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.

A Life Saved After All

I don't think any of us knew just how serious his condition really was. I'm referring to the man we recently evacuated from the Humphrey's Trail after he'd experienced shortness of breath and chest tightness during his descent. While members of our SAR team along with Guardian crew were bringing him down in the litter, medics monitored the patient's condition. It seemed the longer he was on oxygen and the lower we went, the more his condition improved. He was talkative and not in any further distress, he said.

According to Sergeant D, though, who updated us at our general SAR meeting this past Thursday, the patient had a blood clot in his stint. Had he attempted to walk, he may have had a serious heart attack.

When our coordinator gave us this news, Liz and I looked at each other with wide eyes. Sometimes you don't know what a difference a rescue is making in someone's life during the mission itself. Boy, I'm glad the good Samaritan called for help when he came across Andrew sitting by the side of the trail.

On another note, we were paged at 1:15am on Friday morning regarding a missing hunter with a history of diabetic coma. The man's companion had last seen him at 4:00pm on Thursday, before he'd left in his truck from their camp in a remote area near the South Rim of Grand Canyon. The man had mentioned that if he did leave, he'd be going to a particular tank (a watering hole for livestock). But his friend had checked that tank and then drove around for another five hours without any luck. Then he called for Search & Rescue.

Coconino County is so big that it can take us a long time to get to an area before we can even begin to search. In this case, the point last seen was thirty some-odd miles down a dirt road and a nearly three-hour drive from Flagstaff. Two sheriff deputies were already in the area, however, while we were on our way, gathering additional information and driving more of the network of dirt roads and two-tracks. At first light, we'd have the assistance of the DPS helicopter, as well.

But, as we were nearing the hunters' camp, we heard one of the deputies on scene call Sergeant D. "I hate to do this to you," he said. Al turned up the radio, and we leaned in to listen. Sure enough, they'd just made cellphone contact with the subject, who was about a mile and a half from camp, Code 4. He was fine, he said. No diabetic issues.

Al and I couldn't help but laugh--this kind of timing has happened a number of times before. But good, that's the end result we always hope for. After a little shut-eye for an hour or so, we turned around and drove back to Flagstaff.