Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Keep Bisbee Weird

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." -Hunter S. Thompson as requoted by Karl, couchsurfing extraordinaire

We really didn't expect a whole lot out of Bisbee, AZ. We only decided to go there because it was close to the border and had a person on couchsurfing with a place to stay. Bisbee ended up being a definite highlight of our trip thus far. The drive to Bisbee is beautiful because despite being desert, it is green and has different kinds of trees than in the desert. This is because the elevation is about the same as in Denver (approximately 5300 feet). Tombstone is not far away so we stopped in to take a look. They have preserved the town well, but it is quite the tourist trap, with hired actors dressed as old West characters.

This is the courthouse. It closed at 5 and we got there at 10 'til. As soon as we walked in the door the person selling tickets told us they were closed and was pretty serious about us not looking around too much.


Driving into Bisbee, you see a lot of houses built into a mountain. The town was established in the 1880s and a lot of the original buildings still exist.

Downtown Bisbee

Our couchsurfing host, Karl, lives in an awesome old house, moved over from Tombstone in 1906, that he has been pretty much rebuilding for the past 8 years. He was a very cool guy with lots of amazing experience, like hitchhiking through Africa, and a lot of great knowledge about the area. He took us for a driving tour of the town and cooked us dinner, then we hit up a few bars to check out the local scene. Bisbee has a very different feel than most towns and it collects a variety of odd characters. There are even cave dwellers that still live just outside of town.

The following day, Karl took us on a hike outside of town along the San Pedro river. (Who would've expected a riparian area in the middle of southern AZ?) It is known for its birds and we saw lots of really cool bird, highlights included the elegant great blue heron and the small bright red vermillion flycatchers. The hike also took us to the ruins of a town called Charleston, "The Town too Mean to Live" (in contrast to Tombstone's slogan "The Town too Tough to Die"). Charleston was run by the Clantons, rivals of the Earps in Tombstone, that led up to the gunfight at the OK Corral. Apparently the town was really too mean to live and was eventually abandoned after a flood in the late 1800's. The US government practiced bombing it during WWII but several walls still remain of the structures.

Us at Ruins

Charleston Ruins

Not far from the ghost town there were several petroglyphs made by the Native Americans who lived there. It is estimated that some of the glyphs were from 2-3000 years ago.


After the hike, closer to Old Bisbee we passed one of the old copper mines that surround the area. The mines are not currently active, but the area will definitely feel the effects of the mine for a long time to come.

Copper Mine

All in all, we had a wonderful time in Bisbee. Karl was a great host and we really enjoyed hanging out with him for 2 days.

In the morning we headed for the Douglas/Agua Prieta border and got across in 1 hour. We made it to Hermosillo, Mexico with absolutely no problems and stayed with a couchsurfing connection there. We are about to head to Bahia de Kino to go to the beach and will post more about our wonderful experiences in Mexico soon.


  1. Hey, I did a water balance project for work on the San Pedro River. I'd love to see that area sometime. The Aravaipa Canyon, which is tributary is supposed to be spectacular. Looks like you guys are off to a good start!

  2. Ha, my comment verification word for the last post was "pootop".

  3. That area is gorgeous! Maybe work will sponsor a trip to Bisbee to make sure you fully understood the intracies of the watershed. Or even if not, it´s still worth seeing.