What will soon be the tallest tree on Spooner Summit isn't a tree at all. It's 21st-century technology masquerading as nature.
It's a cell phone tower.
As the automobile rang in the 20th century by bringing Americans unprecedented freedom to escape the confines of daily life, so cellular phones brought it to a close by cutting still more wires that bound people to one place.
But freedom to roam while staying connected just isn't enough for some, especially if it's going to muck up the landscape that makes people want to roam in the first place.
In fact, the kind of tower Carson City officials least like to see is one that looks like a tower, said city planner Lee Plemel.
That's why the Carson City Planning Commission approved a faux pine tree for placement off of Highway 50 West near Spooner Summit.
That's also why cellular providers all over the country are dreaming up ways to keep their machinery hidden in plain site.
Cellular transmitters now look like windmills, water tanks, church steeples, bell towers, chimneys, flag poles and all manner of trees.
The prevalence of "stealth towers" is growing as more communities become cell-tower conscious like Carson City, and as manufacturers get better at making fake things.
"The designs have gotten better," said Rama Gulati, a consultant specializing in acquiring antennae sites for cellular providers. "(Hidden towers) are definitely far more common than they were five or seven years ago."
The increase, she said, has been a combination of pressure from government, residents and evolving corporate philosophies.
The easiest and most common type of hidden tower is the flag pole. The only other stealth tower in Carson City has Old Glory flying from it.
But a random flag pole in the middle of a tree grove wouldn't be as inconspicuous as most cellular providers would like - hence the trees, chimneys and steeples. In California, the palm tree is a popular disguise, Gulati said.
Cell service providers are also trying to minimize the number of towers dotting the nation by sharing. Many towers house several antennae, Gulati said. Building a new one is generally a last option.
n Contact reporter Cory McConnell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1217.