From Four Corners to the Grand Canyon: A cautionary tale on commercialism.

After we left Arches National Park, Mike and I did a mad dash to the Four Corners Monument because that’s the quintessential ‘Merican Road Trip thing to do. While I get that it’s “cool” to stand in four different states and three Native American reservations, I personally would have avoided the experience. For the price of $5.00 a person (not including gas wasted to get to a far-out place), you get to stand on a slab in the ground with a lot of other tourists and vie for a personal photo. We got lucky and arrived on a quiet day, but there was still a lot of competition. The entire area is surrounded by vendors trying to sell you overpriced souvenirs; even the postcards were more than a dollar apiece.

Four states, three reservations, and ten dollars lost to the Res.
Four states, three reservations, and ten dollars lost to the Res.

The whole experience kind of fell flat for us, considering that the location is pretty out of the way. It was a cool experience in name, and for people without a schedule or a strict budget, I can completely understand stopping here.

The next stop on our trip was the Grand Canyon, but since we had a huge driving gap to get there, we made a “layover” stop in Flagstaff, Arizona. I have been told there is a lot to do there, but instead we decided to check out Sedona because of all the vortexes (vortices? haha) and spas. Upon arriving, it was made clear that the only thing the Sedonans (I think) cared about was money and not their beloved energy portals. It was impossible to find a map of where to find the sweet spots, the town itself was full of overpriced shops selling anything that slightly resembled a New Age aesthetic, and the people were supremely unhelpful. Each vortex was a separate park (obviously, since they are in four different corners), and parking prices for each were $15.00. We saw a sign for a very discounted helicopter tour, only to find out that the deal was for people ages 25+ (I’m 23) and that the full price was $300.00, more than any tour I have ever heard of.

There’s cool statues, if that’s any consolation.

The only upside to this excursion was some nice hikes and pretty scenery that led us to a beautiful Buddhist temple called Amitabha Stupa, probably the only free thing in town and the most beautiful.

The center of the Stupa: You walk around it three times and pray for the ending of suffering for all.
Prayer flags, memorial cairns, and trinket offerings were all over the multi-mile Temple park.
The view.

The next day, Mike and I woke up excited to be on our way to see the Grand Canyon Skywalk, the western part of the canyon that has a glass floor over the canyon for you to walk out and look at. To be honest, we (I) didn’t do much research; we decided not to go to the Grand Canyon Village in the eastern part of the canyon because how cool would it be to see it from right above? There was a big mistake.

The drive on the way to the Grand Canyon Skywalk was very flat and long, to the point where you think that you may be lost. There’s an abundance of Joshua Trees along the way, which was a treat, but other than that, there isn’t much signs of life.

For reference, a Joshua Tree.
For reference, a Joshua Tree.
You'll see signs like this to keep you on track.
You’ll see signs like this to keep you on track.

We arrived at the gate to get into the Skywalk, and it was upon entering that we realized this wasn’t quite what we were expecting. The road is blocked by “rent-a-cops” and diverted to a huge parking lot near something that resembled an inflated airport hangar, and everyone was ushered into the building. Once inside, the workers gave us the fee guide, which explains that you cannot drive to the canyon area yourself, but need to take a shuttle. Just to be on the shuttle was $45.00 per person, not including fuel surcharges. To get to the Skyview platform, it was an extra $30.00 per person, and that was WITHOUT photography. No cameras on the skydeck, no exceptions. Basically, it would have costed Mike and I about $150.00 to get onto the Skywalk and not even get to take pictures of it. The reservation has quite a monopoly here, in the western part of the Grand Canyon. We ended up sitting in our car and making the agonizing decision to not see the Grand Canyon on this road trip, a decision that kind of broke my heart a little since it was through my own lack of research.

A word to other travelers: Do your research, and make your decisions wisely. It may be worth it to you to walk the Skywalk despite the cost, but be aware of it. The Grand Canyon State Park, about 93 miles east of the Skywalk, is only $25.00 per car, you can drive right in, and take as many pictures as you want. I can only hope that I do better next trip and get to see one of America’s greatest landmarks.

Next stop: Las Vegas!


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