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Tuesday, 01 March 2016

Snowed In: An Unexpected Arizona Experience

Written by Jessica Scott
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When I told my friends that I was visiting Arizona in January, I was bombarded by responses of jealousy because I would be avoiding the cold winter of Massachusetts for ten days. I was expecting the same. Arizona’s state sign is an image of the sun beaming colors over a bright yellow backdrop. The very thought of Arizona evokes thoughts of sunshine and desert, blue skies and cacti. There is, however, another side of Arizona that can be seen in rare moments in the little known mountains of The Grand Canyon State.


My father spent years researching southern parts of the United States where he could spend his winters away from the blizzards of the North East. Not being one for the boring terrain and triteness of Florida, he headed west in search of a more rugged experience, while still enjoying sunshine even in January. Boasting of having the best year-round climate on Earth, Bisbee, Arizona found its way to the top of his list. After a few visits to the old mining town, thriving with art galleries and lively cowboy bars, my dad set down his winter roots on the outskirts of Bisbee. There in the foothills of the Mule Mountains, he had the best of both worlds; he was close to a vibrant community, but isolated in the cozy confines of the sky-high mountains.


Once he had purchased the land, he invited our family to visit. We were anxious to get there, away from the cold. My boyfriend and I booked our flight to Vegas so we could make a road trip out of it. We hit Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon in Utah, then headed south where we expected the thermometer to instantly spike to a comfortable 75 degrees at the state line. In Page, Arizona we found ourselves with our winter hats on as we walked out on the edge of a massive drop-off to see The Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado River. We bundled up to snap pictures at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. In Sedona, we sat on a heated patio in order to enjoy an outdoor meal. 


Our first few days in Bisbee were cool but sunny, perfect for hiking the ridges of the Mule Mountains. By the time my sister, cousin, and friend arrived, the weather had gone from cool to cold. We made the best of it, wearing layers and drinking whisky. On Thursday night, the whole crew drove out of the mountains and into town for dinner. The skies were clear when we walked into Santiago’s Mexican Restaurant. Half-way through our fish tacos we could see the snow twinkling under the street lights outside. A half hour later,we were skating across a parking lot of snow to get to our truck. The locals were standing outside in awe. One of the bartenders told us they hadn’t seen snow accumulate in Bisbee in over 20 years. Back home I would have lamented the process of clearing off the car, but here that aggravation was replaced with magical excitement. 


The eight of us were in two separate trucks, one with 4-wheel drive, and the other without. Leaving dinner, there wasn’t the slightest doubt that we would have any trouble navigating our way back into the mountains. But as we approached the driveway, we found ourselves in over three inches of fluffy white snow. The 4-wheel drive truck went first, with my 85 year old grandfather at the helm. At the first incline we watched as his rear tires spun and the truck veered from one side to the other without making any progress. My cousin pulled up beside him in the rented, 2-wheel drive truck and told him to put it in 4-wheel drive. Apparently, my grandpa had never used that feature before and was under the assumption that it was always in all-wheel drive. Needless to say it took many attempts of trying to get up the hill, until finally he noticed a button on his dashboard that shifted the car into 4-wheel drive. We had to abandon the 2-wheel drive vehicle and pile into my grandfather’s truck. 


Sitting by the fire, trying to warm up after our adventure, we laughed at our luck. We left Massachusetts to find warmth and here we were drying our boots by the woodstove while Massachusetts was experiencing record high temperatures for this time of year. It was a blessing in disguise, because when we woke up the following morning, we found ourselves inside the beauty of a postcard. The cacti and mesquite trees were glistening under a bright sun, it’s light bouncing off the snow covered branches. The mountains had transformed from brown silhouettes to bright white Rocky Mountain-like peaks. It was one of the most beautiful scenes I had ever witnessed. I felt like I was part of history. In all my travels, it has been the moments like this; unplanned and falling short of expectations that end up living in the most powerful part of my memory. Arizona is a great place to warm up, but even in the unlikely cover of snow, it has a beauty that will stay with you long after you leave.





©Jessica Scott 

Last modified on Saturday, 27 February 2016