The Ghost Town Trail, and More!

Richard Charpentier Arizona, Ghost Towns, Notes from Rich, Photography, RLC Design 5 Comments

bisbeeday2-6Ah yes, today was a whirlwind day.  The word exhausted can’t even catch up with me.  Just too far beyond it.

As I already posted, the first stop was the Lavendar Pit.  Just for Granny J!  I have a special photo of some grafatti left on a placard there, but I’ll save it for another time.  It’s interesting how people view history, and how negative feelings can gush through spray paint…..

Immediately after Lavendar we took a quick morning trip into Bisbee.  I wanted to gain the high ground and give a view of the town.  Fortunately with so many sets of stairs it wasn’t hard to find “high ground.”  Of course, we kept bumping into private residences.

I must say, if these folks have fires they’re screwed.  Really, no fire department truck is getting to many of these homes.  The truth of that statement is demonstrated by the vacant mountainside lots we passed that are currently being reconstructed.  If you can only get to your home via miniature sized stairs that climb for hundreds of yards, for goodness sake, get really good insurance!

By the way, the image you’re seeing isn’t exaggerated.  The stairs are steep, and there are a lot of them all over town!

Getting to the high ground was something of a workout for sure.  Yesterday we’d seen a photo from on high, and each of us wanted to get up there to take a few photos.  To add to the desire we ran into a couple who had just been above the town from the same vantage point of the photo we’d looked at.  They raved about the view, and they complained like hell about the walk up to the view.  The woman stated, “Hundreds and hundreds of steps.  Seriously!”

This morning we found out she was accurate.  No complaints about the climb up.  Just rest here, rest there, move along.

Ok, complaint time……  These stairs are NARROW.  I’ve got an 8.5 size for my shoes.  And I extended over each step.  No big deal on the way up, but on the way down?  Are ya kidding?  Good lord, who were these steps designed for really?  The feet of 5 year olds?  And is that what it takes to get your groceries up to your high view home?  Bands of 5 year old children willing to walk on the edge for a quarter?

bisbeeday2-7Ah, I feel better now!

Honestly, the view was amazing.  The town is amazing.  And of course I jest a little.  Let it be known however that I do not jest about how freakishly narrow the steps are.  Seriously, engineers are needed!

By the way, I bet the image of the town you’re looking at is the first HDR created from this vantage point.  I’m slightly proud to say that!  Hope you enjoy the picture.  Remember, I huffed and puffed up crazy steps to bring it to you.  The I survived the walk down, tumbled infrequently, and kept the camera in tact in order to share.

That’s a lot of work.  Just saying.

Oh, and the image is not yet complete.  More work is necessary.  When I return to the gallery I’ve got a ton of work to do.  Nothing like sorting nearly 1000 photos!

bisbeeday2-8Once more we walked Bisbee.  This time early in the morning.  That’s an experience as well.  The town is not incredibly well lit you know.  The morning sun is blocked well past sunrise thanks to the mountains.  The sun begins setting after 3 p.m. thanks to the mountains.  Not a ton of time in direct sunlight nestled in a valley you know.

Since we had our tour number two I had another chance to shoot the Copper Queen Hotel.  A very cool structure with so much potential.  I could probably shoot around it and in it for days.  Unfortunately I don’t have days, and this is my first visit to the are.  I will be returning soon without question.

On that note, I’ve got to say it’s hard to come to a place with only a few days in search of images that really wow you.  Realistically I’d like several days in Bisbee to pick the things I want to photograph, consider lighting, etc.  But in addition to this town I also wanted to check out surrounding ghost towns, and a few places near Tucson.  Talk about compressing a ton of work into a small frame of time.

Now that I’ve been here a few days I have a feel for what I really want to image.  Next trip I’ll get to that.  This trip was just the primer!

bisbeeday2-9With that said, we moved on from Bisbee pretty quickly.  After Sadira got some coffee and a muffin we set our compass toward Toombstone.  And no, we didn’t linger there.  It’s a very touristy town that is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each year.  I wanted something more remote, more unknown, more mysterious.

What that all means is I wanted to drive the truck on wretched wash board roads for hours at a time in order to feel that I was getting the “real AZ ghost town” experience.  I’m such a ghost town snob!

After gassing up in Toombstone and quickly viewing the downtown we went in search of some really desolate spots.  Gleeson, Courtland, and Pearce were on the schedule.  And there were in fact washboard roads that rattled our bones.

The pay off for desolate spots was big.  Old jail houses (currently being restored for some strange reason), half collapsed saloons, old mining claims, collapsing homes, and plenty of adobe!  Can’t get that in a well known tourist hot spot!  Well, not to my knowledge at least!

bisbeeday2-10Our journey took us along the “Ghost Town Trail.”  Seriously, one of the roads we traveled bore that name.  And it was appropriate.  Old mining operations scarred the hillsides, buildings along the road fell in on themselves, and you just wondered what eyes were watching from the hills.  No claim jumping here.  I’d just be happy to photograph what you extracted from the ground!

Travel along the “Ghost Town Trail” was bumpy and jarring, but we weren’t alone.  Rental cars buzzed by in the opposite direction.  Small Hondas with really pimped out ladies inside buzzed past.  Of course, they always looked too good to be travelling the road, and let us know by refusing to wave back.  Ah, if only I were that cool……  Oh wait, I like my Titan and it’s 4 wheel drive for such adventures….maybe I was too cool to wave to them and just forgot!

The afternoon was quite the adventure!

Our final wrap up took place in Pearce, AZ.  What a cool little spot.  It was supposed to be an abandoned ghost town, but there’s still some life there.  And some barbed wire.

bisbeeday2-11It’s at this point I must lodge a complaint.  Barbed wire around really cool ghost town sites.  What the heck?  Seriously, could you be more cruel?  Yes, I understand private property, and I’m a property rights kind of a guy (lived in NH for more than a decade).  But still, you’ve got a cool junked paddy wagon right behind your razor wire and you won’t let me take a picture….COME ON!  IT’S JUST A CANON CAMERA!

Of course, I agree with the barbed wire on another level.  One amazing abandoned jail house had a huge gang moniker across it, making it worthless to me for a photograph.  The building rocked.  The lousy spray painted message by some morons from Tucson did not.  I guess there’s the justification for the barbed wire.

I once ripped a pair of favorite shorts jumping barbed wire for a photo……  I said never again, but after today I’m not so sure!

Good to be done with my little mental off shoot and out of the italics, don’t you think?

Back to Pearce…..

What a cool little town.  Almost as quickly as we exited the insane washboard road we came across a T in the road.  On one side, the old post office for the town, still standing, still looking as though it was in service.  On the other side an old general store, still clearly in use.

Actually, if you look at the photo you’ll see it’s for sale.  If you’re into selling lumber and mining supplies this might be the business opportunity you’ve been looking for.  I’m sorry to say I didn’t write down the phone number.  I did however take many pictures, and maybe the number would be readily available in a blown up print…….which I’ll charge you a fortune for!  🙂

We spent a good while walking around the microcosim of a town.  Navigating barbed wire here and there we were able to collect several more photos of buildings that don’t have long on this planet.  Lonely buildings with many stories.  Hey, that’s why I took this trip.

bisbeeday2-13It will take me the next few weeks to sort everything I’ve found here in southern AZ.  And it will take just as long to select the shots I really like.  Then it will take me a few months to select the places I ned to visit once more to get the real photos I want to come away with.  That’s just my process, and it works for me.

In the meantime, I sure hope I’ve provided some interesting visual aids that take you into today’s adventure.  It was a good one, and I sure miss doing this kind of thing!  I think I’ll make a regular habit of this type of excursion this year.  I know Ian wants to take a trip or two……


Well, you’ll just have to wait and see!

Comments 5

  1. Looks and sounds like you have had a terrific photo journey. Perhaps if you wouldn’t mind having a little company on your next adventure, you could post notice in advance so others of us who love to photograph and travel about in Airstreams or even SOBs could come along. I certainly want to get out more and explore the nooks and crannies of our fabulous state. The Airstream is ready to go at a moment’s notice. Cheers.

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    Ah yes Mike. I will post in advance in the near future. I wanted a bit of a private jaunt this go round as I needed an unwind…. 🙂

    What’s up and coming?

    Monument Valley – April

    Anza-Borrego – End of February / March. 1 week booked already, 3 other Airstreams coming.

    Lake Powell – June

    West Clear Creek – 4 day hike / swim in July

    Grand Canyon – 4 days March / April with my business partner Ian.

    That’s what we know so far. More will be coming. With the advent of the gallery I’m planning 1 week per month of travel and photography.

    By the way, I want to organize a photo walk in Bisbee for September or October. I’ll be starting a thread on Flickr about that very soon!

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    Oh, one follow up Mike.

    We’re heading for Pichaco Peak on Sunday. We’ll be staying for the night. In case you’re still there, thought I’d tell you.

    Tomorrow we’ll be outside of Tucson for a specific photo shoot that I’ve been wanting to do for months!

    Maybe we’ll see you Sunday!!!

  4. As always, the pictures are stunning. Count me in for the Monument Valley trip in April. I know with the knowledge I have now, my photos can be even more stunning. Oh and a much improved camera and lens with me this time will help!

    Awesome pictures can’t wait to see the rest!!!!

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