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by Kellie R.
January 4, 2006
A lot of poor suckers spend their Thanksgiving morning exploring the body cavity of a raw turkey with reluctant hands. Others may opt to huddle in the corner of a dark room for fear of having to actually spend time with their relatives. But not you. You’re too smart for that. This Thanksgiving—or really any old time you feel like it—you should do what I did: call Northern Light Balloon Expeditions and take in the glory of the Coconino National Forest at an elevation of several thousand feet. A bird’s eye view of Turkey Day, if you will.One of the many pluses offered by Northern Light is that they pick you up right from your hotel lobby, so you don’t have to worry about finding some obscure location. (This is especially important since you will barely be awake at this point—take-off time is pre-sunrise.)Aside from the convenience of hotel pick-up, Northern Light has a leg up on the competition for several other reasons. Unlike many other companies who advertise in the Sedona area, Northern Light is one of only two companies that are licensed to fly over the Coconino National Forest, providing you with the most sublime views. Also, Northern Light uses smaller baskets (maximum 7-person capacity) for their flights, so everyone has a good view and you don’t feel too crowded.
This was the first time my husband and I had ever been on a balloon flight, and I had my reservations. Would it feel too high? Would it be too bumpy? Would the pilot be really annoying? The answer turned out to be "no" on all counts. The smooth sailing achieved by our expert pilot, Captain Bill Butler, put me at ease and allowed me to serenely observe the beauty of Sedona from our amazing vantage point. "Your first flight costs $180, but your second flight costs $180,000," joked Captain Bill as we soared through the air, referring to the addictive nature of ballooning—once you’ve flown in one, you want to fly one. Ballooning is a little pricey, but it was well worth the cost for a check-it-off-the-big-list-of-life kind of experience. I can’t sing Captain Bill’s praises enough. With many years of piloting under his belt, his enthusiasm for and knowledge of the craft is obvious. He was happy to answer questions and extremely accommodating to the photographers in our group, going out of his way for spectacular sunrise views and pointing out wildlife and landmarks beneath us. He really made our experience unforgettable. (Sorry ladies, he’s taken.) Our landing was as smooth as a Barry White album and was followed by a short, yet memorable ceremony and champagne toast led by a Hunter S. Thompson character-esque pilot. (Orange juice is available for wussies and those under 21.) After our toast, we were provided with strawberries with whipped cream and doughnuts, as well as a flight certificate signed by the captain. Speaking of which, I need to have that puppy framed.
From journal Bird's Eye View of Turkey Day
September 26, 2004
From journal Sensational Sedona