Friday, October 24, 2008

Up, Up, and Away...

The prevailing wind in the Pioneer Valley is south to north, so every spring, summer and fall the early morning and early evening sky plays host to colorful hot-air balloons which take off down toward Springfield and drift up the valley over the broad fields of corn, potatoes and pumpkins to land here in Hatfield or just to our north in Whately, short of the rocky prominence of Mount Sugarloaf.


The view from the top of Mount Sugarloaf, looking back down the Valley along the Connecticut River-


In the spring and summer, when the windows are all open, often the first warning we have of a balloon overhead is the "whooooooosh!" of the gas-powered hot-air blower pumping more hot air into the balloon.

The balloons are all followed by chase crews, who are in radio contact with the balloon pilot and drive pickups or vans pulling the trailer that the balloon will be packed up into at the end of the flight. The balloon crew carries a bottle of champagne which they present to a farmer if they land in his field.

Last summer in the early evening a balloon drifted over the house and began to come down in the soccer field of the high school across the street. As the balloon slowly descended an entire convoy of vehicles came down the street, chase truck and trailer in the lead, followed by at least a dozen cars full of people. The balloon drifted left toward some trees, and the pilot "hit the gas", making the balloon bound upward and start to drift north toward a neighboring potato farm.

The convoy of followers turned into the school's long driveway, raced around the circle in front of the school and came racing back out, tearing off down the street in the direction of the rapidly-disappearing balloon.

A number of neighbors were out on the sidewalk at this point, because you never see a convoy of cars that large chasing a balloon, and we were curious about what was going on. The mystery was cleared up when a young woman in one of the last cars leaned out the window, holding a cell-phone in one hand, and yelled to us-

"She said YES!!"


Most balloon fly-overs are far less dramatic, except for the random low-flyer who looks as if he may take the top of our chimney off. Balloons are beautiful at any time of year, but they are especially triking against the colorful fall leaves in the crisp, blue autmun sky.



Phoebe Fay said...

Colonel, I swear, where you live must be one of the closest spots to heaven we've got in this country.

Catalyst said...

Beautiful it is, Colonel, and your pictures do it justice.

Colonel Colonel said...

Phoebe: we certainly think so.

Catalyst: thanks! I must say, you have a beautiful country out there as well.

Hungry Mother said...

Beautiful photos. We don't usually get views like that at the beach.

Colonel Colonel said...

ooohhhhhhh... the beach.

Of course, all our beaches are frosty and cold right now.

I do miss the beach.

Mike said...

We're entering into a very gray period here in Michigan right now and I don't think we'll be seeing much blue for a few months to come.

Those are some very beautiful pictures colonel. Very nice.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Great story. Beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing!

Malach the Merciless said...

Up, up, and away! My beautiful, my beautiful BALLOON!

Malicious Intent said...

I wouldn't mind living where you are at...I just need services for #1 offspring, lots and lots of services.

I am so pissed that the country club pulled me letting a black hawk land on the golf course (after they approved it and the military approved a landing site) because they were afraid it would crash and burn their grass (note: no concern of loss of life.)
But they let another major tournament have hot air balloon rides at theirs. You generally don't hear of blackhawks falling out of the sky unless you are in BAGDAD. Balloons, they drop all the time and have an open flame.

They are beautiful though...but seriously...this douche bag was trying to tell me which was safer despite presenting him with statistics from the military. Argh!

Ok, back to pretty balloons, leaves, rivers, pretty butterflies......where is that corn maze??

Beach Bum said...

That is certainly a piece of heaven. Balloons are not big down around my parts for some reason but I did see one caught in a thunderstorm one time drift close by my house. I wouldn't have been those people in the basket for nothing. Lightening was flashing all over the place. Did hear on the 11:00pm that night that they did get out of the storm safely.

anaglyph said...

I really want to go up in one o' them hot-air-balloonie things. Never have, but will one day.

Did you ever catch this post on The Cow? One of the most beautiful artworks I've ever experienced.