Soaring above: A hot-air balloon adventure

Perry Bergson
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Published on August 06, 2014

The balloon is shown drifting along on Sunday morning.

Published on August 06, 2014

Prince Albert's downtown is seen from a unique spot.

Published on August 06, 2014

The view straight down included a couple of old buildings at that moment. The side of the balloon's basket can be seen on the left.

Published on August 06, 2014

The top of a tall tree partially obstructs the view.

Published on August 06, 2014

Three horses and a llama take a long look at the balloon as it passes overhead.

Published on August 06, 2014

Sunrise is reflected in the North Saskatchewan River on Sunday morning.

Published on August 06, 2014

The two bridges over the North Saskatchewan River are shown from high above on Sunday morning.

Published on August 06, 2014

The Arts Centre is shown from high above.

Published on August 06, 2014

Geographic patterns emerge from fields and ponds.

Published on August 06, 2014

Wesley United Church (foreground) and St. Pauls Presbyterian Church are shown from far above.

Published on August 06, 2014

Sebastian is seen as the balloon is deflated after the ride ended.

Published on August 06, 2014

The balloon is deflated after the ride ended.

Most people have a fear of heights to some degree.

While there are people in jobs like construction who don’t, they tend to be a small minority among us.

As someone who had to screw up the courage every year to clean the leaves out of the gutters on my roof, it’s a big stretch to imagine myself floating along in a hot-air balloon. But there I was with our Spanish pilot Sebastian at the controls on Sunday morning.

The invitation had arrived from the Northern Lights Casino 10 days earlier. I walked out into the newsroom excited that one of the reporters was going to have this amazing experience.

They all looked at me like I had asked them to jump off the roof of our building.

I was excited about the potential pictures that somebody was going to take so one of us had to go. As a result, a week-and-a-half later, my alarm went off at 5:15 a.m. for a 6 a.m. flight.

We met in a field south of Johns Garden and Gift Centre on the far side of Marquis Road.

The other person in the three-person basket was Charlene Sproat, the wife of Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority marketing manager Loren Sproat.

She had done it before so as I was nervous, she was excited.

After signing the waivers and climbing aboard, Sebastian guided us into the air with a shot of propane-fuelled heat.

It was not easy watching the distance between us and the ground quickly growing. I tried to busy myself by taking pictures, not the easiest thing to do when your legs feel like jelly.

As the balloon soared along Central Avenue near the jail, the waterslides and the courthouse, the beauty of the view wiped away most of the fear.

Was I ever 100 per cent comfortable? Not a chance.

Did I enjoy the ride? Absolutely.

The first real money shots came for me as we glided high above the North Saskatchewan River, looking back at the city. The canopy of trees that you see is exceptional.

The reflections in the water of the three tallest buildings and the bridges were breathtaking.

The wind, which had been unnoticeable on the ground, pushed us along at up to 45 km/h. Our high point was 1,200 metres; our low point had the bottom of the basket brushing the tops of a canola crop as Sebastian took us down for a closer look.

The horses at the Red River Riding and Roping club gathered together to look up at us and then scattered. They repeated it three times, and then trotted along behind us as we soared by.

Dogs barked.

A big buck charged across a railway track into a field.

In one yard, three horses and a llama gazed up at us, clearly curious at what this early Sunday morning had brought them.

The beautiful geographic patterns of crops in the field lay beside bush, swamps and ponds and the beautifully clean lines of the gravel roads.

The colour green seemed to exist in more shades than could be imagined. 

The balloon crew followed with their truck and trailer, as did Loren in his vehicle.

Like all good things, this voyage that had filled with me with such fear had to end. Sebastian brought the balloon down low, landing perfectly on a gravel road near Pulp Haul Road.

We climbed out and the voyage was over.

On the car ride back into Prince Albert with the Sproats, the three of us compared notes on the trips we had taken.

Friends and family hadn’t been very enthused about the idea -- and even my commitment had wavered at times -- but it was an amazing experience.

Sometimes the only way to conquer your fears is to rise above them.

Organizations: Gift Centre, Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, Prince Albert

Geographic location: Marquis Road, Central Avenue, North Saskatchewan River Pulp Haul Road

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