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The Hidden Side of Arizona

When people think of the desert southwest United States, they often think of Arizona. When they think of Arizona, people also usually think of hot, dry deserts with cactus and rattlesnakes. There is a hidden side of Arizona, though.

It is true that Arizona is desert country. The Sonoran Desert, Mohave Desert, Chihuahuan Desert, Tonopah Desert, and Yuma Desert can all be seen in Arizona. In fact, Phoenix, Arizona, is in the desert and in the summer, it routinely gets so hot there that a person can literally fry an egg on the sidewalk.

There are indeed many desert animals that live there, including rattlesnakes, roadrunners, and the like. However, there is a hidden side of Arizona that many people seem not to know about unless they’ve visited Arizona in the winter or have lived there.

Arizona as people think of it

This is the way that many people envision Arizona. Actually, this is how some parts of the state look in the summertime. There are saguaro cacti like those pictured here, many of them over 40 feet tall and some that are centuries old, and the soil is sandy and dry. The few bushes and grasses struggle to survive. The animals are adapted to the heat and dry conditions.

However, even Arizona has a side to it that few people think about. Snow does fall in Arizona.

Flagstaff, Arizona

This image was taken just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. This area gets a lot of snow and freezing temperatures every year. Flagstaff gets enough snow that they often have to plow the roads in the winter. Although there isn't a great deal of snow in this picture, snow is a common winter occurrence every year here. The pine trees in the picture look quite healthy and strong. They also look quite a bit different than the Saguaro Cacti in the first image.

Winter in Arizona

It would be a mistake to get locked in with the image of Arizona being constantly hot and dry. It isn't. It does get winter weather, including snow. Many places in Arizona get a lot of snow, in fact. Some of them, like the Grand Canyon, are pretty well known, too. Why don't people often think about snow in Arizona? Probably because that isn't when most people visit the state, so they never get a glimpse of the hidden side of Arizona.

Grand Canyon in the winter

The previous picture was taken in Arizona, but this one was, too. This is the Grand Canyon in the winter. Arizona actually gets a lot more snow than most people think it does. In this image, it is difficult to even see the canyon for the snow and snow clouds. Yet, this image overlooks part of the river over a thousand feet below.

Canyon walls and snow

This is also the Grand Canyon, but the cliffs and the river are more obvious. The person standing to the left gives a great indication of how big and deep the Grand Canyon really is. There are also plants in this image, but it is difficult to make them out because of the snow. The snow might only be a few inches deep, but it stretches to the far distance and amounts to a great deal of the white stuff.

Arizona forest

Arizona isn't just flat, low desert land. It also has mountains and forests. The higher elevations mean an increase in the amount of snow in the winter. This picture shows about a half-foot of snow on the ground. However, the snow gets much deeper in the middle of winter.

Snow skiing

The fact is that there are tall enough mountains in Arizona that some, like this one, are adapted for snow skiing. People rarely think of snow skiing and Arizona together, but this is Volcano Ski Run in Arizona. From looking at all the tracks, it is evident that a substantial number of people have used this slope.

Big animals

Because of the mountains and forests in Arizona, there is a lot more wildlife than just rattlesnakes and roadrunners. This cow elk in Arizona appears quite happy to be standing in the snow. To get a good grasp of the picture, the elk in this image stands about five feet tall at the shoulder and probably weighs about 500 pounds.

What do you think?

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Written by Rex Trulove

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    • In my youth, I wouldn’t have hesitated to ski there. I’m too old to ski now…I’d break every bone in my body. People in the Northeast often spend the winter in Florida. Quite a few people in Montana spend their winters in Arizona. It isn’t that there is no snow, but there is far less snow than in Montana. LOL

    • My grandparents lived there for 18 years because my grandmother had severe arthritis. The dryness of the air most of the year cured her of arthritis. When we’d visit, I was always astounded by the beauty, regardless of the season.

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