Southern Utah News Articles
An antidote for ground sickness
Some people get air sickness. If you’re a hot air balloon pilot, and all the ballooning events have been cancelled due to COVID-19, you probably have a bad case of ground sickness.
Such was the case for Bryan Hill, our local balloon meister for the annual Kanab Balloons and Tunes event. A couple of weeks ago, he decided to just call a couple of friends and see if they’d like to gather in Kanab for some impromptu balloon flying.
Word spread. A dozen pilots showed up, many who never had the chance to fly among our beautiful red hills. Some were new pilots, some veterans. One new balloon even took its maiden voyage.
Pilot Kelli Cook, who has flown her balloon High Maintenance for several years, lovingly smiles, “She’s my baby! I just love her!” Cook smiles a lot! Flying lifts her spirits. “Being up in my balloon is the best stress reliever ever! And I get to discover so many beautiful places when I travel around for flying events.”
It also delights her that her retired mom, Linda, is her primary crewmember. It’s rare that a mother and daughter get to enthusiastically share a hobby. Linda moved to be near her daughter a few years ago, “…because I was paying a fortune to fly to help her crew for a weekend!”
The two of them make a great team. When asked if they needed extra crew, there was a slight hesitation before saying yes. Cook confided that actually, she can do everything herself. Her balloon may be “high maintenance,” but Cook definitely is not. She’s invented or chosen many simple and effective methods to make managing ballooning easier.
For example, using a couple of lengths of PVC pipe under her balloon basket to more easily roll it out of the truck. “I use the old-fashioned Egyptian method they employed to move heavy stones to build the pyramids.”
The balloonists had two days of great flying, launching from the old golf course and being pushed south of Kanab by gentle breezes. On Saturday, they meandered to Jackson Flat Reservoir, where, to the surprise of many runners and dog walkers, balloons were skimming the lake.
Hill, whose balloon is named Basket Case, skimmed the water and headed for the boat dock. Watching him navigate, when the “truth” is that the balloon goes where the wind takes it, can leave you awestruck.
Derek Mortensen, a relatively new pilot, seemed to patiently wait for Brian to wrap up, then set down on the boat ramp too. Double amazing.
Dirk Clayson’s property was a well-used landing field on Friday. Clayson, like so many Kanab residents, gave his enthusiastic permission for balloonists to land on his property.
“The people in Kanab are so kind and accommodating,” according to Kent Barnes, St. George, a balloon pilot trainer and frequent visitor to Kanab.
Ballooning brings significant revenue to Kanab. It was fortuitous for the city to be the destination for this impromptu gathering. It was fortuitous for the balloonists that sufficient volunteers showed up to help. Kudos to Kanab!