Story Time: Mugged by the Peters Mountain Goats
Today started as a very normal day on trail. I woke up to the abrasive sound of Deets opening her tent, and I rolled over in my sleeping bag to catch a few more minutes of sleep. As always, my dream of installing a 15-minute snooze button on Deets was ruined by my painfully full bladder. We peed by the same tree and started morning chores; she was cheerful and chipper while I was calculating if I could go back to sleep. Unfortunately, Slinky and Scratchuns got up, so we all hit the trail.
We had originally planned on hiking a 21-mile day to get out of the ugly little town of Pearisburg, Virginia. To be fair, this town had everything a hiker could want: Walmart, a coffee shop, Dairy Queen, Mexican food, and an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. Pearisburg is also home to the world’s largest cigarette filter factory (a crazy local man told me that fact so… someone should check it), and you can see the factory for miles along the trail. This ugly factory interrupted every vista and haunted us for the rest of the day, and unfortunately we couldn’t walk any faster to get rid of it. Anyway, we were happy to hike a longer day to get out of Pearisburg.
As we got to the top of the ridge along Peters Mountain, and we finally left Pearisburg behind us, my tramily started to look ahead to the next week full of exciting moments. We talked about the Virginia Triple Crown, an upcoming visit from my parents, and celebrating our birthdays, which all fall within the next six weeks. So far, it had been a fairly boring day, so a fun conversation topic was desperately needed. We daydreamed about birthday cake, eating real food with my parents, sending home winter clothes, and how we would best crawl up Dragon’s Tooth. Scratchuns was leading the way up the last section of the ridge with Slinky and I right behind him, powered by our excitement for the next week, and Deets was just a few minutes behind us.
All of a sudden, we heard Scratchuns say “Oh no, that is not what we want to see,” and he quickly turned around, and ran.
As Scratchuns dodged around Slinky and me, a herd of wild goats appeared, jogging their way down the trail right towards us. Suddenly, eight male goats, with big horns, cornered us against a rock pile. Scratchuns scaled to the top of the rocks, while I was in front of Slinky, unsure whether to be afraid or excited. My family has goats, and I love spending time with the female goats, but the males have always been nasty. The feral goats circled me and started licking the salt off my legs. It was almost funny, until one of the goats started to bite at my knees. I yelled for Slinky and Scratchuns, and Slinky jumped into action; she started screaming at the goats and yelled at them to leave us alone. Scratchuns banged his poles together and jumped off the rock pile, which ultimately scared the goats off of me.
Scratchuns scaring the goats away!
We thought we were in the clear, but I quickly realized I had been mugged! The biting goat was carrying away my pole! We were now sending the goats mixed messages; please leave, but also, don’t take my pole! I currently have a minor foot injury, and I knew that I would not make it down the mountain without my poles. Scratchuns ran after the goats again, finally scaring them off enough to drop my pole in the trail. We didn’t even collect the pole before we had realized that we sent a pack of angry goats running down the trail towards Deets! Scratchuns dropped his pack and, once again, ran down the trail, all the while he was screaming to warn Deets; “Hold your poles up high! Goats!!”
Scratchuns found Deets just as the goats did. He watched her knee a goat in the head and calmly walk past them. She didn’t even yell.
Slinky and I examined my hiking pole as Scratchuns and Deets made their way back to us. The pole was now covered in goat spit, bite marks, and dirt, the cork handle now had scars from the battle, and the wrist strap was almost entirely chewed through. I’ve had these poles for years, ever since my sibling gave them to me for Christmas when I first got into hiking. Now, the pole carries another meaning. The chewed-up pole is a reminder of the time I was mugged by a goat, on Peters Mountain, near the town of Pearisburg, Virginia.
After our encounter, we all felt lucky to have made it off that ridge alive! Every corner we turned for the rest of the afternoon was preceded by a careful check for more goats. The most shocking part of this? We had no clue that these goats even lived here.
There are very few surprises on the AT; you hear about everything through the grapevine, trail logs, and FarOut. Everyone on trail was talking about the Grayson Highland ponies for weeks leading up to our pony sighting, however, no one was talking about the Peters Mountain goats. Are folks just embarrassed to be afraid of some goats? Was I the first person to be bitten? Or, did my tramily hallucinate the whole encounter? No matter what, I’ll clench onto my chewed up pole to keep me rooted in reality as I try to sort out what actually happened up on that ridge.
Are you interested in more content from my tramily? Check out Scratchuns and Ryan, who are also blogging for the trek while they hike the AT!
Erin “Pinky” Eberhardt is a NOBO hiker in the AT class of 2023. Read her first post, an introduction of herself, here.
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Several of the youTubes we follow have shown the goats and Ramdino had them in one of his youTubes. Glad it turned out well. Happy hiking.
Fun story to read. I’m glad you made it through unharmed. When I hiked that area in 1995, an emu stood just off the trail watching me walk by. I wonder if the animals are from the same fenceless farm.
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