A project dedicated to extraordinary people
So, who was Jonathan?
Jonathan Bowlin was born in 1947 in Indio, California and went through school there. He was known as caboose to his friends and family as he was the last in line. He was a rambunctious young man and loved to go fast, first on bicycles and then on anything motorized including his mother's 1964 Avante with a corvette supercharged engine advertised to go 158mph, which Jon verified with his own test drive, wrecking the tires in the process.
As a young man Jon became a serious rock climber, graduating from the Boulders of the California desert to the big walls of Yosemite. In the 1960's, being a very patriotic family his brothers had joined the military, his eldest brother Chad was a submariner in the Navy during the 1950's and his other brother Kim was in the 101st Airborne and went to Vietnam. Jon also joined the 82nd Airborne in late 1967 and served from 1967 to 1970, did his duty and was honorably discharged.
Back in civilian life, Jon moved north to Sacramento and attended UC Davis. He became a hardcore Yosemite climber and was part of the early climbing group Ghoulwies, who pioneered many big wall routes. Jon also ice climbed in South America, notably in Patagonia and in the mid 70's Jon started civilian skydiving as well. Jon also married and started a family in this time frame. In 1980 a few adventurous jumpers pioneered El Capitan as a jump-able wall leaping from the overhang known as the "Diving Board" at the top of El Cap. 1981 while on the wall with a buddy, Jon heard a whistling noise above and watched as two jumpers whizzed by him in free fall. Right then and there Jon thought "I have to do that"! From there, Jon began seeking out information on how to jump El Cap himself (No B.A.S.E. organization exited or for that matter, no one had jumped all 4 objects up to that time).
1983, This picture is the day Jon made his first BASE jump, a 550ft cliff in NE Arizona. Coached by myself (JD Walker), Jon free fell this wall twice and thus began a more than a decade long deep and genuine friendship with JD. This picture is all icons in their respective fields, Brett Maurer (red shirt) a big wall climber from California, the legendary Ted Strong (in glasses) developer of the tandem rig and first tandem BASE jump, Jon Bowlin BASE #76, Carl Boenish (2nd from right) BASE #4 and legendary free fall photographer and founder of BASE Association, and JD Walker (far right) most BASE and cliff jumps made at that time and developer of early modern BASE gear.
The Next Decade +...
After this trip, Jon invited me (JD) up to Northern California to Yosemite, to climb/jump El Cap (where we were caught, beat the rap, but that's another story). We also jumped the 2000ft TV towers in Walnut Creek, the Auburn bridge (740ft) and buildings in both San Francisco and Sacramento. Jon and I thought alike, had the same interest, both adrenaline junkies and even thought about putting up a tower out in the sticks that we could jump all of the time. While working on a TV special in the mid 80's I found several jump-able cliffs on the east side of the Grand Canyon, the best becoming known as "The Nose". It was 1700ft with a huge nose like protrusion sticking out of the side of the wall that required a helicopter and rock climbing skills to get to the launch point. Although I jumped it many times on many occasions, Jon was unable to make any of these trips until Mother's Day 1993. That day we were part a big group who all made successful jumps, Jon and I were the last two to jump, and decided to do a two way. Incredibly, horrifically we became entangled at opening, ultimately taking Jon's life and causing horrific injuries to myself. To read a first hand account from an eye witness, click on the link below.
25 years after losing Jon, I had a crazy dream about playing a song that was dedicated to him. Over the next year that dream became reality.
“Jonathan“ words and music copyright 2017/2021 by JD Walker. Registered BMI. All rights reserved. Not to be used, duplicated, or shared in any public or private way without prior written permission of the author.