We visited the little town ofÂ Bisbee on Thanksgiving Day. Bisbee has an interesting history. In 1877, a reconnaissance detail of Army scouts and cavalrymen was sent to the Mule Mountains to search the area for renegade Apaches. What they found instead were signs of mineralization in the mountains, specifically the presence of lead, copper and silver. The first mining claim was staked in what would later become the City of Bisbee. The filing of this and other claims sent prospectors and speculators scurrying to the Mule mountains in hopes of striking it rich. Numerous rich copper ore bodies were found, and Bisbee soon became known as the “Queen of the Copper Camps.”
During almost a century of mining, 8 billion pounds of copper were produced in Bisbee. By 1974 the ore reserves had been depleted and miningÂ operations closed. The town today is a well-known artist’s community whose architectural and historic heritage has been preserved. Located at the center of the natural and historic beauty of Cochise County, the city has transformed itself into an ideal spot for tourism.
This could have been serious! The town is literally located on a steep hillside. Streets have been carved out of the mountain, with treacherous little winding roads leading to homes precariously perched on the cliff-like hills. Wanting to “see it all” we set out on a self-guided tour of the neighborhoods in our trusty new Jeep. I wondered why others had paid to see the area by taking the “Purple Jeep Tour.” I soon found out. As we climbed the ever increasingly steep roads, we approached what appeared to me as a fork in the road. A street sign warned: “Do not enter. No turnaround.” Florence barked at me to turn around, but I wasn’t convinced that I couldn’t keep driving. The street sign only applied to the road that forked to the left, right? After driving another 50 yards up a steep incline we abruptly came to a dead end. There was no place to turn around, period. The only way out would be to back down the road which was far from straight and which was bordered by a steep incline down the mountain! I thought we’d have to abandon the Jeep and somehow figure out how to get back to town on our own. I figured the car would just stay in place forever! Or it would have to be air-lifted out of there! Just then, an elderly gentleman interrupted his morning walk to assess our situation and strike up a conversation. Turns out he’d lived on that hill for years and, God bless him, he backed our car down that little road to safety. I don’t know how he did it. I mean this little road was about as crooked as Lombard Street in San Francisco! Next time I’ll pay more attention to the road signs in the area. Come to think of it, there’s not going to be a next time for me to drive on the hills of Bisbee, Arizona!
WHEW! THAT WAS A CLOSE CALL!