¥. ¥. ¥.
We left behind the ghost mining towns to explore one that hasn't gone bust and faded into the desert: Bisbee, Arizona.
In the 1880s, Bisbee grew up in the Mule Mountains adjacent to the Copper Queen Mine. By 1910 its population had swelled to 9000 miners and their families. Open-pit mining came into practice as the need for copper soared during World War I.
Coming out of the desert and up the mountains into the town, you are welcomed to Bisbee with the promise of a Scenic View.
The Lavender Mine is what you see. The open pit is 4000 feet wide, 5000 feet (that's nearly a mile!) long, and 850 deep. It's stunning.
My first reaction was dismay. I've never seen such desecration of nature. This is not the awesome beauty of land opened by Nature over eons of time, like the Grand Canyon or even Chiricahua National Monument. It's more like ripping open a private part of the earth never meant to be seen and leaving the insides of its carcass lying exposed. I felt like a bug standing next to such a vast hole.
Looking at the photos now, I can be awed by the human feat of engineering it is, the beauty in the colors, and the opportunity to see what is hidden deep beneath our feet.
The colors of the layers visible are from the different minerals in the pit. The surface red rock of the mountains is oxidized sulfide. The gray is a granite layer containing small amounts of copper. The yellow is a layer of rocks embedded in clay that surrounds the granite, and the lavender is limestone and conglomerate rocks cemented together which is considered waste as it has no copper in it.
Copper is an excellent conductor of electricity. I'm not sure what it was needed for in war, but it became vital in every home, car, electronic device, appliance, etc. etc. By the 1970s Bisbee's mines had run out and they closed. A sign says that with new technology for extracting the small amounts of copper left in Bisbee and an increasing demand for copper, Bisbee's mines could open again in the future.
I didn't get very good photos of Bisbee itself. The streets of the town are built into the mountainsides, winding steeply one above the other. It's now the home of artists and eccentric old-timers, a cute little town with shops in the old buildings and old miner's cottages colorfully painted, surrounded by clever little flower gardens and rented to tourists.
Many of the cottages are reachable only by steep old stairways.
We ate lunch in a restored building with a nice view of the hilly streets.
A mining museum is the centerpiece of the town, located in the old post office and surrounded by sculptures and places to sit it the shade.
This one was my favorite because it shows off the minerals and gems of the area, including the turquoise which I love and is a byproduct of copper mining.