Sulphur Springs Valley

January was dry and warm here in Cochise County, way down in the southeast corner of Arizona, and the skies have been clear. This time of year the moisture of the fall monsoon rains is just a memory and the blue of the skies deepens. The weather has been ideal for walking and I’ve made several forays up the canyon slopes.

Many of the canyon slopes are just too steep to ascend without using my hands, and there are numerous areas of loose scree. I’ve found that the paths used by javelinas and deer are always a help, as generations of the creatures seem to have found the best trails between the washes and ravines. A neighbor rides her horse along one path and has helped keep it clear.

Recently I walked up to the ridge, where the trail connects with a longer one which overlooks Bisbee from one end to the other. There was one spot which offered a splendid prospect of the Sulphur Springs Valley, a flat expanse of rock and sand over one thousand feet deep, the accumulated detritus of eons of erosion from the surrounding mountains. A thin film of human occupation and cultivation on the surface will be around for a short time, geologically speaking, before new upheavals reshape the landscape.

From the ridge-top the valley seems serene and only a few structures and roads can be made out. A decades old clump of cane cholla displays yellow fruit in the foreground:


Coming back down to the canyon bottom I somehow managed to lose the trail. I wandered back and forth and finally gave up looking for it. The way forward was obvious, if thickety: down, down, down!

A flash of color caught my eye in a glade surrounded by alligator junipers and and contorted Emory oaks. A weathered nylon backpack lay discarded in the scanty dead grass. Next to it was a worn cap with a rooster embroidered on the front.


It’s very likely these items were discarded by an illegal immigrant some years ago. Under a nearby acacia I noticed a rusty food can. I picked it up and was surprised to find that the can had never been opened. It had a pop-top lid and by the weight I guessed that it might contain fruit:


I didn’t open it.

A few days later I drove up to Juniper Flats, a granite mass on the north side of town. There are some beautiful prospects visible from the very rough and switch-backed road leading up to the flat area at the top. One turn-off is one of the best places to see Bisbee from above, a small town nestled in a canyon:


From another turn-off the Sulphur Springs Valley can be seen from different angle. In this shot a Buddhist temple can be seen perched on a rock outcrop. A local architect built the pagoda-like structure; he lives nearby, one of the few people living up on the flats.


Across the valley several mountain ranges can be seen. The largest and highest range is the Chiricuahas. This corner of Arizona was once granted to the Apaches when Cochise was the chief of the tribe. Once the European settlers discovered that money could be made here of the course the land was taken back.


4 comments on “Sulphur Springs Valley

  1. bev says:

    Excellent photos and account of one of my favourite landscapes!

  2. Marian Kay says:

    Hi Larry – I liked the way you described what is around Bisbee – I’ve always wondered about that. Also what is cane cholla – do you have a close-up of the flower and fruit and is it edible – marian

  3. Jesse Evans says:

    Nice to see one of your posts again Larry. Any progress on your land?
    Cheers, Jesse

  4. Dave Ayers says:

    Thanks for the photo tour, Larry. Oh, how I wish I could set up a telescope under those pristine skies!

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