We’ve landed in Bisbee, AZ and I am in love! Squeezed into a narrow gulch of the Mule Mountains in SE Arizona this ‘ol mining town has a European feel, a wild west flare and a hippy slant. Looking for a cute, artsy place with awesome food? Want to explore twisty, narrow roads that will challenge the width of your car mirrors? Like wandering around Victorian homes with a history of mining, local beer brewing and masses of surprising street-art? Well, this is your place honey! There ain’t nothing quite like it in Arizona and this is the authentic deal. If you’re just a wee bit bohemian you might never leave.
I probably would never even have considered coming here if it hadn’t been for Bayfield Bunch who’ve blogged about this place for years. Because of Al & Kelly we made it part of our tour this winter and I am overjoyed we did. We’ve squeezed into the local RV park and, despite the close quarters, we are having a total ball being right next to downtown. I don’t think words can completely describe how funky & cool this place is, but I’m going to give it the good ‘ol college try. Here’s my take in 2 clean parts…stay alert now…
1/ Cool DownTown Hikes
The unique geology of this little town makes it a naturally cool hiking spot. Bisbee winds it way through a narrow gulch and the city stretches precariously up the hillsides with an array of super-narrow streets, twisted curves and staircases. This makes for tons of interesting walks, two of which are “must do’s” if you’re in the area:
a) Bisbee 1000
One of the first things you’ll notice in Bisbee is that there are no end of staircases. This is a city of steps and if you want to do it like a local you’ll follow the pretty wall paintings and do the Bisbee 1000. It’s an official 5K run (step?) that’s held every Oct, but it doubles as an outstanding way to see the city.
We hooked up doggie and tackled the walk right from the RV park yesterday morning. The staircases are all marked by gorgeous paintings & if you follow the entire route you’ll take in the full gamut of interesting back-streets, stunning views and local sights….oh and a hard-core thigh burn too….wowzie! Since we started at the park and decided to throw in the “Iceman” our final tally was actually 1,426 steps (or 1,234 uphill and a mere 192 down). Oh yeah, thighs of STEEL baby! Totally awesome hike!!
b) Bisbee Hill & “The Shrine”
Everyone who comes to Bisbee will notice a white “B” and a rather interesting set of crosses that watch over town on a big red hill. Known as Bisbee Hill or Chihuahua Hill, the story goes that in 1980 Adolfo Vasquez promised God he’d build a shrine if God would save his eyesight. Apparently God did, and so Adolfo did too. Since that time the shrine has evolved and grown so not only are there now several crosses, but there are also smaller alcoves, lots of interesting statues & offerings and even a Buddhist corner. The hike is caught at the very end of OK street and scrambles around and up the mountain. It’s about 2 miles total to the top from the RV park and the best description of how to follow it is HERE. Once at the shrine you’ll get gorgeous views of Bisbee and if you’re feeling adventurous you can walk onwards to the “B” and down the other side…a fabulous walk & pooch-friendly too!
2/ Funky Street Art
I LOVE street art. There’s a free expression and honesty to street art that you just don’t get in other forms. Street art is unique, crazy, wonderful and invites everyone in to participate. Whether you love it or hate it, street art is a free gift and Bisbee is simply bursting with the stuff! In this town there is not a corner, not a road, not a building that doesn’t reveal some kind of art-form….and this is not staged stuff…it’s the real deal. You could create a photo-gallery just of Bisbee doors, and even the “dog park” (a home-made deal just down Brewery Avenue) is an art installation!! People seem to revel in creativity here and decorate their walls, their cars, their houses and their doors with their own vision. The town holds an official downtown art walk the 2nd Saturday of every month from 5-8PM, but you’ll actually get a better feel of the real street stuff just walking around town. We discovered a ton of hidden gems during our Bisbee 1000 walk (yet another reason to do it), but we found even more on the side-streets and talking to locals. Even if you just come to Bisbee to gawk at the street art, it’s totally worth it!
But these two things are not the end of our adventures here. We’ve been joined in Bisbee by none other than the Big White Beluga and have extended our stay at the RV park by another day because of…chocolate (and this despite 4 days of already chock-filled gastronomical exploration)! The food here has us drooling like Great Danes and deserves it’s very own blog post so it can be properly worshipped. So don’t go away…part II is coming soon.