For her 85th birthday, June paraglides off Red Mountain |

For her 85th birthday, June paraglides off Red Mountain

June Hiles
Brett Milam / Post Independent |

June Hiles, visiting Glenwood Springs from St. Louis for her grandson’s high school graduation, celebrated her 85th birthday in breathtaking fashion: by paragliding off of Red Mountain near the cross.

Every time June has visited Glenwood, the cross caught her eye. In particular, when she last visited in August, the paragliders coming off of the hill enthralled her.

“I always looked at the cross … What can we do for my 85th birthday?” Hiles said.

The plan, however, started with her son Tom and his wife, Emily.

“What do you get an 85-year-old who has everything?” Emily asked.

They knew she was infatuated with the cross and the paragliders, so the answer was obvious: a birthday card with a brochure from Adventure Paragliding and Expeditions.

“What better than to have a mother push her mother-in-law off of a cliff?” Emily joked.

“Jumpin’ June,” a nickname Emily used, had no reservations about the adventure.

“It’s something nice … something different,” Hiles said. “I do things that are very risky, but I’m cautious, I know what I’m doing.”

She’s averse to people treating her differently based on her age. She takes pride in not needing a cane or a walker and looks forward to showing her friends her paragliding adventure back home, where she lives alone in an apartment.

“I don’t want to go home and knit all the time,” Hills said.

Her late husband, Marion, wasn’t the adventurous type like she was, but he went along with it, she said. He mostly stuck to playing golf, which she herself sometimes plays, too.

In the past, she’s been scuba diving, snorkeling, skiing, raft riding on the ocean and, a few years ago, she spent two weeks on a windjammer. She liked being able to jump off of the boat and swim.

Her youngest grandchild, Robert, graduated from Glenwood Springs High School on May 30.

“It was most important to come here. Robert is precious,” Hiles said.

But on June 7 it was time to paraglide on a beautiful day with the sun out. She watched a movie beforehand on what to do and worked with her instructor on preparation. After the medical releases were signed, it was time to go atop Red Mountain, this time as a paraglider, not a viewer.

On the ride up, she chit-chatted with a South African man behind her, no hesitation or fear creeping in.

She was complimentary of the workers, saying they made her feel relaxed.

“Delightful, very professional people. Thoughtful, not overly protective,” Hiles said.

With two people on either side of her and an instructor connected behind her, they took off right by the cross she had long admired. She delighted at beautiful Mount Sopris in the distance.

She reported only one problem: She was so taken in by the experience and talking to her guide that she forgot to wave to her family watching.

“I was too busy to wave,” Hiles said.

It’s an experience hard to explain to someone who hasn’t done it, she said.

“It was just really enjoyable and I can’t say I was nervous or afraid. I was sorry it ended so soon,” Hiles said.

After her adventure, she said she’s ready to go home and rest, but the flight was “just delightful.”

“If you haven’t done it and you want to do it, do it,” Hiles said.

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