The West Mesa Escarpment was formed thousands of years ago (200,000 they say) when molten lava came up in this area from the fracturing of the earth’s crust. As the lava cooled, it sealed up the fracture, resulting in 6 volcanos being formed. After they erupted and cooled, they left the West Mesa Escarpment (west of Albuquerque, New Mexico) which is 17 miles long. We hiked 4 miles of it today.
An escarpment is a long, precipitous, clifflike ridge of land, or rock, commonly formed by faulting or fracturing of the earth’s crust. (However if you remember from day 403, the Niagara Escarpment was an 80-foot wall carved by the Niagara River.)
The land between the escarpments, Rio Grand Valley, is mostly desert.
Some of the rocks had graffiti on them from 400 – 700 years ago. Scientists now call these Petroglyphs.
I actually think they are from aliens.
Or the Pueblo Indians of the area recorded their sightings of aliens, noting their endowment:
The view from the top of the Escarpment was cool.
Today, we hung around the RV park.
Beginning at dawn, the balloons began flying over us
as the balloons did their mass ascension.
We had an excellent view from inside the Sphinx
We could even watch in our pajamas
It looked as if the balloons would hit the Sphinx
At one point, we counted 90 balloons that we could see at once
and estimated that between 250 to 300 balloons flew over us.
There are over 2,200 RV’s at Fiesta. Today, the balloons are doing competition. We can see them from our RV.
Some of them actually landed in the RV area.
Now, that is cool.
In this RV area although we have water and electric, we do have to have our waste (mostly Barbara’s) pumped out each week.
A gas balloon is a balloon that flies in the air because it is filled with a gas less dense than air or lighter than air (such as helium or hydrogen).
Unlike the hot air balloons, which go up and come down in a couple of hours, the gas balloons participate in a cross-country distance race. The race lasts a couple of days, and the balloon that travels the longest distance wins.
The balloons here are filled with hydrogen. To begin, the gas delivery tube is attached from the tanks to the balloon. Crew members sit on the opening until enough gas is in the balloon to make it stand upright,
then they jump off to let the balloon rise and continue the filling.
When the balloon is filled the tube is disconnected and the balloon is launched.
The balloon operates by the light gas raising the balloon. As the balloon rises the gas cools. To obtain more height the balloon carries “ballast”, which are bags filled with sand. Less ballast = less weight and the balloon rises. As this process repeats itself, the ballast is used up, and the balloon must land.
In the evening the balloons inflate, but do not lift off
they stay anchored
each, side by side in a row
and then light up
in what is called balloon glow
The Balloon Fiesta began in 1972 as the highlight of the 50th birthday celebration of a local radio station. Today it is the largest balloon gathering in the world, with over 500 balloons here today.
Part of the reason for the success of the Fiesta is the Albuquerque box. The “box” is a set of predictable wind patterns that can be exploited to navigate the balloons. At low elevations the winds tend to be northerly, but at higher elevations they tend to be southerly. Balloonists use these winds to navigate in a vertical box. They ascend slightly from the launch park, move south, ascend further (over the RV park where we are staying), move north, descend, and repeat the box or land back in the launch park or nearby.
The hot air balloon is the first successful human-carrying flight technology that let man break his tether to the earth. The first manned hot air balloon flight was performed by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes on November 21, 1783, in Paris, France.
Today we rose at 4:30 in the morning to watch the first balloons ascend.
The air was crisp and not a cloud in the sky. Called the Dawn Patrol, about 10 balloons go up to track the winds and landing sites.
At sunrise, the flag was raised (no one took a knee) and over 500 balloons took to the skies.
How do they get this many balloons up safely? These guys:
They are called “zebras” because of their stripped shirts. They determine the orderly launch of each balloon.