The next day, it was time to bid goodbye to beautiful Tucson and hit the road—final destination: somewhere-in-New-Mexico. In preparation for the trip, I fashioned a “guide” of 3 possible routes to Santa Fe that could be changed depending on weather conditions (or if we were feeling spontaneous). Since there were no blizzards on the horizon (Santa Fe had one only days earlier), we picked the southern route so that we could hit a few ghost towns and cool national parks. We drove down south to the quirky little town of Bisbee, AZ, a favorite of my photographer mother who has been enamored by the brightly colored houses, quaint cafes, and artsy vibes since her first trip there last year. She picked our breakfast spot, the Bisbee Breakfast Club, which was actually in a restored ghost town called Lowell just down the road from Bisbee. Our breakfast nook sat on a sleepy and unassuming street with rusty vintage pickup trucks. After cramming our faces full of hot, butter-soaked biscuits, peppery bacon, and house-made potato pancakes, we went to walk it off in Bisbee. Once a popular mining town, Bisbee has become an artist and antiques mecca, with dozens of little shops and buildings that look like they’ve been painted with water colors. My mother made friends with a street singer strumming a guitar made out of a leather suitcase as his long silver beard swayed in the wind. My mother makes friends far more easily than I ever have. She always takes their pictures—like a visual diary of random encounters.
Apprehensive about the time, we left and quickly sped off down Route 10 towards Chiricahua National Park (a name that I butchered absolutely every time I said it…including the time I tried to explain it to border patrol). We whizzed into open road country like a bright red race car, snapping photos like lightning bolts. The road stretched for a hundred miles in front of us—remote, rural, and raw. I experienced a few sweat-inducing panicked moments when my old-school digital camera ran out of memory just as I approached the perfect road shot, forcing to me to remember that I can’t take pictures of EVERY DIRT ROAD I see (I’m obsessed…). I had to remind my mother of this same notion the time when she confidently backed the car up on a major highway in order to capture a missed photo moment, sending my brother and I into sheer and unexpected panic. We’re a weird group.
We got to Chiricahua at around 4pm, not long before sunset. We picked the 8-mile scenic
drive to the peak, which boasted views of dozens of rugged rock formations. The trees and cliffs that hugged the winding road became blanketed in flurry snow as we neared the top. At the peak, the snow had frozen into ice, forming wind-whipped crystals that clung to mountain branches. There was a low-lying fog that encased the mountain and made it feel like we were driving off into the clouds. The sky was a serene and mystifying shade of greyish blue and the cool fog blew through us as we walked out of our car. We strolled onto a rocky path and I was instantly overwhelmed by the landscape. It was like being inside a dream—an eerie Deja-vu sensation. The fog, brightly lit from behind by the beaming sunshine, coated the rock formations in a mystical aura. It felt like the sun was only a few feet beyond our view, shining more brightly and forcefully than I had ever seen on a mountaintop. Every once and a while I would see a mountain peak shine through or the translucent outline of a rock structure just beneath the endless white. It was captivating, and almost consuming—standing in the misty stillness as the rock’s solo visitors. I have only experienced that kind of overwhelm a few times in my life, and it’s a feeling that I’m always chasing.
As the sun became pink and disappeared, we whizzed down the highway in the pitch black and turned into our motel in Lordsburg, NM, booked 40 minutes prior—my mind still captive to the mountain.