If I could have a superpower, it would be to fly. Sunday morning, I basically did.

Mark Pluta and his mom, Carol Pluta, graciously hosted me and photographer Shawn LaChapelle in their hot air balloon at the final morning launch of the 46th annual Adirondack Balloon Festival. 

The Plutas had taken a balloon ride just over a decade ago, which sparked a piloting passion that led to lessons, licenses and the purchase of the "Friend Ship Too," a checkered white, blue, yellow and red balloon.

It was my flying machine on Sunday, taking me up into the cold autumn air to view Warren and Washington counties from above. We were warmed by the fire billowing up into the balloon. 

I could see the trees just starting to change into their fall colors, flocks of birds darting from tree to tree underneath me, the long shadows of gravestones lining a cemetery, the upturned faces of people in pajamas, standing in their yards.

"Land here!" some little girls called. 

Car horns honked. A dog barked. A sleepy mist slowly evaporated as the sun rose higher and higher.

I was live-streaming on Twitter a portion of my ride, wanting to share this bird's-eye view. A person commented that she was in Australia, and couldn't believe she was messaging someone in a hot air balloon from so many miles away. Neither could I. 

Landing was tricky. The Plutas went for a backyard in Kingsbury that upon descent, looked perhaps a little less favorable. There were some trees, a rock and power lines a bit close together, and for a moment, it was looking like the chase crew might not get there in time. 

But a car came racing up to the driveway. Lines were tossed over the basket of the balloon, and people sprinted from the chase vehicles to guide us down. 

A butterfly balloon landed in the front yard of the house next door.

Festival Director Mark Donahue said to me that locals don't realize what a big deal this festival is to the ballooning community. It's likely the biggest on the East Coast with over 90 balloons, and to top it off, admission is free. Other balloon festivals often have their billowing masterpieces roped off, too, he said.

It might be tough to get up before dawn. It might be annoying to wait a bit in traffic. But once you're outside on the Warren County airport runway watching the stars fade and the sky start to glow pink and yellow, pilots unfurl their balloons, and things get magical. 

How lucky we are here.

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Reporter Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (518) 742-3238 or gcraig@poststar.com. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1


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