We ended yesterday, and started today, at Casa de Luna — better known as the home of the Andersons, some of the best-known, and longest-running (16 years and counting!) trail angels yet. Casa de Luna is legendary among PCT hikers, although, until last night, I didn’t really understand why. Now, I do.
It’s the single friendliest, happiest, easy-going place I’ve run into on the trail yet. When you arrive at the Andersons’ house — just two miles (and an easy hitch) from the trail — you’re immediately greeted by Terry Anderson, a woman you can’t help but love as she gives you two things: an enormous hug, and a Hawaiian shirt. (Lest the hug seem less magical than it really is, please remember that everybody she’s hugging generally hasn’t showered in about four days and has been sweating like crazy the entire time. That is love!)
You then get to go explore their entire place — most especially their backyard, which is like something out of your happiest childhood dreams made real. It’s absolutely gigantic, for one, stretching for at least a couple of acres behind their house. It’s like a magical forest: it’s covered in tall manzanita trees, giving it almost a mystical feel, and they’ve carved paths through them that lead every which way, opening up to camping spaces everywhere. If you were six years old and had this backyard to play in, you could spend days on end fantasizing about all the mystical creatures who must live back there. It’s pretty much a perfect place to stay…and, as we discovered later, a wonderful place to catch up on much-needed sleep.
Once you set your tent up, it’s probably about time for dinner, which is plates of the most enormous taco salad. You pick a plate, run the buffet line, and pile it high, higher, highest with everything you can imagine: chips, taco meat, melted cheese, lettuce, tomato, jalapeños…the list goes on. After a long day of hiking, it is delicious. And, after dinner, you get to relax and hang out with all your fellow hikers, doing anything you want. The atmosphere is as relaxed as can be, and it’s just…so darn pleasant. It makes you feel like you want to stay for days. (And, in fact, some hikers do just that; it isn’t nicknamed “The Vortex” for nothing.)
In the morning, there’s fresh coffee and pancakes made by Mr. Anderson, dished out directly from their kitchen. And there are tales of PCT hikers from years past by Terry, and a signing of their giant bedsheet — one from each year — by all the hikers (this year is apparently the first year they’ll need two), then a group photo before rides back to the trail. Basically, you just feel completely showered with love the entire time you’re there, and I think that’s exactly what’s going on. These people are incredibly kind, generous, and loving folks, and you feel that every moment you’re there.
We would’ve stayed another day, too, if we didn’t have miles to make…but we did have miles to make, and so we moved on. The PCT is closed for another swath of several miles around here, due to a fire from a couple of years ago, and so there is…(drum roll, please)…yet another road walk instead. Fortunately, there are two advantages to this one: one, a chunk of the trail was recently re-opened, so you can get off the road and back to the trail more easily than you could in the past. Two, the road walk goes right through the middle of a neighboring town and right past a bar and grill…so, of course, every single hiker stops there for burgers. When we stopped in, there were probably already a dozen hikers in the bar, and, over time, there got to be at least twice that number, all ordering incredible quantities of food. We gorged ourselves, talked about the trail ahead, reconnected with friends, and eventually, reluctantly, rolled off our chairs and out the door, ready to get going once more.
Other great sightings along this road walk: a wolf sanctuary with real, live wolves (fortunately, sitting behind two chain-link fences, one of them very high and topped with razor wire); an ostrich ranch with signs for an ostrich crossing (and two ostriches in the yard who decided it was time to make a baby ostrich right when we passed, to our great impression and amusement); and someone’s yard with two mannequins tied up in bizarre scenarios against a local tree — we really didn’t ask, and just moved on.
The trail back to the PCT from the road made us appreciate the PCT a whole lot more than we had been: it was completely overgrown with poison oak for a good chunk of its length, making us dodge the plant constantly as we walked, and was impressively steep. It wasn’t a long trail, though, and pretty soon we were back on our trail, heading to Canada once again. Only a few more miles and we were at a campground, spreading out across the huge space with all the other hikers, ready for a well-deserved night’s rest.