Floating Gracefully Above the Napa Valley…


It was an early start to the day as the alarm went off at 4:45am.  However, even as we wiped the sleep from our eyes, you could feel the excitement just below the surface for both of us.  We were about to embark on our first hot air balloon ride ever with Napa Valley Balloons, Inc. over the beautiful Napa Valley.  Not only would we get a bird’s eye view of the valley below, but we were also going to watch the sunrise from over the eastern mountains from the coziness of our basket beneath a multicolored balloon.

We had a short drive to Yountville from Napa (about 15 minutes) where we arrived at the Etoile Restaurant at Domaine Chandon Winery

Domaine Chandon Winery - Napa Valley

After confirming our reservation we were greeted with a nice continental breakfast consisting of pastries, muffins, orange juice, coffee and tea.  Perfect little savoury delights to tide us over until the champagne brunch after our balloon flight.

As we eagerly awaited word from our pilots, as to timing of the morning, where we were taking off from and some general safety information, we sat at the edge of our seats in the restaurant.  We were so excited and our anticipation was mounting every minute.

Finally, one of the pilots came in to the restaurant and informed us that the winds were great, nice and calm in the valley, and that we would be taking off from the golf course driving range only a short drive from the Etoile Restaurant.  After discarding our jackets (we were told that due to the burners above the basket, it would be a pleasant 80-85°F for our flight despite the chilly morning air), we headed out to the vans that would take us to the launch site. 

We remember rounding the corner to the driving range and being overwhelmed by the sheer size of the balloons.  It is something quite special to see 6 hot air balloons being inflated over the golf course as the first few streams of daylight start to appear. 

Napa Valley Balloons

We were getting so close to participating in this majestic experience.

As all of the patrons were divided up amongst the 6 balloons, we anxiously awaited for our names to be called so that we could begin this grand adventure.  As we approached our balloons, the burners flamed and the canvas slowly filled. 

Napa Valley Balloons

The balloons inflated and we could see the rainbow of colours fill the sky.  It was such a pretty sight!!!

Napa Valley Balloons

Once our balloon was fully upright, we were ushered to our spots in the basket.  We had to climb into the basket, sorry no easy access door here.  It was a tight fit with 16 people but the basket was divided into 5 compartments, 4 being filled with 4 people and the center one for the pilot.

Napa Valley Balloons

Kim, our illustrious pilot from Napa Valley Balloons, Inc., seemed to be just as excited as the rest of us even though he has logged over 6000 flights!  He was actually one of the founders of the company way back in 1980 when a group of guys became pilots together and then started the company as a means to cover the costs of their flying.  Kim took his first hot air balloon flight in 1978 and has been hooked ever since.  From our experience, we can totally understand why!

We were the third balloon to take off and what a sight it was to gently float up, up and away amongst several other hot air balloons. 

Napa Valley Balloons

As we slowly rose, the view of the valley became more and more spectacular.  We were so amazed by everything that we could not stop taking photos. 

Napa Valley Balloons

Some of the balloons that took off before us began the typical journey north along the Napa Valley.  Kim told us that this direction, flying north of Yountville is most common with the prevailing winds; however, we were very fortunate on our morning to have the rare eastern wind up a little bit higher.  So, with little hesitation, Kim, took us higher and higher to catch this exciting wind stream, even for him, to the east.   We rose as high as 2000 feet and reached a whopping 15 mph!!! 

Napa Valley Balloons

There was something truly magical about floating on the wings of the wind.  There was very little talking in the basket amongst the 16 guests as we all took in the spectacular sunrise and the awakening of the Napa Valley below. 

Napa Valley Balloons

Looking off into the distance and seeing many other balloons also added to our experience. 

Napa Valley Balloons

It was nice that Napa Valley Balloon, Inc. is such a large company, that we were among 6 balloons going up that day. 

As we floated across the valley, Kim took us up and down and pointed out some of the sights below.  When we got closer to the eastern hills, and our hour long ride was up, it was time to find a good landing spot.  Although the eastern flight towards Soda Canyon is rare and exciting, the landing can prove to be a bit difficult.  Kim was calm and professional and after a few grazing’s of the tree tops, we came gently down on the road.  Our chase crew helped with the landing and worked really hard to ensure a safe landing for all.

After our landing, we were driven back to the Etoile Restaurant at Domaine Chandon Winery for our champagne brunch.  It was delicious and the perfect end to a memorable morning!

Napa Valley Balloons

Thank you Napa Valley Balloons, Inc. for a once in a lifetime experience.  We will NEVER forget it!

Ever been up in a hot air balloon ride or a strange form of transportation?  Tell us about it.


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4 Responses to Floating Gracefully Above the Napa Valley…

  1. That’s wonderful you experienced a hot air balloon ride! We took our very first (and only, so far) hot air balloon ride in Turkey, floating over Cappadocia’s “fairy chimneys.” It’s so surreal, isn’t it, to be floating above the earth…
    Sand In My Suitcase recently posted..There’s only one One & Only PalmillaMy Profile

    Sand In My Suitcase September 3, 2013 at 9:07 pm Reply
    • That sounds like an amazing experience as well, floating over Turkey and its beautiful landscape. It definitely feels like you are getting a bird’s eye view and experiencing something that is quite precious. We hope you get to float above the Earth again. 🙂

      evan&tracy September 4, 2013 at 4:57 pm Reply
  2. Pingback: Evan and Tracy of Travels 4 Couples Interviewed - A Couples Odyssey

  3. Pingback: Things to do in Napa Valley...Hot Air Balloon Ride! | Travels4Couples

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