PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — You’ve seen the Lone Cypress. It stands along famously scenic 17-Mile Drive, raked by wind, swaddled in fog, clinging to its wave-lashed granite pedestal like God’s advertisement for rugged individualism.It may be 250 years old. It might be the most photographed tree in North America. It sits alongside one of the world’s most beautiful (and expensive) golf courses. It’s a marketing tool, a registered trademark, a Western icon.David Potigian, owner of Gallery Sur in Carmel, explained it to me this way: This tree is to the Monterey Peninsula what the pyramids are to Egypt, what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. No wonder its keepers are hoping it will last 100 more years.But let’s face it: This is one spindly old conifer, small for its species, scarred by a long-ago arson. For more than 65 years, half-hidden steel cables have held the tree in place.If you pay the $9.75 per car to cruise 17-Mile Drive (which is private property, part of the 5,300-acre Pebble Beach resort), you will see the Lone Cypress and behold the spectacular collision of land, sea, golf and wealth that is Pebble Beach. But you won’t get within 40 feet of the tree. Chances are you’ll be joined by a few other tourists. Maybe a tour bus, too.So, Cupressus macrocarpa, the Monterey Cypress. Once you reach Pebble Beach, about 325 miles north of Los Angeles, you enter 17-Mile Drive, pay the booth attendant, then head past well-tended fairways, sprawling estates and coastal open space to stop No. 16.On your way, remind yourself that as a species the Monterey Cypress naturally occurs no place on the planet but around Pebble Beach and Point Lobos. Every one of these natives is a rarity.At No. 16, you find about two dozen parking spaces lining the two-lane road. Above the surf, rocks and foliage, there’s a wooden observation deck, and nearby there’s a fenced private home that has stood within 200 feet of the tree for about half a century. (It was a woman in this home, Frances Larkey, who saw the flames and called authorities when an unknown arsonist set the tree afire in 1984.) And out there on the rock, there’s the Lone Cypress.Some tourists shrug and stay two minutes. Some make out and stay 20.Above and below sea level, it’s a rich coastline. Elsewhere along 17-Mile Drive, you can stroll the beach at Point Joe, prowl the tree skeletons at Pescadero Point and take in the wide panorama at Cypress Point (which closes April 1-June 1 for seal-pupping season).If you prefer to do your coastal rambling on foot without golf courses and private estates, it’s only a few miles south to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve ($10 a car). If you ask Kim Weston, grandson of famed photographer Edward Weston and a longtime Carmel local, Point Lobos beats Pebble Beach hands-down as a place to prowl with a camera.So did I see the tree anew? Not exactly. We visited it morning, noon and night, watched tourists ebb and flow, chartered a boat to see it from the ocean. More than ever, I have a soft spot for that singular figure on the rock. But the best minute of the trip — the travel moment that felt fresh, enduring and uniquely rooted in this corner of the world — occurred just up the road.I’d rented a bike. The sun was low, and I was meandering north from the Lone Cypress toward Point Joe. Ahead, 17-Mile Drive, nearly empty, gently rose, fell and curved.I began to sense a deepening connection, began to feel as if I’d finally wedged myself between the landscape and everything else. A chilly breeze. Squawks and barks from Bird Rock. Orange sky. I have no picture to show of that happy, unobstructed moment, but I have the moment all the same.