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Grand Canyon Skywalk
Today was the last day of 2009. We thought we would end the year with a “thrill”—we would venture out onto the glass Skywalk that hangs above the Grand Canyon.
The Skywalk is located on the Hualapai Reservation, about an hour and a half north of Kingman, Arizona. There is a hotel on the reservation, but no campgrounds, so we would be returning to Kingman tonight.
We had a short drive on Interstate 40 before heading north. Up ahead, I could see where the road builders had sliced a wide path through the mountain.
The slice revealed the mountain’s internal rock patterns, which are always so fascinating to me. Here, I wondered what drastic environmental change had occurred (hundreds of thousands of years ago) to leave behind the horizontal ribbons of lighter rock.
Against a mountain were the telltale signs of a mine. When material is extracted from a mine, a large portion generally contains no minerals or useful substances; this leftover material is deposited into giant heaps--long, barren, flat-topped hills--called “overburden dumps.”
Mobile homes were common.
Many signs advertised 5-acre lots for sale.
We turned here:
The Hualapai Reservation was reached by traveling a long, two-lane road.
We passed through fields and fields of large Joshua trees—some of the biggest I have ever seen.
We eventually reached an area that was marked as the “Joshua Tree Forest” on my map. There were Joshua trees stretched out into the distance, as far as we could see, on both sides of the road.
I love the vertical stripes in the rocks along the mountaintops.
We climbed gradually and eventually reached the snow-line.
This cow welcomed us to Grand Canyon West and the Hualapai Reservation.
The southern rim of the Grand Canyon is significantly lower than the northern rim. We could see the snow-dusted northern side rising above in the distance:
The Hualapai Reservation is located on the southwestern portion of the Grand Canyon. Unlike the Grand Canyon National Park, to the east, the Reservation allows helicopters to fly over and through the canyon. Many tourists come here from the National Park and from nearby Las Vegas to get that bird's eye view of the canyon that they can’t get anywhere else. The air around the visitor’s center vibrated from the noise of helicopters taking off and landing.
To reach the canyon rim, you must purchase an entrance ticket and take a 5-mile bus ride to the Skywalk area.
Genevieve and Sebastian at the rim:
We wanted a good view of the Skywalk, so Ben and I crept out onto a rocky area with some large gaps, where we could see the Colorado River down below.
There was the Grand Canyon Skywalk!
Yes, I was actually there!
The Skywalk has a glass walkway that extends almost 70 feet out into the canyon, in a big loop. It is suspended about 4000 feet above the Grand Canyon floor. The designer envisioned a platform that would allow visitors to feel as if they are floating in the air.
A view across the canyon from the rocks:
Here is a rock formation known as “Eagle Point”--the body of the eagle is in the center, and its wings are the rock ridges on either side.
The Hualapai believe that an eagle led their people here many years ago.
Michael, a member of the Hualapai Tribal Nation, was keeping an eye on all of the people that were stepping out onto our rocky viewing spot.
He said that the light changes the canyon colors throughout the day. This afternoon, the walls will change to purple. When he arrived this morning, the canyon was filled with white fog. He never tires of looking at the changing scenery.
Another view of the canyon.
Michael was kind enough to take a family photo of us:
Near the Skywalk was a traditional house that the children explored.
We stopped to watch some Native American dancers. Nate Bahee, from the Navajo Nation, did a men’s grass dance that honored the Native Americans who fought in Iraq:
The dancers included a young boy, Terrice Jenson, who is a champion hoop dancer. He twirled various hoops, which he subtly combined together to end up with a sphere shape. We were all impressed!
The dancers encouraged us to take photos and ask questions. Here are Genevieve and Sebastian with Nate (on the right) and Terrice’s father (on the left):
There was no line for the Skywalk today. We put on special booties over our shoes to prevent the glass from getting scratched. Then we waited for our photographer guide (Barry) to lead the way. (No cameras or personal belongings are allowed out onto the glass walkway, so a photographer accompanies you to take photos.) I was a bit hesitant about the first few steps out onto the glass, but then I was fine.The experience wasn’t quite as “freaky” as I thought it would be, but we all enjoyed peering down to the canyon floor.
Here we are on the Skywalk:
The Skywalk was designed to hold 70 tons, but only 120 people are allowed on it at a time. We were lucky to have only six other people out with us. There is no time limit, and you are permitted to stay out as long as you want. We stayed about 20 minutes, gazing at the view and talking about the physical engineering involved in building the Skywalk.
Here I am with Barry and the kids afterwards:
Barry was originally from New York, and has retained his accent over the years despite living in England, Maui and other places.
We then visited Guano Point, a rocky peak that was a few miles away. Here are Sebastian and Genevieve at the entrance.
There were two small rocky peaks to climb. The first was easily accessible via a short trail. At the top were some views of the canyon and Colorado River.
Ben and Sebastian:
The children were fascinated with the snow:
Here is a patch of snow on a dry desert plant:
The second climbing peak (shown behind Ben and the kids in the photo below) was near the edge of the canyon.
To get to the second point, we had to walk along a wide area that had a steep drop-off on either side. Here is a view from the second point looking back toward the first, with the café roof behind it.
We had to use caution, which included instructing Sebastian to quiet his “happy feet” (our term for those constantly skipping and dancing little feet that are on the ends of his seven-year old legs).
There was no obvious path up to the second point. Genevieve led the climb over the large rocks.
She was the first to reach the top:
But Sebastian soon joined her:
We had a wonderful view of the river below:
The canyon walls:
A close-up of the snow across the canyon:
Some nearby ravens:
Genevieve and I, at the top:
A helicopter blended with the colors inside the canyon:
The only other person near us was a Chinese man who was busy photographing the scenery.
I struck up a conversation with him and discovered that he has been living and working in New York City for the last several months. He was traveling through the U.S. during the holidays. He asked us if we had ever been to China, and seemed excited about the fact that we would be spending a few weeks there this spring.
Here is another view back towards our starting point:
The day was so beautiful, and I was happy. Ben caught me kicking up my heels!
From our overlook, we could see some mining equipment below us, on the edge of the canyon rim.
Guano Point got its name from the abundance of bat guano (excrement) that was mined from a nearby cave in the 1950’s. We hiked down to explore what remained of the mining facility.
The view from the mining machines:
Genevieve and Sebastian were happy:
On top of the world:
They honed their acting skills by finding a ledge and pretending to be dangling precariously—oh, the drama!
With its dusting of snow, and range of colors, the Grand Canyon mesmerized us completely. We stood quietly and soaked in the beauty.
We eventually tore ourselves away from all of this glory, and headed back to Kingman.
We chose a route through a deserted valley. The road ahead:
We all agreed that our visit to the Grand Canyon West Skywalk had been the perfect way to celebrate the end of 2009. We closed our eyes a little after midnight, with a full moon shining down on us.
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