‘First things first,’ she reminded herself, and that would be getting into something warm. She hadn’t packed anything warmer than the hoodie, not expecting to need it. Now she was desperate. ‘I wonder if Marybeth was better prepared. After all, she had been on several long balloon trips.’ She sat back down, and crawling across the floor she searched out Marybeth’s backpack.
Yes! Folded neatly under some food packs, was an arctic suit. All in one piece, it was guaranteed to keep one warm in -50 degree Fahrenheit weather. It was not heavily padded, and easy to move around in, made mostly for armed forces use in the arctic. Quickly, she pulled it on over everything, pulling the hood of the hoodie up over her head. With the suits hood over that, the gloves and the over boots, she soon felt warm again, and ready to look out for a landing place.
Standing, she looked again at the instruments and noted that she was now at 60 degrees north and about 108 degrees west, right on the border of the territories. She took out the map again and sat down to protect it as much as possible from the wind, opened it and searched. The closest thing of note that she should be able to see was Lake Nonacho. Folding it again, she looked over the side, and saw a fairly large body of water. It was a bit to the west of her path. Searching the ground, she noticed a long ridge with a small building beside it.
Venting air, she watched and saw movement. There was a person, so bundled it could be man or woman, with some small animals jumping around it. Lower still, she realised that they were dogs. ‘OK, this is it,’ she thought, and pulled on the vent cord, holding it as the air rushed out and the balloon angled down. She hooked the cord to hold the vet open and sat down, holding tight.
By this time it was snowing heavily. It looked like it would soon reach blizzard level, and she hoped she would land close enough for help to arrive before it got too bad. Then the basket hit, bounced and was dragged over the snow. She scrambled out and ran for the balloon, only to realise that a man was running towards it from the other side. They reached it at the same time, and both started pushing and walking on it to empty it, It was a mad struggle for a while, but in a remarkably short time, it was empty and they could roll it up and shove it in the basket.
Grabbing the basket they trudged toward the ridge, which she now had tome to see looked like a long igloo. They dragged the balloon into a shed, where they both stopped and sagged against the wall. “Wheeoow!” the man exclaimed. “That was exciting.” He chuckled. “Hello, I’m Larry Clarke, and you have just dropped in on my land. I am happy to welcome you, and so very glad that you made it safely. Another half hour and you would have been blown who knows where.”
“Thank you, not just for the hospitality, but for your timely arrival. I am sure I couldn’t have controlled the balloon alone. I’m Margadele O’Brien. I accidentally took off from near Deer Lake, Alberta. Four of us were going to take a month long ride. The others are all experienced balloonists, I’ve been up for short rides twice. I got in, the others were coming, when a fight broke out between two who were holding the ropes. They let go and started throwing punches, and the balloon started up. The others ran and tried to catch the ropes, but couldn’t, and I was on my way. It was ok at first, until the wind picked up and I was heading west at an amazing rate. I had a manual, so I sat down and looked at it, and learned how to operate the thing a bit.” She went on to recount her adventures as they unloaded the basket and he led her to the long igloo.
“You have done an amazing job, Miss O’Brien,” Larry said. The way you controlled your landing was expert.” He walked into an arched tunnel of ice blocks and opened a wooden door. “Welcome to my home” he said as they entered. “Martha, Nancy, we have guest. She dropped in from the sky, and will be here for a while.”
The woman and teenaged girl looked up from their work, and smiled at Margadele. “You are most welcome,” Martha said.” What did my husband mean, you dropped from the sky?”
“I was in a runaway hot air balloon, and caught in the beginnings of the storm. I saw your husband with the dogs, and decided this would be the best place to land, if I could manage it. I thought I might end up visiting Santa.”
“Well, you are most welcome, and I am glad you landed here, safely. Come and make yourself comfortable. Dinner will be ready soon.”