Sunday, March 15, 2009

Grand Canyon Skywalk!

Dear Friends and Family:

Last week we went to Las Vegas for the Mountain West Conference's basketball tournaments. They both ended poorly for the UNM men's and women's teams, so the less said about that the better.

The scenic highlight was a trip I took Thursday to the Grand Canyon Skywalk. (At the official Skywalk website, my computer warns: This site may harm your computer, so rather than risk that, I've linked to the Wikipedia site.) Here's a picture.

The Skywalk, which opened just two years ago, is a horseshoe-shaped platform that juts 70 ft. out from the canyon edge. The platform walkway is plexiglass -they make you wear booties to protect it - so you can see straight down. It's about 2000 ft. down to the next ledge; nearly 4000 ft. down to the level of the Colorado River, which you can see in the background, lower right.

Skywalk is on the Hualipai Indian Reservation, west of the main part of the Grand Canyon National Park, just before the river becomes Lake Mead. From Vegas it's about a 120 mile drive, with 14 miles unpaved and fairly slow going (20-30 mph). The Visitor Center, on the left above, which sits on top of the bolts that hold the platform to the rocks, is still under construction, but rest assured you can still buy the T-shirt that proves you've been there.

Here's some more pictures:

Go Lobos!

Here's a poorly aimed self-portrait. Need a longer arm.

I actually got more of a queasy feeling standing close to an unprotected sheer dropoff than in the safe confines of the glass-bottomed platform. At the ledge a loud tourist was indignantly asking a Hualapai host, "How many people have fallen off here and died?" The answer was none, but the tourist was pressing his luck.

In case you're wondering, where's Susie? Susie doesn't do unprotected ledges. Driving 2.5 hrs. to find one is not her cuppatea either. We visited Grand Canyon several years ago and she sat on the ground about 50 yards back from the edge calling to the rest of us, "Don't go any closer!" So she had a restful day back at Heidi's.

The place seems a little pricey, though its uniqueness and the surroundings are what you could call priceless. You pay $40 for a bus that takes you from the parking lot to the Skywalk site and one other view-point, but when you get to Skywalk you pay another $25 to actually walk out on it. That was a surprise. Also, you cannot take cell phones or cameras onto the platform. There are, of course, photographers out there waiting for you so you can get a professional picture for $30. I was in a picture with a Hualapai chief and four Japanese young women, so I chose the T-shirt instead for my souvenir.

The road out from Las Vegas takes you across Hoover Dam, so I stopped on the way out to look around.

For the last several years, when we've driven Tuzigoot out Vegas way, we've had to detour around Hoover Dam, by way of Laughlin, because of the congestion caused by trucks and motor homes on the narrow and winding dam approach and crossing and because of construction of a new bridge across the Colorado canyon at this location. In the next picture you can see the two legs of the supporting arch reaching out toward each other. Friend Mike Blackledge, who drove this route a year ago and again this year for the tournament, says that there has not been much visible progress on extending the arch-legs the past year.

On the way home I snapped this closer view as I drove by.

I can hardly wait to drive Tuzigoot across this bridge when it's done.

One more scenic aspect of the drive to Skywalk is a nice stand of Joshua trees, plus sky and mesas.

Back in town Th. evening, we had dinner with Heidi at the Bellagio and greatly enjoyed the Bellagio Conservatory's spring display.

Then it was out to the arena to see the Lobo men lose a heartbreaker. Thanks to Heidi's connections, though, we watched from the comfort of a suite and it happened that that six overtime Syracuse-Connecticut game was concluding at that time and we watched that on TV when we had to avert our eyes from what was happening on the floor. The next day, at noon, the Lobo women lost a heart-extracting game at the very end, so we were outa there, catching an evening flight home.

Just to get my hoops injection, March Madness high-school style, I spent Saturday at the state basketball tournament -- five games worth. Lots of fun.


Susie and Rob