Ballooning at sunrise
Mark’s not a big fan of heights, and I’m not a big fan of getting up at 4 in the morning, but when you have an opportunity to ride in a hot air balloon at sunrise? You don’t say no. We rode with Napa Valley Balloons, one of a handful of companies who operate in wine country.
The balloons set sail from a small driving range, just off of the St. Helena Highway and not far from Yountville. Besides the pre-dawn 4am wake up call, I don’t have anything bad to say about our experience: it came with about 45 minutes in the air, stellar views, and the kind of frame-worthy photo opps that’ll make all your houseguests jealous.
We got there a little early, and watched as they set about getting all the balloons inflated. It was quite the production.
Then came that slightly awkward moment where everyone had to climb into the basket. There are no doors, obviously, so skirt-wearers beware.
This guy was our captain — the head honcho of sorts, constantly radio-ing his counterparts on the ground to monitor wind speeds, other balloons, and make sure we were on course for the drop zone.
There were also around 20 other people in our basket (a cozy fit). It was a really cold morning, though, so all the combined body heat actually made it more enjoyable — as did this big ‘ole flame.
We plopped down, nice and easy, in a grassy field.
By the time we’d all hobbled out of the basket, the sun had fully risen above the valley. As we walked back down to the road, where the pick-up vans were waiting, we got to watch the rest of the balloons slowly descend on their own little journeys down. Kind of crazy how much we’d seen, and it wasn’t even 9am yet!
If you ever find yourself in Napa with a hankering to be 3,000 ft above the vines, give Napa Valley Balloons a try. I promise you won’t regret the early call time.