FRIDAY, JUNE 11, 2010:

I would drive a total of 180 miles today.

All of the images below are thumbnails and can be clicked on for a larger image.

For quite some time I have wanted to experience hot air ballooning.
I tried a couple times down in New Zealand, but weather never cooperated.
This was the day I finally got to do it.
I met Lou Bartell, owner & pilot of Canyonlands Ballooning about ten miles north of Moab shortly before dawn.
As the sun was rising we prepared the balloon for the flight.
Preparing Hot Air Balloon Preparing Hot Air Balloon Preparing Hot Air Balloon

After the balloon was filled with air we hopped in the basket and gently floated up into the air.
We flew over U.S. highway 191 and out toward some of the beautiful canyon country north of Moab.
Lou lowered the balloon just high enough to clear the cliffs surrounding the canyon in the middle picture below.
We then silently glided above the beautiful canyon.
Canyonlands from hot air balloon Canyonlands from hot air balloon Canyonlands from hot air balloon

As we came over the ridge of the canyon on the lower left we startled a deer and he ran for cover.
You can see the deer and the entire incredible adventure in the video below.
Canyonlands from hot air balloon Canyonlands from hot air balloon Canyonlands from hot air balloon

Middle picture below is Lou Bartell, our knowledgeable and experienced pilot.
I can't recommend this flight highly enough. It was definitely the highlight of my trip.
Canyonlands from hot air balloon Lou Bartell, owner & pilot of Canyonlands Ballooning Approaching our landing site

Our chase crew met us at the landing spot right on time.
Lou put that balloon down perfectly right on that dirt road.
After a champagne toast we were taken back to our cars.
It was a fantastic experience, I can't wait to do it again.
Our chase crew coming to get us Coming in for touchdown Balloon deflating after flight

Below is the complete balloon video lasting thirty minutes.

On my way out of town I stopped at the Needles Overlook of Canyonlands National Park.
It wasn't too impressive, but after the balloon flight, anything would have paled in comparison.
Wilson Arch along U.S. Highway 191 Needles Overlook of Canyonlands National Park Needles Overlook of Canyonlands National Park

My four days in Moab were a blast.
Watch the video below for the highlights.

After the balloon flight I ended my three-night stay in Moab.
The eleven minute video below is of the town of Moab and my exciting adventures here.

After leaving the Needles Overlook I drove 93 miles to Cortez, Colorado.
I spent the night at the Holiday Inn Express.

I spent the night at the Holiday Inn Express in Cortez, Colorado.

MY DAILY EMAIL SENT ON JUNE 11, 2010
Hello everybody,

Today I got to do something I have been wanting to do for a long time. I tried to do it down in New Zealand but the weather never cooperated and it never happened. I'm talking about going up in a hot air balloon. I didn't have a confirmed date of when we would be going up. I told Lou, the owner and pilot when I could do it and he would let me know when and where. When I got back to the hotel after 10:00 last night he had left me a voice mail to meet him 10 miles north of Moab at 5:45 this morning. So much for my plans of sleeping in today.

Below we are laying out the balloon getting ready to inflate it.

Preparing Hot Air Balloon

Next we had to hold open the bottom of the balloon and fill it with air.

Preparing Hot Air Balloon

Below it is almost full of air and about to stand upright.

Preparing Hot Air Balloon

Couldn't get a picture of it standing upright because we had to be ready to climb into the basket or it would take off without us. None of us, including the pilot had any idea of where we were going. You can't steer the balloon, you just go where the wind takes you. Below is a picture shortly after liftoff.

Canyonlands from hot air balloon

The pilot does have control over how high we fly by how often he uses the burner to heat the air in the balloon.

Canyonlands from hot air balloon

After the picture above was taken we descended and just barely cleared the rocks on the top of those buttes.

Canyonlands from hot air balloon

You can kind of tell in the picture above how close we are to the top of the butte on the lower right.

Canyonlands from hot air balloon

There were nine of us including Lou our Pilot snuggly nestled in the balloon. Doug, a man who was with me on the Hummer trip yesterday was also there. Below is me in the balloon as we were floating around.

Canyonlands from hot air balloon

After the picture below was taken we descended again and practically scraped the basket on the rock as we flew over the formation. Also right after we cleared the rock we scared a deer and we got to see him scamper around just below us.

Canyonlands from hot air balloon

During the trip a plane full of skydivers flew right past us. Others in the balloon saw them jumping out of the plane later on but I could never find them. I pointed my video camera in the general area. Maybe when I watch the video I can spot them.

Canyonlands from hot air balloon

Below is Lou the Pilot and owner of the company flying the balloon. A very nice guy.

Lou Bartell, owner & pilot of Canyonlands Ballooning

In the picture below we are close to our landing site.

Approaching our landing site

Below is a picture of our chase crew coming to get us. They never know where we are going to end up. The pilot does have radio contact with them during the flight.

Our chase crew coming to get us

Landings can be the rough part. If the wind is blowing much, the basket hits the ground tips over and then the basket it dragged on its side until it comes to a stop. You end up lying on your back on the side of the basket. We didn't have that problem though. The wind was light and he put the balloon down right on that dirt road. The ground crew chastised him for not getting it dead center of the road. Another problem if he isn't able to land near the road they have to carry that 300 pound basket back to the truck. Below is the balloon shortly after landing as it starts to deflate.

Balloon deflating after flight

Below is our champagne toast after the flight.

champagne toast

Below is the balloon being deflated.

balloon being deflated

I have never had so much fun in my life. Everybody had a blast, including the pilot. Weather was perfect. Nice winds up above so we were able to travel quite a way. Light wind at the surface for a smooth landing. I think my new criteria for future vacation spots will be having at least one hot air balloon.

After the balloon flight I visited the Needles district of Canyonlands. It was very cloudy down there and I didn't get any good pictures. But anything after the balloon trip would pale in comparison. But below is a photo from the Needles Overlook.

Canyonlands Needles Overlook

My trip is coming to an end now. I have left Moab and am now in Cortez, Colorado. I'm going to take a quick peek at the Rockies this weekend before I fly home from Grand Junction the first of next week.

Tim
Click on email photos for the large full-size photograph.


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