It’s an adventure in and of itself simply to get to Bisbee. Road warriors are advised to place both hands on the wheel and hang on for an adventure. For someone approaching in the black, crisp curtain of the evening, you might find yourself winding through the mountains with your windows down, guided only by the light of glistening heavenly bodies and the glow of your vehicle’s dim headlights, the summer air whipping your hair at each turn. When you least expect it, this mountainside gem proudly presents itself in front of your unexpected eyes. Welcome to Bisbee, Arizona.
Quaint. Individualistic. Hidden. Special. Chill. Welcoming. Funky. Prideful. Artisan. Eclectic. Historic. Bohemian. All of these things are the essence and the soul of this wonderful town less than ten miles north of the border of Mexico. My friends and I spent two days winding up and down the cobblestone streets, tasting local brews and listening to the sounds that define this diverse community. While some might enjoy a warm day in Bisbee with a quick dip in the pool at the historic Copper Queen Hotel, it also comes highly recommended to escape the sunshine and venture to the cool caverns of the Copper Queen Mine. While my weekend getaway included both luxuries, this tale is about the mine.
Arriving half an hour early to the 9 a.m. tour, I wasn’t terribly sure what I was getting myself into.
“Wait over here to get geared up, ma’am,” the mine employee instructed us with a wink.
I did as I was told, shuffled in his direction, and took my position to get suited up. Helmet. Jacket. Flashlight. I felt ready. There was also a small tinge of anxiety bubbling up as I began to comprehend the journey ahead: immersing myself in the 47-degree mine at 1,500 feet underground. I had my coffee in hand, which felt like a safety net in case things went awry.
To our delight and surprise, the guide of our tour turned out to be the owner of the mine and a miner himself, which we quickly learned equated to profound knowledge and a big personality. We rode downward on our mine cart, and as we trudged our way deeper into history, we also found ourselves arriving in a very new world.
While the Copper Queen Mine is no longer an active mine, it was easy to see how the inner workings took place some 37 years ago. It was an intricate underground society complete with elevator shafts, 100-foot tall “stopes” (the mining term for “rooms”), evidence of dynamite demolition – you name it. Keeping true to the city’s originality, our guide walked us through each detail as if we were employees of the mine, offering tidbits and instruction, and leading into each scenario with an example of how we’d approach the job, and how critical it was to mind each step.
As we made our way to the surface, my mind was blown. I’m a curious person, yes, but the first-hand account of an operation that was once one of the largest and most sophisticated producers of copper in the world was something to be treasured. What a legendary piece of history we have right in our backyard.
If I had to walk away from Bisbee with one word, I’d be hard pressed to find the right one. But for now, I might leave it at this: refreshing.
See for yourself, adventure seekers.
Rebekah Bell is the Director of Advertising for the Arizona Office of Tourism. A 5-year-resident of the Valley of the Sun, she can be found seeking outdoor adventures across the state, sampling locally crafted brews, or exploring quaint Phoenix hideaways. This was her first journey to Bisbee, Arizona.