Returned to Yosemite: One Pine Cone

A single Ponderosa pine cone arrived with an unsigned note

It's a saying shared again and again, with visitors to national parks across the country, and while the words may vary the meaning is the same: If everyone who passed through took a little something from a park, that park would soon look very different.

Truer words, and a sentiment that struck a chord with a person who'd visited Yosemite National Park. The visitor had picked up a Ponderosa pine cone during their time at the famous destination, but evidently had second thoughts upon returning home. And so they returned the woodsy cone to Yosemite, in the mail, with a short note.

Where that home is isn't known: By the time it had reached the office that handles Yosemite's social media, just the small box with the pine cone and note remained. The note isn't signed but holds only these words: "Just want to return this to the park. Thank You!" The top of the box has a short message revealing the pine cone within.

Ashley Mayer of the Yosemite public affairs office says that while a returned rock or pine cone isn't a daily or even weekly event, it does happen "every so often."

This current example of someone taking the time to return what many, many visitors regularly leave with, as a souvenir, brings to mind the sweet story of Evie, a little girl who mailed a couple of sticks she'd taken back to Yosemite. That was in the spring of 2013, recalling the Leave No Trace Seven principles, which the park posted alongside the pine cone story on Jan. 23.

A fan posting beneath the pine cone picture sums up the words many a nature lover knows: "Take only photos, leave only footprints."

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There are, of course, gift shops stocked with postcards, too, and other trip-reminder items.

True, the lively landscape and vast, wild world that is Yosemite National Park changes with every micro-second, with every squirrel scampering by and breeze that blows. But better to leave the breezes and bears and water and time to guide its ever-evolving course then we humans and our desire to fill a spot on the shelf back home.

That's what photos are for, and, yes, the occasional snowglobe and bear-shaped paperweight, if you collect bear-shaped paperweights.

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