“Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon.” – Winnie The Pooh
Pooh Bear, he knows. My husband and I were grinning for two hours, from beginning to end of our first hot air balloon ride. And really, we still grinning.
A bucket list item for both of us, this trip also coincided with our 25th wedding anniversary. And although we did not have any inflated expectations (come on, it had to be said!), what few preconceived notions we had were pretty much…burst.
OK, not really.
I thought I would need a jacket. It’s cooler at higher altitudes, right? Didn’t think about the propane burner, and the very small space shared with two large men.
We both thought the ride would be bumpier, but there’s more turbulence on your average domestic airline flight than we experienced on this ride. Heck, my drive into work is rougher.
We also both envisioned a large landing area – you know, BIG, like a field, or open park space. We landed in the cul-de-sac of a subdivision. Much the delight of the residents – and the 6 kids who got a short tethered ride as a result.
Our pilot was Scott Lorenz of Westwind Balloon Company, which typically takes off near Kensington Metropark and Island State Recreation Area near Milford, MI. We met him at a park-and-ride lot, along with three other balloon companies. After sending up two trial balloons to test the wind direction – both of which went in opposite directions, leading all the pilots to shrug and say “OK, whatever” – we drove over to Island State Rec, which has thoughtfully provided a possibly-unofficial balloon “docking” area for just this activity.
After helping lay out and inflate the balloon with a huge fan, we climbed in the basket, and with a few shot of the burner – up, up and away we went (yes, in a beautiful balloon, just like the song, you old geezers you).
Wow. We could see the Detroit skyline, that’s how clear it was…and the view of the Huron River and Kent Lake was amazing. My photos don’t remotely capture the real thing. Picturesque also seems like an inadequate word for the view of our companion balloons, splashes of color against a gorgeous backdrop of Island Lake Rec Area and Kensington Metropark, the Huron glistening below them.
We flew for about 45 minutes in a remote kind of quiet that was interrupted only by the bursts from the propane burner to keep us aloft at about 500-1000 feet, and occasional conversation on what we were seeing.
Scott started scanning for a landing spot and decided – much to our surprise – on a cul-de-sac in a small subdivision. His crew captain, Gary, had already spotted us and was waiting for specifics on where we were going to end up. By the time we touched down, several dads and assorted kids had already gathered, and Scott piled the kids into the basket for a short tethered lift.
After deflating and packing up the balloon, it was time for the post-ballooning champagne – a tradition started with the earliest French ballooning flights. Upon seeing the smoke-belching balloons landing in their fields, residents were inclined to get out the pitchforks and stab the “demons” into submission. The French being…well, French…the problem was solved by offering champagne upon landing.
Champagne is almost always a good idea, isn’t it? And a perfect ending to a ballooning adventure.
HRWC staff picks of favorite watershed spots, celebrating 50 years of river protection and restoration work.
I live in Pinckney and one of my favorite places is Little Portage Lake on the Chain of Lakes. Little Portage is a small lake that is the western end of the Chain and is also fed by Portage Creek, one of the most pristine creeks in the watershed.
This is not your typical Michigan inland lake, crowded with houses and docks. The lake is surrounded on 3 sides by woods and wetlands, and on weekday evenings in particular, there is virtually no boat traffic.
We rent dock space from Klave’s at the mouth of Portage Creek, and my husband and I often head out for happy hour, knowing we will only be sharing the lake with swans, swallows, frogs, turtles, and the occasional muskrat and sandhill crane.
We like to drop anchor in a cove at the west end of the lake. The water is about 15′ deep here, and there are no houses at all. Just woods and wetlands, and the background music is the soft slap of the water against the boat, bird calls, insect songs, and sometimes a swan kerfluffle with wings batting at the water surface and echoing across the lake.
It’s the very definition of peace and tranquility, and goes well with a chilled sauvignon blanc or your favorite microbrew.
HRWC is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year!
Tell us your favorite watershed spot HERE.
Appreciate the River, Sunday July 12, by joining HRWC for some fun or heading to YOUR favorite spot with friends.
We have an HRWC shout-out for Hannah Hu, a Logan Elementary student who is the Michigan representative for the Doodle 4 Google contest going on now. You can vote HERE.
Google’s challenge to students? “If I could invent one thing to make the world a better place…” Hannah’s entry is an Ocean Cleaner (pictured below). Here’s what she had to say on the Google 4 Doodle contest page:
“The Machine that I invented to make the world a better place is an ocean cleaner. It helps to clean the trash and pollution that people put into the ocean, and releases fresh and clean ocean water. So the animals that live in the ocean can be very happy, healthy, and strong.”
The winner of the Google 4 Doodle contest will receive a $30,000 scholarship and $50,000 technology grant for their school. So tell all your friends to vote for Hannah’s terrific doodle.
We are all about clean water here at HRWC! Maybe Hannah can invent a smaller version for rivers?
HRWC’s holiday auction includes our largest collection of fabulous items for your bidding pleasure! This year we have over 40 items listed online at BiddingForGood and all proceeds benefit HRWC’s efforts to restore and protect the watershed.
Bids on the River is online now until December 2 and is the perfect shopping opportunity for the holidays or any occasion.
It’s a toss up between Paddle Board Lessons and Schultz Outfitters Fly Fishing Lessons or a Jolly Irish Christmas. Something for everyone. Outdoor recreation, birding, paddle boarding, baked goods, entertainment, unique experiences and cooking lessons.
Bid early and remember to check back for new items.
The auction closes on Dec 2 so start your bidding soon and check back often. You don’t want to miss this opportunity to purchase a beautiful gift for yourself or special someone and support HRWC with just a couple of clicks! Auction proceeds this year will support HRWC’s core programs, such as water quality monitoring.
Our recent trip to Indian Springs Metropark was officially called a “staff outing,” which we all know is just grown-up-speak for a field trip. What a gorgeous day for exploring the headwaters of the Huron River! I know this was the first time I had been to the area, and the origins of the Huron were not at all what I was expecting – somehow, in my head, I had a visual of a large lake or significant bubbling spring (Ok, I admit it, the picture in my head was a dramatic geyser, but I knew that was not happening!).
The reality is that the headwaters are a series of ponds, wetlands and small streams making a joint effort to create the beautiful Huron.
My Pinckney-Ann Arbor commute along Huron River Drive to work at HRWC has been a little waterlogged lately, but it has been nice to see some signs of spring. One harbinger of spring is higher water flow in the Huron River, and this week you need a canoe to sit on the riverbank benches at Delhi. The rapids there are really roaring!
I stopped at Barton Dam, where the water flow was crazy and this big foam glob was creeping across the pathway.
Further downstream, rafts of foam bumped against the riverbanks. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew this wasn’t because someone dumped 50 gallons of Tide into Barton Pond.
Luckily, I work at the Huron River Watershed Council! And, we had a newsletter article back in 2005, cleverly titled “What IS that?,” which addressed this very question. Organic compounds released by decomposing plants and animals lessen the surface tension of the water. When lots of oxygen is introduced – from water flowing over a waterfall, or wave action, or dams – foam can form. On a warmer day, I might have scooped up a handful for closer inspection. It would have smelled slightly of decaying plants and probably dead fish.
A few more photos of my drive this morning are below. If you want more information on some of the odd water conditions you might be seeing and what they mean, check out this article from our 2005 Huron River Report
It was a snow day…except for me, I guess. The drive was slushy, and surprisingly loud as globs of slush fell from the trees and power lines on my way to HRWC this morning. It was like being snow-bombed.
But so pretty!
You can see remains of a snow-bomb in the lower left corner of my windshield. This is one of my favorite parts of Huron River Drive.
The best part of this morning’s drive – the trees along the ridge look like they have been dusted with powdered sugar. Which, naturally, made me wish for powdered-sugar donuts (or “cruellers” - pronounced “crullers” – where I grew up in central Pennsylvania). The wishing did not produce any at the office, however.