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A garden writer heads to Phoenix, where they really turn up the heat

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Courtesy of Craig Summers Black

(Read caption) Sitting outside at the hotel in Phoenix is relaxing and warm, but that mountain in the background beckons.

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Last winter, Zone 5 Iowa, where I  live, became Zone 7 Iowa. Which is to say, for the first time in history the temperature did not go below zero. Kinda nice. Almost toasty.

Then we had a prolonged heat wave this summer. Not so nice. Drought.

But despite the fact that US weather researchers say that our temps in the past year were the highest since record-keeping began in 1895, the need still exists here to escape the cold. (OK, so I’m a weather wimp.) And one of the few direct flights from this little burg goes to Phoenix

So inside of three hours or so I was relaxing by the pool at the Arizona Biltmore,  an ersatz Frank Lloyd Wright project designed to look midway between a Mayan temple and a mausoleum. At long last, I am warm again.

Phoenix Mountains

There's another bonus of staying at this architectural icon: quick access to the Phoenix Mountains desert preserve. Only 20 minutes from the pool.

OK, so I wanted to get warm, but this rocky incline was hot. Most sensible hikers were carrying water, but I figured I’d only get sweatier lugging the stuff up the mountainside. Six of one …

Saguaro cactus

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