Adventures in Arizona: Flagstaff

The amount of writing I am doing at my graduate school program in Phoenix is never-ending. We spend class time writing ledes, editing sentences and developing stories. That being said, I enjoy writing and want to keep this blog updated as best as I can through this yearlong program.

This is my first time out west. Prior to this program, my version of the west was the Mall of America in Minnesota. Talk about a change in scenery. The 27-hour drive from Milwaukee to Phoenix included desert, mountains and a lot of flat land. I was once a fan of car rides, and now I think I will stick more to flying than driving (that is until my long ride home for winter break).

Coming to Arizona I expected flat, hot desert. While I got the hot and the desert part right, this state is not flat and certainly not void of life. For one, I understand why they call the Phoenix Area, tucked in the Sonoran Desert, the valley. Whether I’m on my light rail to school or driving on the highway, I can always spot the mountains in my peripheral.

What surprised me most, however, was what a two-hour drive north can do for the nature (and climate) of the state. I recently took a trip to Flagstaff with my boyfriend to get away from the disgusting high temperatures that Wisconsinites just can’t handle (my time spent outside has significantly declines since I came here). I was in for a complete shock. Nestled in the northern section of Arizona, Flagstaff is quite the tourist city with its prime location for the Grand Canyon, Arizona Snowbowl, Oak Creek Canyon and Meteor Crater. Drive the streets of Flagstaff, and you may come across the historic Route 66 highway.

We decided to check out Arizona Snowbowl, one of the main attractions in the area. Snowbowl features a chair lift that takes you up to 11,510 feet within the San Francisco Peaks and offers great views of the area, including the Grand Canyon. The attraction is open year-round, which means ski enthusiasts (not myself) can enjoy the slopes and see some snow come winter.

As we were driving up to the start of the chairlift, which begins at about 9,500 feet, it started hailing. And we were certainly not dressed for such weather. My expectations for the area were exactly like my expectations for Phoenix—hot. Instead we got a cool 60 degrees that made me crave autumn in Wisconsin, cozy sweaters and cruising down Lake Drive with the kaleidoscopically colored trees drooping over the side of the road.

Thankfully the hail had stopped by the time we got there and two sweatshirt purchases later we were able to use the chairlift. I can say the 30-minute ride was not enough to take in the views around us. Tall green ponderosa pines lined the trail of the chairlift and the mountainside of the San Francisco Peaks overlooked the area.

At the summit of the lift, we could walk around and breathe in the thin mountain air.  Orange canyons, the vibrant green of the forest, the dark black shadows of the mountainside and the indescribable beauty of the golden ridges of the Grand Canyon. 360 degrees of true God-given beauty.

Another 30-minute chairlift down and a 2-hour drive back to Phoenix, and we were back in the heat of the desert. But now I know I’m only a 2-hour drive from green and trees and the touch of cold that I’ve been longing for since I left Wisconsin. It may not be the pine trees of northern Wisconsin or the sometimes sparkling sometimes deep gray of Lake Michigan, but Flagstaff gave me a touch of home.

“In his hand are the depths of the earth, the peaks of the mountains are His also. The sea is His, for it was He who made it, and His hands formed the dry land.” Psalm 95: 4-5


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