Every year, I challenge myself to do something new. It can be as simple as trying a new recipe to taking a trip to unchartered territory. I love the excitement and unfamiliarity that accompanies my first time adventures. Hot air ballooning with Darrek Daoust of Balloons of Vermont is easily one of my favorite new things I’ve done in 2015.
Hot Air Ballooning
If you welcome adventure and love a good view, taking a hot air balloon ride is right for you. Darrek takes off from Quechee, Vermont, which is my new favorite place. It’s beautiful and quaint, just how you’d picture a true Vermont town. More specifically, take off is from behind Simon Pearce Store and Restaurant. This amazing bar & restaurant, retail boutique and glass blowing storefront is actually a restored 19th-century mill overlooking a waterfall. Yes, it’s amazing and deserves its own Venture Vermont (hint hint) but for now, it’s mentioned as a great place to wait if you arrive early or dine afterwards.
A highlight of the ballooning trip was the prep work. The balloon itself is 75 feet long and 175 pounds. Being the hands on person I am, I was all too eager to assist Darrek in lying out and inflating the balloon. Eventually, everyone jumps in the basket and we’re off. The initial feeling of excitement has everyone unfocused; with a 360 degree view, no one knows where to look. Darrek is quick to point out the covered bridge, waterfall and amazing sun set that’s sure to begin during our flight.
Once we got over the initial “ah” of it all, the girls and I were able to focus and learn more about how we were actually floating a few thousand feet in the air. Flash back to high school science class – remember when you learned about density? The hotter the air, the more dense it is causing it to rise above less dense (cool) air. By filling the balloon with heat from the burner, we were able to create a bubble of air more dense then the air surrounding us. Darrek was using a two propane gas burner. Every so often the burners (or burner – depending on how much heat was needed) would fire hot air into the balloon. If you’re extremely sensitive to sound, I’d suggest bringing ear plugs as the burner firing is not quiet. Whilst in flight, your direction is determined by the wind.
Mother Nature acts as your true guide when ballooning. In our case, the wind was blowing east landing us 8 miles away in nearby Lebanon, New Hampshire. The entire flight, take off to landing, took about one hour which means we were traveling an average of 8 mph. Normally, the balloon is traveling at about 4mph. As the flight nears its end, the landing becomes an adventure in itself. Again, with the wind being our guide, we don’t get to land just anywhere. The hope is that you fly over a big, open area such as a field. There are two openings to a balloon, the throat (where the burner lives) and the crown. The crown has a hole in it call the parachute vent. By pulling on the attached cord, the vent opens allowing hot air out; this is how we’re able to descend.
Once we’re safely on the ground, we help pack up the balloon and head back to where we started. The van ride was spent looking over pictures and recounting our favorite parts. Even though the flight’s over, the experience continues. Darrek provides light snacks and refreshments upon arrival back in Quechee. As we sipped champagne, reliving our first hot air balloon ride, Darrek continued to entertain us with fun stories and witty jokes. Unlike other balloon operators, Darrek surprises and delights the entire time. His business card reads “an adventure to remember for a lifetime” and that’s not because of the flight alone but the amazing comedic genius that is Darrek.
Quechee is just over an hour north of Stratton Mountain. View directions here via Google Earth. Directions take you straight to Simon Pearce, Darrek’s meeting grounds.
What You’ll Learn
There are a few key things you’ll learn from your venture.
- Quechee is beautiful.
- Southern Vermont is breathtaking.
- The Green Mountains are indeed really, really green (unless it’s fall, then they’ll be really, really orange and red! Or winter, when they’ll be snowy white)!
- You actually retained information from high school science!
- Heights aren’t so bad.
- What it’s like to be a celebrity…kind of (everyone waves at you from below, faint yelling can be heard while they take pictures).
What to pack & What to wear
Since you’re climbing in and out of a basket, I suggest pants or shorts. Dresses and skirts will get tricky ladies. Sport a t-shirt but bring a light sweater for sun set. If you’re ballooning in the winter (because yes, that’s an option), I imagine you want a thick winter jacket and possibly ski pants to assure your warmth. Wear close toed shoes that can be securely attached to your feet. You don’t want to lose a shoe at takeoff or be stepped on midflight.
Items you may want to pack include sunglasses and a camera.
Suggested Age Range
We recommend ages 16 and up for this Venture Vermont. Though you can fly with young adults, due to safety reasons, we felt that the older and more competent the person, the better.
“Drifting across the pond midflight will forever live in my fondest memories. I thought that was so cool and unique!”
“The fact that I was in a basket floating from a balloon is something that I’ll never forget. The forest looked like a head of broccoli and the people like ants. It’s a different perspective of the busy world below.” –Lauren
“My favorite part was the feeling of floating in the air. It was much different than the feeling of an airplane – it was silent and smooth. It was amazing!” –Cassie
About the Author
Courtney DiFiore | Three years ago, Courtney was on a mission to find herself; instead, she found Vermont. As she navigates her way through the ups, downs and moguls of life Courtney enjoys spending it standing sideways. Growing up in a family of skiers, two planks were the first mode of transportation for this outdoor enthusiast. Along the way, she discovered snowboarding and never looked back. Her scattered thoughts make for interesting posts. If she ever goes missing, make sure to check the tennis courts first!