When it comes to choice places for ballooning, Plymouth just isn't St. Wolfgang.
For starters, St. Wolfgang is in the Austrian Alps, near a mountain lake.
"It's where they filmed "The Sound of Music," the scenery is every bit as gorgeous," said Scott Lorenz. "It's the most beautiful place I've ever ballooned in."
Lorenz, who organized the Mayflower Balloon Festival in the 1980s, returned Feb. 15 from an invitational ballooning event organized by Cameron Balloon Co. of Bristol, England.
"It was invitation only, there were only about 20 balloons," he said. "Participants were from Ireland, Scotland, England, Austriany, Austria and the United States."
Joining Lorenz on the trip were six friends and clients of Westwind Communications including three from Plymouth, Carl and Jim Schultz and John Hoglen.
Lorenz, whose family owned the Mayflower Hotel into the early '90s, formed Westwind after leaving a public relations job with Domino's Farms.
"You had mountains that rose up right from the valley floor and a lake that was a half-mile to mile wide and several miles long. On either side of the lake there were areas you could take off and land." Lorenz said.
Once in the sky, balloonists were awed by the reflection of the mountains on the lake surface and views of farmlands and plateaus.
The temperature ranged from below freezing to around 50 degrees. "You'd be down to shirt sleeves if the sun was on you.," Lorenz said.
"We went up several times. We went as high as several thousand feet."
"It is the trickiest area I've ever flown in. You've got mountain winds. You had to be prepared in a worst case scenario that you'd have to spend the night on the mountain."
The winds also came into play during skydiving.
"I wanted to do it because it was so scary. The challenge was to see if you could muster enough personal courage to overcome your fear." Carl Schultz said.
"Above the clouds you could see all the Alps." said his brother, Jim.
"It was absolutely fabulous," said Carl.
"It was absolutely nuts," his brother retorted.
Their jumps were made from a helicopter hovering at 10,000 feet. Jumpers were told to somersault forward to exit the helicopter, then freefall for 40 seconds before opening chutes.
"It's a lot quieter and peaceful than you'd ever imagine," Carl Schultz said, adding he doesn't plan to do a repeat jump.
"The most dangerous thing we did was tobogganing," said Lorenz.
On the attraction of ballooning, he said, "I think the fact it's the closest thing to flying like a bird you can get. You can get perspective you just can't get in any kind of aircraft."
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