Castle Valley Comments
May 22, 2014
by Ron Drake
May 22, 2014 | 2277 views | 0 0 comments | 706 706 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The DayStar Adventist Academy will follow tradition on Saturday, May 31 at about 9:30 p.m. and participate in the annual firefall at Parriott Mesa. Photo by Matt Seabury
The DayStar Adventist Academy will follow tradition on Saturday, May 31 at about 9:30 p.m. and participate in the annual firefall at Parriott Mesa. Photo by Matt Seabury
“She’s still in the running,” said Dave Wagstaff this week after learning that his daughter, Kiri Wagstaff, survived another round of cuts for the Mars One Foundation mission scheduled to blast off in 2025. Kiri was one of more than 200,000 people who originally applied for a chance to be part of the pool of 24 candidates to colonize Mars by the nonprofit organization based in the Netherlands. The list of current participants now stands at 705, down from 1,058 people before the last series of medical cuts.

Kiri applied for the one-way trip to Mars nearly a year ago, despite some resistance from her father. If selected, she will be part of the Mars One foundation, an organization that will establish a permanent human settlement on Mars. Foundation officials say a reliable surface habitat will be set up before the first crew lands, and more settlers and cargo will follow every two years.

Kiri grew up in Castle Valley and attended local elementary schools and graduated with the class of 1993 from Grand County High School. She is employed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., as a senior research technologist and rover tactical activity planner, and regularly takes the controls of NASA’s Mars rovers to maneuver them to various experiment sites. She is the daughter of Dave Wagstaff of Castle Valley and Lois Oliver of Phoenix.


For more than 40 years, the DayStar Adventist Academy in Castle Valley has held a commencement exercise for its graduating seniors. That tradition continues this weekend when four members of the student body will graduate during the commencement ceremony scheduled for Saturday, May 31 at 7:30 p.m. at the DayStar Chapel, according to the school’s principal, Alexa Hernandez. She says the public is invited to attend the ceremonies.

The graduates include Micah Ward, whose parents are staff members of the school, Katie Black, who hails from the state of Washington, Vixie Baley from Oregon and Morena Madden, a student from New York. The weekend activities also include a parent/teacher dedication ceremony the previous night where the students express appreciation to their parents for their love and support during their adolescent years leading up to graduation.

Another tradition, which goes back to the beginning of the existence of the school, is the annual firefall. The students gather firewood and place it at the edge of Parriott Mesa before graduation night. At the end of the ceremony, the pile of wood is ignited, and when the coals are just right, they are pushed over the edge, creating a striking visual effect for those watching from the valley below. That event will take place at about 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, if the wind ever stops blowing.


I have been watching the television news stations with particular interest as they cover the fires in northern San Diego County. When we moved to Castle Valley years ago, we moved from San Marcos, Calif., the scene of one of the several major fires burning out of control in that area.

I have witnessed first-hand the Santa Ana winds (some people called them the East Wind) as they blew in from the east across the deserts of southern California. The prevailing winds usually blew from the Pacific Ocean to the west of us. The Santa Ana winds are hot and dry, with a destructive force that would damage property and threaten human life at times. There are a lot of areas in the foothills that are densely covered in chaparral shrubs such as chamisa, lilac and manzanita, and will burn hot and fast when they get started.

Thousands of homes were destroyed by the dozen separate fires that burned from Carlsbad along the coast, inland to San Marcos, north to the huge Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton and south to San Diego. The weather eventually cooperated and firefighters were able to get an upper hand on the fires.

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