Outside magazine, April 1992
Late risers, beware: There's no sleeping till noon at Coloma Country Inn. Soon after daybreak guests are levitating high above the oak woodlands of the Sierra Nevada foothills in a hot-air balloon, then floating into a river canyon for some "whitewater ballooning."
Innkeeper and balloon pilot Alan Ehrgott takes guests flying year-round over 10,000 acres of private preserve and right into the canyon of the South Fork of the American River. When conditions are right--80 percent of the time--he drops the basket down to river level, letting it skim the tops of the Class III rapids. Depending on your thrill threshold, he can just dip your toes in the water or let the current sweep the balloon downriver. You'll also see foxes, bobcats, coyotes, and eagles near the canyon--and do it all before breakfast.
The inn itself is an 1852 farmhouse inside Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, near Sutter's Mill. Guests can also opt for traditional whitewater rafting on the South Fork or head for advanced runs on the North and Middle forks. The Lover's Leap rock-climbing area, Lake Tahoe scenery, and El Dorado County wineries are a short drive away.
The inn is less than an hour from Sacramento on Highway 49. Bed, breakfast, and balloon packages cost $195 per person. Call 916-622-6919.