As chance would have it, I have been to Arizona about 7 times this year for various assignments, workshops, commissions and my personal project along the borderlands, American Macondo. I have always sensed the wildness of this place. The assignment for National Geographic Traveler allowed me to delve deeper into real, imagined and remembered wilderness of this land. Retracing writer April Orcutt’s steps through Cochise County, I started off in Tombstone where I was promptly asked if I was “packing heat, little lady?” Um, no.
The outlaw history lives on in the dusty streets of Tombstone in the form of outlandish reenactors and yet, a few miles away “cowpunchers” still work the craggy land, herding cattle and fending off mountain lions, just like they always have. The land becomes stranger and stranger driving down towards Douglas for quick stop at the haunted Gadsen hotel, sitting within a stone’s throw of the Mexican border. I encountered a sad looking group of migrants by the road, freshly caught by border patrol. Later that day, I met up the founder of the Broken Spoke motorcycle Saloon who took me on a winding motorcycle tour of the Mule Mountains and beautiful Bisbee (a treasure of a town).
After a few days of driving deeper and deeper into Cochise County, the past and present merge and overlap in strange ways. There is something profound about hiking through these canyons where the Apache lived. The calls of the birds and other animals at nightfall in the Chiricahua National Monuemnt was surreal and transcendent. Arizona is still the wild west.
Here’s the layout (published November 2013) edited by the amazing Krista Rossow: