After working through the weekend, I managed to clear my schedule and took a day off yesterday to go birding in the high country of the San Gabriel Mountains. It was my first trip up there this year, as much of the high country has been closed off to vehicle traffic until last week (as it is every winter), and there had been a large amount of snow. After spending some time watching and photographing high country species like Williamson’s Sapsucker, Clark’s Nutcracker, and Dusky Flycatcher along Blue Ridge and having lunch at Grassy Hollow, I drove southward on the Angeles Crest Highway toward Vincent Gap (the access point for most to Mount Baden-Powell) when a bright flash caught my eye in the trees. The road was clear, so I did a quick U-turn and drove back to find another wilderness balloon strung up in the oaks at about 6,500 feet in elevation near the foot of Baden-Powell. This is officially the highest elevation balloon since I started documenting these in October 2016, but I’m sure there will be more as I haven’t been in the high country until now.
While this balloon was out of the direct reach of my hands high in the tree canopy, I pulled out my trusty snake tongs, balanced precariously on the tips of my toes next to a really vertical slope, and managed to snag most of the trash. Unfortunately, some of the plastic string that was attached continues to strangle the tree branch. It’s clear from the photo of the balloon (below) that this was for some kid somewhere. Maybe there’s a one in a billion chance the kid that received this balloon will see what their trash did and learn not to provide the same for their children when they grow up.
About Wilderness Balloons: I see an unbelievable number of balloons in an unbelievable number of wild places during my forays. They are strung from brush and trees in remote wilderness and hanging from the legs of birds. Mylar balloons frequently cause wildfires when caught in power lines. Balloons are destructive trash and should never be released into the environment. For more information from the US Fish and Wildlife Service about this issue, read here (warning: graphic images of dead wildlife).
Map Showing Location of Today’s Wilderness Balloon
Map of All Wilderness Balloons