MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – During a Minnesota summer there’s no shortage of beautiful, scenic views.

So how about one from thousands of feet straight up in a hot air balloon? Aamodt’s Hot Air Balloon Rides can take you from one state to another.

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Much like the balloons they’ll be riding in, a group of “early risers” has gathered in Houlton, Wisconsin. They’re ready for take-off with the hope of crossing state lines and landing somewhere near Stillwater.

“I got up after 3. I picked up my dad up at 3:30. I made the comment in the van when we were on our way out here that I don’t even get up this early to go fishing,” said Karsten Nelson, a passenger.

Instead of catching walleyes, they’ll catch a glimpse of the St. Croix Valley in a way that’s rarely seen. It’s all thanks to pilot Scott Aamodt.

“My office up here is a pretty nice place to be. We are really just exposed to it here in the St. Croix Valley because some of the pioneers of ballooning are from this area. In the early ’60s, it kind of took off in this area and that’s where it also took off in the whole country.”

He’s been doing this for 35 years. Powered by propane, Aamodt takes his passengers 4,000 feet above the river. The balloon itself is made of fire and tear-resistant nylon. It’s large enough and colorful enough to be seen from miles away. From inside the basket you quite literally get a bird’s eye view.

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Credit: CBS

“There’s no better way to see the St. Croix River Valley with downtown Stillwater and the two bridges there,” said Aamodt.

There’s no engine noise but also no steering wheel. So Aamodt uses the wind and his burners to change altitudes.

Touching down is another story. Open fields and even backyards serve as landing zones.

He gets permission from the homeowner before he packs up. But even then, the ride isn’t over. After being lighter than air, it’s tradition to have a champagne toast to celebrate a successful ride.

“The most incredible thing is just giving people this experience. It’s just a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” said Aamodt. “Whenever the weather allows it, there’s no bad time to go ballooning.”

Aamodt said that conditions have to be perfect to go up in a balloon.

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Winds have to be very light and there can’t be any rain or bad weather close to the area.

John Lauritsen