For a variety of reasons, taking a ride in a hot-air balloon never featured in our past travels. I can make many excuses for that, but the fact remains that we were missing out on something pretty breathtaking. And we were aware of that gap on our traveling resume, by virtue of many enthusiastic recommendations made by our friends. So, on the recent stay in Napa Valley we made the balloon ride a non-negotiable part of our program.
On a crisp October morning, the sunrise just announced its arrival as we reached our takeoff position where the balloon was still prone on the ground.
From a different nearby spot, an earlier company of balloons was already taking flight.
Our crew quickly and efficiently prepared the balloon for its takeoff.
In the meantime, the “competition” was already in the air.
Our ride ended up lifting off the last of all of the baloons that morning. While we were waiting for our departure, our own “buddy” balloon slowly drifted up into the sunrise.
Finally, we are up and gliding.
In the distance, the early birds are colorful dots across the pink-blue skies.
The valley was bathing in the morning sun by then, giving us many good looks over the vineyards.
And towns, as well.
It is rarely a good idea to photograph into the sun, but this picture did not turn out half bad.
What about the “competition”? As we were drifting southward, they all remained to the north in a delightful visual cluster.
Here is our “buddy” again.
We mostly flew at the height of 100-200 yards but at some point our pilot took us significantly higher, to about 750 yards by his estimation.
The mountain ridge in the above shot is what separates Napa Valley from Sonoma Valley.
At this height, our companion balloon was some ways below us.
We then descended to nearly its height, in time to observe its landing. In this perspective, it looks as if it is going to hit those trees, no?
We sat down as well after about 90 minutes of exhilarating flight. Here is our balloon at the end of its day’s work.
We can now join anyone who enthusiastically recommends hot-air ballooning as a must-do activity. Of course, good weather is essential for enjoyment, and we lucked into the best morning we could wish for (had we picked the following morning, we would be disappointed). A well-organized and efficient flight company is also a significant part of making the experience remarkable – I can only give positive props to Balloons Above the Valley.