Anyone can hike, bike, camp and fish. I'll argue that you haven't really made it as an outdoor writer until someone invites you to come out and fly around in their giant balloon.

Anyone can hike, bike, camp and fish. I'll argue that you haven't really made it as an outdoor writer until someone invites you to come out and fly around in their giant balloon.

I finally got the call, and it was grand. Grand is now one of several words I use exclusively while ballooning.

My trip skyward last month was one of those times when I momentarily transform into someone's really nice, hopelessly lame uncle. I'll stand back, grin wide and say something like, "Hey, now this is traveling!"

Sure, you're hanging in a wicker basket next to an open flame, but you're 100 feet up before you even realize you're moving. Every movement is effortless, every picture cut from a storybook.

"I took a ride, and I got hooked," said pilot John Kennard, who flies for Hocking Hills Hot Air Ballooning. "I needed a way to do it all the time without paying."

Based out of A Georgian Manner, a charming Logan bed-and-breakfast, the company runs trips year-round starting at $400 for two. It specializes in initiating first-time riders and a midair wedding package called the Ultimate High.

Balloons are, well, balloons, so they require perfect weather. Riders are encouraged to make advanced registrations and schedule a rain date.

Once you do get up in the air, you essentially just float along in the breeze looking at stuff. This is the euphoria and the liability of hot-air ballooning. A pilot can change elevation to catch different wind patterns, but steering? Not really.

"I just go up," Kennard explained. "God drives it."

This means, of course, that you have absolutely no idea where your idyllic journey will end. Every time my group and I touched down, we'd see something called the "chase van" barreling down a dusty back road to meet us.

The final ride stopped in some dude's field. After we asked permission to land, he and his family came out and watched - all parties feeling like they just stepped out of a Dali painting. Horses lined up at the fence and stared.

"Dogs go berserk," Kennard said with a laugh. "Cats are even worse."

Check out a slideshow from the basket and other outdoor activities at the Ohio Adventure Map, available at ColumbusAlive.com/venture.