The morning seemed to be brighter earlier than normal, and the birds were singing loudly, and we got an earlier start than normal. We kept a look out for Ray, because he had not gone into town for BBQ, and we really expected to camp with him at the river. Apparently he had felt good enough to push farther that day. We hiked a few miles and stopped at the Mountaineer Falls (another stunning place), and then the Mountaineer Shelter for water. The Mountaineer Shelter was at the 400.7 mile mark, and we all congratulated each other for another major landmark. The days were just really flying by, and it was hard to believe we had already gone that far.
Not to much later, we came upon EMT, doing what, but eating again - on a bench that someone had placed on the trail in memory of a loved one. It was a beautiful vista to sit and snack at. He told us there was a trail to a hostel just a few yards away, and we could tell it could rain at any moment. We all decided to duck into the hostel for possibly a hot pizza, and that was how we spent the next 2.5 hours. Visiting, getting caught up on Facebook, eating pizza, Cokes, and then Ben & Jerry's. Everyone on the trail sells Ben & Jerry's. It just seems to be the go to ice cream for the hikers.
We hit the trail again, and right away, the rain came, and it continued to rain the rest of the day. We only put on our jackets, and to tell you the truth, I preferred hiking in the rain. You never overheated in the rain. Of course, the temperature was just kind of perfect for it. It made the miles fly by! Before we knew it, we had reached a shelter crowded with young hikers. It was becoming obvious, that when it rains, the younger hikers stay inside. There was only 6 miles to reach town. Originally, we had intended on reaching town in 6 days, but if we pushed on, we could reach it by 7:00 today! We looked at possibly accomodations, and Swamprat's wife had already contacted a local Innkeeper, and before you knew it, we had plans made to be picked up at the trail at 7:00 and taken to the Iron Mountain Inn. We really didn't know what to expect, but if you check out this link, you'll see where we were lucky enough to spent 2 nights, with just us and the innkeeper, Vicky, who not only did our laundry, cooked us wonderful breakfasts, but also drive us to nearby Elizabethton to buy groceries. She was awesome, and totally made us feel like our home was her home! www.ironmountaininn.com.
Before we reached the inn, she took us to the local biker bar (not kidding) in Butler, TN for burgers and fries. Our feet and knees were not too happy. We had hiked our longest day yet -- 18.4 miles!