CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) - A popular San Diego County hiking monument went missing on Monday. At the summit of Mother Miguel Mountain in Chula Vista, the American flag usually waves proudly. But its sudden absence left hikers worried and confused.
17-year-old Erea Kim began hiking up Mother Miguel Mountain with her mother a few months ago.
At the top of the hill, she says there is always a sweet surprise.
“After a long hike, it’s kind of cool to see the American flag in the background and the lake and stuff,” Kim said.
Last Friday, the flag waved proudly. But when she reached the summit on Monday, she noticed that Old Glory was missing.
“We don’t know what happened to it,” Kim said.
Concerned, she took a picture and asked all her friends about it. Sadly, no one knew where it went. Neither did Mark Kukuchek, who has been replacing the iconic flag for the last 10 years. Whenever it gets weathered, he and his 22-year-old horse Bandit, are always there.
Last Sunday, when Kukuchek and his fellow Bonita Valley Horsemen went up the hill, he noticed that the rocks were covered in graffiti, and the flag was gone.
“Oh, it’s missing. Oh god, who took it?” he asked.
They were able to wash away the graffiti, but the whereabouts of the flag remained a mystery.
Social media chatter suggested that some did not like that the rocks and flag were a community installation, not sanctioned by the landowners, US Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Other rumors he heard were that it did not follow proper flag etiquette, meaning, it was not lit up at night.
“A lot of us do a little civil disobedience, and this is one I don’t mind doing,” Kukuchek said, admitting that the beloved installation could be considered illegal.
The former Navy reservist was already planning a trip up Mother Miguel to replace it this weekend.
But at that very moment in the interview, 10News was notified, that the flag was back.
Kukuchek says he hopes it stays that way, to keep the unique tradition alive.
“I think it’s important that we respect our country and leave our flag up there,” Kukuchek said.
He says he still plans to check on the flag this weekend with Bandit. But he says he is glad someone else felt the need to keep it up.