There's a little bit of Christmas floating on San Pablo Bay.
About a week ago, a Christmas tree appeared on the water near San Rafael's Glenwood neighborhood, prompting smiles and pullover photo-ops for passers-by. It's also drummed up a bit of mystery, leaving many local residents wondering, whodunit?
"To see it floating around at night, with the lights on, it's the sweetest thing," said Carol Allison, who lives nearby. "Whoever put it out there, it's such a kind act of the heart."
The miniature Christmas tree, standing a tad under 3 feet, can be seen buoyed about 100 feet offshore, along Point San Pedro Road, between McNear Brickyard and Loch Lomond Marina.
It is fastened to the top of a white wooden box, about 2 feet by 4 feet in surface space, that has crossing red stripes to give the appearance of a Christmas present. Anchored in place, the tree is decorated with lights -- powered by two small solar panels attached to a post next to the tree -- that illuminate it at night.
Juanita Hirata of Fresno, in town visiting family, was driving by Monday morning when she saw the tree and stopped to try to take a picture.
"It's just the neatest thing," Hirata said.
Allison said she has been curious to know who put the tree out there. She said she is hoping to find the mystery person tending to the tree so that she can offer praise for the random act of neighborly kindness.
"It flipped over one night, but someone went out to fix it," Allison said, assuming the mystery person was that someone. "No one's been able to catch him in the act."
It turns out the mystery person is Hil Hawken, who identified himself to the Marin Independent Journal on Monday. The 66-year-old San Anselmo resident said he grew up in San Rafael, near where he placed the tree.
"I like to do little things of mischief, wake people up, make them take notice," Hawken said. "I won't get into some of the other things I've done" over the years, he said.
Hawken said he hasn't overheard any conversations about the floating tree, though he has witnessed several reactions to it.
"Almost every time I've driven by, I've seen someone out there with a camera and a smile on their face," he said. "That's kind of what I intended."
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