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.

Recent Happenings

No call-outs since the Sedona plane crash, but some other news and events to share....

We had an Alternative Navigation class on Saturday, November 15th. By "alternative navigation," I'm referring to navigation without the use of gadgets such as a compass, GPS or altimeter. Skills we learned and practiced in the field included navigating by the sun, celestial navigation, and using terrain to our advantage with techniques such as aiming off, safety baselines, funneling, catch features, pacing and more. Let me just say, this stuff takes practice!

I took this course, taught by one of our team's navigation experts, last year, and intend to take it every time it's offered. These are skills that definitely require time and repetition to master and continued use to keep sharp. I find celestial navigation fascinating, and I was so impressed by our instructor's knowledge. (And a little jealous, too.)

Anyhow, I wrote an article about Alternative Navigation on my SARstories blog. Click here if you're interested in taking a look.

A writer from the Arizona Daily Sun took the classroom portion of the Alt. Nav. training and, that afternoon, a photographer accompanied us for a short time in the field, so a newspaper article is in the works. I'll let you know when it appears.

In other news, several specially selected team members went out to the Little Colorado River in the area of Hopi Salt Canyon to collect some evidence located by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The evidence was potentially connected to the case of Reinhard Kirchner, the German national who went missing in early spring, 2007. In April of last year, after 61 year-old Kirchner failed to meet his fiancee in Las Vegas as planned, his abandoned vehicle was found near the north rim of the Little Colorado River gorge. A large ground and air search, involving multiple agencies and counties, followed, but after six days of searching about 56 square miles of rugged terrain, the SAR mission was called off.

At our general meeting last night, Sergeant D said the items that were found could just be a river runner's stash. Still, investigation continues, including the potential for DNA testing on the items.

Also at last night's meeting, we were told that the pilot from the downed Piper near Sedona, 51 year-old Rockney Mark Herring, is still alive and has been stabilized. Apparently, he's also been awake. Boy, is that great news!

And with that, I'm off to the uniform shop to pick up my new, very yellow winter coat (it's one of our team colors, you see) that now has Search & Rescue patches on it. That way, people will know why I'm wearing a bright yellow winter coat and won't just assume I'm either color blind or unfashionable.