On The Hilltop

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There’s a hilltop in Bisbee, Arizona, just a few miles north of the Mexican border. It sits over Brewery Gulch, casting its shadow over the canyon homes. The last several months I lived in Bisbee I was in a deeply disturbing relationship and everything around me seemed to be in chaos, but I would hike up to the cross on the hill every morning with my dog and enjoy the quiet and the peace.

I’m not a religious man, but I believe in the power of intention. I’d heard stories about the man who built this shrine, decades ago, and about the effort it took, hauling concrete and materials, an armload at a time, from Tombstone Canyon up to the hilltop. In the years since the cross was erected, other people have added onto the shrine. The ashes of peoples’ loved ones have been spread there, piles of candles have been left on the backside of the hill where a shrine to the Guadalupe Virgin has been built. A mural of Jesus is painted on the side of the hill and a monument to the people who have died in the desert trying to cross into America has been established; at the site, people deposit items found in the desert, left behind by border crossers, from backpacks and worn-out shoes to tooth brushes and baby bottles.

My heart is still in the Mule Mountains, even if it’s no longer in Bisbee. I will never forget the brief moments, sitting on the hilltop on those silent mornings, watching the sun rise over the desert.

May 31, 2017 – San Rafael Valley

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To end the month of ‘places’ I figured I’d share a picture that doesn’t really require many words. Sunrise in the San Rafael Valley, in southern Arizona along the border, is some of the most beautiful countryside I’ve ever set eyes on, traveled through, camped in. There’s no other place in the world like this little pocket of heaven; it’s high desert, remote, dangerous, and hot, but it’s also unique, majestic, and largely untouched by man.

It’s the picture of heaven – at least, if you were to ask me.
Farewell, May. Let’s see what June has in store…

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May 30, 2017 – Tumacacori

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“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”
~Mahatma Gandhi

Tumacacori is the site of Mission San José de Tumacácori, an 18th Century Franciscan mission. It takes its name from an earlier mission site founded by Father Eusebio Kino in 1691, which is on the east side of the Santa Cruz River south of the national park. This particular mission was founded at an extant native O’odham settlement and represents the first mission in southern Arizona.

The later Franciscan mission, now in ruins, was never rebuilt once it was abandoned after repeated Apache raids in the 19th century. Nearby Tubac was besieged in 1861.

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May 29, 2017 – Driftwood

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No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.
~Heraclitus

During my time living in the more remote areas of Cochise County in Southeastern Arizona, I made it a point to walk along the trails that followed the San Pedro river. Depending on the time of year, different wildlife could be spotted, from roosting owls to large fish and frogs, as well as javelina, coyotes, and deer.

I could easily fill an album with photographs of the flowers, the driftwood, the butterflies and the beaver dams.
For some reason, this image always stood out to me.

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May 24, 2017 – Winter in Bisbee

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“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?”
~John Steinbeck

A small town is a strange place to live, but I loved living on the hill looking over Old Bisbee. Up on High Road, this was the view from my deck. I watched winter storms descend in January and monsoon storms roll through the canyons in July. There’s no other place like it in the world.

But life moves on and things change. The view will always be beautiful, but I eventually had to leave.
This image was taken in February of 2012. A crisp, dry morning with snow dusting the hillsides.

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May 23, 2017 – Whitewater Draw

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Whitewater Draw, originally Rio de Agua Prieta – “the river of dark water” – is a tributary stream of the Rio de Agua Prieta in Cochise County, Arizona. Famously, this is the wetlands where the sandhill cranes migrate to during the winter months. In the shadows of the Chiricahua Mountains in the Coronado National Forest, this remote destination is about a forty-five minute drive from Bisbee, Arizona, the old mining town I once called home.

I used to go out here to photograph the birds and capture these colorful sunsets. One of the great benefits from living in a small town like Bisbee is the lack of traffic and the abundance of unspoiled land like this.

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May 22, 2017 – Glenwood

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Glenwood is a small little hamlet in Catron County, New Mexico, less than an hour north of Silver City. Officially founded in 1878, fewer than two-hundred people live there today; the silver and gold rush had, once upon a time, attracted a healthy number of people looking to carve their way into the riverbeds and canyons to earn their fortune.

As part of the Gila National Forest, there are some pristine landscapes. There’s also a small little area known as ‘The Catwalk,’ a National Recreation Trail, which follows the route of the old pipeline used by mining operations along the side of Whitewater Canyon.

Little else is here save for abandoned houses and defunct businesses slowly being reclaimed by nature. Just my kind of place.

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May 21, 2017 – Drifter

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Silver City, New Mexico is a special little town. It’s the kind of town my family would stay the night on the way from one destination to another during vacation. It’s the kind of town that begs you to get out of the car, stretch your legs, and walk around for a while, with a greasy-spoon diner and some art galleries to explore. It’s the kind of town you tell yourself “gosh, if I could only find t he excuse, I’d love to live in a place like this.”

Sadly, it is also a small town and opportunities are scarce.
Sadly, it’s the kind of town that’s easy to talk yourself out of ever moving to.

So, from time to time, I would find an excuse to spend the weekend here. A drive through the Gila National Forest with frequent stops to take photographs of the landscape and wildlife. Coffee shops and leisurely strolls downtown. I’m not sure if “The Drifter” is still there, but I’m guessing it is. I could look it up, of course, but I’d rather just find out for myself the next time I roll into town.

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May 19, 2017 – Somewhere In New Mexico

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Hillsboro, New Mexico, is one of those places you would never know existed unless you intentionally decided to go out of your way. Luckily for me, that’s something I try to always do when traveling cross-country. The interstate is efficient, but it divorces the driver from the surrounding world; state routes always take you through winding paths, beautiful scenic views, and into strange little towns.

Hillsboro is due north of Deming, New Mexico, just off state route 152. It’s right on the edge of the Gila National Forest, and the winding road takes you through some absolutely gorgeous territory. When I last passed through, it was late October and the trees were dropping yellow leaves all around. The town proper is tiny – if you blink, you’ll miss it. There’s a post office, a couple of empty store fronts, and quaint little manicured lawns. According to the 2010 census, only 124 people live here. Like so many other small towns of the Southwest, Hillsboro was primarily a mining town, but even at its height in the late 1880s, the population never swelled past one thousand.

Always keep your eyes peeled when you’re on the road. There are a lot of interesting little places out there, just waiting for you.

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May 18, 2017 – Middle of Nowhere

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If I could, I would live my entire life on the road. I’ve been told that I can be a frustrating travel companion, always wanting to take the longer route, avoiding the interstate, and stopping constantly to take pictures. The obsession with ‘making good time’ has ruined travel for a lot of people – for me, it’s the diners, the gas stations, the random encounters, the getting lost of it all that means the most.

I make frequent stops and I ask a lot of questions, and I always have my camera with me.
There’s a lot to see out there and I’m just the kind of guy who finds boring things, like today’s image of the day, to be really interesting. But when you’re the kind of guy who can fill ninety minutes fidgeting with a few paper clips and a rubber band, or folding index cards into paper footballs, then photography is one hell of a great passion to develop; there’s never a dull moment because there’s always something new to discover.

Today’s image was made in the middle of nowhere, and I don’t take notes. I’m pretty sure this is somewhere in unincorporated areas of Western Kansas, but this could be New Mexico, too. That whole region looks the same, really, and driving through it feels like an eternity. But it’s the perfect stretch of road to turn on the radio, roll the windows down, and let your thoughts drift. There’s nothing more glorious than flying down the road with only your thoughts (and maybe your camera) to keep you company.

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