We were only 5 miles away from the border and it was pretty exciting walking all the way down there. Once you’re at the very top of the Huachuca Mountains, all you have to do is enjoy going down, and down.. and down. Keep going down and stop a couple of times to watch the deer, trying to approach them without scaring them away, with no luck, and go down again. And then you suddenly walk away from the mountains and arrive on a parking lot. It feels like the end. We were so happy that we cheerfully engaged conversations with every senior that was walking around there, whatever they have to tell was amazingly interesting.
Then we realized we still had to walk another 2 miles to the very end of the trail. We are still going down but we’re enjoying it less this time. We had just tricked our minds into thinking the hike was over, but we went anyway. First thing we thought when getting close to the ‘fence’ is that it was a joke. The fence is literally the kind of fence you see around a pasture, only that it’s about a thousand miles long. (That doesn’t mean we are pro fence – on the contrary – we just expected something else)
We always knew that the ability to hike long distances relies more on being mentally strong rather than physically. And we experienced it at its fullest when we were walking the last, supposedly easy, 4 miles to the visitor center. Even though we had walked over 120 miles, these last 4 miles were like asking us to climb a rope with one hand. It was tough; we couldn’t believe how far it was.
We finally got at the visitor center, looked around for a bit, learning about the history of Coronado, chatting with the guy standing behind the counter, and off we went to Sierra Vista, hitchhiking.
About 15 cars passed us, probably scared of Kenzi being a mean Mexican due to us being so close to the border that was less than 3 miles away and guess who picked us up after his working shift? Yep, the dude working at the visitor center, Chris.
We first heard about Bisbee while chatting with him. Totally convincing Aurélie that is was the place to go to next, she hesitated on asking him to drive us there immediately. We could’ve canceled the 2 nights we had booked in the motel in Sierra Vista, but Kenzi wanted to make sure he’d sleep in a bed that night and take a shower. Bisbee was going to wait and we slept in a real bed after a week and took a well-needed bath. Those who want to see the color of the water, feel free to message us. : – )
We quickly left Sierra Vista as we found the city pretty – not to say extremely – boring and started hitchhiking towards Bisbee. A young American soldier, Michael, picked us up and drove us all the way. It’s only after we got there that we understood that he wasn’t heading to Bisbee at all, but we needed a ride and he figured he’d help us out. Crazy. Truly amazing are the people we meet while hitchhiking.
Looking for a place to party hard and get wasted? Meet cool and young people at the bars on every corner of a block? Then go to Santa Monica, CA, because Bisbee is nothing of what we just described, except for the cool people.
We literally just popped out of the car, said our goodbyes to Michael and there we saw this old hippie with long curly grey hair, a moustache and a beanie riding his bike, asking us where we were heading. All that was missing for us to feel in the 60’s was the tie-dye. (we would later learn that he’s still wearing and even making them). We give him all the details of our super established plan which is: You guessed it, no plan. All we knew was that we wanted to find a place to camp somewhere near the town.
After some introduction we decided that the three of us would have a deal: he would be our guide and we would force him into his afternoon workout. Honest exchange. Completely. So we went on a short hike just outside of town, on which Rafiki unfolded the most luxurious camping spots on the hill. We could choose between suite 1 and suite 2. Not an easy choice, but suite 2 being closer to town and with a better view, that’s the one we went for.
That is when we expected Rafiki to go on his way but he didn’t. He showed us around Bisbee, giving us as much background info as he could. Explaining how the hippies and artist moved there back in the 70’s just after all mining activities were put to an end. On the way he introduced us to one of his friends, Noah, who was actually a very good friend of Chris – the guy who had picked us up near the visitor center at the Huachucas. Talk about coincidences! We got to see Rafiki’s art studio full of incredible ,sometimes unfinished, artworks and meet his wife Reva, who’s who’s painting and carvings left us stunned.
But Rafiki became way more than a nice hippie guy we shared a moment with. He became a friend. He offered us to stay at his place and we did for the next 4 nights, even though we arrived in Bisbee thinking that we’d stay for a night or two only. Time flew by and from the strolls in town, to the hike on the hill of shrines with his full-of-energy-and-can’t-stop-talking-grand kids Simon and Beija Flor, to the kalesadilla’s and evenings sitting and talking on his living room carpet, we relished every moment of it.
When you travel you wish for every encounter to be like that. But if they were, those encounters wouldn’t be as memorable and significant as they are.
Just like there is an end to every story, there is a goodbye to every encounter. So off we went to Tucson again, to get ready for some other hikes in the beautiful National Parks the States has to offer.
A last-minute couchsurfing request saved us from another camping night and we stayed at Rachel’s, in the middle of the college neighborhood, full of partying fraternities and sororities; it felt a bit like walking on an American Pie movie set. We hadn’t gone out in a while so it felt good going to a band event kind of thing in what looked like some dude’s garage.