The Great Park Balloon in Irvine, California, all dressed up as a Jack-o-Lantern for Halloween. I was hoping to get a shot of it aloft, but it landed as I approached the park.

It looks really eerie lit up at night, floating off in the distance. Or just floating above office buildings.

It’s not as good a picture as the one I found on Flickr last week, but you can see the whole face.

More of my own photos of the balloon on Flickr, including this non-zoomed shot, showing the big empty field and Saddleback in the background:

Launchpad: Katie at the Great Park Balloon (which is not in New York).

We went out to the “Great Park” yesterday to see if we could go up in the balloon. It turned out to be completely booked for the day (there was some big ice skating event going on) but we got in some photos on the ground, including a couple of pics with our copy of Scott Pilgrim 5 to submit to the Not In New York Contest.

[Edited to add]: Brian Lee O’Malley was at New York Comic-Con during the release and asked fans who weren’t in New York to submit photos of themselves with their copies of the new book at some local landmark. IIRC winners got a T-shirt or something similar.

More photos: OC Balloon set on Flickr.

Today I went with a group from work to ride the Great Park Balloon, a.k.a. that big orange thing that’s been floating over Irvine for the last month.

After about a decade of wrangling, the city of Irvine has started converting the former El Toro Marine Base into, well, a park. It looks like it’s going to take them another decade to actually build the thing, but one of their first attractions is a helium balloon on a tether. Depending on wind conditions, they send it up anywhere from 250 to 400 feet, and visitors can get a 360° view of central Orange County and the park under construction.

Orange Balloon

Unfortunately, conditions weren’t ideal today. It was hazy, so visibility was only about 10 miles or so, and it was windy. In fact, when we arrived, they’d just tied down the balloon. The guy who organized the trip called back to the office to cancel, but those of us who were already there figured we might as well at least walk around and take a look.

As it turned out, they did start sending the balloon up again, though they limited it to 10 people per ride. So those of us who stayed ended up waiting about an hour, but we made it up.

Baloon view north
Looking north toward the Tustin Hills

Balloon view - south
Looking south. The Irvine Spectrum shopping center is just to the left of the taller buildings.

Balloon view east
Looking east toward the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains. Note the hangars and other former MCAS El Toro buildings in the foreground.

I managed okay up until the point where I decided (foolishly) to look down through the center of the gondola. (It’s shaped like a ring, as you can see from the first photo.) The landing was a bit bumpy, and we suspected that they were probably going to shut things down a few groups after we left.

As nerve-wracking as it was after a few minutes, I’d love to go again on a clear day like this one (second photo) back in February, especially if the wind was low enough that they were willing to send the balloon up to 400 feet.