The first thing that we always get when people learn that we live in the desert Southwest is “But how do you survive it being so hot?” Followed by the assumption that we live in a kitty litter box.
Tucson is actually 2500 feet above sea level and has lots of trees. Yes, we have cactus–saguaros, chollas, prickly pears, barrel and octotillo–but we also have palo verde, ironwood and mesquite trees which can get really big. Our back yard right now is almost completely shaded by a 100+ year mesquite which is the envy of many around.
We have animals and reptiles galore. Bobcats and javelina and coyotes and roadrunners and quail and snakes and lizards and rabbits–oh my! We have all of them in our front yard multiple times a year. And the cats love watching the lizards on the back porch.
Does it get hot? Absolutely. Today (Friday July 31), it is going to get to almost 111. It was 101 last night at 10 p.m. I don’t know anyone who would think that is a cool spell. We are, realistically, about 10 above normal because our monsoon storms don’t seem to want to get started this year.
How do we survive? We stay inside most of the summer. If we go outside, it is early in the morning or we are in the pool.
Or we drive to the mountain which is less than an hour to the top. And fun fact, the biomes from the bottom of the mountain to the top change as if you literally traveled from Mexico to Canada in one hour. Now that’s pretty damn awesome. Cactus and scrub to pine trees and snow during the winter. There’s a ski lodge on top.
The truth is, though, a lot of places aren’t that different. It’s just that people are used to being outdoors in the summer and staying home in the winter. We just switch that around. It’s not bad being at 65 when the rest of the country is suffering from snowpocalypse.
It even occasionally snows here. The winter of 2019 we had 3 measurable snowfalls. That’s rare, but we tend to have it once every few years and it’s like a gift that makes the entire city happy.
Kitty litter? No sand around here unless you are in a wash–which I would not recommend this time of year as the storms tend to be fast and furious, sending walls of water down the usually dry creek bed.
Northern Arizona where we went to college is completely different from the rest of the state. Pine trees and snow and usual summer/winter are the norm there.
So why do people live in what feels like a completely unforgiving place like this? The desert has an incredible beauty when you look beyond your own expectations of vegetation. It is incredibly quiet and peaceful. And the sunsets? You can’t beat them.