South Carolina


I floated on past Donaldson Center and continued southwest over mostly wooded countryside. I talked to Larry on the radio, and ascertained that he was pulled off byI-185, not far away. The air seemed to be lightly thermic. I was going into moderate climbs and descents without any control inputs on my part -- another reason to fly on for a bit before trying to land.

I continued along by the interstate for a while, then crossed it where it looped to the north toward Greenville. I saw a large golf course by the Interstate, and considered landing there, but all the sprinklers were running and it didn't seem worth getting soaked.



I released a balloon to drop down lower. The tree cover was pretty substantial. I could see a few open fields and clear areas beside buildings here and there, but nothing that was on my present track. I still had enough speed that I could not just grab at the treetops to stop myself and have Larry pull me down into a hole among the trees -- I needed a little space to land. I knew from the map that I was coming up on a north-south highway, with a few streets branking off it; after that, there were no more roads for several miles, which could leave me still over the woods when night fell.

Images © 2008 by C. Michael Hager,


Up ahead I saw a large square cut out of the woods, with a factory building and a huge lawn. On my present line, I would pass over the south edge of it. I radioed Larry to try to get him there, giving directions based on what little I could glimpse of the roads hidden down among the trees. However, when I dropped down to the treetops in preparation for landing, the wind direction was a bit more to the south, and I ended up sailing by over the trees, just a few frustrating yards from the field.

I flew on, still low over the trees. A mile up ahead I could see a radio tower. A quarter mile before the tower there seemed to be a bit of a break in the trees, perhaps a pasture. It was a bit difficult to see, looking west into the sun. It was close to sunset, and I didn't really want to have to fly on several miles to the next main road, so I told Larry to go find the pasture east of the radio tower.



I approached the pasture at about ten feet over the treetops. From what I could see from that low, the pasture was surrounded by trees on each side -- very long, but fairly narrow the way I was going to cross it. I was still moving along at a good clip and didn't want to fly past, so a few yards before the last of the trees, I released a balloon. However, as I descended those last few feet, the windspeed dropped dramatically, and instead of dropping into the pasture, I found myself standing on the top branches of a tree just short of my goal. I scambled up to the top of the tree and pushed off to another treetop, and from there floated down into the pasture. In the shelter of the trees, there was virtually no wind; I landed gently on my feet.



One end of the pasture disappeared out of sight around a bend in the trees; at the other end, I could see a fence. There were some cows and a mule in the pasture with me -- the mule snorted and gave me some hard looks, but the cows were unperturbed, and the mule eventually calmed down as well. I talked on the radio with Larry, who as it developed had gone to another pasture, also east of a radio tower. I gave the best description of my location that I could, and a few minutes later, he and my crew showed down at the fence. They got permission from the landowner in the nearby house, and came out to get me.



I learned from my crew that the hot-air balloon with Steve and the mayor had put down for a fast landing back at the airport, sliding around on the tarmac and leaving the mayor with a skinned knuckle. Unfortunately, they ended up on the property of one of the defense contractors based at the airport and based on whatever top-secretness applied, they were being held by security.



Some of the people who had joined us for the chase went up on tether with my balloons. Then, as evening settled across the pasture, we put away my equipment. A cow ambled by and began trying eat my discarded strings until we shooed her away.

Then we drove back to the festival in Mauldin. It had been a wonderful flight, and left me wishing that I might again someday again float over beatutiful South Carolina. Dum spiro spero.



Celebration LVII

Crew Chief: Larry Vandenberg

Special Thanks to: Mauldinfest (Judy McKinley, chairperson); Airgas National Welders; City of Mauldin (Don Godbey, Mayor); Mauldin Chamber of Commerce (Pat Pomeroy, Executive Director); Bi-Lo (Mauldinfest Title Sponsor); SkyScapes of America (Steve Lambert); inflation volunteers

Photography: Michael Hager (, Victoria VanderKam, Raymond Crowell, Bill Pomeroy, Sharon Scott, John Ninomiya








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