Some novels leave you mentally winded just trying to keep up with the exploits of the main characters.
That’s the case with “The Amazing Kolb Brothers of Grand Canyon” – only this book is nonfiction and these characters are real.
Emery and Ellsworth Kolb planted themselves precariously on the edge of the Grand Canyon in 1902 and, in essence, never left. Their harrowing escapes, feats of incredible endurance and just plain luck are the stuff of Indiana Jones, and in Roger Naylor they have found just the right narrator for their rollicking tale.
Naylor has packed his 154-page book with more than just a timeline of the brothers’ lives. He draws from their letters and family diaries to tell the back stories of their contentious dealings with the Park Service and Ralph Cameron; river trips that, on paper, seemed doomed from the start; and a tourism photography business that relied mainly on sheer stamina. The last required either Emery or Ellsworth – or both – to sprint down the Bright Angel Trail to the spring at Indian Garden to process photo plates, then back up in time to sell them to tourists on their return from mule rides into the Canyon – often three times a day.
The brothers made their reputation with a 1911 boat trip through the Grand Canyon that they filmed, then screened several times a day at their studio on the South Rim for the next six decades. Never mind that they had no experience navigating whitewater or operating a movie camera before the trip – their lives were nothing if not about taking risks and living to tell about it. And if you don’t believe Naylor, he has provided the brothers’ own photos, courtesy of NAU's Cline Library, to prove it.
Today, the studio has been restored by the Grand Canyon Association and is one of the most popular attractions at the South Rim. Naylor’s book, at $14.95, should sell like hotcakes, and if not, he has hit the road on a promotional tour that includes two stops in Flagstaff. See the box for details.