I might have cried when my boyfriend surprised me with a hot air balloon ride over Napa Valley for our anniversary this year. Despite my fear of heights, taking flight aboard a wicker basket and colorful balloon has always been a bucket list item of mine.
Our car headlights were alone on the road as we drove to the launch site in Yountville on an early Sunday morning. While I’m not much of a morning person, I appeared to be that day – up before the sun, and anxiously awaiting our turn for take-off.
The crew unloaded vibrant, geometric-patterned fabrics and laid them onto large tarps. The baskets were wheeled onto the ground and fastidiously attached to the balloons.
The loud ‘whooosh’ sound of the flames stirred the quiet morning and their red glow acted like candles in the night. We hopped in the basket, posed for a quick photo, and then we were off.
The ground below gradually became more distant as we gently rose with the morning sun. We passed over rows of vineyards and sleeping homes. Neighborhood dogs barked and followed the balloon’s path until we were out of sight.
The sun climbed over the eastern mountains, filling the sky with hues of purple, pink, and blue. Napa Valley was putting on a beautiful show for the lucky few awake to see it.
Brilliant balloons were above and below, near and far. Surprisingly, not a peep could be heard, aside from the occasional ‘whoosh’ of the flames. We took our turn floating high and low, providing countless angles to enjoy our snoozing valley.
Surrendering to the gentle morning breeze, the balloons drifted southward to the city of Napa. Scenery changed from expansive green vines to houses, roads, and parks.
We landed in a grassy playground along the city line where dog walkers and stroller pushers stopped to take in the view. I imagine only in a place like Napa Valley is a hot air balloon coming in for landing a daily site.
I can happily say that I conquered my fear of heights while soaring 1,800 feet in the air in nothing but a basket and balloon full of hot air. The views are unsurpassed and I am convinced there is no better way to see the Napa Valley. We’re planning to go again in the winter when the valley will be carpeted in golden yellow mustard flowers.