Monday, August 31, 2009

Bigfoot Bash and Bounty (and more)

I took a drive up the Columbia River this past Saturday to drop in on the Skamania County Bigfoot Bash and Bounty, held at Home Valley Park just east of Carson, WA. I was only there for a short while, but it seemed like a good old fashion family oriented festival, complete with a bigfoot jumper for the kids, a climbing wall for the vertically inclined, and booths selling various wares for those with a few extra bucks. There were guest speakers, too. Dr. Robert Pyle did a reading from his excellent book, and earlier in the day Henry Franzoni spoke of his new book, and Joe Beelart talked about his favorite research area, the Upper Clackamas River Basin.

In addition to the above attractions, there were prize drawings, a "Lil Bigfoot" scavenger hunt, a display devoted to the late Datus Perry, and "The Yeti Yard", which was a beer garden featuring locally brewed Walking Man Beer. Walking about and posing for pictures was a guy in a huge bigfoot suit. In fact, this was the same style of bigfoot suit those clowns from Georgia tried to fool the world with last year. It didn't look much better in person...

Patty Reinhold and Cliff Barackman

Patty Reinhold, former director of the International Bigfoot Society (originally headed by Ray Crowe) was on hand with her husband Bob. She was kind enough to bring a cast credited as being made by Scott White outside of Bend, OR for me to look at. It was an older copy, obviously reproduced in sand, but was impressive in its size and toe shape. It reminded me quite a bit of the Laird Meadow casts from 1963 (though it is published that these casts are from 1964). Now that I have a photograph of it and have had a chance to look more closely, I believe it is in fact the same cast, just mislabeled. (Mix ups like this do occur with no need for accusations of deliberate hoaxing by Mr. White or anyone else involved.) Feel free to compare the subtle markings on Patty's cast to the close up found on my web page. Examine the toe positions, and more importantly the subtle markings found on the foot. Remember that much detail was lost when it was copied in sand, and think about how those markings would be more diffuse and less obvious after a generation or two of copying. I think you'll agree with my assessment.

A close-up of the misidentified cast

I hung out at the festival for a while visiting with friends, but I soon grew anxious to get into the woods. I took advantage of my location and drove up Wind River Road to the general area of Skookum Meadows for a night of bigfooting.

As it turns out, Skookum Meadows has a bit of active logging going on, so I drove a few miles to the north. I eventually found a good campsite near a meadow just north of Squaw Butte. I set out my trail cameras, set up some thermal imagers to monitor camp all night, and hung out with my friend.

At one point in the night, I heard a repeated call from the southeast, but the valley I was camped in had such active acoustics that the reverberation made the faint sound unidentifiable. I suspect it was an owl, but I cannot be sure. My recorder did not pick up the sounds.

After turning in for the night, another repeated call was heard. I initially thought it was the wind howling through the trees, but I soon realized it was a vocalization of some animal coming from a great distance to the south. Upon reviewing that night's recording, the sound was not picked up by my microphone. Two strikes... I received no more metaphoric pitches that night.

The next day brought mushroom hunters upon our camp. They were looking for king bolete mushrooms, which they sell for profit. One man I spoke to said he had never seen a bigfoot, but once he saw a "psychedelic bear" down on Diamond Mountain outside of Bend, OR. He said it was yellow, blue, and other colors. Weird. He agreed, and assured me he was stone sober when he saw it that morning. Saying that was the weirdest thing he has ever seen, he wished me luck on my weird quest and dug for fungi near my feet.

While no bigfoot data was gathered on this trip, I had a great time. I heard some weird unidentifiable noises in the woods, hung out with good folks, and spent time in beautiful country.
This is bigfooting, after all. You don't get them all of the time, so make sure you go for other reasons than the big hairy guys.

On a side note, I thought I made a horrible blunder: forgetting to bring coffee on the trip. (For a teacher, there are few hardships worse than going without coffee!) Luckily I found a place in Stevenson, WA that serves my kind of java.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Beachfoot 2009

How many names/faces can you recognize?
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a gathering of a virtual "who's who" of bigfooters at a private property out in the Coast Range of Oregon. The gathering, officially named "Beachfoot," was organized by Todd Neiss and his wife, Yvonne. It was an intimate gathering of bigfooters, witnesses, and aficionados invited from coast to coast. There were a few speakers, and we did a little squatching in the woods at night, but it was a largely social affair, and an excellent time.

I arrived at the property where this event was held on Friday evening after battling traffic trying to escape the Portland metro area during rush hour. My friends Tom Yamarone, Paul Graves, and Bob Gimlin saved me a spot next to theirs, and I arrived just in time for buffalo meat burgers and vegetables grown on the Gimlin homestead in Yakima, WA. That night was spent catching up with old friends, meeting a few new ones, and reestablishing relationships with folks I had not seen in person for a while, and in a few cases, ever.

There were too many people there to mention, but among the more familiar names in attendance were Chris Murphy, Joe Beelart, Cliff Olsen, Orey and Steve Iness, Diane Stocking, Craig Woolheater, Ron Morehead, Tom Yamarone, Thomas Steenburg, Dr. Robert Pyle, Autumn Williams, Todd Neiss, and Peter Byrne.

Music was in the air, as should be expected with Tom Yamarone in attendance. Paul Graves also has a number of bigfoot songs in his repertoire, which he was happy to share with the smiling crowd. However, I did not know that Ron Morehead can play guitar and has a voice reminiscent of Elvis Presley. I guess I could have known this by listening to the Sierra Sounds CD's, one of which he narrates. John Kirk also got a chance to pluck some guitar strings throughout the night. I do have to give special musical kudos to Autumn Williams on her lovely singing voice. I had no expectations, but it turns out I was pleasantly surprised at her soulful, clear singing on such a classic as "Summertime."

Ron Morehead and Paul Graves crooning tunes in the night.

Saturday morning came too early (or was the previous night too late?), but I awoke to my favorite kind of "alarm clock": Bob Gimlin crawling out of his nearby tent and remarking to himself, "What a beautiful day!" With this kind of welcome to a new day it's hard to not have a smile on one's sunned face all day long.

After breakfast, Thomas Steenburg was scheduled to give a short presentation on recent happenings up in his neck of the woods in British Columbia. He told of his investigations and of a recent flap of hoaxing that seems to be rampant in Western Canada.

Cliff Barackman and Thomas Steenburg

After lunch, forensics expert John Cordell gave a concise presentation on investigative techniques. John had contacted me close to a year ago about an investigation I did on nearby Gordon Creek, so it was great to finally meet him in person to talk about that report and others. He is a professional through and through, and one I hope to get a chance to work with again.

After a communal barbecue, Ron Morehead spoke about the Sierra Sounds recording, but it was originally Scott Nelson who was scheduled. Scott could not make it due to professional obligations, but Ron did his best to fill us in. I always enjoy hearing Ron's thoughtful recounting of his numerous encounters, and his interpretations thereof. Ron, as well as all in attendance, truly respects the 'squatch.

As it turned out, the event happened to be on the same weekend as the birthday of Peter Byrne. Peter's name should be familiar to anyone who has done much reading of bigfooting history, having been investigating reports of hairy bipeds for more than half a century. He is now living on the coast of Oregon, and he continues to search for evidence of sasquatches, but also spends time in Nepal working for the International Wildlife Conservation Society, which he founded.

What a dapper looking cake!

Later, Dr. Robert Pyle said a few words and did a short reading from his fantastic book, after which we were set loose to socialize and play music (even I sat in on the song, "Bigfoot and Butterflies" by Paul Graves, sung for Dr. Pyle, whose specialty is butterflies).

Sometime around midnight (though this is only a guess), several of us drove up the road for an hour or so of bigfooting. No bigfoot action was noticed, but a jeep surprised us by driving down the lonely road on which we were squatching. Instead of answering any questions, we hid in the thick brush off to the side of the road (Bob Gimlin took a few more steps than the rest of us and ended up down a little ravine, but was OK), and watched the car roll by as we hid undetected. If you want to see a 'squatch, you have to be a 'squatch...

The next morning I again awoke to my Gimlin alarm clock, and sure enough, he was right: it was another beautiful day. We ate a communal breakfast of fruit, eggs, and rolls while we socialized and shared thoughts and stories of our various adventures. Soon, goodbye's were said, and we were off to the various places from where we had come, yet a little richer for the experience.

I'd like to end this post by wishing Peter Byrne a happy birthday, but more importantly, a happy year to come. His contributions to bigfooting speak for themselves, and it is the shoulders of Peter and the other "horsemen" that we all stand on now.

Paul Graves, Dr. Robert Pyle, Bob Gimlin, Peter Byrne,
Ron Morehead, Tom Yamarone, and Cliff Barackman

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

'Squatch the Vote!

There comes a time for each of us to stand up and do what's right. No hiding in the shadows, no waiting for it to go away. Stand tall, and be counted. It's one of the founding principles of our democracy. It's what makes us special as Americans, and as bigfooters.

I consider myself to be a "Pioneer of the Outdoors". Quite a strong title, yes, but certainly bigfooters in general deserve this title, and in this case I am proud to represent us all (keep reading, you're getting to the point...).

We use the outdoors for a reason that almost nobody else in the world does. We are unconventional explorers. We are visionaries. We push the envelope, both scientifically and socially. We put ourselves on the line, braving bad weather, carnivorous predators, and other dangers inherent in the wilds of North America. All this to do what? To come face to face with a real live monster. You'd think most folks would avoid that situation, but we lust for it. We crave it. We give up much for the cause.

To these ends, I call upon you, my bigfooting brethren to VOTE for the video I have entered into a contest sponsored by Columbia Sportswear. It's simply called, "'Squatchin' with Cliff", and can be found at this link. I think it's entertaining, and I also think I can win this contest with your help. I don't get much if I win (you can read the rules on the website, if you care), but I'm doing it for the 'squatch, just like most everything else I do in this realm.

When you watch the video, please be sure to vote by rating it using the star icons underneath. A rating of 5 is the best, so don't choose 1 because the video's #1! (You gotta love my sarcastic friends...)

Thanks, everybody. I'll keep you posted on the results.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Two Nights in Mt. Hood Nat'l Forest

I'm required to be at work full-time starting Monday, so I took the opportunity to get into the woods for a couple nights this past week. I decided to do a little exploring, and to drop by a location where I got some knocks last fall.

I started my two-night adventure by trying to get to Dinger Lake in Mount Hood National Forest. I've never heard of anyone camping at Dinger Lake, so that seemed pretty promising, and the forest service map indicated that a road would take me to within a mile or less of the lake.

Dinger Lake

The road I chose to get there was a rough, rock-strewn mess in several spots, and one obstacle put me in danger of getting my truck high-centered. Soon after the roughest spot, I had to use my hatchet to chop through a small tree that had fallen over the road blocking my path. Not long after that obstacle was overcome, the road petered out and disappeared. I chose that spot for my campsite rather than driving out and looking for another way to the lake.

I was still close to a mile from the lake with dusk just starting to settle on the forest, so I decided to wait until the next day to hike down the the water. That night was spent setting up a humble camp, deploying game cameras, and finding wood for a fire. I don't always camp with a fire. I find them to be loud and needing constant attention, like a bad date. That night, I definitely wanted one because it looked like there was some precipitation coming my way and I thought it'd be nice to warm up before the rain hit.

No bigfoot activity was noted that night.

It rained quite heavily that night, and I woke up with a small puddle of water near my feet. I could have easily avoided this by inspecting the rain fly on my tent, but my mind was elsewhere.

The rain had stopped, but had given the forest a lovely smell and a crisp feel to the air. That is my favorite type of hiking weather, so I put on my rain pants and walked cross-country down to the lake, picking fresh huckleberries for my breakfast as I went.


I searched the lake area for signs of sasquatches, but found none. There was a great campsite with a good 4x4 road that led to it, but I'm not sure how to get there. That will be the goal for another trip in the future. Dinger Lake looks like an excellent spot for potential bigfoot activity, so I'll be back...

After collecting the trail cameras and packing up my gear, I drove out of the area and made my way to Frying Pan Lake. I paid a visit to Frying Pan Lake last fall where I received an excellent knock near 2 am. Before the knock, I had been making unusual noises with a musical whistle in the meadow for nearly 45 minutes. There wasn't much food around last fall, but there would certainly be a lot more now.

I found Frying Pan Lake to be empty of people, so I set up camp. I deployed two game cameras in the woods on either side of the lake, and saved my other ones for the road and for monitoring the camp after I go to bed. Both cameras in the woods had attractive looking apples nearby, as well as scent lures. One of these apple offerings had a rag soaked in mouthwash hung in a tree. The slight breeze dispersed the aroma very efficiently, and the apples were prominently displayed well above ground level. This experiment yielded no positive results, but things like this are worth a try. I know a researcher that has had positive results with a rag soaked in Aqua Velva... I love thinking outside of the box.

My artful display of yummies and smellies.

Trying to learn from my past experiences of missing recording opportunities, I decided to set up my recording gear well before dark. Standing up to get my gear ready, I absent-mindedly gave a loud "whoop" to listen to the fantastic acoustics of the area. To my surprise (and slight dismay), it was immediately answered by two distinct knocks from the southeast. When will I learn?

Shortly after the knocks as I was messing with the microphone, a slight noise caught my attention and I turned to find a large doe walking literally 15 feet from me through the middle of my camp. That was a surprise, perhaps for both parties. She looked cautiously at me and slowly walked off. I managed to get one photograph of her as she made her way off to wherever she went.

There was plenty of food around for a bigfoot.

While walking around the lake looking for impressions, I found a nice trail of barefoot human prints that had me going for a moment. The context of the prints, as well as some anatomical details indicated that they were of the human variety: there were boot prints paralleling the trackway, the foot's arch was evident in several impressions, and the 5th digit (the pinkie toe) was curled under on all the prints, rather than showing signs of flexibility as one would expect from juvenile sasquatch prints of this size. I considered casting a couple for practice, but chose not to until I replenish my Hydrocal supply. I found the track-maker's prints in several locations around the circumference of the lake which made me think of how many times I've heard other bigfoot investigators say things like, "nobody would be walking there," or, "who would walk through mud like that?" Obviously somebody is. I would encourage bigfooters to look at the footprints themselves rather than suppose that people do or don't go to certain places. It seems a little too subjective.

An excellent track, though human.

A little later in the evening, two cars drove by, made contact with me, and camped nearby. I told them I was a bigfoot guy, so if they hear screams from my camp, everything's OK. The two men I spoke to seemed interested enough and invited me to their camp for a beer later in the evening.

Apparently, one of the other guys who was camping with them got started a little early. Only 45 minutes or so after they showed up, one guy started yelling most of his conversation. This wasn't the normal, "I'm drunk so I'm talking loud because I don't realize it" sort of yelling. I mean, this guy was screaming to the point of his voice breaking from the stress. It was a caliber of yelling that one rarely finds in a conversation unless someone is in immediate danger.

I don't think the man understood the fantastic acoustics of the area, since much of his noise was directed at heckling me and the idea of bigfoots. He probably didn't realize I could hear most of the conversations had at their camp. To their credit, the man's friends tried their best to be respectful and quiet him down a little, but the loud guy would have no part in it.

At one point, the loud guy said the "F-word" for nearly 30 seconds straight. I wonder why? I just chose to play my guitar and ignore it as best as I could.

I went through several emotions listening to the loud guy that night. At first, I was a little annoyed, then it changed to a brief period of me being a little mad about losing the opportunity that was presented by the knocks heard earlier, but then, my mood changed to astonishment where it still remains. Maybe it's my age, but I find it flabbergasting that a person of any age could sustain the energy that this man displayed for so long. He was in the mode of being a screamer for nearly three hours. You try screaming at the top of your lungs about anything for 15 minutes, let along three hours.

I abandoned my strategy of making calls and knocks that night. I did not want to the local bigfoots to catch on that my calls are not other bigfoots. Bigfoots are too smart to fool them too many times, and it was obvious there were humans around. I decided to let the loud guy do all the work. After all, he was drawing a lot of attention to the area, and bigfoots are curious animals. However, as far as I could tell, no bigfoots were around that night.

The last thing I heard from the loud guy was him congratulating one of his buddies for vomiting as well as the loud guy does.

The next day, after I collected my gear from the woods, I dropped by the other camp to comment on how hard they were raging, and received several apologies about their loud friend from the two guys I spoke with earlier. I honestly didn't mind so much. After all, it's their national forest too. One of these men even went on to contact me through my email address to offer further apologies and to encourage me on my search for the critters. They seemed like genuinely nice guys who were interested in the topic. One of their buddies just had lots of extra energy and a ton of beer. Most of us have been somewhere like that at some point in our lives, so being forgiving of such jackassery isn't too hard.

Back at the truck, I took down camp and gathered my gear. I shared my breakfast with a few feathered friends that were giving me the eye, and left for home.

Enough breakfast for two, or a whole flock.

While only those two possible knocks were indicative of sasquatches possibly being around, it was still a good trip. I have yet another location to explore (Dinger Lake), and enjoyed (nearly) two days of quiet solitude. Bigfooting is mostly camping with a purpose, and I love to camp. I'll be out there again soon, for the love of it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Autumn Williams on Long-Term Witnesses

I have tremendous respect for Autumn Williams from She gave an excellent presentation at the Bellingham, WA conference where I met her. Having had the pleasure of having lunch with Autumn, Thom Powell, and Kelly Berdahl at this event, she consistently brought thoughtful topics to the discussion table, and used her field experience to intelligently support her ideas. Over the years, she has shown herself to be a diligent researcher who is in this game for the long haul. All that, and she's a witness too.

I ran across a video blog by Autumn in which she shares her thoughts on long-term witnesses (also called "habituations", though I like Autumn's term more). I fully agree with Autumn's plea for researchers to be less invasive in their research techniques, especially when dealing with repeat visitations. She, like many of the researchers I associate myself with, utilize a more passive approach to bigfoot research, always letting the bigfoots be in control.

Enjoy the video.

Vietnam Sighting

I spoke to my father today, and he told me about an interesting thing that happened to him. I gave him a bigfoot t-shirt as a gift a while back, and he wore it to the gym for his workout. A man approached him and struck up a conversation about the t-shirt, and confided in my father that the man had seen a bigfoot a couple decades ago. This sort of thing happens in my bigfooty life all the time, but it was a new one for my dad. The incredibly interesting thing about this man's encounter is that it occurred in Vietnam while he was fighting in the Vietnam War.

My dad

The story, as relayed through my dad, is more or less that the man's platoon was exchanging fire with the enemy in the jungles of Vietnam. At one point on the adjacent hill, a bigfoot-type animal walked through a clearing, went back the way it came, and then went straight up a steep embankment or cliff before disappearing into the thick jungle. The creature apparently showed no difficulty in scaling the steep incline, which impressed the man greatly.

This man told my father that he doesn't talk about it much because he doesn't want people to think that he's crazy. Unfortunately, this fear is far too common among witnesses. It makes me wonder about the information that is still out there, yet remains hidden due to the fear of ridicule.

I had read of Vietnam veterans seeing bigfoot-like creatures in the jungles of Southeast Asia before, but this is as close to the source as I have ever come to one of these witnesses. Sightings from Vietnam are significant considering gigantopithecus fossils have been found there. Here is a link to an article by Russel Ciochon and Charles Yonge detailing their finds of gigantopithecus and homo erectus from the same time periods and location in Vietnam.

For those readers who are not familiar with Russel Ciochon, he is a co-author of the excellent book Other Origins, which details much of what is thought to be known about gigantopithecus. Ciochon states that he does not believe gigantos are yetis or bigfoots. But then again, why would he believe that gigantos are related to animals that he doesn't even think are real?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Bluff Creek Update

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about my recent visit to Bluff Creek. On that visit, several of us witnessed an amazing knocking display that lasted for over six minutes. Due to low batteries in my microphone's preamp, the recording I obtained was of little or no value other than to demonstrate the cadence of the knocks.

Luckily, the group of researchers I associate with believes in redundancy. (Redundancy is, of course, doing things repeatedly, over and over, again and again, more than once, redundantly, like they do in the Department of Redundancy Department.) In the case of bigfoot research, redundancy is having a back-up.

My friend Wally Hersom had a recorder at his campsite running all night long (like all good researchers should) in addition to the recorder in my camp, located several hundred yards away. Wally's recording turned out very well, and he has graciously given it to me for use on my website.

Wally Hersom reviewing the previous
night's recording at Bluff Creek, CA.

Wally's recording is posted on the website at this link. When listening to the recording, please keep in mind that the sound source was moving to the southeast, yet the timbre of the popping noise remains the same. As noted in the previous blog, I strongly suspect that the animal was not knocking with wood on wood, but rather it was clapping. Until a sasquatch is visually observed doing this behavior, it will remain in the realm of hypothesis, but for now at least there is some sort of reviewable data to support my idea.

On another note, there was a compelling rock-throwing event that occurred on this same trip. The rock was carefully collected, and contact was recently made with an individual associated with forensics law enforcement who might be able to lift some prints or amino acids off of the stone. This is a long shot at best, but it's still definitely worth a try. When results are obtained (either positive or negative results), I will notify the readers.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Trying Something New

I was invited to the woods this past week by Thom Powell, author of the excellent book The Locals (scroll down to see the book). Thom thinks outside of the box when it comes to bigfoot research, and his intelligent ideas are always refreshing and fun. Hanging out with him is never dull, and he nearly always has something great up his sleeve. This idea would prove to be in a direction I had never gone.

For this excursion, Thom explained that while most bigfooters seem interested in call blasting or playing rather disagreeable sounds into the woods to lure in bigfoots, he wanted to play something totally unoffensive, pleasant, and multi-cultural (quite the understatement when considering the intended audience). He chose the song "Smaointe" by the artist Enya.

To further entice the creatures' curiosity, he picked lavender, rosemary, and even sunflowers from his own garden to leave out in conspicuous locations near the camp as gifts for the bigfoots. Again, Thom was looking to leave something that would be interesting to them in ways other than food might be. The herbs made my car smell great, so maybe he's onto something.

Thom Powell placing a "gift" of garden herbs on a large stone.

We travelled into Mount Hood National Forest to a camp at the end of a logging road. The camp was near a talus slope overlooking a spring. The rocky hillside was perfect for blasting the recordings since it would reflect the sound outward rather than absorb the sound, as happens with trees.

Thom left the "gifts" on prominent rock piles near camp. We explored the area and set up our gear utilizing what little daylight we had left. I brought out my "big guns" for this trip, since it was only to be a few hours (I had to work the next day). I brought my 500 watt Yamaha PA system which pumps sound through two speakers with crystal clarity. I set the speakers up with them angled outwards by perhaps 45 degrees in order to create a "big" sound, which can be more important than being just loud.

Thom setting up the sound system.

Shortly after sunset, we let the diatonic sounds of Enya echo through the countryside. When the six-minute song ended, we started it over again. In fact, we played nothing but that one song for nearly a half hour.

I don't own any Enya music, but she's a talented musician and very good at what she does. It was not hard to allow her majestic music to add to the moment of watching the last shades of pink and purple play in the wisps of clouds over the Cascades to the west. It was downright lovely. Of course, by the fourth or fifth time through the song, most of the magic was lost...

I only wish a photograph could capture the loveliness...

While no bigfoot activity was noticed that night, that does not mean that Thom's experiment was a failure. Thom knows that this is a long-term game plan. He will do this same activity again. He wants the local bigfoots to recognize him by his sounds and his efforts. He hopes that by trying benevolent means to lure the locals in, he will be recognized as benevolent himself.

In Thom's words, he is not striving to prove these things are real, he's striving for understanding. An advanced thought, to be sure.

What I'd like to suggest to the reader is that everyone should be out there repeatedly trying their own ideas. Sure, learn from those with experience, but as a bigfooter one should try to think about new ways to grab the critters' attention. More importantly, put those ideas to the test. In fact, test those ideas many times before writing them off as not working. You might get an interesting visit one night, but if you don't, maybe there was no bigfoot nearby at all.

Either way, enjoy the woods, and try something new. We're not getting very far with traditional thinking, so let's start thinking outside of the box. Way outside...

Oh, and one last thing. Share your results with other bigfooters so they can try the same methods. They might be able to confirm your findings, and perhaps add to them. That's science, after all. Not sharing your data is, well, like not having any data at all.

Cliff Barackman enjoying a sunset while bigfooting.