Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Ballooning In the Desert

Posted by Kirk
We woke up at about 4:45 am to head to the deer valley airport for a hot air balloon trip. We met up with the crew and other passengers and then headed out into the desert.

At the site the crew readied the balloon on an old cloth billboard to keep it clean. The basket on this one was very large. It can hold 16 people plus the propane gas tanks.

The balloon in the foreground is the one we got into. At this stage it is attached to the basket and they are blowing it up with two large fans.

This photo really gives you and idea how monstrously huge the balloon is. Look carefully inside and you can see two tiny people standing in there.

Now we're cookin' with gas! As they ignite the burners the balloon starts to stand up and it tips the basket up with it.

Here Chelsey and I are all loaded in. The balloon is still tied to the bumper of a truck and with the weight of a dozen people they need to fire up the burners a bit before we take off.

Liftoff! We gracefully rise above the desert. You can compare the size of the shadows of the two balloons.

A few blasts of the burners and we rise higher.

Check out our little shadows. Chelsey took this one and it is a nice shot of the balloon but my eyes always land on the straight as an arrow hillside below the balloon. It is part of a flood mitigation project. There are a lot of them in the area. The flood waters from the mountains apparently go straight through phoenix on route to the river. Excellent planning huh?

The view from the balloon. Anyone think they can fly? Chelsey and I both had this really strange feeling like we wanted to jump out of the basket. Not that we would. The desire to not forcefully hit the ground was a whole lot stronger. Weird though. It wasn't so much a desire to jump, I think more the desire to fly. Maybe we need to take up hang gliding?

Hmm, should a tear in the balloon make us nervous?

Wow, my chin looks huge. I trimmed the beard just days before this. The more I look at this photo the more it look like I'm wearing a rigid underwater diving suit. Very odd.

With time running out we picked a landing site. Our pilot could see this big open area. Looks good right? It is a new construction site. It has two things going for it. 1) No Cactus. 2) It looks flat. Notice I said, looks flat. Looks can be deceiving from this height.

Here's one of many, many drop offs at the site. We had a fun ride when we landed. We didn't stay in one place.

Here's our drag marks. We jumped the ledge in the background and then jumped another 6 foot drop off just to the right of the photo.

Safely back on the ground.

Mom and Dad with the big ol' balloon deflating in the background.

How did they know to dress to match the balloon?

We had a great time that day and when it was all said and done we had to decide how to spend the rest of the day. I looked at my watch. It was only 8:30 in the morning. We still had a full day ahead.