Monday, July 27, 2009

Bluff Creek 2009

Robert Leiterman, Derek Randles, Cliff Barackman,
Brandon Kiel, Bart Cutino and Bobo.
Mountain Monkey is in the foreground.

My friends have their priorities right. As a bachelor party, instead of going partying out on the town, Bart Cutino organized a bigfooting trip to Bluff Creek. I was on the invitation list, so of course I took him up on the offer to attend. Besides, many of my best bigfooting friends were going, and what a great occasion to meet up with them!

I have a soft spot for Bluff Creek. It played a formative role in my early bigfooting years, and I have spent scores of nights there, many of them alone. I am familiar with a variety of its nooks and crannies, though there is so much land that new discoveries are made every time I visit. Over the last fifteen years of my research there, I have had several encounters with what I strongly suspect were sasquatches. It continues to be a very active area to this day with several locations that are among the most consistent that I know of.

I left on Tuesday with plans to meet up with the gang at the location. I took my time, enjoying the ride through Oregon and into California over the pass between O'Brian, OR and Happy Camp, CA to meet up with the Bigfoot Scenic Highway, the 96.

" It's my way, or the highway."
In this case, both.

I turned off the main highway and onto the labyrinth of logging roads that burrow into the Bluff Creek region. The rest of my party was only 20 minutes ahead of me, and I found them on the side of the road examining a map and hanging out. After a short hello and a series of hugs, we make our way to the chosen location.

The location is an area with a series of campsites spread over several hundred yards. Deer and small mammals are plentiful. Many of the plants that grow here are edible. Water runs nearby and provides impenetrable cover. A nearby ravine drops into a river bottom with no road access for many miles. It is ideal habitat for sasquatches.

After setting up a chain of campsites covering a distance of perhaps 250 yards, Derek Randles and I went on a short hike to the ravine. On the way to the ravine, Derek disturbed several large animals that immediately ran into the thick overgrowth. Neither of us saw the animals, but we both saw the bushes tremble as whatever it was crunched its way through the brush and off to safety. We both agreed it was probably deer or bear, but whatever it was, it was large.

After calling and knocking into the ravine at dusk, Derek and I returned to camp. It was well after dark when we finally made our way back to "Wally Camp", the temporary home of Wally Hersom. We quickly settled in and socialized while enjoying refreshing beverages. No bigfoot activity was noticed that night.

The next day, Bart and his cousin Pete took a hike with me to inspect a nearby pond. Being a very warm day (easily 90+ degrees in the sun), I was conscious of the very real possibility of stumbling across a rattlesnake. I have seen rattlers at Bluff Creek on more than one occasion. We were hiking out in the open, away from the treeline and largely off trail, being forced to make our way through the brush on several occasions. While moving through a shady patch under a tree, I heard a short "tsh, tsh" sound. (I was lucky to hear it at all considering it only gave two short rattles, and we were having a conversation while we walked!) I froze and searched the manzanita bush with my eyes, finding the rattlesnake coiled up, ready to strike at a distance of perhaps four or five feet from where I stood.

Northern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus)

It was an impressive snake. It was close to 40 inches long, and easily more than three inches in diameter. Having tasted rattlesnake before I was kicked out of Boy Scouts, these critters are an obvious food source for a hungry bigfoot. There were lots of calories packed into this one!

We did our best to photograph the beast, and counted our blessings that I heard the rattle before stepping on it. It eventually got tired of us poking and prodding at it like little boys, and slithered off behind a stump. The encounter did put a damper on the walk back, though. Somehow, bushwhacking wasn't as much fun knowing what might lie underfoot...

That night, it got late too quickly to do calls into the ravine. I instead set up several game cameras around the outside of a meadow as well as in my camp in hopes of being visited by wildlife. When I returned to the Wally Camp, I found my friends cooking burgers and doing celebratory whiskey shots in honor of Bart and his wife Kim. It's not surprising that no bigfoot activity was noticed that night either.

The next day was as hot as the previous one, so a group of us made our way to the Patterson/Gimlin filmsite. Wally Hersom, Brandon Kiel, and I piled into Derek Randles' truck and drove to a logging landing near the filmsite. We then made the walk upstream, "around the corner", and up to the actual spot.

Cliff Barackman, Derek Randles, and Wally Hersom
with the PG Filmsite in the background.

Forty-two years has dramatically changed the filmsite. The sand bar where the bigfoot walked is covered by a thick stand of trees. To stand where Patty actually walked, one needs to navigate the bear trails that weave through the dense woods.

A shot from about where "Patty" walked forty-plus years ago.

On a side note, Bill Munns hopes to visit the PG Site to identify specific trees that are still standing that can be seen in the background of the film. I have done casual attempts on two different occasions, and have found the task to be quite difficult. I think it can be done, but I think it'll be pretty hard. Good luck, Bill. I would suggest identifying large trees that are growing out of, or around, large rocks protruding from the hillside. There are several examples that I have found in person, though I have yet to check the film itself for these rocks.

Brandon Kiel, Derek Randles, and Wally Hersom
in the creek bed at the PG Filmsite.

That evening, calls were made into the ravine. We had a good feeling about the coming night, so we were on heightened alert. I straggled behind the rest of the crew, lingering in my campsite which was the one closest to the ravine. Over the next hour, I heard two distinct knocks and a quieter one from much closer. Single knocks are a little difficult to positively identify as coming from sasquatches since a multitude of things produce similar sounds. Sticks and debris are constantly falling from trees in even the slightest wind, and temperature makes wood expand and contract, sometimes producing popping noises as layers of wood separate. Still, the two knocks I heard that night seemed a little stronger and more deliberate than the accidental twig falling. The third, more subtle knock might have been a natural forest noise, but it had a different timbre than the other taps and knocks throughout the day and night.

Just before midnight, we were gathered around the fire when a car rolled up. It was James "Bobo" Fay and his dog, Mountain Monkey. Bobo was only 36 hours late, but that's the way he rolls. It turns out that he would have been there much earlier, but he stumbled across a newly set forest fire right off the road, and stopped to put out the problem patches. He then drove back to the ranger station to tell them about the blaze before driving back out to our location.

The rest of the night was quiet, as far as sasquatches go. It was actually quite boisterous with another friend added to the mix. Bobo is full of astonishing stories of his exploits, and a campfire with him is far more entertaining than a week of television.

The next morning just after 6 am, Terry Smith was awakened by "someone" walking in the woods above his campsite. He wrote it off as probably being Robert Leiterman, who tends to get up very early and go for walks. Not thinking much of it, Terry went back to sleep. A couple hours later, Terry got out of his tent to relieve himself. On the way back to the tent, a rock landed a mere eight feet to his right and bounced once. Again, Terry assumed is was Robert messing with him. Terry muttered, "Ha, you missed," and went back in his tent to grab another hour of sleep. However, Robert was not in the vicinity at the time.

When I heard about this event, I spoke to all the parties involved, and went to the site to do experiments. Terry found the actual stone that was thrown and it is now in my possession. We found the most likely spot from which the rock was thrown, and it was only about 50 feet from where Terry had been visiting the bushes.

The projectile.

I'll stick my neck out and say that this very well could have been a sasquatch rock-throwing event. The only reasonable place from which the rock could have been thrown (based on the stone's trajectory and forward motion) was situated on an animal trail behind a large snag. In previous years, the bigfoots in the area seemed to have stuck around until after daylight, and this one followed the same pattern. For all I know, it could have been the same individual that I encountered here several years before.

That afternoon was spent repositioning the bait piles and game cameras. We also did a few exploratory walks, but generally stuck close to camp.

That evening, Brandon Kiel and I went to the ravine to do the nightly calls and knocks. We walked eastwards from the usual screaming spot, and hung out until dark. Just to make sure we grabbed as much attention as possible, in addition to our screams and knocks we threw large rocks down the hillside into the ravine. Other investigators have had good results with this technique, and as it turns out, we would too.

After dinner and a small campfire, the group retired for the evening around 2 am. Everyone was lying in their tents, but I chose to sit in my dark campsite and listen. At about 2:45, clear knocking started. After three distinct "pops", I radioed the others to wake them. Only Bobo and Terry heard the radio, but they had already both heard the knocks. The knocking continued... and continued... and continued... all the while moving towards the southeast. As the sounds started faded away, I returned the knocks by beating on a downed log as if to say, "I'm over here," but the sounds were now beyond the range of my hearing. The knocks lasted well over six minutes, and was moving the whole time.

I counted the knocks on the recording (which did not capture the last two minutes since the sounds were becoming increasingly quiet), which totalled 63 before I could no longer hear the fading noise. I have a short, low quality sample of the knocking on my website, A better recording exists, and I will endeavor to obtain it, clean it up, and post it for peer review.

I'm calling them knocks, but I do not think these were the sounds of wood on wood. The pitch and timbre of the sounds remained constant the whole time. This would not be true if a sasquatch was beating on trees as it passed: each tree would sound at least a little different than the one before, and at least some of them would sound very different. This simply was not the case. I have often wondered how sasquatches can answer my own knocks so quickly. It takes some time to find an appropriate knocking stick, as well as a suitable tree to hit. So much time that sasquatches are clearly not going through this process.

I think they are clapping. That is not to say that they never hit sticks against trees. I think they do, but many times they are very likely clapping.

I used to hang out with lots of Brazilian folks. The Brazilian culture is very musically oriented, and when they dance and sing, there is generally lots of clapping going on. They have a technique of clapping that uses the cup-shape of their palms to get an amazing popping noise that almost hurts due to the volume. Now imagine a palm that is eight or ten inches across. Imagine some more that you had nothing to do in the woods but get really good at clapping as loud as possible with these gigantic hands. I think it is very likely that our hairy friends are clapping. I definitely think the sasquatch we heard last week was clapping.

Hand clapping in apes is not unheard of. Apes in captivity exhibit this behavior, and there are some observations of swamp gorillas doing the same in the wild. Here is a link to an article documenting hand clapping in a population of wild western lowland gorillas. Once again, seemingly strange sasquatch behavior has a precedent in other apes.

The party had to break up the next day, with each researcher going his own way. I had nowhere to be until Monday, so I spent most of the day looking for footprints at another spot near Bluff Creek that I refer to as the "Water Spot". Wally Hersom and Robert Leiterman accompanied me. No sasquatch tracks were found, but beautiful bear prints were discovered.

My radio is 6.5 inches from the antenna to the bottom.

Wanting to take a few hours off of my drive, I ended up spending the night at the end of a logging road near the Oregon/California border above Happy Camp. No sasquatch activity was noted that evening.

Once again, Bluff Creek had produced some excellent sasquatch action. It was not the first time, and I'm pretty sure it won't be the last. I love Bluff, and will continue to visit there as long as I am able. It's amazing that after 50 years, it still produces excellent data to those who put in the time becoming intimately familiar with its patterns. It's still one of the 'squatchiest places I know of.


  1. Is this the first Bigfoot Bachelor Party in history? It has all the makings of one of those campy 80's movies...all that's needed is the Corey's and some chicks running around in bikini's :) Thanks for the re-visit and update on Bluff Creek and good to know that there's still activity there! Keep up the good work Cliff - I enjoy watching your adventures!

  2. Hey, where are you guys in relation to the film site's "bowling alley," the straight part of the creek that heads straight up north? Right before it? Are you guys at the eastern or end point of the creature's path?

  3. Awesome story Cliff. I hope to visit the PNW one day,specifically Bluff Creek and the film site. I dream of pitching a tent and spending a week or two in that very spot. Thanks for a very entertaining story. Take care and be safe.

  4. Cliff,

    Great article. Your thoughts on the source of the wood knocking sounds mirrr my own. I wrote an article on my blog back in May of this year theorizing that some of the "knocks" being heard in the forests of North America might actually be hand claps. I would be honored if you would check it out at http//

  5. Cliff,

    Make that

    Sorry about that.

  6. I don't think that's the P/G filmsite Cliff. There's a logjam on a gravel bluff near the actual site. The creek bend in your picture looks different.