Western US Loop: Part 6

Sedona Sunrise Balloon Flight

A sunrise hot-air balloon ride over the red rocks of Sedona Arizona. It sounded so good in the brochure, and a perfect way to celebrate our one-week anniversary. They forget to tell you in the brochure that the sun rises pretty darn early! We had to be in the lobby at 4:45 AM to get picked up. Both Nancy and I had wanted to do a balloon ride for quite some time, so we were excited enough about this to drag ourselves out of bed.

When we got to the launch site, we found that this was a pretty major operation we had signed on with (Northern Light Balloon Expeditions). The company was launching three balloons at the same time, each with 5-6 passengers plus a pilot. The ground crew was very efficient in setting up the balloons and we were loading into the baskets before we knew it.

We just got married 7 days ago, and coincidentally we were put in the same basket as a couple that was getting married during the balloon ride. It was a little crowded during their ceremony, since we all had to shift around so they could face the minister and get videotaped. It was really nice to watch the sun rise as the two of them exchanged their vows.

We got a few other pictures, but they don’t really do justice to the wonderful views. The camera can’t really capture how the rising sun lit up the red rocks that were all around us.

After landing, we had the traditional champagne toast and a little breakfast. As we were enjoying our early morning meal, we heard the story of the origin of this tradition. Balloon pilots don’t have a lot of choice regarding where they land. Quite often they end up landing in a farmer’s field. Some farmers were fine with this, others came out shooting. Balloon pilots in France began carrying a bottle of champagne to share with whoever was around when they landed.

A Second Aerial Tour

The balloon ride was really great, but for safety reasons they don’t actually fly over the distinctive rock formations that Sedona is famous for. The chase vehicles may not be able to meet the balloon if it ends up on a high plateau.

We wanted to get a better look at those red rocks, and there were lots of brochures from companies that give aerial tours of the rocks from airplanes and helicopters. Since we had our own means of flight, we did our own tour of Sedona from the air. It was very peaceful flying above those formations. Unfortunately, the camera doesn’t take good pictures through the tinted windows of the Mooney. There’s one shot of the whole Sedona area below. The airport is the light colored area on a plateau in the center of the picture.

Tomorrow’s Plan

We checked the weather and realized that we’d be better off leaving tomorrow morning (Saturday) since a cold front would be coming through our flight path on Sunday. We had such a great time so far, neither of us minded cutting the trip short by a day.

Series Navigation<< Western US Loop: Part 5Western US Loop: Part 7 >>

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