Red Columbine

The Arizona You Don’t Know (Unless You Live Here): Wildflower Edition

I always take a little smug satisfaction in correcting out-of-staters about their misperceptions about Arizona. Or at least there is a certain type of person who brings this out in me. It’s the type of person who assumes that I live in a giant sandbox that reaches temperatures of 100+ degrees every day and has no plant life except for giant cacti and no wildlife except for scorpions and rattlesnakes. And it’s the type of person who DELIGHTS in that assumption. I’m not sure what is UP with that version of schadenfreude? Boredom with one’s own environs? Envy for the Grand Canyon state? Some weird resentment for the west, which symbolically represents freedom and opportunity in our cultural memory? At any rate, it’s not nice.

I had this conversation with someone recently. (I’ve only embellished small details. Swears.)

Mean Person: I couldn’t stand to live in Arizona. I don’t care what they say about a dry heat. It’s still like living in an oven.

Me: Actually, where I live, it rarely gets above 85 degrees. It’s really pretty pleasant.

Mean Person: I’d miss winter. And seasons.

Me: In the winter, we get down into negative double digits.  People go skiing about 10 miles from town.

Mean Person: And nothing to look at except brown dirt.

Me: We’re in the mountains. It’s actually pretty green.

Mean Person: Well, I could never live there.

If I had that conversation to do over again, it might go something like this.

Dear Mean Person,

I appreciated our recent conversation, during which you shared your expertise on Arizona. Your input seemed particularly valuable, seeing as how you’ve never actually set foot in the state.

Since you didn’t listen the first time, let me explain. I live in Kachina Village, just south of Flagstaff in Northern Arizona. The elevation is around 7,000 feet. That means it’s cool and green. We get lots of sunshine. We live in the largest contiguous pine forest in the country. And right now it’s monsoon season, so we also get lots of rain. Here’s the view just down the road from my house.

Kachina Village

and the trails through the local wetlands which we walked last night.

I’m sorry to disappoint you, but my Arizona is hardly the Arizona of a Road Runner cartoon. And another thing: the parts of Arizona that do resemble a Road Runner cartoon are pretty awesome, too.

And, Mean Person, I know you’d be disappointed by the wildflowers this time of year. No variety at all. Booooring.

And that’s only the ones I could find within a mile of my house.

Even though you haven’t set foot outside of your home state in thirty years or something, not all other places in the country suck enough to justify your choices.

Oh, and the Grand Canyon? Yeah, it IS that awesome. And P.S.  I can do a day trip to see it anytime I want.



6 thoughts on “The Arizona You Don’t Know (Unless You Live Here): Wildflower Edition

  1. Glad you got this off your chest, and with beautiful flowers no less! As someone who isn’t overly fond of AZ’s climate, I can say that I dreaded moving here as a child. When I was told we were coming here at age 8, I immediately looked up cowboy life in the encyclopedia. I was convinced that I’d have to be one when I grew up. I wasn’t thrilled. Always more of a pirate fantasy kid.

    Anyway, Flagstaff is awesome. Though one of the main compliments I hear about it is that it isn’t at all like the rest of AZ. Maybe we need to change that phrasing?

  2. After our roadtrip through various states, I must Arizona is definitely in the top 4. The landscapes are astounding and natural wonders are innumerable. Think we might have driven through Flagstaff, the name rings a bell. Hope to go back there at some point!

    1. Summers are perfect up here while the rest of the state is boiling hot. Autumns are a nice compromise. Did you go to Sedona? And how about southern Utah?

      1. We stayed in Page, visited a few National Parks, met some Navajo guides, felt strongly ambivalent; not sure which part of Utah is Southern haha, excuse my poor geographical knowledge. We visited many parks in Utah, Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce and Zion. All of the states that share some of the Colorado Plateau are amazing in my opinion. Utah was our favourite, although the Mormons did come on a bit strong…

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