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.

March 2, 2009

The Test

Well, it's been a month since our last call-out. That feels like a very long time compared to what I've experienced since I first joined the team a year and a half ago. It has been nice, though, to sleep through the night, for so many nights in a row.

But, during this quiet time, I haven't been sitting on my keester. Just the opposite, in fact, in part because a not-so-little bird told me (and the rest of our general membership) that there's going to be a fitness test for those wanting to be on the Technical Team. That fitness test is the same as the official Wildland Fire Test: 3 miles in 45 minutes with a 45-lb pack. Yikes! If we don't pass the first time, we'll be able to take it again (and again?) until we do.

It's not the weight that intimidates me--been there, done that, plenty of times on the Appalachian Trail and elsewhere. And it's not the time limit. I can walk pretty quickly if I want to. (Apparently, we won't be allowed to jog.) But the weight and the time limit combined ... that's the kicker.

While doing a little hunting around online, I came across this: “The Pack Test” Work Capacity Testing for Wildland Firefighters: Ensuring Wildland Fire Safety" by the U.S. Forest Service. In the article, it states that there are three test levels.

Light Walk Test: a 1-mile hike in 16 minutes
Moderate Field Test: 2-mile hike with 25-pound pack in 30 min.
Arduous Pack Test: 3-mile hike with 45-pound pack in 45 min.

As you can see, our test is going to be the "arduous" one. And now that I've done a time trial at the local University track, I'm sure of that description. I did complete the 12 laps in 43 minutes, 40 seconds ... but that was carrying just 11lbs. And, boy, were my hips sore when I finished, from all that silly race-walking. So I certainly have my work cut out for me. I plan to keep up the training, once a week with increasingly heavier packs, until test time on May 9th. Between those workouts, regular hiking, Jazzercise three to five times per week, and an occasional snowshoe or hike at altitude on the peaks, I'll hopefully pass the test the first time around.

And even though a slightly smaller bird told me we won't be using the arduous test, I figure this training can't hurt. There are some mighty fast boys on that Tech Team who I'll be wanting to keep up with ... or at least keep in sight up ahead.

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