Sunday, January 18, 2009

Winter Bigfooting

Given the current break in the weather (featuring clear skies, and not-too-cold temps), I seized the opportunity to get into the woods for a night this weekend. Two friends and I explored a small section of Hamilton Creek outside of Jewell, OR.

Jewell is well-known for the Jewell Meadows Wildlife Area. (If you click on this link and read the article, think about how what is said about elk translates into possible bigfoot behavior... I found the "hunting" section to be interesting.) Elk are excellent indicators about the possible presence of sasquatches. I believe bigfoots eat not only the same vegetation as the elk, but they also eat the elk themselves. With several large elk herds in the immediate area, endless miles of rugged forest, few residents, and even fewer nighttime tourists, this area screams out as an obvious haunt for our furry friends.

While walking along the creek bed looking for animal prints (and finding elk, deer, coyote, raccoon, mice, and a weathered trail of boot prints), I thought about how bigfooting in the winter is in some ways easier than in the warmer months. First of all, the high waters make excellent sand and mud bars for finding well-defined prints. Often, flooding that occurs in sudden melt offs scours away much of the plant life found along the banks, thus increasing the size of many sand bars.

Secondly, it occurred to me how I couldn't even get to where I was currently standing during the summer because of a nasty plant native to the Pacific Northwest commonly called Devil's Club (Oplopanax horridus... note the word "horrid" is right in the name). Devil's club is covered with spikes that not only hurt, but sometimes leave splinter-like shards under the skin. During the winter months, devils club goes dormant which leaves behind a woody stem. The stem still has spikes, but they are not as devastating as they are in the growing season.

The downstream air currents soon brought the smell of something rotting to my nose. Of course, my first thought was that perhaps it was the smell of a sasquatch, but this was not the most likely option, so I put that thought on hold. It turns out that this creek is the target of an effort to revegetate the stream bed. The state has started leaving salmon carcasses along the river so the decomposing fish can replenish the soil nutrients. This will help the riparian plants, which will in turn give juvenile salmon not only more places to hide, but an increased food supply.

Several examples of the local wildlife were observed during the trip. Elk were recently in the immediate vicinity of camp, as indicated by their hoof marks and scat. Coyotes responded to our "bigfoot noises" nearly every time we broadcasted them throughout the night, though from different directions, possibly indicating multiple packs. I was lucky enough to capture a photograph of a coyote just outside our camp on a game camera hidden nearby.

Around the time when the coyote was captured on game camera, I was sitting on a large (10 ft tall) pile of gravel and scanning up and down a nearby feeder creek. This was another situation in which winter squatching is easier than the other seasons. The trees that live in the riparian zone are largely deciduous and shed their leaves in the fall. During this time of year, the trees are largely barren, enabling the thermal imager to see farther into the woods. I captured the following video from atop the gravel pile:

It is probably the coyote that was captured by the game camera, but I guess it could be another from the same pack. The video was taken just a few minutes after the photograph was. Interestingly, upon reviewing the video, I realized that I had recorded the animal at least twice while scanning the river area, but had not noticed it. I just looked right past it. That forces me to wonder if I've ever accidentally ignored a bigfoot while scanning too quickly.

Even though no bigfoot activity was observed nor recorded, it was a good trip with good friends, which is one of the real joys of going bigfooting at all. That, and creating amazing nighttime art show spectaculars.

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