Monday, May 23, 2016

Pine Cone Rock

It is not the most dramatic of peaks for our sixtieth SoCal hike. Mt. Hillyer near Chilao Flats summits rather aimlessly, leaving both David and I with furrowed brows, wondering, is this it? Regardless, it is a lovely day with sunshine and cool breezes singing through the tall pines. 

David and I crawl up what we've decided is the highest peak. On our way, we spot the most massive pine cone that has fallen down between the boulders, a pine cone nearly as big as my head (no joke). I say I want it, so of course, David shimmies down and plucks it out from the crack, careful not to break its scales. He climbs back up, treasure in hand, but the pine cone is seeping syrupy sap so instead, we perch it at the highest point (a cairn to abandoned desires) and leave it standing sturdy against the growing winds. We scramble down and sit, sheltered behind a nearby rock, and eat the snacks we packed, only then hearing the sounds of hikers, the first we've encountered all day, approaching from afar.

"PINE CONE ROCK!" a young voice rips through the rabble. "I want to go to Pine Cone Rock!" We sit silent and unseen as a batch of unruly Boy Scouts race up the rocks. We smile at each other realizing they are talking about our pine cone rock.  "DON'T TOUCH IT!" the tallest boy demands. "Leave it as you found it!" he states authoritatively. I know this phrase, I know respect for the wilderness, I have been taught well. I imagine my David (proud Eagle Scout) as a curly haired boy, wandering through woods, naming birds and plants and trees, steadfast in the ethics of the outdoors, leaning in close to inspect, but never touching. I feel equal twinges of pride and guilt knowing my David (proud Eagle Scout) as a shaved-headed full grown man, will scuttle down stone, to get me the biggest of pine cones.     

"It could be a marker," another boy suggests. "But HOW did it GET here?" David and I stare at each other, eyes wide, trying not to laugh. "A marker for what?" The questions hang for a second in silence, then the first boy explodes, "BUT I WANT IT." 

He wants it, like I want it. I wish I could sneak up there and stuff it in his backpack without his troupe seeing. I want him to have it, to get home and find it (hopefully with the sap fully dried), and stash it under his bed in a shoe box he keeps for secret things (although it's probably too big for a regular shoe box). Or maybe he'll take a chance and boldly display it next to his 4H trophies on the highest shelf in his bedroom. 

"But you can't have it! Nature doesn't belong to just you!" 

Oh. Bless. 

I don't want to know what happens next. I don't want to know if they keep fighting or if it accidentally gets tipped off the highest rock and tumbles down down down. I don't want to hear gasps or whose fault it is or reprimands from their leaders for being too close to the edge. So David and I slip away, leaving the Boy Scouts what-if-ing, and travel fast down the mountain, passing a thousand pine cones on our way. 



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