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Living the High Life 

A ride in a balloon is a lo-fi adventure

It's a common occurrence for passengers flying into the Redmond airport: the second the white-capped peaks of the Cascades come into view, people not in the window seats are poking their heads around, trying to find a good place to see those beauties in their up-close majesty. It doesn't much matter how long you've lived here or how many times you've witnessed that scene—the view is always worth craning your neck to see once again.

Being in a plane or a tour helicopter is a prime way to gaze at Klah Klahne (an indigenous name for the Three Sisters) and Seekseekqua/Kuassal Teminbi (Mt. Jefferson)—but there's also an option that doesn't have you vying for the best view from an 18-inch window.

click to enlarge The quiet, peaceful view from a hot air balloon is one serene scene. - COURTESY OF HIGH DESERT DRONEWORKS
  • Courtesy of High Desert Droneworks
  • The quiet, peaceful view from a hot air balloon is one serene scene.

Several Balloons Over Bends ago, I had the privilege of joining balloon pilot Darren Kling in his balloon. Kling, the owner of Big Sky Balloon Company, who's the balloon director at Balloons Over Bend, regaled me with stories of learning to fly from patient mentors, and the adventures he's been on during his 30 years in the biz.

It was an eye-opening experience—one where sweet breezes accompany the sweet views of all those mountains and the avian creatures who live in them. Having never seen a hot air balloon up close, just being in the vicinity of one as it filled up in preparation for flight is an experience in itself—a lesson in their sheer size and scale.

Then, getting to hop into one and go on an actual flight over Bend was the ultimate treat. Unlike the near-constant chatter that accompanies a plane flight, climbing into the basket and lifting off from Jewell Elementary in southeast Bend was quiet—understated, even. One minute we were on the ground with a crew holding the ropes; the next we were waving at the crowd gathered below.

It's a bit voyeuristic, being that close to the ground and seeing people in their backyards, doing their Saturday morning laundry or sipping coffee—though upon seeing us in a giant balloon floating overhead, most people enthusiastically waved in greeting. The suburban landscape of Bend slowly—at the pace the wind decided—faded to a more rural one; eventually more horses greeting hello than people. And the views! Living in the constant shadow of Yamakiasham Yaina (the Cascades) never gets old, even from the ground, but there's something extra special about seeing it from this viewpoint, where the problems and worries happening down below just seem, well, small; the mountains' reminder that it's OK to leave the minutiae alone for a while.

And here's another thing that hot air balloon rides provide: A total surrender to the winds, and also to the hospitality and understanding of the people presently inhabiting the lands below. When it was time to land, Kling spotted a pasture and simply landed, hoping for the goodwill of the property owner. Where he often lands on private tours near Redmond, public lands make it easier to land and not upset anyone—but on this ride, only a nearby horse was around to remark upon our arrival.

With Balloons Over Bend (run by the Source's sister company, Lay It Out Events) coming up this weekend, locals will have the chance to see the action up close. Whether that involves simply seeing a balloon fill up and glow in the night, or it means alighting in a basket to float over the neighborhoods of Central Oregon, it beats the battle over the window-seat view on a plane every time.

Balloons Over Bend

Fri-Sun July 22-24: Balloon launches at Jewell Elementary @ Sunrise

Fri., July 22: Night Glow at COCC, 4-sunset

Sat., July 23: Night Glow at Sam Johnson Park, 5-10pm

Balloon launches free; Bend night glow $7-10

About The Author

Nicole Vulcan

Nicole Vulcan has been editor of the Source since 2016. While the pandemic reduced "hobbies" to "aspirations," you can mostly find her raising chickens, walking dogs, riding all the bikes and attempting to turn a high desert scrap of land into a permaculture oasis. (Progress: slow.)
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