So there I am, hiking up the trail…it’s been a great day so far. Not too hot. It drizzled for an hour, but not enough to make me get out my raincoat. Then the clouds started breaking apart. I’ve been listening to Clark’s nutcrackers in the pines, the sound of Beverly Creek, and the songs in my head. I watch where I put my feet on the rocky trail. Some of the rocks need to be moved and there is an occasional limb to cut out of the way. I ate my lunch while leaning back against a tree, and I’ve been watching the flowers change as I gain elevation. Saw several Large Wood Nymph butterflies, dark wings with startling eyespots. As I near the trail junction to the top of the ridge, I glimpse movement to my right. What is that shape? I got closer, and then I knew.
Did you ever wonder what happens to mylar balloons when someone lets go of the string? I always imagine some little kid’s face crumpling in disappointment as they watch it float away. Is that the end of the story? Not at all. The balloon finds it way over the Cascade foothills, across the craggy peaks, and catches in a tree somewhere in a mountain valley. Or the helium fails and the mylar is swept to the ground, to lie hidden forever or until some trail crew person or wilderness ranger spots it.
I found this “Happy Birthday” balloon last summer and packed it out. The one I saw in the tree the other day was unretrievable. However, the day before, Rick and Ethan found a bunch of three balloons on the Pacific Crest Trail. They still had helium in them, and the pink star-shaped one said “Princess” in foofy letters. What a find! Rick tied them to his pack.