Balloon MAG

By Menka Vansant, Milford, MA

I was not happy waking up at 3 a.m during my vacation in New Mexico, but it was to look at the world from a different angle.

We arrived at a deserted field that stretched for miles. When I stepped out of the car, the sweet smell of sage hit my nose. The field was surrounded by the Sandia Mountains, which looked like big, black shadows since it was still dark. Soon the sun peeked over them, casting a pink glow. We were told the field would soon be a crowded neighborhood of 250 houses. Because our world is growing at such a rate, these picturesque open spaces are disappearing.

The guides for the hot-air balloon tour started unrolling the massive, multi-colored balloon, and in minutes it was full and gently waving. We hopped into the basket and began our ascent into the sky, which now looked like a rainbow.

Our balloon was now at eye level with the mountains. I had expected it would be like looking out an airplane window, but this was more freeing. We were much closer to the ground, so I could see every detail. Across the mountains were many caves. Down in the field, construction workers had already drawn lines around the properties. We could see the soon-to-be homeless wildlife from our viewpoint.

The most common animal we saw was the hare, which were like small racetrack thoroughbreds running across the plains, hopping over bushes. At one point a coyote ran through the sage brush, probably scared by the ear-shattering noise of the fire blower that kept the balloon afloat. I also spotted a snake slithering through the desert sand. Gophers would pop up and then scurry back into their holes. Then there was a hawk looking for its prey, gliding in a cyclic pattern.

While we admired the views, our guide told us some facts. He would say a few words, stop and blow the obnoxious fire blower, and then start talking again. He told us that we couldn’t venture too far because President Bush was flying into New Mexico and consequently there was a no-fly zone. For the landing, he told us to bend our knees and stay stiff because there was
a risk of the basket toppling over.

As the balloon sank back down to the sage field, I became nervous that the basket was going to tip over. I could just picture being flung out and landing in the desert. Miraculously, we got out of the basket safe and sound. Now the sky had become a turquoise blue with barely a cloud. I sadly looked around, thinking that in a few years this beautiful place would be just houses.

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