These are my stories as a volunteer member of the Sheriff's Search & Rescue team in Coconino County, Arizona. I'll share what it's like to go from a beginner with a lot to learn to an experienced and, hopefully, valuable member of the team, as well as the missions, trainings, and other activities along the way.
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.
October 13, 2009
Tracks! I See Tracks!
It had to be them--the family of five we were looking for last night. I mean, how many other people would have been wandering around on those backwoods roads? As my teammate and I continued to follow the prints and impressions, we could see that they were on top of all the tire tracks, and they were definitely fresh. So we'd track for a bit, then walk back and retrieve our ATV's and move them up, then return to tracking. Finally, we heard a faint response to my teammate's shout. Definitely a chorus of voices, both male and female, somewhere off in the trees.
This was one of those times when a short walk--twenty minutes had been the plan, they later told us--turned into a long, chilly night. I'm sure it must have been an added frustration for the family, knowing there were flashlights and warm clothing back in their vehicle as they wandered around in the dark, trying to find their way out. They did have a cell phone, though, and luckily had reception too, so they were able to call for assistance.
So, this is yet another instance that makes me NOT feel silly about carrying my 24-hour pack with me all the time, even when I walk my dog in the woods I know so well around our house, and recommending that others do the same. A 24-hour pack doesn't have to weigh very much--mine is often around 12 pounds, including at least two liters of water--but it can literally save your life. Or at least make it more tolerable while you wait for help.
Okay, I'll stop preaching ... so I can start complaining. Have I mentioned lately that I really dislike ATV's? I'm talking about driving them. I swear, they make me more nervous than rappelling off an 80-foot cliff (which makes me pretty darn nervous). Not only do I end up eating a lot of dirt and wearing a layer of dust, because I'm always behind a teammate's quad because I'm such a slow driver, but I always feel like I'm going to tip over whenever the road is anything but flat. Those deeply rutted, rocky two tracks really challenge my limited ATV skills, and I'm much too chicken to load or unload a quad from the trailer. Besides, I think that being nervous can only lead to problems when it comes to those heavy beasts, so better I don't try is how I see it.
I'm always a little bummed when I get assigned to an ATV rather than to hike. For some reason, though, the UTV--the Polaris Ranger--doesn't bother me. At least, not where I've driven it so far, which includes up and down the switchbacks at the Snowbowl ski area.
Anyhow, I'm off to the monthly technical rescue team meeting tonight. These meetings are followed by a day-long field training on the weekend. I'm not sure what we'll be learning and practicing this time, but I thought I heard something about passing knots in raising and lowering systems. We shall seeee.....
That family of five you were tracking included my sisters, nephews, and brother in law. Thank you for your efforts in finding them, from all of us!
The post from our son says it all. Our daughters, grandsons and son in law experienced quite a lot but not what was probable without your help and that of your team. Thanks very much!
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