Some sources say fear of heights (acrophobia) develops later in life. For me, that was not the case. For as far back as I can recall, I’ve been afraid of being on any surface higher than a step-ladder. I’ve never been able to enjoy roller coasters, or mountain treks that take me too close to an edge. The first time looking down the face of the Hoover Dam from one of the observation lookouts, I was nauseated.
I’ve always experienced a strong sensation of either being pulled over the edge, or if it’s a man-made thrill, I have the feeling of impending doom from possible failure of the structure.
So … why not take a walk on the Grand Canyon West Skywalk?
The experience was both terrifying and exhilarating.
The Skywalk was constructed by the Hualapai Indian Tribe at Eagle Point. It’s a 120-mile drive from Las Vegas. The nearest city is Kingman AZ. What would become a controversial tourist attraction was completed in March 2007.
To access the Skywalk, we drove our vehicle from Laughlin, NV to the terminal. The paved road there was in good condition and took us through some spectacular scenery, which included a Joshua Tree Forest.
Once at the terminal, we purchased our tour tickets and boarded a shuttle bus. There are 2 viewing points the bus stops at, as well as the Hualapai Ranch (a cheezy but cute tourist attraction). The shuttles are hop-on-hop off, so you can spend as much time as you wish at any of the stops. You can have a meal (included in your tour package) at either one of the two viewing points.
The horseshoe-shaped cantilevered bridge is 4,000 Ft above the riverbed, and even though the curved sides of the walk are enclosed by glass walls – the feeling of being suspended is enhanced by the spectacle of the canyon when front facing and the straight-down view through the glass floor.
At the first half of the walk, I found myself walking very slowly, not lifting my feet off the floor, and holding tightly to my cousin’s arm or the handrail. I noted other tourists having the same reaction. Hubs, who is even more frightened of heights than I am, opted not to take the walk, and took some zoomed photos of us from below when he saw us walk out.
I became a bit braver as time went on and one of the photographers posed my cousin and me for some pics.
In this pic, you can see the pristine glass railing only by the line at the top of it (just above our shoulder level)
Tourists must check all belongings, including shoes, bags, and cameras before walking out onto the Skywalk, and then purchase photos from ones taken by the on site photographers. Because of this, many disgruntled visitors have deemed the attraction a tourist trap. I had another take on this practice. The floor of the Skywalk is made of glass. In no time, the constant stream of tourists would scratch or damage the glass floor by setting items down, accidentally dropping items, or by wearing dirty shoes, thus detracting from the experience. Even leaning against one of the glass walls for a photo op with a bag over your shoulder, could easily damage or scratch and, over time, ruin the perfect view for others. I noted that both the floor and the side walls were impeccably clean and streak/smudge free, thus enhancing the experience. If these areas had been scratched or otherwise damaged, there wouldnt have been the crystal-clear feeling of being suspended.
There are “Grand Canyon Snobs” just as there are coffee snobs and wine snobs. These people will try to tell you that the West Rim isn’t actually the Grand Canyon. This makes me laugh. We’ve visited both the South Rim and the West rim, and each is spectacular in its own way – but anyone who tries to tell you that the West Rim isn’t a part of the Grand Canyon needs a geography lesson. The West rim isn’t a part of the Grand Canyon National Park, but this fact doesn’t make it disappear from the topography.
The viewpoints at the West Rim are rugged. There are no protective rails at the edges, and just watching tourists stand in front of the ledge to take photos with their selfie-sticks, or seeing them let their children run free made me queasy. I remained at least 6 feet away from the ledges at all times. Hubs couldn’t get that close.
This adventure was another on my “bucket list of fears”. It was memorable, exciting, and an experience I’d recommend to anyone.
“If I would not do something – right now – I would never get to live my dreams in waiting.”
― Gisela Hausmann “Naked Determination 41 Stories About Overcoming Fear”