Rock Gap Shelter to Winding Stair Gap – 3.8 miles
Woke up before dawn to get an early start to make it to Winding Stair Gap by 9am to get the early shuttle to Baltimore Jack’s Place Hostel. Feet were a bit sore and hips a bit raw, but otherwise I felt great the day after hiking 19.7 miles. Got to the hostel and took an amazing shower and washed my clothes for the first time since I started hiking. Went to Outdoor 76 to get new mittens after getting ice cream across the street – a lady paid for it when she found out I’m a thru-hiker. Ran into Grant and Graham and we met up with Digs at Lazy Hiker Brewing Co for some drinks. Got pizza at Dominoes with them and ate like real hiker trash on a patch of grass by a dumpster and a busy intersection. Met up with those guys again later for dinner at Mulligan’s with an Australian couple – Braden and Rachel. After Mulligan’s we were about to call it a night until we walked by a bar with a ‘hikers welcome’ sign, so we go in. $1 Bud light on draft that night plus 3 rounds of whiskey shots, 1 round of orange vodka shots, pool, and a jukebox made a great night.
Baltimore Jack’s Place Hostel offers a free shuttle to and from the trail if you stay with them. They pick up hikers from the trail every day at 9am and 11am. Most of the other hikers and I were up early to make the 9am shuttle. Alex – now going by Digs – slept in to catch the 11am shuttle. Gramps and Sani both stayed at the Budget Inn with him and I was just across the street from them at Baltimore Jack’s. As far as hiker hostels go, it was a great place. I was in a room with 2 bunks and 3 other hikers – Paddington and 2 others I can’t remember their names. I spent a good amount of time napping and just hanging around getting myself clean and washing my clothes when the washers and dryers were free. Gramps and Sani ended up staying at Long Branch Shelter the night before so they had a bit longer to hike to make it into town.
I got some unexpected trail magic off the trail! I was in line getting ice cream and an older couple ask me if I am a thru hiker. I tell them yes and we continue talking for a bit. They ended up paying for it and said, “I need all the food I can get” and that they were happy to help. The kindness of strangers on the AT is amazing. A few days before getting to Franklin, I dropped one of my mittens on the ground when I took them off and did not realize it until I was too far to turn around to go look for it. I needed to go to Outdoor 76 to find another pair because gloves never do a good job keeping my hands warm and the mittens used were great. Outdoor 76 did not end up having what I was looking for in stock, but I did find a thin water/wind proof mitten layer that I could put over a pair of gloves and got those instead. I still use that with my gloves when I hike now in Colorado. They served me well this past winter.
At Outdoor 76, I ran into Gramps and Sani. From there we make our way to the Lazy Hiker Brewing Co to meet up with Digs for some drinks. One round and we are all starving so we found a Dominoes that was very close. We were hungry, but did not quite have our hiker hunger yet so we split 2 pizzas. Gramps and Sani had one, Digs and I had one. We sat in the grass by a busy intersection and a dumpster just like the hiker trash we were. The picture at the bottom is of the four of us with our pizza.
Later on we went to Mulligan’s and found a lot of other hikers there already very drunk. We just wanted food and a few drinks at that point so we did not stay long. Braden and Racheal even joined us! We were all very tired so we all called it a night and started walking towards our hostel/motel for the night. On our way back we saw a bar with a sign that said, “all hikers welcome” so we of course went in. I don’t remember what it was called, but they had a weird rule that you had to be a member of a club to drink there so Gramps and Sani both signed up (for free) and the rest of us were there as their ‘guests’. This place was great. The bar had a special going on that night of $2 bud light drafts and they had a jukebox, darts, and a pool table. Sani kept buying us whiskey shots. Racheal even got us all a round of flavored vodka shots and then trid to play the song ‘Shots’ on the jukebox. It wasn’t an option on there, but it was being sung anyways. She started calling herself Lil Wayne (we later realized that he is not the one who sings ‘Shots’) and we said Braden was her Pimp Chalice and their drunk alter egos were born. Long story short, our walk to go to bed turned into a few hours of drinking and hanging out. Thankfully we were all taking a zero day the next day.