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 www.NorthAmericanBigfoot.com. 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!

1 comment:

  1. why is it every BF picture is partial or blurry but other animal seem to always walk in front of the cameras, and when a hot spot is found no one ever tries to set a perimeter and work around the sight areas. science has found the smallest creature in very dense areas but no one can get a clear still or video of a BF. trailriderresearch. had an interesting encounter, but no follow up of the area has been made. many ????? No!!!!