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Trail To The Wind Cave

Trail To The Wind Cave

The Usery Mountains rise along the Eastern edge of the Phoenix metropolitan area, the beginning of a mountainous band that includes the Goldfields and the mighty Superstitions. At the geological heart of Usery Mountain Regional Park stands Pass Mountain. Craggy strata of volcanic rock earned the mountain its nickname “Scarface”. High up that rocky cliff you’ll find and unlikely little sanctuary known as the wind cave. The trail rambles through a pretty patch of desert, rising only slightly at first. I’m surrounded by a gallery of desert denizens so profuse I expect to find a grounds keeping crew nooning in the shade of palo verde tree. Strategically scattered boulders add a nice bit of texture to the usual suspects of saguaros, chollas, barrels, ocotillos, and creosote. The only slight distraction is a muffled popping sound. Folds are firing off a few rounds at Usery Mountain Shooting Range. But it’s far enough away so it just sounds like I’ve got some Orville Redenbackher in the microwave. Great. Now I’m craving popcorn.

Once the trail reaches the base of the mountain, it begins climbing in earnest, a steady grade of rocky switchbacks but never grueling. It is exposed the entire way with the sun just leaning on you. The desert can unleash a withering, angry heat, a heat that blowtorches the rocks and sand. It is a heat that will make you weep just so it can harvest your tears. So it is a great pleasure to reach your destination and slip out of the sun.

The cave is actually a scooped out alcove atop a ledge of lichen-covered volcanic tuff. It is a long swath of shade – lush sponge cake – like shade – with a cool breeze funneled through. The drop in temperature can be remarkable. Seeping water feeds bunches of rock daisies growing from the walls and ceiling. Bees swarm about, busy like always, but they pay me no mind. It’s a sweet spot to relax and enjoy broad vistas across the valley floor. Some adventurous types like to continue past the cave, climbing a rugged and unmaintained pathway to the top of Pass Mountain. You go ahead. I’ll snooze here in the cool shade."

Source: Roger Naylor "Boots & Burgers: An Arizona Handbook For Hungry Hikers"