Friday Hikers: AT – Chestoa to Curley Maple Gap Shelter, April 1

Bob Harvey reporting

The hike of April 1 was on the Appalachian Trail  from Chestoa to Curley Maple Gap Shelter and return, a total of 8.2 miles.

The temperature was a little brisk to begin with, but once we started the strenuous climb out of Jones Branch valley there was much shedding of outer layers.  At the upper end of the hike, around elevation 2800 feet, we began finding a dusting of snow on the leaves and ground, but it didn’t last long after the sun came out.

Lunch was at the newly-rebuilt Curley Maple Gap Shelter, a vastly improved version of what used to be there.  When we arrived, the shelter was filled almost to overflow by a jolly bunch of northbound through hikers, this being the time of the year that they pass through our territory.  But, there was additional outside seating in the vicinity and we had a great lunch — until we started getting cold again.  It was then time to go.

On the return trip we passed even more through hikers, some of whom didn’t mind stopping to chat for a minute or two.  After the hike we tried to guess how many we’d seen, and the numbers varied widely, but maybe sixteen would be close enough.

Jones Branch may have been running full, but it was crystal clear, something that a number of us commented on.  We had one ford to make of the creek and possibly a few of us got a foot in the water, one of the feet being mine; but we mainly made it across without incident.

The hikers were Olin Babb, Kathy Case, Anne Cosby, George Dickert, Judith Foster, Phil Gibson, Bob Harvey, Carol Idol, Chuck Mather, Larry Miller, Susie Seiler and Jerry Sluder.

Roaring Branch Trail up to High Butte, March 19th, 2011

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.