Grand Canyon Skywalk
by Debbie Miller Marschke
Steve and I were headed home after spending Christmas in Colorado with family, and we decided to check out the Grand Canyon Skywalk. It’s really not “on the way” to anything, so we had to budget an entire day for the experience. It is accessible from either Las Vegas or Kingman; we came in from the Kingman side and drove around 90 minutes northeast until we reached the area of the Grand Canyon West Airport, were the attraction is located. It was built in 2007 and is owned and operated by the Hualapai Indian tribe.
Upon our arrival, we found that there is more than one attraction feature to the area. With the price of admission, there is a shuttle bus that circulates around to other points of interest. But first, ah yes, the souvenir shop. The line for tickets conveniently funnels you through the gift shop which is packed with all-things-Skywalk, and a plethora of mass produced Native American gifts we can all do without.
Our first shuttle stop was at the Hualapai Village. This place resembles Calico Ghost town and offers things like hay rides and mechanical bull riding. It was advertised to display Native Americans in typical costume, but we didn’t see any. It was a “slow” day - we were visiting on January 1, they only had 600 visitors this day ( the slowest days have around 400 visitors and the busiest days- 6,000 !) We nosed around the shops and storefronts briefly and decided to move on. Back on the shuttle!
Second stop – the Skywalk. After pouring out of the shuttle, the first thing I noticed was the complete lack of improvements. There was the Skywalk building, perched on the side of the canyon, with the walkway protruding out 70 feet from the edge. On each side of the building, there is bare unimproved ground and a sheer dropoff. No railing, no wall, nothing to stop some dimwitted selfie taker from slipping over the edge and falling 800 feet. I appreciated the fact that you have the opportunity here to take some awesome photos (which I did). But, being a claims adjuster by profession, this place surrounding the Skywalk is a claim waiting to happen. I was horrified watching all the folks leaping around on rocks, standing with their backs to the edge, milling around. But, hey! If you fall off the edge, you only have yourself to blame. Once you enter the Skywalk building, you must place paper booties over your shoes to protect the glass surface you will be walking on. Also, loose items like cell phones, cameras, and purses are not allowed on the Skywalk. Lockers are provided for those items. No photos are allowed on the Skywalk unless you purchase them from the Skywalk photographers afterward, at a price of $15.00 per photo. When I stepped out onto the glass walkway, my brain played tricks on me. I put each foot forward, and with each step (while staring down through the floor at the canyon below) my brain was screaming No! No! No! You are not supposed to be doing this! It really did seem like I was walking in the air, my stomach got that weird rollercoaster feeling. I was not afraid and I had no problem standing on the walkway, it’s just that my head was wired to tell me that this was not the place to be. The view of the canyon spans below, wondrous and majestic. It really was spectacular. We were allowed to remain on the Skywalk as long as we liked. I did feel safe, but there was a never ending stream of people filing on, making things crowded , which made the luster wear off fast.
Third shuttle stop – Guano Point. This area provided another view of the canyon. Actually we really enjoyed this shuttle stop. There is an opportunity to take a walk on a trail, check out the ruins of an old mining tramway, and get a good view of the River. There is one point you can stand upon and get a 360 degree view of the canyon. We probably spent the most time at this location.
Since it was dinnertime, we took the shuttle back to the Hualapai Village and went to the cafeteria. We enjoyed a nice full plated dinner of BBQ pork ribs, mashed potatoes, gravy, bread, beans, and a cookie. The food was really good. We were serenaded by a cowboy with a guitar that played popular oldie but goody Country tunes. It was a nice way to end our day.
The Grand Canyon Skywalk was not cheap. Our day cost $65 per person. Steve and I had been gifted some cash for Christmas, so we opted to buy an experience rather than a material object. This turned out to be a really neat gift that we will never forget. We did enjoy the day, so our recommendation for the DE is this: be aware of the cost, and treat it as a “one time life experience”.
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MRVM Members Honored with Artwork
By Debbie Miller Marschke
On October 17, 2015, a mural was unveiled which pays homage to Bill “Shortfuse” Mann and Dottie “Dynamite” Mann for their contributions to the Barstow community. The mural is located on the eastern facing wall of the Union Bank, 239 E. Main Street in Barstow. Here is the inscription:
“Brubaker Mann Inc. started production in 1950 when two cousins, Ronald Brubaker and William Mann conceived a new project – naturally colored rock to be used for roofing and landscaping. Growing up in Pomona, the two men developed a love for the desert during boy scout trips to the Mojave. After serving in World War II, they went to College and a professor advised them to look for careers in construction because a post-war housing boom was underway. After graduation they bought the property where the company still is located and acquired an old crusher circa 1900, a wooden screen, and a dilapidated bucket elevator. The rock was broken with sledge hammers, fed into the mill and bagged in used sugar sacks. In 1979 Ronald Brubaker sold his share of the company to William Mann. After becoming semi-retired, Mr. Mann used his vast knowledge of the desert to author six guide books. Mr. Mann passed away in August 2006 and his wife became the sole owner.”
Dottie was very pleased with the mural and the wonderful reception that was given at the ceremony. She said that Bill would have been very proud, and would have enjoyed being in the spotlight!
We met our Saturday Leader, Nelson Miller, at the I-40/Hector junction for the first official Desert Explorer trip of 2016 on Saturday, January 23. The plan was to traverse the Cady Mountains through Hidden Valley on a little used desert road and visit the Desert Megaphone, discovered by Bill Mann, near Mesquite Spring. After a frustrating detour caused by a BNSF road closure (as if the BLM and NPS road closures are not enough), we finally began our journey. The Hidden Valley Road led us up a gentle pass to an old well, then down a beautiful smoke tree wash to the historic Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad alignment. It was a beautiful Spring-like day that Sue and I were lucky to be enjoying with Nelson and other Explorers: Peter and Janet Austin, Ron and Barbara Midlikoski, Mignon Slentz, Ron Lipari, Mal Roode, Vartan Petrossihn and Maria Marvosh. Neal and Marian Johns were also present for the start of the trip, but had to return home immediately when they realized they had forgotten they had a house guest. Sigh… guess we are all getting a little forgetful, but a house guest?
Along the way, Nelson related some of the T&T history to us. It seems the T&T was built between 1905 and 1907 by Francis Marion Smith, the “Borax King”, to haul borax. It never made it to Tonopah or the tidewater, but ran between Ludlow and Gold Center, Nevada. Gold Center is gone now, but was famed as having the first brewery in the area and as the location of Bikini’s Gentlemens’ Club. Besides borax, the T&T relied on income from mines in the area and had spurs that reached such places as Beatty, Goldfield, Rhyolite and Ryan. After the mining boom ended and the borax mine moved to Boron, California, the T&T struggled to survive. The floods of 1933 and 1938 finished it off. The line was scrapped in 1942 for the war effort.
We followed the old T&T roadbed to the Megaphone. Most of us scrambled up the hill to see it close up and marvel at the engineering required to place it where it is. One can’t help but wonder who and why? After stumbling our way carefully down from the Megaphone, Nelson led us to a nearby miner’s camp, then on to a rustic “dream” cabin in the middle of nowhere. By this time it was late afternoon and the short days of January are just not long enough to linger, so we turned toward home. We were rapidly losing daylight by the time we reached the official end of Nelson’s trip at Ludlow.
A few of us turned east to start another unofficial Desert Explorer adventure. Sue and I, Nelson, Mignon and Ron were scheduled to meet Vicki Hill and Dave McFarland at the “bunkhouse” on the Colorado River for a late happy hour, wine and dinner. From Ludlow, we followed Old Route 66, enjoying a leisurely sunset drive to the Colorado River. Our plans were to meet Cheryl Mangin and Rich Dotson the next morning in Needles. They had arranged an invitation for our small group to visit the Blair 7IL Ranch and see the John Domingo Mill site on the eastern side of the Providence Mountains. Former Harvey Girl and friend, Corrine More, joined us with her friends Caroline and Dinah. Kate Blair was a wonderful hostess and took time out of her full schedule to lead us on a tour of the ranch and around the adjacent mill site. Later, while enjoying some “cowboy coffee” on the ranch house deck, Rob Blair explained the history of the area.
The original horse ranch was started by John Domingo in the 1880’s. He built a kitchen and one room for himself, which are still part of the present ranch house. In the 1800’s, there was a lot of mining activity in the area. The Bonanza King Mine was discovered and the town of Providence followed. Soon, there would be upwards of 3000 people living in the area. John Domingo worked as a freighter for the mine and there is mention of an orchard and a vineyard. He remained in the area until he sold the ranch to Sanders and Gibson in 1918, when it was renamed the 7IL. The ranch was sold again several times until the brothers Jerry and Howard Blair acquired it in 1960. Rob Blair bought out his uncle and now he and his father, Howard Blair, co- own the ranch. Today, the 7IL is the last working cattle ranch inside the Mojave National Preserve.
Reluctantly taking our leave of the Blairs, we figured there was enough time left to explore the site of Providence and the Bonanza King Mine. It was a rocky road, but well worth the effort. The mine was discovered in 1880 and the town followed shortly. They existed side by side for several years, but the Providence Post Office was finally closed in 1892 and the mine closed for good after a 1915-1920 revival. These days, the main shaft has sluffed in and appears very dangerous to approach. We did find one remaining structure that was still standing and had been converted into a sort of camp ramada. We all agreed to return and spend more time there. It had been a wonderful weekend. Thanks Nelson, Cheryl and Rich.
A recent trip to the Shoshone Area
By Anne Stoll
With the upcoming DE Rondy to be held April 1 – April 3, 2016 in Shoshone, CA, I thought DEers might like a short report on doings in the general area, as we are just back from a December visit out there.
Driving through Baker before our turn to the north, we noticed the town has made a distinct shift to the east. Yes, The Mad Greek is still bustling at the intersection of Main Drag Baker and Highway 127, but to think of Baker permanently without the Bun Boy is still a shock. Thank goodness, I guess, for Dennys. The Alien Beef Jerky place had plenty of cars parked in front and the big thermometer was working – that’s the good news.
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