As the days grew closer to our hot air ballooning adventure with Elevated Ballooning and the Wyoming Ballooning Company in Jackson, WY — I started to get worried.
You see, I suffer from Acrophobia — in the worst way.
And so does B.
But I always remind myself that life is short and I should be doing my best to live it to the fullest. And doing something that scares me, to help me overcome the fear has always been something I’ve wanted to do.
We were picked up via shuttle at the Teton View B&B early in the morning around 6:30 which is when I met Andy Breffeilh, owner of Wyoming Balloon Company and our aeronaut (ballooning pilot). I learned he’s been flying balloons for over 12 years which immediately gave me an immense sense of security (and comfort).
Our shuttle took us to a beautiful meadow close to Teton Village where we were able to watch the set up of our balloons along with the beautiful sunrise.
Andy continued to explain the safety features of the balloons. He told us “If a hot air balloon runs out of fuel or a problem arises, it would float down to the ground like a parachute.”
Phew. More relief set in along with a sense of excitement!
Andy was also SO knowledgeable about everything involving ballooning right down to the history. Did you know the first clearly recorded instance of a balloon carrying passengers were by two French brothers (Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier) in France? I did not!
The balloons were ready and we were instructed to step up onto a stool, sit down on the edge of the basket and swing our legs over and hop down into the basket. No problem! First I went, then B and finally hubby.
It felt secure being in that big wicker picnic like basket. I was worried about that part the most — what if I fall out? Impossible – now I know. I even felt comfortable enough to take photos.
Eventually everyone was in. Manning the controls I watched Andy carefully as he pressed onto the gas/fuel which made the biggest flame I have ever seen. Slowly — slowly — we were lifting off and soon after us — Margaret, owner of Elevated Ballooning launched her balloon. I was so happy that two balloons were going up at the same time because the photo opportunities with Margaret’s balloon were everywhere.
Higher and higher we floated up — slowly — slowly. I was gripping the side of the basket and focusing and all of a sudden, at once, I felt at ease . . . and was able to enjoy this balloon ride.
All at once.
As we quietly and gently floated along, everyone was in complete awe. Even B, who was so afraid has made an appearance from the bottom of the basket to standing upright :)
As I looked down at my boy who was holding onto my arm tightly — he was smiling BIG.
And then, while looking up at me with rosy cheeks and smiling the biggest, proudest smile ever, he whispered:
“I love you mommy for taking me in this balloon.”
And then my heart squeezed of happiness . . .
The most surprising thing for me to discover during this flight was how quiet it was. Every now and then Andy would squeeze the gas/fuel lever and “poof!” up we went a little higher and again, it was soooooo quiet. Everyone in the balloon seemed to be in their own world, taking in these most amazing surroundings that you can only experience this way. Being up so high and in the open fresh, crisp air along with the wildlife (that you could hear!) below was such an incredible feeling.
Andy brought us down, slowly — “poof-by-poof” and he put our balloon right above a lake and as our basket gently “kissed” the lake I leaned over to see our reflection in that lake.
I was not afraid.
In fact, I felt like a little girl again.
Like a child. Giddy with excitement — wanting only more of this wonderful experience and for it continue on forever . . .
This was truly a life changing moment for me and for that, I am thankful to Andy.
As Andy landed our balloon, we all climbed out thoroughly invigorated. I could not stop smiling and pardon me if I sound completely out of my mind — but I was crying. Tears of happiness and those tears did come often to me during the flight. The experience is truly magical and if, like me, you are afraid of heights — consider taking a balloon ride in Jackson Hole with Andy or Margaret. It truly is a life changing experience.
Andy made his way to the balloon trailer and out he pulled a bottle of champagne to toast our flight! I learned it was common tradition among balloonists is to have a champagne toast upon landing. Legend has it that early French aeronauts carried champagne to appease angry or frightened spectators at the landing site.
Along with the champagne, a popular toast among balloonists is “soft winds and gentle landings,” and many balloonists recite the Balloonist’s Blessing with the champagne toast:
The winds have welcomed you with softness
The sun has blessed you with its warm hands
You have flown so high and so well
That God has joined you in your laughter
and set you gently back into the loving arms of Mother Earth.
As we said goodbye to Andy we made our way into Teton Village. We were going to stay at the Four Seasons Resort for one night so we checked in and made ourselves at home, which was a pretty easy thing to do (that post coming next!).
So we took the afternoon easy. As the boys swam in the pool I headed over to the Teton Mountain Lodge where my manicure at the Solitude Spa was scheduled. I wanted to look nice for tonight because we were going to have dinner at the Couloir Restaurant which is located up on the mountain complete with sweeping views of the village and beyond.
I’ve also heard wonderful things about their menu.
To be more specific, the Couloir is located at the summit of the Bridger Gondola at (are you ready?) a 9,095 foot elevation. It was a quick walk (two minutes!) from the Four Seasons to the Gondola.
For me, this is truly Jackson Hole’s most unique dining experience. If you follow along on J5MM you know that seasonal ingredients and sustainability is something I always look for when dining out and the Couloir definitely fit the bill.
Its menu features seasonal ingredients featuring American cuisine with Rocky Mountain roots. Executive Chef Wes Hamilton adheres to a sustainable policy, promising that the majority of his ingredients come from a 250 mile radius to ensure fresh and natural flavors and to source superior products from local purveyors.
Just have a look and see the culinary creations we enjoyed this evening:
I can only imagine how awesome the Couloir would be during the ski season. I’m already dying to know their menu and periodically stalk their website to see if its up. Just an FYI — The Couloir opens up for dinner on Thursdays and Fridays beginning December 15th with daily seatings from December 22 – 31. Definitely make reservations :) If we ever come back to Jackson Hole in Winter — this will be the place where you can find us for dinner.
Our first day in Teton Village in Jackson, WY was one to remember . . .
“The Balloonists Blessing”