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Zion National Park, Bryce canyon and the Grand Canyon Sky Walk; saving the best til last!

November 27, 2007

We had done canyon country, seen it all: The Grand Canyon, Canyon de Chelley, Chaco Canyon, Yellowstone Canyon, Yakimar Canyon, … you name it , we’ve been there. Just about canyonned out. But a voice kept niggling away in my sub conscious, “You must see Bryce Canyon, you must, you must.” “We’ve come this far ,” I said to Jules, “Clive Hux will never let me rest if we don’t visit Bryce Canon!” We were in Las Vegas and Zion and Bryce Canyons were only about 5 hours drive north into Utah.

Thanks Clive. Zion was magnificent with its narrow ravine guarded by towering red cliffs, as spectacular as any sights we had seen to that point, but then came Bryce canyon. Bryce took our breath away. It was absolutely stunning, overpowering, truly beautiful. Again, I would rather let the images show the beauty rather than my clumsy words, even the photos we took miss so much. They hint at the beauty of the rock formations, but they fail to show the true grandeur and dimensions of the canyon. The depth of field is lost in these two dimensional images. All I can say to you is “You must go and see Bryce Canyon!”

Zion National Park …. (spot the climbers)!

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The Road to Bryce National Park
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Bryce Canyon

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The Grand Canyon Sky Walk

The final leg of our canyon expedition was to see the new Sky Walk on the west rim of the Grand Canyon just a few hundred kilometres from Las Vegas. The descriptions we had read of this amazing engineering feat indicated that the roads close to the canyon were very rough and windy so we decided to give Dodgy a rest and ourselves a break from driving, and to take a day tour on a bus from Las Vegas. (Dodgy was parked in the Monte Carlo car park amongst the BMWs and Cadillacs, enjoying the ambience). We were picked up from the hotel at 6:10 a.m. and returned at 8 p.m. that night after travelling over some fairly rough roads as we approached the canyon.

 

The Hualapai Tribe own the land at the West Rim of the Grand Canyon and is responsible for the construction and management of the Sky Walk. They also offered a boat tour on the Colorado River.

 

At the last moment we decided to really blow the budget by adding a helicopter ride down into the canyon and the boat cruise to our itinerary. It was a decision we do not regret, the chopper ride was an adventure in itself and took us over some spectacular areas of the canyon. As we descended we caught a glimpse of the Sky Walk jutting out from the rim of the canyon a kilometre above the canyon floor. The boat ride on the river gave us a completely different perspective of the Grand Canyon. Its walls towered up beside us, the jagged edge of the rim silhouetted against a bright blue sky.

 

 

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After being lifted from the canyon floor and another exhilarating helicopter ride we boarded the shuttle bus and headed for the Sky Walk. The bus took us past massive earthworks where the airstrip was being upgraded to cope with the huge influx of visitors. The Sky Walk itself was surrounded by a massive building site where a visitor centre and a restaurant were being constructed to cater for the tourists. Temporary barriers and walkways directed us to the entry of the Sky Walk, where we put on protective cloth over-shoes to prevent scratching of glass on the walkway. The numbers of people on the walkway are restricted (20 to 30 people are allowed on at one time) so there was a 15 minute wait in a queue before we reached the stepping off point. Then we stepped out on to the glass walkway, Whoa, what an eerie sensation! The walkway is all glass, five sheets of 40 mm glass laminated to form the 2 cm thick walls and floor. The inside and outside edges of the walkway have a narrow strip of opaque covering to give some sense of solidity to the floor. Between those two edging strips the floor is completely clear, with a view straight down for a kilometre. It was quite unnerving walking on the clear section of the floor, even though we had been assured that the structure was engineered to carry the weight of a Boeing 747. We slowly edged our way around the walkway, gaining courage as we went. Then we were at the other end of the walkway, it was all over and we had survived.

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The walkway is quite unique, but did not stir in us the excitement or the wonder of the helicopter ride down to the floor of the canyon. It was worth a visit, but neither of us would place it high on the list of places and things we had done during our travels. Perhaps it was a location of the walk, the canyon itself was not as spectacular as on the South rim or maybe we had just seen so many beautiful canyons in our travels that our expectations had been too high.

A dance troupe from the local Hualapai Tribe were performing outside the Sky Walk. They were quite excited when they discovered we were from Australia. Earlier this year they had performed at the WOMAD (World Music) Festival in Adelaide.

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On our return to Las Vegas I left Jules resting in the hotel room and headed down the strip to take some photographs on our last night in town. Walking back to the Monte Carlo in the throng of people I misjudged the height of a kerb and crashed down onto the pavement. I felt my arm hit the ground and remember a distinct pause and was thinking ‘that was lucky’, — then my head pounded into the pavement.

 

I saw stars which out-shone the lights of Las Vegas! I staggered to my feet with the help of onlookers and after gibbering something about kerbs and darkness set off unsteadily for the hotel, carefully negotiating the lobby and the walk through the Casino, conscious that people were staring at me. I was alone in the lift and was feeling much better when I tapped on the door of our room. Jules opened the door and I saw her smile dissolve into shock when she saw me.  I hadn’t realized that blood was streaming down my face and arm and that the skin had been stripped from my forehead and nose. Quite a mess. No wonder I had received those stares in the lobby.  Fortunately the wounds were superficial and I was otherwise unhurt, but our last night in Las Vegas was one to remember.

Next day we set out on the final leg of our road trip, through Flagstaff and back to Phoenix. South of Flagstaff we left the main highway, continuing south on a minor road to avoid the boredom of the freeway. More by chance than by any good planning we descended into Sedona, a small town in one of the most stunning settings imaginable.  We were later to find out that Sedona had been regularly voted to be the most beautiful town in America by the tourist industry.  We were completely besotted by the town and decided to stay overnight to enjoy the scenery.

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We stopped at a building which bore a sign saying ‘tourist information and maps”, seeking information on accommodation and directions around the town. Inside, after an effusive greeting by Jex we discovered that it was a sales office for time-share condominiums that were available in the town. Jex was the ultimate salesman, never mentioning timeshare or delivering a sales pitch, he talked about the town and its sights, then offered to find us some free accommodation in one of the upmarket hotels in town. It then became clear that there was a catch, and we both realised that selling timeshares was on his agenda. Jules and I regrouped, but decided that we could withstand the sales pressures if there was a free night’s accommodation at the end of it. So, after a two hour barrage of facts and figures about the advantages of time-sharing, a tour of available condominiums, several drinks and being passed from the salesperson to the sales manager and then onto the general manager, we emerged with our voucher for a free night at the Casa Grande (usual tariff $160 per night).

We spent the next morning sightseeing then headed back along the freeway to Phoenix.

 

 

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3 comments

  1. Peter and Julie what magnificent shots. Zion national park and Bryce Canyon are incredible. Glad you did go there so we could enjoy these photos. We wake up every morning pinching ourselves and hoping it’s not a dream that the horrible rodent has gone. Yesterday he and the awful Janette had to vacate the Lodge. Rudd picked what seems like a smart cabinet and is showing every sign that he’s going to be pretty smart in office too. Isn’t Los Vegas gross? But fascinating also. That it’s so popular must say something not so great about the human psyche. Keep up the good work, david and kristin.


  2. I couldn’t find the climbers. Which photo?


  3. Wow! I can’t beleive mum said no to a sales man!



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