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See the smiley in the middle?

See the smiley in the middle?

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Sometimes it goes like this. You drive two hours to get to a trailhead. You spend several hours reaching the top of the mountain, noticing the changing flora. You wonder if the dark clouds that are pouring down in the distance are going to float over and pour down on you, and, worse still, bring with them the dreaded lightning, which turns bare granite mountains into lightning rods. You sweat, you get tired, you reach the top, no rain so far. From the peak you get magnificent and contrasting views of the desert down on one side and still the threatening clouds on the other side.

Desert down below

Desert down below

Rain in the distance

Rain in the distance

On the way down, you see the rock with the smiley face, and take some pictures, as is your wont. Later, there is not just rain but a full-scale hailstorm. It’s all pretty damn exciting, because you love the rain and don’t mind the mud or the getting wet, and you are below the treeline anyway. You get to the car and find that the seats are wet. It had been warm when you parked, and, in your infinite wisdom, you had left the windows down by an inch, so that the car wouldn’t get too hot, but the weather had had the temerity to turn around on you completely. But you are too tired and happy to let the inconvenience bother you. You get home late, and go to bed satisfied.

Eight months later, when you think back to that hike, eventful as it was, what you remember most sharply is the rock with the smiley face.

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I find that creativity is a rare and elusive beast at the best of times, but when you have hiked up to 9000 feet, the exertion and thin air surely make it is even harder to come by. I don’t know who put the sticks and stones on that rock, whether they were camping there, and thus had the time to fool around, or whether they were just passing through, like me. In any case, whoever it was that noticed the rock and then scrambled around to get it to smile, they totally made my day.

I love how that rock is not just round and flat, but also has in place already a mouth in the form of a gash. In retrospect, it is almost begging to be given a smiley face. Giving it exactly that wasn’t just a cute and creative thing to do, it also, in some strange way, said a generous and quite unique Hi to future hikers. Put simply, it was a quite brilliant gesture. Whoever you are, well done!

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