These are my stories as a volunteer member of the Sheriff's Search & Rescue team in Coconino County, Arizona. I'll share what it's like to go from a beginner with a lot to learn to an experienced and, hopefully, valuable member of the team, as well as the missions, trainings, and other activities along the way.
About Coconino County
About Coconino County
Encompassing 18,661 square miles, Coconino County, Arizona, is the second largest county in the U.S. but one of the least populated. Our county includes Grand Canyon National Park, the Navajo, Havasupai, Hualapai and Hopi Indian Reservations, and the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the world. Elevations range from 2,000 feet above sea level along the Colorado River to 12,633 feet at the summit of Mt. Humphreys in Flagstaff.
December 28, 2008
Same Subject, Different Day
Night before? I checked my pager. Nope, no old pages that I'd missed. Must have been a direct call to certain team members, I figured. Which turned out to be the case. They needed volunteers certified to drive the snow cat and snowmobiles, and, though I'm able to operate both (at least, to some extent), I haven't been properly trained or certified by the team. Hopefully, I'll have the opportunity to get that done in the near future.
Anyhow, apparently this man had gotten his vehicle stuck on a Forest Service road on Christmas Day. And what a day that had been, with heavy snow and wind gusts that must have exceeded 40 miles per hour. As much as I get all revved up when there's a SAR call, I do admit I wasn't thrilled at the idea of going out in that weather. (But I woulda.)
So, from what I understand, people in three other vehicles had attempted to help the stranded motorist, and they too became stuck. According to the article in the Arizona Daily Sun, Search & Rescue crews spent much of Christmas Day rescuing a large group, including children and dogs. Then, on Friday, one of the former rescue-ees attempted to hike back to his vehicle and hadn't been seen for two hours. I gather from the newspaper article that the subject must have had a cellphone and informed members of his party he could no longer continue hiking. So a call for a second round of help was made.
When I arrived at the SAR building after a fairly slow drive across town, concerned about icy roads, a few of my teammates were already there, readying the snow cat for another run and hooking up the trailers loaded with snowmobiles. As I tossed my personal gear into one of the vehicles, the house phone rang. It was our Coordinator, asking if everyone had snowshoes. All shouted affirmatives.
Have I mentioned yet how much I looooove my new snowshoes? I bought them just after returning from the last mission in the Forest Lakes area and have been using them every day since. Not only is it great exercise--I've heard you can burn 600 calories per hour on those things--but I really enjoy being out amongst the Ponderosa pines on virgin snow, untouched except for all the critter prints criss-crossing my path. I walk out my door, 'shoe into the woods and immediately see that elk, mule deer, jackrabbits, Abert squirrels, a fox and even a bobcat have recently been out and about. As far as I'm concerned, all this snow can stick around until at least March. I loooooove my snowshoes.
Anyhow, where was I? Oh, the mission....
Well, as it turns out, it was a pretty dynamic situation, and plans changed rapidly. No longer were snowshoers needed, just the snowcat and snowmobile drivers again. So off went several of my certified teammates, and the rest of us reorganized the SAR building to make room for the trailers when the others eventually returned, and then we headed home.
As I learned from the morning paper, the cold and disoriented man was picked up by an Arizona Department of Public Safety helicopter at 8pm and flown to Flagstaff Medical Center.
Here's another article that discusses this two-part incident, this one from the Payson Roundup: "Winter Travel Calls for Good Judgement"
Well, it's past my bedtime (unless my pager goes off, that is) ... but maybe I'll just take the trash out on my beloved snowshoes before I hit the sack.
(P.S. I've gotta get a new digital camera, so I can add some perty pictures to this here blog. It's on my list.)
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