Saturday, October 16, 2021

Old Glory returns to piney pinnacle

| June 3, 2021 1:39 PM

O say, can you see?

She's back, flying her patriotic colors high above the Idaho Panhandle National Forest.

The American flag that has mysteriously appeared, disappeared and reappeared at the top of a ponderosa pine on Fourth of July Pass has found its way to the treetop again, continuing a tradition that likely started about this time six years ago.

The flag, which can be seen from Interstate 90, is near milepost 27.

"We have no idea how it got up there," Jay Kirchner, a spokesperson for the Idaho Panhandle National Forest, said in an August 2014 Press article. "It's on the tip-top of the tree, and I can't imagine it would hold the weight of a person holding onto it."

When the flag and solar lighting returned in 2015, Forest Service officials told The Press that it doesn't want people leaving their mark on public land.

In 2016, Idaho Panhandle National Forest public information officer Shoshana Cooper told The Press that the agency wasn't actively trying to find the person responsible and that they had no leads. Setting up private displays on public land is not authorized.

"We don't want to encourage people to go out and set up other displays or things on public land," she said. "It takes away from the natural setting."

That was also the year the mystery climber cut the top of the tree.

"Unfortunately, because they cut it, that means the tree will die sooner," Cooper said. "Cutting the top off a pine tree makes it more susceptible to insects and disease."

The tree is estimated to be more than 100 feet tall, quite a climb — even for professional climbers.

"We applaud and respect this individual's display of patriotism," Kirchner said when the flag first appeared. "But they did this on public land, and we don't want more people putting up displays on public land."