My good friend Matt has really good advice for when you go to a fair or carnival: Expect to get ripped off, that way when you do you’re not surprised and upset.
Jessie and I had heard about this thing called the Skywalk, a glass walkway that extends past the edge of the Grand Canyon so we wanted to check it out. We didn’t know where it was, though, and we made no actual plans to see it. We had the thought to see it, then the thought left as easily as it arrived.
We were driving along the freeway towards our camp at the Grand Canyon when out in the middle of nowhere near a town called Dolan Springs Jessie saw a billboard instructing us to turn now for the Grand Canyon Skywalk. “Hey, did we want to see that?” “Yeah!” So we turned around and began the 49 mile drive from US 93 to Grand Canyon West.
We stopped along the way and took pictures of some of the cactus tree things that are all over the place. They are really interesting, you can see from the dead branches on the ground that these plants are kind of hollow, with a honeycomb of holes throughout. The wood is also kind of soft. I wonder if the wood is useful for anything?
Eventually we got to the turnoff for Grand Canyon West (21 miles left to go). The road was dirt so we parked the RV, had a little lunch, then drove on in the Jeep. 14 miles later we got a reprieve from the dust, the road became paved again! Hooray!
Finally we arrived. The area was quite a buzz of activity. There’s a small airport there and planes and helicopters where buzzing in and out to take visitors on sightseeing trips around this west side of the Grand Canyon. We got to the entrance and paid our $20 parking fee and received our first hint of trouble. We can’t drive our own vehicle to the edge, “everything is done with buses”. That’s fine, I can understand that, but then the woman said something about a “tour”.
“Tour?” I asked, “We’re just here to see the Skywalk.”
She explained some more and a little worried I drove in to park.
We went to find the buses, but first one must navigate through the gift shop. The first building before the gift shop was actually where all the helicopter companies had their desks and people were waiting there for their flights. You wouldn’t believe how many people were in this room, it was packed! Eventually I found the Ticketing line and paid up. $29 per person for the tour, $29 a person to enter the Skywalk.
At long last we boarded a coach for the ride to the first stop, the Skywalk (plus other attractions including a little ampitheatre where a couple Native Americans were performing songs to a crowd of about six people).
The tour bus driver gave us some information about the place. The Hualapai Indian Tribe comprises approximately 1500 members, most of whom live in the reservation capital Peach Springs. The reservation has a lot of wildlife, including tarantulas, scorpions, snakes, coyote, bobcat, quail, and lots more that I don’t remember. Of course the reservation sits on the west side of the Grand Canyon and boasts wonderful canyon scenery.
Just before we arrived at the Skywalk complex the bus climbed a rise and suddenly out the window we were able to see the as-yet unseen canyon.
Now you cannot bring any personal belongings onto the Skywalk. What if you dropped your camera and it scratched the glass? What if you dropped your camera over the edge and it littered the canyon floor below? But don’t worry, professional photographers on the Skywalk are available to capture your visit.
So to protect your camera, before you walk on the Skywalk you enter a building with lockers. You exchange your ticket for a wristband and all personal belongings are secured for you. Next through a metal detector to help remind you in case you forgot something that you might drop, like a camera.
Up a ramp, and now the Skywalk is so close! But first put little booties on over your shoes, they don’t explain but obviously the idea is to protect the glass. So much build-up, this had better be good. 🙂
Now I got a little scared. Not because I’d be walking on a glass-floored deck, my fear was that Sarah Michael would herself freak out and wouldn’t step foot on it. But she was fine, she even thought it was cool.
And it is cool. The view is great, and looking straight down to see the canyon walls and floor below is a neat gimmick. We checked out the views and took several pictures with the three photographers.
When we were done we walked back to the buildings where we had the opportunity to purchase prints of the photos they snapped, approximately $30 a piece. Or, to help preserve all of your memories, for $99 you get four prints displayed in commemorative folders, a USB key containing all of the photos taken of you plus a commemorative poster or ashtray. Sign me up! The only trick was choosing which four portraits I wanted printed. Oh I nearly forgot, we also each received a certificate signed by an actual Hualapai tribe member, saying something about how we walked on the Skywalk. Then you leave (via a gift shop) to either visit the live music, tour the example teepees and mud huts on display, or catch the bus to stop number two.
We got on the bus but decided not to disembark at the next stop, the charmingly named “Guano Point“. We’d been at this wonderland for two hours and we really wanted to get the RV to bed in its camp spot.
I drove as fast as I could on the way back, the Jeep set in four-wheel-drive to help maneuver the dirt and gravel road. Other vehicles weren’t as desperate to leave so I had a pass them when I could.
We’ve had a running joke this trip about Wild Cows. Back in Oregon we were driving through an area the signs said had elk. “Hooray! Look at the Elk! Oh wait, that’s a cow.” I tried to help so I suggested at least it was a wild cow. Luckily the road to Grand Canyon West is in a free range area, so the cows were not only near the road, they were sometimes on the road.
While is was annoying, and believe me I didn’t even detail all the complex rediculous annoyances, we had a good attitude about it, just going with the flow.
The Skywalk is certainly neat, but it if you go remember that it is like going to the fair and expect your wallet to come out empty. Dusty and empty.