It's another early (4:30AM) wake up call, since hot air balloons rise at dawn and we can't be late. As we traveled down the winding road to the valley, we saw balloons all over the place! A few were rising into the chill morning air as we approached our Voyager Company launch site. The balloons are first pumped with air from powerful fans and then the propane fire is blasted up into the balloon that is on its side. As the air is heated in the envelope of the balloon, it begins to rise from the ground and we are given the word to climb in. This is not an easy task since the basket is at least 5 feet high and has tiny steps in the side. All 13 of our group pile in and the aeronaut tells us how to brace for the landing which we practice before the lines are cast off and we begin to rise higher and higher into the air. We will admit, we are frightened. Other than the almost constant blast of the propane fire, the ride is silent. The fire (although it is shielded) begins to make us warm. There are 120 balloons out today and we drift on the gentle wind down the valley where there are unforgettable views of the rock formations and the caves that are just not possible from the ground. Our landing is perfect - right on to the trailer of the chase truck and we did not even need to brace for the touchdown. It's been just a little over an hour as we toast with Champagne and collect our certificates.
The next day we are shocked to read about a crash of a balloon with loss of life. We consider ourselves lucky to have had no mishaps. Back to the hotel for a short nap and then on to a hike through Rose Valley.