"You know you're an Arizona native when you run to the window just to watch a dust storm."
~Marshall Trimble, quoted in You Know You're an Arizona Native, When... compiled by Don Dedera, 1993
Looking out the kitchen window, I could barely see my mother's figure as she struggled to cover one of her Arabians with a horse blanket. The wind blew the snow sideways so that nothing beyond a few yards was visible. I clutched my cup of hot tea, reassured that my four-wheel drive Toyota could get us out in an emergency.
Although I was raised in Indiana, I often forget the drama and beauty that storms can bring to places which actually experience the four season. Living in Santa Barbara, it's easy to be lulled into a sense of comfort where the weather is rarely too hot or too cold and never frosts over.
Fortunately, my Mamacita lives in a place that does experience all four seasons...Flagstaff, Arizona. The exception to the scorchingly hot desert regions of Arizona, Flagstaff is in the high desert alpine region at 7,000 feet at the base of a volcanic mountain chain and experiences mountain weather while still boasting the beauty of the high desert.
I've been visiting my Mamacita here for the past thirteen years since she first came out to work for the park service.
At around 7,000 feet, Flagstaff is an Old West Town built around the railroad boasting the best of Arizona....it's close to the Grand Canyon, features multiple state parks and monuments, and cooler weather than Phoenix and Tucson. The mountain town has a mix of college students, artisans, workers, as well as a strong Native American influence (both the Navajo and Hopi Reservations are to the North). It's also an outdoor mecca for mountain bikers, backpackers, and river rats....most Grand Canyon River Companies are based here.
Flagstaff locals have been experiencing a drought the past several years so it's rare to get this much snowfall. I was lucky enough to be there for one of their latest winter storms...watching the pine-studded desert become blanketed with a thick layer of snow and then become completely whited out. It's incredible how quickly the weather can change near the mountains going from blue skies one day to white out conditions that are dangerous to drive in the next day.
One of my best friends from college, Heather, recently moved out to Arizona from Ohio, and we had a blast reuniting in Flagstaff and venturing out into the snow. Mom's neighbors told us we were crazy to try driving in the storm but we were determined to go shopping a one of my favorite little mining towns, Jerome (situated in the mountains overlooking Sedona).
The drive from Flagstaff down off the Colorado Plateau rim into Sedona is one of the most scenic in the country. I've never seen it covered in snow like this before....the Dr. Seussian trees were blanketed in glittering snow and the road was almost empty of traffic. I guess few other people wanted to shop as badly as us!
On one of the last nights of my visit, we gathered together with several of her dance students and friends for a Naked Lady Party! Gorging on chocolate brownies, bean dip, and apple martinis we giggled as we scrambled for each other's cast-away clothes....I truly love these ladies and can't wait to see them all on my next visit! Flagstaff (and my Dad's place in Indiana) continue to feel like a second home to me!