Hot Air Ballooning in Hidden Valley, CA: The Nikon was done but the balloon ride was in full swing. We rose slowly and gasped at the views and the height. We floated over abandoned fields, ranches, vineyards, and poo ponds. That's right a sewage treatment center. How nice. The propane burners were ignited and we were lifted higher, searching for the elusive drafts that would take us exploring through out the valley. The burners were loud and hot. The views exceptional, all the way to Sacramento and Napa, back towards the fogged hills along the ocean. Captain Scott gave us an informative and often humorous tour of the area.
We floated over a ranch with hardly a neighbor anywhere nearby. There was a grove of trees next to the home on the property and in the middle of this grove were 26 much greener trees, a secret marijuana farm unseen by earthbound humans. We hovered over the grove and we soon discovered our illustrious Captain was quite versed in the cannabis industry and the bastard government agencies that were trying to undermine the weed industry. It was obvious that he was the president of the California Pot Grower Association. He went on for 15 minutes intellectually describing the woes that confronted the growers both locally and nationally. I guess at 2000 feet it's a nice time to find out that the Captain of our aircraft is so highly educated in the pakalolo industry.
Did I tell you that this was suppose to be a one hour flight. At about and hour and half into it I started to sense something was up. No wind. We could not get back to one of the pre planned landing areas. The poo pond was not an option. Burners were ignited. We rose backup to 1500 feet searching for a breeze. Nothing. Then back down above the vineyard where we could almost sip the bouquet. Back up again. For a half hour we slowly drifted over trees, grapes and active and inactive farms. We finally slowly drifted over a empty field next to a dried up stream bed and this would have to be it. Captain Pot, as I now called him, said they did not have a deal with this land owner but we had no choice. The shuttle would not be able to drive into this field, there was no road. Shockingly, at this time we found out that we only had enough fuel for 5 more minutes of flight time. "Hey El Captain," I said, 'this field looks awfully good. No problem, I'll walk the half a mile to the shuttle van across the rattle snake infested deserted field."
The chase truck had a hard time finding way into the fenced in pasture land. They finally did and the crew and passengers quickly brought the envelope (balloon) down, folded it up, and loaded it and the basket on the truck. We hiked across that beautiful barren patch of good ole fashion dirt and climbed over the fence and past the no trespassing sign. No problem. Our adventure had come to an end and everyone was safe and sound.
So, we took the long and winding road back to the Santa Rosa airport, a little slower, lots of traffic and upon arriving at the parking lot, thanked our crew and Captain Scott. The others sipped champagne, we our water and said good byes. Barbara took a prone position in the back of the RV to ease her tossed stomach. All in all, it was a great experience and a once in a life time event. We both enjoyed it immensely, albiet a bit long.
We stopped by a camera shop in Santa Rosa (I Googled it at 1500 ft while floating over the poo pond) and plunked down $600 bucks for a new lens. With the GoPro batteries completely spent, after two hours of editing we got a great 10 minute video of our flight. I'm stoked. It's available on the next web page for those interested.
So, not, many stills in this album, but a lot of memories.