Vic Hasler reporting
Located north of Big Stone Gap, VA, the Roaring Branch Trail is within the Jefferson National Forest. This hike ended up being 8 miles round trip with ~1400 ft elevation change requiring six and half hours to complete. The trail starts at the cascades (see photo), proceeds up the lush valley to the ridgeline, which is followed to the High Butte overlook. There are multiple stream crossings – mostly rock hopping, but one did end up needing to be waded. Blowdowns from the winter 2009 storms in the first 1.5 miles have been cleared by volunteers (per Forest Service ranger). The mid section, still along the creek, had not yet been maintained to remove several small tree falls plus trim back the rhododendron growth, thus required a few detours and lots of hand clipping. The upper section, emerging onto the ridge crest, changed to more open forest. At the overlook, lunch and the sunny day were enjoyed while peering down into Powell Valley. The return trip, downhill and with a more open path, was quick. Not much active wildlife was seen, except for several species of birds and a small snake on a rock in the trail. Out for the nearly spring day were Vic, Clark, and Ben Hasler. For more details, visit the TEHCC Trail Wiki’s entry for Roaring Branch Trail.