Two planeloads, each carrying 23 skydivers, filled the Castle Valley skies with brightly colored parachutes and streamers and floated a wide circle over the valley before landing on the valley floor. Some of the “high performance” skydivers make a loop just above ground level to increase their momentum and skim along the ground at breakneck speeds for as long as possible before touching down, which creates a great spectacle for those watching on the ground.
Some choose to free-fall for a while before opening their chutes, but most like to do a “hop ‘n pop” where they open their chutes as soon as they leave the plane and unfurl their “eels,” or long banners, for a visually appealing sight from the ground. The afternoon sun illuminates the chutes and eels and it is indeed fun to watch the 10- to 12-minute descent as they glide in formation to the ground.
Messick said skydivers with thousands of jumps to their credit say the Castle Valley jump is their best jump ever because of the spectacular beauty beneath them and the shadows of the late afternoon that enhance the experience. “It blows their mind away,” he said.
The two jumps took place around 5:30 and 6 p.m. last Friday evening. Messick and Wentz limit the jump to two planeloads so the annual occurrence at their home doesn’t get out of hand with too many people. They said the day’s events in Castle Valley were a great success.
Julie learned skydiving 21 years ago in Oregon while attending college and she has been hooked ever since. She is an artist by profession, working primarily with paint and glass, but has over 1,200 jumps to her credit when not working. By comparison, Mike is a relative newcomer to the sport with 600 jumps. He got interested because of Julie and learned to skydive at a drop-zone in Ogden where they teach students to skydive. He works in the tourist industry and sails on small passenger ships all over the world and has been almost everywhere that is accessible by sea. The couple gets together with their group many weekends during the year somewhere around the country and participates in anywhere from 50 to 70 jumps per year.
Thirty years ago, mail service to Castle Valley was in doubt. The “Castle Valley Comments” column of Sept. 30, 1982 stated that Postmaster Lew Prowse said the response to a questionnaire that was sent out by the post office was poor and he needed more people to respond. “Of the over 150 letters sent out to Castle Valley area residents, only 55 have responded. Of that total, only 27 favored the service,” the postmaster said. He said that some residents who signed the petition asking for mail service nearly a year earlier did not sign up for the service. Prowse said he needed 46 people who wanted the service to sign up before he could start delivery. Even though the post office approved a bid for the concrete pad for the mailboxes and they were soliciting a mail carrier, “they might have to abolish the whole thing.”
By the following week, however, this column reported that the postmaster said that his headquarters in Salt Lake City decided to proceed with plans to bring mail to Castle Valley. Dennis Godwin won a contract to install the concrete pad for the mailboxes and the solicitation for an independent contractor to bring the mail from Moab started immediately. “If everything goes according to plan, he expects mail service to be started by Nov. 1,” the column concluded.
That week the Castle Valley Fire Department also held an open house in conjunction with National Fire Prevention Week. Chief John McGann introduced the department’s officers and personnel, gave a brief history of the department, explained how some of the new equipment worked and showed two films before refreshments were served.