A small group of 5 PATC hikers (actually 4 PATC hikers and one adult daughter) completed a loop hike in the James River Face Wilderness on a beautiful Saturday in early March. Hikers included Nancy Handley, the Ballen family, and hike leader Jeff Monroe. The group started on Petite's Gap Road and climbed the Sulphur Springs Trail. The SST is wide and gradual, as it was a woods road prior to JRF gaining Wilderness status back in 1975 - the first Federal Wilderness in Virginia.
The group reached the Appalachian Trail and turned southbound. Near the Marble Springs campsite, downed tree limbs became more prevalent, reportedly the result of a recent ice storm that also affected Roanoke. Hiking past the campsite and climbing Highcock Knob, the downed branches were everywhere, as can be seen from the photos posted here.
Getting around the tree branches slowed the group's pace considerably. We would not recommend hiking here until the fine folks in the Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club can get out here to clean up the trail. The trail was in rough shape all the way to the trail's intersection with the Petite's Gap Road. And possibly beyond - we didn't check! Instead we turned onto the road and hiked that back down to our vehicles.
Total distance: 8.6 miles
Total time: 5 hours, 11 minutes.