August 28-30, 2012, Days 21-23 of Lupe’s 2012 Dingo Vacation to the West Coast.
As soon as Lanis woke up; Lupe, Lanis and SPHP would hit the road again. In the meantime, Lupe and SPHP took a little stroll. For SPHP, it had been a restless night trying to sleep sitting up in the Element. This car camping business was starting to get pretty old. Lupe, of course, was always fresh as a daisy, since she could stretch out and relax on her mountain of pillows and blankets in the back of the Element.
Last night’s car camping was SPHP’s own fault for being so stubborn. Lupe’s tiny house could have been set up back at the Farewell Bend State Recreation Area in Oregon. Instead, SPHP got persnickety about bureaucracy and regulations, and had Lanis keep driving. Lupe had made it as far as Boise, Idaho before stopping for the night.
Oh, well. It didn’t matter now, the night was over. On the bright side, SPHP had saved $18-22. When Lupe and SPHP got back to the Element, a bleary-eyed Lanis was at least conscious. He was soon pressed back into chauffer service driving SE on I-84. Lupe, Lanis and SPHP left I-84 at Mountain Home taking Hwy 20. Hwy 20 started out winding NE into the S end of a very dry looking mountain range.
The sky had been a little smoky in Boise, but along Hwy 20 the smoke was much thicker. The smoke got denser and denser until it was like being in a fog. Lanis started expecting to see the actual flames of a forest fire around any bend, but it didn’t happen. Way back in the early days of Lupe’s 2012 Dingo Vacation, back at the Beartooth Mountains in Wyoming, the sky had been smoky then, too, but never this bad. Apparently the fires in Idaho had been burning all this time.
The skies were much clearer by the time Lupe reached Craters of the Moon National Monument. Lupe, Lanis and SPHP stopped briefly near the visitor center. Lanis went inside, and soon returned with the unsurprising news that Dingoes aren’t allowed on any of the trails. Well, that was that! Lupe made a few more stops at pullouts along Hwy 20 for photos, but she really didn’t get to do anything at Craters of the Moon.
Lupe continued on. Idaho remained hot and parched until Lupe reached Idaho Falls. E of Idaho Falls on Hwy 26, the scenery improved steadily. It was much greener here near the high mountains. By early evening, Lupe reached the fabulous Wind River Range near Pinedale, Wyoming. Lupe, Lanis and SPHP took Skyline Drive up to Elkhart Park for a look around.
From viewpoints along Skyline Drive, Lupe saw two big lakes, Half Moon Lake and Freemont Lake, formed by the retreat of large glaciers ages ago. Near Elkhart Park was a pullout along the road with a sweeping view of the central portion of the mighty Wind River Range. SPHP recognized Fremont Peak(13,745 ft.), one of many visible along the Continental Divide.
After going up to Elkhart Park and back down again, Lanis and SPHP pitched Lupe’s tiny house at the Fremont Lake campground. The campsite was some distance away from the lake. Lanis and SPHP feasted on sandwiches after a quick run in to Subway in Pinedale. Both Lanis and SPHP were feeling pretty tired, and looking forward to a night stretched out in Lupe’s tiny house.
Lupe wasn’t tired, though. She’d spent most of the last two days and nights cooped up in the Element. Lupe was bursting with energy! She was very happy to be out sniffing every tree and bush around. She was finally getting to do Dingo stuff again! With great enthusiasm, she raised a ruckus over each and every squirrel. Slowly the sun went down. Twilight faded. The squirrels went to bed. It still took a lot of persuading from SPHP to get Lupe into the tiny house and settled down for the night.
SPHP woke up. It was still early. Like dark out with the stars still shining early. SPHP had no idea what time it was, but felt better. Lupe was instantly awake, too. Lupe and SPHP stole out of her tiny house and into the night. Fifteen minutes later, Lupe and SPHP reached the dock down by the boat ramp. Fremont Lake sits at around 7,400 feet elevation. Overhead, the Milky Way was blazing in a cloudless night sky. The brightest stars reflected clearly in the still lake.
To the E, SPHP saw Sagittarius, Venus and just a hint of light. Dawn was coming. The night sky was gorgeous, but it was probably best to get a little more sleep. Lupe and SPHP returned to rejoin Lanis in Lupe’s tiny house. Well, at least SPHP did. Lupe had other ideas. She wouldn’t go in the tent. SPHP tried to rest while listening for the tinkling sound of Lupe’s tag as she sniffed around outside.
It worked for a little while. Lupe was sniffing around out there pretty close to the tiny house. As it grew lighter though, the squirrels started waking up. Sniffing became growling. Pretty soon the growling was barking. Just occasionally at first, but the barking sprees lengthened. SPHP had to get up, or Lupe would succeed in getting evicted from the campground.
Lanis was pretty played out. After successive long days driving, he was just plain zonked. It was light out now. The sun came up and rose high in the sky. Lanis snoozed on. Lupe and SPHP made a couple more trips down to Fremont Lake. There was a little beach near the dock and boat ramp. Lupe went wading. SPHP watched minnows swimming near the shore.
It was almost lunch time when Lanis finally regained consciousness. Lupe, Lanis and SPHP drove down to the Lakeside Lodge, Resort & Marina at the very S end of Fremont Lake. The resort features a restaurant with both inside and outside dining available. Next to Fremont Lake, there was a large deck with tables shaded by big umbrellas. Beyond the lake was a gorgeous panoramic view of high peaks of the Wind River Range.
It was sort of busy. The clientele looked upscale. Lanis and SPHP were in rather disreputable condition. There was an open table, though, at the far edge of the deck separated a little bit from the rest of the guests. The wait staff was willing to serve mangy Lanis and SPHP. Lupe was even allowed to rest on the deck at SPHP’s feet. On Lupe’s entire 2012 Dingo Vacation, this was the only time Lupe, Lanis and SPHP actually got to eat at a restaurant. It was wonderful!
Lanis and SPHP both ordered big burgers. They were great! SPHP stealthily slipped some burger down to Lupe. Everyone was happy. The scenery was magnificent. It was a relaxing, beautiful time.
After the glorious lunch by Fremont Lake; Lupe, Lanis and SPHP went into Pinedale for a little while. SPHP hoped to find a good map of the mountains to look at. There was a USFS map posted outside a forest service office near the grocery store. SPHP studied it for a few minutes while Lanis was in the grocery store. Lupe was on a leash right there with SPHP.
Lupe and SPHP were both about ready to leave, when an overly helpful ranger came along. The ranger almost insisted that SPHP come inside for more information, and a cheerful lecture on a blizzard of federal rules certain to enhance any wilderness experience.
Rule No. 1, of course, was that Dingoes couldn’t come in the building. Why just the other day, some Grand Poo-Bah supervisor from the District of Bureaucracy had sent out an email on the importance of never allowing a Dingo to set paw in any forest service building.
Lanis was waiting at the Element by the time Lupe and SPHP extracted themselves from all the helpful assistance. At least SPHP had seen enough of the map to have a pretty good idea where to go. Since the day was off to a rather late start, the best day hike without a map to bring along with was probably to take the well-traveled Pole Creek trail up at Elkhart Park.
Lupe, Lanis and SPHP went back up to Elkhart Park. The trailhead was already at 9,350 feet elevation, so Lupe was going to get to see some pretty high country. The Pole Creek trail started off heading SE as it went up the Pole Creek drainage. The trail was wide and well-worn. It gained elevation steadily, but at a moderate pace.
The area was almost all forested. There were squirrels in the trees. Lupe got to run, and run, and run. She had a fantastic time. The trail eventually turned NE, and then gained elevation more slowly. Lupe began to encounter clearings in the forest and little ponds. Lupe, Lanis and SPHP made it as far as Photographer’s Point(10,400 ft.). There was a huge panoramic view to the N.
The inspiring view from Photographer’s Point just made SPHP want to go farther. There were lakes nearby that SPHP had seen earlier on the map posted outside the forest service office in Pinedale. Lupe is always game to do more, but Lanis was ready to call it a day. However, even though Lanis really did need to get back to Indiana very soon, he did agree to spend another day in the Wind Rivers.
So Lupe didn’t go any farther into the Wind River range than Photographer’s Point. With an earlier start the next day, she could, though! After spending some time admiring the sweeping views; Lupe, Lanis and SPHP returned along the Pole Creek trail.
The sun was getting low in a cloudless sky, by the time Lupe reached the Element again back at Elkhart Park . A little while later, Lanis and SPHP crawled into sleeping bags in Lupe’s tiny house near Fremont Lake. Lupe curled up for a snooze, too. Tomorrow was going to be an even bigger day spent in the spectacular Wind River range!
After midnight, there was a sound that Lupe, Lanis and SPHP had rarely heard on Lupe’s 2012 Dingo Vacation. Raindrops on Lupe’s tiny house! Not too many, but some. SPHP took a look outside. No stars in any direction. The whole black sky must have been overcast. Not good. The tent was old, and had always leaked. The raindrops came in little spurts. No big deal, if it stayed like this. Lupe, Lanis and SPHP tried to ignore it and go back to sleep.
For at least a couple of hours, the rain was sporadic and light. Gradually the intensity was increasing, though. Water started dripping inside Lupe’s tiny house. SPHP remained hopeful that the rain would hold off until dawn, when it would be possible to get a good look at the sky and assess the outlook. More rain came, harder too. As the tent started leaking more, Lanis and SPHP sat up talking about what to do. Stick it out and wait for dawn, or pack things up before everything got soaked?
Nature decided. Suddenly there was a volley of intense rain, with big drops. Lupe got hustled into the Element. Lanis and SPHP scrambled to take down her tiny house for the last time. Everything got pitched into the Element. Very suddenly, Lupe’s grand 2012 Dingo Vacation to the West Coast was over.
The rain became light and steady as Lupe left Pinedale and the Wind River range behind her. On the way to Farson, the first light of dawn appeared and began spreading along the E horizon. Before reaching Farson, Lanis drove out of the rain. Back to the NW, clouds still hung over the Wind River range. The rain showers were likely just local. Lupe could probably have gone back, and spent another day exploring the Winds.
The decision had already been made, though. On the 23rd day of her first ever Dingo Vacation, after more than 5,000 miles, 5 states, and 3 weeks of adventures, Lupe was going home.
Snow was in the forecast. An approaching winter storm was supposed to hit tomorrow and dump half a foot of snow on the Black Hills. The next 10 days weren’t expected to get above freezing. Today was supposed to be nice, though, with highs in the 50’s. Last chance, for a while at least, for Lupe to go on a Black Hills Expedition!
Lupe’s peakbagging goal for Expedition No. 104 was a rather unusual Black Hills mountain – Inyan Kara(6,360 ft.). Inyan Kara is part of a line of forested ridges and hills in eastern Wyoming separated from the main body of the Black Hills in South Dakota by 5-10 miles of grasslands used mostly for ranching. Like Devil’s Tower(5,112 ft.) in NE Wyoming and Bear Butte(4,433 ft.) near Sturgis, South Dakota, Inyan Kara was considered sacred by the Lakota Sioux. General George Armstrong Custer is purported to have visited Inyan Kara on July 23, 1874.
Inyan Kara sits on roughly 2 square miles of the Black Hills National Forest completely surrounded by privately held ranch lands. To even reach the national forest land, Lupe would need permission from the ranchers. Lupe and SPHP had tried once before to get permission, way back on Black Hills Expedition No. 91 on 6-1-14, but had arrived at the ranch headquarters to find no one at home except the dog.
This time Lupe and SPHP were in luck! Lupe arrived at the headquarters of Douglas and Sheila Hunter’s ranch just E of Inyan Kara to find Mr. Hunter and a couple of helpers in his front yard busy loading a vehicle on a trailer. Mr. Hunter’s dog, Bear, was very interested in meeting Lupe, but Lupe just growled.
Despite Lupe’s less than cordial reaction to Bear, Mr. Hunter kindly and readily granted Lupe and SPHP permission to cross his ranch to access Inyan Kara. Mr. Hunter directed SPHP where to park the G6. By 10:15 AM (50°F), Lupe and SPHP were on their way.
Lupe and SPHP started out going W on a continuation of the dirt road that led to, and also went on by, the Hunter Ranch headquarters. Lupe passed some old buildings near a tiny, mucky creek, and soon afterward came to a junction with another road. Lupe and SPHP turned N on this other road, but left it before long to start climbing through the fields directly toward SE-facing cliffs on Inyan Kara. On the way up, Lupe and SPHP ducked under a fence, thereby leaving the Hunter ranch and entering the Black Hills National Forest.
Lupe and SPHP turned N to avoid the cliffs. Lupe still angled slightly up the slope to gain elevation slowly, but steadily. She was approaching the forest on the E side of Inyan Kara. Once in the forest, Lupe and SPHP continued N working gradually up the ridge to the W. When the top of the ridge became visible between the pines, Lupe and SPHP turned W and climbed directly up the steep slope to the crest of the ridge. Lupe could now see the igneous summit of Inyan Kara to the WNW.
Inyan Kara is an interesting mountain. It is shaped rather like a distorted horseshoe, with the opening of the horseshoe NE of the summit and facing N. A long ridge starts rising from the NE end of the horseshoe, and makes a big sweeping curve clear around to the E and then S of the summit, ultimately going clear over to the SW. This long ridge gains elevation rapidly at first, but much more slowly as it progresses SW.
The S and SW portions of the sweeping ridge are quite high. Close to the SW end, there is a significant saddle where some elevation must be lost going NE to approach a shorter, but higher ridge leading to the actual summit. This N ridge is characterized by large igneous rock formations, but is easily climbed. Several smaller saddles must be navigated while heading N along the summit ridge.
The N ridge angles NE shortly before reaching the top of Inyan Kara. The summit and nearby areas form the NW end of the horseshoe. Between the N and S ridges, a deep forested valley comprises the center of the horseshoe.
Lupe had reached the top of the lower sweeping ridge ESE of the summit. The easiest way to reach the top of the mountain was to just follow the ridge as it swept around to the S and then SW. From there, Lupe could traverse the saddle over to the higher N ridge and continue on to Inyan Kara’s summit.
The ridge was all forested and fairly narrow most of the way to the saddle, but it was never narrow enough to be a problem. Deadfall timber sometimes partially blocked the way for SPHP. It was only bad in one small area toward the SSW. As Lupe progressed around the ridge, there were a few places with great views to the SE, S or SW.
Lupe and SPHP followed the S ridge around to the SW. Lupe continued W far enough to make certain she had reached the highest part of the S ridge. She then headed NE down into the saddle on her way to the N ridge leading up to the summit. Lupe could have started NE down into the saddle a bit sooner, and she wouldn’t have lost quite as much elevation. It still didn’t take her long to cross the broad forested saddle to reach the N ridge.
The most interesting part of Lupe’s climb up Inyan Kara started upon reaching the N ridge. There were big rock formations. The rocks were tan or pinkish orange, and had little steps or contours in them. Lupe quickly climbed up to a high point at least as high as any spot along the S ridge. From here, she could see the Inyan Kara summit off to the NNE.
The rest of the way to the summit was a bit tricky. It involved some exploration and occasional back-tracking to find the easiest route. In general, it proved best to stay to the NW side of the N ridge until getting quite close to the summit, since there were places that ended in cliffs to the SE.
The top of Inyan Kara is an open rocky ridge from which there are grand views in most directions. Although it hadn’t been windy on the way up, there was a steady, cold wind out of the SW when Lupe reached the summit. With the darkly overcast sky and stiff breeze, it was beginning to look like the forecast snow storm might well be on its way. Lupe wasn’t going to get to enjoy the views for very long.
Right away, SPHP noticed a USGS benchmark out in the open just 10 or 12 feet E of the summit. SPHP was disappointed that it didn’t even say Inyan Kara on it. While SPHP was looking at the USGS benchmark, Lupe was sniffing curiously around a big juniper bush just 8 feet N of the summit. Upon investigation, stuffed inside the bush SPHP found a broken Tupperware container inside a couple of Ziploc bags. It was all held in place inside the bush by several rocks placed on top.
Inside the broken Tupperware container was a pen and notebook that serves as a registry log. There were also other papers relating to a wedding, a funeral service and other events that had been held on top of Inyan Kara. The registry went back to 2008 and contained quite a few names. Some of the individuals had climbed Inyan Kara multiple times, with one claiming to have made 6 ascents.
SPHP would have liked to spend more time reading the registry, but the wind made reading for very long unpleasant. It was difficult to hold the pages open and still without tearing them. SPHP entered Lupe’s name in the registry log, before putting it all back together and stuffing everything securely in the bush.
Despite the wind, Lupe and SPHP lingered up on Inyan Kara for a while to enjoy the views. Lupe had water and Taste of the Wild, and then huddled inside SPHP’s jacket to stay warm. SPHP ate an apple and a big carrot. For the Black Hills, the views were tremendous. Far below and all around Inyan Kara was open ranch land, dotted here and there with forested hills and ridges.
On the N horizon, Lupe could see Missouri Buttes(5,374 ft.), Devil’s Tower, and Warren Peaks(6,650 ft.). Cement Ridge(6,674 ft.) was off to the NE. Terry Peak(7,064 ft.) and the main body of the Black Hills were in view to the E. Sweetwater Mountain was SSE. Very far to the W are the Bighorn Mountains, which are easily seen from Inyan Kara on a clear day when the light is right. However, SPHP could only barely make out one small portion of the southern Bighorns on this overcast day.
When it was time to go, Lupe and SPHP took the same route back along the N ridge going SSW and then down into the saddle area between the N and S ridges. Instead of going on to retrace Lupe’s route along the S ridge, Lupe and SPHP ventured E down into the steep, deep forested valley between the ridges – the middle of the Inyan Kara horseshoe.
Lupe followed the valley all the way down to its exit onto the prairie NE of the Inyan Kara summit (the open end of the horseshoe). There was no trail at all in the upper portion of the valley, and only a faint one in the lower part, until Lupe reached a jeep trail near a couple of old rusting water tanks near the valley’s N end.
The trek down through the central valley proved to take much more time than the S ridge route. Except at the upper and lower ends, the valley is V-shaped nearly all the way. Even the very bottom was steep, rough ground. In places it was choked with deadfall timber killed by pine bark beetles, making the going very slow.
The valley did provide Lupe complete protection from the cold wind. About the only other advantage was a tiny intermittent trickle of a stream where Lupe could get a drink. Not much of an advantage when SPHP was porting water anyway. While the valley was fun to explore once, Lupe and SPHP definitely recommend the S ridge route instead for the splendid views, shorter hike, and easier terrain!
Once Lupe emerged from Inyan Kara’s horseshoe, she followed the jeep trail around the E side of the mountain. There were forests near the E ridge, but most of the time Lupe was out on the open range. The jeep trail led right back to the Hunter ranch headquarters.
Lupe arrived at the G6 at 4:24 PM (51°F). No one was around except Bear, who was standing on the front porch. Bear whined when he saw Lupe. Bear still wanted to play, but the tired Carolina Dog showed no interest, dashing the lonely ranch dog’s hopes.
Inyan Kara Mountain is about 4 miles W of Hwy 585 in NE Wyoming between Sundance and Four Corners. Turn W on County Road No. 198 about 15 miles S of Sundance. Follow it about 1.5 miles W. A sharp turn N on a dirt road eventually leads 2.5 miles NW to a fork in the road. The Douglas and Sheila Hunter ranch headquarters is a short distance down the right fork. Courtesy and respect for the landowner’s rights will go a long way toward securing permission to access Inyan Kara.
For more information on the interesting history of Inyan Kara, click here.
Days 40 & 41 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska
Night, Unknown Hour, Pre-dawn on Day 40 – Cold out, but at least Lupe wasn’t going to get snowed in at the Canadian Rockies. Last evening’s rain had stopped. Stars glittered in the black night sky. Back to sleep, if possible, no telling how many hours away dawn was. Lupe wasn’t going anywhere until then, not with the G6’s burnt out R headlight.
Day 40, 6:55 AM, 33°F – Whatever happened to that bright morning sunshine SPHP had expected? The clouds were back. In places there was fog along Icefields Parkway Hwy 93. It hadn’t snowed down here, but mountains visible between the clouds were sporting a dusting of new snow. The mood was more like the onset of winter than a day in early September.
Sadly, Lupe was leaving. Her Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska was all but over. She would have a couple more adventures on the way home, but they wouldn’t take long.
The miles flew by as Lupe watched the scenery from the comfort of the G6. She saw the grandeur of the towering Canadian Rockies. She passed by many a turn leading to fabulous adventures she’d had earlier on this Dingo Vacation or back in 2013 or 2014. As Lupe left the glorious mountains, the sky started to clear and the sun came out.
Lupe wasn’t the least bit sad. As far as she was concerned, the adventure was still on. In fact, it was getting even better! Ahead of her were more than 1,000 miles of farm and ranchlands. That meant one thing to the Carolina Dog – an abundance of cows, horses, haystacks, suspicious barns and outbuildings to bark at while leaping from window to window in the G6! Yes, it was going to be an exciting, busy, exhausting day!
And so it was. Barking at cows and horses from the G6 is a sport Looper never tires of, nor loses interest in. The unsuspecting cows and horses don’t have to do anything more than exist in order to egg her on. Seldom are they even aware of her brief, shrill, distant presence. Doesn’t matter a whit. Loop barks all the harder. The whole experience provides her with a sense of purpose, accomplishment and joy.
The only way to calm the energetic din, is to drive into a town or up into the mountains. Even the mountains can be noisy, but rarely are there enough deer and squirrels present as substitutes to make the experience at all comparable to the pleasures to be had in cattle country.
SPHP was granted a break while driving through Calgary, and another later on in Great Falls, Montana. In Great Falls, SPHP stopped to pick up fried chicken, potato wedges and Almond Joys. For a while SE of Great Falls, the potato wedges and Almond Joys kept Lupe distracted. By the time SPHP stopped at the Al Buck Memorial Park along Highway 89 N of the Little Belt Range, Lupe was too stuffed to share the fried chicken.
Day 40, 7:00 PM, 47°F – Lupe arrived at King’s Hill Pass on Hwy 89 in the Little Belt Mountains of W Central Montana very satisfied with how her day had gone. The excitement of being in cattle country was temporarily over up here, but the sun would be above the horizon for a little while longer. The American Dingo was still bursting with energy and eager for some exercise climbing King’s Hill(8,008 ft.).
From the pass, Lupe went SW through the forest until she reached USFS Road No. 487, which she followed for 0.75 mile going S along the W face of King’s Hill. By the time No. 487 turned E, she was almost up to the S end of the huge, nearly level summit area. Lupe went N along the wide summit ridge, as the last feeble rays of sunlight faded.
Lupe traveled NNW across the open ground until she reached the survey benchmark at the true summit near the N end of the mountain. Although the sun was still above the horizon, clouds filtered the remaining sunlight to the point where it was hard to tell it was even present. It certainly did nothing to cut the chill from the W wind sweeping over King’s Hill.
Off to the NNE, Lupe could see Big Baldy Mountain(9,177 ft.), the highest point in the Little Belt Range. Big Baldy already had snow on top!
Up in the cold wind, late in the day after being cooped up in the G6 so long, the American Dingo started getting ideas. Oh, no! SPHP recognized that look.
Suddenly Lupe vanished. In her place appeared the wild, ferocious were-puppy. Without hesitation the were-puppy attacked SPHP!
After a few minutes of struggle, during which the were-puppy lunged and leaped at SPHP with snapping jaws, SPHP managed to fend off the were-puppy. Lupe returned looking as innocent as she could be.
So, I take you adventuring not only to the Canadian Rockies, but way up to the Yukon and even Alaska, and this is what I get?
Why, whatever do you mean, SPHP? Are you feeling well?
Sly dog! Well, the wind was cold, and Lupe had made it to the top of King’s Hill. The sun really would be down behind Porphyry Peak(8,192 ft.) soon. No sense in sticking around waiting for the were-puppy to return. Lupe and SPHP started S toward the road leading back down to the G6.
Shots rang out. Gunfire! Hunters? The same American Dingo which had presented itself as the bold, ferocious, wild and invincible were-puppy only minutes ago, now pleaded with SPHP for reassurance and assistance.
Help! Help! Hide me! Save me! Hold me! Pet me! Love me! Carry me! All of the above me!
Sheesh, such drama! Come on Looper, you’ll be fine. Just stick close by. No harm will come to you.
As promised, Lupe returned safely to the G6, though shaken by her narrow escape (8:19 PM). She leaped into the G6 immediately. SPHP fed her Alpo and Taste of the Wild before putting her blankie over her. Soon the were-puppy was snoring peacefully. Outside, stars shone brilliantly accompanied by a half moon.
Day 41, First Light, 6:13 AM, 41°F – Lupe woke to the sound of rain and wind gusts. A small storm was blowing through. So much for any thought of climbing Porphyry Peak this morning. SPHP had hatched a different plan already, anyway. Look out cows, horses and haystacks, Lupe is on her way!
Lupe left the Little Belt Range behind. S of White Sulphur Springs near the junction of Hwys 12 & 89, Lupe & SPHP got out of the G6 to take a look at the dramatic sky remaining in the aftermath of the storm front.
Cows, horses, haystacks! Lupe had her fun. Ahh, this was the life! Another great day!
E of Lovell, Wyoming, Highway Alt 14 wound steeply up into the last big mountain range of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation. Lupe was back in the Bighorns for the first time since she’d climbed Cloud Peak(13,167 ft.) back in July. Her final peakbagging adventures of this Dingo Vacation would occur here.
A little after noon, on this cool breezy day, Lupe set out from the Bald Mountain campground for Bald Mountain(10,042 ft.) (12:09 PM, 56°F).
The mostly bare, rounded mountain was an easy climb. The only real obstacle was the SW wind, which blew harder and harder as Lupe gained elevation. Carolina Dogs are not great fans of wind, but Loopster persevered. There was nothing along the way to protect her from the wind, but on the other hand, the views were tremendous!
Lupe reached the survey benchmark at the true summit. The wind was worst here. She didn’t like it, but the Carolina Dog stayed long enough for photos. Lupe had been here before. Twice in 2012, once in 2013. More than 3 years had gone by since her last ascent.
Well, this was it. Lupe had done it. She had reached the summit of Bald Mountain. Only one task remained – to go find the place of names, and make the necessary repairs. Lupe’s name has been immmortalized in stone on Bald Mountain since July 11, 2013.
It had been more than 3 years since Lupe and SPHP were here last, but the place of names was found with relatively little difficulty. Lupe waited in the wind for an hour, while SPHP fixed things up. Finally, it was done.And that was that. There was nothing left to do. Enough of this wind! Lupe and SPHP began the easy trek back to the G6 with a grand view of Medicine Mountain ahead.
The wind was still blowing when Lupe reached the G6 at the Bald Mountain campground (3:13 PM, 53°F), but not as strongly as up on the mountain. She stayed in the area for more than an hour before heading E again on Highway Alt 14A toward Burgess Junction.
Later in the day, E of the magnificent Bighorn Range, Lupe resumed her happy duty watching for cows and horses to bark at along I90. She kept it up as long as there was light to see by. Yes, this really was the life, all these splendid days adventuring on and off the long road to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska and back, every minute spent with sweet Lupe!
After an adventure spanning 9,126 miles, 41 days & 40 nights, Lupe returned to her home in the Black Hills of South Dakota at 10:50 PM on 9-8-2016. She had gone thousands of miles farther than she had ever been before, seen countless magnificent sights, and had wonderful adventures all the way up to the Yukon and far into Alaska.
In the Brooks Range of northern Alaska, Lupe went her last mile N reaching the confluence of the Dietrich River and a stream NW of Dillon Mountain. From there she saw a mountain, farther N yet, privately designated the Mountain of the Midnight Sun. Whether Lupe ever sees the Mountain of the Midnight Sun and adventures in Alaska again is, at this moment, part of the unknown, uncertain future.
So long as Lupe is alive and well, hope remains that some day the Dingo of the Midnight Sun will return to roam and play once more beneath the pale blue Arctic sky.
The Owl & The Pussycat
The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money, wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above, and sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love, what a beautiful Pussy you are, you are, you are, what a beautiful Pussy you are.”
Pussy said to the Owl “You elegant fowl, how charmingly sweet you sing. O let usbe married, too long we have tarried; but what shall we do for a ring?”
They sailed away for a year and a day, to the land where the Bong-tree grows, and there in a wood, a Piggy-wig stood, with a ring at the end of his nose, his nose, his nose. With a ring at the end of his nose.
“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.”
So they took it away, and were married next day by the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince, which they ate with a runcible spoon.
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand, they danced by the light of the moon, the moon, the moon.
Start, 11:04 AM, 33°F, intersection of USFS Roads No. 189, 189.4A & 631.2C about 0.33 mile WSW of Crooks Tower
This was supposed to be an expedition to celebrate the rapid approach of a glorious new summer! Lupe would explore mysteriously named Balm of Gilead Gulch before continuing on to Cement Ridge. There, beneath cotton ball clouds sailing a crystal blue sea, the Carolina Dog would sniff colorful wildflowers swaying in warm breezes. She would gaze upon panoramic views of Inyan Kara, the Bear Lodge Mountains, and far into eastern Wyoming.
Hah! Dream on. Even before leaving home, SPHP knew the forecast didn’t include much in the way of warm breezes.
A week ago on Expedition No. 204, Lupe had visited Crooks Tower(7,137 ft.), one of the highest points in the Black Hills. She’d made a day of it coming up from Merow Spring and Clayton Pond, and subsequently continuing on to Peak6820. Now, driving W on South Rapid Creek Road (USFS Road No. 231), it occurred to SPHP that Loop was very close to Crooks Tower again. Why not go back for a good look at how much conditions had changed?
It wasn’t necessary to spend a whole day on foot and paw to get to Crooks Tower. In fact, a 2 mile detour S on USFS Road No. 189 would bring Lupe to a point only 0.33 mile WSW of the summit. Let’s do it! SPHP made the turn. Five minutes later, Lupe sprang out of the G6 into a world where the mood was better suited to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer than 4th of July fireworks.
Although the forecast called for 0% chance of precipitation, the sky was heavily overcast. Any more overcast, and Lupe would have been in a fog. Humidity filled the air. It felt like it could rain buckets at any time. Or snow. At a chilly 33°F, snow seemed equally plausible. The ground was already white with the stuff.
Lupe concealed her disappointment with summer’s non-arrival well. In fact, she seemed thrilled and energized by the snow. She charged through fields and forests as SPHP began a mucky march E along USFS Road No. 189.4A.
About 0.33 mile from the G6, the road passed just S of the summit of Crooks Tower. Lupe and SPHP left the road to take the short path leading to the top from the SW. Only a week after her 8th ascent, Lupe was here for the 9th time.
Having been here only a week ago, Lupe and SPHP dawdled only a little while on Crooks Tower. It was fun to be there again, but the plan was still to explore Balm of Gilead Gulch and reach Cement Ridge today. Lupe returned to the G6 (11:35 AM, 33°F), and SPHP drove onward.
N of Highway 85, a little W of O’Neill Pass, SPHP parked the G6 again (11:53 AM, 39°F) near corrals S of the junction of USFS Roads No. 175 (Willow Springs Road) and No. 106 (Riflepit Canyon Road). Here Lupe was only 0.67 mile W of Laird Peak(6,906 ft.), another mountain along the way. SPHP figured she might as well climb it, too, since it was an easy peak and wouldn’t take long.
An unmarked grassy road led E from the parking area up a little valley past Tom Spring. This area was hundreds of feet lower than Crooks Tower, so there wasn’t nearly as much snow around. What snow there was in the pines was melting fast. Snowmelt dripped to the ground in such abundance, Lupe was getting rained on beneath the trees.
Tom Spring was a muddy area. Water poured from a pipe into a circular water trough. Not too exciting. Lupe didn’t seem interested. She pressed on up the valley. The road faded somewhat beyond Tom Spring, but could still be followed.
Upon reaching a ridgeline where several better dirt roads intersected, Lupe took a road going N. She stayed on it for only 100 feet or so to get past a fence running E/W. She then turned E following the N side of the fence line. Laird Peak’s summit was only a couple hundred yards ahead. The summit appeared only as a small hill in the forest.
Lupe quickly reached the top. The summit area was easily the size of a modest yard in town and quite flat. Deadfall timber lay scattered about the perimeter of a small clearing. A sign marking the location of the survey benchmark was in sight near the N edge of the clearing.
Pine bark beetles had damaged the surrounding forest enough to provide tree-broken glimpses of distant views in various directions, but only enough to tantalize. Lupe couldn’t really see much from here other than the immediate area. With no clear views to contemplate, the American Dingo was soon ready to go.
The sky was still overcast, but not as darkly as before. Now and then a small patch of blue sky appeared. SPHP kept expecting the clouds to burn off, but they didn’t. Instead the clouds kept closing up the gaps, and the sunshine would disappear. Nothing had really changed by the time Lupe reached the G6 again (12:45 PM).
A winding drive NW down Grand Canyon ensued. USFS Road No. 175 turned to No. 875 at the Wyoming border. By the time SPHP parked the G6 at the intersection of No. 875 & No. 804, it was already 1:23 PM (47°F). If Lupe was going to explore Balm of Gilead Gulch and still have time to reach Cement Ridge, she had best get on with it. The Carolina Dog and SPHP took off heading E up Rattlesnake Canyon on No. 804.
The stroll up Rattlesnake Canyon was easy. A couple of miles E of the G6, SPHP started looking for a R (S) turn on USFS Road No. 804.1A which would take Lupe up into Balm of Gilead Gulch. A road going S up a hill did appear. There weren’t any signs at the turn, but a forest service gate was in view a little way up the hill.
Was this No. 804.1A? It didn’t seem quite right. The topo map showed a 4WD trail heading S up a smaller valley about 0.5 mile before (W of) the turn to Balm of Gilead Gulch, and this was the first side road Lupe had come to. SPHP almost led Lupe past this road, but decided she might as well check out the forest service gate for any clues first.
Good thing! Nearing the gate, Lupe found a marker showing this was USFS Road No. 804.1A.
So this was it! Lupe was bound for Balm of Gilead Gulch! Except for one thing that raised doubts again. As the Carolina Dog trotted past the gate, SPHP noticed large white letters on the round metal swivel housing on the L. The letters read OLDB 05. What did that mean? SPHP was suspicious.
It might mean that this road had been renumbered. USFS Road No. 805 went up Wagon Canyon 1.5 miles to the S. Was this possibly a connecting spur, formerly known as No. 805.B? Seemed like a possibility, but who knew? May as well try it. After all, the official sign did say this was No. 804.1A, which was supposed to be the road into Balm of Gilead Gulch.
Lupe continued up No. 804.1A. The road turned SE and led up a small forested valley. The day had warmed up some, and Lupe was still considerably lower here than she had been at either Crooks Tower or Laird Peak, so she didn’t find any snow in this area. There had been some, though. The road was damp, nearly muddy.
Although no tire tracks were to be seen, an amazing number of animal tracks crisscrossed the soft road. It wasn’t long before Lupe started seeing wildlife – whitetail deer and Lupe’s giant deers – the elk.
It was fun being where there were so many animals in the forest, and sort of easy to see why they were here. No tire tracks on the road at all meant people seldom come here. The forest was full of hidden grassy glens. This was a good place to hide and hang out.
Lupe gained elevation steadily for perhaps a mile before the road leveled out. Here, the main road turned SW and started going downhill. A fainter road curved ESE. Lupe needed to go E, so she took the fainter road. When she wanted to stop for a water break 5 or 10 minutes later, SPHP took a look at the maps.
Hmmm. SPHP was soon convinced that Lupe hadn’t been traveling through Balm of Gilead Gulch at all. Where the main road had turned SW, it almost had to be headed for Kirley Gulch on its way down to Wagon Canyon. Apparently the road numbers really had been changed. The old No. 804.1A leading into Balm of Gilead Gulch that Lupe had been looking for was no more. The new No. 804.1A actually was a road connecting No. 804 in Rattlesnake Canyon and No. 805 in Wagon Canyon.
The inescapable conclusion was that Balm of Gilead Gulch was 0.5 mile N or NE of where Lupe was now. She could have gone through the forest looking for it, but that would have meant losing elevation she’d already gained. Furthermore, she would only get to travel through part of the gulch. Instead of doing that, SPHP decided Lupe might just as well continue on to Cement Ridge. She could hit Balm of Gilead Gulch on the way back.
Break done, Lupe roamed happily in the forest along a series of remote USFS roads. She traveled E or SE, and once in a while NE. She was generally still gaining elevation, but at a slow rate. Sometimes there were markers at the road junctions, but even when there were, usually only one road was marked. It wasn’t always clear which road the marker was meant for.
This was pretty high country, but due to the forest, Lupe seldom had any distant views. Some ridges did eventually appear off to the S and SW. Loop was already nearly as high as they were.
On her explorations, Lupe either traveled along or passed by USFS Roads No. 805.3J, 805.3G, and 805.3A. About two miles E of where she’d left No. 804.1A, she came down a side road marked No. 105.1B to arrive at the first major gravel road she’d seen since leaving No. 804 down in Rattlesnake Canyon.
A check of the maps revealed that Loop was now only 0.25 mile S of No. 105’s junction with No. 804. Cement Ridge(6,674 ft.) was only 1.5 miles NNW beyond the intersection. Before setting out again, Lupe was ready for more water and Taste of the Wild. SPHP ate the only apple, which was supposed to have been saved for Cement Ridge, but, oh well.
All tanked up again, Lupe set off along No. 105 for Cement Ridge. Upon reaching the junction with No. 804, she followed No. 804 NNW a good 0.5 mile to its high point, then plunged into the forest. The American Dingo loves being off road most of all, so she had a grand time. Gradually things got steeper, but it was never more than a straightforward trudge up a hill.
When Lupe reached the ridgeline along the N face, she turned W and followed the ridge a short distance to a pathetic little limestone cairn at the high point. This was it, the true summit of Cement Ridge!
Virtually no one from the Black Hills region would recognize this place where Lupe was now as the summit of Cement Ridge. This might be the true summit according to the topo maps, but only a handful of peakbagging Dingoes would even be aware of its existence. Cement Ridge is well known locally as one of the Black Hills’ premier viewpoints, but what everyone around here is referring to are the views from the Cement Ridge fire lookout tower.
The fire lookout tower is located on a barren highpoint near the NW end of Cement Ridge over a mile from the true summit. According to the topo map, the lookout tower is 27 feet lower than the true summit. Nevertheless, the views from the tower are far superior to those available from the heavily forested true summit.
Lupe could see the lookout tower from the true summit. Perhaps it was only an illusion, but it actually looked higher to SPHP.
Lupe had no comment on which point she thought might be highest, the lookout tower or this pathetic little cairn. She was content to let surveyors battle that one out. However, when SPHP asked if she wanted to go see the fabulous views at the tower, she was all for that!
A 10 minute trek N down through an aspen forest brought Lupe to a saddle where USFS Road No. 850 coming up from the W turns N. Loop followed the road all the way to the lookout tower. Not a soul was around.
Instead of cotton ball clouds sailing a crystal blue sky, Lupe saw scattered tiny patches of blue lost in a gray-white ocean. She felt no warm breezes. There were wildflowers to sniff, but they tossed about tormented by a chilly N breeze. The views were wonderful, but felt remote and forlorn, not bright and inspiring.
With sweeping views in nearly all directions, Lupe saw a great many Black Hills peaks she had been to before. The wind was coldest and strongest, though, up near the fire tower. Lupe and SPHP retreated a bit down the W slope to an old picnic table. Conditions were only slightly better here, and only the views to the W could still be seen, but they were grand.
Looper and SPHP stayed at the lower picnic table soaking it all in.
Cement Ridge would be a great place to see the sunset, but Lupe was here too early for that. The sun wouldn’t set for another couple of hours. Even if she waited, the sky was so overcast, it wasn’t likely she would see much. Besides, if she was ever going to see Balm of Gilead Gulch, she needed to get going.
Puppy ho! After a little rest curled up beneath the old picnic table, Lupe set out for Balm of Gilead Gulch again. The first part of the journey took her SE back along the length of Cement Ridge. This time, instead of following the access road, she stayed up on the highest parts of the ridge where she could see the terrific views to the E.
On her way, since she had to pass so close to it again, Lupe returned to Cement Ridge’s true summit.
Since Looper was now in a hurry to get to Balm of Gilead Gulch before the sun set, she stayed only a couple of minutes at the summit before pressing on to the S. She came across a dirt road going SSE, which was faster for SPHP than traveling through the forest.
Going down this road, suddenly sunshine was filtering through the trees. The sky, which had been 90%+ overcast all day long, was almost completely clear! SPHP was astonished at how fast this transformation had taken place. Only a few clouds remained. The rest hadn’t floated on by, they had simply dissipated into thin air.
The sun was noticeably lower now, but would still be up for a while. The evening light brought out even more wildlife. Lupe saw more whitetails and giant deers.
The road eventually reached USFS Road No. 105, this time a little E of its junction with No. 804. A marker showed Lupe had been coming down USFS Road No. 105.1A.
A short trek to the W on No. 105 brought Lupe to the junction with No. 804 again. This time she turned S on No. 105, following it back to the turn W onto No. 105.1B.
Earlier in the day, before ever reaching No. 105 on her way to Cement Ridge, Lupe had reached a broad gentle saddle where there was a 4-way intersection. This was probably where she’d gotten on No. 105.1B as she continued E at the time. However, SPHP had seen that the road going NW from there sloped gradually into a wide valley. That wide valley was likely the upper end of Balm of Gilead Gulch.
With the sun getting ever lower, Lupe and SPHP hurried back along No. 105.1B, hoping to reach the broad saddle before the sun was down. Even hurrying along, it was hard not to appreciate the beauty of the sunlight filtered by the trees. What a wonderful evening trek! Lupe was enthusiastic. She raced through the forest exploring everything.
Lupe did make it to the broad saddle before the sun was down. She turned NW on the road leading through the wide valley. She followed the road a little way, but left it to follow a single track trail W down into Balm of Gilead Gulch.
Lupe traveled the entire length of Balm of Gilead Gulch, as sunlight left the valley floor to linger on the forested hillsides. The pale golden light of day retreated to the uppermost treetops, and was lost. Lupe saw deer. She saw elk. A hawk screeched and flew away. Lower down where the valley narrowed, the Carolina Dog came to a tiny stream.
It was all beautiful, but though she sniffed and looked everywhere she could, the Carolina Dog never found it. If a different road to a different place hadn’t been relabeled as USFS Road No. 804.1A, she would have been here much earlier and had more time. Maybe, maybe then, she would have found it. As it was, twilight faded, darkness descended, stars glittered in the night sky.
But Lupe never did find the fabled Balm of Gilead. (End 9:32 PM, 32°F)
“Prophet! said I, “thing of evil! – prophet still, if bird or devil! –
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted –
On this home by Horror haunted – tell me truly, I implore –
Is there – is there balm in Gilead? – tell me, tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
from The Raven, Edgar Allen Poe
Note: The Cement Ridge fire lookout tower is accessible by road from the W or SE by following USFS Road No. 804 to No. 850. The true summit is the hill immediately S of where No. 850 reaches a saddle on the ridgeline, and turns N to continue on to the lookout. Another route exists from the E on USFS Road No. 103 to this same point, but requires a high clearance vehicle.
N of Newcastle, Lupe and SPHP stopped at the Salt Creek Overlook. There was a little snow here in Wyoming. Not much, but enough to brighten the scene. Lupe perched precariously on a guard rail post for her souvenir shot, a cliff a few feet behind her. As soon as she heard the click of the camera, she jumped off the post. The photo was taken into the sun, but didn’t turn out too badly.
Lupe was back in wonderful Wyoming for the last time in 2016 to complete her peakbagging tour of Black Hills peaks W of the South Dakota border. Only one peak remained on her list – Sweetwater Mountain(6,440 ft.).
Three weeks ago, on Expedition No. 182, Lupe had climbed nearby Mount Pisgah(6,380 ft.). There had been time enough left in the day for Lupe to climb Sweetwater Mountain, too. However, the owner of the ranch Sweetwater Mountain is situated on couldn’t be found right away. He suddenly showed up on an ATV, as SPHP was writing a note to leave at his house requesting permission for Lupe to be on his land.
The rancher’s name was Bart Roberts, as SPHP had learned from a trip report on Peakbagger.com written by Edward Earl, the only Peakbagger.com account holder to have previously climbed Sweetwater Mountain. Mr. Roberts refused Lupe permission to climb the mountain. He leased out hunting rights to the property, and didn’t want the hunters disturbed.
Would it be acceptable for Lupe to return after hunting season? Mr. Roberts considered that for a few minutes. Yes, that would be fine, but Lupe couldn’t come back until after elk season was over at the end of November. SPHP could park over by the old barn.
Now it was early December. A long stretch of much colder weather starting tomorrow was in the forecast. If Lupe was ever going to climb Sweetwater Mountain, today was the day.
As Edward Earl’s trip report mentioned, the entrance to Mr. Robert’s ranch is 12.5 miles N of Newcastle, or 5 miles S of Four Corners, on the W side of US Hwy No. 85. SPHP drove N from the Salt Creek Overlook until Red Butte came into view, unmistakable on the E side of the highway. Lupe was almost to Mr. Robert’s ranch. SPHP soon saw the mailbox on a barrel mentioned by Edward Earl. Lupe had arrived!
As previously agreed, SPHP drove only about a mile onto the ranch, parking the G6 near an old barn (8:59 AM, 14°F). Nearby was a light green house. This wasn’t Bart Roberts’ personal home (already passed by on a short side road to the R on the way in), but is on his land and occupied by his brother.
Lupe and SPHP passed through an open green gate, starting toward Sweetwater Mountain on a dirt road. At only 14°F, it was noticeably colder here in Wyoming than back home in South Dakota, but the day would warm up. Lupe didn’t even seem to notice the cold. She rolled and frisked in the snow by the road.
The old barn wasn’t even out of sight yet, when Lupe came to a barbed wire fence across the road. The gate was so firmly fastened, it was easiest to simply crawl under.
In only a few minutes, Lupe arrived at an intersection at the base of Sweetwater Mountain. The main road went straight, then curved L (S) to begin winding up the mountain. The other road branched off to the R (N), going downhill a short distance to what appeared to be a small frozen pond. (Later in the day, Lupe returned along this side road. The pond, if that is what it was, had no water in it.)
Lupe stayed straight (W) on the main road, which quickly curved S (L) to start climbing the E face of the mountain. The road wound around making a series of switchbacks. After several switchbacks, Lupe came to a larger frozen pond on the SW (L) side of the road. This was likely the 2nd pond mentioned in Edward Earl’s trip report.
Lupe continued NW on the road past the pond. The road turned S again. The intention had been to follow this road all the way up onto the Sweetwater Mountain plateau, but suddenly there was a noise. A vehicle was coming up the road! It would be here momentarily.
Maybe hunters were coming? Mr. Roberts had mentioned the possibility of hunters seeking other game being on the mountain after elk season. Lupe had permission to be here, but maybe it was best to stay out of sight? No sense causing any friction between Mr. Roberts and his paying customers. Lupe and SPHP scrambled up the forested bank, getting off the road.
Within seconds, an ATV appeared, passing quickly by below. Three men had been in it, dressed as hunters. They hadn’t noticed Lupe or SPHP. The ATV looked like the one Bart Roberts owned, but SPHP hadn’t gotten a good look at any of the men. Whether Mr. Roberts had been among them wasn’t clear.
Yes, maybe it was best to simply stay out of sight. Mr. Roberts hadn’t said anything about how he wanted SPHP to react, if hunters were present. He most definitely hadn’t wanted the elk hunters disturbed.
Lupe didn’t return to the road. The Sweetwater Mountain plateau wasn’t all that much farther up. Lupe and SPHP angled NW through the forest, climbing a fairly steep slope. There was a lot more snow here than down below, several inches. The snow made the slope slick, but Lupe made it up onto the E edge of the plateau.
The Sweetwater Mountain plateau is irregularly shaped, but runs roughly 3 miles N/S, and 0.5 to 1.0 mile E/W. Lupe had arrived about mid-way along the E edge of the mountain, somewhere a bit S of High Point 6402 on the topo map. Lupe’s primary objective was to reach the true summit, located along the N edge of the plateau 0.33 mile out on a section of the plateau protruding to the E. The summit was still nearly 2 miles away.
The Sweetwater Mountain plateau turned out to be forested, gently rolling terrain. That was fortunate. Lupe shouldn’t have a hard time staying out of the hunters’ way. She saw no sign of them. Lupe and SPHP started N staying very close to the E edge of the plateau.
Although the N face of Sweetwater Mountain is the highest and steepest, the E face is only moderately less so. Lupe quickly arrived at rock formations near the top of a line of small E-facing cliffs. She had a good view to the E toward the main body of the Black Hills in South Dakota.
The best views Lupe came to along the E edge of the plateau were from a couple of roomy rock platforms, the S one being a little lower than the N one. SPHP wasn’t entirely certain where Lupe was on the map. This may have been High Point 6402, or somewhere N of it. Wherever Lupe was, she sure had a terrific sweeping view of everything off to the E!
After passing by some of the more dramatic E-facing cliffs, Lupe continued N through the forest. Down at the old barn, where Lupe had started her trek, there had only been 0.5″ of snow on the ground. Up here, the snow was 3″ to 5″ deep.
Lupe seemed to be enjoying the day, but she was puzzled when SPHP repeatedly warned her not to bark at the squirrels she occasionally spotted in the trees. So far, there hadn’t been any sign of the hunters. Wherever they were, SPHP didn’t want Lupe alerting them to her presence. Five minutes of shrill Dingo barking action would be a dead give-away!
SPHP encouraged Lupe to stay reasonably close. A real danger lurked in the forest. Now and then, Lupe was coming to downed barbed wire fences. Whether the barbed wire was all part of one continuous fence, or several different fences, wasn’t clear and hardly mattered. SPHP tried to keep a close watch for this danger, made worse by the fact that it was often partially hidden by the snow. Lupe cooperatively allowed herself to be carried over each downed fence.
Lupe was approaching the N end of the Sweetwater Mountain plateau. She crossed a road going E/W in the forest. Only a little farther on, another road came this way from a snow-filled meadow off to the W, the first open ground Lupe had seen up on the plateau. Lupe got on this second snowy road, following it E. The mountain’s summit was still 0.33 mile away.
Where Lupe reached it, the road was very close to the high ground along the N edge of the mountain. Edward Earl had mentioned a secondary objective on Sweetwater Mountain, the Cambria survey benchmark. He’d written that he found it near a bright yellow wand on a hill. The benchmark itself had been among a pile of rocks, also spray-painted bright yellow.
From Earl’s description, the Cambria survey benchmark was well W of Sweetwater Mountain’s true summit. Lupe was probably already quite close to it. She should find it before reaching the summit. SPHP kept an eye out for the bright yellow wand. Lupe had hardly gone any distance on the snowy road at all, when there it was!
The yellow wand (a single metal fence post) was no longer as bright as it was 7.5 years ago when Edward Earl was here in May 2009, but it was still here. So were the now fading yellow rocks around the benchmark. Lupe found that even the Cambria survey benchmark itself had been spray-painted yellow.
Edward Earl had been right at this very spot! Now Lupe was here. Tragically, Earl had drowned in Alaska nearly 1.5 years ago while attempting to cross the Jago River N of the Arctic Circle. Lupe had been in Alaska for the first time only a few months ago on her fabulous Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation. SPHP was thinking such thoughts when, suddenly, there was a noise, an engine noise, approaching from the W.
The ATV! The hunters were coming! They were nearly here. Lupe would surely be spotted in the snowy open forest S of the road, yet she was pinned only a few feet from the near vertical drop-off along the N face of the mountain. Where to?
Quickly, Lupe and SPHP went E down a small slope to a depression along the N rim. The depression was a little farther from the road, and low enough to be barely out of sight. A moment later, the ATV could be heard going by. Lupe and SPHP caught only a glimpse of it, as the hunters drove off to the E. That had been a close one! By now, staying out of the hunters’ way had evolved into a game, a game Lupe had just narrowly avoided losing.
What now, though? The hunters were headed E out on the ridge protruding from the summit plateau. Soon they would reach the end of it. It seemed likely they would have to come back this way before too long. For 10 minutes, Lupe remained hidden at the depression, while SPHP listened for the ATV’s return, pondering her best course of action. In the meantime, Lupe certainly had a tremendous view to the N from here!
If Lupe had to hide out for a bit, this depression really was a good place to do it. Lupe could see both Inyan Kara(6,360 ft.), and even more distant Warren Peaks(6,650 ft.) on the N horizon. Beautiful western scenery was off to the NW, too. Lupe and SPHP were perfectly happy to take a little break right here.
After 10 minutes, the ATV and the hunters had not returned. What were they doing? Were the hunters on foot now? SPHP could hear nothing. Lupe gave no sign of hearing anything unusual either. Lupe couldn’t stay here forever. Cautiously, she started E along the N edge of the mountain looking for the true summit.
The terrain did gain some elevation going E. As Lupe approached the highest ground, two big bucks bounded away to the S. Like Lupe, they had been hiding along the very N edge of the mountain. If the hunters had been peakbaggers, too, they would have come right to them! How odd, and ironically funny!
Lupe arrived at the true summit of Sweetwater Mountain, so recently vacated by the two bucks. The summit was an unremarkable level area in the forest. For the most part, trees blocked the views.
Having now been to both the Cambria survey benchmark and the true summit of Sweetwater Mountain, Lupe could have just called the day a success and headed back to the G6. However, it was still relatively early. Over toward the NW end of the mountain the topo map showed High Point 6410, only a few tens of feet lower than the true summit. Maybe it would be fun for Lupe to see what was over there?
Lupe felt up to it. She left the true summit heading W. As she drew near her depression-with-a-view E of the Cambria benchmark, there was that noise again! An engine, somewhere to the W. How had the hunters gotten past Lupe way over there? Was there a second group of them? Better wait here again. Lupe and SPHP enjoyed the view to the N from the depression.
The engine noise faded. No hunters or ATV’s appeared. Lupe resumed her trek W, passing by the Cambria benchmark again. She was bold enough to follow the road W out into the big, snowy meadow.
On the far side of the meadow, Lupe took a side road NW back into the forest. She eventually abandoned this road to return to the N rim of the plateau. Lupe followed the N rim going W. She reached NW High Point 6410. It turned out to be just another nearly level area near the N rim where the forest blocked the view.
High Point 6410 hadn’t provided much excitement or drama. A little farther NW, the topo map showed a point along the plateau edge jutting out to the N. Lupe might as well continue on over there. Maybe she could get a view to the W?
Lupe continued NW. She reached the end of the N point. There was a view to the W, but she had to travel a little SW along the edge of the plateau to reach a place where there was enough of an opening in the forest to permit a reasonably clear look.
Lupe still hadn’t explored the W or S sides of Sweetwater Mountain. She would have done so, if there hadn’t been any hunters around. There hadn’t been any further sign of them lately, but maybe it was time to call it good. Lupe had done what she came to do.
So Lupe began her trek back to the G6. She stayed along the N rim of the plateau. Once again, she visited High Point 6410, the snowy meadow, the Cambria survey benchmark, and the true summit of Sweetwater Mountain along the way. She found a road that led E steeply down to the saddle between Sweetwater Mountain and High Point 6423.
At the saddle, Lupe turned S. Lupe and SPHP went through a gate in a barbed wire fence. Now Lupe was on open ground heading S down into a valley.
Lupe was in no rush. She had time to explore this valley. It wouldn’t take long to get to the G6. In fact, this route through the valley would have been a much more direct route to the summit than the one she had taken earlier in the day. The valley had some pretty sights. Lupe had a good time here.
No hunters or ATV’s ever made another appearance. After a pleasant trek down the valley, Lupe was back at the G6. Lupe’s adventures on Sweetwater Mountain were over. (1:54 PM, 32°F)
There were still a couple of hours of daylight left. Lupe took a roundabout way home. She stopped by Four Corners. A sign near the junction of US Hwy 85 and Wyoming Hwy 585 told of a stagecoach robbery back in the days of the Old West.Lupe and SPHP enjoyed a beautiful drive from Four Corners going first E on Mallo Road, then S on Beaver Creek Road. Lupe rode with her head out the window of the G6, happily barking with all her might at herds of cows and horses. At her last stop of the day, Lupe climbed a small hill overlooking LAK reservoir on Beaver Creek. The lake was nearly completely frozen over.
Soon after leaving LAK reservoir, Lupe was back in South Dakota. Her 2016 adventures in Wyoming were over. The Carolina Dog’s ascent of Sweetwater Mountain marked the successful conclusion of her fall of 2016 peakbagging tour of Black Hills and Bear Lodge Mountain peaks in NE Wyoming.
Cold weather was coming. For the next couple of months, Lupe’s opportunities for outdoor adventures might be limited. But, hey! Both her birthday and Christmas would be here soon. For high-spirited American Dingoes, there’s always another adventure of some sort right around the next bend!
Thank you to rancher Bart Roberts for granting Lupe and SPHP permission to enter his beautiful eastern Wyoming ranch to climb Sweetwater Mountain!
The sign said “Lunney”. This was it! Beyond a gravel parking area, SPHP opened a wire gate, then drove the G6 down a steep little slope, parking it next to an old building (8:49 AM, 48°F). SPHP closed the gate again. Lupe could come out now. She bounded out of the G6 expecting great things!
Lupe was in the Black Hills of Wyoming, about 5 miles S of the junction of Highways 85 & 585 at Four Corners. She had just seen Red Butte on the E side of Hwy 85 less than a half mile to the N. SPHP had been watching for the Lunney place, mentioned in a May, 2009 trip report by Edward Earl on Peakbagger.com.
The Lunney place was important as an access point to rancher Lauris Tysdal’s land and Mount Pisgah(6,380 ft.). Mount Pisgah was one of two peakbagging goals Lupe had in this vicinity. She already had Mr. Tysdal’s permission to cross his land to climb Mount Pisgah. Later in the day, Lupe and SPHP would be looking for the owner of the ranch where Sweetwater Mountain(6,440 ft.) was, hoping to get permission to climb it, too.
First things first, though. Before climbing Mount Pisgah, Lupe was going to go see Red Butte, a fin of red clay topped with a layer of limestone. Lupe and SPHP went N through a field just E of US Hwy 85. Red Butte was soon in view.
After a good look at Red Butte, Lupe and SPHP returned to the G6 where a dirt road on the Tysdal Ranch headed SE. This road would take Lupe all the way up to the top of Mount Pisgah.
The road took Lupe SE past an old, low building, then turned NE before reaching the trees. Lupe soon came to a fence across the road. The fence wasn’t mentioned in Edward Earl’s report. The Carolina Dog slipped under the fence. She stayed on the road, as it entered the forest and wound its way up a small canyon.
Coming out into more open ground again, Lupe could see the same rock formations Red Butte was made of evident along the NW side of the canyon.
Now and then, side roads left the road Lupe was following. She didn’t take any of the side roads, per Edward Earl’s advice. The main dirt road slowly turned ENE as it went up the canyon. For a while, the road looked like it was heading for a minor pass to the E. Instead, it made a sweeping curve to the S before reaching the pass.
The road grew steeper, and wound around quite a bit, but was generally heading S. Suddenly, Lupe dashed ahead. She was looking up into the forest to the SE. SPHP saw it, too. Not too far away, a large coyote was watching Lupe! As soon as it made eye contact with SPHP, it fled E into the forest. Lupe was disappointed that the wild dog didn’t want to be friends, but it was probably for the best.
Lupe reached an orange well pump mentioned by Edward Earl. By now, Lupe could see a tall tower up on the NW end of the huge Mount Pisgah summit plateau. Edward Earl’s trip report had mentioned that a tower shown on the topo map at the N end of Mount Pisgah was not there, but Lupe most definitely saw one. It was in plain sight.
By now, Lupe was fairly high up on the NW slope of Mount Pisgah. There were tree-broken views off to the N and W, but Lupe hadn’t come to any clear views.
From the orange hydrant, the road leveled out. It turned sharply E, passing below the steep N face of the mountain. Within a few minutes, Lupe came to a fetid brown pond in a depression S of the road. The pond was shrunken by drought. Hoof prints showed thirsty cattle had churned up the mud around the pond. Apparently, cattle aren’t overly concerned about water quality.
Beyond the nasty pond, the road swung toward the NNE before rounding the end of a narrow ridge extending in that direction from the summit plateau. The road then turned S along the less steep E face of Mount Pisgah. The forest was left behind. Lupe was out in grasslands. Here, she had a clear view to the E of the Black Hills in South Dakota across a valley several miles wide.
Another tower was visible ahead on top of the mountain, as Lupe followed the road S along the upper E slope. The road re-entered the forest, made a couple of switchbacks, and emerged on open ground up on the E side of the huge summit plateau.
Most of the plateau was grassland, but the N end was pine forest. Pines also ringed the edges of the plateau, cutting off the views, which was a little disappointing. Not just one, but three large towers were visible to the S, a little W of a stand of pines where the true summit of Mount Pisgah was hidden from view.
The road led toward the three large towers. Lupe went that way, but her top priority was to find the true summit of Mount Pisgah. Edward Earl had reported that the highest ground was somewhere under a cluster of young evergreens, along with no fewer than 8 concrete slabs with anchor bolts. The concrete footings were likely part of a structure that was started, but never completed.
W of the towers, Lupe slipped under a barbed wire fence running E/W that Edward Earl hadn’t mentioned. Not too far S of the fence, she found the concrete slabs with anchor bolts. The ground in this area was all quite level. There was no clear, exact, high point, but Lupe had reached the true summit of Mount Pisgah.
The cluster of young evergreens, wasn’t as young as it had been when Edward Earl was here nearly 7.5 years ago.
The true summit of Mount Pisgah wasn’t too exciting, really. Although the highest ground was quite close to the E edge of the summit plateau, there were too many trees around to see much of anything. With Lupe’s peakbagging goal accomplished, she left the summit to take a closer look at the towers.
To the SSE of the three towers was a battered old blue and yellow school bus. Due to broken glass on the ground, SPHP wouldn’t let Lupe get too close to it. SPHP gathered up a number of Lupe treasures someone had carelessly discarded near the bus.
Edward Earl had only mentioned one tower W of the summit, but now there were three. The two farthest to the N had new-looking concrete slabs for support, and new outbuildings near them. The N towers must have been installed after Mr. Earl had been to Mount Pisgah.
It doesn’t take a Carolina Dog long to look at a few towers! Lupe was soon ready to move on. Of course, she still had one tower left to check out, the one at the NW end of the summit plateau that she had seen from down by the orange hydrant.
Lupe and SPHP went N along the E edge of the summit plateau, hoping to catch an open view, but found none. Lupe then went NW to the road again on her way to the NW tower. A side road off the main dirt road went N into the forest. Near the N edge of the plateau, it turned W and took Lupe to the lone tower Edward Earl had somehow missed.
The NW tower had broken wires hanging off of it. Paint had peeled off much of the old shack next to it. However, a heater or air-conditioner on the NE side of the shack was running. How had Edward Earl missed this tower? It must have been here, as old as it appeared to be. Strange.
SPHP went over to the N edge of the summit plateau, hoping for a view. Lupe didn’t come. She was standing frozen near the shack. She looked like she does whenever she steps on a cactus. SPHP went back to her. Lupe held up a little front paw, pleading to be carried.
SPHP carried Lupe over to the edge of the plateau. Lupe rolled over on the ground, so SPHP could check her paws for cactus spines. Nothing. SPHP hadn’t seen any cactus anywhere on Mount Pisgah, either. Maybe Lupe had stepped on something else sharp? Ever since her bad experience with cactus in the Wildcat Hills of Nebraska, Lupe tends to assume cactus is everywhere any time her paws hurt.
Apparently, Lupe would have liked SPHP to carry her all the way back to the G6. She stopped several times on the way down the mountain. There really wasn’t anything wrong with her that SPHP could see. She always came running when SPHP got too far ahead.
Instead of taking the road back, Lupe and SPHP went down Mount Pisgah’s NW slope. A power line went down this way, too. Most of the time Lupe stayed within sight of it.
Surprisingly, although Lupe hadn’t found any clear views from the edge of the summit plateau on top of the mountain, coming down the NW slope, she did! Red Butte and Sweetwater Mountain(6,440 ft.), Lupe’s next peakbagging objective, were both in view from several spots on the way down.
The NW slope was steep until Lupe reached a road after losing 200 to 300 feet of elevation. Lupe took the road SW a short distance to the edge of a small meadow where it looked like there might be a view.
The meadow turned out to be part of a much more extensive grassland. Lupe did have a great view to the SW.
Lupe went through the grassland, and continued on down the NW slope of Mount Pisgah. Down here, it wasn’t so steep. Most of the time Lupe was in forest, but a forest full of small openings and glens. Lupe’s route down was an easy one.
The American Dingo eventually reached the road she had followed to the top of Mount Pisgah down in the canyon. She followed it back to the Lunney place, which was only 10 or 15 minutes away (12:25 PM, 55°F).
The G6 was already up on the gravel parking area on the Lunney place with Lupe in it, and SPHP was just closing the gate to Lauris Tysdal’s land, when a jeep drove up. Mr. Lunney was in it, somewhat surprised, no doubt, to find Lupe and SPHP on the property.
SPHP explained how Lupe had come to be here. Mr. Lunney seemed satisfied with the explanation. He began to tell SPHP a little bit about the history of the Lunney place. His grandparents had bought the property, which includes over 8 acres of land with the house and outbuildings, back in the 1940’s. In recent years, it had belonged to his mother, but she passed away earlier this year.
Mr. Lunney has another home, so this Lunney property is eventually going to be sold, although exactly when wasn’t clear. There was no big rush to sell it. Having been in the family so many decades, Mr. Lunney has a lot of fond memories of this place.
Lupe still had another peakbagging objective today. After SPHP’s pleasant chat with Mr. Lunney, it was time to go look for the owner of the ranch that Sweetwater Mountain is on. The ranch wasn’t far away, but the owner didn’t seem to be home. Without permission from the owner, Lupe couldn’t climb Sweetwater Mountain.
SPHP was writing a note to leave on the door of the rancher’s home, when the owner drove up on an ATV. SPHP had a conversation with him. The upshot of it all was that Lupe was refused permission to climb Sweetwater Mountain. However, when hunting season is over at the end of November, she is welcome to come back to climb it in December.
Well, that was that. No Sweetwater Mountain today. Lupe still had a few hours of daylight to do something with. In the end, it was decided she might just as well climb Laird Peak(6,906 ft.) N of O’Neil Pass in South Dakota. Laird Peak wasn’t a hard climb at all, and was on the way home.
Lupe and SPHP left the G6 parked S of a corral about 0.33 mile N of Hwy 85 along USFS Road No. 106 (2:35 PM, 48°F). Lupe took a dirt road E up a shallow valley past Tom Spring. The road reached an intersection at the upper end of the valley. From there, Lupe bushwhacked E along the N side of a fence to a small forested rise. She found the Laird Peak survey benchmark on top of the rise.
Climbing Laird Peak had been quick and easy. Lupe had no more peakbagging to do. It was only around 3:00 PM, but the November sun was already quite low. It would be dark in another 2 hours.
Since it would only take half an hour to get back to the G6, Lupe had some free time to roam and sniff. She had no real purpose other than to enjoy life as a free-roaming Dingo in the woods. Lupe and SPHP wandered through the forest. The Carolina Dog made a big loop to the N, before returning to Laird Peak’s summit. She then made a big loop to the S, getting fairly close to US Hwy 85.
Sharply slanting pine-filtered rays of sunlight announced the imminent arrival of sunset. Time to start back to the G6. Lupe’s Black Hills Expedition No. 182 was drawing to a close. Happily, she’d made it to Mount Pisgah in Wyoming, one of her two main peakbagging objectives, and Laird Peak in South Dakota, but Sweetwater Mountain had eluded her.
Hopefully, sweet Lupe will see the world from the top of Sweetwater Mountain sometime in December, but life’s uncertain, and that’s another adventure for another day.
Well, Loopster, it’s all been kind of leading up to this lately. Don’t know if you are going to meet with any success today or not, but we’re at least going to try it.
Lupe wasn’t worried. She wasn’t paying any attention to SPHP at all. The eastern sky was just beginning to get light, but she could see cows, lots of big, beautiful, black cows, in the pastures along I90. The cow-crazed American Dingo was busy barking for all she was worth. A little later on, NW of Sundance along Hwys 14 & 24, there were herds of deer to entertain her, too.
Wyoming Hwy 24 goes right past America’s very first national monument. Lupe’s first stop of the day was a quick one to see Devil’s Tower(5,112 ft.). Not a soul was around early on a Sunday morning in November. The sun’s first rays struck the tower while Lupe was there to see it.
Lupe and SPHP didn’t go into the national monument. Devil’s Tower is one peak Lupe is never going to bag unless she sprouts Dingo Wings. However, with a little luck, she was going to get to see the top of it today! After a good look at Devil’s Tower, Lupe and SPHP continued N on Hwy 24.
On 3 consecutive Black Hills Expeditions to the Bear Lodge Mountains, Lupe had seen distant views of both Devil’s Tower and the Missouri Buttes from a variety of vantage points. They are the most famous and dramatic landmarks in the entire NE Wyoming region. Although climbing Devil’s Tower was completely out of the question for the Carolina Dog, she was here now to try her luck climbing the Missouri Buttes(5,374 ft.).
SPHP had good reasons to believe Lupe might not make it. There are actually 4 separate buttes in the Missouri Buttes cluster. All are located within an area covering no more than 2 square miles about 4 miles NW of Devil’s Tower. The problem was, all of the Missouri Buttes are on private land. Lupe’s first hurdle was to find and secure permission from the landowner to enter the owner’s private property.
Even if permission could be secured to access the private property, there was another big problem. The only information SPHP found online about climbing Missouri Buttes was a trip report by PanamaRed on SummitPost.org indicating there was Class 3 & 4 scrambling with some exposure near the top of the highest NW Missouri Butte. Lupe and SPHP are up for some light Class 3, but anything approaching Class 4 just wasn’t going to happen.
Three miles N of Devil’s Tower junction, Lupe and SPHP left Highway 24 on Barlow Canyon Road. The gravel road crossed the Belle Fourche River, went a mile N, and then turned W.
SPHP wasn’t certain where to go, but wound up at the Lake Guest Ranch headquarters located near the NW end of Missouri Buttes Lake. Even though it was early on a Sunday morning, SPHP received a friendly reception from a couple of ranch hands. The ranch owner was available to talk to!
SPHP was invited in to talk to the owner. The Lake Guest Ranch HQ was a pretty cool place inside. SPHP was hopeful. When SPHP explained to the owner why Lupe was here – to seek permission to climb the Missouri Buttes, the response was polite, but firm. The answer was no. The owner’s insurance wouldn’t allow it, it was hunting season and dangerous, etc.
The negative response was devastating! Well, not devastating – there are plenty of mountains in the world Lupe can climb – but it was disappointing. That was that, though, nothing could be done about it. Lupe wasn’t going to get to climb the Missouri Buttes. Until …
Until the Lake Guest Ranch owner said that he didn’t even own the land the 2 highest Missouri Buttes are on. Didn’t own the land?! Who did? It was part of the Nuckoll ranch. His neighbor J.W. Nuckoll owns the land came the response. SPHP was given a phone number for the Nuckoll ranch.
Back in the G6, SPHP tried the phone number. A recording, but no response. Hmmm. Didn’t we pass a sign or something for the Nuckoll ranch on the way here, Loop? I think we did.
Not sure, SPHP. Unless it was branded on the side of a cow, I wouldn’t have noticed!
Lupe and SPHP drove off from the Lake Guest Ranch looking for the Nuckoll ranch. Along Barlow Canyon Road, there it was. A mailbox said Nuckoll, and an old building nearby said something about Nuckoll sheep and wool. This was it! A driveway led more than a mile S into a side canyon before ending at two houses. A sign on the first one said J.W. & Thea Nuckoll.
J.W. was an old-timer. He was on oxygen, but was friendly when SPHP met him. SPHP explained why Lupe was here. J.W. said he had climbed the Missouri Buttes himself. He had even climbed Devil’s Tower! That was good, that was very good. Surely he would understand?
He did! Mr. Nuckoll agreed to let Lupe and SPHP climb the Missouri Buttes. He had even more good news. When SPHP asked how difficult a climb it was, Mr. Nuckoll told SPHP about a trail to the top of the highest NW Missouri Butte. That sounded great! SPHP then asked about the NE Missouri Butte, too. Mr. Nuckoll said it was even possible to ride a horse to the top of the NE butte. Lupe would have no problem! SPHP thanked Mr. Nuckoll, and went off to tell Lupe the good news.
In just a few minutes, Lupe was on her way (8:51 AM, 53°F)! The first part of the hike started farther along the driveway, beyond the two houses. For a short distance, Lupe was on a road continuing up the little canyon. There were lots of cows around. Lupe and SPHP climbed a forested slope heading SSW to avoid them. Up above, Lupe arrived at the edge of a huge gently sloping field. The highest NW Missouri Butte(5,374 ft.) was already in view!
The somewhat lower NEMissouri Butte(5,212 ft.) is closer to Devil’s Tower, and wasn’t any farther away than the highest NW Butte. Lupe and SPHP decided to go for the NE Missouri Butte first. Even though the SE end of the butte looked the most rugged, Lupe went over to take a look at it, and see if Devil’s Tower was in view.
The SE end of the NE Missouri Butte was quite steep and rocky, but it didn’t look impossible to climb up from here. However, Lupe had already seen that the NW end of the butte was definitely easier. Lupe and SPHP went back around to the NW end, where Lupe made her ascent.
Slippery pine needles on a moderately steep slope were about all Lupe had to contend with going up. Before long, Lupe was at the true summit of the NE Missouri Butte, which proved to be near the SE end of the ridge. An old wooden cross was sticking up from a summit cairn near some of the highest rocks. The panoramic views toward the E were spectacular!
Of course, Devil’s Tower was the most striking landmark in view. Much farther away, Warren Peaks(6,650 ft.) and Inyan Kara(6,360 ft.) could be seen, too, although they didn’t show up all that well in the morning haze. Long pine-covered ridges with yellow cliffs, and the Belle Fourche River valley were off to the NE. To the W, Lupe could see her next peakbagging goal, the NW butte, which is highest of all the Missouri Buttes.
Lupe and SPHP took a break up on NE Missouri Butte. The views were really awesome. It was so wonderful that Mr. Nuckoll had granted Lupe permission to come and see this unique scene. Lupe could see the top of Devil’s Tower from here!
After 45 minutes spent enjoying the summit of the NE Missouri Butte, it was time for Lupe to go see if she could find the trail Mr. Nuckoll spoke of leading to the top of the highest NW Missouri Butte. Lupe went down the W slope of the NE Missouri Butte, and crossed the saddle over to the NW butte.
A big gash was visible on the NE side of the NW Missouri Butte, but it looked mighty steep and straight. Mr. Nuckoll had spoken of the trail up the butte making a sharp turn. SPHP didn’t think Lupe should try going up that NE gash. It didn’t look like there was any way a trail could make a sharp turn from there.
The post by PanamaRed on SummitPost.org didn’t say what route he had taken to the top, but SPHP had the impression from photos PanamaRed posted that he had climbed up from the NW. If that led to Class 3 & 4 scrambling, Lupe wouldn’t succeed in going up that way either.
Lupe started up the NW Missouri Butte from a boulder field at the base of the N face.
Lupe climbed up beyond the boulders into a zone of trees and bushes. It was steep going, but still doable. The worst part was the incredible number of low thorny bushes. They didn’t seem to bother Lupe, but SPHP had to watch carefully before grabbing on to anything.
When Lupe reached the base of the cliff, she worked her way to the W, still climbing steeply all the way among trees and thorny bushes. Her route led toward a couple of large rock protrusions sticking out to the N. About the time she got close to the first big rock formation, Lupe reached some steep grassy ground above most of the trees and thorny bushes.
It looked like there was a route continuing W (R) up a channel between rock formations. How high up this route went was difficult to see, although it looked like it might be possible to make a sharp turn to the E (L) near the top. Maybe that was the way to go? While pondering, SPHP suddenly realized Lupe was already on a very faint trail. The barely discernable trail went steeply up a ramp toward the E (L) from here.
Maybe it was best to check out the ramp first? The ramp went up to a high point where sunlight could be seen. May as well see what was on the other side of that high point, before attempting to negotiate the rocky channel.
The ramp was a relatively easy climb. In just a few minutes, Lupe and SPHP were at the top.
Devil’s Tower and the NE Missouri Butte, where Lupe had just been, were both in view from the top of the ramp. Peering S around the corner to the NE side of the butte, SPHP was surprised and pleased to see that the ramp continued. It leveled out quite a bit as it traversed the NE face of the butte.
The ramp’s continuation was an easy walk, but didn’t go very far. It soon ended at place where a few rocky steps up brought Lupe onto the moderately sloping NE part of the summit area. The good news was that Lupe was almost to the top! A short walk through a forest of junipers would take her to the summit of the highest NW Missouri Butte. Her peakbagging success was assured!
The bad news was that Lupe’s nemesis was here, too, in great profusion! The first thing SPHP saw upon gaining the summit area was cactus. Lots of big cacti clusters were scattered around. Lupe would have to be carried the rest of the way to the true summit.
So, Lupe wound up being toted the last 150 feet to the true summit of the highest NW Missouri Butte. She took her summit break there, under strict orders not to move around. She wanted to be where SPHP was anyway, so it all worked out fine.
PanamaRed had posted a photo of the Missouri Buttes USGS survey benchmark, but at first SPHP didn’t see it. A brief search revealed it partially hidden by a bush along the very NW edge of the summit, a little way W of the highest rocks.
The best views from the NW Missouri Butte in the vicinity of the true summit were the panoramic views to the W and N. Junipers blocked the views in other directions. Even though the air was rather hazy, it was still possible to see the outline of the Bighorn Mountains to the W. Off to the NW and N, there was nothing higher than NW Missouri Butte anywhere in sight.
After 25 or 30 minutes relaxing near the true summit, it was time to explore the SW part of the summit area, which was hidden by juniper trees. SPHP had to carry Lupe for fear of the cacti, but she didn’t mind getting a free ride. From the SW end of the summit area, it was possible to see the Lake Guest Ranch HQ and Missouri Butte Lake.
Lupe also had a clear view of the 2 lower S Missouri Buttes.
Lupe and SPHP returned to the summit for a final look around. Lupe then got carried back down to the NE end of the summit area near the start of the ramp. Before taking the ramp down, Lupe checked out the views from this end of NW Missouri Butte.
Lupe took the ramp all the way back down to its beginning on the steep grassy slope near the large rock protrusions where SPHP first noticed the very faint trail. Now that it was clear there actually was a trail, it was possible to see it continuing on down the mountain.
The trail went down to a much larger boulder field than the one Lupe had crossed coming up. This area was well to the W of the area of trees and thorny bushes below the cliff Lupe had been in earlier. Lupe went all the way down the boulder field, passed through a couple of stands of trees, and reached the pasture below the N face of NW Missouri Butte.
From near a stock pond, it was possible to get a good look at the best route up the mountain.
Lupe had climbed both the highest Missouri Buttes. Her Expedition No. 181 was an unqualified peakbagging success! However, there was still a lot of daylight left. Why not go take another look from the top of the NE Missouri Butte? A few hours had gone by, and the sun would be shining from another angle. There was only a little bit of cactus up there that SPHP had seen at the far SE end. Lupe could avoid it easily.
Lupe was fine with going back up. So once again, she climbed the W slope and then followed the summit ridge SE to the top of the NE Missouri Butte. With the afternoon sun now lighting up the near side of Devil’s Tower, the view was even better than earlier in the day.
Lupe and SPHP spent another 30 beautiful minutes up on the NE Missouri Butte. Then it was time to call it a day. SPHP had told Mr. Nuckoll that it would be great to get a chance to talk to him some more when Lupe returned from Missouri Buttes. It was probably best to get there well before the Nuckolls wanted to have their supper.
Lupe left NE Missouri Butte for the 2nd and final time. She liked crossing the huge, wide open pasture, and going through the forest on the way back. Before long, she was back at the Nuckoll’s house (3:26 PM, 55°F).
No one was around. SPHP checked both homes, but there was no one to thank for the wonderful day Lupe had on the Missouri Buttes. No telling where the Nuckolls had gone, or when they might return. SPHP left a note in the door.
Fog! Must be just a ground fog, though. Stars could still be seen above. With any luck at all, we’ll drive out of it, Loop. Lupe whined. She couldn’t see them, but she could smell ’em. Cows were hidden out there in the foggy darkness! The Carolina Dog barked, leaping from window to window trying to catch sight of them.
On the way up to Warren Peaks, the G6 did emerge from the fog. Lupe was going to get to see sunrise from the highest point in the Bear Lodge Mountains after all!
It was cool and a bit windy when Lupe arrived up on Warren Peaks(6,650 ft.) (7:18 AM, 38°F). For almost the end of October, conditions were actually exceptionally nice. Off to the ENE, Lupe could see a thin layer of very low clouds. That had to be part of the fog she’d gone through to get here. To the W, the Bear Lodge Mountains were acting like a dam, holding back a sea of more substantial low clouds.
Lupe and SPHP watched the sunrise develop. Just for fun, Lupe took a little stroll down to a slightly lower hill SE of the fire tower.
Lupe returned to the summit of Warren Peaks. Sunrise was taking longer than anticipated. The sun was above the horizon, but obscured by clouds. SPHP was still interested in watching the display, but Lupe was ready for action!
This was Lupe’s third expedition in a row to the Bear Lodge Mountains in NE Wyoming. Once again, she had 3 peakbagging goals for the day. The first one was Bull Hill, only a mile N of Warren Peaks.
When SPHP finally quit dawdling watching the sunrise, Lupe and SPHP drove N on USFS Road No. 838. Before going to Bull Hill, SPHP wanted to check out a viewpoint a short distance NW of Warren Peaks, the same viewpoint where Lupe had seen Devils Tower and Missouri Buttes in twilight at the end of the day on Expedition No. 179. Now that it was morning, maybe it would be possible to get a clearer view? (7:49 AM, 38°F)
Heh. No view at all. The white sea of low clouds trapped to the W of the Bear Lodge Mountains blanketed all of the territory in that direction. Lupe and SPHP went on. SPHP parked the G6 near the intersection of USFS Roads No. 838 and No. 847 (8:06 AM, 38°F).
Getting to Bull Hill(6,394 ft.) was easy. Lupe trotted E down USFS Road No. 847 to a side road with a Bull Hill Road sign. She followed Bull Hill Road around the N side of a forested ridge, then SE up the Whitetail Creek valley. Bull Hill Road curved E, going up and over a saddle. At the saddle, Lupe was directly S of Bull Hill. She left the road, climbing up a pasture to the open forest at the top of the mountain.
Lupe and SPHP explored the top of Bull Hill. Toward the E was a nice view of Crow Peak(5,787 ft.) in South Dakota, but Lupe had just seen essentially the same view from even higher Warren Peaks. After a short stay on Bull Hill, Lupe headed back to the G6 (9:31 AM, 45°F).
Lupe’s next peakbagging goal, Ragged Top, was back to the S a few miles, not really all that far away. After a short drive, SPHP parked the G6 at the intersection of USFS Road No. 838 and an unmarked road on the E side of No. 838. (This intersection is a few hundred feet N of the start of No. 838.1B on the W side of No. 838, and marked as 6,374 ft. elevation on the Peakbagger.com topo map.)
To get to Ragged Top(6,260 ft.), Lupe didn’t really have to gain any elevation at all. In fact, she would lose a little on the way there. Ragged Top is the high point at the SW end of a mile long ridge. The G6 was already parked near the higher NE end of the ridge. Lupe cut through the forest on the W side of USFS Road No. 838 to reach No. 838.1B. She followed the road SW toward Ragged Top.
USFS Road No. 838.1B ended at a meadow at a high point. Lupe was more than half way to Ragged Top, but would have to do some bushwhacking from here. American Dingoes are great at bushwhacking! Lupe descended into a saddle leading to a lower forested hill along the ridge.
The saddle area was forested, too. What’s more, the forest floor was densely carpeted with low juniper bushes. Lupe found easier traveling over less vegetated ground along the SE side of the ridge. When Lupe climbed up the forested hill on the SW side of the saddle, she reached the first significant rock outcroppings.
From here on, the now undulating ridge to Ragged Top was much narrower than before. Lupe passed by, or went over, several more rock formations along the way. The last part of the ridge turned S as Lupe approached the final high point – the small summit known as Ragged Top. Soon Lupe was surveying the situation from the top of Ragged Top.
The best views were actually from rocks farther S where the ridge ended. Lupe could see both Inyan Kara(6,360 ft.) and Sundance Mountain(5,824 ft.) beyond a bank of clouds sneaking out to the E from the sea of clouds to the W.
Lupe was still at the S viewpoint, when a sudden loud explosion echoed up from the valley below! Gunfire! Lupe ran to SPHP. That was it for the photo session. More gunfire rang out every few minutes. No way Lupe was letting SPHP get more than a foot away. The final photo of the Ragged Top summit, taken from the S, had to be Lupe-less.
Lupe had made it to Ragged Top, but she didn’t want to be there now! With gunfire going on sporadically, all she wanted to do was hide. Time to get the Carolina Dog out of here! SPHP led the way back to the G6.
When Lupe reached the forested saddle again, she decided to slink along hidden pathways between the low juniper bushes that dominated the forest floor. In this manner, she slunk along all by herself clear up to the edge of the meadow where USFS Road No. 838.1B had ended. As far as the American Dingo was concerned, her slinking worked just fine! Lupe didn’t get shot. Not even once.
At the meadow, Lupe and SPHP took a break. Lupe curled up on SPHP’s lap, so SPHP could pet her and hold her. This was most reassuring. It certainly helped that the gunfire stopped, too. Lupe and SPHP shared a chocolate coconut granola bar. Things were looking up! Things were also looking like a mess. SPHP noticed Lupe treasures scattered along the edge of the forest.
Cleanup ensued. As Lupe and SPHP continued back to the G6, more Lupe treasures were encountered, this time in the form of empty shotgun shells. By the time Lupe was back at the G6 (12:07 PM, 55°F), she had two grocery sacks full of treasures.
Lupe had one more peakbagging goal for Expedition No. 180, but it was a long way N from here. On the way, Lupe and SPHP stopped again (12:15 PM, 55°F) at the viewpoint NW of Warren Peaks where she had seen Devils Tower(5,112 ft.) and Missouri Buttes(5,374 ft.) a week ago.
The clouds were gone! Devils Tower and Missouri Buttes were in view to the NW. The air was rather hazy, but it was much easier to see them now than at sundown last week.
Lupe had a great time in the G6 traveling N to start her journey to her 3rd and final peakbagging goal of the day. She rode with her head out the window, with the wind in her face. She saw lots of deer in the forest, plus cows to bark at near Hwy 24.
When SPHP finally parked the G6 (1:17 PM, 61°F) again, Lupe recognized this place. She had been here before. She was at the intersection of Planting Spring Road (USFS Road No. 881.1) and USFS Road No. 830. Two weeks ago on Expedition No. 178, she had stumbled onto this junction on her way to Bald Mountain(4,800 ft.). Now it was the starting point for her journey to Lone Tree Hill(4,600 ft.).
The first part of Lupe’s route to Lone Tree Hill she had already been on before. Lupe and SPHP set out going WNW on USFS Road No. 881.1. Almost right away, Lupe passed by a rather elaborate tent and camper setup on the N side of the road. Several guys planning on going deer hunting occupied the camp.
Once past the hunters, Lupe had a blast running around in the woods along No. 881.1. She made good time to the intersection with USFS Road No. 881.1A, which leads to Bald Mountain. Lupe did not take the turn to Bald Mountain, staying instead on No. 881.1. The road quickly turned N.
No. 881.1 eventually angled NW for a while. When it finally turned W, Lupe could see sky between trees at the far end of a slight rise ahead. Lupe was about to reach the W edge of the large flat ridge she had been traveling along. Lone Tree Hill(4,600 ft.) was supposed to be off to the NW beyond the edge of the ridge. Would she be able to see it?
The Peakbagger.com topo map showed No. 881.1 ending (near elevation 4,768 ft.) before reaching the edge of the ridge. The road didn’t actually end. Instead, it curved SW on its way down to a somewhat lower area. Lupe and SPHP left the road. Lupe went W through the forest, and up the slight rise.
Lupe arrived at the edge of a N/S running line of small cliffs. There weren’t any discernable breaks in the cliff line. Due to the forest, the only relatively clear view was off toward the SW, where Lupe could see Devils Tower and Missouri Buttes on the far horizon.
It was hard to see between the trees, but there did seem to be a large hill off to the NW where Lone Tree Hill should be. That had to be it! Lone Tree Hill appeared to be poorly named. Although some of the slopes below the line of rock at the summit were bare or sparsely forested, there were plenty of trees on Lone Tree Hill.
Aptly named or not, from a distance Lone Tree Hill looked like an easy climb. There was one problem, though. Lone Tree Hill stood off by itself a mile NW of the ridge Lupe was on. How could Lupe get safely down off these cliffs to cross the low ground between here and there?
The topo map showed only one semi-promising route nearby. A ravine to the NE trended W to the lower ground Lupe needed to reach. SPHP hesitated. No. 881.1 had turned SW where Lupe had left it, heading down toward lower territory, too. Maybe the road would take Lupe safely down below the cliffs? That might be a lot easier than bushwhacking through a steep ravine!
Lupe and SPHP left the cliff edge to return to No. 881.1. Once there, Lupe followed it SW. The road lost some elevation, but then started to level out and turn S. It looked like it was going to continue S, staying above a band of cliffs. Hmmm. Not good. Lupe left the road briefly, entering a small ravine leading W. No dice. The ravine quickly cliffed out. The drop was only 15 or 20 feet. Didn’t matter, it may as well have been 10 times that much.
OK. The ravine to the NE really was the only reasonable possibility. Of course, there must be other routes, but they would all be significantly longer. Lupe had made good time getting to the cliffs. Even so, it was late enough in the day so the amount of time left before sunset was something to keep in mind. The afternoon was clouding up. It wouldn’t be a good idea to still be wandering around in a trackless forest trying to find and bushwhack back up a steep ravine after dark, especially with no moon or stars to help stay oriented.
Better get a move on! Lupe and SPHP headed back up the road. Lupe regained all her lost elevation, before leaving the road again to go try the ravine to the NE. The ravine started out fine. Gradually, Lupe lost elevation again. She found an animal trail to follow. Rock formations appeared on the slopes of the ravine, but Lupe didn’t come to any cliffs on the way W.
The NE ravine route worked! Lupe lost over 400 feet of elevation. She found herself safely down in a tall grove of white-barked aspens where the ground leveled out. She was actually having a great time exploring this remote forest. SPHP was confident Lupe was going to successfully climb Lone Tree Hill now!
Lupe had been going W down the ravine. Now it was time to turn NW. The tall aspens gave way to a forest of scrub oak. Lupe romped around among fallen leaves looking for squirrels in the oak trees. She found several squirrels, much to her delight and the squirrels’ annoyance. Sometimes scrub oaks grow in dense clusters, but this forest was more open than that. It wasn’t hard to move around. Lupe was making great progress again.
Lupe turned N upon reaching a long saddle leading to Lone Tree Hill’s S ridge. By climbing the S ridge, Lupe could get to the lower E end of Lone Tree Hill’s summit ridge. As Lupe progressed along the saddle, she encountered areas of open ground interspersed between stands of forest.
Lupe reached the S ridge. Her climb up Lone Tree Hill was about to begin in earnest. She immediately encountered a new obstacle. The scrub oak forest was now behind her, and the S ridge leading up was all pine forest. At least it had been. The pine forest was devastated!
A tangle of dead trees, most laying perpendicular to Lupe’s route, was blocking the way forward. It looked like a tornado had hit this place! The trunks of many trees had simply snapped.
Progress became excruciatingly slow, as Lupe and SPHP struggled over, under, and around the deadfall timber. Fortunately, the S ridge wasn’t very long. Lupe only had to gain 200 feet of elevation to reach the lower E end of Lone Tree Hill’s summit ridge. This was taking forever, though! SPHP started to worry about how much time was going by.
Slowly, ever so slowly, Lupe and SPHP picked a way up through the shattered forest. “Lone Tree” Hill, indeed! If, only! That “Lone Tree” term had been used rather loosely, hadn’t it? As in, “Lone Tree” means less than 10,000 trees. Silly SPHP had been expecting like, maybe, one tree – perhaps a few more, if one counted little trees springing up around the big one. Not this! Who had named this place, anyway? Must have been an Indian 300 years ago. The name hadn’t been justified in at least that long.
As Lupe starting getting close to the E ridge, the deadfall gradually diminished. Then, finally, she was out of it. Hallelujah! Lupe reached the lower E end of Lone Tree Hill’s summit ridge. The top of the mountain was in view not too far to the W.
Lupe started making good progress again. She headed for the higher W portion of Lone Tree Hill’s summit ridge. Near the top, she encountered more deadfall timber. The deadfall slowed SPHP down, but not Lupe. Lupe went straight to the top of the mountain. She had made it! Lupe stood on the summit of Lone Tree Hill.
The true summit of Lone Tree Hill was a bit W of where Lupe had come up. The mountain featured a band of rock and very small cliffs along the S edge of the summit ridge. Views toward the S were generally quite good. By moving around the summit, it was possible to see a long way in almost any direction.
The far W end of the summit ridge was a bit lower than the rest of it, but had hardly any trees. Lupe had a 270° panoramic view from here! It was a great place to take a break, and celebrate Lupe’s final peakbagging success of the day.
Lupe and SPHP shared water and chocolate coconut granola bars. Lupe had her Taste of the Wild. SPHP consumed an apple. The sun was getting lower, but Lupe would have time to get back to the road before dark. Actually, it was getting hard to even tell where the sun was. The sky, which had been at least partly sunny and blue in the morning, was now a boring, indistinct, gray smudge in almost every direction.
Lupe lingered on Lone Tree Hill as long as possible. Best to enjoy the moment! Lone Tree Hill was the type of small peakbagging objective that Lupe might well never ever return to again. It was sort of far from home, sort of hard to get to, and there are higher and more dramatic places to go.
Yet, being on Lone Tree Hill was great! The sweeping views of the wide open spaces, forested hills, and long dark ridges of remote NE Wyoming were wonderful. And even if the pine trees weren’t alone on Lone Tree Hill, Lupe and SPHP were. The solitude and serenity was unbroken, except by the distant mooing of cattle and occasional twittering of small birds. Lone Tree Hill was good for the spirit.
As it always does, the time came to start for home. No devastated S ridge for Lupe this time, though! It would be much easier to head right on down the mostly barren S slope of the mountain from the W end of the summit ridge. Lupe was ready. The return trip was something to look forward to, too!
The busy American Dingo made the most of the return trip. She stopped frequently on her way down the mountain to scan the scene below. She streaked across meadows, sniffed around in forests, barked at squirrels, saw some deer, found and climbed back up the ravine onto the big ridge, ultimately returning to USFS Road No. 881.1. She traveled the road in fading light, as the forest darkened and grew more mysterious around her.
The deer hunters were in their big tent, talking and laughing, when Lupe passed by again. Brightly glowing light escaped the tent at various openings. Smoke drifted out a black smokestack. Sounded like good times going on inside.
The hunters didn’t see the American Dingo trot by. She was almost to the G6 (6:09 PM, 54°F), her day’s adventures nearly over, destined for a long ride home to a late Alpo dinner, warm bed, and sweet dreams of a day spent alive and free in the Bear Lodge Mountains of Wyoming.
Note: Lupe treasures gathered on Black Hills, WY Expedition No. 180 included 19 aluminum cans, 9 plastic bottles, 3 glass bottles, 48 shotgun shells.
Hah! How’s this for peakbagging the easy way, Loop? SPHP turned off the engine. The G6 was parked at the base of the Warren Peaks fire lookout tower (8:23 AM, 38°F). Lupe was already at the top of the mountain. Feels like cheating, doesn’t it? We didn’t have to do a thing. Come on, Looper, lets take a look around! Lupe was out of the G6 like a shot.
A light S breeze was blowing. Clear skies and another unseasonably warm October day. The panoramic views were terrific. The Warren Peaks(6,656 ft.) fire lookout tower is atop the highest point in the Bear Lodge Mountains in NE Wyoming. Lupe gazed out over miles and miles of high prairie far beyond the mountains.
When the light is right and the air is clear, you can see all the way to the Bighorn Mountains from here Loop! The light wasn’t right. A bit of haze was in the air. Oh, well.
Although Lupe was back to continue her peakbagging adventures in the Bear Lodge Mountains, Warren Peaks(6,656 ft.) wasn’t really one of her prime peakbagging goals for Expedition No. 179. Lupe had been here twice before. Warren Peaks was just a great viewpoint from which to start the day, conveniently located on the way to other objectives she’d never been to before.
Before leaving this terrific vantage point, SPHP stared off to the N trying to pick out Vision Peak(4,812 ft.) or Bald Mountain(4,800 ft.), where Lupe had been adventuring a week ago. Nothing really stood out that SPHP could positively identify. Neither did any of today’s objectives. Most of the Bear Lodge Mountains just aren’t that rugged.
Lupe and SPHP left Warren Peaks headed N on USFS Road No. 838. At 9:04 AM (39°F), Lupe was leaping out of the G6 again, this time at the junction of USFS Roads No. 849 and 849.1A. Lupe had two peakbagging objectives nearby. They were two summits called the Black Hills. (Not to be confused with the entire Black Hills range, which is hard not to do, since the identical names make it plenty confusing.)
Lupe set off for the Black Hills (East)(5,229 ft.) summit first, climbing toward the S in territory W of the N ridge. At first, she encountered thickets of brush and small trees in a forest of mixed pine and aspen. As Lupe gained elevation, the pines prevailed and most of the smaller stuff disappeared. The terrain was unusually lumpy. Lupe went up a series of small rises separated by little ravines or low spots. Deer seemed to like this area, and Lupe saw quite a few of them.
The Black Hills (East) summit ridge runs roughly NW/SE. Lupe reached a lower part of the ridgeline a bit WNW of a protruding rock outcropping of yellowish tan limestone, or perhaps sandstone. This rock formation proved to be quite level on top, and runs the entire length of the summit ridge, which was hundreds of feet long. Toward the SW, the rocks form a line of small cliffs.
From the NW end of the Black Hills (East) summit ridge, Lupe could see Black Hills (West)(5,323 ft.). Black Hills (West) is almost 100 feet higher than Black Hills (East). Lupe would be going over there next, but not until she finished exploring Black Hills (East).
Lupe and SPHP traveled SE along the entire length of the Black Hills (East) summit ridge, staying near the line of cliffs. Forest effectively hid the views in every direction, other than SW from the cliffs. Even looking SW, higher forested ridges only a mile or two away were as far as Lupe could see.
Close to the SE end of the Black Hills E summit ridge, a small pine tree was perched near the edge of the cliffs. Ponderosa pines can grow in some of the most amazing places. The little tree looked like it was growing straight out of the rocks!
The Black Hills (East) summit ridge was long, on the order of 800 feet long. Having traveled the entire length of the ridge near the cliffs, it was time for Lupe to look for the true summit. Since the entire area was quite flat, there wasn’t going to be any one easily identifiable point.
Although there was only a slight elevation difference, the highest area Lupe could find on Black Hills (East) seemed to be back closer to the middle of the summit ridge. A somewhat elevated area was 50 to 100 feet NE of the cliffs. This high ground was covered by a dense thicket of scrub oak trees. Lupe had no views at all from here!
Having achieved her first peakbagging success of the day at Black Hills (East), it was time for Lupe to head for Black Hills (West). To get there, she first had to go back down to the G6.
Lupe roughly retraced the same route she had taken up. The many deer held Lupe’s attention much of the time, but she also found an interesting column of rock out in the middle of the forest. Strangely enough, someone had drawn an odd face on it.
Lupe reached the G6 at 10:36 AM. She was surprised and puzzled when SPHP went right on by it. However, her next peakbagging goal, Black Hills (West) was not far away.
Lupe and SPHP crossed USFS Road No. 849 and went down to Blacktail Creek. Lupe reached the tiny creek near a tiny waterfall. Of course, she paused for a not-so-tiny drink from the creek as she crossed it, prior to beginning her climb up Black Hills (West).
Lupe’s path up Black Hills (West) was very direct. She simply followed the long NE ridge, staying on the ridgeline a little above the cliffs to the SE. Lupe’s entire climb was steadily up at a moderate pace. As Lupe neared the summit, she found a big grassy meadow at the top of the mountain. SPHP hoped the views would be better here than from Black Hills (East).
Unfortunately, the views from Black Hills (West) were rather disappointing. The mountain wasn’t quite high enough for a good look at the most interesting sight. Off to the WNW, Lupe had only a partial view of the Missouri Buttes(5,374 ft.) and top of Devils Tower(5,112 ft.).
Lupe and SPHP wandered around the Black Hills (West) summit area for a little while, seeing what could be seen, before taking a break. After the break, it was photo op time for Lupe before beginning the descent.
Lupe and SPHP returned to the G6 (12:01 PM) going back down the NE ridge of Black Hills (West). Lupe had one more peakbagging goal for Expedition No. 179, Sherrard Hill. Sherrard Hill(5,385 ft.) is a little higher than Black Hills (West). SPHP had hopes that Lupe might find better views from Sherrard Hill than either of the two Black Hills summits had on offer.
SPHP drove a couple miles NNW on USFS Road No. 849 to its junction with USFS Road No. 860.1, before parking the G6 (12:09 PM, 57°F). Lupe would start her trek to Sherrard Hill from here.
Much of Lupe’s journey to Sherrard Hill followed USFS Roads. She started out going S on No. 860.1, which soon crossed Blacktail Creek. Lupe came to many forks in the road. At the first one, Lupe stayed to the R, avoiding side road No. 860.1A. At the next junction, where an unmarked road to the L went down to a bridge across Hershey Creek, she stayed to the R again on a road marked as Trail No. 1042.
At a third junction, Lupe stayed to the R again, now following USFS Road No. 860.1F.
While on No. 860.1F, Lupe and SPHP kept hearing geese. Finally, a flock of them flew by almost right overhead. The geese were so high, Lupe didn’t pay much attention to them.
As Lupe got closer to Sherrard Hill, she kept coming to more forks in the road. She avoided taking USFS Roads No. 860.1R (to the R) or No. 860.1J (to the L). The road she was on eventually turned W going up a valley. When Lupe reached a saddle at the upper end of the valley, SPHP was pretty certain Sherrard Hill was the wooded hill immediately to the S.
Lupe stuck with the road she was on as it circled around to the NW side of Sherrard Hill. She passed by USFS Road No. 860.1G on the way. By now, the road Lupe was following had leveled out. Lupe and SPHP turned SE and started climbing.
The climb up Sherrard Hill(5,385 ft.) was along quite a gentle slope. The hill was heavily forested all the way up. The summit area was large, and all heavily forested, too. Lupe and SPHP went all the way to the SE end of the summit area. There was little to be seen, but forest anywhere.
Well, that was it. None of Lupe’s 3 main peakbagging objectives of the day had provided much in the way of views, and Sherrard Hill, the highest of them all, had no views at all. Sometimes that’s just the way it is in the mountains.
Lupe and SPHP took a short break for chocolate coconut granola bars and water at the SE end of the summit area. Then Lupe got to explore the Sherrard Hill summit looking for the highest point. Just like on Black Hills (East), the top of the mountain was so flat, it was hard to pin down an exact location of the true summit. Once again, it appeared to be in a thick grove of scrub oaks.
Before completely abandoning Sherrard Hill to return to the G6, Lupe and SPHP wandered over to a slightly lower part of the mountain protruding to the W from the N end of the summit area. From here, Lupe did catch a couple of glimpses of Missouri Buttes, but never had a really good look.
Lupe and SPHP continued NW to High Point 5255, but other than a ranch house to the W, there was nothing to see there either. OK, that was it. Time to give up and go back to the G6. Lupe had a great time on the way back. She saw many deer, and several squirrels.
When Lupe arrived at the G6 again (3:43 PM, 57°F), it was only a little over 2 hours until sundown. Time enough to do something, but not go off climbing another mountain. Since Lupe had never seen Cook Lake before, why not go see the little lake?
The Cook Lake Recreation Area features a campground, picnic area, loop trail around the lake, and another loop trail N of the lake called the Cliff Swallow trail. Lupe arrived at Cook Lake (4:16 PM, 53°F) too late to both spend time at the lake and take the Cliff Swallow trail. Since the main purpose was to see Cook Lake, Lupe stuck to the lakeshore trail.
Although there had been a few people around when Lupe first arrived at Cook Lake, by the time Lupe completed her investigations along the shore (5:09 PM, 51°F), things were pretty quiet. The lakeshore trail had been a relaxing way to end the day.
Lupe’s Black Hills, WY Expedition No. 179 wasn’t quite over yet, though. On the way back home, while still in the Bear Lodge Mountains, Lupe made two more quick stops. First, Lupe and SPHP took a short stroll from USFS Road No. 838 to a high point NW of Warren Peaks. SPHP wanted to find out if Lupe could see Devil’s Tower and Warren Peaks from here.
She could! The sun was low in the sky, and the light was weak, but there they were! What’s more, Lupe could also see the outline of the Bighorn Mountains far to the W!
Lupe’s final stop was back up on Warren Peaks(6,650 ft.). The sun had either just set, or was hidden by clouds near the horizon. Lupe went over to the highest rocks on the mountain a few feet W of the fire lookout tower.
And so, Black Hills, WY Expedition No. 179 ended with Lupe standing atop the highest point in the Bear Lodge Mountains for the second time today, admiring the colorful sunset and distant outline of the lofty peaks of the glorious Bighorn Mountains.
Lupe and SPHP hit the road before dawn. Lupe was on her way to explore the Bear Lodge Mountains, a remote part of the Black Hills in NE Wyoming separate from the main body of the Black Hills in South Dakota. The sun was up by the time the eager American Dingo reached the Wyoming border.
Lupe had 3 peakbagging goals for the day. SPHP had high hopes for the first one, due to it’s intriguing name – Vision Peak(4,812 ft.). Those hopes seemed likely to be justified when SPHP parked the G6 off USFS Road No. 830 about 1.5 miles N of Hwy 24 (8:18 AM, 67°F). Lupe was already high up on a ridge with a view to the S.
The day was unseasonably warm, but with a fairly stiff WSW breeze. Lupe headed W on USFS Road No. 887.1, a little used side road closed to motor vehicles. The road climbed a bit, then crossed over to the N side of the ridge, where Lupe was out of the wind. No. 887.1 then wound around a little below the long ridgeline heading generally W, while slowly losing elevation.
No. 887.1 wound around for more than a mile. Lupe didn’t find any squirrels, but whitetail deer were abundant. The road never returned to the ridgeline, although Lupe and SPHP made one foray up onto the ridge before returning to the road again. To the N, Lupe had views of another high ridge beyond Lucky Gulch.
Lupe was making great progress, when suddenly USFS Road No. 887.1 simply ended W of High Point 4805. Fortunately, Lupe was already almost to the saddle over to Vision Peak. A short bushwhack through the forest brought Lupe to the E end of the saddle.
Lupe crossed the saddle and began climbing. She encountered a couple of minor rock outcroppings along the way, but the climb was neither long nor difficult. Soon she reached the top of Vision Peak(4,812 ft.).
Since Vision Peak is positioned way out at the far W end of a long, fairly narrow ridge, SPHP had been hoping for great wide open views, especially toward the W. Lupe did find quite a nice view to the S right at the true summit, but most of the summit ridge was too heavily forested to see much. Somewhat disappointingly, Vision Peak seemed to be a BYOV (Bring Your Own Vision) mountain.
Lupe and SPHP lingered on Vision Peak for a little while, taking a break and enjoying the best view, which was to the S. The wind was out of the SSW about 20 mph, but wasn’t bad at ground level. The forest provided quite effective protection, although the wind was certainly heard in the treetops.
On the way back to the G6, instead of taking the road, Lupe and SPHP climbed up onto the long ridge after crossing the saddle E of Vision Peak. There were more impressive rock outcroppings along this climb up onto the ridge, than there had been climbing Vision Peak.
Although it was a bit out of the way, Lupe visited High Point 4805. On the way there, she caught a glimpse of a high, partly barren hill off to the NW. That was probably her next peakbagging goal, Bald Mountain(4,800 ft.)!
The trek along USFS Road No. 887.1 to get close to Vision Peak had been pleasant and easy, but the return trip along the top of the ridge was more fun. Distant views to both the N and S occasionally presented themselves, and deer were plentiful. Lupe even found a couple of squirrels along the way, which she greeted with her usual enormous enthusiasm.
Even though Vision Peak itself had turned out to be somewhat of an anti-climax, the whole excursion had been a pleasant success (10:55 AM, 70°F).
Lupe’s next peakbagging goal was Bald Mountain(4,800 ft.). Getting to Bald Mountain was supposed to be another relatively easy tromp through the woods over some high ground with little net elevation change. SPHP drove farther N on USFS Road No. 830 for a couple of miles looking for a closer starting point, ultimately parking at the start of USFS Road No. 830.4C (11:08 AM, 70°F).
Like No. 887.1, No. 830.4C was gated off and closed to motor vehicles, so it hadn’t seen much recent use either. Lupe and SPHP set off following it WSW through the forest. At first, everything seemed fine. Lupe was having a great romp in the woods, and there were deer everywhere. Gradually, however, the road turned more to the SW, then SSW, as it became fainter and fainter. Lupe did not come to any of the side roads SPHP was expecting to find.
Eventually No. 830.4C faded away completely. Lupe was in the middle of the forest. It looked like there was blue sky between the trees off to the W, so maybe there was a viewpoint over there. Lupe and SPHP headed W. Yes, there was a view. What SPHP presumed was Bald Mountain was in sight off to the W. However, there was a big canyon between Lupe and Bald Mountain. Something was wrong. Time to consult the maps.
The exciting conclusion was that No. 830.4C must not have been the best place to start for Bald Mountain. The big intervening canyon between Lupe and Bald Mountain was almost certainly Reservoir Gulch. Lupe was too far S. She would have to backtrack and go around the upper end of Reservoir Gulch.
It was farther than SPHP expected. Lupe went up and down, crossing many ravines feeding into Reservoir Gulch as she now headed back to the NE. Finally, a road appeared dead ahead. When Lupe reached it, SPHP saw that less than 100 feet off to the SE, this road intersected a bigger road. Oh, brother! Lupe was all the way back to USFS Road No. 830.
The G6 was nowhere in sight. Lupe was farther N along No. 830 than where it had been left. A sign at the side road showed that Lupe had reached USFS Road No. 881.1. Another sign showed that it led to Planting Spring. Time for another map check.
OK, this was it! No. 881.1 was definitely the right road to take. Lupe didn’t need to go all the way to Planting Spring, but in less than a mile Lupe should reach another road going SW toward Bald Mountain. After a short rest break, Lupe and SPHP set off again.
No. 881.1 was a much better road than No. 830.4C had been. Even so, Lupe soon came to a gate across the road closing No. 881.1 to motor vehicle traffic, too. Apparently all these minor roads were closed to motor vehicles.
No. 881.1 went up and down little hills on its way W. After about a mile or so, Lupe did come to a side road that turned S (L) in a sunny meadow. This side road was marked No. 881.1A. Lupe followed it, and soon it did turn SW.
After 0.25 mile or so, Lupe came to a marker for USFS Road No. 881.1C. A faint track went off to the WNW (R). Lupe stayed to the L on the better road. In another 0.25 mile, No. 881.1A reached some cliffs. Lupe was now on the N side of Reservoir Gulch. From the cliffs, Lupe could see Vision Peak off to the SE.
Lupe had only another 0.5 mile to go to reach Bald Mountain. She came to a variety of scenic points along the way. She passed by some groves of scrub oaks sporting orangey brown leaves.
USFS Road No. 881.1A did not go quite all the way to Bald Mountain. It played out about 0.25 mile from the summit. A few hundred feet farther W was a small ridge topped with scattered large boulders. It was possible to get a distant view to the W from one of the boulders.
Lupe went S following the boulders. When the small ridge ended, Lupe continued on through the forest. She eventually wound up back along the N edge of Reservoir Gulch again. Here she had an even better view of Vision Peak to the SE. She was getting quite close to her Bald Mountain objective, too.
Lupe reached the top of Bald Mountain(4,800 ft.). The summit area was a huge triangular field of tall grass, several hundred feet long on each side. Forest ringed much of the N and NW edges of the field, and around the S tip, but elsewhere there were great unobstructed views. This was more like it! Bald Mountain should have been named Vision Peak!
Lupe and SPHP took a stroll around the summit field before settling down for a break. Lupe had water and Taste of the Wild. SPHP had an apple. The big view toward Devils Tower and Missouri Buttes was simply marvelous. It might have been even a little more marvelous if the weather wasn’t deteriorating.
What had been a 20 mph SSW breeze earlier in the day, had built up to a 35 mph gusty SW wind. Big clouds were moving in from the SW. The clouds sprinkled light rain for a few minutes, but the rain shower didn’t amount to much. Lupe didn’t care for that wind, though! She preferred curling up behind SPHP to facing directly into the wind to see the view.
With Lupe’s second peakbagging success of the day secured, it was time to return to the G6. Away from the SW edge of Bald Mountain, the wind was hardly noticeable. As big clouds sailed across the sky overhead, Lupe roamed the forest. She saw lots of deer. The occasional squirrel kept her entertained.
Near Bald Mountain, she passed by the orange and brown groves of scrub oak again. Farther along, were the yellow aspens.
The return trip was simply a retracement of Lupe’s route to Bald Mountain all the way back to USFS Road No. 830. From there, Lupe had to follow No. 830 going S until she found the G6 again, still parked at the start of USFS Road No. 830.4C (2:47 PM, 66°F).
Most of the big clouds were gone now. The sun was out again. A little over three hours remained before sunset. Lupe had one more peakbagging goal left for the day. About 6 or 7 miles farther N on No. 830, the old USFS map showed a side road leading close to Stoney Point(4,480 ft.). SPHP drove N looking for it.
A wooden rail fence curved away from USFS Road No. 830 where SPHP found the side road Lupe needed to follow toward Stoney Point. A pickup truck and travel trailer were parked near the start of the side road, which was unmarked by any road number or name. A big black horse with a large white spot on his forehead stood right in the middle of the side road. “Spot” seemed to be the campsite’s only occupant at the moment.
SPHP parked the G6 on the W side of No. 830, away from the camp (3:22 PM, 64°F). Lupe and SPHP then cut through a field on the S side of the rail fence away from “Spot”. SPHP hoped to keep Lupe from playing a game of “See Spot run! Run, Spot, run!” Spot was quite curious about what was going on, and watched Lupe nervously. Although Lupe loves barking at horses from the G6, she paid Spot no mind. She reached the side road well beyond where Spot had effectively blocked it.
On the side road, Lupe soon arrived at a fence and gate. Ahh, yes! This minor dirt road, like all the others, was also closed to motor vehicles from here on. A pickup truck with Ohio license plates was parked nearby. Lupe and SPHP continued following the side road. Stoney Point was still 2.5 miles to the NE.
Before long, Lupe came to a place where there was a grassy hill on the N side of the road. Up on the hill were a couple of interesting large boulders. Lupe and SPHP headed for the boulders. Lupe leaped up on the biggest one for a photo and a look around.
With nothing else of note in the area, Lupe and SPHP continued on, taking a shortcut over the small grassy hill. More boulders came into view as Lupe reached the crest of the hill. As Lupe passed by the first big one, she discovered someone sitting with his back to the boulder only a couple of feet away. A hunter!
Lupe’s sudden appearance right next to him seemed to startle the hunter for a moment. When he saw SPHP, he waved, and SPHP waved back. Lupe and SPHP went on. From up on the hill, the hunter had a great view of the large field to the E. Lupe and SPHP crossed the field, reached the road again, and eventually disappeared from his range of view as the road returned to the forest.
Hearing gunfire on Lupe’s expeditions, isn’t that uncommon. Usually any gunfire is distant and from people doing target practice, but occasionally there are hunters about, especially this time of year. However, Lupe has seldom actually seen hunters in the field. Lupe and SPHP rarely see anyone on her Black Hills expeditions, except near major roads. Lupe had never come right up on a hunter in the field like this before!
The road went close to the edge of a canyon. There was a big view to the SE. On the far horizon, Lupe could see the Black Hills back in South Dakota.
The road left the edge of the canyon curving first N, then NW, as it continued through the forest. However, the road soon left the forest as it turned N again. Up ahead was a another grassy hill with some big boulders near the top. Wearing bright orange, another hunter was stationed up there!
Lupe stuck to the road. The hunter and SPHP waved as the American Dingo passed on by. When Lupe reached the top of the hill, the road turned NE crossing a huge level field. This treeless plain was exposed and windy. Not as windy as Bald Mountain had been, but a 20 mph SW wind swept across the field. At the far end of the field were some low rocks near a few pine trees. When she got there, Lupe sought out a place sheltered from the wind.
SPHP checked the maps. Stoney Point had to be close by. It was just a small hill to the ENE beyond this elevated windswept plain. Lupe could be there in 15 minutes. Lupe was disappointed to learn she had to leave her cozy windbreak to press on.
A short distance E of Lupe’s rocky windbreak, Stoney Point(4,480 ft.) came into view. Stoney Point was just a barren hill with a few boulders, bushes and trees scattered over it. The views would be good from there, though.
Lupe headed for the biggest rocks on the NW slope of Stoney Point as she approached. The wind was blowing hard when she jumped up on them.
From the big rocks, it was only a short stroll up to the summit of Stoney Point. There were huge distant views from the NW to the ESE. Lupe could see a very long way out across low pine-covered ridges and high prairie. Despite the wind, Lupe and SPHP hung around a while checking out the views.
SPHP had noticed a post with a red top up on Stoney Point when Lupe first arrived, but hadn’t though much of it. SPHP was surprised when Lupe found a survey benchmark a few feet away. The old USFS map hadn’t shown a benchmark, but here it was! A closer look at the topo map from Peakbagger.com did show the benchmark.
When the time came to leave Stoney Point, SPHP started heading W down the hill on the way back to the huge field. A minute later, SPHP realized Lupe wasn’t coming. She was still back up near the summit of Stoney Point. SPHP called her, but she still didn’t come. She was standing stiffly in place.
Lupe looked like she did earlier in the year when she had encounters with cactus. SPHP hadn’t noticed any cactus, but maybe she had stepped on one somewhere up on Stoney Point?
SPHP returned to Lupe. She let SPHP inspect all her paws. No cactus spines anywhere – nothing was wrong that SPHP could see. Still, something must have happened. Maybe she stepped on something sharp, and thought it was a cactus?
In any case, Lupe wouldn’t budge. SPHP carried her as far as the big rocks on the NW slope of Stoney Point. She was willing to pose for a couple more photos from the rocks.
For some reason, being up on the rocks helped Lupe’s confidence. Presumably she discovered her paws didn’t really hurt as she moved around. All on her own, off she went, now leading SPHP on the way back to the G6. When she reached the E end of the huge field, she paused for one more look back at Stoney Point.
The second hunter was still in position when Lupe went by again. Once again, the hunter and SPHP waved. Returning to the forest, Lupe found a squirrel to bark at. She had a great time, but a little later, as she was approaching the area where she had startled the first hunter, he came down the hill toward SPHP. Oh, boy. Maybe he had heard Lupe barking, and was unhappy thinking she had driven away whatever he might be hunting?
Nope. The hunter was just friendly. He was really a very nice guy, and simply wanted to meet Lupe and chat with SPHP. His name was Joe Eberz. He was from Ohio, and was way out here in NE Wyoming hunting elk. Had Lupe seen the rest of his party? Yes, but only half of it. Turned out there was a third hunter Lupe and SPHP hadn’t noticed somewhere out there.
Joe hadn’t seen any elk in Wyoming yet, and neither had Lupe or SPHP today. Plenty of deer around, but none of Lupe’s “giant deers”. Joe and his party still had several more days to hunt. Maybe they would find elk before they had to return to Ohio.
Joe and SPHP had a pleasant conversation. Joe said Lupe really had startled him when she made her first sudden appearance. SPHP had been amazed to see Joe sitting behind the big rock, too! Joe petted Lupe, and had his picture taken with her.