Phantom Ranch Junior Ranger
Completed: January 23, 2014
Grand Canyon National Park has several different Junior Ranger programs due to the size and diversity of the park’s locations. I was fortunate to be able to hike down to Phantom Ranch for 3 nights with a group of people who trek there every January.
On Wednesday, January 22 our group of 21 people left the South Rim, a smaller group hiking down the Kaibab Trail and the rest of us taking the Bright Angel Trail. This was my first time hiking to the bottom of the canyon. The Bright Angel Trail is a bit longer, but more scenic (I think) and a bit gentler, in places. The weather was perfect! Dry, clear and perfect temperature for hiking – starting at 32 degrees and reaching mid-50s.
First stop along the way was at Indian Gardens, 5 miles from the top. I tracked down the National Park’s passport stamp unique to Indian Gardens.
I arrived at Phantom Ranch at 4:30 PM. After enjoying a hearty beef stew dinner I retired to dorm #14 for a good night’s sleep.
The next morning after breakfast I wandered down to the Phantom Ranch Ranger Station. The ranger station is an unmanned office open from 8 AM – 6 PM. Besides having the Junior Ranger booklet available there is the Phantom Ranch passport stamp and a bonus stamp of a scorpion. (At least 3 scorpions were seen around the ranch in the 3 days I was there.) There was a small display cabinet with some artifacts and animal displays. Plus notebooks with pictures of the wildlife and plants in the area. There was also a nice lending library.
I took my Junior Ranger booklet up to the canteen, which is open from 8:30 to 4:00 PM each day. You can hang out there; buy snacks and gifts, play games and read books from their lending library. There is also a second copy of the Phantom Ranch passport stamp and the very special “Mailed by mule” bonus stamp for mail sent from the bottom, carried back to the top by the pack mules that carry supplies to the ranch.
I really enjoyed the activities for this Junior Ranger booklet. The first page has you record some details about your trip down to Phantom Ranch. I spent Thursday roaming around the area, back down to the Colorado River and a short ways up the North Kaibab trail to gather answers and spend some time sketching. I completed the word search, crossword puzzle, Who Am I Quiz, word scramble and short safety quiz during this time. The activities could be done within 2 hours. I had time to spend in the area and was enjoying a slower pace.
You can write about your experience on the second page or draw a picture. After lunch I hiked up the North Kaibab trail to a trail heading to Clear Creek. A short ways up I found a large rock jumble, some the size of cars and houses which I sketched and used colored pencils to enhance. It was great to spend the time away from the ranch area on a warm, clear day.
The booklet explains you can turn in your completed booklet at the Phantom Ranch Ranger Station or at any of the Grand Canyon Visitor Centers to receive your badge and patch. At the canteen I had asked one of the workers when and where was the best chance to find a ranger. She told me sometimes the rangers are in the campground checking permits in the afternoon. No luck finding one on Thursday.
On Friday afternoon I was very fortunate to see a very large bobcat while hiking a short distance up the North Kaibab trail. It was truly the largest bobcat (later confirmed by a ranger to very very large)I have ever seen, must be lots of good eats in the area!
Luckily our group was staying through Friday, leaving Saturday AM. Late Friday afternoon I saw a ranger hiking into Phantom Ranch on the North Kaibab trail. I asked if she could review my Junior Ranger booklet. Ranger Betsy readily agreed to review and present the badge. She did tell me that only kids receive the special Phantom Ranger patch. I was allowed to photograph the patch. While there I did talk to her about Senior Ranger programs offered by other park sites. She was very interested in the Senior Ranger program, maybe some day there will be that option at Phantom Ranch – a reason to go back!