Sunday, September 27, 2009
Dawn on Friday morning seen through rose colored clouds. Despite the red-sky-in-the-morning beginning, after work a friend and I drove 100 or so miles through the late afternoon sunlight to the Warren County Airport in Glens Falls, NY where the Adirondack Balloon Festival was in full swing.
We inched our way along the airport access road, one of hundreds of cars streaming onto the airport grounds. The balloons were already inflating and drifting upwards in the late afternoon sky. Wandering the grounds among the colorful envelopes spread out on the grass, we were captivated by the whirring generators, the whoosh of air from the big fans, the blast of fire from the burners. One by one the baskets lifted up as people cheered and waved.
The winds bore the balloons aloft and away until they looked like ornaments hung in the clear blue.
The next morning we rose at 5 a.m., hurried into our coats and hats and mittens and went out into the chilly dark. We should have risen at 4 a.m.! The line of traffic wending along the airport road was an immense snake of headlights stretching as far as we could see in either direction. Fortunately for us (but not for the balloonists), a dense fog settled into the valley, delaying the lift-off. Though we spent over an hour in the car, inching along just 3 miles in all that time, we were in time to see the majority of balloons inflate and rise through the sunlit mist.
Though the airfield is vast, the balloonists often set up side by side. The result is "kissing balloons" as the inflating envelopes jostle one another.
I've never taken a flight in a hot air balloon though I've climbed into a tethered basket and felt the quick thrill one gets as it ascends as far as the ground ropes allow. There's always one balloonist that stays behind to offer a taste of what ballooning feels like. Someday, perhaps. Someday.