April was a very exciting month: we got to see Spring twice; Suzi had another birthday (but who's counting); and, we found "home."
We (drum-roll, please) bought a house in Bisbee, Arizona. What? Yep, we bought a two bedroom, frame house in the old section of Bisbee. It's new so we don't have to worry about wiring, or plumbing, or any of that stuff but the exterior looks old. We have two views of the Mule Mountains: one from the front porch; and, the other from the patio. The yard needs work but Suzi is investigating plants and soils for the region so we'll be ready to start upon our return. We actually have two buildings - the Main House and the Out-House. The Out-House is not connected to the Main House and, we have been told, was a small block building and a wooden shed. The builder, Allen Hoese, connected the two under one roof, so, we have a separate computer/family room! The Main House has some wonderful touches: loads of cabinet and closet space; big kitchen with pantry; lots of windows framed in wood so they look like individual pictures; and spacious bathrooms. We think the place is picture perfect.
So where is Bisbee, Arizona? About 97-miles southeast of Tucson, and halfway between Sierra Vista and Douglas. And, about ten miles, as the crow flies, from Mexico. Bisbee, named for Judge DeWeitt Bisbee of San Francisco, is an old mining town. A hundred years ago, Bisbee was considered the most cultured town between St. Louis and San Francisco. By 1975, when the Copper Queen mine closed after 6.1 billion dollars had been taken from the area! With such wealth many of the buildings in the "old business district" were constructed of a brick that have weathered very well. We've been told, after a rain shower when the sun is just right, those bricks fill the air with a golden glow. These buildings and the restoration efforts have preserved the ambiance of Bisbee. That was one thing we fell in love with. Another was the people.
We came to Bisbee to "kill time," to wait for the El Nino-produced snow to melt at many of the Coronado National Forest campgrounds we still have to survey. Our objectives were only to visit Tombstone and the Copper Queen Mine of Bisbee, survey some low-elevation campgrounds and interview Forest Service staff at two District Ranger Offices. The Copper Queen Mine is the "only place in the world where visitors, under the guidance of ex-hardrock miners, can don hard hats and slickers and venture deep into what was once a working mine." Sounds interesting, right? Well, we didn't do any sightseeing. We would have, honest, if it hadn't been for Stan. We stayed at his campground, on Buckey O'Neill Hill, which is within walking distance of Old Bisbee. During those walks we fell in love with the town.
Well, we came for a few days and stayed two weeks. And within two weeks we found, made an offer which was accepted, and settled on a house. (Try that in your big city.) Each walk in town showed us another aspect of Bisbee we found interesting. On each walk we met another friendly resident of Bisbee. With each walk we found ourselves falling deeper and deeper under Bisbee's spell. And then Peggy, a realtor in town, mentioned this recently finished house. We were happily hooked on the house, the neighborhood, the people, and Bisbee.
At one time Old Bisbee's 640 acres (that's almost one-square mile) was home to 10,000 people with another 18,000 living in the neighboring communities. (Imagine the crowds and today's population complains about the traffic and parking.) Unlike Bisbee, these neighboring communities were built on relatively flat land. Each had it's own character and personality and, for the most part, has retained those features. One community, Warren, was probably the most affluent for that's where the mine's upper management built their homes. However, there is something about the irregular road system and all the hidden crannies of Bisbee that won our affections. We understand the topography dictated the way roads were put in. But, we are convinced, the engineer in charge was either part mountain goat or designed the roads in a bar.
But the road system isn't as amazing as the location of homes. Bisbee is built on several steep-sided canyons. Homes were built on tiny, irregular shaped sites. An example is our place. Our home crosses six of these earlier sites. To think, at one time, these six sites held six homes. Each with a most precarious toehold on canyon walls. On a smaller scale, Fred describes Bisbee as sort of a cross between a collection of West Virginia hollers and Annapolis without the water. But he says Bisbee has
more interesting alleys and zillions of steps that climb to the sky - lots to explore.
On our first night in Bisbee, we had dinner in Brewery Gulch. (By the way, Bisbee is primarily a two-canyon town. One is called Tombstone Canyon and was the more genteel business and residential district. The other, Brewery Gulch (established by Al Sieber, General George Crook's army scout) was politely referred to as the "tenderloin" district.) A group sitting near
us in the restaurant asked the owner, "Do you live in Bisbee? Why?". His response was. "People live in Bisbee because they choose to, not because they must." We agree. We hope you all will, one day, visit us in Bisbee and see just why we choose to live here.
We found Spring on the Sonoran Desert doesn't really burst forward like in Virginia but creeps into your conscience. There is a hint of colors other than browns and drab greens. The folds of earth begin to have a touch of pink or blue as if a cosmic brush has applied blush to Mother Nature's cheek. Mornings will still have a nip but the air warms as soon as the sun breaks the
horizon. And with the warmth, gradually, the hint of blush becomes determined splashes of purple, yellow, blue, white, pink, orange, and lime green. Most often the colors aren't mixed but separate, bold strokes. We found Spring isn't a sudden change but you note the change suddenly.
We have now traveled throughout southern Arizona and can tell you, with some confidence, this is a beautiful, diverse, magical place. The small, isolated "sky islands" offer a delightful contrast to the miles and miles of "flat" desert in between. These "sky islands," ancient, uplifted blocks of volcanic material, contain all "life zones" one finds between Mexico and
Canada. Imagine, in one day, we experienced 90-plus degrees on the floor of the San Simon Valley and less then an hour later we were pulling on sweaters, jackets, and long pants to survey a snowbound campground under Ponderosa pines and Douglas-firs in the Chiricahua Mountains. And the "flat" desert floor isn't all that flat. There are gullies, ridges, folds, and pleats. In the springtime, the irregularities of the desert floor appear highlighted in the many colors of a satin ball gown under candlelight. Spring is a glorious time anywhere but here it seems to be more a celebration.
Well, May shouldn't be quite as exciting since we think the worst of the snowfall will have melted and we can press ahead with our adventures. Our plan is to complete the Tonto, Coronado, Apache, and Sitgreaves National Forests in southern and central Arizona by June 2nd. June should see us finish off additional Forests in northern Arizona and heading for western Montana. The plan is to complete all the National Forests in Arizona, Montana, and Wyoming before turning to our home in Bisbee in early October. "Home." Doesn't that have a nice sound?
Suzi and Fred