It took a while to get out of Pearisburg. It was almost a mile from the motel back to the trail. Also, there was a Hardee’s on the way so I stopped there for a couple of Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuits. The trail out of Pearisburg goes across a long bridge over a railroad track and a river, then past the Celanese plant before it enters the woods and starts the long climb back up to the mountains.
Once I was up in the mountains the trail was excellent with one a few rocky stretches. It was very windy and cool though, so I had to hike fast to stay warm…or else put on more layers of clothes. The problem with putting on more clothing is that as soon as I start uphill, I overheat and begin to sweat. So it’s best to dress a little on the cool side and then stay warm by hiking at a good pace.
I met some nice young guys during the day who said that they were going to stay at The Captain’s that night, which is about twenty-one miles from Pearisburg. It sounded good to me and it’s mentioned briefly in the guidebook so I made The Captain’s my destination for the day.
About 4:00 pm I got to the spot just across a large creek from The Captain’s where you have to use a zip line to cross the creek. There were no instructions and this would be my first time using a zip line, so I decided to give it my best try. Foxtrot, another thru-hiker, was on the other side and yelled, “Take your pack off and hang it on the carabiner”. So I did that, sat down in the seat and start pulling on the line to move myself across the creek. Before I even got over the water my pack swung around behind me and caused me to flip over backwards. I went heels-over-head backwards and ended up in the dirt beside the creek. I guess that’s better than landing in the creek!
I was so embarrassed…me Walker, now a somewhat experienced outdoorsman, getting dumped on the zip line! I quickly stood up, and checked to see if anyone had seen my fall. Of course Foxtrot had and there were a couple of other guys around but they didn’t make fun of me, only asked if I was okay. Fortunately I just had a deep scrape on my forearm which I disinfected and bandaged when I got to the other side. I did notice that the second time I got in the seat to attempt to cross the creek, Foxtrot got out his smartphone and was videoing me. I think he was expecting a repeat performance and this time maybe I would even make it over the water and provide him the material for a YouTube viral video. Sorry Foxtrot…I made it across safely on the second attempt.
In retrospect it is quite funny of course…but it was embarrassing and after having made it almost 700 miles without a fall, I was a bit disgusted with myself for having such a close call. Most hikers, especially us older folks, try really hard not to fall because it’s easy to hurt yourself (sprained knee or ankle or worse) and have to get off the trail for a while. At least I learned a good lesson and the next time I get on a zip line I’ll be more careful and I’ll know to keep my pack in front of me for balance and to hold on tightly with one hand while pulling with the other hand.
Anyway, The Captain’s was great! According to The Captain, he gets his trail name from the fact that he looks like Captain Kangaroo. He’s a great guy and a real friend to hikers, who he allows to camp on his property or sleep on his back porch if it’s raining. He also has a refrigerator full of sodas on his back porch that he provides for free. In fact, he doesn’t charge hikers for anything and doesn’t solicit donations. Two weeks after Trail Days in Damascus, a big AT hiker festival May 18-19 this year, he hosts a ‘hiker feed’ and he said that he generally has over a hundred hikers camped at his place. His property is a little slice of heaven, located on Stony Creek. He has a large grass-covered yard that is perfect for camping with a picnic table, fire ring, clothesline, outdoor water faucet, and plenty of firewood.
Saturday night there were about ten tents set up and a really good group of hikers, including two young Brits, Butch and Sundance, who are in the US hiking the AT during their gap year. They have a great spirit and they are easily recognizable in their bright Hawaiian-style hiker clothes which they purchased at a Goodwill here in the States. Everyone enjoyed The Captain’s hospitality and camping at such a beautiful spot. If you get a chance to stop for a night at The Captain’s, don’t miss it!
Here’s a photo of The Captain’s place…