It was sick – perfect rock, gently overhanging, just enough holds. Only one problem. Beneath the boulder grew a shrub, an obstacle that would skewer anyone who fell off the crux. We’ve seen plenty of these plants before, they are everywhere. The line spoke to us. Weighing our options we came to the conclusion that perfect climbs are far rarer than these trees. We cut it down.
A sudden wind picked up – dangling beech leaves rustled in the breeze, a raven croaked, someone honked their horn down on Route 7.
“Is someone burning sage?” We asked each other.
Out of a fissure scampered a bearded man with feathers tied in his hair, donning garb made of plain brown linen (or maybe potato sacks). He was a self-proclaimed mystic, self-proclaimed keeper of the forest, and could apparently commune with our local flora.
"That was not just any shrub! That was a mountain laurel! My friend! A precious being! Sacred! Once I finish this chai I’m going into town, finding some WiFi, and slandering you on the internet! Oh, and death threats! You should die for this. You are monsters."
He took a hit off his rollie and skipped down the mountain angrily.
Astonished at what just happened, but not distracted from the task at hand, we cleaned up the rock and got to climbing. It was a classic, a great addition to the region. Something that maybe hundreds of people will get enjoyment and a sense of accomplishment from, let alone a chance to be outside in nature. Happy with the day, we descended into town. Later that night I discovered the Rock Cricket website was flooded with comments:
“How could you cut down that laurel?! You’re a bunch of fucks!” –Native0584
“That’s the state flower of Connecticut! You’re going to pay!” -ENVIROCONCIOUS
“I hope you fall and die!” –PEACE_love_ROCKS
We shrugged it off and drank some beer.
A note from the author:
This piece was inspired by the recent uproar related to Joe Kinder cutting down a California juniper in the Tahoe region. Although I do not condone Joe’s actions, I also will not demonize him. It’s an ethical issue, and as always, everyone has their own opinions on the matter. The California juniper (Juniperus californica) is not a listed species, however, this doesn’t excuse cutting down one. These trees can live for an impressive amount of time and are an important part of their natural communities. I will not profess to be very knowledgeable about this particular species as I live and work (in the conservation field) in the northeastern United States. I feel it is important to think about the fact that trees are cut down for a number of reasons related to the outdoor experience. How do you think trails come to be? Let alone how many trees are wiped out for infrastructure, residences, shopping malls, etc? There are far greater issues to quibble over than one climber cutting down a tree. I also find it very interesting how those “speaking for the trees” and mentioning John Muir are also posting death threats. We live in a funny and frightening time.