PCT 2019: Day 39, Casa de Luna to Tentsite at Maxwell Road

It was the hexagram of the heavens

It should be obvious to regular readers that my blog posts are usually written around a line from the lyrics of a song. I also sometimes use dialogue from a movie or a quote from a poem.

Admittedly, these words are often taken out of context. Sometimes the connection I’ve made to the quote is obscure. My intent is to capture what I felt that day or highlight something that happened.

It doesn’t happen always, but there are times I suddenly hear a song playing in my head. It's unexpected, triggered by something I’m seeing or a conversation I’m having with another person.

This happens despite my poor memory for lyrics. I can’t accurately sing or recite all the words of any song, except for maybe the “Star-Spangled Banner” and “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” Somehow, though, a fragment of a song surfaces to my consciousness when I’m not expecting to hear it.

For the days I’m writing about when I don’t hear a song in my head, I will search for a song that might fit. I do this because the words help me express what I don’t know how to say on my own.

DateThursday, May 2, 2019
WeatherLightly overcast sky with a high temperature in the upper 60s
Trail ConditionsTwo climbs, one easy and one more difficult
Today's Miles14.7
Trip Miles494.1

Today was a day I clearly heard a song in my head. I was walking on the trail when I looked up and saw vapor trails from jet planes crisscross above me. Instantly, I heard Joni Mitchell singing, "It was the hexagram of the heavens.”

I didn’t know all of the words of her song, “Amelia,” but this line played on repeat in my head. As I listened to it, a melancholy mood came over me.

The mood reflected the theme of wandering in her song and I began to feel a tug of my own opposing emotions. I wanted to be free to walk alone for months, yet I needed to be connected to my family and friends.

The music helped me understand emotions lurking under the surface. I enjoy this hike. It’s fulfilling a big dream. But that is matched by an ache for what I’m giving up while on the trail.

This morning began when Just Awesome stopped by my tent to tell me pancakes and coffee were ready at the house. I instantly leaped from the tent.

When I got to the house, Joe Anderson was in the kitchen making pancakes. He was cooking while listening to the Grateful Dead, so we talked about music for several minutes before a stack of pancakes beckoned me.

When I finished eating, I joined the Woohoo Crew for a group photo in front of a bedsheet that had been hung on the side of the house. It was filled with signatures and drawings from hikers. We signed it and then prepared to leave.

Spamalot said she now preferred the trail name Spamala Anderson. We thought it was a great trail name.

Terrie Anderson drove Steel Belted, Rainbow Sherbet and me back to the trailhead. We arrived at 9:15 a.m., then before we began walking we hugged and thanked her for all of the kindness she and Joe had shared during our stay.

Terrie told me this was the last year they would be hosting hikers. They wanted to move to Washington to be closer to grandchildren.

Like Scout and Frodo’s house and Hiker Heaven, Casa de Luna is irreplaceable and will be missed. I feel sorry for future thru-hikers who will not be able to enjoy the special memories that countless other hikers and I have enjoyed while staying with these trail angels.

I knew the climb from the trailhead was going to be long and I expected it would be difficult. It was surprisingly easy.

Perhaps I didn’t feel the elevation change because I’ve now been hiking for more than a month. My trail legs helped me power up the mountain.

After climbing for two miles the trail took a gently-rolling, zig-zagging path for the next four miles. Then it began an easy descent to Lake Hughes Road.

Thousands of butterflies were flitting closely to the trail as they looked for wildflowers. I tried to take a picture of them, but they were elusive.

The butterflies are called painted ladies and they have been seen this year in especially notable numbers. They have been wintering here in the desert and are now beginning a migration north to Oregon, Washington, and even Alaska.

The flowers sought by the butterflies included some spectacular clumps of desert paintbrush.

I stopped for a break when I found some shade. The rest of the tramily who had gotten a later ride from Case de Luna caught up with me there. When we left they were soon ahead of me and out of sight.

After the easy descent to Lake Hughes Road, the trail began a more difficult climb.

Less than a mile up the trail, it made a turn and I came upon a startling sight. Backpacks and trekking poles were scattered along the trail, but there were no hikers to be seen.

“It’s happened!” I shouted. “It’s The Rapture, but I’ve been left behind!”

Then I turned and saw a cave. Spamala, Falls, Captain, and Gilly were in it and they said there was room for me, too.

It’s true there was room for me, but not a lot. We ate lunch in the cool, dark and cramped cave.

There were a couple more of these small caves nearby. They were no doubt for mining, though for what ore or mineral I couldn’t tell. More than 2,000 mines are reported to be in this area, though most are closed.

Mojave thistle appeared on the ascending trail, as did more butterflies.

This climb was more difficult than the first one of the day, and not just because it was longer and steeper. The day was becoming hot. Today was much hotter than the last two days.

By mid-afternoon, I was in need of water, and thankfully, I soon arrived at a spring. Only a small trickle came from the rocks, but it was enough to collect. That was made easier by a small piece of metal that had been placed there to catch the water and funnel it into my water container for filtering.

I was glad to have the new filter I asked Captain and Gilligan pick up for me when we were at Hiker Heaven. It allowed me to fill my water bottles much faster.

As usual, lizards scurried across the trail. Because they are cold-blooded, they didn’t mind the heat as much as I did.

At the end of the climb we took a short break in a large clump of trees. A nearby sign said the area was developed for camping by a local Boy Scout troop.

A Forest Service ranger waved as he drove by while we stretched out in the shade.

The time was 4 p.m., which was a little too early to set up camp. Despite the shade, this was also not a good place to camp because there was no water source nearby.

The trail was now on a roller-coaster path of short ups and downs. It was going in the same direction as Maxwell Road, a bumpy dirt road, but never on it except to cross it near where we were planning to camp.

Near the campsite were some beautiful flowers with an unfortunate name, blue dicks. I did not make that up.

My tent was set up by 6 p.m. The campsite was nice and flat, with plenty of room for everyone.

Spamala and I walked to a concrete cistern to collect water. It was constructed in a clever way to collect rainfall, but the narrow opening made a challenge for getting water out of it.

The melancholy tug I felt earlier when I heard Joni Mitchell in my head had faded by the end of the day. I used to feel it a lot, but I’ve been working to accept it. This is just part of the experience of long-distance hiking.

“As the road leads cursed and charmed,” Joni sings.

I was driving across the burning desert
When I spotted six jet planes
Leaving six white vapor trails across the bleak terrain
It was the hexagram of the heavens
It was the strings of my guitar
Amelia, it was just a false alarm

From “Amelia” by Joni Mitchell


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.