Nine miles below the South Rim lies Phantom Ranch, a historic oasis at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
There are no roads to the bottom of the canyon. The only way to get there is on foot, river raft, or the Grand Canyon mules.
Phantom Ranch is unique, one of the most remote places Amazon delivers to customers.
Using the Bright Angel Trail, it takes roughly four hours to get to the bottom. On the journey down, one can experience incredible vistas, rocky terrain and switchbacks, the Colorado River, an elevation change of nearly 5,000 feet, and a temperature difference of 25 to 30 degrees from the top to the bottom.
But once you reach Phantom Ranch, you feel like you’re in another world. Surrounded by rock layers over 1.8 billion years old, Phantom Ranch is a lush haven and the only place below the canyon rim that offers lodging. Guests can rest their feet, stay overnight in a cabin, enjoy a steak dinner, or simply take in the majestic views of the canyon.
“In a very severe desert environment all around you, Phantom Ranch does feel like an oasis,” said Sam Langner, community relations manager for Xanterra Travel Collection, which owns Phantom Ranch. “It’s right next to the Colorado River and Bright Angel Creek, and it’s a comfortable and welcoming place.”
The mules deliver supplies and food to employees and guests, like bacon, fresh produce, toilet paper, beer, mail—and Amazon packages.
“We bring down pretty much anything that Phantom Ranch might need and any sort of packages they want delivered,” said Annie Zenin, a Phantom Ranch mule packer.
While Amazon deliveries are only available to the Phantom Ranch employees who live and work at the bottom of the canyon, their canteen is stocked with everything guests or day hikers would need, including their famous lemonade.
“The supplies that our mule team brings down are a critical part of making sure that life can exist down at the bottom comfortably and happily,” Langner said. “Having a service like Amazon available to employees, especially in a place as remote as Phantom Ranch, is fantastic.”
Amazon’s interconnected logistics network and third-party carrier partnerships ensure Phantom Ranch employees receive packages year-round, four days a week.
Amazon packages arrive at a purchasing warehouse on the South Rim, and Phantom Ranch trucks deliver the packages, along with mail and other supplies, to the mule barn.
Carly Lupien, head mule packer at Phantom Ranch, said they start their day at 2:45 a.m. so they can beat the heat on the trail.
On delivery days, Lupien, Zenin, Lauren Zarske, and other packers weigh and take inventory of the items, feed and clean the mules, and carefully hoist the panniers filled with supplies onto the mules. As soon as the sun rises, they start their trek down the canyon. Two packers go down the trail, each leading a string of five mules.
Mules are half-horse, half-donkey, which results in a lot of personality in the animals.
“They love people, and they love attention,” Zenin said. “Every single mule that’s here loves having this job. They love being in the canyon.”
The mules aren’t the only ones.
“It’s important to be able to give these people not only what they need, but also what they want while they’re living at the bottom of the canyon,” Zenin said. “If they need anything ordered off of Amazon, they’ll get it.”
“One of my favourite things about this job is that I’m helping these people that live down at the bottom of the canyon,” Lupien said. “We’re always delivering Amazon packages. Everybody, every week is ordering different things, either outdoor gear, or snacks, or whatever they need. We haul it down there and whenever we show up they’re like, ‘Do you have our packages? We got something from Amazon. Did you bring it down?,’ and we’re like, ‘Yup, we got it. Right here.’
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