We Have Lift Off!

Thursday night was the kick off to the 42nd Adirondack Balloon Festival and all of the balloons were grounded by the weather, mostly the winds.

Friday seemed to be much more favorable so we headed to the airport about 4:30 pm for the afternoon launch. We had pre-paid parking which I highly recommend! Why? Because it gets you much closer to the airport proper and when you are carrying a chair and camera gear, less is certainly more. ūüôā

You need to arrive early and for ballooners it’s almost like going to a football game and tailgating! There are food trucks and craft vendors. The kites always do well and there are always a bunch of them flying as we wait for the main event, the hot air balloons.

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You never know if there is going to be a launch until right before they go up. All eyes watch the wind socks because wind gusts will put a kibosh on the launch every time. Safety First.

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As I said, Friday night seemed to hold a lot of promise. The sky was clear and the wind sock was limp. Sandy and I lugged our chairs and I lugged my camera and we staked out a spot near one of the chase trucks. We could see a few balloons being spread out and one purple balloon was starting to inflate. There was a good turnout here already.

Getting around is crucial for the ballooners. They have to go to the pilot’s tent for updates and run around on all sorts of errands as the launch deadline approaches. One enterprising ballooner found a new way to get around quickly… A Segway!

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Finally at just about 5 pm we began to hear the whoosh whoosh of the propane tanks firing and balloons began inflating all around us.

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The first Balloon to take off was a really pretty purple-blue balloon that had a elongated shape, not the traditional balloon shape. The wind, what there was of it was pushing the balloon in our direction. Perfect positioning.

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For some reason the balloon didn’t seem to be gaining altitude. As it passed over the airport terminal building toward the trees we all wonder if it would clear them. It did, but just barely, the bottom of the basket actually scraping the top branches.

Not too much farther on they seemed to give up the fight and down it came. So the first balloon up was also the first balloon down. We heard later that it may have had a leak.

But while our attention was fixed on the purple-blue balloon and it’s troubles, the other ballooners were hard at work.

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Last Chance

Friday was too windy, Saturday was a wash out with heavy rains. Only one more chance to get those hot air balloons in the air.¬†I am starting to feel like Goldilocks…one was too hot, one was too cold…will Sunday be “just right?

Two launches are scheduled, a dawn launch at the Warren County Airport billed as “Walter’s Mass Ascension”, a simultaneous flight of 100+ balloons including “The World’s Largest Inflated¬†Petting¬†Zoo” and The closing ceremony at Crandall Park , Glens Falls with a launch of 20+ balloons.

Certainly I wanted the 100+ balloons. Sandy and I headed to bed Saturday with our fingers crossed.

It was early. It was dark. I listened closely. I didn’t hear the pitter¬†pat of rain. I didn’t hear any sounds¬†of wind blowing. A gentle tap on my door let me know that Sandy was up and it was time to rise and shine if we were going to make it to the airport.

Once again the parking pass  allowed us to slip right into the airport and into a parking slot. We joined the throngs of people making their way through the damp, dew covered grass to the airport entrance.

Vendors were open already and breakfast was being served near the hangar. There’s something about the pre-dawn hours that seems to magnify everything from sights to sounds to smells.

We made our way to the same area we’d visited on Friday. There were more balloons spread out now and we could walk among them. There are no restraints or barriers.

The air was cool , skies clear and wonder of wonders…no wind! It wasn’t long before we heard the whoosh of hot gasses and balloons that had been lying flat began to rise from the ground like sleeping giants.

The filling process takes quite a few minutes but then one brightly colored balloon was off and in the air, soon another followed and then they were taking off in bunches.

We saw baskets beneath the balloons and some with only a chair for the operator.

There was a monster/alien balloon and a “United Nations” balloon covered with flags from around the world.

Over near the vendors the “Petting Zoo” was taking shape..a butterfly

a crab…

a rabbit…

and that elusive¬† birthday cake I wanted to get a picture of but wait…it’s T Rex and it looks like he’s making short work of that cake.

As dawn broke on the eastern horizon the untethered balloons filled the air.

I can see the allure of this sport.

Your spirits soar right along with the balloons.

I wanted to clap my hands and cheer but I had the camera in my hands.

As we walked back to the car we wound through the tethered balloons, up close and personal. And then they began to deflate. The chasers were on the way to catch the untethered balloons and collect them when they land.

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Time for breakfast. We headed to the Golden Corral where we were joined by George and Kelly and the Kids. Patrick and Catherine seemed to be wide awake for such an early hour.

My only plans for the rest of the day? Take a nap! ūüôā

Moonglow and Fireworks

Traffic is crawling, stop and go,stop and go.¬†¬†Ahead we can see 3 enormous balloons bobbing and weaving. Sometimes they wink out. Sometimes they look like they are about to fall over before we hear the whoosh and see them stand tall again. It seems like we aren’t making much progress. Street parking is out of the question. When we spot a place without a car it’s because there’s a pile of dirt or a boulder blocking the spot.

Pedestrians crossed  freely in front of the crawling line of traffic. Inside I was holding my breath waiting for my sister to tell me this was ridiculous.

We’d been at the airport until about 6pm but the wind never died down enough for the hot air balloons to take off. When we left they were just spread out like lovely colored bed spreads.

Our mistake was not coming straight up to Lake George. We detoured over to George and Kelly’s house. We were just going to make a quick stop. As usually happens when you connect with relatives, especially some you don’t see often, you get to visiting and our quick stop turned into 30-40 minutes…just like that! Not that I’m complaining. I enjoyed the visit too.

A half hour drive to Lake George and it was already 7:30. Moonglow was at 8pm according to the published schedule. But if 8pm was the start time, what were we slowly approaching?

Finally we passed the park and the balloons and found a rough parking lot. $6.00 to park . Grabbing camera, tripod and folding chairs we headed back in the direction we’d just come along with a steady stream of others anxious to see the brightly lit balloons.

To my surprise we easily ¬†got in the¬†front row with plenty of room even with the crowd! I set up as fast as I could in the dark. It was hard to judge where the balloons were in the frame when the lights went out but I did the best I could. A little girl with a glow stick was running around near us. I was pretty sure she was in the frame on some of the pictures but it was hard to tell. I wasn’t going to tell her to stop. She was having way too much fun!

Blue Light Trails from Glow Stick

The balloons were tethered so other than the lights there wasn’t much to see. At¬†about 8pm one of the balloons suddenly began¬†deflating. Then the others began to follow.¬† The show was over! We can only assume there was a misprint on the schedule because it definitely said it was to start at 8..not end. Oh well, at least we got to see a bit of the “Moon glow”.

We headed back to the car to try to beat the rush. I wanted a couple of “night shots” of the lights from the shore reflecting in the lake before we left. When we were almost back to the parking lot I set the tripod back up and began to focus when BANG! the fireworks started.

We stood there on the sidewalk and watched the display of lights fly up into the sky over the lake.

It was a great way to finish up the night. We hustled off to the car before the finale because¬†we just knew the traffic would be bad if we waited. Even with the head start it was still bumper to bumper and “dodge ’em” with the pedestrians. Still I’m really glad we made the effort to go. It was¬† beautiful.

Saturday night they want to have a 40 balloon “Moonglow” at the Warren County Airport. I bet that will really be something to see.

Beautiful Lake George, NY

Early fall in the Adirondacks is always lovely. Nights are cool and crisp but days are comfortable and often breezy. As fall progresses you get treated to magnificent colors from the yellows and brown of the birches to the deep reds of the sugar maples. Fall in the mountains is a feast for the eyes.

It was still a little early for the bright colors but here and there a touch of color spoke of the promise of things to come.

I started the morning sitting on my sister’s porch watching the yellow finches and little brown sparrows fight for the seed in the feeders. Sandy was doing her morning walk. I was hoping to get a glimpse of her cardinal but he was nowhere to be found this morning.

When Sandy returned I suggested a drive up to Prospect Mountain and then a quick run over to find the¬†Battlefield Park in Lake George where the “Moon glow” exhibition was scheduled for 8 pm. WE’d have to hustle to make it¬† after the 5 pm launch at the Warren County Airport. I wasn’t expecting to be chauffeured around. I’m used to being on my own but Sandy offered and I was glad for the company and a treat not to be doing the driving.

It doesn’t take that long to reach Prospect Mountain. There is a fee to go up the mountain but it includes parking at the top and the shuttle to the summit.

There are 3 Lookouts or scenic views. We stopped at all of them.

At the top we parked and took the shuttle the rest of the way.

At one time there was  a cable car that brought visitors to the summit where a hotel offering great  views, dining and dancing was the draw. The Prospect Mountain House eventually burned down but parts of the foundation can still be seen.

The views of Lake George are fantastic and on a clear day you can see for 100 miles to the Green Mountains of Vermont and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We had a bit of haze but it was still breathtaking.

A little after noon we headed back down the mountain to find Battlefield Park. There was a lot of roadwork going on with lanes blocked and heavy equipment scattered all over.  Even with that distraction we located the park but it was clear that  parking would be at a premium especially with all the torn up shoulders and boulders from the work in the way.

That out of the way¬†we headed back toward the airport to see the vendors and find a place to watch the balloons launch at 5pm. A brief stop at Friendly’s for lunch and we were on our way.

My Mom had been sending me clippings about the Balloon Festival and in one of them I’d seen a mention of a parking pass for $15.00 for the weekend. Sandy had gone on a quest for information and in the process¬† bought one for us. What a difference that made! We had separate access to the parking areas so there were no lines, no waiting. It was definitely worth the investment. As we wandered through the vendor tents we could see the traffic from the non parking pass folks just crawling its way toward the airport.

It was really windy at the airport. We saw¬† quite a few “Chase groups” huddled around. It was questionable if they would be able to launch in the wind.¬† The day was warm and sunny, the only draw back was the wind and it was gusty.

We explored the tents and booths of the vendors and then headed to the field where we made ourselves at home on the ground..note for next time: bring folding lawn chairs!

As 5pm came and went we watched the balloons rolled out and propane set up but no effort was made to actually fill any balloons.

Little test balloons were sent up periodically and they took off like a rocket. Kites were flying and everyone seemed to be having a good time except¬†the balloonists. Finally around 6pm we headed back to the car. Time to head back to Lake George for the “Moonglow”.

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Maybe we’ll have¬†better luck there because those balloons are tethered.