This hike has been on my to-do list for at least eight years but it just never happened. And now on a spur-of-the-moment deal with only an afternoon open for hiking we wanted a hike close yet something new and this one fit the bill perfectly.
Although I've covered every named trail (and many unnamed ones) in Usery with over 500 miles hiking and 4,000 miles biking over the last ten years, I'd never hiked the length of the ridge line.
Being snow-bird season we figured the Wind Cave lot would be overflowing so we thought we'd hike a clockwise loop starting from the north end of the ridge, returning late in the day when most of the folks would be done with Wind Cave. So what if it added another mile and 500' of elevation in total, we could still knock it out before sunset.
Part of the reason for taking on the steep and slippery slopes first and ending on familiar ground was to have a real trail to hike when we're tired near the end. But for a while on the climb we wondered if that was the best course of action. These climbs were STEEP and much of the ground was quite loose. Sometimes a few steps forward was rewarded with a slide backwards and all-fours became the mode of travel. Thankfully the initial climbs were broken up by a patch of level ground at each 'summit' to catch our breath.
Once reaching the ridge the views were really something to behold... so different from everything I'd seen over the years in the Usery area. And well worth the hike.
As we continued along the ridge we were constantly greeted by areas that seemed like they'd be impassable and we'd be cliff'ed out, but once reaching them they weren't nearly as bad as they had looked. One-step-at-a-time was the order of the day in the steep areas of ascent and descent. Yes, I said ascent... although it was a ridgeline
hike, there was plenty of ups and downs along the way.
Finally we came to the familiar ground of the trail to the southern 3127 summit and headed down. As we had planned, there were not many people on the Wind Cave Trail. Once at the Pass Mountain Trail crossing we headed back north, climbing in bits and pieces all the way to the end of the park. From there it was a quick shot back to the car that appeared it would be a non-event until we flushed out a mule deer that stopped and looked back just in time for a photo. A nice finishing touch to a challenging but rewarding hike.
Not too many photos so I'll post most of them here.
The full set of 40 photos is here: