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Aspen, USA

Monday - Aspen - Snowmass - Vail - Denver Monday, September 07, 2009
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Monday was to be a very full day. With a sunrise balloon ride, we'd have to be packed early to check out of The Gant, then take the long drive back to Denver via the Continental Divide (12,000 ft) and Vail.

Sunrise Ballooning

Launching the Balloon

I've always wanted to try ballooning, and this was the perfect opportunity. Even before sunrise, our balloon pilot picked us up at The Gant and drove us to Snowmass, about 20 minutes away.

(click to enlarge)

First the balloon envelope is rolled out.

Next the envelope is partially inflated with air using a large fan.

Once the balloon has taken some shape, the huge 16 mmbtu propane burners are fired to heat the air inside.

As the inside air mass is heated, the balloon rises.

Photos of us and Bubba, our balloon pilot before we take off.

Looking up into the balloon envelope as the flame shoots up.

Just before sunrise at about 500 feet.

Sunrise over the Rockies.

Looking out to the other balloon that launched when we did.

Photo of Pepe looking up into the balloon.

A look at the huge 16 million btu burners that use propane to heat the air in the envelope.

A look down from the basket to the ground.

A view of the other balloon.

We chased our shadow for a portion of the flight.

A view of some of the ranch pasture (for horses).

Snowmass has alot of ranches owned by the rich and famous.

The other balloon touched the surface of the lake as we came in for a landing.

The very still air is perfect for balloons, as they glide effortlessly above the ground.

Two balloons kissing.

A vent on the top of the balloon is opened to allow the hot air to escape, and the envelope collapses.

Once deflated, the envelope is rolled and packed up.

Champagne and light snacks are served at the end of the flight.

At the end of the flight you get a certificate.

In case you want to book a flight, here is Bubba's card.

Photo of Pepe at 600 ft and sunrise over Snowmass.

Pepe, Sarah and Renee at the end of the flight.

Breakfast at Montagna. Within the Little Nell. Ajax Tavern is also part of the complex.

Breakfast receipt, showing some of the food prices.

After breakfast, we did some shopping. Here is a Bear Aware poster. During our stay there were two bears. One at checkin, and another in a tree in town.

The drive up to the Continental Divide.

A view of the single lane portion of driving from Aspen to the Continental Divide. I'm glad we did not attempt this during the night drive into Aspen.

Sarah, Renee and Pepe at 12,000 on the Continental Divide.

On our way to Denver, we stopped by Vail.

Vail is a cozy little village with lots of places to eat.

They do a great job of making Vail scenic with lots of displays of salads.

The cable cars were in operation up to the top of the mountain.

The Eagle's Nest at the top of the mountain.

A map of the multiple ski runs in and around Vail.

Beautiful view out into the mountain ranges to the west.

Cablecar lift ticket.

Double rainbow just outside of Vail.

Homesuites by Hilton near the Denver airport.

Kitchen area.

Two bedrooms and bathrooms.

Monday - End of Day

Monday was exciting from the start. Our sunrise balloon ride was fantastic. The drive over the Continental Divide was an interesting way to return to Denver. Of course a last minute cablecar ride above Vail is always welcome. We ate a late lunch in Vail, but stayed there a bit too long. On the way back to Denver, we hit a traffic jam 40 miles outside of the city. Already on a tight schedule, we made it back to Hertz lot at 7:15pm. We barely checked in 30 minutes before the flight, but then the security took too long, and we arrived at the gate just as the jet was pushed back. Frustrating. That is the first flight that I have missed, ever. We got a suite near the airport Homesuites (by Hilton). Spent a relaxing evening for a Tuesday (standby) departure.

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