Taco Salad and Hawaiian Shirts in Casa de Luna
After a nero day at Hiker Heaven, we somehow found the will to wake up at 4 a.m. to head back to the trail. We walked a mile down from the Saufleys since the shuttles weren’t running yet. The PCT runs right through the town of Agua Dulce, so we began our day on the road for a couple of miles walking past several homes on our way to Casa de Luna and taco salad.
It was a foggy morning, which we assumed would burn off before noon. We were so wrong though. As we hiked back up into the mountains in the thick fog, I felt like we were back on the Appalachian Trail rather than in Southern California. That fog burn-off never happened and we were enveloped in a thick fog for a few days.
We decided to make the 24-mile push to Casa de Luna, where we planned to take a zero. As we neared the top of our first climb, wind and precipitation pelted us. We sought shelter for a quick snack before descending. I don’t think it was actually raining, but more of the fact that we were in a cloud and therefore we were quite wet.
The dampness cleared somewhat as we descended to Green Valley, but the clouds loomed around every bend. Personally, this didn’t really bother me, especially knowing that it more than likely wouldn’t last for a couple of days, and eventually our gear would dry again. That’s not to say that I wasn’t having flashbacks to the AT when our gear didn’t dry for days on end due to rain and high humidity.
Arrival at Casa de Luna
When we arrived at the road into Green Valley, trail angel Loner just happened to be dropping off a hiker and immediately welcomed us into his warm car. With the heat blasting, he drove us to Casa de Luna, where we would be staying for the next two nights. Casa de Luna is the home of the Andersons, who welcome hikers to camp in their backyard of manzanita trees.
When we arrived, several hikers were huddled under the shade tents in the front yard in down coats and bundled up in blankets on the couches. We really just wanted some hot food and drink, so we set up our tent and immediately headed over to the Heart ‘N’ Soul Cafe just up the road for some waffle fries, onion rings, and hot chocolate.
We stopped in for some beer at the convenience store before heading back to Casa de Luna to hang out with the other hikers and await our taco salad dinner. There were only a few people that we knew, so we had the chance to meet a ton of new hikers that night. Every night, dinner is served around 7 p.m. and it’s always delicious make-it-yourself taco salad. Piled high on nachos were salsa, cheese, cabbage, olives, onions, jalapenos, hot sauce, and sour cream. Needless to say, many of us went back for seconds and thirds.
After the taco salad dinner, the nightly dance for your Class of 2018 bandana begins. The Class of 2002 makes the bandanas every year for each class of hikers. To earn your bandana, you have to dance for Terrie on her front porch. It’s really not as daunting as it sounds. She puts on “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars and you can dance as terribly as you want to earn your prize. Thankfully, our friends weren’t there until the next night, so no one who actually knew me witnessed my awful dance moves.
A Different Kind of Zero Day
We “slept in” until 6:30 a.m. the next morning and rolled out of our tent for coffee and pancakes. I ate a conservative four pancakes since it was our day off. Miles had six heaped with butter and syrup. Normally, zero days aren’t as relaxing as you might think. When you only take one day off trail, you have to do all of your town errands in one day. This normally includes laundry, shower, resupply, blogging (for me), and trying to get off your feet and rest. At Casa de Luna, however, we only had to resupply, so it was a unique zero for us.
Even though most of our gear was still damp as the clouds continued to linger over Green Valley, I didn’t care. It was cool and cloudy and it felt like home. We hung out at the cafe for the majority of the afternoon. It was packed with both locals and hikers as there was also a street sale in the parking lot. We had all day and nothing to do, so we didn’t mind waiting for our food and milkshakes a bit longer than usual. If you stay at Casa de Luna, definitely check out the cafe. The staff there were super friendly and patient and even though they were short-staffed, they didn’t bat an eye.
Gas Station Run-Ins
After a few hours at the cafe, we stocked up on four days of food to get us to Tehachapi. While there, we ran into Froggy, Flipper, Penguin, Snacks, Bud Light, and Mike (now Bazinga). If you ever hear the term trail fam, these guys are it for us. We were really excited to see them and have a night to hang out together at Casa de Luna. They would be taking a zero the day after, so we knew that we would end up being a day ahead of them.
When we got back to the Andersons, we found our Hawaiian shirts and painted our rocks to add to the magical manzanita forest. Both of these things are also traditions at Casa de Luna. I ended up donning a sweet, bright orange tiger getup and couldn’t think of anything better to paint on my rock, so I went with my trail name. I chose the largest rock in the pile, but still couldn’t quite fit that last letter there. Oops.
We had the privilege of documenting our friends’ bandana dances, talking music with Bud Light, asking Bazinga to repeatedly open my bottled beer with his wedding ring, and discussing all things on and off trail.
Back on Trail to Tehachapi
We had a 20-plus mile day ahead of us, so we were up early and one of the first to eat breakfast. I still only ate four pancakes and Miles had six again. He thinks he’s gained weight on-trail. I wonder why.
The skies were still overcast and we said our goodbyes to those that were awake, hoping we would see them again in Tehachapi. We were in the first car out to the trail with two hikers, one of them being Wanderer. He currently resides in Calgary, but grew up in England. We enjoyed meeting up with him on and off throughout the day as he told us about the Coast to Coast trail in England. It might just be my next hike.
After hiking about 15 miles, the clouds finally cleared and we had bright sunshine again. We also passed the 500-mile marker. It still feels surreal that we have hiked this far already. While we still have a long way to go, it finally feels like we’ve knocked off a good chunk of trail.
We tried a new thing for dinner as recommended by Tour Guide and Peach Pie. Buy a frozen gas station burrito and let it thaw out in your food bag. We were a bit skeptical, but it was absolutely delicious and required no cooking of course. I opted for the bean and cheese burrito just to be safe. It was also Mother’s Day, so I was thankful that I had service to call my mom.
The next day began in the green meadows and forests of the mountains and ended in the desert. We even saw our first rattlesnake right in the middle of the trail as we made our way to Hikertown. We have only heard a couple of rattlers way back near Julian.
Our next stop was a three-hour pit stop at Hikertown, an interesting stop right off the trail. There are several small buildings set up like an old Western town. But, more than anything, it’s a place of rest and a much-needed water fill-up point for thru-hikers. We enjoyed the shade and water throughout the afternoon, forgoing the local market to save money.
Walking the Los Angeles Aqueduct
We decided to do a few more miles to round out the day and began our walk along the aqueduct. I found it interesting to read up on the history of the aqueduct and the St. Francis Dam. I put on some music to get me through the last part of our hike. When “Morning Dew” on my Grateful Dead playlist came on, it was one of those moments that is perfect, yet unexplainable.
With the milder weather we’ve been having lately, we decided not to hike the aqueduct at night as is the popular decision. Usually, it’s unbearably hot and there isn’t any shade for miles. I don’t particularly enjoy night-hiking, so it was awesome that we were able to do it all during the day. We did get some shade under the Cottonwood Creek Bridge midday and ended our stretch on the aqueduct. I think we hit this section at the right time. We didn’t have the sweltering heat or terrible wind gusts that I had heard about from past hikers.
Zero in Tehachapi
The day you head into town for a zero is always exciting. The miles can’t go by fast enough. The majority of our day was spent hiking through a wind farm. We passed a dozen hikers slack packing the eight-mile section near Tehachapi. I could smell the cleanliness and soap on a few of them. I always find it amusing when you can’t smell the body odor, but only the scents of soap on the clean ones.
Once we got to the road, trail angel Daniel picked us up immediately. Fellow thru-hikers Jon and Fran had seen us from the road and let him know that we were coming. Daniel was kind enough to give us a tour of the town and then dropped us off at our hotel.
While our zero will be nothing like the one at Casa de Luna, we are grateful for clean clothes, a hot shower, pizza delivery, and a bed. We haven’t slept in a bed since Wrightwood and I’m not sure that one counts. It was like sleeping on wood. This time, however, we have an actual bed and I have a two-liter orange soda that Miles won’t drink. All mine!
If you’re curious as to how we’re doing physically, we both feel the best we’ve felt on trail so far. My pulled calf muscle barely hurts and the tendon pain in my right foot is minimal. Miles has developed some new blisters, but we think he just needs a new pair of shoes as his feet may have swollen again. I am picking up a fresh pair of Altras in Tehachapi so my feet will be ready to go for the Sierra section coming up. As always, our physical state can change quickly, so I will keep everyone updated.
For daily updates from the trail, head over to my Instagram, @dirigohike
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