Ballooning, whether over California wine country, desert or Sierras, Florida alligator swamps or the French wine country defines legal highs. No other means of transport offers such a chance to see and photograph so enjoyably, and mild fall weather is prime time with minimal crowding!
From your quiet vantage point aloft you can hear dogs barking at your balloon's rotund shadow or birds singing in the trees while you vary your altitude from a few feet, almost grape picking through the vines or tempting a gator, to 1,500 feet or more, constantly changing your perspective as the wind currents change your course. Then, after your early morning flight, you enjoy a champagne brunch and other diversions you will treasure for years
Why not make your next birthday or anniversary even more special? We did when we rose early to meet the other members of our Napa Valley Balloons, Inc. party at 6 a.m. in Yountville, a center for Napa Valley hot air ballooning. After sorting party members into two separate flights for each of our balloons, we packed in vans for the short trip to the Old Soldiers Home parking lot, the departure point for our first. Note: the first flight of the day is usually the smoothest as the air is cool and still. Its only drawback is you can't take photos of your own balloon taking off and landing. So you might want to leave a spare camera with the ground support crew.
We also met early in Orlando where our skipper had made a trans-Atlantic balloon flight and in the canal country of central France. In each case after the balloon's nylon bags unrolled, a careful preflight followed. Massive liquid gas cylinders were loaded into the gondola. Only two cylinders are used in the morning's flights. The third provides a safety backup. Then a powerful portable fan partially inflated the bag and a careful check made for tears or other problems. This testing is most reassuring for the first-time "balloonaut."