Friday, November 12, 2010
Scalped at the Grand Canyon?
It's on Native American land and lots of people tell us we'll get "scalped".
"They'll charge you $30 each just to park there," says one fellow traveller.
"It'll cost you at least $100 each to visit," says another.
The first traveller is wrong, the second is about right. But it's worth every penny. And hats off to the Hualapai nation for doing something apart from opening another casino on reservation land. The first delight is the drive from Kingman to the Grand Canyon West. The road is deserted two-lane blacktop for most of the way. We glide through arid desert with Joshua trees and dramatic rock formations. For about 5 miles the road is rough but they are working hard to pave it and soon it will be smooth and easy.
It takes us maybe 90 minutes and we arrive at a strange white pod. A guard tells you where to park. You go to the pod and buy your ticket. For $45 you get the Skywalk, a shuttle to Guano Point and an optional free excursion to the Hualapai Ranch with a cowboy lunch included.
Richard suffers from vertigo and opts not to do the Skywalk, but there's plenty for him to do while Jennifer and I step over a 4000 foot precipice. He visits an Indian craft shop and finds me a medicine bag, one of the things I wanted to find on this trip. There are also replica Indian dwellings that you can go into.
Jennifer and I put our backpacks, purses, cameras and binoculars in the free lockers provided and go up a ramp to the Skywalk. They give you little paper slippers to put over your shoes so you don't scratch the surface. This is the same reason you can't take your camera or binoculars. People might drop them and make the glass less transparent.
We catch the shuttle bus to Guano Point five minutes away, and I find this even more breathtaking than the Skywalk. It's almost deserted and there is no rail at all on the precipice. You could plunge right over if you wanted. A pair of ravens are soaring and diving above the void and brave souls peer over the edge to see the the rusted remains of a car sent over the edge for a movie (not Thelma and Louise).
You can have a coffee here at Guano Point, and there are restroom facilities as there are at the Skywalk.
To get to the Ranch you go right back to the ticket pod and catch a different bus. It takes less than ten minutes and brings you to a fun replica Western town with humorous signs and gravestones in the cemetery. At the Trading Post we have a lunch of chicken, corn on the cob and coleslaw (you can have ribs and baked potatoes if you like) and iced tea or soft drinks. The lunch is mediocre but it's a fun setting.
Outside in the beautiful November weather (78 degrees and blue sky) I stike up a conversation with cowboy Steve who tells me about a famous celebrity who lives on the Ranch, Norman, the steer from the movie City Slickers! (Read more on my entry Meeting Norman.)
After looking around the ranch a little more, we get the shuttle back to the ticket pod and pick up our car. Las Vegas is only an hour or two away, with the Hoover Dam and its new bridge on the way for a convenient break.
So would I recommend a visit to the Hualapai site of Grand Canyon West?
Definitely. Getting "scalped" was never so fun.