Day 41 on the Appalachian Trail

I awoke at 6 am and ate breakfast of tortillas, blueberry cream cheese, Colby cheese, and instant breakfast. I've increased my breakfast volume to keep me going longer in the morning. The Appalachian Trail followed the Blue Ridge Parkway for 2 miles then went its own way downhill to Bearwallow Gap. I got 2 liters of water for the 6-mile dry stretch. Clouds came in overnight and stayed through the morning, helping keep the air cool. At mile 10 on the day, I arrived at Jennings Creek and a paved road. In spite of relatively easy hiking over 10 miles, I was tired and needed a rest. I met another hiker who told me that I could get a ride to the Middle Creek Campground where I could get a burger. He called the campground and in few minutes I ordered a hamburger and a chocolate milk shake. I sat outside with 4 other hikers in light rain and ate. Wonderful! I got a ride back to the trail and started a 2300-foot climb feeling re-energized. Unlike yesterday and earlier this morning, the forest along the climb featured large trees - sugar maples, tulip trees, red oaks, and some large eastern white pines. The understory was open with seedling of the over story tree species. The AT descended for 2 miles to the Bryant Ridge shelter, the fanciest one I've seen yet. Two stories, big covered porches, and room for 20 hikers. I ate lunch at the shelter watching the rain with other hikers. After lunch, I headed uphill for a 2300-foot climb. Mercifully, the trail grade was usually reasonable. I saw 4 burnt-orange salamanders crawling on the trail, presumably enjoying the wet conditions. Down for a half mile to the Cornelius Creek shelter. Alas, all 6 spots were taken. I set up my tent then cooked dinner at the shelter during a lull in the rain. The rain returned, and I retired to my tent to stay dry and warm. Today's miles - 18.4. Total miles - 764.4.

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