Excursions from Tucson
Just a few hours of scenic off-interstate driving east and south of Tucson, small historic mining towns, forested sky-island mountain ranges, underground fantasy worlds still being formed by slowly dripping water, a secret landscape where rocks stand to attention, and a bustling, colorful, exotic borderland await discovery.
Even if you’re only in town for a week or so, set aside one or two days to explore both Cochise County to the east and Santa Cruz County to the south. Both counties straddle the U.S.-Mexico border and are still willfully haunted by the violent past of the old territory, and both are rather sparsely populated, dotted with a few old-timer ranches still scraping along, and even more mass-produced pueblo-revival and hacienda-style high-dollar dream homes owned by baby-boomer runaways.
The spirit and culture of Mexico pervades the towns of southeastern Arizona, but so does the crafty hippie ethos of the artists, artisans, and burnouts that have transformed once-moribund mining towns like Bisbee into tourist-friendly attractions.
The legendary West of the imagination (along with a bit of real history as well) is on display in Tombstone; and the actual West, the one ruled by capitalists and their hard-rock-mining minions, is illuminated by headlamp-light on a tour deep underground.
Also underground, Kartchner Caverns State Park, just an hour or so outside the city, beckons day-trippers to explore its otherworldly dripping-water innards, and its swirling colors and odd, thrilling mineral formations are nearly as memorable as the sweeping grassland deserts and high, isolated mountain ranges all around.
© Tim Hull from Moon Tucson, 1st Edition