Summer is back again, friends. Here in the desert, folks are bracing for the usual six month stretch of triple digit temperatures. (As I write these words, it's 105 degrees outside; tomorrow threatens to reach 114.) But that won't stop my wife and me from piling the car with maps and bottles of water and going in search for local old shit.
Last year at this time, we set out for the area southeast of Tucson, home of the Chiricaua mountain range. The region boasts such pictureque towns as Tombstone and Bisbee, as well as small but determined agricultural community. (It's also an area popular with smugglers and private militias, but that's another story.)
Unfortunately, many of the sites on our must-see list of ghost towns cannot be approached in a vehicle as small as ours. In fact, we had to abort one hunt after more than an hour, for fear of getting stuck in the sandy terrain. Actually, we were lucky. Once we were back safe in the city, we discovered the heat had killed our battery. So, if we HAD managed to access our destination, we most likely would have been stranded there, more than fifty miles away from anywhere, in the middle of the desert, in the middle of summer. Nice.
As it was, we pushed ourselves pretty hard that day. We arrived at Fairbank just before lunchtime, and actually walked over a mile in the midday heat to a nearby graveyard atop a hill. This was borderline stupid behavior, so afterward we quicky fled to Bisbee for food, rest and water.
Despite its remote location, as a destination, Bisbee never dissapoints. You can point your camera anywhere -- you're bound to catch plenty of standard picturesque Bisbee fare: makeshift cement staircases, open drainage pits, narrow streets winding precariously up the into the hillside neighborhoods, and lots of European-style homes that make it easy to forget you're but a dozen miles from Mexico.
Ironically, European influence was thought to be so prevalent in the town that Bisbee authorities staged a huge roundup and deportation of immigrants during World War One. Incited by a labor dispute between the copper mines and a work force "infiltrated" by the Industrial Workers of the World, the cops packed more than one thousand European miners onto trains at gunpoint and dumped them in the New Mexico desert. All perfectly legal.
North of Bisbee, abandoned settlements in various states of ruin dot the landscape all the way up to Interstate 10. There are as many exploration opportunities as you have the energy for. Unfortunately, we were running out of steam by this time, and were both getting cranky. So we wandered around Gleason for a bit, then called it a day.
Naturally, the pages devoted to Fairbank, Bisbee and Gleason at the Ghost Town Gallery site run by Daniel Ter-Nedden and Carola Schibli put my meager Flickr offerings to shame. They also have some great pictures of Lowell, which is right across the road from Bisbee. Or what's left of it anyway.