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.

May 11, 2009

Searching x 2 & Rappeling x 6

So the last time we met here, I was returning from one search and heading right out for another. Basically, I got back from the search for the missing elderly woman with the chihuahua, grabbed a Gatorade and the keys to the Expedition from my teammate who'd just driven the last leg, and off we went again.

This was a search for a woman who'd apparently been ... um ... dropped off on a backwoods road. Somewhere. She'd called for help on her cell, but before she could be located by deputies, the cell phone had (apparently, again) died, and the cell tower ping was inconclusive as to the bearing and distance of the caller's location. (Apparently once more....) The woman had no idea where she was, but she was going to stay put in the middle of the road. Before her cellphone had gone dead, she'd reported hearing a deputy's siren in the distance, so some general idea of her whereabouts was known.

Okay, so enter SAR. We split up in twos, six in vehicles and a pair on the Polaris UTV, and we began driving roads, entering the general area from various locations. And we drove and we drove, clearing road after road.

Fast forward: Two-thirty a.m. and no lost lady, and those of us who'd been working since 1:00 the day before were sent home to bed. By 1:00 on Friday afternoon, still no lost lady. At approximately 3:30 that afternoon, however, not-lost lady and her "friend" drove by SAR and a deputy on a dirt road we'd already checked and re-checked.

Conclusion: Maybe-never-really-lost lady had spent the night, warm in a sleeping bag and tent, not on said road. And I suppose 'nuff said, too.

I had just enough time, after returning to the SAR building, filling up the vehicle and putting equipment away, to stop for some dinner before heading to meeting #1 for the Rock Rescue Academy--this year's training series for the Technical Rescue Team wanna-be new recruits. Needless to say, I was yawning and not performing well as we learned knots. My brain had come to a complete halt by 9pm.

The next morning, however, when we reconvened for Day #1 of the Rock Rescue field course, I somehow tied a darn near perfect Fisherman's knot while listening to one of our instructors go over the plan for the day. Maybe there was hope for me yet!

An hour or so later, I was standing on a cliff (hooked up to a safety line), sloooowly tying a Figure 8 with a Follow-Through, rigging the belay line to my harness, then rigging the Rescue 8 descender under the watchful eye of an experienced teammate. Next came the safety check (good thing, because I hadn't locked the carabiner!) and then I walked backwards off the cliff.

The adrenaline was pumping, but alas, I walked myself down the rock wall and stepped down onto solid ground in one piece. I untied and unhooked myself, said a happy, "Belay off!" and then "Rappel off!" and tried to hide my giddy excitement. I did it! Then I did it again. And again. And again.

Okay, so I ended up with a few scratches from the bush I lowered my butt into onto one rappel. And then there was the wee slip and clunk I did when first going over a tricky edge. And each time I got one thing right, I screwed up or blanked on something else. But I did have one clean rappel at the end, where I hooked myself up, passed the safety check and went from top to bottom nice and smoothe, with a good tie off in the middle.

Now, if I can just do that next weekend, on top of whatever else we'll learn. I definitely have to practice knots. The Animated Knots by Grog website will come in handy, as I sit here, making faces at my piece of rope.

And next weekend I'll try to take some nifty pics with my brand new replacement camera. Remember, I lost my first brand new camera during the first search on Thursday. On Sunday, Steve and I went back to that area with the map with the GPS track on it provided by my teammate, the K-9 handler I'd searched with, and retraced my steps. But, woe is me, we didn't find the camera. I'm thinking I may have dropped it around the staging area, which is also a camping and fishing spot. So my original brand new Kodak may very well be in someone's tackle box. Oh well.

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