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Balloons

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Balloons

Postby caddis » Tue Aug 19, 2008 12:22 pm

I know it's an odd subject but I was wondering how many others have picked up ballons in the high sierra this year. I've now picked up 3 this year.
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Re: Balloons

Postby Codester » Tue Aug 19, 2008 12:43 pm

I've picked up two last year and one this year. The one this year was one of those shiny plastic happy birthday balloons that was the size of a grocery bag. I found it on the backside of Mt Wood at around 10,500 ft
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Re: Balloons

Postby SSSdave » Tue Aug 19, 2008 1:39 pm

I'm surprised someone else is mentioning helium balloons found in our mountains. I did pick up a few more this spring while working in our desert areas though don't recall anything special beyond a basic silver reflective birthday balloon. I've had only one backpack this summer that was 6 days, and didn't see anything worth bringing back. Last summer in 2007 I made 8 Sierra backpacks. On my trip up into the East Fork of Bear Creek, I found the second largest number of silver reflective balloons ever that were about an especially scenic pond I'd visited in the past. Helium balloons are sometimes launched tied together by ribbon in groups. On another trip in 2004 I found a gigantic group of over 30 balloons in a mass that landed on the big peninsula of Marie Lake. After such a group gets marooned on a landscape, some ribbons quickly deteriorate in a matter of months that then releases the individual balloons that if still somewhat inflated then scatter nearby as breezes spread them about. Helium and air have a way of escaping so I rarely find inflated balloons unless they recently landed.

I'm pretty sure, I have the world's largest collection of such balloons that for now is piled into a large paper box. I've averaged over 5 backpacks a year for over 3 decades and have been collecting balloons for most of that period. As a prolific offtrail explorer and photographer I tend to roam over considerable areas of terrain few others have a reason to, so have more opportunity to locate such balloons even if they have been there for years. Anyone that wanders about the mountains knows how infrequently these balloons occur. So to have a giant collection makes a statement about how much I have rambled about over a long long time. Someday I expect to exhibit my balloon collection as an amusing sideshow with a photographic exhibit. And maybe be interviewed for a novelty news feature.

I never find such balloons right in sight of trails that tends to mean if they are within sight of where people normally walk, they will be picked up by some. A few might pick them up much like some pick up trash, while others more likely understand the novelty of something that apparently floated to the spot from events dozens and possibly hundreds of miles away. I've always wondered how long ones in direct view of sunlight last? Ultraviolet sunlight destroys the plastic and they shrink to increasingly smaller shards.
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Re: Balloons

Postby cgundersen » Tue Aug 19, 2008 5:03 pm

Hi Caddis,
Well, OK, whether it's horse dung in unexpected places (a thread you responded to recently) or balloons, I agree that the backcountry can be a magnet for odd discoveries. Balloon bits are definitely part & parcel of the experience. I cannot claim to have uncovered quite the stash that SSSDave has collected, but I remember very few trips in the last 20 years where I did not come across at least one bit of ribbon or a shrivelled bit of brightly colored balloon (and, the frequency definitely varies as Dave pointed out). My initial reaction to these findings was one of dismay (sort of akin to finding the wrapper for someone's power bar), but with time I've adopted SSSDave's attitude which is that I look for the silly things (and then my wife uses them to decorate her pack.....really!!). But, unlike Dave, the balloon bits have not become part of a permanent collection. But, I'd be happy to send future balloon bits to anyone who wants to start (or augument) a collection. Along with the location?
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Re: Balloons

Postby freestone » Tue Aug 19, 2008 8:36 pm

Several years ago I found a metallic "Happy Birthday" balloon right on the trail going up the east fork of Bear Creek. My guess is they come up from the Central Valley on prevailing summer winds out of the west. They seem so harmless, but they have a reputation for arcing high voltage lines with the resultant havoc of fire and outages. On a recent trip to the Channel Islands I learned just how deadly they are in the marine envionment in that they are mistaken for food. The skipper of the boat went off course just to retrieve one that was found floating on the sea surface. Im not sure if they are that kind of threat in the sierra, but it is odd to be so isolated in the wilderness and then be confronted with a "lets be happy" balloon instead of a rattler or bear.
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Re: Balloons

Postby SPeacock » Wed Aug 20, 2008 7:54 am

On the to way to the upper Chagoopa Plateau at 9500 or so and above Moraine Lake, a rubber balloon stuck about 5 feet up in trees. This guy must have quite a ride to get up (or come down) the Kern River with out getting snagged.

I've seen signs warning near entry to water run off areas in neighborhood streets indicate it empties directly to the ocean. Maybe we need a few signs scattered around pointing upward with similar cautions?
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Re: Balloons

Postby TehipiteTom » Wed Aug 20, 2008 9:07 am

Mylar balloon near Whitesides Meadow in Emigrant a couple weeks ago.
Well, OK, whether it's horse dung in unexpected places (a thread you responded to recently) or balloons, I agree that the backcountry can be a magnet for odd discoveries.

My oddest discovery was on a 1994 trip into Blackcap Basin, where I found a headless rubber chicken. I still wonder if it was some kind of Vaudeville Santeria cult...
;)
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Re: Balloons

Postby trav867 » Wed Aug 20, 2008 11:19 am

I was thinking it was just me who found balloons! Two this year- a red one off trail near Beville lake, and a blue one on Longley Pass.
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Re: Balloons

Postby caddis » Wed Aug 20, 2008 12:00 pm

I picked up one (mylar) last weekend on Eagle Peak that must have been 3 feet across. Took up half my trash bag. A couple weeks ago, I pick up one in the sandpiper lake region and also the remains of a group lof atex ballons that were tied to a big green ribbon at orchid lake. That's two in the Bear creek region...they must all come from Fresno. I seem to remember picking one up at the Hooper lakes earlier this summer also.
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Re: Balloons

Postby SSSdave » Thu Aug 21, 2008 1:53 pm

Lifting up some paper towels atop my kitchen sink counter and wallah, noticed I had chucked down this balloon I'd picked up from the Joshua Tree NP area back in March. So since we be talking balloons, I fired off a Coolpix pic. Notice tis one of the silver reflector helium balloons, the light blue ribbon, how it is deflated and a bit crinkled from its journey and resting place. A young girl's butterflies, wildflower, Happy Birthday party model! Well it is now resting in my overflowing box with the rest of em.

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Re: Balloons

Postby el cuervo » Thu Aug 21, 2008 4:22 pm

I travel mainly off-trail in the Sierra and have been finding balloons and other garbage for many years.

Here is a link to some images of my dead balloon collection:
http://flickr.com/photos/shish-aer/sets/72157606874676064/?photo_deleted=2785514214
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Re: Balloons

Postby Take-a-Hike » Sat Aug 23, 2008 2:24 pm

Last summer, Nine Lakes Basin and about a mile up from Hutchinson Meadow on a granite island we camped near. Two for the two trips we did. Year before that I found one...but can't remember where. So the next time you see a balloon release in the valley at a football homecoming, graduation or what not...you'll know where the tough ones will end up. I"m fortunate in my job working for a school district of 33 schools that when asked if they can release balloons for whatever event...they get a resounding NO...even when they tell me they're biodegradable. I tell them there's no such thing...but also, we're in a approach/take off zone for an international airport so it's easy for them to swallow cause I just ask them if they want to be responsible for the resulting crash when their balloon is ingested into the jet engine...
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