Richard took responsibility and delivered a far better hike than I anticipated.
The off-trail potion is moderate. There is a steep grade yet it's over in 200 ft. A use-trail north of the fence makes it quite manageable zig zagging up. A reasonable ascent before the summit is 300 ft and more pick-your-own-route.
Between the two off-trail ascents I lucked out and checked out a cave. It turned out to be a short tunnel with balcony views on the flip side.
A few small clear pools are in the last mile. Randolph was a trickle and plenty of clear pools for filtering too.
Excellent company. Bob had the best pretzels I've ever had, believe they were German...