Wednesday, March 31, 2010

One Week From Tomorrow!

Just a reminder that I'm scheduled to be part of a discussion in a "Cryptid Roundtable" on the internet radio program The Parafactor one week from tomorrow.  

The discussion, which will center around various cryptids from all over the world, will feature Nick RedfernAdam Davies, and Linda Godfrey, in addition to yours truly

A funny thing about this particular show...  I will be doing it from the road, literally.  I have been invited to partake in a crazy, long bigfoot weekend with more than a dozen other bigfooters at an undisclosed location in Washington State (which I will tell you about later).  I don't want to wait to leave until after the show because it will delay my arrival at the research site until well after 2 am.  I'll miss half the fun with my bigfooting buddies if I'm postponed that long!  I plan to get a head start on my travelling, so I will have to pull over at some unknown location to phone in to the show because the cell phone reception throughout rural Washington is unreliable at best.  

Wake the kids, phone the neighbors, mark your calendars, and start the countdown clocks.  You can hear me talk about everybody's favorite unknown giant biped (while actually on my way to try to film one) next Thursday, April 8th, at 7 pm.  

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Race From the Woods to Estacada

Over at the excellent blog PNW Roads, Dean has posted an amusing video.  It shows his two-hour drive from the woods back to Estacada, but in fast motion.  Fifteen times as fast, to be exact.

The blog explains that while on logging roads, his normal 10 mph speed appears to be 150 mph in the video (10 x 15 = 150), while his highway speed of 55 mph zooms by at an amazing 825 mph!

Enjoy the video!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spring Break, 2010

I love spring break. It's the doorway to summertime, and is a good chunk of time off. I try to always take advantage of time off to do one of my favorite activities. I bet you can guess what that is...

Being true to my conviction of taking advantage of days off, my last four nights were spent alone on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. In fact, I just crawled in the door a few hours ago. This trip was mostly about a taking well-deserved break. A break from work, the computer, speaking to anybody, and the haunting feeling of needing to do something. The last of these was the hardest to break, but I got the hang of that on or about the third day.

My goal for this trip, besides the spring cleaning of my mind, was to look at some spots I hadn't been before. The first location I visited on Sunday night was the Humptulips River. It's only one ridge south of the Quinault River basin, and you know how much I like that spot. I found an appropriate camp overlooking two rivers, yet far enough away that they didn't interfere with good listening. The acoustics were excellent, carrying my screams far into the night.

I camped in the quarry pictured in the center of the screen.
The Humptulips River is to the south.

The night was uneventful, except for my incessant need to keep busy and a lone barred owl answering my calls. I dutifully deployed my trail cameras in and around camp, and was later pleased to find photos of a curious raccoon peering into the lens. It was my only trail camera success for the trip.

It didn't know what a trail camera was.

It rained most of the night, but the morning brought cold, clear sunshine into my camp. The ground was wet and spongy under my feet as I tramped around through the mossy forest that surrounded the quarry where I slept. I gathered my trail cameras and headed to the backside of Lake Quinault.

The trail I visited a couple weeks ago produced several footprints a year ago (actually eleven months ago), so I wanted to walk it again. It is my belief that the more often one visits a location, the stronger the chance of finding something of interest. This is because one can notice subtle changes or things that are out of place. I was hoping to find signs of a recently passing bigfoot on the muddy trail where I had walked recently, and the animals visited last year. No such luck.

A mile or so up the trail, a large marsh offers many food resources. My plan was to backpack in and stay on the opposite side of this marsh which empties into a larger river with a wide sandy bottom that is perfect for tracking. My plan failed. Actually, I failed. The swamp kicked my butt. I soon found myself balancing on and hopping over logs with a 50 pound backpack (thermal imagers, trail cameras, and 12 volt batteries are not light!). One of these logs tricked me into trusting my footing, and gravity got the best of me. I slipped, landing with my full weight on my right shoulder. This was after getting uncomfortably wet past my shins mucking about in a slow moving wetland. I was just starting to not have a good time. Not having a good time on my vacation was intolerable, so I packed out. Now I have a natural barrier nemesis, which I will conquer. Victory was not to be had that day, however. I gracefully admit defeat for that day at the hands of the Olympic Peninsula.

My path up and out of the swamps.

I drove to an old standby campsite. This location is well-known to bigfoot researchers who frequent the area, and has been the site of several successful trips dating back to 2004. On the drive in, I was astounded at the logging that has taken place over the past year. I didn't think much of it, knowing that logging brings in more deer and other prey species. The quarry in which I camped showed signs of a recent heavy rain with no fresh animal tracks to be found in the muddy areas adjacent to the gravel. As always, I deployed my trail cameras, set up recorders and thermal imagers, and made myself comfortable. That night I enjoyed the only campfire of my trip, preferring to "cold camp" the rest of the time.

I found out why there was so little animal sign nearby. Just before 4:30 AM, I was awakened by the sound of machinery and beeping. A logging operation was starting their work day only 500 yards to the south of where I slept. They pillaged an area known as "Spooky Road," which is no longer nearly as spooky as it once was. I tried to sleep a little more, though I was largely unsuccessful. Eventually, I packed up and headed out shortly after daylight.

My destination for that day was Wynoochee Lake. This area has a long history of sightings, particularly below the dam away from tourists. The lake is only a few ridges over from Lake Quinault and the Humptulips River, but it took more than an hour and a half to drive there due to road closures approaching from the west.

Just a few miles south of the Lake, I was paused by a sign that said, "Road Closed." Being the kind of person that takes signs in remote areas as only suggestions, I drove past the sign to find a flagger holding a stop sign by a road building crew. I asked the man if the road was closed, or if I could just wait to pass. He asked me what I was going to do at the lake, to which I replied, "Bigfoot research."

He looked at me and asked the most common question I get after dropping the "BF" bomb: "Really?"

Handing him one of my cards, I told him again what I'd be doing. He then told me that there are no bigfoots around there. He said maybe they're up by Lake Quinault, but not around there. He knew this because he grew up nearby. (Wynoochee Lake is less than 15 miles from Lake Quinault, and only three ridges over. Why couldn't they be there again?) I assured the man that bigfoots lived there. He went on to tell me that he wasn't sure bigfoots existed, especially around there.

I had a feeling that wasn't going to be all I would hear from this man. I was right. He first told me about a girlfriend he had that would talk about bigfoots like they were real. I think he said she was Quinault, but I know he said she was a Native American. He then told me about an animal that was pacing his car at near highway speeds one night. He doesn't know what kind of animal it was, but it was huge and had red, glowing eyes. He admitted that he didn't see the animal, but the passenger did, and she was scared. I tend to get some pretty good stories from skeptics.

The guy was pretty cool, and we chatted for about 5 minutes until he told me that I could pass. He reinforced that I was "working" at the lake if anyone asked. You betcha I was working.

When I arrived at the lake, I was astounded to find that I was literally the only person there. The campgrounds were all closed and gated. The picnic areas were barren, and the water spigots were turned off. I saw one vehicle, and it was parked at the hydroelectric facility. I had never been to a popular recreation area and found it utterly empty. It was like a dream come true.

Knowing that I was alone, I abandoned my plan to camp below the dam. I wanted to get above the lake, but found that the area was closed about a mile up from the lake for wildlife restoration between October 1st and April 30th. I chose to camp as close to the restricted area as possible, knowing how sasquatches prefer those limited access sites.

I spent the late afternoon hiking the woods, setting game cameras, and sunning myself on the warm rocks lining the Wynoochee River. At one point, I hiked to the lake's edge to see what had been walking around on its muddy shores. Besides a large number of elk, I found raccoon prints that barely registered in the mud. I only found them by using the basic tracking technique of keeping the prints between me and sun so their sheen could be seen. Without this technique, the prints would have been nearly invisible.

Raccoon tracks in the mud.

The mud flats and gravel bars on
the backside of Wynoochee Lake.

That night was a noisy one since I chose to sleep on the banks of the Wynoochee river. It's a little frustrating to make camp by a noisy creek when you're 'squatching, but I had to remind myself that I am allowed to take a vacation from bigfooting so intensely. Besides, I reasoned, sasquatches use rivers as travel routes, according to Native Americans. This, combined with the knowledge that most bigfoot witnesses are simply camping, helped me allow myself to take a night off of intensely scrutinizing every noise a nighttime forest has to offer. With my trail cameras and thermal imagers deployed all night, I had as much of a chance as usual. After all, I was still making calls. (I guess this is as close to "regular" camping as I tend to get...)

The night passed without incident nor rain, and I woke up to another clear, cold morning. I gathered my gear, dried the condensation off my tent in the rising sun, and made a yummy cup of coffee.

Driving south, I passed the same road building crew as I had the previous day, I spoke to the female flagger on the opposite side from the guy I chatted with before. She was very interested in what I was doing in regards to bigfoot. Her husband might have run into one many years before around Mount Rainier where he grew up, but he never saw it. He was inexplicably scared, and the hair on the back of his neck stood without reason causing him great discomfort.

While the woman and I were chatting, waiting for the crew's mechanical beasts to remove whole trees from the road, the word "sasquatch" squawked over the radio she was holding. We both laughed. I guess the guys recognized my vehicle from the previous day...

My destination for my last night in the woods was as far up the South Fork of the Skokomish River as I could get. The location was not far as the crow flies, but it took another hour and half or more of driving to get to the spot. Again running into signs indicating the closure of the backcountry for wildlife restoration until April 30th, I found a quiet campsite halfway up a ridge in an excellent spot for broadcasting vocalizations and listening for replies.

Overlooking the Skokomish River basin from my campsite.

Wandering around the camping area brought me into the wood line. I am always interested in how animals move around my camp areas, and from where they can observe the campsite without being detected. Following the various game trails through the brush, I found myself about 75 yards from my vehicle, high on an overlook in the forest where I ran across an impression measuring a little over eleven inches in length. I believe the impression shows a boot print, but this is uncertain. It was found along an elk trail in one of the only places where there was barren soil for a print to register in the thick salal that carpets the forest floor. I snapped a few photographs with my opened multi-tool for scale (the ruler measures 8 inches across, but it's hard to make out in the photo).

A lone impression in the thick salal.

I spent most of the night making calls and listening to the night. By this point in my trip, I was content to watch the moon and listen for up to an hour or more at a time. I was getting back to my "normal" self (whoever that is). I get a little concerned for myself when I can't sit still for extended periods in peaceful settings. It took some conditioning, but I found myself able to do so, and just in time to return to the hustle and bustle of my regular existence.

I eventually turned in shortly after midnight, not even bothering to pitch a tent, but rather sleeping in the back of my truck with the shell open to maximize my hearing ability. I set my timer to wake me up periodically to do more calls.

I awoke in the middle of the night to the pitter-patter of rain. I got up to reassure myself that the Ratheon 250D was sufficiently water-proofed, and ended up putting it in my vehicle for the rest of the night. I did not want to spend the last few hours of sleep worrying about a thermal imager that wasn't water resistant.

I awoke at 8 AM, and hit the road towards home in the grey rain that is synonymous with the Olympic Peninsula. Personally, I like it. I wish the thermal imager liked it more.

On the way home I stopped by Olympia, WA to see the sasquatch exhibit at the State Capitol Museum only to find that it was closed that day. I left one of my business cards on their door step and drove home.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Descending Ridge, Round Two

On March 20, 2010 I made a short day trip to pick up the two trail cameras I had deployed three weeks previously on the Descending Ridge. I would usually have left the cameras out for another week or two, but I was leaving the next day for a four-night spring break bigfooting trip to the Olympic Peninsula (check back soon for details), and I wanted to have as many "eyes" with me on that expedition as possible.

I was intending to go alone into the wilderness area where these cameras were left, but on a whim I called Guy Edwards of the well-known bigfoot blog, Bigfoot Lunch Club, to see if he was up for a short hike. He was, so I picked him up and we were on our way.

Guy on the Descending Ridge

The day was just about perfect with temperatures in the 60's and few, if any, clouds in sight. We arrived at the trailhead, scouted about for prints in the muddy areas adjacent to the parking area, and started trudging uphill into the wilderness area.

My GPS was having trouble finding satellites that day, but using some memorable spots in the environment, we veered off trail at the appropriate time and located the first of two cameras without too much difficulty. The batteries were dead, so I had no way of knowing how many photos it took. We rested a short while and headed off to the south to find the other camera.

The next trail camera was located at a choke point at the confluence of two small creeks that were fed by trickling seeps further up the mountain. This location was chosen not only because of the choke point, but also because of the possibility of finding footprints in the soft ground of the creek bed. When the camera was located, it also had dead batteries. I would have to wait until I returned home to see what treasures it held.

A view of our steep, overgrown path leading out of the wilderness.

We cautiously made our way down the steep slope to a nearby road, which we followed back to the truck. We enjoyed a burger and a beer in Molalla on the way home.

Later that evening I was disappointed to find that one of the cameras malfunctioned and recorded no images for the entire deployment. I had high hopes for that camera. I placed it on a ledge overlooking a wide area of heavy ungulate travel where any predator worth its salt would perch and observe for prey. I'll have to try that location again in the coming months.

The camera located on the seep creek recorded a few photos of deer, one of which is shared below, as well as a number of false triggers set off by who-knows-what. This is another excellent spot for a camera, so I'll likely try it again next time I'm up there.

Notice the other deer in the background to the left?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Collection

My footprint cast collection is large in both specimen size and quantity. Storage tends to be a problem, and I do not usually bring out the collection for show and tell simply because of the number of casts and the space they'd take up.

While working on another bigfoot project recently, I had the opportunity to unpack four boxes of casts and take some photos. I dug around and found another four or five casts just lying around my home, and honestly, I'm not quite sure where some others have gone. Still, the bulk of my collection was laid out before my comparatively small feet, which is a rare occurrence. I thought you'd like to see what this looked like. Welcome to my bigfooty world.

How many casts can you identify?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ewok Celebration Song

In case you're feeling a little down from not having been in the woods for a while, here's a light hearted little ditty for you.

To me, Ewoks have always been diminuative bigfoots. I'm sure that was probably the impression you got when you saw The Return of the Jedi for the first time.

Star Wars Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983 & 2004 Versions, 2-Disc Widescreen Edition)
Click the pic to buy the flick.

Like real bigfoots, they live in Northern California's redwood forests.

They're hair-covered bipeds, just smaller than their squatchy Earthling cousins.

I hear Ewoks taste like wookiee. I think there's something wrong about knowing what sasquatches taste like, but Ewoks, I'm okay with.

So, having made the necessary connection, enjoy the featured presentation:

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Ten Essentials of Bigfooting

Back in the 1930's, a group called the Mountaineers ( suggested a list of ten items that outdoors enthusiasts should always have while with them while enjoying outdoors recreation activities. These items have since become known as the “Ten Essentials”, and most authorities on hiking, backpacking, and climbing strongly recommend these as a minimum standard of preparedness. Having these items has saved literally hundreds of lives, and not having these items has doomed many adventurers to an early demise.

Although the list varies a little in accordance with the terrain, the Ten Essentials are usually listed as:

-Sunscreen and sunglasses
-Extra food and water
-Water purifier
-Extra clothing
-First aid kit
-Fire starter
-Pocket knife/multi-tool

As mentioned, there are variations on this list, but these items are more or less agreed upon as a starting point for ensuring the highest probability of survival and safety. It is highly recommended to carry these items at all times while in the wild, even on the shortest of day hikes.

Many people ask me what they can do to help with the gathering of bigfoot evidence and data. Most would-be bigfooters go to likely bigfoot habitat and basically camp for a couple days, keeping their eyes and ears open, and sometimes even have possible encounters with sasquatches or other animals. They return from their excursions excited about the trip, but with nothing more to show for their efforts than stories. While stories have a place in bigfoot research, especially when examining bigfoot behavior and habitats, they have limited other value. I propose that we move beyond stories and into the realm of data. The value of data versus stories is that data can be shown to other researchers to be evaluated independently based on what's in front of the reviewer, and not filtered through a subjective filter such as a witness.

Bigfoot data is extremely rare and difficult to find. Signs of a passing sasquatch are subtle at best, and it takes many years of experience to start developing one's eyes to be able to “see." It is much like looking at a patch of ground. After a few moments of examining a four-square-foot section of forest floor, one notices a carpenter ants crawling along. Almost immediately after noticing these ants, the twenty or so other ants in this patch of ground seemingly jump out at your eyes, and you
notice that the area is covered with them. When you learn what you're looking for, it's easier to find.

Of course, bigfoot evidence is never easy to find, but without knowing what one is looking for, it's nearly impossible to discern. Even if one is lucky enough to find evidence that might be from a bigfoot, what does one do with it? The best idea would be to collect it and show it to an authority for his/her analysis. While this article does not endeavor to teach data collection techniques, I hope that its writing will help the amateur bigfooter to be prepared to bring some form of data back for peer review.

Lots of gear on expedition in Florida.

The ten items that I deem essential for the average bigfooter to bring into the woods for the purpose of data collection are as follows:

-Video camera
-Audio recorder
-Still camera
-Notepad and pencil
-Tape measure
-Plaster or similar product
-Latex gloves
-Paper envelopes
-Small plastic container (pill container or ziplock baggies)

There are many other items one could bring to ensure preparedness for all types of evidence gathering, but these ten items should cover most of the more common types of potential data.

A video camera is absolutely essential. If one sees a bigfoot and manages to film it for even a few seconds, the information that can be gathered from this form of data is almost incalculable. We are still squeezing the Patterson/Gimlin Film for tidbits of information even today, more than 40 years after it was filmed. Video cameras are also invaluable for filming the context of other data, such as footprint evidence and tree breaks. They should be utilized immediately after sightings to interview everyone involved in the encounter, and to show the methods used to document the sighting location. Video cameras should also be used to document the chain of evidence of collected data. Be sure that the dates and times that might be included in the time stamp on your footage are accurate. In a pinch, the microphone on the video camera can be used to capture audio data as well.

An audio recorder is the most likely method of data gathering. It can be as simple as a tape recorder, but I encourage bigfoot researchers to pay the extra money to buy a digital audio recorder. I purchased one of these for a research partner that was a simple Mp3 player/recorder which records up to seven hours of uninterrupted audio at a time. The price tag was a mere $100. This may seem like a lot of money, but the advantages over the old cassette recorder you might have in the garage are considerable.

Reviewing the previous night's recording at Bluff Creek, CA.
Photo by Tom Yamarone.

A still camera is very important. Most bigfoot sighting reports one finds online or in print have no sense of context whatsoever. Historical photographs of bigfoot data are few and far between. Perhaps this has to do with the cost of film development, but with the advent of digital photography, one can take thousands of photographs at virtually no cost beyond that of the camera itself. All evidence should be photographed where it was found before trying to recover it and take it back to civilization for review. This includes, but is not limited to footprints, tree breaks, hair and tissue samples, and sighting locations. For excellent data on par with clear footprints, there
should be many photographs documenting everything one can think of from the context of the data, the people involved, the gathering of evidence and the storage thereof, as well as anything else that might be slightly relevant.

A notepad and pencil should be taken everywhere while in the field. Field notes are the bread and butter of field biologists. When vocalizations and/or knocks are heard (and hopefully recorded), the time should be noted and written down, as well as a general description of what was heard, including the estimated distance, compass heading of the sound source, and locations of other witnesses or listening stations (who hopefully recorded compass bearings as well, so the group can triangulate the location of the source). One should write copious notes on the circumstances around any gathered evidence including GPS coordinates, and contextual maps of the found evidence (to scale if possible, but at least with the distances between important objects written in). A daily journal should be kept in the notes to document what was and wasn't found, and when. Sightings of other mundane animals should be noted for their time and location. Weather conditions and animal behaviors should also be noted. Daily activities will fill most field notes, not bigfoot evidence. Not finding data will be the norm for any expedition, but negative data is still data, and can be very important. Besides, speaking from the perspective of a bigfoot-nerd, can you imagine how interesting field notes would be from the expedition that yielded the Patterson/Gimlin Film?

A tape measure is essential to add value to your collected evidence. A scale item should be included in any photograph, and a tape measure is often the best way to do this. Tape measures should be used for measuring the heights of tree breaks, the circumference of the broken trees, the distances between data, the height of trees/objects sasquatches might have been observed next to, etc. The distances between footprints should be measured (and noted in your notebook on the detailed map you should draw of the scene). Footprint evidence should always be photographed with a tape measure next to the footprint. This ensures that the width of the print can be obtained. Too many photographs of footprints come in with no scale item at all, or someone's foot or boot next to the print. I am guilty of this myself, back in the day (we all make mistakes, especially in the early days). Learn from my mistakes, and always pack a tape measure on your expeditions.

Without a scale item, not size can be discerned.

A GPS should not only be taken with you for navigation purposes, but also for documenting possible bigfoot evidence. The GPS coordinates of your base camp should be noted, as well as any satellite camps. GPS units can be effectively used to measure longer distances than could be measured with a tape measure (though the margin of error will be larger, but often to within three meters). Used in conjunction with a compass and another listening post, one can get compass bearings, plot positions on a map, and triangulate the likely position of the vocalizing animal to later search that area for possible footprints or other evidence. A GPS is a very valuable tool for coordination with road atlases and forest service maps to find out one's location in the maze of logging roads that often permeate the bigfoot habitat being explored.

A plaster product should be with you, or at least in your vehicle, at all times. I do not
recommend plaster of paris, but rather Hydrocal or some other gypsum cement for issues of durability and water resistance. I have seen literally hundreds of impressions that look like bigfoot footprints in the ground, and most of them are not from bigfoots. Usually, a bigfoot being the source of the impressions can be ruled out by context or some other factor. However, sometimes a bigfoot cannot be ruled out so easily, and the print could actually be from the animal we are seeking. My rule of thumb is, “When in doubt, cast it.” I have cast more than one possible bigfoot footprint that, upon later scrutiny, has turned out to be from an overstepping bear or a hiker's boot. This information could not be discerned so easily from the print in the ground, but only by a close examination of the footprint cast. Plaster is cheap, especially when compared to the rarity of footprint evidence. Several years ago I had the opportunity to photograph the Titmus collection at the Willow Creek Museum, and I was surprised by a couple of the footprints I saw in that they were hardly more than blobs with the general shape of a bigfoot footprint. I wouldn't have taken the time and effort to cast them, but Mr. Titmus did. That was the day I changed my view. So, again: When in doubt, cast it.

Paper envelopes, latex gloves, and small plastic containers go hand in glove in hand for collecting physical evidence. When collecting hair, scat, skin, or blood samples, always wear latex gloves. Some of this spoor might yield the rarest form of evidence: DNA. Several attempts to isolate DNA from previous samples have been foiled by contamination with human DNA. Don't let this happen to your valuable sample. Keep dry samples of tissue (hair, dried skin, dried blood on gauze from your first aid kit) in a dry paper envelope. If you come across a wet sample (wet blood or skin from a fresh wound), keep it in a plastic container (pill containers work well) with an alcohol solution of 70+% alcohol, such as Everclear.

The above list is what I consider to be a basic list of gear for the collection of bigfoot evidence. There are many other tools, toys, and gadgets that can be used for this purpose, and I am always looking for better ways to gather data. The above explanations are not meant to be thorough explanations on the forensic techniques of evidence gathering, but rather a basic list of why to carry the items.

Now, let's go bigfooting...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Peeping-Tom Bigfoot?

It's not often that somebody snaps a photograph of anything when a bigfoot encounter is happening. Most witnesses are understandably too distracted to fumble with cameras.

This past summer, a witness had the clarity of mind to snap three photographs of the large man-shaped shadow that was looming outside of her trailer window. When the photos were taken, the witness who took the photos thought there was a man looking in the window. Her husband got his gun and went outside the trailer to confront the peeping tom, but saw nobody. He did hear the sound of someone exiting the area eastward on the gravel road. He looked at the height of the window (8 feet off the ground) and realized that it couldn't have been a man.

All these details and more are in the sighting report, which can be found here. The most important part of this report is the photograph. It's not great, but it's not bad at all. This is especially true considering the conditions.

Push play to view the animation.

The above is one of three photos taken of the figure. It has been animated to show progressively lighter versions to hopefully bring out details.

Assuming the witnesses are telling the truth, it would be difficult for this figure to be that of a human being. That person would be over eight feet tall.

Impressions were found on the gravel road the next day, and photographs were taken. The report indicates that they were not shared because of a lack of clarity. That's pretty much always true of photographs of prints: they never turn out as well as they look in person. I wouldn't expect much (or any) detail to show on a gravel surface. Still, I'd love to see them, or even include them in the track database I'm working on.

Congratulations to the witness for keeping a clear head in what was obviously a stressful situation. Kudos to Todd Perteet and the BFRO for sharing this data with the public for peer review and scrutiny. And a big thumb's up to the 'squatch, just because we love it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Two Nights in the Olympics

I spent this past weekend in one of my favorite places in the world: the Olympic Peninsula. Derek Randles invited me out for the weekend to participate with the Olympic Project in checking a number of cameras specifically deployed to capture images of sasquatches. While no bigfoot images were obtained, the time was well-spent.

I managed to escape with my frequent field partner Craig Flipy by 3 pm on Friday. We headed up Interstate 5 to the Olympic Peninsula, and arrived at Derek's remote cabin shortly after dark. He purchased this cabin specifically for sasquatch research due to the large number of road crossing sightings he has personally investigated within a mile or two of this location over the last 15 years. (One such sighting had the creature walking onto this very property!)

Derek outside of the Olympic Project's base camp.

Upon arrival, I was greeted by friendly and familiar faces. In addition to Derek, Paul Graves, Beth Heikkinen, and Bill Porter (brother of Michael Porter) were warming themselves by the stove and fixing a meal, which they graciously shared with us newcomers. The rest of the night was spent talking 'squatch, enjoying yummy beverages, playing guitar, and catching up. Any one of these activities with any one of these people would have been worth the drive, but to have them all at once was akin to bliss.

The next morning greeted us with sun glistening off of a light layer of snow which fell during the night. The mountainous valley where the cabin was located stretched before us on two sides. Looking up the steep slopes of the surrounding mountains, Derek pointed to this ridge or that peak explaining that there are two cameras here and three there.

An hour or two later, we all piled into Derek's formidable truck and headed up a nearby logging road. Coincedentally, this is the same road on which I filmed "Snowsquatch" one year previously.

We headed up that road through progressively deeper snow until Derek's huge truck was slipping and sliding dangerously close to major vertical complications and possibly disaster. We opted to not even get out to hike a mile down the snowed-in skid road where the first camera was located, but rather to back cautiously down the road we just came up. After a quarter mile or so we found a suitable location to make a 9-point turn on the narrow road and come back down to less snowy altitudes.

The path behind the cabin.

The second camera we checked that day was located three or four miles from the cabin. We had a very nice walk to a nearby trail head, then headed uphill. The steep path eventually led through overgrown brush on an underused logging road to the camera location.

Paul Graves and Derek Randles checking the memory
card from the second camera location.

After what seemed like a much shorter walk back, dusk was settling in. Craig was wandering around in the twilight of the woods when he stumbled upon a game camera set just outside the property line. In front of the camera was a wide area baited with numerous apples. He reported his find to us, and Craig and I went into the dark to investigate, thinking this was a camera trap set for either spring bear season or a bigfoot.

Finding the camera was easy, even in the dark. It was locked in a bear case, so we knew it wasn't one of ours. It was also a different brand than is generally used by the Olympic Project, though they do have about a half dozen of this particular kind.

Having had cameras of my own stolen from great locations, I had no desire to mess with the camera too much. Still, I see no problem with the motto "Mischief without harm." Craig walked in front of the camera to the spread out apples, picked one up, and feigned immense gratitude for finding an apple. He immediately started running about picking up apples and shoving them greedily in his pockets, pretending to gather them like a starving man. I soon joined him in the camera's field of view, gathering the spread-out apples into a single pyramidal pile. There were still plenty of apples spread out everywhere, and Craig emptied his pockets back into the grassy area in which the apples were found after our shenanigans. Whoever checks that camera's memory card will either wonder what the heck we were doing, hate us, or laugh. I hope it's the latter.

Sunday morning started as Sunday mornings should: with coffee and a great breakfast. After grub, we packed up our belongings and headed southwards to an area near Lake Quinault. There was a recent road crossing sighting not far from the lake reported by a [former] skeptic. Derek investigated this sighting and deployed a camera off that road near a creek. We were all excited to check this camera, not only for the possibility of that elusive image of a sasquatch, but also because the swampy ground offered excellent tracking conditions.

Nearby sightings and excellent
tracking... who can ask for more?

We parked on a nearby forest service road and walked into the brush near where the sasquatch was seen. In a short while, we located the remains of a recently deceased coyote, probably the victim of bad timing while crossing the busy nearby highway. Hiking further brought us to the swampy river bottom and Derek's camera. The tracking was superb, and many elk had recently passed through the area. I've been in this general area many times, but never knew this kind of tracking was available right off the road. I will definitely frequent this location whenever possible.

Our next stop was the location of last year's track find near Lake Quinault. Derek was the investigator on that footprint find which later made its way to my ears. I was lucky enough to get the witness contact information and make a copy of the cast that was made of the footprint. The cast is featured on the cast database on Other footprints were found in the immediate vicinity on two other occasions.

An impression found by Beth Heikkinen
at the same location in May, 2009.

The narrow river valley in which the print was found is an excellent location to find footprints. Marshes line the trail which crosses a creek several times before emerging into a wetland teeming with life. Frogs, fish, birds, and other yummies were readily apparent as obvious food items. The area would be an obvious pathway to the nearby river bottoms where the elk go to calf in spring.

At one point along the trail, we stumbled across an interesting impression. It measured a little over twelve inches in length, and could very well be from a boot. Still, the leading edge seems to be a little funny looking for a boot. The print had obviously been filled in with water and soil leaving no topography, so any indications of toes, heel strikes, or pressure ridges were not discernible. While I suspect this impression was left by a hiker's boot, it's hard to be sure. It sure looks like it had toes...

The impression of unknown origin.

On the drive out, Craig and I were treated to the spectacle of two elk crossing the Quinault River. We were upwind about 100 yards from them, and they were visibly skittish. The cautiously crept to a spot directly across from us on the river over a period of perhaps 15 minutes, closely keeping an eye on us.

Two elk warily approach.

The way home is often a bummer when coming off of a great trip like this. Not only did we not want to return from this squatchy paradise, but we would not be arriving to Portland until nearly 11 pm. Both of us had to wake up too early the next morning, and we were exhausted.

But not too exhausted to stop for a great photo opportunity!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

1997 Elkins Creek, GA

Date: February, 1994
State: GA
County: Pike
Location: Elkins Creek
Found by: Anonymous
Cast by: James P. Akin
Length: 17.5 inches
Width: 8.5 inches
Heel width: 5 inches

The Elkins Creek cast is well known in the bigfoot community. It is one of a small handful of casts that show what could be sasquatch dermatoglyphics, according to Jimmy Chilcutt. Dr. Jeff Meldrum iscredited with finding indications of anatomical features that are consistent with those of other apes.

A farmer (now deceased) who lived on Elkins Creek called the police to report disturbances on his rural homestead. For about two weeks something had been frequenting his property. Strange noises were heard, dog food was stolen, and eventually livestock and pet dogs went missing. Whatever it was would bang on the outside of his trailer in the dead of night. When the sheriffs came to investigate, no evidence of the culprit was ever found.

Eventually, the man had his barn door ripped off its hinges when something was apparently trying to raid his corncrib. He called the authorities once again to report the vandalism. A deputy named James P. Akin was dispatched to look into the matter. Deputy Akin suspected local moonshiners were trying to discourage the man from living at the property.

The farmer told Deputy Akin that he knew what was doing the damage, and showed the officer five huge footprints along the banks of Elkins Creek. Though all five prints were clear, four of them were totally submerged in the water of the creek. One, however, was in the fine silt next to the water's edge and was still in excellent condition. Deputy Akin cast that print, and it is pictured above.

The cast has undergone intense scrutiny by many people far more qualified than most to assess its anatomical details. When the words "bigfoot" and "Georgia" come together, a reference to this cast is often not far. It is not only one of best pieces of evidence to surface from Georgia, but is remains one of the more interesting casts in the data set.

According to a bigfoot group called West Central Georgia Bigfoot Investigation (WCGBI), the cast was obtained near Double Bridges Road. Elkins Creek is over 8 miles to the north of this road, but apparently in between these two locations are thick woods and not much else. It seems that the southern border of Pike County more or less follows the course of Elkins Creek, so it can be reasonably assumed that it was found somewhere along that stretch north of Sprewell Bluff State Park and Wildlife Management Area.

The cast's notoriety combined with its sheer size makes it a favorite among bigfooters. The toes are well defined and deeply curled. It's pretty cool.

Bigfoot investigator Steven Hyde, a good friend of Deputy Akin, reported that the original cast was damaged in shipping after a mold was made by Dr. Jeff Meldrum. Both the original and a first generation copy is in Mr. Hyde's possession.

For more information on this and other casts, look at my website:

Respect the 'squatch!

Friday, March 12, 2010

PNW Roads

I know of a blog that is very useful that I look at quite often. If you live anywhere near the Portland, OR area and get out in a bigfooty way, you should become familiar with this blog.

Dean H. of Portland, OR writes this valuable blog. Basically, the gist is that Dean drives roads and sees where they go. It's simple. It's fun. It saves a lot of time for others trying to get somewhere. I can't tell you how many crappy roads I've driven down only to find a dead fall blocking my path. This blog tells you what's up with any of the roads he's driven, and more importantly, Dean's a friend of the 'squatch.

Skookum Lake? He's tried to get there. Squaw Meadows? Been there. Collowash River? Old news. This guy knows where to go and has tried to get there.

I love it. I use it. I recommend it.

Follow it. Read it.

Now, I'm off to the Olympic Peninsula. I'll write about it when I return.

Check back soon. I'm always up to something 'squatchy!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Cryptid Round Table on the Parafactor

A few months ago I had the pleasure of appearing on an internet radio program called the Parafactor. The conversation was informal, casual, yet engaging, and the hosts made my time with them very enjoyable.

The good folks at the Parafactor have now invited me back for another visit. This time I will be joining a round-table discussion about various cryptids with Nick Redfern, Adam Davies, and Linda Godfrey.

The show will be broadcast on April 8th at 7 pm PST. Mark your calendars!

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Retelling of Curious George

I've been interested in sasquatches for a long time. When I was very young, it was clear to me that King Kong and even Curious George were depictions of bigfoots. After all, they stood and walked on two legs. Perhaps they really weren't bigfoots, but to my young mind there was no difference.

The Complete Adventures of Curious George, Anniversary Edition
Click the link to buy the books.

I ran across this quirky video somewhere in cyberspace, and it made me ponder the similarities between the Curious George story and a possible scenario of the first live capture of a juvenile bigfoot. Unlike Curious George, I do not think that a juvenile bigfoot would take comfort in its zoo surroundings.

How long could a sasquatch be kept in a traditional zoo setting? Not long, I imagine. Like the last lines in this video suggests, a rampaging sasquatch that escaped from captivity would be a formidable thing to reckon with.

By the way, it's not Werner Herzog reading it either... It just sounds like it.

I hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

1963 Al Hodgson Cast From Bluff Creek, CA

In August of 1963, Al Hodgson saw his first set of footprints in the ground which ended up convincing him that there really was something to the "bigfoot" rumors that had been circulating in the area since 1958. He and Betty Allen, one of the earliest chroniclers of bigfoot sightings, drove to Bluff Creek to observe reported footprints and to possibly cast one. Ms. Allen needed a ride, and was concerned about going to the site alone due to the Native American stories about abductions of women by bigfoots. Interestingly, Al and Betty actually cast that footprint (rarely shown in the bigfoot literature) which is now on display at the Willow Creek-China Flat Museum in Willow Creek, CA.

August, 1963 Betty Allen and Al Hodgson cast

In October of 1963, Al Hodgson found another set of tracks at a location called the "Bluff Creek Sandbar." At the time this sandbar was a short distance from the confluence of Bluff and Notice Creeks, but would later be washed away in the terrible flood of December 1964.

October, 1963 Al Hodgson cast

Mr. Hodgson documented his October print find by taking photographs of the prints in the ground (with a scale item) and by casting one footprint. These photographs can be found in Dr. Meldrum's excellent book Sasquatch, Legend Meets Science on page 65.

Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science
Click the pic to purchase this book.

The very same tin snips that are shown in
the photograph as a scale item. They are also on display at
the Willow Creek Museum along with the original cast.

Copies of the cast are available for purchase from the Willow Creek/China Flat Museum. The copies are several generations removed from the original (pictured above), but still of a satisfactory quality for anything but the most precise measurements.

You can see this and other casts on my ever-growing database of casts and impressions. To access the database, go to my website:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Al Hodgson Interview, Part 3

Al Hodgson presenting at the 40th Anniversary of the
Patterson-Gimlin Film Celebration in October, 2007

"Almost by accident, and initially a skeptic, Al Hodgson became one of the most important figures in the history of Bigfoot research. It was his phone call to Roger Patterson that led to the Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film. He was also the first person they called after filming the creature. His connections to the community, and his position as a public figure and businessman, linked up Bigfoot witnesses and researchers for decades. He did early primary investigations with Betty Allen, local journalist and pioneering Bigfoot researcher, starting in the early 1960s. He was there before Bigfoot became a household word, and became a go-to guy for Bigfoot information after the famous 1958 Bluff Creek events and trackway finds. It is Al's memory that preserves much of the history of this phenomenon, and we've sought to explore it all with him."

Steven Streufert wrote this elegant paragraph summarizing the historical significance of Al Hodgson. I couldn't have written it better, so I'll just let that be the introduction to Part 3 of this historic interview. Click here to read the Al Hodgson Interview, Part 3.

If you haven't read Part 1 or Part 2, click the links to do so.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Descending Ridge, Round One

The vertical ascent.

Recently, I went on a scouting trip to a 'squatchy location south of Portland. I've been looking closely at this area since fall, having taken numerous day trips and even spending a few nights there. So far, I have little to show for the time I've spent there, but that's not to say that nothing bigfooty has happened. While I do admit that almost nothing has happened, I did get return vocalizations from a nearby roadless area last October on one very chilly night. The recorder we had running in camp was too far away to pick up the sounds, so I have nothing to share from the event.

After pouring over topographic maps, I noticed that many of the area's sightings happened in a natural choke point where a ridge line funnels down to a confluence of rivers. Following the lead of the Olympic Project, I decided to deploy trail cameras on this ridge line in hopes of capturing photographs of a sasquatch wandering its way down that route.

This spot has human pressure for a good portion of the year, and the local sasquatches have adapted to keep their presence generally unknown. Vocalizations are rarely heard, and the creatures are reportedly sneakier in their behavior. I do not want more human pressure to make the sasquatches even more wary around us. I'm going to keep this location a secret, at least for the time being. For now, I'll refer to it as the Descending Ridge Location.

It's always a little scary to leave game cameras out on public land. Unattended, they're vulnerable to thieves. I've lost more than one of these expensive tools in my time. (Wanna donate?)

The area between the confluence of rivers is virtually roadless. There are a handful of gated logging roads and trails that are slowly being reclaimed by the surrounding woods. Not a lot of people walk deeply into this area, and even fewer of them go off-trail. This is especially true in the winter. I felt that these facts would help ensure my cameras wouldn't get stolen.

I hiked up the ridge line and deployed two Reconyx trail cameras. They were positioned to monitor heavily used game trails near a steep drop off, thus funneling animals into a narrow gap making them easier to photograph. There was a human trail a few hundred yards to the south, so I spent a fair amount of time trying to camouflage the cameras with forest duff and moss.

The just-deployed Reconyx captures us as we leave the scene.

I put two cameras within a half mile of each other. They were left there for a month until I collected them this past Sunday on a solo day trip.

I took a different route up the mountain when I returned to retrieve the cameras. I utilized a gentler slope than had been hiked previously, though it was still a bit of a climb. Eventually, and only with the help of the GPS, I found the two cameras. After unlocking them from the trees, they were stored carefully in my backpack.

I brought another two units to deploy since I was up on the hill. Finding a precipice overlooking a shallow valley, I positioned one of them facing a game trail running along the overlooking ridge. Sasquatches, like mountain lions, use the surrounding terrain strategically, and this location would be an excellent one from which to locate prey.

Having retrieved both cameras, and still having another to deploy stowed away in my backpack, I headed south. On the previous trip, I found a seep that trickled down into a narrow ravine. My intention was to travel down the seep to inspect the boggy spots for footprints.

A flat spot off to the side of the seep.

The ground alternated between a wet carpet of moss and a narrow stream with a gravel bed. In some places, the slowly widening creek disappeared underground. The gurgling of the unseen creek escaped through dark holes in the ground.

You hear what's right under your feet, but don't see it.

The hike down the ravine was fun and a little challenging. Nothing that I would call dangerous, but I did lose my footing and slip on the steep muddy walls a couple times. (Remember, when doing this sort of trip alone one should not take unnecessary chances! It's a long walk out, and an even longer one with a broken femur!)

I found an excellent choke point on which to train the other camera. Lots of deer and elk had been moving through this spot, and it was only 20 or 30 feet wide. It will be interesting to see what utilizes this pathway after I pick up the camera next month.

A decent (but not good enough)
job at camouflaging a camera.

I continued down the ravine. Its sides were quite steep now, and through the trees I could just make out a logging road a couple hundred feet below. I closely inspected flat spots where water had gathered, but for the most part I stuck to the creek bed and banks examining the soft substrate for signs of passing animals.

Eventually, I made my way down to the road, hung a right, and walked back to where my truck was parked. Some local kids in a car rolled down their windows to yell something unintelligible at me as they passed, to which I smiled and nodded. It's always good to be friendly, even when drunk kids yell stuff at you. Perhaps especially when drunk kids yell at you. I was alone, after all.

I made it home a little after dark and checked the cameras' memory cards. The short version of my photographic results is that I got a bunch of deer pictures. Of course every bigfooter would want a photograph of a sasquatch, but based on previous results that seems to be very unlikely. Possible, but unlikely. (It's the "possible" part that keeps me going.)

What I did get was a decent amount of information about what's going on in that area. There seems to be a good number of deer in the area based on both the photos obtained as well as the spoor seen on the hike out and back to retrieve the cameras. Based on footprints, elk had also walked through the area, though no photographic evidence of them was captured on this deployment.

A curious blacktail deer, up-close and personal. Do you see the
other one in the background? It's right in front of the close deer's
nose. It's easier to see in a larger version of the pic.

Another from about a week later. Note the time stamps to the upper left.

Having deployed two more cameras, I'll be heading out there again in about a month to pick them up. I'm hopeful for some interesting shots, and maybe even a picture of a bigfoot if I stick with this spot long enough. The more I get to know the area, the stronger that possibility will be.
It's a promising location at a promising time. The animals are starting to move back into the area, and more are expected with spring just around the corner. There are nearby ponds, numerous rivers and creeks, and a long history with many sasquatch encounters from all sides.

Frequenting this spot, and keeping you posted on any results, seems like a good use of my time.

A beautiful example of Fomitopsis pinicola.