3/13/2012 10:07:00 AM Phantom Ranch focus of new book Author, historian and former park ranger Bob Audretsch documents the history of one of the Canyon's iconic locations in new Images of America installment
Bob Audretsch, former Grand Canyon Park Ranger, recently completed his new book Grand Canyon’s Phantom Ranch available now from Arcadia Publishing.
Kolb Brothers/courtesy GCNPMC
The Rust Cable, or Arial Tramway, was completed on Sept. 21, 1907. This view looks north around 1908.
GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - For some, Phantom Ranch serves as the heart and soul of the Grand Canyon, while for others, it is a mysterious place to far and remote to visit and only seen from high above from the South Rim. Author Bob Audretsch's new book Grand Canyon's Phantom Ranch explores the history of Phantom Ranch and sheds new light on one of the Canyon's most fascinating subjects.
According to Audretsch, 98 percent of the photos included in his book, published by Arcadia Publishing as part of their Images of America series, have never been seen in print. Audretsch said out of the 205 photos, at the most, eight photos have been published previously.
The majority of the photos featured in the book come from Grand Canyon's Museum Collection in the park.
Audretsch said he was surprised to find that not much had been written on Phantom Ranch despite its central role in the history of the Canyon.
"I will tell you that working there as a ranger, Phantom Ranch is a thing people ask about a lot," he said. "You want to know about it because you haven't experienced it. You want to know about Phantom because you maybe will never go there. It's way down there and you can see it from the rim in a lot of places."
Along with the book's historical emphasis, Audretsch weaves his personal experiences throughout the pages as well. The book begins by recounting his first hike out of Phantom Ranch.
"There is a lot of personal stuff," he said. "I end with coming out of Phantom so emotional with tears coming down my face. Phantom has the power to really, really change people. It's like when people go on a long river trip, sometimes they will come out at the end of that trip just having gone through such a deep experience they feel a tremendous change. I think there is something about being down there deep in the earth looking up at all of that time and rock and color and sky. It is such a unique experience that it's got to touch about anybody deeply."
Working as a park ranger at Grand Canyon for close to 20 years taught Audretsch to incorporate emotion along with raw facts to effectively tell the story of a place. As a result, he dug up old hotel registers from Phantom Ranch at the University of Arizona's special collections.
"You'll see sprinkled through my book quotes that people wrote in the 20s and the 30s and the 40s," Audretsch said. "Those personal things. Things like 'I really had a great ride down here on a mule but I am writing this standing up.' There is another one where a guy says 'they might call this creek Bright Angel but after a rain storm, it's a red devil.'"
Previously, Audretsch explored the work of the men enrolled in Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal era program at Grand Canyon in his book "Shaping the Park and Saving the Boys, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) at Grand Canyon, 1933-1942." He is currently researching a second book on the CCC, focused on the agency's activities in north Arizona, specifically in the Arizona strip.
Audretsch will present a free slide show about the Civilian Conservation Corps at the Grand Canyon March 21 at 6:30 p.m., at the Williams Public Library.
The program will last 45 minutes with a question and answer time afterwards. Audretsch will be available to autograph his book about the CCC at Grand Canyon after the program.