Up Zacatecas Canyon

Walk downhill from just about anywhere in Bisbee and you will end up at an area which is the confluence of two canyons, Tombstone Canyon and Zacatecas Canyon. At this downtown nexus you will find the post office and the library along with a bank and many shops and other businesses. Everyone in town passes through this area at one time or another.

The “town end” of Zacatecas Canyon is called Brewery Gulch, locally known as “the Gulch”. Most of Bisbee’s bars are clustered there, but if you follow the twists and turns of the canyon it becomes residential, a unique neighborhood housing the more unconventional of Bisbee’s inhabitants, which is saying something! There are so many abrupt bends in the street that you have to drive slowly — it’s really more of a street for walkers.

Eventually you will come to an old-fashioned store called Mimosa Market, which in my mind marks the demarcation between the Gulch and Zacatecas Canyon. The street becomes rougher and narrower after that, eventually giving way to rough cobbles. Prudent drivers will begin to wonder if they will ever find a place to turn around. Some of the houses are vacant. Eventually there are no more houses and the true and enduring nature of Zacatecas Canyon manifests itself.

Late yesterday afternoon I became embroiled in a really pointless and stupid “discussion” on a Facebook group for Bisbee people. I was having trouble refraining from making scathing comments and, as they say around here, the vibes were bad. I decisively closed my laptop, hopped in my truck, and drove as far as I could up Brewery Gulch. I found a place to park past Mimosa Market and began to walk up Zacatecas Canyon until the scene became suitably wild and thorny. Just the way I like it!

A side-canyon beckoned to me and I began clambering up and around schist outcrops. A trickle of water was still flowing, evidence of recent monsoon rains. Plants were flowering all around, the contrast of bright dots of floral color with the enduring gray-green of the vegetation was calming to my soul. A very light drizzle of rain was falling, and the sky was gray.

I shot a few photos on this excursion. It’s nearly impossible to capture the feel of these desert canyons, so I tend to go for the close-up macro shots of plants and such.

A very common summer plant in Bisbee and the surrounding canyons is this charming little morning glory, Ipomoea cristulata. The vines are all over Bisbee’s alleys and street-sides. Once a woman, a long-time Bisbee resident, said to me “Sometimes I think that morning glory vines are what hold Old Bisbee together!” I like to see the plant in its native canyon and wash habitat:


Here are some morning glory vines climbing up and around a rigid clump of Sotol, a relative of the Yuccas and Agaves:


Such a charming sight! Off to one side of the sub-canyon I saw a Devil’s Claw plant which has been forming its fruits. Notice how a morning glory vine has wrapped itself around the plump fruit:


These fruits are edible at this stage, but as they ripen they split and the two halves form wickedly-curved horns which snag onto any creature happening by.

Now and then I encountered a diminutive species of sage, Salvia subincisus, also known as Sawtooth Sage. This is an easily-overlooked plant, as the plant is only six inches tall, and the flowers are only three-eighths of an inch long. A couple of weeks from now these sages will have set seed and won’t be noticeable again until next summer, after the rains.


I enjoyed this densely-packed passage of botanical English from a published description of this Salvia:

The flowers are each followed by a ribbed, bilobed, glandular-hairy, green to dark purple fruiting calyx that dries to brown and contains tan-colored nutlets.

I’m glad not to be “glandular-hairy” and would prefer not to have “tan-colored nutlets”. Just the thing for a Salvia, though!

One of the last houses in Zacatecas Canyon belongs to two friends of mine, a couple with whom I regularly play music. I was on the canyon slope opposite their house when I took the above photos. Here’s a photo of their house, the lair of two true canyon-dwellers:


I got back to my apartment, opened the laptop, and found that the roiling discussion was still going on in that Bisbee Facebook group. Once again I was drawn in — after all, when someone is wrong on the internet something must be done!


3 comments on “Up Zacatecas Canyon

  1. bev says:

    Nice photo of the devil’s claw fruit and of the various flowers. A walk up Zacatecas seems a better way to spend an afternoon than sitting at a computer.

  2. Rain Trueax says:

    Interesting photos– all of them. And I so relate to the ‘useless’ discussions and the difficulty of not getting into them to voice the ‘other’ side 🙂

  3. Carolyn Crane says:

    Loved the flower photos. I really enjoy learning the names of these wildflowers. And yes, a walk up the canyon sounds much better for you than some of the stuff on Bisbee People.

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