Driggs, Idaho

July 3, 2010


The town of Driggs, Idaho is located near the state's eastern border, in a pleasant green valley at the foot of the rugged Grand Tetons. The town enjoys some modest tourism, with the Grand Targhee ski area up in the mountains and some spillover from the better-known vacation area of Jackson across the pass to the East. However, much of the valley is still sparsely settled, with partially built subdivisions still awaiting the vacation housing boom that hasn't quite arrived, side by side with fields devoted to the more reliable cows and seed potatoes.



The town of Driggs is small. There is one intersection with traffic lights in the center of town, bounded on four corners by the corner drugstore called Corner Drug; a cell-phone outlet with the large statue of a buffalo on the roof; a bank in a building with its upper story windows boarded shut; and a Sotheby's International Realty office.



For the past 29 years, Driggs has hosted a hot-air balloon rally, now know as the Teton Valley Summer Festival. I had flown my hot-air balloon at the festival several times some years ago, and in 2010 I was invited back by Reid Rogers, President of the Chamber of Commerce, to fly my cluster balloon. I was delighted to accept, and the Fourth of July weekend found my crew chief Larry, his wife Victoria and me in the Teton Valley.


We arrived at the fairgrounds at 3:15 AM to roll the helium tanks out of a shed and up against the side of a building. At 4:00 AM, my crew volunteers began to arrive. Several of the balloonists and their crew came out to help, as well as some local people. There were fewer than I'd hoped for, but everyone did a great job, and we managed to finish not long after daybreak.




I got into my harness, and walked down to where the hot-air balloons were getting ready. There had been a fair amount of wind while we were inflating the balloons, which was not unexpected due to the mountain passes draining down to the Teton Valley. At sunrise, the surface winds had calmed, and the first pibal (a toy-sized helium balloon used to test wind direction) showed upper winds were blowing toward the northeast. I conferred with the balloonmeister, my friend Tom Gough, about this. Flying north up the valley was optimal; going northeast at the speed we were seeing would take you across the valley in about ten minutes and into the wooded foothills, where road access was minimal. It was flyable, but it would not be much of a flight.


Ken Levy


Tom put the balloon launch on hold for a few minutes, hoping the wind direction would change. The next pibal went a bit more to the north, and not quite as fast. Ten minutes later, the direction was straight north, and the speed had dropped a bit more -- ideal for a nice flight up the valley. Satisfied, Tom told the hot-air balloons to start inflating.



My sometime crew chief Ernie Hartt was there with his Cloudhopper hot-air balloon, and had volunteered to get some pictures of me from the air. We waited for him to launch.




I had Larry release me, and I floated out, gaining altitude slowly and taking a few quick steps over the top of Ray Bair's balloon.



































































The beaver special shape balloon waved good-bye, as I floated off into the skies above the Teton Valley.


Steven Cook



Steven Cook