You bet! The primary flight control in a balloon is heat. Adding heat from a propane burner or venting heat through a parachute style top allows a pilot to control the altitude that they wish to fly. By changing altitude during flight the pilot will seek winds that are favorable to his flight plan. On almost any given day there will be changes in direction due to “Coriolis Effect” and ground speed due to Wind Gradient. The first is the result of the Earths rotation while the second is by-product of friction as air nears the ground.
Even on a day it seems like the wind is only blowing from one direction there will be layers that allow a pilot to have a remarkable amount of control over where they are going. Here in the American River Valley we also have “eddys” that are formed by the surrounding land features. These “eddys” work much the same as the white water river we fly over. As wind wraps around a rock (or in our case a hill) it will actually flow back upstream. The wind works much like water so we are often able to go back “up river”, much like a kayak pulling in behind a rock. Unlike other California hot air ballooning sites such as Napa Valley and Temecula we can often land very close to where we took off from! There are very few places offering hot air balloon rides can fly an “Out & Return” pattern. Truly a special place to fly, and we think ourselves fortunate to be the only Hot air Balloon Ride Company operating here. If you are going to go ballooning anywhere in be sure to think about this jewel of a flying site, sitting right here in Northern California.