Planned on an early start of the New Year but having to deal with various problems like no heat in a house I'm trying to sell, it was all I could do to get out somewhere close by 4 pm. But that's the nice part about this hike, it's close, it has some nice elevation gain and great views from the summit.
Possessing an annual pass, it was just a quick stop at the entrance station to collect my receipt and place it on the dash, a short drive to the Wind Cave Trail head and I was off on the climb. The first 90% of the hike is actually the Wind Cave Trail and for me anyway, it's pretty much a breeze. As usual when it's busy, I'm catching up to and passing majority along the way. If people are unfamiliar with trail etiquette when it comes to passing/being passed, I'll wait until either an opportune time where there is plenty of room, or just wait until they realize they need a break. This afternoon it appeared many just went part way up before turning around so by time I reached Wind Cave there were only a few at the cave.
I passed right by Wind Cave and the sign warning that the trail is not maintained past this point, which seems so ominous. Probably one reason the large majority don't even attempt to continue to the summit. But whenever I encounter others who appear to have the skills and stamina to continue, I'll just mention to them just another 10-15 minutes more and they'll be rewarded with some awesome views. More often than not, they will give it a shot, sometimes just tagging on along behind me. This time from the cave to the top I was completely alone.
At the summit I took my camera out for a few shots, debating whether to stay an hour up here to catch another sunset. But with the breeze kicking up and the late afternoon chill in the air, I figured, heck, I already have plenty of sunrise and sunset photos from the summit and besides, I'm hungry. That was enough to head back down.
Just before I came back to Wind Cave, I met two young men admiring the view to the west, but obviously with no plans to climb further. I stopped and chatted with them a few moments and with a little encouragement and some directions, they were prepared to continue on. I hope they stuck with it and made it to the summit. I did leave them each one of my cards to direct them to my web site, on which I now have links to HAZ on the hiking-related pages. I am also providing links from photos of my hike to the hike-specific hike descriptions on HAZ so hopefully that will draw them into trying more hikes.