Who likes to be up and active before the sun rises? Not I. There are only three reasons I happily wake up and leave the house before the sun has risen in the sky. The first is to catch an early morning flight that starts my vacation, second to watch the sunrise from a magical location like Haleakala, Maui. As I’ve already done the first two the only reason left for me to get up before sunrise is to enjoy a Phoenix hot air balloon ride over the desert. I’m so excited for this adventure I barely sleep the night before. This is a bucket list experience I’ve missed out on twice before but will not let it escape me again. Can there be anything more exciting than watching the sun climb the sky while you are floating 5000 feet above Earth? Who wants to rise up with me?
Call time is 5:15 am with Hot Air Expeditions. The company offers round-trip hotel shuttle for an additional fee if you are staying in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. There are six of in total going which makes the shuttle a great option for ease and convenience. Besides this way we can all begin to wake up as we drive to the meeting location sipping our coffee.
Our Phoenix hot air balloon ride is getting real. As we approach the launch location we see the balloons stretched out on the ground waiting for the fire to begin filling them up with hot air.
First things first is a safety briefing. Rule #1 always do what the Captain says. Then with the help of a volunteer, the ground crew begins to fill up our balloon.
While we wait for the balloon to fill I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve just before bedtime. I am so excited. While we load into the basket the first hot air balloon takes off. It hovers over the ground for only a second and then liftoff.
It is our turn to take off. One minute we are on the ground and the next woosh. We are up in the air.
The views are amazing and the light is breathtaking. As the sun climbs higher into the sky so do we. Every trip is unique as the winds are constantly changing and it is up to the talented ground crew to keep track of us and follow us from the ground.
The highlight of many amazing moments was when we surfed a mountain. We witnessed another balloon drop its elevation to what looked like mere feet above the giant Saguaro Cacti and then rise up the side of a mountain.
Then it was our turn.
WOW! We felt so close that if we could lean out we could touch the mountain. Truly spectacular. It is time for us to land and sure enough, the ground crew is waiting for us. I couldn’t photograph our landing but did see another balloon coast in and be caught by the ground crew.
Once we are out of the basket the ground crew splits into two teams. One takes the balloon down and repacks it while the other prepares our hot breakfast.
I didn’t book this adventure for the food but the warm quiche, pastry and fruit were a welcome touch. After we’ve all eaten our captain presents each of us with a certificate commemorating the experience.
Now it is back into our shuttle and back to our hotel. We left at 5:15 am and were returned to our hotel by about 10:15 am. In total about 5 hours from start to finish. Well worth getting up at 4:30 am in my opinion. I can now check a Phoenix hot air balloon ride off my adventure bucket list. Just because I’ve done it once doesn’t mean I don’t want to do it again. In fact, I would have gone again the next day if my plans allowed for it. I think I’m hooked.