Monday, June 06, 2011

Hot air balloon over Napa Valley

Napa Valley is located about 80 miles North East of San Jose and is known for its wineries. It is equally famous for its hot air balloon rides. Here are some of the pictures and a couple of videos that I took when I ascended on the balloon 'discovery'.

There were many balloons ascending simultaneously. Ours started at about 6.30 am while some of them had started earlier. Thus, while we were at about 1000 feet we could spot balloons 1000 feet above our level. This is a typical time for the rides because that is when they can be more or less assured of favourable winds and weather.

A balloon at an higher altitude (our balloon is seen in the top of the picture)

Some tend to think that it will be scary when you are on high altitude(upto 2000 feet in Napa valley), but it is not so unless you are acrophobic.The ascent can be made very fast or relatively stagnant. Even a fast ascent can be seen clearly but not felt that vividly. For eg, compare the following two pictures. It is the same hexagonal house's top view from 2 different altitudes just 3-4 minutes apart.

I could see the balloon rise very clearly. The driver of the balloon controlled the ascent and the direction of flight through an open fire. A vent is controlled to enable a descent.

The basket that was our carrier had a capacity of 16. This is cheaper compared to 8 capacity baskets.
(view along with the basket)

The buzzing sound heard in the video atleast twice is the sound of the open fire that controls the flight of the balloon.  It can be seen that the basket is slowly tilting in its course. Also seen are two balloons that have already landed and are about to be deflated. There is a group of vehicles (they are for transporting passengers to the starting place) that moves around the area to exactly match the landing spot of the balloon. This is because it is difficult to precisely control the landing location.

 (Closeup view of another balloon)
(The driver said that this altitude is about 820 feet above ground)

A couple of more top views of the Napa valley and the residential area there.

(The smooth patterns seen in the pictures are wine producing crops of the valley)

The descent was made a little interesting by our driver by accelerating it. It bumped once, lifted few feet above the ground and finally landed.See this video.
I also managed to capture the balloon and the open fire. The other balloons were deflating at this time.
 (deflating our balloon which is more of a parachute in my opinion)
(the fire that propelled)

The tour was completed at about 7.50 am and we reached our starting place in another 20 minutes. It was a nice experience.I had forgotten to take my jerkin but was helped by the open fire to keep warm throughout the flight.

And here is a fine photograph by National geographic covering the hot air balloons at Cappadocia in Turkey.


  1. Looks like an interesting experience. Nice pics!

  2. Yet another interesting article. Must have been an enthralling experience. Love the first 4 pics and the picture of the residential area especially!

  3. Nice. I guess it would definitely be less scary than thos bungee jumps !!

    Read this on the internet -
    You can't really steer it, ­and it only travels as fast as the wind blows. But if you simply want to enjoy the experience of flying, there's nothing quite like it.

    Hot air balloons are based on a very basic scientific principle: warmer air rises in cooler air. Essentially, hot air is lighter than cool air, because it has less mass per unit of volume. A cubic foot of air weighs roughly 28 grams (about an ounce). If you heat that air by 100 degrees F, it weighs about 7 grams less. Therefore, each cubic foot of air contained in a hot air balloon can lift about 7 grams. That's not much, and this is why hot air balloons are so huge -- to lift 1,000 pounds, you need about 65,000 cubic feet of hot air.

  4. Good stats. You are right. The balloon size was truly gargantuan. I did not expect it to be so big even though I knew it was huge.

    It is difficult to determine any direction with this. That is why they do it in the morning in the valley where the weather is friendly for the most part.