some impassable obstacle blocks the way forward. The farther we can make it upstream, the more tributaries we’ll get by, the smaller Tayo Creek will be, and the better our chances of reaching the trail again somewhere.
So in the meantime, we’re going to let the waters divide, and conquer them one smaller stream at a time?
Precisely, dear Dingo!
So there won’t be a trail?
Nope, a total bushwhack for miles, probably.
Oh, I love bushwhacks, SPHP! Plan B sounds like a great adventure!
Doesn’t it, though?
What are we waiting for? Let’s run!
Lupe streaked back to Trail No. 700. Of course, SPHP was much slower, so Loop had to keep returning to bark encouragement. It wasn’t too long, though, before SPHP had retrieved the tiny house and all the gear. Once again, Lupe stood on the E bank of the Middle Popo Agie River at the S end of Lower Tayo Park.
The Middle Popo Agie River was still a good-sized, fast flowing stream, but much smaller here than farther downstream where Tayo Creek added its torrential flow. SPHP forded the river first. Loop followed close behind. The waters were still pretty deep for her, but she managed to get across without any help. Plan B was underway!
Loop headed N along the W side of Lower Tayo Park. The whole bottom of the valley was a bog or worse. Lupe climbed a little up onto drier ground along the valley’s edge. She passed over a small forested ridge and came to a field on the other side, much of which also proved to be boggy. Loop crossed the wet field, and again climbed to drier ground in the forest.
The roar of Tayo Creek could be heard ahead. Lupe continued climbing steadily through open forest toward the noise. The terrain wasn’t bad at all. Mosquitoes were, though. Those miserable blood suckers were awful again today. 0.25 mile N of where Lupe had crossed the Middle Popo Agie, she reached a rock where she could see Tayo Creek rushing down a narrow channel below a steep bank. A small island was surrounded by whitewater.
Somewhere not too far away on the other side of Tayo Creek was Trail No. 707 to Upper Tayo Park. As fully expected, Lupe had no way to cross the raging stream yet. Lupe and SPHP turned W staying in the forest and following Tayo Creek upstream.
After gaining only a little over 100 feet of elevation, the terrain began to level out. Lupe had reached the S side of Upper Tayo Park. The surface of Tayo Creek was calm here, though ripples showed the water was still moving fast. A bog full of bushes prevented the Carolina Dog from getting anywhere close to the creek, which looked deep. On the far side, the bog extended hundreds of feet beyond the stream.
The American Dingo continued WSW following Tayo Creek. Beyond Upper Tayo Park, she started gaining elevation again. Tayo Creek reverted to a whitewater torrent. Though most of the ground in the open forest was dry, Lupe and SPHP crossed many snowdrifts. Despite the mosquitoes, Loop was having a fantastic time! Squirrels were everywhere! The Carolina Dog’s incessant yipping and yapping echoed through the valley.
SPHP’s promise, recently made back at Jack Squirrel Peak(8,942 ft.) in the Laramie Range, to bring Loop to higher mountains where there would be squirrels galore was being fulfilled!
Tayo Creek was becoming even more wild as Lupe continued upstream. SPHP feared it would eventually flow right up against cliffs, or other obstacles on the S side of the valley that Lupe couldn’t get past. So far, though, it hadn’t. Instead of finding herself blocked, Lupe discovered a lovely waterfall.
Lupe came to two separate waterfalls on Tayo Creek. They weren’t far apart. The lower falls were the largest. Staying in the forest, the American Dingo had no problem continuing upstream beyond them.
Loop didn’t have to travel very far beyond the waterfalls before the valley began to open up more. The American Dingo could now see some of the high country ahead.
Loop had been making good progress. SPHP realized that the valley opening up meant the Carolina Dog was fast approaching Poison Lake. If she couldn’t get around it, Poison Lake would spell the end of Plan B’s success.
Poison Lake! You never said anything about a Poison Lake, SPHP!
Oh, don’t worry about it Loopster. I can’t imagine it’s actually poisonous.
Ridiculous humans! Then why on earth would it be called Poison Lake?
How should I know? Someone once had a poor experience, I suppose.
Well thanks so much for the heads up, SPHP! Think I’ll just keep eating snow and drinking from these smaller streams, if you don’t mind.
Suit yourself, Loop. I think you could drink gallons from Poison Lake and be none the worse for the wear, though.
Lupe went over the crest of a little saddle, and there it was. Charmingly named Poison Lake, dead ahead! Loop went right on down to the shore, but did not wet her whistle. The view was reassuring. Yeah, Loopster shouldn’t have any problem getting around the S side of the lake. That was welcome news! Poison Lake had been a potentially serious obstacle.
Lupe headed S through the forest close to the E shore of the lake. The steepest terrain was near the SE end of Poison Lake. Lupe had to climb some distance above the shoreline. She came upon a big rock platform with a great view of the lake. Loop could even see Wind River Peak from here!
The sky was finally clearing. The day was brighter, more cheerful, and pleasantly warm. The mosquitoes, which had been bad until now, were less troublesome on the big rock. Plan B was going well, much better than SPHP had feared. Time for a break to celebrate Lupe’s success in reaching this lovely spot!
Lupe and SPHP lingered on the big rock overlooking Poison Lake for close to half an hour, enjoying the views and successful execution of Plan B to this point.
When break time was over, Lupe and SPHP continued the rest of the way around the S side of Poison Lake to the W shore. Lupe then began following Tayo Creek farther upstream. SPHP had hoped Loop would find a way across the stream beyond Poison Lake, but those hopes were quickly dashed.
The whole valley was boggy anywhere near Tayo Creek. The creek was smooth surfaced again as it flowed through nearly level terrain. The stream was so wide, it was hard to tell where Poison Lake ended and Tayo Creek began.
Eventually Tayo Creek narrowed down enough so it was clear Loop was beyond Poison Lake. She finally came to a place where relatively dry ground went almost all the way to the creek’s edge. Loop and SPHP both made it onto a big white rock where it was possible to peer down into the water.
Good heavens! The water was very clear, but remarkably deep. It was easily over SPHP’s head, and perhaps twice that depth.
Since crossing Tayo Creek was still totally out of the question, Lupe pressed on. She had to stay quite a distance from the stream channel due to surrounding bogs. Looper traveled mostly in the forest or along its edge. The Carolina Dog was making progress, but even the hillsides were soaking wet now. Rivulets of snow melt ran down every ravine, and pooled in every low spot.
Often it was advantageous to travel over huge snowdrifts at the forest’s edge. Usually the drifts held even SPHP’s weight. For Lupe, they were Dingo super highways. As SPHP marched onward, Lupe dashed about the forest in a relentless search for the next squirrel to annoy, frequently enjoying success.
Nearly a mile from Poison Lake, Lupe finally reached a major obstacle. A stream much larger than any other tributaries of Tayo Creek she had come to so far cascaded down rocky rapids from the S. This had to be the stream from Mountain Sheep Lake.
Crossing the tributary from Mountain Sheep Lake was an absolute necessity. Success would be a huge step forward in the divide and conquer plan. Failure meant defeat plain and simple – Lupe would have to turn back without ever having reached Wind River Peak.
Loop had reached the tributary at a bad spot. It didn’t look safe to cross here. The search began for a better place. The American Dingo needed to find one fast. The map showed that Mountain Sheep Lake probably wasn’t any more than 0.1 mile away. If Lupe reached the lake without finding a decent ford, it was all over.
The luck of the Dingo was with her! Going upstream, Lupe soon came to a place where the rocks were smaller. The creek spread out widely and evenly without deep spots. She could do this!
Lupe had no problem fording the stream from Mountain Sheep Lake all by herself. This success was a huge boost to her chances of reaching Wind River Peak. Once across, Loop and SPHP turned NW. Tayo Lake wasn’t much more than 1.5 miles away now!
Before long, Lupe could see a signpost sticking up out of a snowbank ahead. She’d reached a trail junction! Both trails were hidden beneath the snow, but one sign pointing W was for Trail No. 705 to Coon Lake. The other sign was for Trail No. 707 to Tayo Lake!
Beyond the snowbank, Lupe found the actual trail to Tayo Lake. She quickly lost it again beneath more snow, and was almost immediately confronted with another big stream. This was the tributary of Tayo Creek coming down from Crow Lake to the W. After searching around in a bog not far from the trail intersection, Lupe found a way across this relatively large stream, too. More progress!
A steady climb NW through the forest began as Loop forged ahead looking for the trail to Tayo Lake. It took a while to find it again. Even once it was found, it was hard to keep it that way. The trail was a fairly minor single track here. It kept disappearing beneath more snow, or disguising itself as a small stream.
About 0.5 mile from the trail intersection, the terrain leveled out. Trail No. 707 hardly existed here, but cairns showed Lupe was still on the right track. She was getting close to the final big creek crossing. Fording Tayo Creek could be delayed no longer.
Trail No. 707 was nowhere in sight when Lupe reached Tayo Creek again. A cairn on the opposite N shore showed that this was the ford, though. The creek was greatly reduced from the torrent it had been miles downstream. Divide and conquer had worked! SPHP waded across.
Even though Tayo Creek was greatly reduced, the water was still over Lupe’s head by the S bank where she reached it. An icy plunge into the swift stream was still intimidating. SPHP encouraged her to come, but Looper sat forlornly on the far bank looking worried.
Poor Loopster was afraid. How many scary, icy river crossings did she have to make in a single day, anyway? SPHP decided to go help her, and turned around momentarily to drop the backpack. Even more afraid of being abandoned than she was of Tayo Creek, Loop plunged in and crossed all by herself. What a trooper!
Lupe’s climb resumed up a forested hill. Once again, the terrain soon leveled out. Up ahead, beyond a boggy plain, Loop saw a snowy saddle. That saddle was where Tayo Creek flows out of Tayo Lake. Lupe was almost there!
After crossing the bog, Lupe started climbing. She stayed NE of the snowy saddle following avalanche tracks through a stunted forest. Views behind her improved rapidly as Loop gained elevation. The view of Mt. Nystrom(12,356 ft.) was particularly impressive.
Finally, 250 feet above the boggy plain, Lupe saw her objective – Tayo Lake! Plan B – Divide & Conquer had worked! Despite what SPHP had thought were poor odds, Lupe had made it. She was really here!
Tayo Lake was absolutely gorgeous! A layer of snow and ice floated on most of its surface. Impressive rock walls guarded the S and W shores. Two miles N, and nearly 2,500 feet higher, Wind River Peak(13,192 ft.) beckoned. Tomorrow Lupe would have a chance to climb it. For the first time, her prospects for success suddenly seemed bright!
To the N & E of Tayo Lake, a long, broad ridge rose steadily toward the NW. Parts of the ridge were covered with stunted forests, but most of it was open ground. To further improve the chances of a successful ascent of Wind River Peak tomorrow, Lupe and SPHP started up the ridge.
From the broad ridge, Lupe could soon see a large waterfall plunging into a canyon to the E.
Lupe climbed more than 400 feet above Tayo Lake to a flat part of the ridge straight N of the lake. Although the afternoon had been mostly sunny, rain showers were now threatening. SPHP didn’t put up Lupe’s “tiny house” right away. Instead, Lupe and SPHP took a tour of the ridge to see the sights. An even higher mini-Tayo Lake, Lake 11,145, was in view to the W.
It was early evening and had been another long day. Lupe and SPHP were weary. Both curled up together beside a big rock where there was a grand view of Tayo Lake 400 feet below. The rock had an overhang offering partial protection from any rain showers. Drowsiness set in. Before long, Lupe and SPHP were completely out it.
The nap was helpful. When it was over, the sky was clearer. Lupe and SPHP set off to the N on top of the ridge looking for a place to pitch Lupe’s “tiny house”. A good spot was hard to find. Although it looked grassy, the ridge was actually rather rocky and dotted with boulders. Finally Lupe came to a place at around 11,250 feet elevation where the ground was lumpy, but not rocky. This would do.
SPHP put up the tiny house. Lupe had a great view of Lake 11,145 to the W from here. She could see Wind River Peak to the N. It was supposed to be more than 2,000 feet higher, but didn’t look that high. No doubt that was an illusion. Tayo Lake wasn’t in sight, but a 500 or 600 foot stroll to the S was all it took for a grand view.
What a day it had been! Lupe had tons of fun racing around the woods barking at squirrels. She had forded 4 major streams, countless small creeks, crossed numerous soggy bogs and huge snow drifts, climbed on rocks, and traveled many a mile. Divide and Conquer had worked! The Carolina Dog was now in position for an ascent of Wind River Peak tomorrow.
She’d had hardly anything to eat all day, though. Part of a Cliff bar and a single bowl of Taste of the Wild. Didn’t matter. Lupe was too tired to eat. The sun wasn’t down quite yet, but Loop was ready to go inside her “tiny house” and curl up on her sleeping bag.
Outside, clouds were gathering. A few raindrops struck the tiny house. SPHP pulled some of her sleeping bag over the exhausted Carolina Dog.
So far, so good, Loopster. You did great again today, sweet Dingo! Just hope we don’t get drenched tonight.
Lupe didn’t hear it. She was already in Dingo dreamland still barking happily at all those lovely squirrels.
Days 1 & 2 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Wind River Range, Wyoming & Select Peaks in Montana
Wow! Was that it? SPHP suspected it was. Although the G6 said it was 97°F outside, Lupe was riding in air-conditioned comfort. She was still E of Shoshoni on Hwy 20/26 in central Wyoming. Far to the SW, the SE end of the fabulous Wind River range had come into view.
The sight of a towering white peak looming above all the others was faintly unsettling even from here. Shimmering through the desert heat, Wind River Peak(13,192 ft.) and the surrounding high mountains had far more snow on them than SPHP had expected. So much snow up there more than a week into July? Maybe Lupe didn’t stand a chance.
The day had started off well enough. Right away the American Dingo knew something was up. For hours she’d followed SPHP’s every footstep, yipping and prancing anxiously. Finally, just as she was losing hope, everything was ready. Into the G6! Suddenly Lupe was setting off on her 2nd Dingo Vacation of the summer of 2017 (11:09 AM)!
Only 20 days ago, after the fiasco at Jack Squirrel Peak(8,942 ft.) in the Laramie Mountains at the end of her previous Dingo Vacation, SPHP had promised to take Lupe to even higher mountains where she would find plenty of squirrels. Loop hadn’t dared to hope SPHP would keep that promise so soon. Once she reached Wyoming, though, she knew good things were in store. Happy days ahead!
By 6:00 PM, Lupe reached Lander at the foot of the Wind River Range. At the S end of 3rd Street, Lupe found Lander’s sweet city park by the Middle Popo Agie River. Saturday night, but even so, SPHP was astonished at how busy it was! The place was packed with people, kids and dogs. A DJ was playing music. Free camping is allowed! Tents and RV’s were all over the place. The park felt like a festival was in progress.
Yeah, this was going to be fun! Lupe would spend the night here, too. Nearby, a bridge arched over the Middle Popo Agie River. On the other side was another, less-developed park. It would be quieter over there. Loop and SPHP went over the bridge, then took a walk along a mowed path to the bank of the river. It was still hot out. The Carolina Dog promptly got in the Middle Popo Agie to cool off and get a drink.
Lupe had never been to Lander before, so an evening tour of the town was in order. Looper was particularly interested in a couple of statues that caught her imagination.
After seeing some of Lander’s sights, SPHP ran in to Safeway to buy some fried chicken for dinner. Then it was back to the city park for the rest of the evening. SPHP set up Lupe’s “tiny house” for her. Loop feasted on chicken, then spent the rest of the evening exploring and playing. When the sun went down, the music stopped and the party was over. Lupe was still excited. It took a while for SPHP to persuade her to hit the hay.
The next morning, the American Dingo rose bright and early. Time for action! Today Lupe would start for fabulous Wind River Peak!
At the S end of 5th Street, SPHP drove out of Lander on Hwy 131. Lupe was soon approaching Sinks Canyon. She had time to get out and take a look around Sinks Canyon State Park. SPHP parked the G6 at a pullout near “The Rise”.
If Lupe had been a bear, “The Rise” would have been quite a fascinating place! The Middle Popo Agie River resurfaces from underground caverns here. Lupe could see water pouring into a large pool from various points along the side of the canyon. The pool was full of big trout which couldn’t swim any farther upstream.
American Dingoes don’t fish much, though, so Lupe and SPHP went on to see “The Sinks”.
The Sinks was only 0.25 mile upstream. Here the Middle Popo Agie River disappears into a limestone cavern. Ordinarily the entire river goes underground. This morning the Middle Popo Agie was such a torrent that it entirely flooded the cavern. Plentiful overflow continued down a surface channel.
After visiting The Sinks & The Rise, Lupe and SPHP continued up Sinks Canyon on Hwy 131. The highway eventually became Louis Lake Road, which wound very high up onto the upper SE side of the canyon. The view looking back down the canyon was impressive.
After a tremendous elevation gain, Louis Lake Road finally started to level out shortly before passing by Frye Lake. A mile past Frye Lake was a R turn on USFS Road No. 302 to Worthen Meadow Reservoir. Most of No. 302 was fine, but parts of it were very rough for the G6. Nevertheless, the G6 made it through, and Lupe arrived at Worthen Meadow Reservoir.
Well, this was it! Lupe would start for Wind River Peak from here. The Carolina Dog snapped at flies while SPHP got everything ready. The trek should take three days and two nights. Loop and SPHP shared some of the remaining fried chicken by the lake, then went in search of the TH on the W side of USFS Road No. 302. Soon Lupe was on Stough Creek Lakes Trail No. 702 (10:45 AM, 71°F).
This first part of the trail was wide and very well worn. Lupe traveled through an evergreen forest gradually gaining elevation. After 0.67 mile, she reached her first objective, Roaring Fork Lake.
There were people and a few dogs at Roaring Fork Lake. Most were hanging out at some big rocks along the N shore. Lupe went out on the rocks, too. The small lake was pretty. Lupe could see high cliffs and peaks with snow in the distance beyond the lake.
Nearby, Roaring Fork Creek flowed N out of the lake. The creek was deeper and much broader than SPHP expected, though the current looked gentle. Where did the trail cross the creek? SPHP had expected a bridge, but none was in sight. Maybe it was a little downstream from here?
Lupe and SPHP followed what seemed to be a trail N through the forest near the E side of the stream. The trail went a short distance, then vanished. No trail and no sign of a bridge anywhere. This couldn’t be right! Lupe returned to Roaring Fork Lake. SPHP talked to a few people. None knew where the trail went, or where there was a bridge. Roaring Fork Lake was as far as they intended to go.
When all else fails, consult the map! The map showed the trail crossing Roaring Fork Creek right at the N end of the lake. Hmm. Lupe returned to the stream where it exited Roaring Fork Lake. On the far shore, the trail was in plain sight. No bridge! That wasn’t good news at all. The current didn’t look strong, but Lupe had never forded anything like this before.
SPHP waded into the stream. Lupe followed. Soon she was swimming. A large rock protruded out of the water about 2/3 of the way across. The water was mid-thigh deep by the time SPHP reached the downstream side of the rock. Even though the current was gentle, Loop was having a hard time swimming against it. She was in danger of being swept downstream.
SPHP grabbed Lupe and plucked her out of Roaring Fork Creek, placing her on the big rock. SPHP continued on across, leaving the Carolina Dog stranded.
Loop was safe on the rock, but she wasn’t sure what to do next. SPHP encouraged her to jump back into the river and swim. She hesitated. Carolina Dogs aren’t water dogs. Roaring Fork Creek was way over her head.
When Lupe made up her mind, she gave it her all. With a mighty leap she launched herself into Roaring Fork Creek. She sank below the surface, then popped up a moment later. She’d leapt so far she only had to swim a few feet before she could touch bottom and scramble to shore. Good girl!
Lupe shook herself off. SPHP continued on the trail. Soon Loop was leading the way. The creek had been refreshing.
It had also been worrisome. Lupe would have to cross other streams on the way to Wind River Peak. Weren’t there going to be any bridges? Eventually Loop would have to cross the Middle Popo Agie River. She had seen what a torrent the Popo Agie was back at The Sinks. How on earth could she get across that without a bridge? The obvious answer was – she couldn’t.
The trail led SW through the forest gaining elevation more rapidly than before. 0.75 mile from Roaring Fork Lake, the trail leveled out as it emerged from the forest at the edge of a vast marsh. A wooden walkway went all the way across the marsh. That was reassuring. Lupe trotted across.
Beyond the marsh, Trail No. 702 went W up a valley, gaining elevation at an increasing pace. Higher up, Lupe came to a long series of big switchbacks. It was warm out now, and just plain hot going uphill. Loop and SPHP stopped periodically for water and to catch breath. Never for long, though. Mosquitoes and flies were a constant bother. SPHP slathered on Deet, but it was only partially effective.
The trail became rockier. For the first time, Lupe started getting views back down the valley. She could see Frye Lake and Fossil Hill(9,089 ft.) beyond it.
The long uphill grind seemed like it would never end. After Lupe had gone 2 miles from the marsh and gained 1,000 feet of elevation, it finally did. The American Dingo reached a saddle N of High Point 10,965. For the first time since the marsh, Lupe was out of the forest. The saddle was open meadow. Lupe could see!
What the Carolina Dog saw was a massive mountain dominating other high peaks nearby. Still 8 miles away as the crow flies, Wind River Peak(13,192 ft.) was unmistakable.
The mountain still looked far away. SPHP was already tired. It began to dawn on SPHP that Lupe’s journey to Wind River Peak and back was likely to take more than 3 days and 2 nights. Better go easy on the supplies, which were none too ample to begin with.
Still the view wasn’t entirely discouraging. Although there was a lot of snow on the mountain, there were bare patches, too. The terrain didn’t look bad either. If Lupe could get to Wind River Peak, it looked like she stood a good chance of reaching the summit.
Lupe continued on. Trail No. 702 started turning SW and headed back into the forest. Lupe still got occasional glimpses of Wind River Peak, but none so good as she’d had back at the saddle. She was now losing elevation. Slowly at first, but eventually more rapidly as she reached some switchbacks. The trail turned N and went around a hillside before dropping sharply.
More than a mile from the saddle, Lupe came to flatter terrain. The ground was damp many places, and the trail muddy. Orange colored ponds were scattered in the forest, and the mosquitoes were terrible. The trail turned SW again and Lupe regained a little elevation. The trail was increasingly muddy. In some places it was just a stream. SPHP kept expecting Lupe to come to an intersection, but none appeared.
SPHP started to believe Lupe had somehow missed a turn onto Trail No. 704. However, rushing water could be heard not too far ahead. May as well check that out before turning back. Lupe soon reached a rushing stream that poured out of a small lake nearby.
The stream was Stough Creek, though that wasn’t apparent at first. A couple hundred feet downstream, Lupe did come to a trail intersection. Good thing she hadn’t turned back! A sign didn’t give any trail numbers, but the trail to the L led straight to a bridge over Stough Creek. The sign said that trail went 3 miles to Stough Creek Lakes, so it had to be Trail No. 702 continuing onward.
The trail to the R was signed as leading in 2 miles to the Middle Fork Trail. That had to be Stough Creek Basin Trail No. 704, the way Lupe needed to go.
Lupe headed W on Stough Creek Basin Trail No. 704. She was soon losing elevation steadily. The trail was never far from Stough Creek, which could always be heard in the forest. At one point the trail was right next to the creek. The stream looked even bigger here, reinforced by some major tributary.
Only 0.25 mile from the trail intersection, the Stough Creek Basin Trail reached the bottom of a valley where Stough Creek flowed N. The trail vanished straight into the stream! No bridge!
Good grief! Another ford, and a far more worrisome one. The trail could be seen emerging from the stream on the far bank. However, the water was high and moving swiftly, completely filling the channel. It was hard to tell how deep it was. Stough Creek was already much larger than it had been farther upstream. It wasn’t as wide as Roaring Fork Creek had been, but looked much more dangerous. 60 or 70 feet downstream of the ford, Stough Creek roared over whitewater rapids.
The more SPHP stared at the ford, the more unnerving it appeared. Yes, it looked possible, but the current was clearly strong. One slip might bring disaster. Lupe would have to be carried over. If SPHP fell and dropped her, Loop would have only 5 or 10 seconds to escape before the current would sweep her into the whitewater to be battered mercilessly against the rocks.
SPHP thought of Edward Earl, drowned in the Jago River. Absolutely not! Lupe wasn’t going to attempt this ford with the water so high. Either there was a better place to cross, or Wind River Peak wasn’t happening.
Lupe and SPHP looked around. Immediately upstream, the valley widened out. Stough Creek went around several sharp bends. The water was still moving at a good clip, but the surface looked calmer, less threatening. Maybe one of those bends would be a better spot to try? Worth investigating.
Low bushes grew thickly on both sides of the creek. The ground they were on was all wet and marshy. Lupe and SPHP forced a way through to the edge of the stream. No deeper than Roaring Fork Creek here. The water moved fast, but wasn’t turbulent. No rapids nearby. If there was a slip, Lupe would have lots more time to escape the river.
Definitely a better situation. Not great, but should be OK. Maybe Lupe could even swim across? SPHP put her leash on so she wouldn’t get separated. SPHP waded into Stough Creek. Thigh deep again, but no more. Harder to move and maintain balance, though. The current was faster here than back at Roaring Fork Creek.
Lupe came swimming after SPHP. She was instantly swept downstream, but the leash held her. It wasn’t that far across, but the leash was choking her and making it hard for Loop to hold her head above water. SPHP was nearly across, but Loopster was struggling and needed help. SPHP stopped, pulled her in with the leash, and picked the cold, drenched Dingo up. A couple more steps, and Lupe leapt to safety.
SPHP waded out. Lupe was fine and shaking herself off. The crossing hadn’t been too bad. The whole ordeal had taken only 30 seconds. Still it was good to be across. The experience was a little too intense for comfort. SPHP vowed Lupe would find a better way across Stough Creek on the way back from Wind River Peak.
Just beyond the ford was another trail intersection. A look at the map showed that the trail to the R (No. 703) would follow Stough Creek downstream for miles to Three Forks Park. Lupe needed to stick with Stough Creek Basin Trail (No. 704), which went straight.
The terrain was fairly flat for 0.25 mile as Lupe followed No. 704 W from the intersection. The trail then turned NW and started a steady decent. The forest here was full of snowdrifts 2-4 feet high. The trail vanished beneath them. Lupe and SPHP continued down the valley trying to guess where the trail had gone.
After 15 minutes of wandering through the forest, Lupe had lost enough elevation so she was below most of the snow. The Carolina Dog found the trail again E of where SPHP had been looking. Back on track!
No. 704 continued losing elevation. It was an easy stroll for SPHP, and Lupe was having a great time! SPHP had promised to take her to higher mountains where there were squirrels, and there were squirrels aplenty in this forest. The Carolina Dog sprinted from tree to tree. The whole valley echoed with shrill Dingo barking. A glorious fun time, for sure!
Shortly after finding the trail again, Lupe came to a small opening in the forest. From a big rock, she saw Wind River Peak once more for the first time in a while.
Stough Creek Basin Trail No. 704 finally ended at another junction near the Middle Popo Agie River. Lupe had lost 1,000 feet of elevation since leaving the saddle where she’d first seen Wind River Peak. Now she would start regaining elevation going up the Middle Popo Agie River valley on Middle Fork Trail No. 700 to Tayo Park. Before heading for Tayo Park, she went to take a look at the Middle Popo Agie River.
The sign at the trail junction said it was only 1.5 miles to Tayo Park. The moment of truth was coming. Lupe would have to cross the Middle Popo Agie River to reach Tayo Park. There had better be a bridge! The river was simply too large and swift to consider fording.
After more than a mile on Trail No. 700, Lupe came to yet another trail intersection. She took a right on Trail No. 707. If No. 707 had a bridge across the Middle Popo Agie River, the American Dingo would arrive at Tayo Park in less than 0.33 mile.
Once she was on Trail No. 707, Loopster didn’t have far to go to reach the point where the trail crossed the Middle Popo Agie. She was soon there. Lupe had come miles and miles from Worthen Meadow. The view was most disheartening.
Trail No. 707 disappeared into a shallow lake that filled the river valley. It was a good 80 feet through the water just to reach ripples that showed where the channel of the Middle Popo Agie River was. No bridge. No way forward.
All this way, and no bridge! The river was at flood stage, way out of its banks. SPHP stared across the shallow lake toward the ford. Wade 80 or 100 feet out there, just to reach the river channel? No! No telling how deep or fast the water was over there. It may look fairly calm, but a tremendous volume of water was flowing by. Lupe had seen that all the way up here. The current would be plenty strong.
Lupe and SPHP scouted along the dry land a little farther upstream. The American Dingo had a lovely view of a mountain beyond the valley, but the situation wasn’t really any different. Despair set in. Clearly it would be foolish to attempt this ford. Had Lupe met with defeat? Yeah, this was the picture of defeat alright.
Farther upstream, a steady roar came from across the river valley. Lupe could see Tayo Creek rushing down a hillside to join forces with the Middle Popo Agie River. That started SPHP thinking.
It was evening. It had been a long, long day. The mosquitoes were awful. On a hillside near the river, there was a nice spot to pitch Lupe’s “tiny house” beneath some trees. SPHP assembled it as rapidly as possible and threw everything inside. Loop came in, too. Peace, at last from those infernal bugs!
Loop had hardly eaten anything all day. SPHP split the last of the fried chicken with her. She got half a can of Alpo, and a large helping of Taste of the Wild, too. Meanwhile, SPHP studied the Bridger-Teton national forest map. It showed few details. The original plan had called for Loop to either be at Tayo Lake or Deep Creek Lakes this evening. Not going to happen. Both were still a long way away. To get to either, Lupe needed to get across the river to Tayo Park.
Slowly, though, an idea was growing.
I’m exhausted. C’mon Loop, let’s get some sleep. We’re staying here tonight. No sense in doing anything rash. At least, we’ve got a plan. It’s a long, long shot, but might work. We’ll see how feasible it is in the morning.
Day 12 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range in Wyoming & Beyond!
Lupe could hardly believe her big soft Dingo ears! Her spine tingled with excitement. She stared at SPHP in wide-eyed wonder and disbelief. Was it true? Was she really on her way to fabled Squirrel Mountain? Oh, joy!
Not Squirrel Mountain, Loop – Jack Squirrel Peak.
Mountain, peak, what difference did it make? Loop didn’t know and didn’t care. She was certain Squirrel Peak would be every bit as fabulous as Squirrel Mountain. How could it not be? In fact, the notion that there might be both a Squirrel Mountain and a Squirrel Peak was an exciting idea she’d never even thought of before.
I’m not even certain what a jack squirrel is, Looper. Maybe a jack squirrel is just larger than ordinary squirrels with a super long bushy tail? Kind of like a jack rabbit is bigger than ordinary rabbits and has longer ears and legs.
The American Dingo’s eyes grew even bigger. This was too good to be true!
Oh, I hope you’re right, SPHP! This is going to be the best mountain ever! I never should have doubted you. Your the best friend a Dingo ever had! This is going to make up for when you forgot the whiskey on Whiskey Peak, and then some.
Well, maybe it would, and maybe it wouldn’t. SPHP parked the G6 on the S side of County Road No. 710 where it turned W near Silver Tip Creek (10:43 AM, 62°F). Jack Squirrel Peak(8,942 ft.) was only 1.5 miles SSE from here at the S end of the long Eagle Mountain ridge.
Most of the territory E of here, including Jack Squirrel Peak, was all national forest land. However, by far the easiest way to the mountain was to head S across a big field N of the confluence of Silver Tip and Bear Creeks. Though this field was private property, signs on the fence said this land was open to the public for hunting.
We’re hunting jack squirrels, right Loop?
Of course! We’ll be back soon with passels of ’em! We’re entirely legit.
I’m not even sure if it’s jack squirrel season. You’ll vouch for me if anyone objects?
Don’t be ridiculous, SPHP! It’s always squirrel season, jack or not. We Dingoes are experts on the subject. Carry on! Just point me to Squirrel Peak!
As excited as she could be, Lupe crossed the big field sniffing madly trying to pick up a scent. Nearing Silver Tip Creek, she found a dirt road that got her over to the E side of the creek. Once across, Loop followed the road S beyond Silver Tip’s confluence with Bear Creek.
A low hill was up ahead. Loop left the road to climb it. Reaching the top, she had a view of Hidden Gulch.
Hidden Gulch was part of the planned ascent route up Jack Squirrel Peak. Lupe left the low hill heading E. She stayed N of a tributary of Bear Creek flowing down the valley. The intention was for Loop to go all the way up Hidden Gulch to the main N/S ridgeline at a saddle just S of High Point 8608. At the saddle she would turn SW and follow the ridgeline to the summit.
Things started out OK, but Lupe soon came to a thick forest down by the stream. The valley was already increasingly rocky, full of boulders and deadfall timber. The forest appeared impenetrable. It looked far easier to avoid the forest entirely. Lupe and SPHP crossed over to the S side of the stream, and began climbing.
The forest had burned on the S side of the valley. The slope was fairly steep and quite rocky, but the rocks were good-sized and mostly stable. It wasn’t hard scrambling up among them.
The new plan was to keep proceeding ESE up Hidden Gulch as Lupe gained elevation. She might not have to go all the way to the main ridgeline S of High Point 8608. Maybe she could manage a more direct route up Jack Squirrel Peak from the N or NW.
The American Dingo climbed and climbed. The mountain kept getting steeper. Despite what the topo map showed, the easiest way up always seemed to be more toward the W slope. Lupe was already quite high by the time SPHP realized how far around to the W she’d gotten.
Lupe started coming to massive rock formations separated by wide chutes of loose rock and boulders. She went around the first one or two staying toward the SW. However, the SW side of the mountain was becoming more intense. Lupe was finally forced to climb NE up a long chute full of boulders. Near the top she reached less difficult terrain.
Lupe was certainly getting up in the world! Off to the NNE she now had a tremendous view of Eagle Peak(9,167 ft.) at the opposite end of the long Eagle Mountain ridge. Only 10 days ago, Loop had nearly made it to the top of Eagle Peak, but had failed to find a route up onto a vertical rock wall at the top of the mountain.
Unfortunately, the American Dingo’s ability to get to the top of Jack Squirrel Peak was fast becoming a concern, too. Although most of the terrain ahead was much easier than where Lupe had just been, a rock formation higher than anything else in sight sat perched high above the opposite side of the long chute she’d just come up.
Was that rock formation Jack Squirrel’s summit? SPHP hoped not, but feared it might be. The formation wasn’t all that large, but was at least 20 or 30 feet high. The part of it in view from here had nearly vertical sides. Unless the unseen side was a lot easier to climb, Lupe didn’t stand a chance of getting to the top.
Loop and SPHP headed for the rock formation. When Loop got there, it turned out that the knob of rock was actually more like a narrow ridge. It was long and skinny, not round. The E side looked virtually the same as the W side Lupe had seen first. Loop got up within 20 or 25 feet of the top, but that was as far as she could go.
Fortunately, Looper didn’t need to get to the top of this rock formation. It was only a false summit. Beyond it, not too far away, was even higher ground. The Carolina Dog could keep climbing!
The higher ground nearby was it! Just like that, Lupe was at the summit of Jack Squirrel Peak(8,942 ft.). It hadn’t been all that hard to get here after all. The last part of the climb had been easy!
SPHP was ecstatic. Loop seemed shocked by the news. This was it? The summit of Jack Squirrel Peak? She got up on the highest rock for a photo as requested, but her heart didn’t seem to be in it.
The views were enormous, but the first to capture SPHP’s attention was an impressive wall of rock SSE of the summit. It towered hundreds of feet above surrounding terrain, and looked virtually as high as the summit where Lupe stood. In fact, parts of the wall appeared slightly higher. Wasn’t Loop at the true summit of Jack Squirrel Peak?
SPHP checked the topo map. Lupe was at the point where a site elevation of 8,942 ft. was shown within the larger of two 8,940 foot contours, the smaller contour being located along part of the rock wall to the SSE. No site elevation was shown in that contour.
Well, Loop, I could convince myself there are parts of that gigantic rock wall that are higher than we are here, if I wanted to. It kind of looks that way. On the other hand, having terrain at some distance falsely appear higher is a pretty common optical illusion, too, as we’ve seen on other peaks. The highest elevation shown on the topo map is right where you are now.
In any case, we’re claiming a peakbagging success for you! If some purist wants to risk their neck to possibly gain 6″ or 2 feet more, or whatever it may actually be over on that rock wall, they are welcome to it. It’s way too dangerous over there for us. It may not be any higher anyway. So this is it! Good enough for Dingo work! Congratulations, Looper on reaching the top of Jack Squirrel Peak!
SPHP shook Lupe’s freckled paw. She smiled weakly, but said nothing. She looked despondent.
Time for a break. Lupe got down off the summit rock, and curled up near the backpack. SPHP munched an apple, but Looper refused her Taste of the Wild. She drank only a little water.
You OK, Loop? What’s wrong?
Lupe stood up, gazed sadly at SPHP, then lowered her head.
SPHP gave her a pat.
It’s terrible! Simply awful, SPHP! Just ….. sickening!
What is, Loop?
Lupe puked. Three times. It took her a moment to recover.
Jack Squirrel Peak! Don’t you pay any attention, at all, SPHP? Practically the whole mountain has burned. The forest is ashes. All the jack squirrels are dead and gone. We haven’t seen a single one! It’s horrible! I thought we were coming to a squirrel paradise, but everything’s in ruins. We’ve come all the way to the top, and it’s clear we aren’t ever going to see a jack squirrel. My hopes are nothing but ashes now, too!
SPHP hugged Lupe, then sat with her stroking her soft fur.
Oh, Loop! I’m sorry you feel so bad! You’re right, the forest has all burned. We haven’t seen any squirrels, jack or otherwise, at all. It must be terribly disappointing to you. You know what, though? Since there weren’t any jack squirrels here, I’ll take you to some other mountains where there will be plenty of squirrels. They may not be jack squirrels, but you’ll still have fun!
Really? I thought we were just going home after this. Isn’t my Dingo Vacation almost over now?
Yes, we are going home after this. Only for a little while, though. Your Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Mountains is about done, but in July you’re going on another Dingo Vacation to even bigger mountains. You’ll see lots of squirrels, and other animals, too! Plus I’ll have a big surprise for you before it’s over!
Promise! You can count on it. You’re going to be one busy, lucky Dingo this summer! Say, you’re looking a little better. Listen, now. The forest and the jack squirrels may be gone, but Jack Squirrel Peak is still quite a mountain. The views are stupendous here. Let’s look around a bit, get some photos, then we can head down. Whad’dya say?
OK, sure. I do feel a little better. Thanks, SPHP!
Lupe got up on several different high rocks for photos. Then she curled up to rest a bit longer, while SPHP took a few more pictures.
On the way back, Lupe took a much different route. Instead of going down the W slope, she tried heading NNE to the saddle near High Point 8608, but it was tough going and Loop didn’t stay the course very long. She ended up descending the N face of Jack Squirrel Peak. It was steep with lots of rocks, deadfall timber, and some live trees as well. For a while, SPHP was afraid the Carolina Dog might cliff out, but she didn’t.
It took a long time for Loop to work her way down to the upper reaches of Hidden Gulch. The forest had all burned here, but the forest floor sported a grand profusion of green plants with showy yellow flowers. Lupe was feeling better by now.
Lupe made her way to the tributary of Bear Creek. Staying to the N, she followed it W down Hidden Gulch. When Loop finally got out of Hidden Gulch, the rest was easy. Soon she could see the G6 parked across the green meadow near County Road No. 710. On the other side of the road, the old wooden barns and outbuildings sat quietly at the foot of Jaybird Peak.
This was it. The final stroll of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range in Wyoming & Beyond lay before her. She’d had a great time on this trip, and more Dingo Vacations and adventures would be coming soon, but they didn’t matter yet. It was still June, and a gorgeous evening.
The Carolina Dog ran down to Silver Tip Creek for a drink of cold water, then trotted into the big green field. Sniffing and exploring happily, she played a little longer in the evening’s glow before heading home (7:03 PM, 65°F).
Day 11 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range in Wyoming & Beyond!
On the way to Casper, Lupe was going to go right by a famous landmark from the days of the early pioneers – Independence Rock(6,028 ft.) in the Sweetwater River valley. She had been by it before a time or two, but had never stopped to take a look around. Today she had the time, and it seemed like just the sort of thing an adventurous American Dingo ought to do!
Independence Rock was once an important landmark on the Oregon, California & Mormon Pioneer trails. Hwy 220 goes right past it now. Just off the highway, there’s a rest area with bathrooms, water fountains, and shaded picnic tables. A sidewalk leads to displays detailing the history and importance of this site to the pioneers, and on to Independence Rock itself. Lupe and SPHP set off on the short stroll.
SPHP stopped to read some of the displays along the sidewalk, but the Carolina Dog had limited patience with that. She wanted to get there and experience Independence Rock for herself!
One of the dangers the early pioneers faced here so long ago was still around. Near the base of Independence Rock a man was sitting on a bench where the sidewalk divided to make a loop around the rock. He said he had just seen a 4 foot long rattlesnake slither across the sidewalk only a few minutes ago. The rattler appeared to be hunting the numerous gray rabbits hopping about all over the place.
That rattlesnake had the right idea! Lupe was also keenly interested in hunting rabbits! Sadly, party-pooper SPHP didn’t think racing around in the tall grass among rabbits and rattlesnakes was such a hot idea. A very disappointed Lupe was forced to stay on the leash.The good news was that it was permissible to climb right up onto Independence Rock! The best way up was from the NW. Used to climbing mountains, getting to the top was easy for Lupe. She was there in practically no time.
Also known as the Great Register of the Desert, thousands of pioneers had painted or chiseled their names on Independence Rock by various means. Only the names actually carved into the granite still remain.Lupe saw some names carved in the rock, but as SPHP read them off, it turned out that Loop didn’t personally know any of these pioneers. The Carolina Dog lost interest. She wanted to look and sniff around. A view of a herd of delicious black cows grazing down by the Sweetwater River was especially interesting.
The view to the E was disappointing. Loop couldn’t see any horses or covered wagons on the way. Apparently she wasn’t going to be lucky enough to meet any pioneers at Independence Rock this morning. She’d thought her chances were pretty good, since it was such a beautiful day for pioneering. Oh, well! When she’d seen enough of the views, the American Dingo decided she may as well head back down.
More people who were coming up reported that they’d just seen the 4 foot long rattlesnake again down below, still on the prowl for rabbits. Loop thought that if she were a rabbit, she’d probably hit the trail W like the pioneers. Independence Rock was a dangerous place!
On the sidewalk on the way back to the rest area, Lupe kept a pretty good eye and keen nose out for the rattlesnake, but she didn’t see it. SPHP dawdled again looking at displays.SPHP wanted to do one more thing here, which was to walk down to the Sweetwater River. Lupe thought that might not be such a bad idea, since those black cows were somewhere along the river.
Lupe and SPHP followed an old abandoned road near Hwy 220. Unfortunately, it ended at some fences before Loop got all the way to the river. She never did get close to the black cows, but at least SPHP got a photo of Independence Rock and the Sweetwater River from this angle.
Time to move on. Lupe still had a long way to go today. After a brief stop for supplies in Casper, SPHP drove W on Hwy 20/26. A R turn at Waltman onto Natrona County Road No. 104 (Buffalo Creek Road) got Lupe headed NNW toward the small community of Arminto. Arminto was located N of some railroad tracks 8.5 miles from the highway.
Arminto was a pretty quiet place. The pavement ended a mile N of town. Buffalo Creek Road continued on, though, now as Natrona County Road No. 105. Lupe had a good time barking at scattered herds of cattle as the G6 climbed steadily through classic western scenery.
Lupe was on her way to Mine Benchmark(9,121 ft.), the high point of Natrona County. Once again, SPHP was using a trip report by famed peakbagger Edward Earl for directions. 15 miles N of Arminto was a 4-way intersection. Mr. Earl’s instructions said to turn L on Bighorn Mountain Road (Natrona County Road No. 109). No. 109 wound W & N for a few miles, then began to climb more steeply.
How far the G6 might be able to get along Bighorn Mountain Road wasn’t clear. Edward Earl had a Nissan pickup truck, and had reported slipping on a steep uphill section, then having to stop soon afterward at a very muddy spot. He’d had to walk half a dozen miles from there, just to get to where he’d originally intended to park.
The road was a bit damp and muddy, but the G6 made it to the top of the steep section just fine. Lupe had an advantage being here in mid-June. Edward Earl’s trip report was for an ascent of Mine Benchmark dated 5-26-2009. With nearly a month extra of warm, sunny weather to dry things out, there was at least some hope the G6 would be able to get farther than the Nissan had.
The next test came soon. Beyond the steep climb, the road leveled out and reached a small stream 4 or 5 miles from the turn onto Bighorn Mountain Road. From Mr. Earl’s description, this was likely the muddy point where he’d had to park the Nissan and continue on foot. The topo map showed this stream as First Waters Creek.
Lupe and SPHP got out of the G6 for a look. First Waters Creek was only 4 or 5 feet wide and a foot deep, but the bottom appeared rutty. Hmm. It ought to be OK. Lupe stayed outside while SPHP gave it a go. The G6 hit bottom lightly in one of the ruts, but made it across undamaged. Lupe waded over and hopped in. Onward!
Edward Earl mentioned two more streams ahead, still several miles away. Bighorn Mountain Road resumed a steady climb. After a few miles, Lupe reached a high point at a 8,300 foot saddle. So far so good, but soon the South and Middle Forks of Buffalo Creek would have to be crossed. This saddle wouldn’t be a bad place to park the G6, though, if it became necessary.
Only 0.25 mile N of the 8,300 foot saddle, Lupe arrived at the South Fork of Buffalo Creek. Once again, Loop and SPHP exited the G6 to assess the situation. The creek crossed the road in two separate little streams. The streams were stony, but only a few inches deep. Yeah, the G6 could do this! SPHP drove slowly across. It went fine. Puppy, ho!
Another 2 miles. The G6 confronted the last stream, the Middle Fork of Buffalo Creek. The Middle Fork was wider and deeper than the South Fork, but still only 6 inches deep. Stones were the only worry. Slowly, carefully, the G6 inched across and triumphed again. Hah!
Lupe was less than 1.5 miles from the 8,450 foot saddle where Edward Earl had intended to park his Nissan pickup. With no more streams to cross, the G6 was going to get there. However, on the way up to the saddle, the road passed by a huge purple slope covered with lupines. Lupe had to get out of the G6 for this!
After a romp through the lupines, Lupe returned to the G6. At the 8,450 foot saddle, SPHP parked along a side road leading E toward High Point 8509. It wasn’t yet 4 PM, and Mine Benchmark(9,121 ft.) was only a couple miles away now at most. Plenty of time to get there and back!
Lupe was certainly out W. Perhaps there was a wicked witch around? The lupines had the same effect on Loop and SPHP as the poppies had on Dorothy and Toto in the Wizard of Oz. Instead of setting out promptly for Mine Benchmark, both were soon fast asleep.
More than 2 hours went by before the spell was broken. After 6 PM! Loopster had better get going! The topo map showed a survey benchmark at 8,463 foot elevation on the W side of Bighorn Mountain Road. The marker ought to be near the start of the side road Lupe was supposed to take to Mine Benchmark. Leaving the G6, Loop and SPHP set out in search of the 8,463 foot benchmark (6:21 PM).
Sure enough, the American Dingo found the survey marker right about where the map showed it. Until now, she hadn’t even noticed the road she was supposed to take to Mine Benchmark. It could be seen from here, though, grassy and faint, heading SW toward a forest.
Lupe and SPHP struck out on the faint grassy road for Mine Benchmark. Once in the forest, SPHP began to worry about the possibility that the road would deteriorate beyond recognition. It seemed abandoned. Deadfall timber blocked it in places. Lupe reached a locked gate in a barbed wire fence, but went under it.
Half an hour after Loop left the 8,463 foot survey benchmark, she emerged again from the forest. Suddenly she was out on open ground where it was possible to see. There wasn’t much left of the road most places, but it hardly mattered now. Lupe could see a big hill to the W. That had to be it! Getting to the Mine Benchmark was going to be easy!
This was just the type of high, open territory Lupe loves. The lupines had lost their effect. The Carolina Dog was energized now! She raced away to explore this beautiful place.
Lupe soon reached a slope immediately S of Mine Benchmark. Large boulders were scattered here and there. It wasn’t far to the top. A little bird, probably the same one that tells all sorts of news and rumors, watched Lupe with curiosity as the Carolina Dog began the final part of her ascent. The easiest way up was from the SE.
The scramble to the top took only a few minutes. The summit area was roomy and fairly flat. The highest, rockiest parts were toward the SW end. Big rocks along the S and W edges of the summit area sat above cliffs of modest height. Many of the big rocks were separated by sizable gaps that had eroded out between them.
Loop got out on the big rocks for a look around. Panoramic views of beautiful, rolling Bighorn Mountain meadows spread out before her! It was the kind of territory that made you want to wander forever.
Pieces of an old wooden structure were laying around the summit area, and some smooth wire was draped among the rocks. These were reminiscent of what Lupe had found up on Squaw Mountain(9,313 ft.), the Shirley Mountains High Point(9,151 ft.), and Quealey Benchmark(9,150 ft.) earlier on this Dingo vacation. Lupe also found the actual Mine survey benchmark nearby.
Although a couple of big rocks looked almost equally high, SPHP thought a large slanty one toward the N was clearly the highest. Lupe needed a boost to get up on top, which SPHP was glad to give her.
The Carolina Dog let SPHP help her get down from the true summit, though she had appeared imminently ready to leap off all on her own. Once down, Lupe did some more exploring of the summit area.
A chilly NW breeze kicked up while Lupe was exploring some of the NE part of the summit ridge. Loop and SPHP left the ridge to get out of the wind. Loop circled back around to the SW side of the Mine Benchmark summit formation.
It was a gorgeous evening. The sinking sun would be down within the hour. Although Lupe had successfully completed her Mine Benchmark peakbagging objective, maybe sunset was worth sticking around for?
Lupe and SPHP hung around S of the high point for 20 minutes to see what might develop. Loop was greatly entertained watching several nervous pronghorn antelope.
The chilly NW breeze was still blowing when Lupe returned to the Mine Benchmark summit. The sun would be down pretty soon now. Quite a few clouds were off to the W. Hope existed for a brilliant display, but maybe the sun would just disappear behind the clouds.
Day’s end was beautiful, but the eagerly anticipated spectacular display never developed. Though Lupe waited hopefully, clouds ultimately swallowed the sun. It was gone. The sky darkened. Everything began fading to gray. Night was coming. Time to go.
Two stars, or perhaps planets, twinkled above by the time Lupe made it back to the G6. She had dinner, then rested outside on the ground watching, listening, and sniffing the air. Meanwhile, two lonely stars were joined by 2,000 more in the black void above.
Day 10 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range & Beyond!
As you drive along I-80 through Rawlins WY, you can see in the distance about 35 miles north a mountain range with a very striking feature: a zigzagging white cliff band running nearly the entire length of the range from left to right. That band is the Madison formation, an upended layer of limestone which has subsequently been eroded into a series of V-notches by a succession of streams coming down from the crest above. I first noticed this mountain range in the late 1980s, and that zigzagging line reminded me of the zigzagging line across the bottom of the shirt that Charlie Brown wears. For this reason, I personally dubbed the range the “Charlie Brown Mountains”.– excerpt from Edward Earl’s trip report on his 9-5-2014 ascent of Ferris Mountain on Peakbagger.com
Rain! Not good. If it rained too hard, the dirt road would turn to mud. The G6 might get stuck way out here NW of Bairoil. Better get back to pavement, now!
It was still dark out, but Lupe was already awake. SPHP had just come to. In pre-dawn rain and fog, SPHP drove back to Bairoil. The rain had already let up to a light sprinkle, by the time Lupe reached the pavement on Hwy 73. May as well keep going.
Eight miles E of Muddy Gap, SPHP turned S off Hwy 220 onto Carbon County Road No. 499. The rain and fog were gone, but dark clouds still hid the Charlie Brown Range. It was light out now, but still very early. Lupe was ready for action! SPHP wasn’t.
Gimme a few more hours snoozing time, Loop. Need to wait a bit to see what the weather’s going to do anyway. And with that, SPHP parked the G6 and went back to sleep.
A few hours later, SPHP was ready. Time for Lupe to take on dreaded Ferris Mountain(10,037 ft.), high point of the entire Charlie Brown Range! Of course, that was provided she could even get close enough to make an attempt feasible.
The first part of the way ought to be easy enough. Lupe could follow directions in peakbagging hero Edward Earl’s trip report. She was already at the first place Mr. Earl mentioned, the sign for Pete Creek Road & Cherry Creek Road at the turn off Hwy 220.
Mr. Earl’s trip report contained detailed instructions on how to get to Ferris Mountain. The next thing to look for was 0.9 mile from Hwy 220 along Carbon County Road No. 499, where a road branching off to the R was marked only by an unreadable sign. This intersection quickly came into view.
Mr. Earl’s instructions said to go straight at this first intersection, avoiding the R turn on the unmarked road. 2 miles from Hwy 220 was another R turn, this time onto Cherry Creek Road, which was also to be avoided. Lupe and SPHP stayed on Carbon County Road No. 499 both times, and came to the Handcart Ranch sign 2.5 miles from Hwy 220.
Edward Earl mentioned a fork in the road 4.3 miles from Hwy 220. The R branch goes to a ranch, while Carbon County Road No. 499 continues to the L. Lupe arrived at this fork just as Mr. Earl said.
Edward Earl also said that the condition of Carbon County Road No. 499 worsened beyond this intersection. He cited frequent mud holes which were dry when he was here, but correctly surmised they were mud puddles during wet weather.
SPHP had scarcely made the L turn at the fork, when there was trouble ahead. A large mud puddle fed by a small stream completely blocked the road. Lupe and SPHP got out for a look.
Nope! Not gonna try it! This mud puddle was as far as the G6 was going. Mr. Earl’s trip report indicated that it wouldn’t be much farther before high clearance would be needed anyway. Even though the base of the Charlie Brown Range where Mr. Earl had parked his Nissan pickup truck was still 6.5 miles away, it was going to be paw and foot for Lupe and SPHP from here. Loopster was in for a very long day!
SPHP parked the G6 in the field next to Carbon County Road No. 499, and proceeded to get ready for Lupe’s long march. The ranch headquarters was in sight from this location, not too far away. Soon a vehicle was seen leaving HQ. A couple minutes later, Lupe and SPHP met Kyra Torgensen and her son. The G6 was parked on the ranch Kyra and her husband own. Naturally, she wanted to know what was going on.
SPHP explained that Lupe was here to climb Ferris Mountain. It was only another 0.2 mile to BLM land. SPHP would have parked over there, but the G6 couldn’t get past the mud puddle. Did she mind if the G6 was parked here for the day?
Mrs. Torgensen was a little reluctant at first. However, Carbon County Road No. 499 had to be a public right-of-way, which she must have known. SPHP didn’t mention this fact, though, hoping to avoid an argument. In the end, while she may not have been thrilled with the idea, Kyra Torgensen was fine with the G6 where it was. Before she drove away, she warned SPHP not to stay out too late, and to beware of wolves.
A few minutes later, Lupe and SPHP jumped the little stream, and began the long trek to Ferris Mountain (10:17 AM, 68°F). Only 0.2 mile farther, the Carolina Dog went through a gate onto BLM land. The road forked again. Following Edward Earl’s instructions, Lupe took the road to Pete Creek.
Lupe and SPHP weren’t worried about wolves. However, Ferris Mountain had long been the most dreaded peakbagging goal of this entire Dingo Vacation. The mountain itself wasn’t the worry. Distance wasn’t either. Forewarned by Edward Earl’s trip report, SPHP had realized all along that Lupe would likely have a 6+ mile trek just to get to the Charlie Brown Range.
The problem was the sagebrush prairie Lupe would have to cross. Two of Lupe’s nemeses might well be out there – cactus and rattlesnakes. If Lupe became scared of cacti, she would refuse to move. Rattlesnakes, of course, would be far worse.
For these reasons, SPHP encouraged Lupe to stay very close, preferably right on the road. Most of the time she did.
Fortunately, Lupe saw only a few cactus and no rattlesnakes. Meanwhile, the weather remained questionable. Dark clouds hung around. Sometimes they obscured virtually the entire Charlie Brown Range. Other times, they lifted to reveal the mountains. A significant storm was brewing off to the SE. For a while it came closer, but eventually it sailed off to the NE.
Roughly 4 miles from the G6, Lupe came to a cairn on the L side of Pete Creek Road. Edward Earl mentioned 3 cairns in this area, but the Loop only saw 1.
6.5 miles from the G6, Lupe finally reached the base of the Charlie Brown Range on a grassy ridge E of the mouth of Pete Creek Canyon. A white pickup truck was parked here near the edge of the forest, right about where Edward Earl must have parked his Nissan pickup. Pete Creek Road, which had been going due S for miles, turned SE here.
Lupe still had another 0.5 mile to go on Pete Creek Road along the base of the mountains. On the way, she lost 120 feet of elevation crossing the Rush Creek drainage, where she saw a salt lick noted by Edward Earl. By the time she reached a green metal gate near the mouth of Pole Canyon, she had regained all of the lost elevation and a good deal more.
Beyond the green metal gate, Loop finally left Pete Creek Road. She headed into Pole Canyon, and quickly came upon a different faint road heading up the valley.
Edward Earl had followed this same road up Pole Canyon. His trip report mentioned fallen trees and a few marshy spots, but Mr. Earl had been here in September when conditions are much drier. Pole Creek was no occasional marshy spot in the middle of June, but a clear running stream. It was easy enough to wade across, however, and Lupe enjoyed the cold water.
The road crossed Pole Creek more than once. Lupe also came to marshy glades, where the road hardly existed, but she could usually find it again a little higher up. After a while the road completely disappeared, lost for good.
At 8,450 feet, Loop arrived at the place where Pole Canyon splits. When Edward Earl had been here, only the R (W) branch had flowing water. Both branches had flowing water now. Like Edward Earl, Lupe stayed L (E). As she continued gaining elevation, the creek was increasingly hidden beneath snow.
Lupe stayed to the W (R) of the creek, but it started getting harder to make progress. The forest was dense, and the American Dingo came to more and more rocks and deadfall. The canyon sides steepened, becoming more difficult to traverse. SPHP decided Loop might have an easier time up on the ridge W of the creek.
For a while, leaving the canyon seemed like a good decision. Lupe had no problem reaching the ridgeline. It went straight S rising relentlessly at a pretty good clip, but there was less deadfall to deal with. Sometimes there was even some open ground. When she did come to rock formations, they usually weren’t much trouble to get around. Lupe gained elevation rapidly.
It was a long way up. Lupe gained lots of elevation, but the ridge started getting ever steeper and rockier. Huge rock formations appeared above. Looper ended up on steep slopes of broken rock interspersed with spruce trees. This was challenging terrain. SPHP began to fear there wouldn’t be a way to the top.
The ridgeline had basically disappeared. Lupe now seemed to be going straight up the N face of a mountain. She needed to get to easier terrain. SPHP led her up a very steep rocky chute toward a forested saddle between two massive rock formations.
Loop never made it to the saddle. Everything got so steep, progress ground to a halt. At the top of a long, narrow snow bank, SPHP realized that even if Loop could get up to the saddle, she probably didn’t stand much chance of getting over or around the giant rock formations towering above. She would be trapped between them.
Lupe had to down climb. She needed to get farther E. She didn’t have to lose all that much elevation, but it took a lot of time. Fortunately, it wasn’t terribly far around the huge rock formation above her. Once she managed to get around it, things became easier. The Carolina Dog was still on steep, rocky stuff, but the route up was more manageable.
Loop climbed and climbed. She was very high, and getting close to the top of something! Her luck needed to hold only a little longer. It did. Suddenly she was there! Lupe stood next to a wooden pole at the top of a big cairn. The views were spectacular!
Had Lupe arrived at the top of Ferris Mountain(10,037 ft.)? The grand views, and presence of the big cairn with the pole sticking out of it made SPHP think so.
A more careful look at the views and a glance at the topo map revealed this wasn’t the case. Lupe was already nearly as high as the true summit, but she was actually on Ferris Mountain’s most westerly sub-peak over 10,000 feet. The true summit was in view from here, still 0.5 mile away to the SE.
Clearly, the vast majority of the work of climbing Ferris Mountain(10,037 ft.) was done. Getting over to the true summit didn’t look hard. This appeared to be the 2nd highest point on the mountain, and an amazing place. Lupe had time to take a rest break and enjoy the views.
After relaxing on fabulous Ferris Mountain West, it was time to move on. The ridge Loop had to follow wasn’t difficult. Her first objective along it was a slightly lower subpeak only 0.1 mile E. She was soon there, looking down on the 9,900 foot saddle where Edward Earl had first reached the ridgeline.
Loop went down to the 9,900 foot saddle and crossed it. Edward Earl hadn’t gone all the way up to Ferris Mountain West, but the American Dingo was back on his trail again here. She was now approaching Ferris Mountain Middle(10,000 ft.), the next high point along the ridge.
The Carolina Dog stayed high as she went around the N side of Ferris Mountain Middle looking for a way to the top. She had to get E beyond the high point before she found a route. Ferris Mountain Middle(10,000 ft.) was another rather dramatic place to be!
Ferris Mountain’s true summit was now no more than 0.25 mile away. A lot of time had gone by. Lupe and SPHP were anxious to get there. The terrain wasn’t difficult, so Loop made great progress.
Near the very end, everything was rocky. Fortunately, it still wasn’t too hard getting around. Lupe seemed to be running out of mountain, when suddenly the summit appeared ahead. Right below the highest rocks, a metal sign said “Ferris Peak, Continental Divide, 10,037 ft.” Lupe had made it!
What a tremendous mountain! The views were superb. The weather was vastly improved from what it’d been this morning. Beauty shone forth in every direction in the early evening light. A glorious day! SPHP congratulated Lupe on her grand success, shaking her freckled paw.
Scrambling the short remaining distance to the highest rocks, Lupe came across two survey markers. At the very top, tucked among rocks near the metal sign, she found a plastic jar. Inside was a registry. SPHP was eager to have a look at.
Was it there? Yes, it was! Happy day! SPHP found the entry by Edward Earl.
Seeing that Edward Earl had written about the Charlie Brown Mountains made SPHP smile. Lupe had been to quite a few mountains with assistance from Mr. Earl’s detailed trip reports. Once again, she was at the top of a mountain Edward had been to before her. Sadly, Lupe would never get to meet him.
Edward Earl had perished tragically nearly 2 years ago on 6-19-2015, drowned in the rushing Jago River in the Brooks Range in NE Alaska following two failed attempts to climb Mount Isto(8,976 ft.).
Lupe rested among the rocks, while SPHP fiddled with the registry. When SPHP was finally done, it was time to spend a while contemplating the tremendous views.
All too soon, the angle of the sun insisted it was time to move on. Lupe left Ferris Mountain starting back the way she’d come up. SPHP figured the American Dingo still had some time to spare. She revisited the summit of Ferris Mountain Middle.
From Ferris Mountain Middle, Lupe went down to the 9,900 foot saddle. She was about to leave the mountain’s main ridgeline. Before continuing down, she took a last look at the huge expanse of prairie S of the Charlie Brown Range.
She then turned her attention to her final peakbagging objective of the day, Ferris Mountain North(9,740 ft.).
Looper headed down to the 9,700 foot saddle leading to Ferris Mountain North. She went N toward the high point. As she got close, she circled around to the E where it wasn’t as steep. Lupe quickly found a rocky route to the top.
To the S, were the forested upper N slopes of Ferris Mountain leading to the ridge where the Carolina Dog had spent the last several hours atop the Charlie Brown Range. To the N, thirsty sagebrush prairie stretched away to distant hills. Shadows of ridges made the land look like ripples on a sea.
Lupe couldn’t linger long on Ferris Mountain North. She was 2 miles from the green metal gate near the mouth of Pole Canyon. Another 7 miles to the G6. After a good look around, and a little time spent in contemplation, Lupe headed back to the 9,700 foot saddle.
Downhill all the way now! The Carolina Dog plunged N down into the E branch of Pole Canyon. The forest was a maze of 3 to 5 foot high snow drifts and deadfall timber, but this route was easier than the way Lupe had gone up. The terrain was only moderately steep, and not too rocky.
Loop soon discovered that the roughest ground was at the bottom of the canyon. For a long way, she stayed E and higher up, sometimes more than 100 feet above the creekbed. The snowbanks shrank and became less numerous, as she lost elevation.
By the time Lupe was low enough so most of the snow was gone, the deadfall wasn’t as bad either. She now made fast progress, which was a good thing. The sun, though still up, was hidden behind the mountains. Sunset couldn’t be too far off.
As Lupe drew near the point where both branches of Pole Canyon converge, the terrain changed. Lupe made her way to the bottom of the canyon, and leapt over to the W side of the creek. She soon came to the stream confluence, and had to make one more crossing. For a while she traveled down Pole Canyon staying W or NW of the stream.
To avoid the larger stream crossings and swampy ground closer to the mouth of Pole Canyon, Lupe eventually got up on the side of the ridge to the NW. Nearing the base of the Charlie Brown Range, she reached the ridgeline. The sun was down, the land dark. Thin clouds glowed brilliantly orange in a pale sky.
The colorful display faded to gray. Lupe managed to reach the green metal gate before it was too dark to see. Still 7 miles to go, but Loop had made it to Pete Creek Road. After crossing the Rush Creek drainage, the road turned N. All gently downhill from here.
Lupe and SPHP marched away from the Charlie Brown Range, never looking back. Only blackness was behind. Ahead, distant headlights on Hwy 220. The infinite universe glittered above.
Every now and then Lupe heard something, and went racing away into the night. Antelope? Rabbits? No telling. Fortunately, the luck of the Dingo held. She always came streaking back, panting happily. No cactus had stabbed her. No rattler had bit her. No wolves had devoured her.
Ferris Mountain had been a fabulous day! Yet, things don’t always go one’s way. Luck can run out. Perhaps weariness, or the silent black night was to blame, but during the long trek back it was hard not to think about another adventurer who had come this way. An adventurer who ultimately helped make this day a success for beloved Lupe, but whose luck had run out nearly 2 years ago.
It was hard not to ponder the life and times, and tragic fate of Edward Earl. (12:05 AM)
Day 9 of Lupe’s 2017 Dingo Vacation to the Laramie Range & Beyond!
Though shown on the road map, Lamont didn’t even seem to be a town. Sagebrush, a few cattle, and a highway intersection was about it. After turning W off Hwy 287, SPHP found a place to park. Lupe got out for a look around. Off to the NW, she could see her next peakbagging objective, Whiskey Peak(9,225 ft.), the highest point in the Green Mountains.
The view was encouraging. Whiskey Peak looked like an easy climb for the Carolina Dog. The big question was access. If Lupe could get to Whiskey Peak, SPHP was certain she could climb it. The only roads into the area that the G6 might be able to manage were NW of the town of Bairoil. Even those roads might quickly deteriorate to high clearance or 4WD vehicles only.
Hwy 73 was paved all the way to Bairoil. So far, so good. Bairoil didn’t really seem to be much of a town either, but there was a lot more here than at Lamont. Bairoil appeared to be more of an energy-related industrial center. Metal buildings, industrial equipment, and vehicles were widely scattered along a network of dirt and gravel roads. There didn’t seem to be a whole lot going on right now. Maybe because energy prices were still relatively low in 2017?
The street layout in Bairoil didn’t seem to match up very well with what was shown on the old topo map. SPHP drove NW through town, staying mostly to the L at turns, and continued this same practice once Lupe was N of town. A number of gravel roads headed out this direction, none marked in any way that meant anything to SPHP.
After bumping along for 2 or 3 miles, SPHP parked the G6 near an intersection on relatively flat, sparsely vegetated ground. There hadn’t been any signs indicating private property or prohibiting public access on the way here. Close enough! Situation excellent! This was about as far as SPHP had dared hope the G6 would be able to make it, anyway. Lupe could start for Whiskey Peak from here. (10:35 AM, 62°F)
A strong breeze was blowing out of the W as Lupe set out. She didn’t head straight for Whiskey Peak, which was now to the NE, but followed a road leading NW from the intersection. This road, which was in such good condition the G6 might easily have followed it farther, appeared headed for a ridge a few miles away. The ridge was mostly bare, but dotted with scattered pines or junipers.
A fence ran parallel to the road, not too far off to the R (NE). Lupe stuck with the road only until the fence ended. Staying on the road would have taken Loop up to Whiskey Ridge, but a more direct route to Whiskey Peak appeared to be an option. Up on more heavily forested slopes along a higher part of Whiskey Ridge straight N from here, another road could be seen.
Lupe abandoned the road she’d been following, and headed NE avoiding the fence. She crossed the Abel Creek drainage, which was dry and fairly shallow here. A faint, grassy road led out of the drainage to a better road that headed for Whiskey Ridge. Loop followed it N across high prairie toward the forest, gradually gaining elevation all the way.
The road Lupe was on led right to the road she’d seen from a distance high up in the forest on Whiskey Ridge. As she got near the trees, the slope began to increase dramatically. Soon Lupe was climbing steeply. The road up was in bad shape. For a long way, it was deeply eroded and full of loose rocks. As a road, it was nothing but a disaster, though it still made a good trail.
By now, it was quite warm in the sun. The steepness of the route caused SPHP to stop many times to rest. Lupe was eager to escape the heat. She curled up in the shade whenever SPHP stopped, and frequently accepted water.
By and by, Lupe finally reached the top of the ridgeline. The remnant of the road she’d been following went right on over the saddle where she came up. Oddly enough, what appeared to be a large electrical service box was close by.
Not realizing how much of a shortcut Lupe had taken, SPHP was puzzled to find no other roads around. The topo map showed a road following closely along the top of Whiskey Ridge for nearly 2 miles from a pass NE of Stratton Rim North. The plan had been for Lupe to follow this road all the way to Whiskey Peak. However, it was nowhere in sight.
SPHP failed to realize Lupe had arrived at the 8,730 foot saddle at the E end of the 2 mile stretch where the road to the summit abandons the ridgeline. Very close to where Looper was, it jogged N going downhill a short distance before turning SE to head for Whiskey Peak. If Lupe had just stuck with the road she’d been on a bit farther, she would soon have come to it.
Instead, Loop and SPHP turned E, and began climbing a grassy slope which led to a forested high point. It seemed like the most reasonable thing to do, since it was clear Whiskey Peak was still well to the E from here. As Lupe went up the grassy slope, she started getting her first look at some impressive views.
Loop entered the forest above the grassy slope, and continued on up to the high point. The high point itself wasn’t heavily forested. Lupe could see a tower up on Whiskey Peak from here.
SPHP was surprised by how close Lupe was already. She was over 9,000 feet, and the summit was only a mile away. Getting there would be a cinch! A long grassy slope went all the way to the top.
A small ridge led E from the first high point Lupe had reached to another slightly higher one no more than 0.25 mile away. (High Point 9041 on the topo map) Loopster started for the next high point following this little ridge.
Lupe never got to High Point 9041. Instead, she spotted a small pond to the N at the bottom of a short slope. The pond looked refreshing! Naturally, the American Dingo had to go check it out.
After wading around to cool off and drinking her fill, Lupe left the pond. She traveled E through an open forest where yellow wildflowers grew in sunny glades.
Beyond the forest, Lupe reached the long grassy slope that went the rest of the way up to the top of Whisky Peak. As she approached, a small herd of 5 horses watched with concern. These horses seemed to be wild, and living up on Whiskey Peak permanently. They were curious, but gave Lupe and SPHP a wide berth.
Lupe reached the summit of Whiskey Peak(9,225 ft.). The highest point was near the S end of a long, spacious ridge. Pink, orange, tan and white rocks and boulders were plentiful. The biggest, most eye-catching view was off to the ESE toward Ferris Mountain(10,037 ft.).
Whiskey Peak featured plenty of impressive views in other directions, too. Lupe and SPHP hung out around the summit quite a while taking it all in.
The W wind hadn’t been bad most of the way up, but was practically a gale on top of Whiskey Peak. Loop took little breaks now and then between photo sessions. She usually sought out the lee side of rocks, or sat next to SPHP for shelter.
Mighty breezy up here, SPHP! Is this it?
Sure is, Loop. Is this what?
The top of the mountain, silly. Is this it?
Oh, yes, of course! Yeah, this is the top, alright. Look at those views!
Yes, yes, quite splendid. And windy. So it’s time to celebrate, right?
Oh, sure! Congratulations, Looper, you’ve climbed another magnificent mountain! All the way to the top. Great job, Loop!
Thanks for shaking my paw and all, SPHP. I do appreciate your sentiments, but I was hoping for a bit more actually. This is sort of a special place, right?
Yes, I suppose it is special. What were you hoping for? Water, Taste of the Wild? I brought plenty of both.
Umm, no. Those are fine usually, but I was hoping for something a little more appropriate for the occasion.
Huh, like what?
You’re a bit slow as usual SPHP. Where are we after all?
Ruh, roh! Lupe gazed expectantly up at SPHP, her eyes shining merrily with a big smile on her face. The wind ruffled her fur, but she was momentarily unperturbed.
For a moment, not knowing what to do, SPHP did and said nothing. Gradually, the smile began to fade from Looper’s face. As SPHP began to pet her, Loop’s ears drooped. Gone was the look of a 4 year old on Christmas morning. Tears glistened in her always trusting light brown eyes.
So, there’s nothing else in the pack for me, for us, then?
No, sorry Loop.
No Glenfiddich? Not even a little Jack Daniels?
Not a drop. Guess, I didn’t think. I didn’t realize you might be expecting anything like that.
Lupe blinked back the tears.
Oh, it’s OK. I suppose I should have known. We’ve been to Elk Mountains and there haven’t been any elk. Deer Mountain and there weren’t any deer. Bear Mountain and there weren’t any bears. I never will understand you humans. I just thought that this time, after all the mountains we’ve been to, maybe this one was a really special place. Maybe this time you really were planning a special celebration for me. I got my hopes up.
Sorry to have disappointed you, dearest Dingo. I’ll make it up to you somehow, before too long. Whiskey Peak is a really special place. Just like all the other mountains we’ve been on. There are countless mountains in the world, and we will only ever see the world from a tiny fraction of them. Seeing these fabulous views, even if for only a little while, and even if we never ever come back to see them again, makes this place special. And what makes it really special is that we are both here to share it together, sweet Dingo of mine!
Lupe sighed, then smiled weakly.
I know you’re right, SPHP. But promise me one thing. If we ever do come back to Whiskey Peak, you won’t disappoint me again. Deal?
Lupe lifted her freckled paw and let SPHP shake it.
OK, SPHP. Let’s go see what else there is to see from here before I get blown off clear to the next county.
After taking a break and spending a while near Whiskey Peak’s true summit, Lupe went N along the summit ridge toward the tower close to the N end. The ground near the tower was definitely lower than where she’d already been, but this area provided a different vantage point for another look around.
Lupe still had a long way to go, so she couldn’t stay up on Whiskey Peak too long. The wind being what it was, she was glad of that. From the tower, she started down the huge grassy slope to the W. The wild horses saw her coming again, and circled back around the S side of the slope up towards the true summit to stay out of the Carolina Dog’s way.
On the way down, Loop stuck to the road that came up the center of the grassy area for a considerable distance.
Lupe eventually left the road to go back to the pond she’d gone wading in on the way up. From the pond she went NW through the forest, hoping to avoid having to climb the high point W of the pond again by staying N of it.
This turned out to be the worst possible route back to the saddle where she’d first reached Whiskey Ridge. Either staying on the road from the tower, or climbing from the pond back up to the high point would have been better. The forest NW of the pond was full of deadfall timber, plus a steep drainage that was a bother to cross.
Nevertheless, Loop made it back to the grassy slope leading down to the saddle where she’d first reached Whiskey Ridge. The shortest route back to the G6 would have been to leave the saddle going S right back down the steep rocky road she’d come up earlier in the day. However, by now, SPHP had seen the road following Whiskey Ridge farther WSW, and understood where Lupe was on the topo map.
Instead of going straight back to the G6, following the road along the ridge would eventually get Lupe to where she could peakbag Stratton Rim North(8,740 ft.) today, too. This was a long detour, but Loop still had time enough to do it. It seemed like a fun idea, and she wasn’t likely to ever have another chance like this one.
So from the saddle, Lupe followed the ridge road.
After 2 miles on the winding road traversing Whiskey Ridge, Lupe reached Low Pass. Several roads intersected here. Stratton Rim North was still another 0.75 mile away. Only an ATV trail went the remaining distance to it, but that was plenty good for Loop.
The ATV trail didn’t go quite all the way to the top of Stratton Rim North, passing N of the high point only a short distance below it. The wind was howling here, even worse than it had been up on Whiskey Peak. Lupe wasn’t thrilled with the idea, but she did manage to climb to the top of Stratton Rim North(8,740 ft.).
SPHP was glad she did. The views were really terrific!
Lupe’s journey to Whiskey Peak and Stratton Rim North had been a success! However, the American Dingo was anxious to escape the powerful blasts of the gusty W wind. SPHP briefly considered the possibility of going straight on down Stratton Rim North’s E slope, but decided it was too steep to be worth the trouble. May as well take the ATV trail back to Low Pass.
Before she got all the way back to Low Pass, though, Loopster did take a shortcut. She left the ATV trail descending E down a minor ridgeline into a valley. She intercepted a road going S down the valley from Low Pass. The road gradually curved SE.
Lupe was still high enough to have panoramic views to the S and E, but far enough down so Stratton Rim sheltered her from the wind. The evening trek back to the G6 was easy, beautiful, and fun. Lupe saw a larger herd of wild horses, and several pronghorn antelope on the way.
It was still light out when Lupe got back to the G6 (7:42 PM, 65°F). After having her evening Alpo, she wanted out again. She wandered around sniffing for a bit, then found a place to curl up. This far from Stratton Rim, the W wind swept over her, though not nearly so strongly as up on the ridge.
And there Lupe stayed, listening and watching, as clouds swept past overhead and light of day faded away. Whiskey Peak disappeared from view as the world turned black. And if SPHP had had any Glenfiddich or Jack Daniels, Lupe surely would have gotten a shot or two before bed, but alas, the poor doggie had none!