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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What A Long, Strange Trip

The search for Aubrey Sacco continues. As of today, she's not been heard from in a month, not since she departed on a solo trek through Langtang National Park, which she intended to finish on or before April 30th. Aubrey never boarded her plane to Sri Lanka on May 15th. She was supposed to fly home to Colorado one week later, ending her six-month trip to southeast Asia.

I have some time to write now while we wait for an assignment from international SAR coordinator Valerie Chang from the Red Cross, who arrives in Nepal this evening. A number of groups and individuals from various parts of the world are now involved in the search, as well as Nepalis including sherpas from Langtang and the Himalaya Rescue Dog Squad Nepal (HRDSN). Aubrey's father, Paul Sacco, arrived yesterday and went directly to the embassy, I believe.

So, back to the trip from Pokhara to Kathmandu two days ago with Ingo, nine members of the HRDSN, and three beautiful dogs: Maggie and Hunter, both hounds from the US, and Aldo, a German shepherd donated from Germany.

It was the craziest bus trip of my life: eight hours to travel a distance of 200 kilometers. Everywhere I looked was a photo. Every scene was an essay waiting to be written. Every face a portrait. It was overwhelming, especially to someone like me who wishes she could capture every detail and share it all. For now, though, I'm reduced to simple phrases. Kind of an "I spy" of sorts as I leaned my face out the bus window for some hot, moving air and exhaust. I put my sunglasses on to spare my eyes from the dirt and dust.

I spy...

A small, shriveled old woman carrying a woven basket full of river rocks on her rounded back.

A boy herding goats inches from busses passing within inches of each other within inches of the steep drop into the valley below.

Terraced hillsides bright green with rice paddies and corn, rising above a brown river.

Men, women, and children gathered around roadside pipes and spigots, washing dishes, washing clothes, washing themselves.

Women in bright, beautiful clothing, with shiny black hair, working in a dirty construction site with dirty men.

Chickens crossing the busy road, and goats and dogs and cows and ducks.

Water buffalo.

A police checkpoint, where we have to stop.

Women in saris and high heels on the backs of motorbikes, their bright silky scarves billowing out behind them.

Mud houses with thatched roofs.


Piles of brick, piles of stone, piles of bags of concrete mix, sand bags.

Hills in front of bigger hills in front of mountains in front of bigger mountains disappearing into the white, steamy haze.

Flowers in fuchsia, red, yellow, white, lavender, and purple.

Trees ablaze in orange, their drooping branches heavy with large blooms.

Exotic women walking hand in hand and arm in arm, carrying parasols down flower- and trash-lined streets.

Shop after shop after shop after shop, all open-faced, so many of them so much alike.

Street vendors, squatting next to their wares, spread on cloths at the edge of the road;

Bright, silky, sparkling, woven, and woolen fabrics; baskets; shoes and sandals; piles of cabbage, tomatoes, melons, hot peppers; eggs in large, open cartons; beaded jewelry; clothing; purses; woven rugs; caged chickens; sacks of spices; bread; incense; sunglasses; sugary candies; warm bottled coke; white, purple, brown, and red potatoes; statuettes; cigarettes; bunches of green bananas, and heaps of mango.

Creaking carts pushed by weathered people.

Street dogs sleeping in the dirt, on the concrete steps, at the side of the road, in the road.

Women weaving.

Buildings, big and small, with uncovered windows and doors, leading into the blackness.

Traffic jams like puzzle pieces, inches apart.

Banana trees.

Old landslides ending abruptly at the narrow road they once covered.

People standing next to their immobile busses, cars, motorbikes, and trucks, waiting for an accident to clear

Busses bloated with breathing bodies driving through a blast furnace

Four-passenger cars with eight.

Gravel-laden trucks belching black smoke as they creep up the winding hill.

My life passing before my eyes as our bus passes another vehicle again, again on a blind curve.

Rock- and water-filled gorges disappearing into the jungle.

A man clipping his toenails.

A young boy with a dirty face and grease-covered hands fixing some sort of machine.

A man with a tube-shaped hat, carrying a large sack of something slung over his shoulder.

People spitting and snot-rockets.

Children playing a game without toys.

People sitting, doing nothing.

People staring back at me.

And that was the first ten minutes. 👀

Maggie and Me