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Rising With the Sun

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Sunrises are often thought of as beautiful, though possibly not quite so much as sunsets. Most people would see the latter much more easily, as they are much more likely to be up at dusk than at the crack of dawn. The time just before a sunrise is rather discouraging. It is coldest then, when the sun has not shone all night, and it is dark. Mist is thick without a sun to burn it off, and there is frost on the grass. The last stars are still dominating the sky. A faint glow is all that is seen of the rising sun. We walk through the airport, following the van with the balloon to a place in the field where we can set up. There are not as many people as there are for the afternoon flight, not many are eager to wake at 5:30 in the morning and drive out in the dark and cold. Some other crews are there, already pulling out the envelope and the basket in readiness to be the first ones up that morning.
The glow broadens, and the stars fade away. The sky gets lighter, and lighter, and then the first balloon starts to inflate. Across the silent, pre-dawn field the giant fan can be heard. Other crews follow suit, and soon envelopes are inflating all around. The sun is still hidden behind the mountains, but already the first balloon has taken off. Cheers throughout the field. We start to prepare our balloon; laying out the envelope on the ground wet from melted frost, pulling out the fan, attaching the basket, checking the instruments. It starts to inflate, and the crown line is pulled taut. Then the sun emerges, framed perfectly in my sight behind the American and Canadian flags on the crown line. There are many balloons in the air now, all their colours somewhat muted in the disappearing mist. The air is getting warmer, layers are removed. Then the balloon is upright and it is time for lift off.
The burner is a loud roar sending a jet of flame to heat the air in the envelope. The balloon bounces a couple times, and then it is off the ground, rising fast. The field drops away, the crew getting smaller and smaller as we join the other balloons. They are all around us, above and below, moving different ways as they ride the different air currents. The sound of burners comes from every direction. I can see the mountains go on for miles, mantled in mist, with the sunlight striking off them. The trees are all the colours of fall spread out below, going on and on.




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