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The Hills are Alive

by Russ Haas
photos by Eric Bernetzke

…with the sound of skydiving! I’m talking about Seven Hills Skydivers, located near Marshall, WI, which is just a hop, skip and—dare I say, a jump—from Madison. But as the locals will tell ya’, it’s in the smack-dab-middle of the purtiest country you ever did see right there in the heart of Wisconsin.

The PAC takes off

The PAC takes off

Not too long back, a friend of mine invited me to visit this club DZ for their annual “Head for the Hills” boogie June 18-21, and if I’d like, I could even help out with tandem instruction and shooting video. Never one to forgo a normal weekend of jumping at home (located near Green Bay), I responded, “I don’t know, it’ll cut into my summer jumping.” And then it dawned on me…this was summer skydiving! “And did I mention,” he cooed, “they’ll have a PAC?” Sold! I didn’t need to hear anything else. Coming from a dz where Cessna 182s rule the roost, I didn’t need much more of an excuse to head for the hills, and that’s just what the wife and I did.

The first thing we noticed when we got to Seven Hills was the distinct shortage of seven hills. For a lack of a better description, the land is pretty flat, and even from the air I had a hard time distinguishing mounds of any sort (unless you count the hot brunette I took for a tandem, but that was my wife, and I’ll save that story for another time). Turns out that the DZ gets its name from the seven hills of Rome, but what exactly those were I haven’t a clue ‘cuz I didn’t dig any deeper into the origin. I never was much of a history buff.

What I am a fan of is skydiving, and there was plenty of that to be had. Chicago Skydiving Center was kind enough to lease their PAC 750XL to the DZ for the long weekend, and when it arrived, it flew at every opportunity. Sure, there were your occasional weather holds, ‘cuz what’s a Wisconsin summer weekend without at least a thunderstorm and a tornado warning or two? But the rain and the warnings passed, and when they did, we jumped. Honestly, you had to, because if you didn’t jump, you’d have to suffer the consequences and be forced to graze on the acres of food that were supplied pretty much from sun up to sun down. And the food was goooood!

Tandem Instructor Phil gets pumped with his student

Tandem Instructor Phil gets pumped with his student

Let me ask you something—how much did you pay in registration for your last boogie, and what did that registration fee entitle you to? I don’t know about you, but I’d have to search far and wide to beat the goodies my $25 registration fee got me for my three days of attendance. I know I already mentioned the food, which not only tasted great, but was homemade (thanks to the generosity of club members). In addition to the food was the beer—all you could drink! And let me tell you, it went down well after a day of sweating it out in the sun. It wasn’t the only relief, though, because even when jumping was on, you could always pack in the air-conditioned clubhouse, grab a free bottled water, take a cool shower in the DZ washroom, lay in the shade of the wooded camping area or relax and chill out to the tunes played throughout the day and night. All this for little more than the cost of a jump ticket! If there were complaints, they didn’t come from me, ‘cuz I was too busy chasing the Mrs. away from all the free JELL-O shots! Damn, woman, quit hoggin’ ‘em all!

What the registration couldn’t buy, though, was the hospitality, generosity, and friendship the people of Seven Hills provided to those of us who were visiting for the weekend. I’ve been in this sport long enough to know what to expect from drop zones and skydiving events of various shapes and sizes. I didn’t expect to be treated quite so well, however. To be asked to get on a jump, to be thanked for getting involved, to be invited to share in a story or joke…these are the small things that make or break a boogie, and it all boils down to one thing: the people. And like the food, the beer, and the vibes, the people of Seven Hills are good.

CRW pilots complete a 4-stack over 7 Hills

CRW pilots complete a 4-stack over 7 Hills

On that note, I’d like to offer my thanks to all the people who made the 2009 Head for the Hills boogie a blast. For fear of getting names wrong or worse yet, forgetting them entirely, I’ll just pay thanks as anonymously as I can. Thanks to the dude who first greeted us and continuously checked in to see how we were doing. We’re still doing great, but I’m a little hurt that you haven’t called to ask me once more. Thank you, manifest gals; your job is tough, I get that, but you always made me feel appreciated all the same. Thank you to the guy who packed nearly fifty tandem rigs on his own. It’s probably not a record, but it kept me and the other TIs in the air without delay. Thank you, Mr. Pilot; you fly airplane good! Thanks to the ground crew, who ensured the plane stayed tied down, the packing tent stayed up, and all the other behind-the-scenes stuff fell into place. Thanks to the guy who ran with his head cut off making sure communications were kept up. To the video guys and editing producer: you made the students look good! I didn’t fare so well, but honestly, if three plastic surgeons can’t help me, neither can you. Thanks to the Tandem Examiner who provided that extra instruction; I hope to make you proud, chief! Food providers, you know how appreciative I am of you (and that includes the chef who grilled in the rain)! For all the players who contributed anything to make this event a success, props to you! Thanks to everyone who made my wife happy – Giggles/Jell-O Shot Girl thanks, you! Number 2, thanks for inviting us. And finally, to the guy who went around zip-tying all the tents shut and somehow missed mine, I thank you the most! You would not have wanted to be in that tent if I couldn’t have made it out for one of those frantic nature calls!

There’s more to say that I could go on about, but who wants to read about 9-way CRW formations, off-field cemetery landings, or pants-less tandem students? Those are topics to be discussed around a roaring campfire with good friends and a cool beverage in hand, something you’ll easily be able to find the next time you visit Seven Hills Skydiving Club. So if you’re ever in central Wisconsin, and you feel the need to drop in on one of the flattest yet most scenic drop zones of the upper Midwest, the folks there will be sure to welcome you. As for me, I’m not sure the next time I’ll be able to pop in for a visit, but if someone asks me if I’m returning to this boogie again next year, I’ll tell you what my answer will be: Hill yeah!

The next Head for the Hills boogie is tentatively scheduled for September 11-13, 2009.

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1 Comment

  • Update – the “Return to the Hills” weekend will officially be Sept. 18-20. C’mon down, everyone!

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