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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Snowy Wish

Many people visiting Prescott are surprised to learn that it gets cold here in Arizona! If you want to visit, be sure to bring your sunglasses and mittens. Winter in Prescott is mostly mild, but the snow holds great beauty! It’s just about that time for some frozen precipitation. Most folks who’ve moved to Arizona shudder at the thought of a frosty day, but I’m crossing my fingers for those grey, mysterious clouds to creep over the mountains prepared to give us a show.

Butte Creek in winter (the creek that flows through campus)

“What’s so great about the snow?” some Arizonans grumble. Three reasons – the physical beauty, the much needed precipitation, and the cultural reaction to the event. In town, snow tends to melt within the day or so. Snow sticks around in the surrounding Bradshaw Mountains, accumulating inches on the trails and multiple feet in drifts. Cactus is covered and pine needles are frosted. Those familiar, dusty, hiking trails are transformed into clean, crunchy footpaths. The mountains are veiled in low hanging clouds that threaten to surround you with their icy curtain. The seasonal transformation makes you wonder if you are in Arizona after all.

As an ecologist and naturalist, snow is never an inconvenience. Arizona is dry. We’re in a drought. Winter moisture is a much-needed element to maintaining green forests. Winter moisture is a contributing factor to recharging our severely over-drawn water tables. Plus, seeing the spring snow melt rush down the creeks in a frigid torrent excites the senses and brings a green spring with desert blooms.

When I first came to visit PC, it was in mid-December. The student I stayed with was from Florida, and she had never experienced windshield ice. She didn’t know that those handy plastic ice scrapers even existed. Instead, she went out to her car with a pot full of boiling water and threw it on the ice hoping to melt it… it didn’t work.

We had a light dusting down here over the holiday break, waking up to a frosty ground and low-hanging fog. Though it dissipated by mid-morning, it was the first hint of Arizona’s forgotten season! These pictures are from last winter!


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