“Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and od all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.”~Mae C. Jemison, first African American woman astronaut
Big Girls Don’t Cry
Karen Lewis Dalton
Ana Isabel Dao
Don’t ask these women who brought them to the party. Not only did they come alone, but the party is all theirs. Not every female BASE jumper shows up at an exit point accompanying her BASE man.
Karen Lewis Dalton
Marital Status: Married
Location: Perris, California, US
Education: BS in Mechanical Engineering
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio, US
Year of First Jump: 2000 Bridge Day, started BASE in 2006
Number of Jumps: 180
Number of Skydives: 9250
Hobbies: Running, Volleyball, and Photography
Five Random Facts: I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering – I tutor kids in math, up through Calculus and I like it. – I make the best chocolate Chip Cookies. (Mom’s recipe) – I can’t sleep if the sheets are all messed up. – I can shake my eyes. Is that weird enough?
Most admired jumper: Canadian Lonnie Bissonnette
The Gear: Canopy: FLiK
Container: APEX DP
For Karen Lewis Dalton her BASE philosophy falls in line with Annikens, “play it safe” as Karen states, “I don’t need BASE. I can walk away at any time. I only jump when all the conditions are good and the planets are in alignment.”
As to Karen’s most memorable jump, “I once got stuck on top of a big wall in a severe thunderstorm. I sat on my rig to insulate myself from the rock for 45 minutes in the pouring rain and lightning. I just kept thinking “it is ok to get hurt BASE jumping, but it is not ok to die by lightening”. I was soaking wet and freezing. I couldn’t stop shaking for an hour after the storm passed. I couldn’t wait to get down. When we finally jumped, it was uneventful. But the whole journey was epic.”
“I’m not hardcore. So my weakness is that I’m not constantly jumping. I will go a few months without a jump, then take a trip and make 20 jumps. My strength is that I don’t need to be hardcore. I can make calm and collected decisions. I never feel like I’ve missed out on anything if I walk away, knowing I can return another day. I waited several years between my first jump at Bridge Day and when I actually began my BASE career.”
Karen doesn’t consider herself unique to BASE, “I’m not trying to be special or set myself apart from others. I just want to enjoy it when I can, safely.” Her advice for new female jumpers, “Always be ready to walk away. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to say no. Take a good first BASE course and learn as much as possible.”
She doesn’t feel that mentoring a female jumper differs from that of a male jumper “categorically”, but mentions that “it may vary greatly based on the mentor’s personality”. When I questioned her if she felt that female jumpers face a more difficult challenge of getting into BASE or was there an advantage to be female, her response is peppered with more advice for new female jumpers.
“I believe there is a different angle of difficulty for females in BASE. Females are often encouraged or persuaded to BASE jump for the wrong reasons. Females have to consciously navigate their own desires and motivation to BASE jump amidst the fog of many other influences more so then men. I have not intentionally used my sexuality to my advantage, but I have dated a mentor.”
“I have always been a tomboy, so I don’t really care if I blend in with the boys. I prefer to be self-reliant, so I try to carry my own weight and not rely on anyone to doing anything for me.”
“BASE is a personal challenge and personal journey the way I see it. Many people do it for many different reasons. I really enjoy challenging myself. I believe it is through challenges that we learn about ourselves the most. From the inside out, BASE has helped my confidence and calmed my tenaciousness. From the outside in, BASE has expanded my horizons, taken me to amazing places I would never have gone otherwise and created many friendships that are far more valuable than the jumps themselves.”
“I have always wanted to be able to jump off stuff. I enjoy the feeling of freedom, being able to step off the edge of something that holds most people back. I do not enjoy the risk. I would prefer there were no risk, no injuries and most of all no lives lost.”
Recently married in the fall of 2010, Karen and her husband Kevin, have agreed to “make good decisions” in regards to those risks. As to Karen’s childhood dreams, 1) Children-someday 2) Running a marathon-one so far and 3) BASE jumping-yes
Karen credits her mother with being the greatest influence in her life, not to mention handing down the recipes for her Chocolate Chip cookie recipe. “My mom has instilled confidence and independence in me. She has taught me to be empathetic, and never judge anyone for you know not what they have had to deal with in life. She enabled me to follow my dream and supported me unconditionally. She gave me the respect and freedom growing up to form my own opinions and views of the world, while challenging me to think those opinions through. She is the happiest person in the world, a real Pollyanna. She has given me, be it genetically or by example, her unwavering positive disposition in life. I feel very fortunate.
When all is said and done, she would like for people in her life to remember her as, “a happy, kind, appreciative, tenacious, valiant, a good teacher and role model.”
In talking to her most admired jumper, Lonnie Bissonnette she is doing just that, “I’ll never forget the first time I met “Lew” At 6ft+ and blonde, she stands out, but …get to know her, and you’ll find out she’s one of the most outgoing people you’ll meet. She’s done it all! Engineer, teacher, volleyball player/coach, skydiving, BASE jumping, snowboarding, mountain climbing, marathons, and the list go on! She’s AWESOME!! I am proud to call her a friend!”