Driggs, Idaho (cont'd)



I continued up the valley, leaving behind Driggs and its surrounding farmland to the south. Ernie descended, and told me on the radio that near to the surface, the wind direction switched, and was taking him back to the south.



I continued to descend slowly, hoping to get a longer flight. Passing a line of trees that followed a stream across the valley, I passed to the east of Tetonia, the next town to the north. I called Larry on the radio, and told him I intended to keep heading north. Larry told me he'd have to divert to the west, to find roads that would take him through to the north.


I continued to drift north for several minutes. I could see the road that Larry would be coming in on, a mile or so ahead, so I allowed my gentle descent to continue. However, when I was at about 500 feet, the wind swung sharply toward the west, and I began to speed up. A little lower, I was headed back briskly to the south. I called Larry and told him I was headed back down the valley toward the line of trees.


Larry told me he was turning around, but it'd take a few minutes to catch up with me. I maintained my descent. There were some fields where I could land below, but since I had picked up some speed I wanted to land with crew there, if possible, so I told Larry I would cross back over the tree line and land just to the south.


I released a balloon, and then squeezed a little water out of one of my ballast bags, trying to set up a descent that would take me in right over the treetops, so I'd be ready to land in the fields beyond. I drifted in, pretty much on the track I'd visualized, and cleared the trees by about ten feet. Ahead was a large field, followed by a road and another field, and then increasingly swampy pasture land. I couldn't see Larry, but I had been told to avoid the swampy area if at all possible, and landing immediately would give me some wind shelter from the trees. I released a few balloons to drop in. I hit the ground dragging, and released more balloons until I came to a stop.



A minute later Larry rolled up in his jeep and ran out into the field where I was. He and one of our local crew volunteers walked me back toward the road. The wind was picking up, and we were moving away from the shelter of the trees, making it hard to hang on to me.




Finally, I had to drop to the ground while two of the crew sat on me to stop me from dragging downwind. Luckily, some people who lived nearby and some passing hot-air balloon crew stopped to lend a hand. My balloons bounced and flailed in the wind as they tried to pull the balloons down for deflation. Pinned to the ground, I was glad I had decided not fly on any further. It's funny how judgment makes the difference between some amazing fun and a trip to the ER.




Slightly bedraggled, and with one leg still asleep from having someone sit on it for fifteen minutes, I thanked everyone for helping with the deflation, and Larry, Victoria and I headed back down the Teton Valley to Driggs.


Celebration LXI

Crew Chief: Larry Vandenberg

Chase Balloon Pilot: Ernie Hartt

Special thanks to: Teton Valley Summer Festival (Reid Rogers, Chamber of Commerce President; Jeanne Miyoshi; Tom Gough, Balloonmeister); crew volunteers (Ray Bair, Dave Bair, Erin Bair, Mona Johnson, Tom &
Crystal Gough and many others -- please e-mail me you name if you were there!)

Photography: Victoria Vandenberg, Ernie Hartt, Steven Cook, Ken Levy, John Ninomiya

Teton Valley painting from the collection of the Teton Valley Historical Museum, Driggs, Idaho.











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