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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A Walk In The Woods

There's no news article link to give you for this one. I guess the ending didn't make it a newsworthy story. Still, a disabled teen did spend a cold night in the woods, and search and 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 5 p.m. on Friday but hadn't returned 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 subject, legally an adult but mentally much younger, who 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 young man 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. Even on foot, my search partner and I encountered some obstacles, at one point stopped by a wide and deep, swiftly 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 subject's name as nicely as we could, adding that he wasn't in trouble and we just wanted to help. 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. They matched prints they'd spotted around the subject'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 missing teenager'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 subject was located, Code 4 (fine), as he was walking back home.