October 13, 2012 – A Fantastic Day – Sandia Peak!

We again were up and on a bus do the Fiesta grounds hours before the sun even thought of getting up.  However, unlike yesterday, we were not to be disappointed.

One really neat feature of the Balloon Fiesta is that the spectators are able to wander among and mingle with the balloon crews as the set up and stand next to their balloons as the inflate them.

As they fired their propane burners to heat the air in their balloons, their predawn colors were spectacular!

And the first lift off of the day began … with the brightly colored balloons rising silently into a cool, blue-black sky.

Over the next couple of hours more than 500 balloons were spread out on the grass, attached to their pilot’s baskets and then filled with ambient air using large fans.

Once close to being filled, the baskets were turned upright and the propane burners warmed the internal air making the balloons rise skyward amid the thousands of spectators crowding the launching field.

As dawn began to break over the Sandia Mountains to the east

Literally hundreds of balloons stoked their burners while their ground crews released their restraining ropes and they began rise skyward.

While some rose, others were being readied.

And still others taking flight.

With almost no wind this morning, the balloons remained in the general vicinity of the launching grounds where we were well-positioned for the display.  Soon, the sky was filled with balloons.

It was an incredible display of colors and shapes … and event which we could easily return to another year!

Returning from the morning’s mass ascension, Debbie and I crashed for several hours after two very early mornings.

This evening, we took the world’s 2nd longest tramway to the summit of Sandia Mountain (10,360’).

One mile span between the tramway’s two towers

Passing another car descending the mountain 1,000’ above the valley below

Our car’s shadow on the mountain side

Views of Billion Year-Old Balancing Boulders

Towering Cliffs

Views of from the summit were spectacular in all directions.

Valley to the east of the Sandias

Albuquerque in late afternoon sun

Sandia range to the south

Where we had a fantastic dinner at the High Finance Restaurant; albeit that four glasses of wine ran an eye-popping $47.08!  During dinner, the sunset over the western horizon, adding yet another hue of color to the pallet we’d enjoyed earlier in the day.

As we descended the 2.7 miles back to the base of the mountain, the lights of Albuquerque and its surrounding suburbs were laid out before us.

It was a perfect ending to a perfect reunion with the incredible friends we met during our trek to Alaska last summer in 2011.

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