Flagstaff: First Impressions Of My 2018 Summer ‘Home’
Updated: Aug 6, 2020
Flagstaff – Mostly Positive So Far
Flagstaff has a population of around 70K. There isn’t a larger metropolitan area you can get to quickly. Not even close. When you’re in Flagstaff, you’re in Flagstaff. It’s a 90+ minute drive to the closest (relatively similar sized) city and its population is only 42K (Prescott AZ).
Throughout my life, unless I am taking a break in nature, I am prone to reside in densely populated cities. I tend to stay out of the major metro areas though. Instead, I usually land in a heavily populated suburb.
Even if the suburb had a smaller population, I was always adjacent to a major city. As a result, I am pretty used to having everything I want at my fingertips. I am never at a loss to find a favorite chain store or restaurant.
Perhaps because it’s a college town, or perhaps because it’s a tourist spot, there is very little I feel I will miss out on spending my summer here. Flagstaff has almost anything you could want or need.
I did a search using my Swarm App to determine all the places I am prone to frequent. For the most part, all my regular spots are in Flagstaff, or an acceptable variation thereof.
There are a few exceptions.
There is no Trader Joe’s anywhere near Flagstaff, but there is a Sprouts, Natural Foods, and Whole Foods. I’ll miss a few Trader Joes specialties but the world won’t end if I can’t have them.
There is no Costco in Flagstaff either. If I absolutely NEED a Costco fix, there is one 90 miles away in Prescott. I can probably survive 3 months in Flagstaff without making that trip though. Cat litter isn’t such a good deal if you spend $25 in gas to go get it.
There is also no Planet Fitness. Turns out showering in Flagstaff was more complicated than I expected. I’m writing another post about that though. Look for it on Friday.
It’s Beautiful Here
I was first entranced by The San Francisco Peaks which include the highest mountain in Arizona, Humphreys Peak. All this in the magnificent Coconino National Forest, one of the most diverse National Forests in the country. Flagstaff is a nature lover’s paradise in every possible way.
It’s hard to turn a corner or drive pretty much anywhere without seeing and feeling beauty all around you. The pine trees, the mountains, the air… there is a magic here. I haven’t explored as much as I would like yet, but the little I have has often taken my breath away. Audible gasps are not an uncommon occurrence. 🙂
Even the view from the coffee shop is beautiful!
The weather is pretty spectacular too. I looked up the extended forecast for May and there are only a handful of days when the temps will reach 80. The nighttime temps are perfect at about 35-45 degrees. I looked up historical temps for June, July, and August – just to see what I could expect. Let’s just say I expect to be very content this summer.
It’s My Kind Of Town
When I get to a new city, there are ways I can tell if I’m going enjoy it. Weird little things like vegetarian food, crystal shops, and a walk-able downtown. Flagstaff has all those and then some.
I found a meditation center within my first 24 hours in Flagstaff, remote camping as close as 6 miles from town, vegetarian restaurants, farmers markets, etc.
The traffic here is so much nicer to deal with than the last few months in Mesa and last summer in San Diego. Drivers are generally less rushed, more polite, and more aware.
Flagstaff has an overall laid back feel and it’s noticeable in the way people drive here. There are jerks everywhere and I am sure there are plenty here, but overall driving around is less stressful by a large margin.
The people I’ve encountered so far have been friendly, patient, and kind. There was one exception at the YMCA earlier today, but overall it has been pleasant to interact with people here.
I’m not naive enough to think everyone in Flagstaff is wonderful and perfect, but I believe every factor in the environment here is conducive to a better overall experience with just about everything.
Stealth In Town
Flagstaff WalMarts are not friendly to vandwellers. Or Rv-ers for that matter.
FreeCampsites.net has one or two alternatives listed though so be sure to check there if you plan to visit. You will also find a few workable options if you’re paying attention as you drive around town. I’m low on gas money right now so other than the little bit of exploring I’ve done, I’ve stayed in town every night so far with no issues.
Living In Nature
There are plenty of options around Flagstaff, some as close as 6-8 miles from town. Many are publicly available on sites like Campendium and freecampsites.net. A few places are less advertised and are shared mostly by word of mouth. Others just require a search of free camping on public lands.
The bottom line? There is no lack of options if you want to spend a night (or 20) in and around Flagstaff.
That’s all I have for now! Look for a blog about my shower situation on Friday and have a great week until then!