TWO DAYS OF SKY WALKING, HELICOPTERING AND RIVER RAFTING EXCITEMENT
EXPERIENCED BY: @HAPPILYPINKBLOG
Road trips are something I’ve grown fonder of as I’ve gotten older, and this weekend trip with my best friend, Rachel, to Grand Canyon West would be unlike any other. Join our adventures as we immerse ourselves into the rich culture that exists within the original territory of the Hualapai ancestral lands!
THE CABINS AT GRAND CANYON WEST
After a six-hour drive from Tucson, Arizona, we arrived at the rustic Cabins at Grand Canyon West on Thursday. Onsite food service at the cabins was limited, so we packed a cooler and took advantage of the in-unit microwave, refrigerator and coffee machine. After dinner, we stepped outside onto our porch to observe the sunset where we could see the Grand Canyon on the horizon.
VIEWS ON A GLASS HORSESHOE
With it being our first time on a helicopter tour, we were highly anticipating this experience. As we walked closer to the red helicopter and its swooshing blades, I felt my heart pump faster with adrenaline.
We got strapped in and the helicopter swiftly ascended into the air from the launch pad. I couldn’t fathom the fact that Rachel and I were not only in a helicopter but we were also about to soar through the Grand Canyon!
As we crossed the plain, I could see us flying closer to the rim of the canyon. My fear of heights dissipated, and I found myself in awe as we navigated through one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Before I knew it, we began our 3,500-foot descent. Landing on the shores of the Colorado River, we spotted our next adventure in the distance, our pontoon ride.
Upon approaching our pontoon, we met Jeremiah and Nico, who are part of the Hualapai Tribe. Floating down the Colorado River, we were again presented with a unique perspective of the Grand Canyon except, this time, our gaze went upward. Of course I always knew how grand this landmark was, but seeing the canyon from the Colorado River emphasized the majestic sight of the painted canyon surrounding us.
One of my favorite parts about the Helicopter + Pontoon Tour was how well the two activities contrasted with the other. From the helicopter, we experienced a rush of adrenaline, but from the pontoon, we felt relaxed as the fine spray of the water hit us. As we zoomed past the towering walls in rich hues of burnt orange, red, tan and brown, I couldn’t help but think this was the perfect summer day.
WALKING THE SKY 4,000 FEET BELOW
Before Rachel and I dared to walk the sky, we opted for a quick lunch break at Sky View Restaurant. The hostess smiled as Rachel and I gushed to each other about the panoramic views of the Skywalk and Grand Canyon from our table.
When Rachel pulled me across the crystal clear glass of the Skywalk, my heart dropped. I couldn’t believe that I was staring 4,000 feet down to the canyon’s floor! A minute later, I regained my composure. With newfound confidence, and surprisingly enough, I even sat on the glass floor with outstretched arms to pose with Rachel. I was amazed to discover that the glass is strong enough to hold seventy fully loaded 747 passenger jets!
EAGLE POINT AND THE NATIVE AMERICAN VILLAGE
On our way to the Guano Point shuttle, we took a self-guided tour of the Native American Village at Eagle Point to discover replicas of traditional housing and sweat lodges built by the Hualapai, Navajo, Plains, Hopi and Havasupai Tribes. A sign with information about the various tribes stood in front of each lodging style, giving us insights into their lifestyles.
THE VIEWS AT GUANO POINT
Once we set foot at Guano Point, we noticed how the railing-free cliffs offered a beautiful view, one that included the winding Colorado River. We mindfully stepped over the rocks as we started the Highpoint Hike.
As we approached what’s left of the $3.5 million aerial tramway system, Seren, a Hualapai Ambassador, shared more history behind this location. The aerial tramway built in 1957 stretched a cable 8,800 feet to a guano mine that the U.S. Guano Corporation bought. But by 1959, all of the resources were exhausted. Today, people visit Guano Point for the 360 views.
Guano Point was very much a relaxed and peaceful point where I could slow down and simply capture everything. With these views, I wish that I could stay here for a few more hours. I exhaled and took one more look before standing up to walk back to the shuttle.
SOARING ABOVE THE CANYON
The shuttle took us to our last adventure at the West Rim, Zipline. Rachel and I had both previously ziplined, so we were familiar with the process, yet eager to find out how this differed from our previous experience.
As we climbed the 500-foot towers, the canyon views of Quartermaster Canyon got better and better! Quartermaster Canyon was named after a Hualapai member who settled there in the early 20th century.
While two people got locked into their lanes, I tightly gripped the bar and waited for the safety release from the tower. Once I started gliding across the canyon, I felt so much power as my speed went as fast as 50 miles per hour!
And just like that, we finished our full itinerary at the West Rim and made our way to the Hualapai Lodge in Peach Springs, Arizona, for our last day whitewater rafting. When we settled into our car and started the two-hour drive, we could not stop marveling at how much we had done in one day! The history, culture and activities captivated our interest. The best part, none of it felt stressed or rushed.
SATURDAY ON THE RIVER WHITEWATER RAFTING WITH THE HUALAPAI RIVER RUNNERS
Bright and early Saturday morning, we greeted the other people on our raft. The camaraderie on this one-day trip definitely made it all so fun. Everyone was an adventurer in one form or another. Brad had just come back from Alaska’s outdoors and was now here with his dad, Ralph. Then there was a trio — Dorothy, Jim and Andy — on a cross-country tour from Florida. Then, of course, our certified river guide, Julian. He mentioned how his family had a long history of promoting tourism through the Hualapai River Runners. He explained how he would rate each upcoming rapid on a 10-point scale to get us ready.
Julian asked us how fast we would like for him to drive the boat, and Dorothy enthusiastically responded that she wanted enough excitement to have fun but to get us back to the riverbank in one piece. No one needed to tell Julian twice as we conquered our first round of rapids.
As I looked around the group, everyone had such high energy with smiles stretched across their faces, but how could we not?! We were floating down the Colorado River on a whitewater rafting adventure!
Our journey continued with a short hike to the beautiful Travertine Falls, more rapids, and finally, a leisurely float. Eventually, we floated past the Skywalk and Guano Point high overhead. We would’ve missed it had Julian not pointed it out!
When we approached the river bank and our bus, I sadly realized the trip was now over. The journey that I experienced the past few days had now come to an end. But, this was the trip of a lifetime and one that I’m grateful that I could experience with my best friend, fellow adventurers and the Hualapai Tribe. I never felt more proud to call Arizona, the Grand Canyon State, my home.
When you visit Grand Canyon West, you are supporting the Hualapai Tribal Nation. The Hualapai (pronounced Wal-lah-pie), meaning People of the Tall Pines, is a sovereign Indigenous nation that is not subsidized by the United States government. They primarily support themselves through two major tourism enterprises encompassing one million acres along 108 miles of the Grand Canyon and Colorado River: Grand Canyon West and The Hualapai River Runners.
Plan Your Trip Today