Floating above the desert – Cave Creek, AZ

May the winds welcome you with softness.
May the sun bless you with its warm hands.
May you fly so high and so well that God
joins you in laughter and sets you gently
back into the loving arms of Mother Earth. – The Balloonist Prayer

This was the prayer inscribed on the champagne glasses we used during the ceremonial toast celebrating our successful hot air balloon flight.  Perhaps a bit cheesy, but we had a lot of fun.  Captain Randy Long took us flying on what he claimed is the largest passenger hot air balloon in America.  And yes, this balloon was huge and we were amazed as we shared what looked like an oversized wicker laundry basket with fourteen other adventurers (it holds up to 20).

By comparison, our first hot air balloon trip several years ago was in a tiny and cramped basket as only four passengers jockeyed for good photography positions.  But this basket gave us our own little compartment and it was plenty spacious.

Arizona Hot Air Balloon Safari

Steve volunteered to do a little crew work while I snapped photos of every step

Hot Air Balloon

Unrolling the huge envelope

Hot Air Balloon

It took four gas-powered fans to inflate this monster

Hot Air Balloon

Next the propane burners were ignited to heat the air inside

Hot Air Balloon

After about 30 minutes we’re ready for lift off

Hot Air Balloon

Up, up and away in our beautiful balloon!

Because hot air ballooning is dependent on wind speed and direction, lift off didn’t happen immediately after we gathered at 6:30am.  We drove to three locations before Captain Randy found the right spot to launch.  We finally got off the ground and drifted quietly above the Sonoran desert to about 1,800 feet, with no rush of wind in our faces.  From our corner of the wicker basket, Steve and I scanned 360 degrees of desert panorama as the balloon traveled in a slight breeze.  It was just like floating on air, so peaceful and completely quiet except when the burners were running.

Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix skyline in smog

Hot Air Balloon

Steve points to our campground at Cave Creek Regional Park

Hot Air Balloon

There were five hot air balloons flying that day

Hot Air Balloon

Dense housing north of Phoenix

Desert Sonoran Preserve

Hovering over the Phoenix Sonoran Desert Preserve

Desert Sonoran Preserve

Hikers at the Preserve

Desert Sonoran Preserve

Coming back down, we saw our favorites, the Saguaros, standing tall

Hot Air Balloon

An hour later we landed at almost exactly the same spot from which we launched

Arizona Balloon Safaris

Randy tells us this is a legendary ceremony that balloonists are treated to after each safe flight – saying the Balloonist Prayer and enjoying a toast

Arizona Hot Air Balloon

We learned there are several hot air balloon operations in the Cave Creek area, as we watched up to 7 balloons in the air almost every morning and even a few in the evenings for the sunset flights (those looked like fun, too).  We happened to select Arizona Balloon Safaris and thought they did a great job.

We are currently staying in Cave Creek on the outskirts of Phoenix, enjoying perfect weather so far –  sunny days and a bit nippy at night.  Cave Creek Regional Park (Steve’s review here) was an easy choice as our home base, as we loved our first stay here exactly three years ago.  Our site is wonderful, but we think the beautiful hill behind Betsy in the picture below is causing major internet connectivity issues.  It’s leaving me whining because it’s hard to keep up with the whereabouts and activities of my friends in the blogosphere!

Cave Creek Regional Park AZ

Site #4 at Cave Creek Regional Park

Other than that minor complaint, life is good here in the desert!

 

Next Up:  It’s party week!