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.

January 10, 2010

Snow Play SAR Style

It was kind of funny. Here we are riding around (and around and around) on snowmobiles and in the snowcat and the vehicle with the Mattracks, while families with children are sledding and building snowmen and igloos in our midst. Besides "Don't break anything," the big rule of the day was "Don't squash any kids." I'm happy to report we didn't do either.

But there were no families with kids around when we first got to our training area on Saturday, just some campers who'd spent the night near the cell phone tower. Our rather large group of SAR folks, Forest Service personnel, and deputies interrupted their morning solitude when we arrived with all of our cars, trucks, and "snowplay equipment" and proceeded to divide ourselves into groups for the various stations. In addition to the snow machines, we also had a snowshoeing and winter gear review station.

Anyhow, it was a fun day for me. I enjoyed seeing my teammates after quite a long stretch without any missions. I also learned some new things. AND I got past--though not over--my fear of loading and unloading the snowcat from its trailer. (Thanks for not letting me back out, Sergeant D.) Darn, I wish I had pictures of how the snowcat trailer works, but I forgot my camera that day.

Suffice it to say, though, when I climbed into the driver's seat, my experienced teammate in the passenger seat yelled, "Hey, anybody know if the airbags are workin' in this thing?" (No, there ARE no air bags in a snowcat.) But I think I did a pretty okay job of it--after all, I didn't dump the tank off the side of the trailer--and I trusted my teammates to guide me through it, the one in the vehicle with me and the one guiding me from out front. And I managed to pull it off with only one "duh" moment. ("Why isn't this thing moving forward? I asked. And my teammate replied, "Because you have to put your foot on the gas." Yeah ... I knew that. I was just nervous, see.)

Trust, though ... that's something we talked about briefly on the drive back to the SAR building. It's a really good feeling to have people around you you know you can rely on, who have your best interest and safety at heart and care about what happens to you. To me, it doesn't matter that I see most of these folks just during SAR missions, trainings, and meetings; I still trust (some of) them with my life, like when I rappel over the edge during tech training. If a teammate that I trust has safety checked everything, I feel as secure as possible (which will never be completely secure) and know that things will be okay.

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In other news...

I'd like to thank the following people and website for pledging your support of my Himalaya Rescue Dog Squad Nepal book project:

Miriam Robbins
Jane Mackay of JaneMac.net
Deborah Lee Soltesz of Deborah.ws
Peter West Carey of The People, Places and Patterns Project, and....
TheBackpackerTV.com

2 comments:

Roy Scribner said...

Oh, the rockstar life of SAR! lol

So what's it like to drive a snowcat? I always thought they looked fun - do they have steering wheels, or brakes?

Deb Lauman said...

Hi, Roy!

Actually, snowcats have levers in place of a steering wheel. You pull all the way back on both levers to break and stop. To turn, you pull back on the lever on the side to which you want to turn ... but you don't have to pull hard unless you want to make a sudden, neck-jarring turn. (Passengers had better be holding on when that happens!)

With both levers let out forward, the machine "should" go straight. I just had it in my head there for a moment (though I'd driven the thing a few times before) that with the levers forward, the cat should start to move. I "forgot" there was a gas peddle down there. :)