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The mention of hot air ballooning usually generates one of two reactions: “Hell no! I would never go up in one of those,” or, more frequently, “Yup, it’s on my bucket list”. And there are of course a series of reactions in between. So what’s it all about?

According to Portlander and owner of Vista Balloon Adventures Ashley Whitty, “Most people, after a flight, mention two things: the quiet and the beauty. Hot air ballooning is simply the most peaceful way to fly.” Very little motion is felt (most of the time balloons are moving at less than 10 mph), no wind is felt (you’re in the wind), and aside from the occasional activation of the balloon’s burner there is no noise (passenger oohs and aahs aside). It’s probably the closest thing there is to flying on a magic carpet. There are definitely other superlatives that would work here, but you likely get the point.

From Vista’s home base in Newberg, just 35 minutes south of Portland, the flying is definitely bucket-list worthy. You fly low, skimming just feet off the ground, touch down on the Willamette, soar to 3,000 ft. and take in views of Mt. Hood, St. Helens, and on a clear day the Three Sisters. Right underneath you grow field after field of crops from grass seed to hazelnuts to hops, while the wineries of the Willamette Valley and their grapes surround you.

Hot air balloons are the oldest form of human flight (not including jumping from a cliff with homemade wings attached to your arms- likely to have a less successful outcome). The first manned hot air balloon flew from Versailles, France, in 1783, with two very brave souls aboard a balloon made of paper and silk. Since then balloons have crossed oceans, been used in war, and of course flown millions of sightseers. And they’re no longer made out of paper or silk, you’ll be happy to note.

Modern hot air balloons are made from nylon (think tent-like), while the baskets are still made of wicker (it’s light, water resistant, and flexible) over a modern steel frame. All sorts of balloon sizes are in use from pilot-only sport balloons to giant 40-passenger craft. Most ride companies, including Vista Balloon Adventures, have a range available from 2-passenger to 10-passenger balloons. A typical 10-passenger balloon can weight close to 2,000 lbs, carry 80 gallons of propane fuel, employ three burners generating 15 million BTUs each (the stove you cook on can manage 12,000), and when inflated rise close to 100ft. tall with a volume of 250,000 cubic feet (think over half a million basketballs). So, yes…big. And awesome. 

Vista Balloon Adventures will start its 27th season in April, flying four days a week through October. Plan on an early morning three-hour window which includes a one-hour flight and brunch.

For more info: http://www.vistaballoon.com (503) 625-7385

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