Ten years have passed, and still I remember the sensation of floating above the Pioneer Valley, as if tethered to a hawk. Hot-air ballooning is a dawn-and-dusk sport, when the air temperature is right for launching. In the late-afternoon light, we rose above the Connecticut River, just outside Northampton, Massachusetts. Within moments, our balloonist, Paul Sena, who has been flying passengers since 1991, took us to the silence of 1,500 feet. The wind carried our rattan basket northward at five miles per hour over the valley. We saw Mount Monadnock in faraway Jaffrey, New Hampshire, and skydivers opening parachutes. We rose to 3,000 feet over the hill towns, and floated for more than an hour before slowly descending. Deer, startled by the breathing of the balloon, bounded away through the trees. When we landed, children who’d been following in their parents’ cars came running, full of smiles and wonder; the balloon swelled out, while the propane burner inside whooshed heat, as if from an unseen animal. We stepped out. I felt as though I’d landed in Oz.
Worthington Ballooning Worthington, MA. 413-238-5514; worthingtonballooning.com