On this clear, cool, crisp Colorado morning our pilot pulls the handle above us and the large flame fills our balloon with hot air to lift us off the ground. We head straight for a tree! I ask our pilot, Gary, how long he has been flying these things, as we grab leaves off the top of the tree. He looks at his watch and responds, “Oh, about 1 minute 45 seconds” .. he stalls .. “And 20 years”, he says with a smile. Our pilot, the owner of San Juan Balloon Adventures, is certainly a charming fellow with lots of stories to tell. As we rise higher over the town of Ridgeway and gain sweeping views of the Sneffels range of the San Juan Mountains, Gary points out some of the individual peaks and shares some of the history of the the town of Ridgeway.
My basket mates today are a young couple from Denver. He had just proposed and then surprised his bride-to-be with a Balloon ride. They are as wide - eyed as I. Our flight is an hour long but seemed to only take 15 minutes. The views of the mountains and the Ridgeway valley are fabulous. When the balloon isn’t being filled with more hot air, the silence is grand.
Apparently flying the balloon is NOT the hard part. The hard part is finding a suitable place to land. In our case, finding a friendly landowner, a suitable place and getting the wind to cooperate are the challenges. We find a friendly landowner and avoid landing in the back of a pickup with a little help from the landowner and a rope. We avoid their barn and land safely in their field. What a RUSH!
After packing up the balloon and heading back to our launch spot, we celebrate with a Balloonist prayer and champagne toast. We enjoy some snacks as Gary gives us the history of ballooning and more information about the local area.
I am not much of a morning person and our adventure started at 6:45 am, but I would certainly do this again. Great views, great trip, great pilot .. well except for that first tree thing!
My trip was booked by Switzerland of America Jeep Tours in Ouray, Colorado.