This overview was written while we drove west. Since we have now done preliminary visits to all three and written posts about them, some of the info may be a repeat.
The first and most important characteristic that the three cities have in common is that they are in high desert climates. That means no summer or winter extremes. There are four, gentle seasons where the sun shines for most of the year (>300 days). After spending the last many years having to include leaf raking (weekly) and snow blowing (could be daily) into our schedules, we are thrilled by the idea of a low maintenance yard. (Note: Brian would include lawn mowing to the list if he were writing this. However, I enjoy mowing the lawn and relieved him of the responsibility years ago.)
Grass is great for yard play, especially for the dogs. We love playing catch and so does Sydney. Ultimately, however, we all feel more adventurous and get more exercise by hiking. Therefore, while we are likely going to give up lush, green grass to live in any of these cities, we will gain expansive hiking trails.
The elevation that makes them a high desert also means there is an abundance of wildlife (i.e. elk are found at higher elevations) and a paucity of outdoor undesirables (i.e. poison ivy). All three cities are about a mile high and are located near or within huge forests. The natural beauty of the tall pines is very alluring.
Additionally, all three towns are pretty isolated from nearby major cities. Prescott is the only semi-exception in that it is very close to Prescott Valley, Chino Valley and Dewey. However, all four cities together (known locally as the Quad Cities) do not break 100,000 in population. Prescott is 1.5 – 2 hours from another real city. Payson is the same – about 1.5 hours from the valley and 2 hours from the towns further up the mountain. Silver City is 2 hours from Las Cruces, New Mexico and 3 hours from Tucson, Arizona.
While we have to skip Silver City in order to meet the car transporter in Payson, we will be returning for our visit immediately after the car has safely arrived. Note that we are both more familiar with the Arizona cities; their descriptions might be more detailed at the moment because we have yet to experience Silver City.
Purported Qualities of Silver City that we find interesting include:
- Proximity to the Gila National Forest and awesome hiking opportunities
- Artsy reputation
- Large land plots
- Warmer than the other two by a slight margin
- Has a generous water supply, an important characteristic when planning to live in a desert
- Most diversity with age and race
Having grown up “on the mountain”, I spent a lot of time in Payson as a child and have visited regularly since moving away. A brief discussion of “on the mountain” –
People refer to the small cities further up the mountain from Payson as “on the mountain”. They’re populated by seasonal vacationers, retirees, as well as full-time residents. My childhood home was in Pinetop-Lakeside (according to the 2010 census, population was 4,282), which is about four hours from Phoenix. At the time, Payson (2 hours down the mountain) was much smaller, so if you needed something from a major city, it meant 4 hours of driving, down the mountain. I grew up with sticky sap on my fingers, pine needles in my socks, regular sightings of large herds of elk and a feeling of geographical isolation.
Many people find themselves “stuck” on the mountain because they settle with their families there and have little knowledge of potential that exists at the lower elevations. The business community is dominated by big box stores so if a person is unhappy with their job at Walmart, their alternative is often Home Depot. This can sometimes make the area feel kind of sad. However, the natural beauty and sunshine of the mountain make daily living incredibly enjoyable.
Payson, on the other hand, is closer to bigger towns and therefore has a different vibe entirely. It is also more of a retirement community than the cities up the mountain. This is largely due to the more moderate weather (the cities at higher elevations get more snow) and local access to medical and assisted living facilities. While this is great for some people, it may be a bit of a drawback for us. The large retirement community (as of the 2000 census, 36.2% of people were over the age of 65) may create a stagnant feel. We’ll have to see…
Characteristics about Payson that we find interesting include:
- Abundant hiking and extreme ponderosa pine density
- Proximity to natural wonders – higher up the mountain = even more wildlife and the Grand Canyon is a short distance away
- Near family (nearly all of my family lives within 2 hours of Payson)
- Aggressive water conservation policies (i.e. No watering of lawns)
- Home to the “word’s oldest continuous” rodeo….while we don’t ‘rodeo’ ourselves, it is a fun claim to fame
- Very cool local café (Dimi Café) and high quality Thai Restaurant
Prescott is cool. Anybody who has visited the area knows how neat of a place it is. The town was the original capital of Arizona and has a quaint, beautiful, historic downtown. Events and activities go on all year long. The city is known to attract transplants from California as well as retirees from around the state. They put on a big show for Christmas by decorating the town square with lights that are wound up all of the trees. Small businesses are abundant and there is a general feeling of pride and satisfaction in the people.
Next door to Prescott is Prescott Valley (PV). While it contains approximately the same population as Prescott (~40,000), it contains none of the historic fame or charm. It is a flat valley with lots of residential developments and strip malls.
Halfway between the two and 20 minutes north is Chino Valley. Chino is also quite boring when compared to Prescott. It is known as the place people live if they want more space and privacy. Many people buy large plots of land in Chino and commute to Prescott or PV. Unlike Prescott Valley, Chino Valley has more geographical diversity and the surroundings have their own unique beauty.
Dewey is the fourth town of the Prescott Area but there isn’t much to it. It has very little in terms of shopping and business but it has lots of land. It’s only 15-20 minutes from Prescott Valley, which makes it another ‘suburb’.
Characteristics about the Prescott Area that we find interesting include:
- Very cool Prescott downtown – history and old buildings
- Awesome hiking near and within Prescott
- Lots of land available in Chino and PV
- Very cool local parrot store
- Trader Joe’s in town
- Restaurant diversity
- Palpable sense of culture – quirky & independent cowboy spirit
- Thriving in general
- Local business climate seems especially promising
- Rocks, pine trees and hills abound
More to come as we visit the cities!