Sunday, February 28, 2010

Day 'Squatching Near Estacada, OR

On Saturday, 2/27/10 I found myself with an urge to avoid cleaning my home. Before I could change my mind and force myself to be responsible, I hopped in my truck and headed for the hills. My destination was Hillockburn Road outside of Estacada, OR.

I chose Hillockburn Road for a couple reasons. The most important reason is that whenever I ask around Estacada for bigfoot spots, it's one of the places that everyone seems to mention. That's because there's a lot of history there, and it's virtually across the river from town. I also think it's an excellent spot because not only is it relatively close to my home, only taking 30 or so minutes to get there, but also because there are several ponds and marshes on the ridges in the area. I do love me some ponds and marshes.

The isolated river valley holding the South Fork of the Clackamas River is directly to the east of Hillockburn. It is an excellent location in which sasquatches can hide with almost no chance of human contact. There are no roads along the river, and having hiked off-trail at the bottom of that valley I can attest that the tangled brush makes it inhospitable to hikers, hunters, and other normal folks. Not bigfooters, though... I dig it. I always say, "If you want to see a 'squatch, you gotta be a 'squatch."

The South Fork of the Clackamas River

Across this valley is a ridge on which runs Memaloose Road, another well-known bigfoot spot. Just a year ago, possible footprints were found in the snow on a turn-out along the road (as reported on Bobby Short's informative website) indicating that the local bigfoots might wander through in the winter time for whatever reason.

The possible footprint find of February, 2009.
For the full report,
click here.

Hillockburn is also on the backside of Goat Mountain, a well-known bigfoot spot outside of Molalla, OR. As you can see, there are plenty of reasons to have my eyes on that spot. This doesn't even count the second-hand reports I've run across from property owners in the area!

Obviously, Hillockburn is worth a look. It would be better between midnight and 4 am, because there are usually lots of people up there during the day, and today was no exception.

Alternating between using a forest road map and just allowing the Force guide me, I made my way to Helen Lake. The snowline was less than a hundred feet higher in elevation, and the lake (more of a pond, really) was partially frozen over.

Getting out the car, I was reminded that humans are a very messy species. Shot gun shells, beer cans, and broken glass were plentiful at the road's turn out next to the pond. The ground was muddy, and one set of very fresh boot prints were found and tracked back into the woods to the west of the pond.

Helen Lake

I circumnavigated the pond, taking detours here and there to make my travel route less wet. There was a brown, grassy marsh that trickled into the pond from an unseen source up above on the hillside. I squished my way through it, over logs and through tangled branches of vine maple to find a trail on the backside snaking through rhododendron bushes. There were isolated fire rings here and there, hidden in the tall leafy plants.

Crossing the marsh on the backside of the pond

After hanging out at Helen Lake for a while, I attempted to go up to Williams Lake, but was turned around by snow. I started making my way home stopping to search for animal tracks in several muddy areas and marshes along the road.

A roadside swamp trickling into the valley below.

No signs of bigfoots were encountered on this lovely, distracting day-trip, but that's bigfooting. However, tomorrow I hike into the wilds to retrieve two trail cameras I deployed a month ago. There's always a possibility that I'll run across something then, or just maybe even get a picture.
That's one of the many things I love about bigfooting: there's always another chance next time.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Al Hodgson Interview, Part 2

Earlier in the month, Steve Streufert of Willow Creek's Bigfoot Books posted part one of three of his interview with Al Hodgson. If you don't know who Al Hodgson is, you haven't read about the early days of bigfooting. He was the first phone call after the Patterson/Gimlin Film was obtained. He was a cohort of Betty Allen, one of the earliest bigfooters in the United States. He is an old-timer patriarch of Willow Creek, arguably the bigfoot capitol of the world. He was there. He saw bigfoot history happen.

Cliff Barackman and Al Hodgson at the 40th Anniversary of the PG Film Celebration

Steve sat down with Mr. Hodgson for an extensive interview and is now busy transcribing it in its entirety. I blogged about part 1 last week, and now part 2 has been published. If you're a bigfoot nerd like me, or even kind of like me, you should probably read the interview. It is full of tidbits that have been left out of the bigfoot literature. For me, it's a fascinating glimpse into the past when the [human] giants of Bigfootland were still fumbling their way through the dark of an uncharted science.

The value of these types of interviews cannot be overstated. That generation of bigfooters is slowly disappearing to the squatching netherworld, and time is limited to pick their brains on what actually happened back in the day.

If I was wearing a hat, I'd tip it to Steve for doing this interview. In fact, I might just put a hat on for the sole purpose of tipping...

Click here for Part 3 of this series.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Quiet Night in the Swamps

"Let's go bigfooting!"

A week or so ago, I went scouting for a location to run a short mini-expedition. In attendance were some of my regular bigfooting buddies and some guests. Toby Johnson, organizer of the Oregon Sasquatch Symposium, came up from Eugene, OR with his son, Jude for a night in the woods with us. There was also a film student from Portland Art Institute filming the trip with his sound technician for a school project.

We all met at a coffee shop in Estacada, OR at noon. Once everyone arrived, we started down the Clackamas River Highway towards Ripplebrook Ranger Station. There were two large herds of deer sighted just north of Ripplebrook in the last couple weeks, and large deer herds are amongst the best indicators of the possible presence of sasquatches.

The target area for this expedition was a large swamp along the Clackamas River. I wanted to check out the swamp for prints. This was not only to give the guys something to film, but also to find out what kind of animals were walking around in the bottoms this time of year.

After turning off the main highway and into the woods, we found a site that could accommodate our four vehicles with a fire ring. It was hardly more than a pull-out, but behind some nearby boulders and tree stumps there was a forested path that led downwards into the swampy bottom lands. Disused trails of both human an animal origin snaked off into the woods on all sides, though only for a short distance before the surrounding foliage swallowed all trace of them. It was a perfect area to sleep in: sasquatches could approach from nearly any direction and still have plenty of cover to hide in. We pitched several tents separated by 75 or 100 yards. Two members of the expedition chose to sleep outside under shelters made only with natural materials, cool tarps, and fancy knots.

To help the sasquatches be curious enough to come in for a look, we hung several attractants nearby. Toby brought glow sticks, which he tied to apples and hung in trees across the road from our camp. We tied another to a dead shad and hung them both in a tree near our tents. Aimed at the fish was a heavily camouflaged Reconyx RC60 game camera.

Cliff, an eerily illuminated shad, and Jesse the Film Guy much later that night.

With a few more hours of daylight still available, we went for an off-trail hike through the marshes. Being winter, the formidable Devil's Club (Opolopanax horridum) had gone dormant and exposed the water's edge leaving plenty of mud, sand, and other substrate in which to record tracks. There were indeed many prints of deer and elk, but none of sasquatches. I will definitely make it a point to wander through here again soon. Considering how little of the forest floor actually records footprints at all, this seems like a promising area in which to stumble across some.

The marsh offered excellent substrate for tracks.

The night was spent knocking, calling, and walking. The acoustics were surprisingly good, and our calls could be heard echoing great distances up the canyon. They were easily heard back at camp and made poor 7-year old Jude a little unsettled.

It is interesting to note that our knocks were not heard back at camp, though they seemed plenty loud at the time. This was the case on every walk we took that night: the knocks were absorbed by the trees.

The only vocalization heard was that of a barred owl. It spontaneously called only once and would not respond to our noises.

Having stayed out late the night before celebrating a friend's birthday, I started getting a little tired sometime after one o'clock. Besides, the temperature was 27 degrees and a warm sleeping bag sounded pretty good at that point. Saying goodnight to the others, I walked off into the dark to find where I pitched my tent. Lying down, I zipped up my sleeping bag nice and high and listened to the forest noises until I dozed off.

The film students left during the night because they were were a little unprepared for the cold, Toby took off at 3:30 am to drive to the coast for a geology class, and the rest of us went our separate ways before noon. On our way out, two friends and I walked in the swamp one last time before driving back to Portland. I found that fresh deer footprints from the night before crossed the tracks I had left on the previous hike.

I think this place will be teeming with game (and mosquitoes) in a few short months as spring gets a hold of things and food becomes more available. This area gets some human traffic when the weather starts warming up a bit, but very few people walk the swamps. No human trails nor trash was found on either of my hikes into the marsh. I think the vast majority of people stick to the roads and don't drop down into the bottom lands.

Of course, there's a reason for that. It's not easy going down in the thickets. There is deep mud, thick mossy quagmires, and entangling bushes with pointy parts that gouge out chunks of flesh from your nose. Still, that's bigfooting, and I love it.

A bloody boo boo.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rare Cross-River Gorilla Filmed for First Time

Some find it surprising when a "first" is accomplished that seems like it should have been done long ago. This is especially true when it comes to documenting known species in known habitats.

News of the rarity and elusiveness of apes rarely surprises me anymore. I try to minimize my underestimation of great apes.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Jim Henry

"Jim Henry" is a song written and performed by a frequent field partner of mine, and friend of the 'squatch, Paul Graves. Paul has written a number of bigfoot songs which will be added to his page on my website over the coming months.

Warning: if you listen to the song in the video, it'll be in your head the rest of the day. (Usually that would be annoying, but this is such a good song that you'll be thanking me later.)

Jim Henry was a man that Paul met who had had multiple sightings of sasquatches in his life. Mr. Henry's photograph is included several times in the video. The song retells Mr. Henry's sightings.

Speaking of bigfoot songs, I grabbed the above musical slide show from Tom Yamarone's blog, Bigfootsongs. You can follow the link on the right control bar on this blog to visit his site.

"...Walking with Jim Henry, there he goes again with his hair covered friend..."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Solo Day Trip

On Sunday I went on a solo scouting trip south of Portland, OR. I was looking for locations to camp at next weekend. I will be hosting a small expedition for one night with about a half dozen bigfooting friends, some of which have never done any field work.

I left late, shortly after noon. I live only an hour or two from the spot, so getting an early start wasn't necessary. I wanted to spend several hours in the woods, yet time my drive out for dusk to maximize my chances of seeing wildlife near the road. (Besides, I was in "lazy weekend" mode. I deserved the slack. I slept in.)

The weather forecast said something ridiculous, like 90% chance of rain. I may not be a native Oregonian, but I've lived here long enough to know that meteorologists are often terribly wrong when predicting Oregon weather. I ignored their prediction and went anyways.

Within reason, try not to let the weather deter you from a bigfoot trip. You might never leave your home.

A view overlooking the river valley from the road.

Driving less than 90 minutes put me squarely in the woods with nothing but BLM land on all sides. National forests, and even several designated wilderness areas were nearby. My destination was an area with several ponds located within a few short miles of each other. I wanted to search the muddy areas near the ponds for impressions. Not just sasquatch footprints, but traces of all animals. I sought to know what, if anything, was moving through the area. My plan was to drive to the furthest pond, and then stop to inspect the others as I drove out.

I eventually approached the snowline which was just under 4000 feet. I hesitantly drove onto the snow-covered road which was perhaps a foot or so deep. I'm not really enthusiastic about driving in snow, especially when I'm in remote locations. Safety has to remain of the utmost importance when bigfooting, especially when alone. So when I found the snow getting increasingly deeper, I decided to back out and turn around.

As I was making a 7-point turn on the narrow logging road after backing out, two men walked down the snowy road towards my truck from where I had just driven out of. It's good etiquette to speak to folks walking around in remote locations, so I rolled down the passenger-side window to say hello.

They explained that their 2-wheel drive truck was stuck in the snow just a little ways up the road. "Boy, this is your lucky day!" I exclaimed. "Nobody else but me is probably coming up this road today." They agreed.

They were luckier than they could have hoped. My truck is jam packed with all sorts of useful items ranging from spray paint to a wrist rocket. When in the woods alone for a week or two at a time, it is best to be prepared for almost anything.

While I didn't seem to need my wrist rocket for anything, I did get to use my extra towing hitch pin as well as my towing strap. It's a rare treat to use any of the extra gear I drag around with me. So much of the time it is just extra weight, but every once in a while I get to use something for the greater good.

When I was kneeling in the snow attaching the tow strap to the underside of my truck, one of the men asked me if I was scouting for bear hunting season. "No, I'm a bigfoot researcher," I replied.


"Yeah, really." I knew they wouldn't make fun of me. I was dragging their butts out of a snow drift and they couldn't afford to tick me off. "Here, take some business cards and hand them out to your hunting buddies. Have you ever seen a bigfoot?"

They hadn't, though one of the men told me about his cousin who found very large bipedal prints in the snow a few years back. He described them as huge (maybe 16 or 17 inches), human shaped, and rectangular. So many people have bigfoot stories if you just ask them!

After talking with the men for a short while about bigfoots being real animals, I reminded them how lucky they were that anybody was out on this road. I told them they had bigfoot to thank for that, to which they agreed. With a casual, "Respect the 'squatch," I drove off.

Having my plans slightly thwarted by snow, I drove back down the road to inspect the several ponds I had driven by. Two were right next the the road, while two others took some hiking to get to. One took so much walking that I didn't try to get there at all. It was too close to dusk and the climb out would have been treacherous at night.

Remember, when one is alone in the woods it is better not to take unnecessary chances. I have learned this the hard way over many years by putting myself in some potentially dangerous situations, some of which would make excellent blog entries...

The pond I didn't go to.

The ponds were muddy, but covered with a decomposing layer of alder leaves and grass. There was sign of deer and elk, but almost none of it was fresh. I saw no sign of raccoons or coyotes. Seeps fed the ponds, and small streams trickled out of them. Tracks would have been easy to find except for the rotting layer of forest debris.

I was hoping for more abundant animal sign. I eventually determined that this area was probably not a winter spot.

What I did find encouraging were the willow buds that are only just now emerging on their branches, as well as the skunk cabbage shoots that were barely above water level. Spring is just around the corner, and this location will be thick with food in just a few months.

A small, no-name pond visited on Sunday.

On the backside of one of the small ponds, I found a fairly wide animal trail that paralleled the base of the hillside. I followed it for several hundred yards. In many spots small branches were broken from the passing of larger animals moving along the trail. These branches were broken from about four feet off the ground up to about eight feet. The highest breaks indicated to me that these were likely the signs of passing elk, though it wouldn't surprise me if sasquatches might be responsible for some breakage as well.

One of perhaps two dozen broken branches along a well-worn
animal trail. This break was close to eight feet off the ground.

The drive out was uneventful. I took a few opportunities to walk the river paralleling the road in the valley below looking for footprints along the banks, but found nothing but older deer sign. No animals were seen along the road in the dimming light as I drove back to town.

I do not think I'll be taking the expedition to this location next weekend. There just doesn't seem to be a lot of animal life in the area. I saw almost no fresh deer sign, no coyotes responded to my numerous vocalizations, and there seems to be little in the way of readily available food. This spot will be looked at much more closely in the spring.

I have heard rumors of numerous deer not far from Estacada along the Clackamas River. I think I'll give that area a shot next weekend. I'll keep you posted.

Another small pond visited on Sunday. This one was a
deep green color and quite beautiful.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Al Hodgson Interview, Part 1

There are very few people around who have been associated with bigfoots for as long as Al Hodgson has been. Mr. Hodgson investigated footprint finds as early as August of 1963 when he and Betty Allen cast prints near Bluff Creek. Mr. Hodgson gave Ms. Allen a lift to see the footprints which he told me were the first prints he had ever seen in the ground. He went on to say that the prints convinced him there really was something to this "bigfoot" thing.

Al Hodgson and Cliff Barackman in the Willow Creek Museum.

Mr. Hodgson cast another set of footprints a few months later in Bluff Creek a short distance upstream from where Notice Creek flows into it. He has worked with the likes of John Green, Rene Dahinden, Bob Titmus, Tom Slick, Roger Patterson, Betty Allen, Peter Byrne, and more. He still gets calls to investigate prints and sightings around Willow Creek to this day.

A man with this level of experience in the history of bigfooting is a resource whose value is beyond words. As the first generation of bigfooters slowly departs to a place beyond where we can track them, it is becoming of the utmost importance to ask them about the early days of our hobby. This is especially true in the light of recent theories about the PG film. Only those who were actually involved in the bigfooting of the early days will be able to soundly refute the unfounded rumors spread on the internet by various inhabitants of Bigfootland.

Steven Streufert, owner of Willow Creek's Bigfoot Books, recently sat down to talk with Al Hodgson and recorded the entire 2+ hour interview. He is now busy transcribing it in its entirety, but has released the first of three installments on his own blog.

Please take the time to read the interview.

Click here for Part 2 of this series.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Olympic Project

Track found by Derek Randles near Packwood, WA

If you aren't aware of the Olympic Project, you might want to be.

The following is the OP's description of itself from their website: "The Olympic Project is a comprehensive, systematic camera trap program consisting of thirty plus cameras placed along predatory travel routes throughout the Olympic Mountains. Our primary focus is to obtain a series of crystal clear photographs of Sasquatch in their natural environment."

Richard Germeau, peace officer (and friend of the 'squatch) initially thought of the the OP, and Derek Randles, Brian Rasmussen, and Robert Johnson added their expertise to the team. The sponsor of this project is none other than Wally Hersom, the benefactor of the BFRO, making the OP another branch of the Hersom Project: a loose network of bigfoot researchers who Wally has generously sponsored in their pursuits.

Cliff Barackman, Derek Randles, and Wally Hersom at the PG filmsite.

Mr. Hersom has supplied the OP team with thirty high quality trail cameras to position throughout the Olympic Peninsula on ridge lines where apex predators are likely to travel. The OP team strategically places the cameras to monitor choke points and other obvious travel routes on these ridges.

So far the results have been promising. While looking at the OP's website, be sure to take a moment to look at their photo gallery. It is quite impressive, and clearly indicates they are on the right track.

Having been on an expedition with these folks to check their ridge line cameras, allow me to say that these guys are the real deal. The trip I attended was a quick overnighter consisting of a couple miles of off-trail hiking straight up a mountainside. Their cameras were positioned in remote and strategic locations, so after exchanging the old batteries and memory cards for fresh ones, they were left in position.

My tent teetering on a ridge line while on expedition with the OP.

My opinion of the possible sasquatch photographs posted on their website is that unfortunately there isn't enough information in the pictures to identify the animal shown. Such a strong claim needs to be supported by equally strong evidence. I don't know what's in the photographs, but I do know that clearer photographic evidence is needed.

Could it be a sasquatch? I suppose. Due to the Patterson/Gimlin Film, the bar on photographic evidence has been set pretty high. If the bigfoot needs to be pointed out in the photograph, the picture probably is not "good enough" (even though it might actually show a bigfoot!).

Please keep in mind, I do think that the OP is on the right track. I believe they have a better than average chance of succeeding in their quest for this elusive strong evidence. I believe this because they are doing the right things in the right places, as well as learning from their experiences and refining their techniques. Knowing them, I can also attest that they are a persistent bunch...

Adaptation and persistence are valuable skills to have in the bigfoot arena.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day is for lovers, and who doesn't love the 'squatch? What could possibly embody the concept of "adoration" better than giant nocturnal apes? Nothing comes to mind, so...

I stumbled across these cutsie bigfoot pins and magnets on a cool blog called Tokyo Bunnie. They are available for purchase in the PearsonMaron Etsy Shop.

Certainly a gift of this caliber given to your significant other would earn you some cuddling, so what are you waiting for?

Click here to review my top ten reasons to love the 'squatch from last Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dr. Jane Goodall's Comments on Ape Legislation

Conservation before discovery is a movement quietly supporting environmental issues that benefit sasquatches. Much like bigfoots themselves, the movement's presence is easily overlooked, its proponents observing the silly human affairs from afar. (Sadly, the bigfooting community's involvement could potentially jeopardize the passing of legislation because our slightly eccentric hobby could be used as a tool to paint supporters of certain legislation as kooks.)

We now have another issue to observe and quietly support.

Representative George Miller (D-CA) has introduced legislation designed to preserve funding targeting great ape conservation. The proposed law is entitled
HR 4416, “The Great Ape Conservation Reauthorization Amendments Act of 2010.”

Funds set aside to conserve the currently recognized great apes would logically extend to any new species as well, including sasquatches or the orang pendek, upon their "discovery." If this weren't the case immediately upon classification, it would certainly follow shortly thereafter.

Representative George Miller

I took a moment to send Representative Miller a short email to tell him that I support his legislation. I didn't specifically mention sasquatches because he's on a "need to know" basis, but I'm sure he can probably read between the lines.

I wrote, "Thank you for supporting the idea of setting aside land for the conservation of the great apes. Only by giving these magnificent creatures sufficient land can we ensure their survival. "

I'll take note that Representative Miller is a possible proponent of
conservation before discovery and a friend of the 'squatch.

Hearings on the legislation took place during the last week in January. Among those who voiced support for the legislation was world-renown primatologist and friend of the 'squatch, Dr. Jane Goodall.

"For Cliff- Together we can reveal the secrets still out there. -Jane Goodall"

While Dr. Goodall was not able to attend the hearings herself, she submitted a letter encouraging the passing of this important legislation. The following is from Dr. Goodall's website:

Below is a statement Dr. Goodall submitted today to the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife. She urges reauthorization of this important act.

Dear Chairwoman Bordallo and Members of the Subcommittee:

Thank you for your kind invitation to testify at this important hearing. While my schedule unfortunately prevents me from speaking in person today, I am grateful for the opportunity to submit this statement in strong support of Congressman George Miller’s legislation, HR 4416, “The Great Ape Conservation Reauthorization Amendments Act of 2010.”

The Great Ape Conservation Fund created by the Act has supported many successful projects to address the protection of great apes. But there is a great deal yet to be done. Without question, a significantly increased level of funding is required to do this.

It is morally important that we strive to protect those beings who are more like us than any others living today. There is still much to learn about their fascinating lives and different cultures. Future generations will not easily forgive us if we allow the great apes to become extinct on our watch.

As you will undoubtedly hear from the witnesses before you today, the threats to all great apes—gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, and bonobos—are many and rapidly increasing. Their habitat, the tropical forests of Africa and Asia, are being destroyed for commercial products such as lumber and minerals and by rapidly increasing local populations who are struggling to survive. Moreover, despite the efforts of many organizations, the unsustainable commercial-scale hunting of great apes and other wild animals for their meat persists.

The conservation community is hard pressed to keep up with these threats. We have found that a multifaceted approach is the only way to move forward. Thus, the Jane Goodall Institute’s programs in Africa integrate traditional conservation approaches into a broad range of activities to support local populations, so that they can prosper without harming the chimpanzees’ tropical forest habitat—and eventually can become our partners in conservation.

This July will mark the 50th anniversary of the day I first set foot on the shores of LakeTanganyika in what is now Tanzania to embark on a behavioral study of the wild chimpanzees of Gombe. The research I began and that others have taken up has taught the world so much, not just about chimpanzees, our closest living relatives, but also about human behavior, the transmission of diseases like HIV, how to help women in developing countries and address population pressures, how to resolve the perceived conflict between humans and nature, and much more. In short, our work has resulted in more stable communities that can resist the kinds of destabilizing influences so prevalent in the developing world. All of this from one young woman armed with binoculars following some chimpanzees through the forests of Tanzania.

And there is another important issue. As a result of our efforts to save the chimpanzees of Gombe, we have learned a great deal about what it takes to prevent the destruction of tropical forests. Of particular importance is the fact that the most effective and cheapest way to reduce emissions of CO2 is to protect and restore these forests. These efforts, therefore, contribute significantly to addressing climate change.

My point is this: The plight of the chimpanzees and the other great apes in far away Africa or Asia, while it may seem at first glance to be unrelated to the lives of people living in America, actually should concern us all. The continued existence of the great apes and their forest homes has very real benefits to humankind—to our health, our environment, even our safety. Please consider this as you decide whether to support this important legislation.

Finally, it is morally important that we strive to protect those beings who are more like us than any others living today. There is still much to learn about their fascinating lives and different cultures. Future generations will not easily forgive us if we allow the great apes to become extinct on our watch.

Thank you for allowing me to contribute to this hearing. I commend Congressman Miller for taking the lead on this legislation and Chairwoman Bordallo for calling this hearing so that I and others could explain why it is so important.

With kind wishes, I am respectfully

Jane Goodall

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Oregon Sasquatch Symposium

The Oregon Sasquatch Symposium is scheduled for June 19th and 20th of this year. I am honored to have been invited to speak at this gathering alongside some of my favorite bigfooters in Bigfootland.

Also speaking at this event will be Dr. Jeff Meldrum, Autumn Williams, Kathy Moskowitz-Strain, Thom Powell, Ron Moorehead, Scott Nelson, and more! For a full list of participants and speakers, check out the official website.

For this event, you can buy either a "red" ticket or a "grey" ticket by clicking here. The red variety, which costs $40, gives you two days of preferred seating, a catered lunch, and a raffle ticket. The grey ticket, which costs only $20, bestows upon you two days of general admission and slightly-less preferred seating, though still not bad at all. (You can check out the seating charts here.)

In addition to the scheduled lectures, there will be ample opportunity to shoot the breeze with various bigfooters, many of whom you will recognize. (The bigfooters you don't recognize are equally intriguing, some of whom bring excellent opportunities for partnering up with on field research expeditions.) Bring copies of your favorite bigfoot books for the authors to sign. Take photographs with friends new and old. Listen to conversations about new research and projects. If you've never been to one of these social/informational gatherings, do yourself a favor and come! These are rare opportunities to talk 'squatch with aficionados from all over the country, if not the world. The networking is unparalleled, and nearly everyone is a lot of fun to hang out with.

Networking the 'squatch with Monica Rawlings (TBRC), Cliff Barackman,
and Craig Woolheater (TBRC) at last May's Yakima Bigfoot Round-Up

If you do attend, please come and say hello to me. Any friend of the 'squatch is a friend of mine.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Swamp Ape Clapping

I've been posting about clapping bigfoots for a while now, so whenever I run across articles about other apes doing the same thing, I try to share them. Through the investigation of my hypothesis, I've learned a few things and heard some great eyewitness accounts of clapping by sasquatches. I believe I'm on the right track.

I also believe that we can learn quite a bit about sasquatch behavior through studying the other great apes, including that of humans. The following article was published last summer and brings to light another study of the great apes and their use of clapping as a form of communication.

Swamp gorillas 'clap' when humans come near?
Posted 08/06/09

Wild female swamp gorillas have been observed clapping their hands in a set routine that appears to hold meaning for other gorillas, according to a new study conducted at the Lac Tele Community Reserve in the Republic of Congo.

The study adds to the growing body of evidence that hand clapping originated with the common ancestor of humans and other primates. It also suggests hand clapping may often serve as a form of communication in great apes.

The clapping female Likouala swamp gorillas, described in the latest issue of the journal Primates, don't appear to vary their technique.

"Our observations of female gorillas clapping was always inner palm to inner palm, just as humans would clap," lead author Ammie Kalan told Discovery News, mentioning that the gorillas would do this after stretching their arms in front of their bodies. "The sound was always two rapidly consecutive beats and the sound does carry within the rainforest, much like a gorilla chest beat," added Kalan, a researcher in the Department of Anthropology and Geography at Oxford Brookes University.

She and co-author Hugo Rainey of the Wildlife Conservation Society documented such clapping in three different contexts. On one occasion representing the first context, a single female in a tree noticed humans and clapped her hands, eliciting an immediate response from her silverback, meaning the adult male harem leader. According to the researchers, "his response was a loud, single roar followed by drumming on the buttress and chest beating."

In the second context, several startled females with infants performed the hand-clapping ritual five times in succession with up to a minute between hand claps. The scientists believe they were attempting to contact their silverback.

For the third and final context, a group of five foraging gorillas near an infant playing in a nearby tree were encountered by Kalan and Rainey. The mother of the infant clapped her hands loudly while directing her face towards her infant and the other group members. Everyone, including the youngster, stopped what they were doing, gazed at the mother and then stared at the researchers. The gorillas did not immediately flee, but exhibited unease and moved on after about seven minutes.

"By hand clapping, it appears the female gorillas alert others in their group to possible threat or alarm so that the silverback may come to their aid, or if they are already together, they can maintain group cohesiveness in case of pending danger," Kalan explained. Primatologist Joanne Tanner, who studies gestural communication, theorizes pregnant and nursing females are more sensitive to chest beating, so they may have devised the hand clapping technique as a less painful substitute for the Tarzan-like behavior.

Tanner told Discovery News that the new findings are important because they confirm "clapping is a common gesture of gorillas in their native settings, not just in zoos." Kalan, however, notes that eastern gorillas, such as Gorilla beringei, in Africa do not seem to clap in such a fashion. This suggests hand clapping could be a gestural culture found only in western lowland gorillas.

Corri Waitt of the Animal Behavior Research Group at the University of Oxford informed Discovery News that this "fascinating" new research could help to demystify the evolution of human communication. "Many researchers believe that gestural communication in apes was the precursor to human language, and that our ancestors had a rich repertoire of hand and arm gestures they used to transmit information to one another," said Waitt.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Conservation Before Discovery

Roaring River Wilderness

Last year, the Obama administration signed into law t
he Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. With the swipe of his pen, President Obama designated 86 new Wild and Scenic Rivers, totaling over 1,100 miles in Oregon, Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, Utah, California, and Massachusetts. In addition, the legislation included protections for 350,000 acres of land along rivers and also contains new Wilderness designations for over two million acres of public land.

How many sasquatches did that protect?

Probably quite a few.

While I do not think Mr. Obama did this for the 'squatch, I do think he has affected things in a very positive way. How could this be a bad thing?

My friends Kathy Moskowitz-Strain and her husband Bob Strain suggested to me many years ago that the best sasquatch habitat would be the wilderness areas. To me that makes sense. These protected areas would offer some isolation from humans. This combined with the healthy forest and natural food supply would point to more offspring. The younger bigfoots (offspring) would be pushed out as they mature, as Dr. Grover Krantz suggested in his excellent book, Bigfoot/Sasquatch Evidence. These young ones would wander about looking for a slice of land to call their own. Dr. Krantz called them "rogue males," though perhaps they are not all males. These wilderness areas would basically function as the place where bigfoots are "made," like popping pop corn on a campfire (analogous to the wilderness area) and having kernels pop out in random directions (bigfoots maturing and wandering off in search of their own slice of heaven).

The Roaring River is one such area that was set aside as a protected Wilderness area by this law. My attention was drawn to the Roaring River by Thom Powell a year or two ago. He mapped the many sasquatch encounters that had been reported from the area, and noticed that there was a huge roadless area smack dab in the middle of them all. There were no reported encounters from this area.

Of course there are no reports from there. Almost nobody goes in there. To have a sasquatch encounter, you not only need a sasquatch, but a witness too.

Thom and I did a trek to the bottom of this area in late summer of 2008. We walked about 1.5 miles on the map, but it was a 1400 foot elevation loss/gain. The incline was terrible on the way down, but even worse on the way up. There is a scene in my "Squatching With Cliff" video I submitted for Columbia's Pioneer of the Outdoors video contest (I was runner up!) when I'm whining about being too tired to say something witty. That was filmed on the way up the hill. I wasn't acting. The walk out sucked.

Thom Powell on our trip to the bottom of the Roaring River

Being on the bottom of the Roaring River chasm reminded me of something out of Jurassic Park. It is honestly the only place I've ever been where I saw absolutely no signs whatsoever of humans for the entire time I was there. No trails, no litter, nothing. Pristine wilderness at its best. Simply the biggest douglas firs I've ever seen. A sylvan wonderland.

And yes, there are bigfoots there. I'm not saying we definitely had an encounter, but some large animal came and woke us up with one of those super deep "motor boat" growls on the last morning. We never saw the animal, and my recorder was no longer running. Just another story (the kind I'm discouraging: the ones without data to back them up).

Anyways, I have an idea. I call it "Conservation Before Discovery".

No matter what walk of life you we come from, we all love the 'squatch. So why not do something for them? After all, they've already given us so much.

I am suggesting that whenever possible, we should support the passage of environmental laws that set aside land that would be prime sasquatch habitat. I would also encourage the bigfooting community to support legislation that would directly benefit sasquatches, such as the elimination of contaminants and pollutions from water supplies.

My agenda is not political, but ecological. Unfortunately, at this time, I don't think we (my bigfooting brothers and sisters) have the numbers required to create legislation. But when we see it, we can support existing endeavors that further protect or increase existing sanctuaries.

I'm not suggesting that we stop any of the many things we do outdoors and end up drastically affecting jobs, recreation, or resources.

I think in a lot of ways logging, for example, actually helps the sasquatch population. It increases the amount of sunlight that reaches the forest floor, which increases the amount of food for deer. (Elk, however, do not require the nutritious food that deer do, and can in fact forage in the shade of the forest eating food with a much lower nutritional value.)

The logging roads give easy navigation routes directly to these deer feeding grounds, and most of these roads do not record footprints. I'm sure the sasquatches utilize these highways we've made for them, though I know they are not dependent on them.

Of course, on the other side of the coin is the fact that logging hurts salmon runs. To what extent do sasquatches depend on the salmon runs? I don't know. A thorough ecological study would have to be done, but in the meantime: "Conservation before discovery."

I do know one thing that would surely benefit the sasquatch population: leaving big chunks wild land alone.

We can take steps now to ensure a healthy sasquatch population for our future. A future where sasquatches are a recognized member of the great ape family, along with gorillas, orangutans, chimps, bonobos, gibbons, and humans. A future when we will know that sasquatches are not endangered because of the thorough ecological studies that have been done to prove it.

Is this an idea you can get behind? Can you do it for bigfoot?

Do you respect the 'squatch?