Bryant Ridge Shelter
A warming fire at Bryant Ridge Shelter.
With a cold day before us and grandson Matthew along, a fire-ready destination seemed in order.
And though the 3.4 miles stated in the guidebooks always seems like a pretty short and convenient trek, we always forget that this section could definitely get a nomination for longest 3.4 around. Maybe it's because once you make the 1,000-foot climb from the low point at Jennings Creek to the top of Fork Mountain, you tend to fool yourself that the hard work is done.
And the hardest work is done, but after a sharp descent, there's a general rise – about 800 more feet – to reach pretty Bryant Ridge Shelter, the two-story, 20-capacity structure built in 1992 by the Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club to honor hiker Nelson Garnett, with the distinctive design courtesy of a fellow student.
Matthew greatly appreciated the wooden-rungs stairway to the second level, urging the oldsters to come check it out until we each did so.
And The Day Hiker greatly appreciated a good fire (Bryant Ridge is the site of at least one pretty crummy fire and maybe one total fire failure), urging Matthew and me to keep feeding it good dry sticks.
We all three talked at length and in dread of the way back up Fork Mountain, to the extent that it was easier than anticipated.
Appalachian Trail from Va. 614 at Jennings Creek north to Bryant Ridge Shelter and back. 6.8 miles.
How to get there: Exit 168 from I-81. Va 614 to the AT crossing.