When you take a "walk through the clouds" in a hot air balloon, the main advice that is mandatory for any ride is "KEEP IT LIGHT." You must come on the journey with as minimal as possible.
No backpacks, no heavy camera bags........and layering is key. When you are on the ground on a crisp autumn morning, there could be a slight chill, but as the journey progresses and you are up in the air, the temperatures rise as the balloon rises.
Men are advised to wear caps since we are in such closed quarters near the propane tanks and the hot air from the canopy could potentially "thin out the top" so to speak!
Also, for the smokers out there, you better get the nicotine fix way before you enter anywhere near the balloons. No smoking is allowed at any time during the 60 minute flight.
Before takeoff, you are advised to arrive at 6am to the Napa Valley Grille in Yountville. There is a reserved dining area in the back where you are greeted with a light breakfast, registration information, and an introduction to what lies ahead of you in the journey.
The morning we arrived (a crisp Autumn morning in September), the dining area was full of fellow "balloon travelers"...... who were all informed that there was a thick layer of fog across the Napa Valley.
Under no circumstances are the balloonists allowed to lift off in such conditions.
What's this? No flights over vineyards and wineries? What's the point?
Our option? They would shuttle us over the valley to the other side where the conditions are much clearer and we are guaranteed a beautiful ride. The name of the location?
So off we go......the guests are piled into several vans for a 50 minute (that's five zero) ride to Paradise.
So we didn't see vineyards and wineries, but we did see walnut groves and horse ranches......No matter, we were in PARADISE!!!
Lots of preparation is required to take every precaution and ensure a safe ride during the one hour journey.
The immediate reaction upon seeing these "wicker picnic baskets" and deflated parachutes was "How the heck is that thing gonna hold us?"
Once you get over the initial skepticism......it is all smooth sailing......er I mean balloooning!
Ballooning over Napa Valley is one of the most romantic, exhilarating, and enchanting things you can do when you visit this area. Seeing the valley from a different perspective.
I grew up right near the Napa Valley and still go there often with visitors who are in town. But not once have I ever seen the valley from 2,000 ft above.
I would highly recommend this activity to anyone wanting to add a *twist* to their wine tasting outing in the Napa Valley.
It was well worth "waking up with the roosters" for!
With the help of our "Inspector," the crew takes the deflated canopy and begins to "fluff and fold."
Just like that, the balloons, descend, the passengers disembark, and the Landing Crew comes in and takes over!
No tips for this photo.......just an opportunity for some "How many American tourists can you fit in a balloon" jokes! ;-))
Here they are preparing our balloon. We were assigned THE MAYFLOWER.
Typically there are 6, 8 or 10 passengers (and the pilot!) per balloon. We had only 4 passengers and the pilot.
Wow! Being in a Hot Air Balloon is cool. Being in Napa Valley is cool. Put those 2 things together... and you have Super Cool!