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.

April 11, 2010

A Walk In The Woods

There is no article link to give you for this one. I guess the ending didn't make it a newsworthy story. Still, a mentally handicapped teenager did spend a cold night in the woods, and Search & Rescue, local firefighters, and members of CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) did spend all night looking for him, wandering the forest, Forest Service roads and trails, tracking, and knocking on doors in Munds Park.

He'd left the house around 5pm on Friday but didn't return home by dark. The first searchers on scene checked what was said to be his usual route to Frog Tank, but there was no sign of the boy--legally an adult but mentally much younger. And he apparently wasn't dressed well for what was becoming a very cold night.  It had, after all, been a rather warm spring day.

We'd brought ATVs with us but were told the boy would probably be afraid of searchers, so the vehicle noise certainly wouldn't help. Not to mention the muddy and very wet conditions that would have made driving difficult. In fact, even on foot, my search partner and I encountered some obstacles, at one point being stopped by a wide, fairly deep and moving creek, swollen with spring runoff. We talked to two of our teammates who'd arrived on the opposite side of the creek, compared notes about our perspective assignments and, since our next search assignment was on their side and theirs on ours, we swapped.

As my companion and I looked for prints around a stock tank and seasonal ponds and along water-filled washes, we had to climb over barbed wire fences, slog through the mud, watch our step on jagged rocks and mounds of snow, and, at one point, cross a very rickety suspension bridge. Meanwhile, we called the boy's name as nicely as we could, adding that he wasn't in trouble and we just wanted to help him. We'd stop to listen for any response, but all we heard were coyotes.

And the only tracks we found belonged to critters, big and small. Other searchers even spotted some fresh mountain lion prints. In the pitch dark, I couldn't help but wonder if we were being watched.

Another search team did, however, find human prints in the woods. And they matched prints they'd spotted around the boy's home. Incident Command had checked and described the tread on the boots of those who'd arrived first on scene to do a hasty search and ruled those out, so everyone was optimistic these were the boy's prints. But the tracks were eventually lost in rocky terrain.

At daybreak, weary searchers were replaced by a fresh crew. But it wasn't long before the boy was found as he was walking back home.


Anonymous said...

Glad to hear a happy ending to that one. Thanks for spreading the word.

Anonymous said...

It is always the good results that are mosty news worthy.. not the bad... I just wish we could convince the journalist.. glad you guys had a live find..

Stay safe & Good Searching


Hiking Lady said...

Glad that he was ok! Your search stories are always exciting! Thanks for sharing the great story as always.