After hiking so many miles, living on the trail becomes second nature. The towns become harsher and more abrasives to the senses, and the speed of conventional travel, culture, and all around general activity seems to teem around you, pushing you back into the calm embrace of nature. In the dust and the rock of the desert, you move not as a human, but as a mammal. You eat for calories sake and you lumber from water source to water source. You become the purest form of human.
This section of trail is nothing like that. In fact, if you can manage the miles, you could walk from house to house, or more accurately, party to party. I have spoken about Hiker Heaven and the Saufleys, a cool place to stay and get down, but still a place that asks for a modicum of decency and responsibility. 28 miles layer, sits Casa De Luna, or the Anderson’s. This hiker haven demands respect and deserves it by all means, but it is safe to say that Terri Anderson is into a little more, dirty fun. Hikers sit around on ratty couches the whole day. I did not move from my seat for 8th hours. All around, hikers laze about in one state of intoxication or another, wearing the trademark uniform of the Casa, an Hawaiian shirt. It is a rougher kind of place than Hiker Heaven, like a biker bar is rougher than just a regular pub. There is the hint of debauchery and danger in the air, held aloft by the rumors, both fantastical and realistic, spread between hikers about this place. And boy, does the Casa De Luna deliver. It is well worth the stop, and we’ll worth the zero you will most likely need the next day. I can best describe it as the Hotel California. You van check out, but you can never leave.
From the Casa, the trail is closed for about 30 miles due to a fire that tore through the area last year. Hikers must road walk around it and get back onto the trail about 6 miles south of yet another hiker stop, this one aptly named Hikertown. I walked the road as long as it took for my thumb to flag down a car, and rejoined the trail when it opened up again. To the purists out there, fuck off.
Hiker Heaven to Casa De Luna to Hikertown. In three days, each one ending in a beer filled romp and a lot of Hiker trash.
Hikertown is a literal town, though it would look more at home in a post apocalyptic wasteland. Random machinery lays scattered in various states of decay or disrepair, including several dune buggies and n ATV. A quick investigation led to one machine savvy hiker to spend the rest of the day mending the buggies, and zooming around the compound on the ATV. Several dogs roam the grounds, untamed and interbreeding, and all the structures have an ait of being held together my dirt and sheer will.
The property is home to a main private house where the caretakers live and a variety of out buildings of various shape and size and motif. There are some simple cubes of one material or another, or some old trailers, stripped of their tires and condemned to rot in their final locations. Some buildings are modeled after an old town, with names like Motel, Feed House, and even Jail. Most of these buildings function as rooms for hikers to sleep in, though some are just there. The dramatic ‘set’ of out buildings is the brain child of Bob Skaggs, a famous movie producer with an interesting past. (Worth googling, trust me) Various film momentos were used in building this town. The mini town look, coupled with the stark surroundings, make for a dramatic effect. Run down, yet functional- lived in.
It is interesting that during one of the harshest parts of the trail, the most ‘comfort’ can be found. Though only if your idea of comfort is a roof or something close to it.
From this stretch of partying and softer beds, an infection can easily spread. Many hikers can get sucked into the vortex of zero days and beer and never leave the hiker houses. We were fortunate to pull away from the Siren call and venture forth, into the Mojave after only 1 zero day.
The trail through the high desert is flat, obnoxiously so. Your progress cannot be measured in ups or downs, or switchbacks, but rather in your relative distance to the horizon, which seems to never get closer. The hike is beautiful and unique in its own way. It’s lack of elevation gain/loss is a novel treat and the miles come quickly, but it was the sky that caught my eye. It was as big as I had seen it so far. Marshmallow clouds played with streams of light coming through gaps, throwing beautiful patterns onto the ground. A cool breeze kept us from over heating, something not all hikers will enjoy. I was happy to eventually start climbing into the foot hills of the ever closer Sierra Nevada mountains, where I made camp at Tyler Horse Canyon and drank from a tiny Creeklet running through it.
The following day, we pushed into Tehapchapi, still enjoying the mild weather, though the winds had picked up tremendously and tried their best to always blow against your forward momentum.
I saw Coppertone again at the road crossing but quickly hitched into town to make it to the post office before it closed. We resupplied and even saw a movie and ended the night in a trail angels yard. He goes by the name Tortoise and speaks about how he vibrates with some and not with others. He rocks a bandana so you know he must be cool.
Tomorrow we push on, trying to hit Kennedy Meadows, the ‘gateway’ to the Sierra in about a week. The end of the desert is here and I, like all the other hikers around me, are eager to get there.