Tag Archives: US Hot Air Balloon Team

A Mile-High View of Lancaster County

On a sunny, mild morning in June, I got to cross something big off my bucket list – “Go on a Hot Air Balloon Ride.”

We arrived bright and early at the US Hot Air Balloon Team’s take off point in Bird-in-Hand, PA. Just as I got out of the car, they were inflating the balloon as the sun continued to rise. The trusty crew prepared for flight as we mentally prepared ourselves to be a mile above the farmland.

When the balloon was ready, we climbed into the basket (which was roomier than I expected). Our pilot, Lucas, introduced himself and reassured us that he was no stranger to the sky – he had flown over 2,000 times, in multiple locations in Pennsylvania and even internationally. Before I knew it, the balloon was floating off the ground, gaining height every second. Our cars and the cows in surrounding fields started to look like toys as we floated higher and higher.

The sky was absolutely beautiful – painted with oranges, pinks and blues. As we drifted with the wind, we saw the patchwork pattern of the farmers’ fields, with their perfect lines and contrasting browns and greens. We floated over familiar landmarks that Lucas pointed out along the way. The sights we typically see from car windows looked different and miniature from up above. Since the humidity was relatively low that morning, we were able to see all the way to Harrisburg and the Chesapeake Bay!

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We climbed to a mile above the ground as we took in the sights. Since hot air balloons move with the wind, it felt as though we were barely moving at all – a true floating sensation.

After reaching our highest height, we drifted lower to float right above the tree tops. Dogs arked as we sailed over houses, and bunnies scampered through the gardens and fields. We watched the county wake up as traffic picked up on the main roads and people began working – stopping to wave as we sailed overhead.Our flight came to a close and Lucas prepared us for landing. He scoped out a spot among some houses in a small development and called the ground team to meet us there. Landing was as simple as bending our knees as Lucas steered us safely to the ground.

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The ground team skillful packed up the balloon and basket, and as quickly as we came, we left – heading back to the take off point. To celebrate the flight, we enjoyed a mimosa toast and sticky buns. The connection between champagne and hot air ballooning is quite interesting. In the early days, pilots in France would carry champagne as a peace offering when they would land in farmer’s field, proving to the possibly confused farmer that they meant well and were, in fact, human.

The hot air balloon ride was an opportunity of a lifetime with breathtaking sights. If this is something lingering on your bucket list, I highly recommend taking flight with the US Hot Air Balloon Team in Lancaster County.

Up, up, and away!

Last night I set my alarm for 5:00 AM. I know, crazy right? But it was for a VERY good reason. Why would I wake up while it’s still dark? To get ready for a 6:00 AM start with the US Hot Air Balloon Team, of course!

If you have never been on a hot air balloon ride, I’ll let you know that you don’t have to get up before dawn to catch a ride – they also have evening flights. When we arrived at the field that they take off from (almost directly across from the Bird-in-Hand Farmer’s Market), the balloon was already beginning to inflate.

If you’ve never seen a balloon inflate, they use one or two large and powerful fans to push air into the balloon. You can even walk around inside the balloon as it is being inflated. Once the balloon has enough air in it to hold its shape, the pilot adds hot air to make it rise in the form of flames.

There were ten of us riding, including our flight pilot, Lucas, who was on his 2,084th (or somewhere around there) flight. He is definitely experienced enough for me to trust him flying me up about 1 mile over the beautiful farmland of Lancaster County.

We went up pretty quickly, I was surprised. It’s funny – I’m not someone who would say I’m afraid of heights, but I’m also not super fond of them – but riding up in a hot air balloon, you almost don’t feel like you’re moving, because you’re going gently with the wind. It does get a little chilly up there in the morning, so you definitely want to bring a sweatshirt or light jacket. Lucas told us that later in the summer you probably don’t need that because it gets hot and humid so quickly in the mornings.

Something that I’ll always be amazed at, that was just accentuated by being up so high above it, is Amish farmland that looks like a patchwork quilt despite not using modern technology to plow the fields. The rows are so straight, and because the properties are all right next to one another, you get lines that are going different directions, and some fields that are still brown, and some that are green. It’s truly amazing.

At one point, Lucas flew low enough over some trees that my friend Kristen & I could grab some leaves off the tops – it was awesome. We waved to lots of people below on the ground, as we descended. We landed on an open field in farmland, and a few of the local Amish kids came running over to see the balloon that had landed in their back yard. The ground crew started pulling the ropes to get the balloon down, while Lucas pushed the air out from the bottom.

Once the balloon was packed back into the trailer (who knew such a HUGE thing could fit into a trailer tied to the back of our van?), we drove back to the launch site, and had breakfast with a mimosas toast. It’s definitely an experience that I would recommend, and make sure that when you take a flight, especially if it’s with Lucas, that you let them know you read about it here!

To learn more, visit their website: www.ushotairballoon.com

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