Phoenix Arizona - Valley Of The Sun, American Paradise

by : Ron Berry

Summer is slowly turning to fall and the heat and humidity here in New England we complained about for the last 3 or 4 months will soon turn to dry, bitter cold. Heating bills arrive, along with colds and the flu, shovels take the place of rakes, snowthrowers replace lawn mowers. The days of the leisurely barefoot stroll to the mailbox are over. For some of us, winter means hibernation like so many of nature's creatures.

There are those who venture south though. Where the sun is a little higher in the sky, the nightly temperatures don't drop below 40 and the sky's are not cloudy all day. With the weather patterns not being favorable to the south and southeast lately, one of the more inviting spots in America is the desert southwest. I had a chance to spend some time in Phoenix, Arizona a few years back and I can honestly say that wintering in Phoenix is high on my list of todo's.

I rode my bicycle year round, never once touched a snow shovel in the entire time I was there, and could usually walk barefoot to my mailbox. And because I stayed active the whole year, I never piled on those "winter pounds". Yes, life was good.

With an average yearly temperature of just under 73 degrees, Phoenix enjoys what most of us have only read about. July and August averages top out in the low 90's. In the dead of winter, while we are scraping windshields before we can drive to work, Phoenicians are enjoying temps in the low 50's. That's light jacket weather for those of us closer to the North Pole.

The city of Phoenix is situated in a valley in the heart of the Sonoran Desert with the Great Basin and the Rocky Mountains to the northeast and the aptly named South Mountain to the south. It's comfortably nestled in this crib at an elevation of about 1100 feet above sea level. Except for a few local outcroppings, the area is flat as an ironing board and if you climb one of the local mountains, Camelback, Superstition Mountains (love that name!) or Phoenix Mountain for instance, you're treated to a spectacular view hundreds of miles in every direction. Voted one of the top 10 safest cities by Risk and Insurance Magazine back in 2005 because of the unlikely event of natural disaster, the biggest concern for residents is the summer heat.

The locals bask in the glow of the sun's rays an average of 211 days a year, we might see 90 if we're lucky. I personally don't count the day as sunny if you can't feel the heat. That brings that 90 number way down in my book.

Outdoor activities abound in Phoenix. More hiking trails, parks and preserves than you can count. Hundreds of miles of canals make perfect bike paths. Of course you'll have to share a lane with the runners or even an occasional horse but it's sheer joy under the fair, blue skies. The only precaution is to make sure you bring water. That's true for almost any outdoor activity in Phoenix. With the dry climate you may not be aware of how much you're perspiring and you can quickly dehydrate without realizing it.

For those hearty soles who don't mind traveling a few miles, the Grand Canyon is just North of Phoenix. Daily tours are available for anyone wanting to hike or maybe take a mule ride down into the canyon. You won't be sorry - anyone who's been can attest to the spectacular views along the trails or even up top at the rim. There's even a new attraction called the Grand Canyon Skyway. Dangling precariously over the South Rim, it places those who dare 70 feet out into the canyon. From nearly a mile up, about 4,000 feet, it provides a glimpse of what the falcons and eagles might see as they hunt prey from their lofty heights.

For the golf enthusiast, there are over 200 courses to challenge you and many of the PGA and LPGA tournaments are held in Phoenix. If speed is your thing, Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) hosts Indy Car and NASCAR. Of course swimming is high on everyone's list and there's no lack of water in Phoenix in spite of its desert location. There are no less than 6 lakes within an hour and a half of the city including Apache Lake, Lake Pleasant, Canyon and Saguaro each offering boating, sailing and fishing. There are more boat owners per capita in Arizona than any of the other 49 states.

Professional sports isn't forgotten in the Valley of the Sun. There are 8 professional teams including the Diamondbacks, Cardinals, the Rattlers and the Suns for baseball, football and basketball fans.

Yes, the city of Phoenix has won a place in my heart just as it has of nearly anyone who's been there. Just ask the approximately 4 million people in the Greater Phoenix area and they'll echo the praises just as this author has. It's a little piece of Paradise on earth.