Cloud 9 Living offers hot air balloon tours in many regions, one that is sure to be close to you! It's an experience of a lifetime that you will never forget, so book one now! The one that Acacia and Ashley got to experience was Denver's Front Range Hot Air Balloon Ride.
It didn't all quite sink in until I looked at a photo of the hot air balloon that was alongside us during the flight. Wow; I was one of those people in the tiny basket hanging from that huge balloon. Soaring through the sky at 10,000 feet above sea level I felt calm and collected, almost like I was looking at the world around me through a lens. But, I really was that high in the sky and my life depended on the buoyancy of a balloon.
Around 4 a.m. on a Tuesday my alarm went off, and instead of hitting the snooze I hopped to it because I had a date with a hot air balloon. According to hot air balloon pilot and owner of Fair Winds, Jeff Meeker, 6 a.m. is the perfect time because the earth is calm and creates ideal winds for flight. After the 45-minute drive to just northeast of Boulder, CO, I met up with my coworker, Acacia, and the other lucky passengers for the day. Jeff and his crew greeted us with a smile and treats while we waited to see if the winds were settled enough and in the correct direction for take off.
We watched the wind's effect on the flags and followed the path of a black balloon as it ascended in the air; were we approved for flight yet? A few sips of coffee and bite of a doughnut hole later (breakfast of champs), we were given the thumbs up and the crew started to unload. First, two fans about 3 feet in diameter rolled of the trailer, followed by a black cart with colorful fabric inside and finally the iconic wicker basket holding four propane tanks.
First, Jeff and his two helpers secured the burners to the top of the basket, fastening this and looping that. The basket was laid on its side and then the fabric started to snake out of the black cart, leaving a 80-foot-long trail of a mix of colors that was soon to be the balloon (also called the “envelope” in hot air ballooning lingo). After attachments were made and the parachute vent was secured at the top hole in the balloon, we watched as the 500-pound balloon rise like a marshmallow being microwaved as it was filled with air from the two fans. Finally, the balloon lifted off the ground forcing the basket upright. All aboard! A few sips of coffee and bite of a doughnut hole later (breakfast of champs), we were given the thumbs up and the crew started to unload. First, two fans about 3 feet in diameter rolled of the trailer, followed by a black cart with colorful fabric inside and finally the iconic wicker basket holding four propane tanks.
As we hopped into the basket, which came up to my mid-waist (I stand somewhere between 5'6′ and 5'7′), the anticipation and excitement really set in. We watched the “green balloon” float into the air, and not even a minute later started our own journey into the sky along Colorado's Front Range.
This was no airplane take off. We heard the roar of the burners blasting hot air into the envelope, but the ride was peaceful. Think of the term “float,” and that's exactly what we did. No bumps, no sudden movements, no acceleration. We were simply floating through the air, moving between 2 and 18 mph across the sky, over the lake and alongside the Flat Irons. Boulder was in the distance and the mountains had a haze across them; and the other 10 people in the basket gazed in awe, snapped photos and smiled. We were flying, and it was great.
When we reached 10,000 feet above sea level, which came out to a little more than 5,000 feet above the ground, I was amazed. It wasn't scary, and it was almost hard to comprehend that we were that high up. Yes, the houses looked like ants and the mountains got smaller by the minute, but it was so easy, non-threatening and graceful. It was surreal. In the lake, we could see our reflection; in the near distance, the green balloon flew next to us; at 6,000 feet we were headed east and at 10,000 feet the wind blew us more North. The crew communicated with Jeff on the walkie talkies, and he taught us about the GPS, the vents in the balloon that allow for rotation and certain FAA regulations that we inquired about.
When our flying time had come to an end, Jeff radioed the crew to let them know we would be landing somewhere close to the tree farm. Unlike modern-day sailboats or any other form of tranportation, the hot air balloon is only controlled by the wind making it hard to determine where the flight will take passengers. As we came down for landing, Jeff told us he likes to land at about 2 mph. We came in at 4 mph, so it was going to be bumpy! We all gripped the side of the basket as we scooted and bumped along the ground for about 25 yards until finally coming to a stop. Jeff let out the parachute vent at the top of the balloon and it fell to the side of the basket. We did it.
After squishing the balloon back into the cart (Acacia had to sit on it), and getting the supplies back into the trailer, we were driven to the launch site where we were greeted with champagne (a ballooning tradition which you can read more about at The Bubbly Girl) and some free goodies from Fair Winds.The moning was coming to a close and Acaica and I had memories to last a lifetime (and the best photos to post on Facebook!). It is an experience I would recommend to everyone, not matter the age or personality!