Chase the Blue Dot

New Mexico: Elephant Butte Balloon Regatta

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Right after we arrived in Deming, we heard about a balloon regatta in Elephant Butte, which is a roughly 90 minute drive.

While other convergence attendees headed to Pancho Villa State Park and Mexico, we got up at 3:30 am and left at 4:30 am to get to Elephant Butte.

Sunrise

We arrived at Elephant Butte Lake State Park and parked at Lions Beach just as the sun started rising. I captured a few photos by our Jeep, but the really spectacular opportunities were going to be by the water, so we headed down to the lake.

It turned out to be a good decision.

Sunrise from the beach.
Sunrise from the beach.
Stunning colors of sunrise on the beach.
Stunning colors of sunrise on the beach.

Once the sun was up, we scouted around to see who was setting up. I took up a vantage point between two balloons, the Lady Jester (pilot Robert Lupton) and Cool Beans (pilot Barney Watson).

Cool Beans

The Cool Beans hot air balloon team was the first to start setting up.

Gathering around the basket before setup.
Gathering around the basket before setup.
Rolling out the balloon from the basket.
Rolling out the balloon from the basket.
Partial inflation #1.
Partial inflation #1.
Partial inflation #2.
Partial inflation #2.
Checking out the crown area of the balloon.
Checking out the crown area of the balloon.
Working on the crown area of the balloon.
Working on the crown area of the balloon.
Crown area all buttoned up and getting ready to tighten up the rope for standing up.
Crown area all buttoned up and getting ready to tighten up the rope for standing up.
Almost there, but not quite.
Almost there, but not quite.
Balloon is standing up, but there's still crew holding on to the rope.
Balloon is standing up, but there’s still crew holding on to the rope.
Look how closely the crew is holding on, until they are told to let go.
Look how closely the crew is holding on, until they are told to let go.
Crew is gathered around the balloon now that it's standing up.
Crew is gathered around the balloon now that it’s standing up.

From here, I turned to my left and watched the process with the Lady Jester team. This is from a different viewpoint, behind the basket.

Lady Jester

The van for the Lady Jester balloon.
The van for the Lady Jester balloon.
The balloon laying flat before the team starts inflation.
The balloon laying flat before the team starts inflation.
Starting the inflation process with the fan.
Starting the inflation process with the fan.
A better look at the balloon with partial inflation.
A better look at the balloon with partial inflation.
The opening of the balloon.
The opening of the balloon.
The balloon at about 75% inflation. Almost time to move the fan and use the burner.
The balloon at about 75% inflation. Almost time to move the fan and use the burner.
Holding the ropes as they prepare to use the burner.
Holding the ropes as they prepare to use the burner.
Using the burner #1.
Using the burner #1.
Almost ready to stand the balloon up!
Almost ready to stand the balloon up!
Using the burner as they hold the basket down after standing up the balloon.
Using the burner as they hold the basket down after standing up the balloon.
The inside of the balloon. The team invited me to get a closer look.
The inside of the balloon. The team invited me to get a closer look.
Down at the water's edge to tether to the boat before liftoff.
Down at the water’s edge to tether to the boat before liftoff.
Almost ready to liftoff.
Almost ready to liftoff.
Liftoff from below.
Liftoff from below.
And a clearer shot from below after liftoff.
And a clearer shot from below after liftoff.
Up, up, and away!
Up, up, and away!
The Lady Jester over the water while tethered to the boat.
The Lady Jester over the water while tethered to the boat.

In our next post, I’ll share some photos of the other balloons in the regatta.

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