A Lofty Adventure in Red Rock State Park
By Lindy Anastis
One of my fondest memories as a small child is traveling to my grandparents’ house and seeing a hot air balloon in the sky. My dad would follow it and often we would get to see it land. Ever since those initial balloon chases, I have loved hot air balloons.
My first hot air balloon ride was on September 24, 1985 in a balloon called Alibi piloted by Maury Sullivan of Canton, Ohio. I loved hot air balloons prior to that ride but even more so after that.
In 1986, the Pro Football Hall of Fame Festival added the Balloon Classic to their list of events. This event seems to get bigger and better each year. In the early years, they used observers to follow the balloons and I served an observer for several years.
My husband, Dan, and I became volunteer crew members in 2001 and have continued to crew every year since then. I have attended every Balloon Classic since its inception, whether it be as a spectator, observer or crew member.
Few people realize there are numerous other balloon events in Ohio each year: Ashland Balloon Festival in Ashland, Ravenna Balloon A-Fair in Ravenna, The All Ohio Balloon Festival in Marysville, Flag City Balloon Fest in Findlay and the Ohio Challenge in Middletown, just to mention a few.
I have also attended the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico, several times. Events at this annual gathering include dawn patrol, mass ascensions, special shape glows, fireworks, and the ability to socialize and trade stories with pilots and crews from numerous locations.
In 2009 my husband and I made our longest balloon adventure excursion to attend the 31st International Balloon Festival in Chateau -d’oex, Switzerland. I have crewed for pilots from all over the United States on private, commercial and specialty-shaped balloons.
My second favorite pastime is photography and what better subject is there to photograph than hot air balloons. I have garnered several awards for my photos and have had some of them published in the Balloon Federation of America (BFA) magazine.
After attending the 2019 International Balloon Fiesta in October, we were excited to go to the Red Rock Canyon area to fly, crew and have fun. We left Albuquerque at 3:30 am and met our group in Gallup, New Mexico, for a quick breakfast. Then, it was on to Red Rock State Park.
Red Rock State Park is the crown jewel of the Gallup Parks and Recreation System. Cradled by spectacular red cliffs formed over 200 million years ago in the age of the dinosaurs, the park combines a glimpse into past civilizations with modern amenities for residents and guests.
With its massive, smooth sandstone bluffs and deep canyons, it is the perfect backdrop for the colorful hot air balloons that usually fly there after attending the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
Arriving at Red Rock State Park, a quick pilot briefing was completed, and it was time to start inflating the hot air balloons. I counted 22 balloons the day we were there. Pilot Walt Rudy inflated his balloon, Hour Big Bundle of Joy, and his wife, Deb, and I climbed aboard as passengers.
Then we lifted off to explore the red cliffs and canyons. We flew in and out of the five fingers that make up the canyons. After exploring from the air, Rudy was able to land our balloon and I was able to get out to take some unforgettable photos.
Before returning to the air, we switched passengers. While the other crew members flew, Deb and I became the chase crew for the balloon. They continued to fly the area and soon it was time to look for a landing spot. However, the winds were starting to pick up and Mother Nature had other plans for us.
The crew was unable to hold the drop lines due to wind conditions, and Rudy was forced to lift off alone to search for a different place to land. After chasing for a while, we lost sight of him. Luckily, a local person had spotted the balloon and was able to lead us to his landing spot. We eventually located Pilot Rudy and the balloon deflated on the ground. Then began the task of packing the balloon envelope and loading it, along with the basket and the propane tanks, in the van.
The sport of hot air ballooning is not just floating above the earth for a great view. It requires the assistance of a trained ground crew to chase the balloon to its landing area, as well as to pack up and store the balloon and its equipment correctly for travel and future use.
The Red Rock State Park + Hot Air Balloons = Amazing!!! As I got to fly with Walt & Deb, I watched the other balloons inflate, rise and then glide in and out of the red rock canyons. It was one of the most amazing sights and, despite a few bumps along the journey, a perfect way to end our Albuquerque trip with memories that will not be forgotten.
Hot Air Balloon Show New Mexico