Fall at 1,000 feet
I mean “Fall” as in the season, not as in plummet. That would be a very short article: “Splat.” Also would be kind of a depressing one.
I suppose I could have said “Autumn” instead, but really, who uses that word on a regular basis? (And why does this season have two names anyway? The standard answer is that the leaves fall in Fall, but once you start to think about it, it makes less sense. In winter, the snows fall. In spring, the rain falls. Actually, given gravity, falling is perfectly natural).
In any case, fall is exactly what I did not do the other evening.
My daughter and I took a trip in a hot air balloon near Indianola. As a way to see fall colors, it was a rather unique and lovely experience.
We had a bright, sunny evening. Except for the distant haze as the sun set, we had excellent viewing on our trip.
If you’ve never been in a hot air balloon, I fully recommend it as a calm, quiet (half the time), serene way of obtaining an aerial view. The biggest disadvantage to such a ride is when the quiet is interrupted every few minutes or so with a blast of the “fire thingies” (my daughter’s words. The actual name of the heaters above our heads eludes me currently). Keeping the air hot, and us afloat, required an occasional roar from these heaters, resulting in a temporary end to any conversation. Simultaneously, you’d also feel a bit of heat on the top of your scalp.
The only other disadvantage I could see was the lack of steering. You can go up or down in a balloon, but the rest is pretty much up to the wind. As I didn’t have anywhere specific I wanted to be, I really didn’t mind this. My daughter, at times, thought we were moving a tad slow (we topped out at a whopping 6 mph), but she’s 12 and impatience runs strong.
At our greatest height of 1000 feet, the features of the landscape were still easy to pick out. In fact, we could – just barely – make out the “X” on top of the white van that was our chase vehicle (this ground crew is in charge of reaching us once we land and getting us back to our vehicles, etc.).
We also came down to about 10 feet, for a better reflection of ourselves in a pond, perfect for pictures. My daughter also spotted a snake in the grass and several frogs startled in response to our presence. Like those around here, Indianola’s ponds are also several feet low.
I took a ton of pictures as I still relish the idea of this freedom of the digital age. No more waiting to see if photos turned out or that you paid to develop an entire roll of the same patch of trees. From almost identical views (I told you we were moving slow). Reds, oranges, browns, yellows and a few greens – the rounded tops of the trees reached up below us.
We floated above farms and subdivisions. We saw the ruts from tractors, a doe and her fawn, and lawns blending from green to brown, an indicator of the wetter and drier spots. We invaded the aerial space of dogs, who barked unhappily at our presence. A cool wind circled back to us, the hot air from the balloon creating its own current.
After about an hour, we lowered to land, but the wind pushed us too close to power lines and up we rose again. The wind changed and we actually ended up landing exactly where our pilot wanted us to originally. We skipped across the lawn a couple of times, setting off a giggling fit in my daughter, and stopped.
We were left with the photos, memories of a shared experience, and a more relaxed self.