There is a little house in a place called Green Valley with a simple crescent moon sign dangling above a large metal mailbox, next to a modest line of four portapotties. Green Valley is a place where most homes have at least two dogs in their sprawling yards and many also have horses milling about the properties, silent and brooding. Driveways are stock piled with campers, fifth wheels, Airstreams, Burning Man art cars, trailers, ATVs, boats: all the toys. Creative and quirky mailboxes, metal Beetlejuice-like welded sculptures and open air galleries, tiny mini-marts and gas stations with good Ben & Jerry selections. All the houses are different styles, a mismatched quilt of a neighborhood.
But the little house with the crescent moon is perhaps the most curious place in Green Valley. For this home belongs to Joe and Terrie Anderson, "Casa de Luna." It is here that the Andersons have been welcoming dirty and disheveled PCT hikers into their home for the past 16 years. "It's their pleasure."
They host taco salad dinner each night and serve hot coffee and flapjacks every morning for about two months each year as the hikers file "thru" on their way from Agua Dulce down to Mojave.
The Anderson's front yard is a jumble of easy-ups and sagging couches, futons, and camp chairs beneath an umbrella whose points are muffled with clown noses. They have an outdoor kitchen area adorned with a glowing Mr. & Mrs. Claus figurine and framed by a long rack of Hawaiin shirts for hikers to wear while there. There's a picnic table covered in acrylic paints and brushes to paint rock slabs to further decorate their ornamented property. And that is all just in the front of the house.
Around the back there is a wide side yard where bowling pins and a ball are set up in front of a hammock and a couch swing. There are disc golf baskets scattered into the massive backyard amongst the trees, mangled mannequin parts, hot pink horse shoes and rusty farming equipment. There is a janky outdoor shower that requires jamming a screwdriver into a removable shower head to achieve hot water and a dresser full of clean towels next to it.
The back patio has the "420 table," complete with a bong and various glass pipes and ashtrays (and some random Q-tips) and is surrounded by mismatched chairs. A crooked sign reads "If you're not barefoot, you're overdressed." There is a garden that wraps around the other side of the house where an old white Volkswagon Beetle appears to be serving a time-out sentence in the corner.
Past the "420 table" you enter through an arched gate adorned with greenery into the enchanted Manzanita grove. The trails that lead through the grove are endless and winding, leading to campsites all throughout. The Manzanita tree's smooth bark and arching branches envelope the maze of trails, punctuated by painted rocks to designate sites, "The High Road," "The Honeymoon Suite," etc.
The Andersons couldn't care less if you stayed for a day or two or ten. What's theirs is yours. Terrie gives hugs and spankings, while Joe distributes official PCT Class of 2015 bandanas, flips pancakes and tells stories while the Allman Brothers play softly in the background. Joe's bright blue eyes flash when he gets excited and Terrie moons the crowds as their photos are taken in front of the bedsheet that the hikers autograph with a Sharpie before leaving. Terrie smokes cigarettes and shuttles hikers about in their beat up minivan that had a "Hikertrash" bumper sticker.
The Andersons have a fierce sense of humor. They're unbelievably welcoming. And totally down to earth.
"That place is a vortex," the neighbors warned as we approached. And if we weren't on a mission to get to Canada, we may have never left.
(Highlight: I found a basket of nail polish under a table and gave myself a metallic silver mani/pedi.)