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.

February 4, 2009


I have bandaids on six toes. I didn't realize the tops were rubbed raw until I stepped into the shower and YOWEE! Then I looked down and realized I'd left some skin somewhere.

It was snowshoeing down the mountain that did it. Today, a teammate and I enjoyed some fitness training on Mt. Agassiz at the Arizona Snowbowl for the second time this week. It's not uncommon for missions to take place on the peaks, and some extra time and effort at altitude can definitely pay off when the pager sounds. So I'm glad my teammate invited me to drag myself out of bed before dawn to huff and puff up a couple thousand feet on the hard-packed snow and ice. We've had two great days on the mountain in perfect weather, and I feel better prepared as a result.

Before these two climbs, I'd never really tested my snowshoes--MSR Denalis--on ice or very steep slopes. And now I have a better idea of what they can do. There were times today when the angle was so steep, I had to dig in with the spikes on the toes of my snowshoes and keep my momentum going as my calves screamed, so I wouldn't end up careening down slope on my back. On the descents, I followed my teammate's instructions and took small, slow steps, and, to my relief, the snowshoes did the job. I had jell-O legs by the time we reached the lodge, but at least I stayed upright.

Also on the training front, our team had that snowmobile class I'd been waiting for. I'm still uncomfortable with loading the machines onto the trailers, afraid I'll shoot right off the back, but, otherwise, I'm now team certified to drive. (At least, I think I am.) So I bought a collapsible backcountry shovel for digging myself out whenever I get the thing stuck, which I now know firsthand isn't all that hard to do, even in ideal conditions.

Oh, I almost forgot ... we did have another call-out recently. It was a pretty straightforward mission, involving an out-of-town family who'd gotten their vehicle stuck on a snow-covered Forest Service road and weren't quite sure of their location. Luckily, the DPS helicopter was available to do a fly-over, and they spotted the vehicle and, therefore, expedited the mission. The vacationing family was retrieved and taken to a motel for the night, to deal with their stranded vehicle the next day.

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