By Angel MedFlight Contributor
The weather map on the morning news here in the Valley of the Sun shows not red, but a deep purple. The woman reporting the weather points to the weekend outlook and it’s not just triple digits for all three days but temperatures exceeding 110 degrees. This past weekend, Greater Phoenix was under an “Excessive Heat Warning” which meant one thing to this writer at Angel MedFlight Worldwide Air Ambulance…head for the hills.
Heading north out of the Phoenix metro area can offer great relief from the heat and a nice change of scenery. For example, just over two hours up Interstate 17 is the mountain town of Flagstaff. Pack the family in the car for this journey and watch tall saguaros gradually disappear as you climb in elevation. You’ll then start to notice small trees which, as the miles go by, get larger and larger. Once you reach Flagstaff and its elevation of 6,910 feet, you’re in a Ponderosa Pine forest. More importantly, you’re much, much cooler. For example, as I write this article the thermometer outside reads 113, yet just a couple hours up the road in “Flag Town” (as the truckers call it), it’s a comfortable 68 degrees.
A trip to Flagstaff offers a number of attractions. Arizona Snowbowl ski resort is a fun place to take the family on a summer day. One can ride the ski lift up to 11,500 feet and take in fantastic views from near the top of the San Francisco Peaks. But be patient as the ride to the top takes upwards of 30 minutes and your feet are dangling below you all the way up.
You may want to drive about 35 miles west of Flagstaff and take in the town of Williams, which is on the old Route 66. Williams is known as the Gateway to the Grand Canyon (the town is the terminus of the Grand Canyon Railway). Williams suffered in the late 1980’s with the construction of Interstate 40 as travelers began to bypass the motels and restaurants that had sprung up decades earlier. But Williams has capitalized on its Route 66 fame and has spawned new bars, restaurants and hotels, many with bright neon signs that take tourists back to a bygone era.
If you have kids in the car, especially younger ones, you may want to head just outside Williams to the drive-through wildlife park “Bearizona.” There, you meander through a well-maintained park enjoying close-up views of bison, big horn sheep, wolves and black bears. Keep the car windows rolled up as the animals get that close.
Another nice weekend escape is to the old copper mining town of Jerome, Ariz. You won’t get as much relief from the heat, but 90 degrees sure feels a lot cooler than 113.
Jerome was built on Cleopatra Hill so your drive into town is up the winding highway 89A. The town offers many unique shops, restaurants and art galleries, many in buildings dating back to the early 1900’s. This writer’s favorite spot in Jerome is at one of the highest points in town, the Grand Hotel, which was constructed as a hospital in 1926. The hotel, which some say is haunted, features the award-winning restaurant, The Asylum. This is a great place to have lunch and take in the breathtaking views of the Verde Valley.
Scottsdale is a lovely place to live and work but when the summer heat becomes even more extreme, this writer surrenders and heads for the hills. Just a couple hours away await cooler temperatures and an abundance of places to explore.
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