In 1938, teenager Phil Varney moved with his folks from the flatlands of Illinois to the deserts of Arizona.
He’d never seen mountains shouldering out the sun or plains stretching beyond the horizon, nor those graveyards of man’s hopes and dreams—the ghost towns. Becoming a Tucson schoolteacher and an inveterate tourist, he found most travel books hopeless alphabetical mazes. So he wrote his own Arizona guide, featuring towns and sites arranged in apple pie travel order. Varney then filled the book with forgotten history, big maps and graphic color shots as he pioneered the modern Western Travel Guide.
Ghost Towns of the Mountain West:
(Voyageur Press, $24.99) by Philip Varney is the seventh in his trail-breaking series where he takes on the entire Mountain West from Colorado up to Nevada. With Varney’s latest on the seat beside the driver, travelers can climb Pike’s Peak without a bust then head for the Big Sky Country and its haunted landscape shimmering with the ghosts of dead towns, busted mines and empty stations awaiting the train whistle that’s never heard—another unforgettable visit to yesterday’s West.
Ghost Towns of the Southwest:
(Voyageur Press, $21.99) by Jim Hinckley is a stalwart companion in the series. This double-barreled guide to the mining camps and ghost towns of Arizona and New Mexico is crammed with enough hidden history, maps and travel tips to fill 260 pages. Though just two states are featured, the book is heavy, offering up history makers such as Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp and Cochise’s Apache. Hinckley, a working journalist, reflects the Old West’s free spirits himself, vowing he’ll never live where trees obstruct the view.