A few months ago, cairns of carefully stacked rocks began to appear in Cameron Park. You could see them up behind Eskaton, on Sudbury Drive, in the Pine Hill Preserve — tiny cairns, medium cairns and a few taller than an Irish Wolfhound.
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People wondered who was creating the cairns. Occasionally people or animals or the wind knocked them down and sometimes they would be mysteriously rebuilt.
The mystery is a mystery no longer. The creative action behind the rock cairns is Cameron Park resident Bob Haltom and his trusty fellow rock hound Boomer.
Haltom began collecting rocks 20 years ago for the rock walls of the terraces he built for the extensive gardens wrapping around the home he shares with his wife, Joanne.
“My wife is the gardener and I’m the landscaper,” said Haltom, surveying the multi-level gardens.
“I used to go up behind Bel-Air where they built the medical center and pick up truckloads of rocks unearthed by the construction,” said Haltom. “We called it ‘the moon’ up there but now it has been paved over.”
Seeing a rock cairn by the side of the road while on a drive sparked a response from Haltom.
“I thought it was so cool,” he said.
Haltom began building small stacks while on walks with Boomer.
“I wasn’t doing it openly at first, just kind of as a surprise,” said Haltom.
Boomer, a 7- or 8-year-old rescue dog of indeterminate breed waited patiently while Haltom made his stealthy constructions in a few minutes. Neighbors began noticing and one day, Haltom and Boomer were caught in mid-construction.
“The neighbor said he’d wondered who was making the stacks and he liked them,” said Haltom. Another neighbor found him out and told him she loved seeing the rocks.
An artist was born.
A vacant lot that backs up to the Pine Hill Preserve is Haltom’s favorite playground with an endless supply of rocks. The hilly lot boasts more than 10 rock cairns. Most have a triangular rock on the top, Haltom’s signature.
“They don’t all have a triangle but I try,” said Haltom.
Haltom and Boomer walk every day and the rocky red topography near their home provides plenty of material.
“You need a solid base, so I start with a flat rock on the bottom and then add different shapes. After 20 years of building rock walls, I can visualize how they’ll fit before I stack them. The higher you stack the rocks, they start balancing themselves,” he said.
Often the stacks topple over, sometimes an accident of the weather or an animal; other times a human factor has intervened.
“Not a problem,” said Haltom. “It just gives me more to do and I stack them differently. Boomer has knocked a few of them over doing his business.”
Joanne has also been known to do restacking of toppled cairns when Haltom is rock hunting elsewhere.
keep on rockin’
Haltom’s cairns began to grow, both in number and in size. Some of the biggest ones can be found in the Pine Hill Preserve and the drive to create is growing.
“It’s kind of a Zen thing,” said Haltom.
He said he has always loved to play in the dirt since he was a kid, playing with his Tonka Toys.
“This is kind of a throwback to my childhood. I’ve only been doing it a few months, so I know it’s going to grow.”
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.