Trio of Angels

We arrived mid-morning at Hiker Heaven to be warmly greeted by fellow hikers and hiker volunteers. We were immediately given the tour of the amenities available. The Saufley’s yard had a smattering of tents set up, with chickens meandering around, scratching for bugs around the tents. Their garage had been converted to a very well organized mail center where a plethora of resupply boxes awaited the arrival of their hikers. They generously offer mail delivery services as their small town doesn’t have a post office nearby. We were shown the procedure for having laundry washed, as well as where to sign up for the shower queue. Next to the yard of tents was a guest house which had a few rooms available for couples, as well as an indoor bathroom & shower, couch, TV, and kitchen, all for the hikers to utilize. Alongside the Saufley’s house, several patio furniture arrangements are set up to allow lounging hikers a variety of sitting options all around the yard for socializing while chores are being completed.

Around the yard are many white domes. The first has the well organized loaner clothes, so you’re not running around naked while your laundry is being washed. It also has a sewing station to mend any of your broken gear, as well as sodas and Gatorade for sale, a mailing station full of boxes, bubble wrap, and tape, as well as a laptop for breaking away from the handheld devices for Internet use. The next dome was a lounge area with many bean bags, charging stations, and tables for hikers to relax late into the night, away from the main house and tent yard. Adjacent to that was the outdoor shower, recently built to help expedite the de-funking process of the abundant amount of hikers coming through. Other amenities available for hikers include a self hair cutting station, well organized hiker box area with categories of gear, clothing, food, toiletries, shoes, and books, and most importantly, a row of Porta potties by the horse corral. I was very impressed with how well oil this machine was running! After talking with Donna & Jeff, they said they had no idea 19 years ago just how big this operation would grow. But it’s a fun, yet busy, few months for them each spring. Although, 4 of their 5 dogs look like they’ve gotten their fill of hikers for years to come.

We quickly met up with Steve, who had arrived the night before, and got our home set up in the yard amoungst the chickens and hikers. We got our laundry gathered to put in queue for washing. I was first in line for the outdoor shower, which was surprisingly scalding hot. Once we felt like humans again, we organized a group together to Uber the 30 miles into the LA area to the REI. Decked out in very fashionable loaner clothes and freshly showered, we gathered our gear & crew to head to town. Unfortunately, about 5 minutes before we arrived, I realize we didn’t bring the shoes we needed to take back to exchange. Whoops. We ran through all the options of how to get the shoes back here without spending a fortune taking a bunch of Ubers. Knowing we were planning on taking a zero the following day, we knew we’d have options of other hikers needing to go to REI, so it wasn’t too devastating to have forgotten them. After a few hours of enjoying town life and shopping, we headed back to Hiker Heaven to relax for the rest of the evening. That night when I got up to use the port potties near the horse corral, the horses were apparently hoping for a 2 a.m. snack from me. We each approached the fence from our respective sides, but once they realized I had nothing to offer, they begrudgingly retreated back to their shelter for the rest of the night.

(I apparently only took video at these places, so I had to borrow some photos. Left photo credit on photo when applicable. Thanks fellow hikers!)

I made a valid attempt to sleep in the next morning, though the rowdy rooster of the yard said otherwise. We got our packages mailed, shopping list created, and another group organized to go to REI. Steve went to town to complete his shoe shopping and exchanges, as well as our food resupply. I elected to stay back and theoretically work on a blog post, but ended up watching some TV and movies with some fellow hikers. It was nice to have the opportunity to lounge on the couch, yet still be social with some new friends. Movie night continued after the boys returned, interrupted only by dinner at the pizza parlor. We called it an early night to prepare for hiking out the next day.

The next morning, we were up early enough to pack up & catch the first shuttle down to town to get breakfast before heading out back on trail. Fortunately, trail ran right through the Main Street of Agua Dulce, so as soon as the breakfast herd was fed, we were able to step outside right back on trail. We had a good day of hiking ahead of us, as it was only about 26 miles between Hiker Heaven and the next famous trail angel stop, Casa de Luna. We put in a longer day than anticipated, breaching the 20 mile mark for the evening as the guys were feeling good and chatting with a new friend. The four of us camped among the brush at the top of the ridgeline just 5 miles from the access road to Green Valley where Casa de Luna was located.

The longer day started to push the limit of my shin as it was aching pretty strongly for the last 4 miles of the day and off & on as we hiked down into town. We lucked out as we reach the highway that their volunteer at Casa de Luna was dropping off some of our hiker friends who had stayed the night before. She gave us a ride down to our destination. Since we only had a short hike into town, we arrived mid-morning, making the place pretty quiet for the three of us since the previous night’s hikers had already left.

The volunteer gave us a tour of the property, pointing out the ‘not rules but suggestion list’ listed the first priority as to give Terri a hug. As soon as she realized new hikers had arrived, our host Terri Anderson came outside to greet each of us individually with a big mama bear hug. Like the Saufleys, the Andersons have been hosting hikers for 19 seasons. We quickly noted that Casa de Luna offered the polar opposite aspect of Hiker Heaven. At Hiker Heaven, you’re very focused on getting your chores done: fixing broken gear & equipment, laundry, showering, resupply, gear purchasing, etc. All the things you have to get done on a town day. But since we had just completed all of our chores the previous day, we were free to relax the entire day at Casa de Luna. Our only requirements were to set up our home and acquire some lunch.

After completing the first task of hugging Terri, second task was to don a Hawaiian shirt from the clothing rack of large varieties. We each found one to suit our personalities. I managed to score a Hawaiian skirt in addition to a shirt! I felt very colorful, as my trail name requires. Next, it was time to pick a camping spot. The area behind Terri’s house was very large with about 50 secluded campsites among the chocolate syrup trees, as the volunteer called them. Hulk and I claimed the first campsite we arrived upon as we didn’t feel the need to walk more than necessary, but I took a stroll through the campground to admire the collection of painted rocks previous hikers had decorated the woods with.

After home was setup, we returned to the front where the lounge area was set up. I signed the the sheet for the class of 2018, using the rainbow of markers to doodle my trail name for the first time. Then I set to work on painting a rock. Since I’m not an artistically creative person, I was able to find guidance for my first attempt at drawing the Incredible Hulk. I was very very surprised on how well the rock turned out, considering my lack of ability to create dimension, depth, or action. But I proudly dedicated my rock to my husband and found a home for it among the chocolate syrup trees in the campground.

As the day progressed, hikers trickled in from their journey from Hiker Heaven. Not everyone stops at both locations, as some don’t like to stop too frequently, but we knew each place had a very unique environment to offer hikers and choosing one over the other just didn’t make sense for us. As evening approached, the hiker count for the night was growing closer to 25 hikers (her record is 78), all decked out in Hawaiian shirts, ready to dance for their class bandanas.

For about 10 years now, 3 former PCT hikers (Grottago, Yogi, & Cupcake) put together a bandana with the PCT trail & waypoints, as well as the phrases ‘hiker to town’ and ‘hiker to trail’, offering an aid for hikers while they’re hitching to and from town. This year’s bandanas are orange with white writing. To earn your free gift from the PCT alumni, you must dance at Casa de Luna. Some hikers arrive at the site nervous about what the dance might entail. But in all actuality, the dance is just a short jig to whatever music is playing with moves ranging from the robot to line dancing to lap dancing and all the phases in between.

Once everyone has their bandana, it’s time for the feast. The Andersons provide a taco salad buffet meal every evening for all the hikers. Before dinner can be served, the rules of the buffet must be covered to ensure sanitation is that at the highest level. Hands are washed, food is not scooped over the containers, but next to it so nothing accidentally drops into the wrong dish. All with Ms. Terri watching dutifully with a yard stick, there to give a gentle reminder to anyone breaking the rules. The dinner is all you can eat as long as you don’t waste anything on your plate. The music progresses through dinner for dancing and camaraderie.

We had a special evening as it was Sideways’ birthday. She is a Dutch woman traveling solo on the PCT and celebrated her 57th birthday at Casa de Luna. This gave Patch a great idea on how to celebrate and keep with the dancing theme. Patch organized a special birthday lap dance for Sideways including himself, Hulk, and Oak, dancing something along the lines of humorously seductive for the birthday girl. She was a few glasses of wine deep into her celebration and did not know why she was sitting in front of everybody in a chair. She was quite surprised as a parade of men came dancing along for her. Everyone enjoyed the performance & had a good laugh with her.

Since we were the early birds to arrive that day, we were the first to retire for the night to get some rest before hiking out next morning. We awoke to a hazy day at our elevation, knowing the trail up the mountain would be clouded in. We enjoyed our pancake breakfast provided by the Andersons before getting our ride back up to the trailhead. From there, Hulk, Patch, & I set off up the mountain, all of us feeling good. Hulk’s new shoes seemed to be comfortable & my shin was not a pain after Terri had rubbed a natural remedy of arnica balm on my shin. We felt good, but Hulk’s calves were tight, so we took our time as we progressed up the mountain to relax and stretch to prevent any injuries. We hiked through the fog cloaked mountain range, being treated with rain and small hail as we reached our campsite for the day. We put in a solid 20 miles on the day and had an equally long day ahead of us the next day into the next unique hiker location called Hiker Town.

We worked our way through the hills down into the beginning of the Mojave Desert where Hiker Town was located. Storm clouds look menacing from where we left behind, but with clear skies ahead of us, we worked our way toward less rain. Along the way, Steve encountered his first rattle snake, and it was pissssed about having people walk by its bush. Of course the snake’s bush was right on trail on a steep cliff, so navigating around it was quite troublesome, but we wanted to give that grouchy rattler plenty of space.

Hiker Town turned out to be this person, Richard’s, property who used to work in Hollywood in the film industry and had now turned his property into what one would describe as an Old West movie set. Little buildings lined the yard with titles such as postmaster, saloon, schoolhouse, jail, general store, ect. The cute buildings were available for a small rental fee or hikers could just pitch their tent anywhere on the property. We also had a lounge, hiker box, kitchen, shower, and laundry available to us in the garage. We had sent a resupply box, which we picked up at the postmaster building. We stayed up fairly late chatting with the proprietor about the Mojave Green rattlesnakes & scorpions, as he prepared us for what to expect as we crossed the Mojave Desert the next day.

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