Darrel Bogart gives a thumbs up to the camera as he free-falls from 14,000 feet. The airplane he just jumped from flies above him. Below him is his 20-year-old grandson, who’d jumped out just ahead of him.
Dots far below became his family cheering Aug. 3 as the Casper grandpa floated to the ground under a parachute. Four more of his grandchildren and a granddaughter-in-law were among a group of 10 who would skydive that afternoon to celebrate his 75th birthday.
Darrel’s sister bought him a ticket to skydive near Colorado’s Royal Gorge for his birthday in February, he said. He invited his grandchildren from around country. That’s how three of them from Casper and two from Utah along with some of their significant others found themselves dropping from the sky over the Rocky Mountains. Counting Darrel, seven of the 10 who jumped live in Casper.
“I thought that was one of the neatest things going,” Darrel said. “I just couldn’t believe that they would all want to go.”
Taking the jump
Photos from instructors’ cameras captured Darrel and his grandchildren’s faces as they ripple during free-fall and contorted into screams, yells and grins. It was Darrel’s second tandem skydive as he introduced them to the sport. His first skydive was a few years ago with a church group who traveled to Mesquite, Nevada, from Utah, where he lived at the time. His sister knew he’d loved it and bought him a ticket for a jump with Royal Gorge Skydive. She told him she’d pay for another if anyone wanted to join him.
“So I have way too many grandkids to just say one of them could go,” Darrel said. “So I invited a whole bunch of them. We wound up with eight grandkids or significant others and one family friend.”
Some couldn’t participate because of distance. One or two told him they’d never jump out of a perfectly good airplane. Ashley Bogart, 24, of Casper, was among those who were ready to fly.
“I figured if you’re 75 and can do it, I can definitely do it,” she said.
When the day arrived, Darrel jumped second among the group, right after the 20-year-old grandson who later showed him a video of him shouting in free-fall.
“And I learned some words from him that I didn’t know,” he said.
A photo shows the young man laughing later under his parachute. Another grandson, C.J. Jones of Casper, who turned 31 on Monday, jumped along with his wife, Ellen Jones, who was probably the most scared, he said.
Afterward, she was asked if she’d jump again.
“Absolutely,” she’d told them. “In a heartbeat.”
No matter how scared they were, the rest of of them agreed. Their experiences even sparked some other family members’ interest.
“I went last,” Ashley said, “and every single person that got down was like, ‘That was amazing, fantastic, so exhilarating.’”
They took in the aerial view over of mountains and the Royal Gorge.
“We were at the same elevation of Pikes Peak when we jumped out, and it was right there, right there beside us,” Darrel said. “It was gorgeous.”
He wasn’t expecting to flip upside down, “which scared me to death,” Darrel said. “I’ve got to tell you, that got my attention.”
They think the instructors may have tumbled everyone the same way from the airplane, although the first seconds were a blur, Jones and Ashley said. She closed her eyes as she jumped.
“But then I opened them,” Ashley said. “You have to. You have look.”
To family on the ground, the skydivers appeared first as dots in the air as they jumped out two at a time from two airplanes with their instructors attached to their backs. Then the spectators could see them free-falling and watch the chutes open, Darrel said.
He watched a granddaughter from Utah catch an updraft that lifted her parachute 200 feet back into the air right above the family on the ground. Her boyfriend jumped after her but landed well before she did, he said. The skydiving group cheered on one another if they weren’t in the air among more family who’d showed up just to watch.
“We were waiting for somebody to chicken out, you know, only see one person come down,” Ashley said. “Didn’t happen though. Everybody jumped.”
Darrel and his grandkids recommend skydiving to anyone who has the chance, especially when family or friends can join.
“I feel like the craziest reaction I get is finding out that we did it as a family,” Ashley said, “That everyone went—just that it’s wild. And I get asked if we do a lot of stuff like that often.”
The family gathers regularly, but skydiving was the only “extreme” activity that they’ve tried together, said Darrel, who spent more than two decades in the Navy, worked as an electronics technician for several corporations and built fire trucks in Casper for a while. His usual pastimes include golf and riding the first motorcycle he’s owned since his teens.
Now, the family is wondering how they’ll top their skydiving adventure.
Some of them have talked about whitewater rafting. Jones suggested bungee jumping off the Royal Gorge Bridge.
“I don’t have any intention of ever jumping on a bungee cord at all,” Darrel said.
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