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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The Mystery Of The Man With The Van

I wish I could share anything and everything about our SAR missions, but legally and ethically I shouldn't. So I always re-read what I write here and reluctantly delete some details. Suffice it to say, this one was (or, rather, is) another puzzler.

A van sat abandoned along the freeway near a scenic overlook. Items found in the unlocked vehicle prompted many questions, and those of us searching on the first day of the mission contemplated possible scenarios. Why did the subject park here? What was going on with him at the time? Where the heck did he go? We came up with quite a few answers, some rather creative.

Meanwhile, my three teammates and I spread out for a grid search, keeping each other in sight through the pinion-juniper and thick underbrush as we stumbled over loose rocks and squished through the mud. We searched along the nearby cliff band too, carefully peering over the edge. We thought we were going to find the man from the van not all that far from the road.

But we didn't find a thing, so our coordinator did a call-out for the next day. I wasn't able to go back out to search—Mom's needs took precedence—but a teammate told me nothing turned up on Tuesday, either. My friend said she'd walked about five miles, zigzagging across her team's assigned segment. She said she was exhausted.

At least I know it wasn't just me. I mean, it wasn't mountaineering, but somehow I was more spent after that search than I usually am when we're on the peaks. Something about that rocky and muddy ground and climbing over barbed wire fence all afternoon really ate through my energy reserves. Not to mention that I hadn't eaten much before, and nothing during, the search. Silly me.

So, we'll see what happens with this mystery. Today, though, we're heading out for an evidence search connected with a bank robbery. Apparently, the suspects were caught along with the cash, but there's still something out there that law enforcement would like to have. So, if you happen to see a bunch of people in yellow shirts walking in a grid down the middle of a highway, that may just be us.