Winthrop Balloon Round-Up

Winthrop Balloon Round-Up

The one and only time I visited Winthrop, WA, was when someone I met through the Thrifty Nickle was wooing me and took me there for a Saturday drive in the fall of 1996. It was before the pass on WA-20 was closed, so it was only 195 miles or so…about a four hour drive. Being March, Steven’s pass is closed, so when I drove today…by myself, I might add…I had to go the long way around through the Snoqualmie pass, adding an extra 50 miles and an additional hour to the trip. I didn’t mind, though…the weather was gorgeous and the drive was breath-taking. On this side of the Cascades, everything is green with lots of pine trees. On the other side, the topography and vegetation is much like southern California with bare mountains and sage brush. I had never taken this route before, so it was interesting to see the bare fruit trees. There were even warning signs for big horn sheep…sure wish I would have seen one of those! I snapped several pictures along the way and arrived at the Winthrop Inn around 5pm. About a quart of a mile before the inn, there was a huge herd of deer very close to the road.

After unloading my gear in my room, I headed into the middle of town to get some food. The manager at the inn recommended Three Fingered Jack’s, which boasts as being the oldest “legal” saloon in Washington state (see my review).

I no sooner got back to my room and my mom called on the cell. For a very tiny “frontier” town, Winthrop has decent cell coverage. The inn even has wireless internet, hence my ability to post this.

I’ll probably call it an early night tonight since I plan to get up around 6am. I need to scout a location and set up my camera equipment to get the best photos of the balloon launch, which is at 7am (or there abouts).

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Crap! I woke up at 5:30 to prepare for the balloon launch that could happen any time between 6-7am, desperately needing coffee. I didn’t notice it when I checked in, but they don’t start serving coffee and pasties until 7am. So, I sit here with the balcony blinds open, watching the arrival of the balloons in the warmth of my room. I stepped outside long enough to retrieve my coat from the car and it’s freezing out there! I plan to keep an eye on things and go out when the balloons are being inflated. Currently, people are in the process of inflating jumbo helium balloons to celebrate the hot air balloon round-up.

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I didn’t know it until now, but there’s this crazy balloon guy that is launching himself up in the air ala the movie “Up”. He has about 50 balloon strapped to his make-shift seat. He’s trying to do it once in each of the 50 states.

The balloon organizations had coffee and cinnamon rolls, so I got my caffeine fix. I was outside about 30 minutes before the balloons started to inflate. It was a gorgeous morning for it, but bitter cold. I had on thick socks and gloves, but after an hour, I could no longer feel my toes and my fingertips were so numb that it was difficult to press the camera shutter.

Before I could even download the pictures from my point and shoot camera, I had to thaw out my hands and toes. I heated up a towel with warm water to wrap around my feet…worked great, but it really hurt when my toes started to thaw. I don’t remember my toes ever being so frozen.

Now that the balloons are way down the road, I going to head into town to the Rocking Horse and meet a client of mine for breakfast. Hey, that means I can count this trip as a business trip, right?

Last evening, after taking a nap, I decided to pack up early and rive back home. I didn’t sleep well the night before, nor during my nap…strange beds sometimes have that effect on me. It didn’t help that there was a screaming kid in the room next to mine…last thing I heard before going to sleep and the first thing I heard when I woke up. Driving home when I did meant that I had to drive most of the way in the dark and not able to enjoy the scenery. Before it did get dark, however, I did see a flock of about eight turkeys very close to the road, about 45 minutes into my drive. I wanted to stop to photograph them, but there was no road shoulder and there were a couple of cars behind me. Bummer. I did, however, call up my dad to tell him about them since he always goes turkey hunting. Or rather, he tries to hunt turkeys but they are too wiley for him. The one and only time he saw them during a hunt, he found a young one. Instead of killing it, he took it home to fatten up. The problem is that it turned into a pet instead of a meal. That chickens thought the turkey was God and followed it everywhere. The hunting dogs were terrified of the darn bird! The turkey wondered off the property after about a year and another hunter took him home as a meal.

My route home was slightly different from the the one I took to get to Winthrop. I drove through the town of Leavenworth and over Stephens Pass. At the pass, night skiing was going on. The lights lit up the mountainside and it was quite beautiful. Unfortunately, the pictures I tried to take of it didn’t come out very good. Nor did the starry sky pictures I tried to take down the road. Too many cars drove by right near the end of my long shutter time. This happened repeatedly. Too bad, too…because one had a good chance since you could see Orion’s belt in it.

When I got home, William was still at a party, so I busied myself with photo cropping/retouching. When I finally laid down in my bed, I was out in minutes. I love traveling and adventures, but I really, really love my comfy bed.

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