My Tour of California Big Bear climb raised my heart rate to say the least. A few days before my cycling heroes would roll into town, we took a hike of the Cougar Crest & Pacific Crest Trails above Big Bear Lake in California. Huffing and puffing up an hour-long switch backed climb, we came across a patch of wide trail. Big hunks of stumps littered the trailside. Apparently the forest service was doing some thinning of the dead tree cover. Two barkless stumps caught my eye, each 2 ½ feet tall and about the same diameter. A dollar flagged each one. Folded in thirds and stuck in the cracks on the edge of the wood you could clearly make out the “1” and half of a George Washington in the unmistakable greenback color from at least 15 yards away. “Look a dollar! And, another!”
We stepped up. As we drew closer we saw the dollars each blanketed a business card. Hmm. Fishy. Money with a message. Inquisitively I plucked one from the stump crack. Not only was the buck wrapped around the business card, it was taped tight with clear Scotch tape, making it nearly impossible to snag the dollar without at least reading part of the card.
Reluctant to completely take the bait, I took a nibble. I yanked on the card a few times till it pulled though the dollar, enough to see the card while leaving it still somewhat taped to the dollar. The text on the plain white card looked like this:
Yikes! I quickly stuffed the card back in the dollar, noticing there was some church stuff printed on the back. Then pulled it out again to snap a photo.
“Should we take it,” my wife asked. “No. Bad Karma,” I said stuffing the buck back into the stump crack. We turned and continued our climb. Then the thoughts stewed. My wife wondered if it was the handiwork of the old guy with the trekking poles we passed earlier. Maybe. He was an odd looking guy, but kind. He did say hi when we passed. Then again, elderly people can be more Bible banger than most.
But, the message, it was so harsh. Sin and DEATH? It’s a dollar found in the woods. It’s not stealing. Where’s the sin in that? Or, is it the modern day version of the biblical apple temptation? Then I worried. I touched the dollar. What if it was covered in Anthrax or something deathly diabolical? What if that old guy was a freaking Saw 5 psychopath and found an ingenious way to kill mountain bikers and hikers in the middle of nowhere? Shit. I rubbed my fingers in dirt and then cleaned ‘em off with water from my Camelback. I know nothing about Anthrax, besides them being a rockin’ band, but washing couldn’t hurt.
Not axed in half by some lunatic and thankfully clear-headed, we made it to the top, snapped a few photos of tiny mountain flowers, and returned to the stump area about 2 ½ hours later. The dollars and business cards were gone. Someone else took the bait. I was bummed. By then, I had rationalized the perfect excuse to take the cash. It was littering, pure and simple. Pack it in, pack it out. Who’s the sinner now?