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.

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Missed Missions and Being Missed

That was nice! A teammate called to check up on me because I've not been able to respond to the last two missions. You could say that's a bit unusual for me—missing two SAR missions in a row—and not something I prefer. But how cool it is to be missed.

Following the recent search for a 12-year-old girl, which thankfully ended well, my pager was silent until 7:15 on Friday morning, January 23. I knew I couldn't respond, but by habit, I had to call in anyway to hear what the call-out was for. The short message simply stated there was a possible downed aircraft.

Oh man, I thought, and I'm gonna be stuck in a hair salon? I take care of my mom, you see, and she doesn't drive. And she had scheduled her monthly hair appointment, which I had to take her to, as always. Needless to say, I fidgeted and paced for two hours, waiting for her dye-and-set to be finished, reluctantly listening to salon-style chatter, all the while knowing my teammates were "out there" somewhere. Every time the hairdresser would stop working in order to make hand gestures to help prove the point she was making, my knee would start bouncing and my foot tapping, and I could feel my blood pressure rise.

When I finally got home after dropping my mom off back at her own house, I thought about calling our SAR captain to tell him I'd be available to join the team in the field if need be, but first I went online and found two breaking news updates. When I refreshed the webpage, a third appeared. And before long, as I continued reading, my phone rang and I heard from a teammate who'd talked to another teammate who'd been on scene, and I knew I need not call.

Read all four breaking news updates from that day (in descending order) here. Two Flagstaff men died in the crash.

Only minutes after concluding the call with my teammate, I turned on the television and immediately saw news of the crash, including an interview with the deputy who was dealing with a traffic stop at the very moment the small aircraft flew right over his head and heard the impact moments later.

A couple of days later, on the snowy, windy, very cold evening of January 25, my pager went off again. Steve and I were in a restaurant at the time (that favorite sushi place of ours I mentioned in my last post), and I called in to find out what was going on. A technical rescue on Mt. Elden. I thought for a moment, knowing that non-technical team members were welcome to respond and go along in case we could be of help carrying gear or performing any other non-technical tasks that might arise.

On the other hand, Steve and I had driven to the restaurant in one vehicle (we sometimes take separate cars, just in case there's a call-out), and I'd first have to drop him off at home before responding. This would take at least 20 minutes, and then I'd have the drive across town. I didn't want to hold the team up and wasn't sure I'd actually be needed anyway... so I decided not to respond.

As Steve and I drove home after dinner, I looked over at the mountain, mostly hidden in the clouds, and shivered. I knew my teammates were probably still up there on that wet and wintry night and felt a pang of remorse at not being out there, too.

But such is life as a SAR volunteer. Sometimes you just have to pass.
Read Stranded Hikers Rescued from Elden Cliffs from the Arizona Daily Sun.