Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bigfooting in Pennsylvania, 2010

Bigfooting in Pennsylvania Slideshow

Just when I thought my summer bigfooting excursions were over, I received a call from bigfooting colleague and friend of the 'squatch, Matt Moneymaker of the BFRO. Matt had recently returned from scouting an area in Western Pennsylvania near the Allegheny River where some very recent bigfoot activity had been reported. He asked if I would be able to accompany him and try to obtain video of the local sasquatches. Facing my last week of freedom before teaching obligations will fill my time, how could I refuse?

Only three weeks ago, fishermen reported seeing a sasquatch casually walk across a shallow tributary of the Allegheny a short distance upstream from their fishing hole in broad daylight. The fishermen did not report the sighting to the BFRO, but rather to a local police officer who had himself encountered sasquatches on a warm afternoon last August less than a half mile from this location. The sighting report quickly made its way to Matt's ears through mutual friends.

The tributary near where the fishermen witnessed
a sasquatch crossing the creek in August, 2010.

During Matt's initial trip he met the police officer, scouted the immediate area, and picked up a few more stories from locals. Thinking that this was an excellent opportunity to possibly obtain daylight footage, he quickly planned a return trip to the area for the following week. He recruited me for assistance with this endeavor.

My plane left Portland, OR at 6 am on August 20th. A long day of travel took me through Huston, TX, and eventually to Pittsburgh, PA, arriving in the late afternoon. I was excited for the opportunity to go bigfooting back east, having only done so twice before (in Ohio and Florida). It is valuable to note what the various habitats for the these animals have in common throughout the United States. Since I would be bigfooting with Matt, I would be sure to pick his brain about this. Through his bigfoot expeditions, Matt has successfully gone bigfooting in more parts of North American than anyone else, and has unique insights into these animals' needs and wants.

After meeting up with Matt in the Pittsburgh Airport, we got our rental car and took the hour (or so) drive to a small town not far from the area of interest. (The location will not be divulged due to Matt's ongoing efforts in the region.)

Our first trips to the field were largely for scouting purposes. We walked the creek beds by day, closely examining locations where the creatures could observe strategic choke points and stay hidden from view. There were many spots where the limestone bedrock was exposed, and many of these locations were sheer cliffs overlooking the stream. It is our opinion that sasquatches often prefer rocky substrate so as to not leave obvious tracks, and thus would seek these sorts of outposts.

Matt Moneymaker pointing out a strategic
vantage point overlooking a creek.

We explored a tributary of this tributary and found it to have many shallow pools and hidden viewpoints. The police officer's encounter from the previous summer was where this creek flowed into the larger tributary. We eventually found out that farther upstream, perhaps four miles, was a homestead where the owner was afraid to hang out on his porch after dark due to creatures in the woods. (Knocking on this man's door later in the week gave no results because he was not at home.)

While walking up this small tributary creek on Sunday (8/22/10), we heard knocking noises from the north east. There were few, if any, homes along the hilltops in the area, and none were close enough to produce such loud noises, so the chances that these noises were human in origin is slim. My recorder was not running because we were trudging through the bottoms of the creek bed, and when our feet weren't wet, we were pushing through thick brush. All recorded noises would have been of my own making, so it is of little or no use to record in such conditions.

One of our days of scouting uncovered abandoned limestone mines from a passed industrial age. The mine openings were large enough to drive trucks through, and we explored the labyrinth of passages for several hundred yards deep into the earth. A bizarre and highly serendipitous discovery came from deep in one of these passages. The local kids had spray painted various things on the walls of these caves, but one such piece of graffiti took us both by surprise.

A four-toed footprint, close to three feet long,
spray painted on the walls of a cavern deep underground.

Though we heard knocking on several occasions over the week, we heard what could have been a sasquatch vocalizations on two nights. The first night we heard the noise was Sunday the 22nd. Matt and I were walking along a paved road shortly before midnight when two high pitched scream/whines pierced the night, unsolicited by our own calls. The following night, we heard several more of these noises, but they seemed to emanate from near a homestead where a dog was incessantly barking. Not recognizing the sounds as any animal we were familiar with, we thought that they might be sasquatch. However, hearing the sounds coming from the same general direction of the barking dog made us both wonder about our assessment. Could it have been some whiny breed of canine, or possibly even some eastern species of owl? Possibly. We did note that we never heard the call during the day, even when we heard the other dog barking.

Our best day was Thursday, August 26. In the middle of the day, the police officer, his friend, Matt, and I were walking the tiny tributary that feeds the larger one when we discovered a natural choke point with sheer cliff walls covered in thick brush. A distance up the walls was a natural bench with a rocky overhang which would be an obvious spot to escape rain or snow while still being able to observe anything traveling in the narrow canyon. Three of us climbed the cliff walls to inspect the bench area. Upon our arrival, we started hearing loud, single knocks from three directions. Two of the sources were close, perhaps 50 or so yards away, while one was much farther away downstream. The knocking continued for nearly 15 minutes until we decided to take action.

The natural bench from where we
heard many knocks from three sources.

Our plan was to send three of us out of the canyon from the direction we came, while I would remain behind to try to film the sasquatches. I sent my two companions down the precipice to Matt, who was waiting and observing from the creek below. As they reached the floor of the canyon, a quiet, yet distinct whistle came from one of the knocking locations. The three men below me then walked noisily to the north, leaving the area and making sure that the sasquatches knew it.

The view of the creek from the natural bench.

I stayed behind for perhaps twenty more minutes, just listening to the forest noises. The most significant thing I heard was the lack of knocking. Since there was a slight breeze during this time, it occurred to me that perhaps the knocking was a natural noise made by the wind. Hearing nothing after the men had left the canyon made me realize that the clear knocks that had been occurring frequently during our stay were most likely bigfoots. The whistle was just icing on the cake...

On my walk out, I went up the slope to intersect a long-unused logging road. Of interest was my find of a log that had been moved three feet to the right of where it had been. Was this a find of bigfooty significance? I don't know, but it was interesting.

This log had been moved a few feet to the
right of its obvious resting place.

My trip to Pennsylvania was a great opportunity to not only hang out with a good friend in a different part of the country, but also to pick the brain of one of the most experienced bigfooters alive today. Matt holds many strong opinions regarding these animals, but he is always quick to listen to my thoughts and experiences. When I disagree with him, he always respectfully listens and considers my opinion. Just like back in the day when I ran expeditions for the BFRO, working with Matt was easy and fun, the both of us making an excellent team. We didn't manage to obtain that elusive piece of video footage, but perhaps one of the many trail cameras we left behind will do the job for us. I will be sure to keep you posted on any results of our efforts.

Two last thoughts... I dislike hiking through wild roses, and the effects of poison ivy feels just like poison oak... Go figure.

Here are some more photographs from my PA adventure...

Matt in the main tributary with limestone walls.

Typical habitat in the area.

Limestone overhangs make for good shelters from snow, wind, and rain.

Above the creek canyon.

This mine's entrance is nearly twenty feet across,
yet was completely hidden from view while only a few yards away.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Stare Into the Eyes of 40 Ape Faces

Photographer James Mollison reveals the variability of our uncanny human cousins in a stunning series of close-up portraits of the Great Apes.

The tight focus of his photographs forces us to look right into the eyes of gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans of different ages and personalities. The portraits, which Mollison first released a few years ago, have resurfaced thanks to a post on the 
Accidental Mysteries photography blog.

Wondering how he got so close the apes? Mollison had a fascinating methodology for working with the chimps:

I would go up to them and kind of look in their arm hair and pretend I was looking for a flea, and then I'd make my way up to their chin. Then, I'd pull a hair, and they'd think I got a flea, so they'd stare at my finger to see what I'd taken off of them.

As they did, Mollison would snap their portrait, their eyes boring into his lens with intelligent intensity.

Though the animals he photographed were orphans of the bush meat and pet trade industries, Mollison was less interested in making a political point than a more existential one. "For me, the most interesting part of the portraits is that they get at the gray area between man and animal," he said.

Scientists have been probing the same grey region, albeit in different terms. Cognitive scientists want to know how apes of various types perceive individual faces under different circumstances.

Scores of studies have focused on precisely how different monkeys perceive the faces of their own species and those of other apes (like ourselves). The differences and similarities not only tell us a little about our own evolutionary pathway, but also provide a window into the ape mind.

A common task is to see if the monkeys exhibit any behavioral differences on tasks when faces are presented normally versus upside down. In humans, when you flip a photo of a face upside down, we have a harder time processing it. That's evidence that our brains see faces as not just a combination of shapes and textures but as, well, 
a face. They call this "the inversion effect."

While the evidence for the 
inversion effect across species is still muddled, it appears that chimps, at least, do really process the faces of their own species the way humans do. According to a March paper in the journal of Animal Cognition, when chimpanzees look at faces, they linger over the eyes -- but only if the eyes are open and only if those faces are presented right-side up. That is to say, they respond quite like humans would.

The Japanese researchers took six chimps and sat them in front of a screen with a built-in eye tracker. A human helped hold their faces in the right position as the chimps stared at photos of other chimps. 

The results demonstrated that chimpanzees looked at the eyes, nose, and mouth more frequently than would be expected on the basis of random scanning of faces. More specifically, they looked at the eyes longer than they looked at the nose and mouth when photographs of upright faces with open eyes were presented, suggesting that particular attention to the eyes represents a spontaneous face-scanning strategy shared among monkeys, apes, and humans.

Embedded deep in our primate brains, there's a blinking message about how to know what's going on socially: look into the eyes!
Mollison said that he originally intended to shoot all the photos at the same distance as a passport photo, but changed his mind after looking his first shoot with a gorilla. "The shot was a little bit closer than a passport photo but there's something about the intensity of the eyes," Mollison said. 
Citation: "Facial perception of conspecifics: chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) preferentially attend to proper orientation and open eyes" Satoshi Hirata, Koki Fuwa, Keiko Sugama, Kiyo Kusunoki and Shin Fujita 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Recent Article by Thom Powell

Author of the groundbreaking bigfoot book, The Locals, and all-around friend of the 'squatch, Thom Powell has recently penned an article for The Oregonian.  The article looks at the politically correct movement to remove offensive geographical place names from the maps, and Thom highlights the possible connection between the word "squaw" and sasquatches.  Read on, or click this link to see the original article.

Thom Powell addressing the Oregon Sasquatch Symposium.

Drawing the line on offensive place names

By Thom Powell 

The Oregonian's story on the removal of offensive place names was interesting and accurate -- mostly. A few interesting additions: The modern-day movement to change offensive place names began with an Oprah Winfrey show in 1992. A guest on her show declared that use of "squaw" as a place name was offensive. The Oregonian's story explained that the word was derived from an Algonquian name for "woman." More accurately, the translation is said to be something on the order of "female reproductive parts." 

Algonquian as a tribal language was spoken only in the northeast corner of the U.S. and Canada. Three quarters of the continent's tribes did not recognize the word at all, much less regard it as something offensive. Nineteenth century linguists may have incorrectly translated the word as a more general reference to female Indians. Being easy to pronounce and remember, it was then carried across the continent in the minds of explorers, trappers and settlers who were completely unaware of any implied insult associated with the term. 

They were a hardy bunch, but the early settlers were not always literate, and they definitely weren't politically correct. They doubtless used disparaging terms for females of all races, including their own. Yet, "squaw" was not meant to demean or offend when it was assigned to plants (squawberry, squawroot), places (Squawback Ridge, Squaw Butte), and people, male or female. Interestingly, a white man who took an Indian bride was a "squawman." 

Consciousness-raising began with a 1992 episode of the daytime talk show "Oprah." Guest and Native American activist Suzan Harjo, appealed for change to demeaning names used by professional sports teams (think: Washington, Cleveland and Atlanta) even though such names are intended to convey generally positive images of warrior-like fierceness. 

In any case, Harjo bolstered her position by invoking other linguistic insults such as use of the word "squaw." Not being an expert in Algonquian herself (she is Cheyenne), Harjo cited a 1972 book, "Literature of the American Indian," in which the authors raised the dubious claim that the word referred to female genetalia in the Naraganset dialect of the Algonquian Nation. 

In truth, it is not at all clear which of several words has been anglicized into "squaw," but "eskwaw," "esqua" and "ojiskw" are all possibilities. Other Algonquian tribes used "squa." By the way, the Algonquian term for white settlers was "wasichu." How would that do as a team name? Anyone want tickets to see the Washington Wasichu play? 

In any event, leave it to explorers and settlers to phoeneticize and simplify tricky pronunciations, then carry them westward, but the story probably doesn't end there. No Indian in western North America ever named a place using Algonquian terms, but white explorers and settlers may have. 

Why places such as the remote Squaw Butte in Clackamas County would be so named is less clear. Did an explorer see a female Indian there? That's possible, but I doubt it. My own research suggests that another Indian term in use more locally may have been confused and simplified into the handier term "squaw." 

Squaw Butte sits within the lands once occupied by the Clackamas band of the Chinook Indians. Nearby, the Kwakiutl Indians of the Pacific coast used the term Tsonoqua. This term, also spelled "Tsonokwa," translates into "a wild, very hairy female being with big feet." 

Another put down? I don't think so. Rather, it's a reference to a female "sesquac" or sasquatch, as we call them today. The "tsonoqua" was a female bigfoot, and while the concept of the sasquatch or bigfoot is much ridiculed in modern society, the Indians in virtually all parts of North America had terms to describe these elusive and mysterious beings. As it turns out, Squaw Mountain lies in a remote location in the Mount Hood National Forest where the legend of the sasquatch persists to the present. 

Pioneering research on this point, done by Molalla resident Frank Kaneaster, even identifies Squaw Butte as being at the center of a cluster of modern sasquatch sightings. My own research bolsters Kaneaster's dubious data set with two more sightings by local hunters who emphatically claim that a sasquatch is what they saw while hunting the flanks of Squaw Mountain. 

When one examines the places in Oregon alone that bear (or once did) the name "Squaw", they all bear an interesting similarity: They are remote, even by today's standards, and so were even more remote in the days of early wasichu (white) settlement. They are surrounded by other place names that hearken of the mysterious wild beings: Devil's Ridge, Devil's Lake, Skookum Lake, Tarzan Springs, Skookum Meadow, Diablo Mountain and more. 

Virtually all North American tribes embrace the wildman or sasquatch phenomenon. They uniformly regard these beings not as animals but people, member of a mysterious but very real tribe. And if the sasquatch, or skookums, exists then there are females, for which one of the local terms was Tsonoqua. This is a more likely origin for the word "squaw" when referencing remote geographical places in the Pacific Northwest that were actually named by the Indians, not the wasichu. 

I guess it doesn't matter anymore. The Forest Service has removed the name from the creek and its parent butte. It is now known as Tumalo Creek and Tumalo Butte, which, in the Klamath dialect, means either "wild plum" or "cold water," depending on which translation one accepts. A strange choice considering the Klamath Indians didn't live around here, and the name "Tumalo" is already prominent in central Oregon. It's also kind of a boring name. I mean, "Coldwater Creek"? "Wild Plum Butte"? C'mon, guys, is that the best you could do? If we're going to change the name, how about reverting to "Tsonoqua"? It's probably the original name for the place, and laugh if you will, but the place does have a history of reported sasquatch encounters to back it up. The Indians don't laugh, but they don't discuss their feelings on the subject with the wasichu either. They know all too well our tendency to label unfamiliar beings as animals, then use that as an excuse to shoot them. 

Tsonoqua may be an old name, but it is not as easy to spell or pronounce as is "squaw." The nice thing about "Tsonoqua" is that if some of the locals don't like it, they can just slur it, and it will sound like the traditional wasichu name. That's probably the way Squaw Butte got its name in the first place. Now, if I could just get on "Oprah," I know I could change people's minds. 

Thom Powell lives in rural Clackamas County and teaches sciences at Robert Gray Middle School in Portland. He is the author of "The Locals: A Contemporary Investigation of the Bigfoot/Sasquatch Phenomenon."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Blues Part 4

I found this guy crawling around in the morning.

I remember dreaming about something to do with an emcee or game show host, a bigfoot, and maybe a zip line.  It's a bit fuzzy, as dreams usually are, but at some point I remember a number of bears galloping in circles around the emcee and me.  I noticed the ground shaking under the bears' galloping as I had experienced the night before.  Very soon, I noticed that I wasn't totally asleep anymore, yet the ground was still shaking.  That woke me up even more, and I found that there was still a thunder of footfalls and the ground was still shaking.

Quickly unzipping my sleeping bag and tent, I stood up in the doorway of my tent and saw almost a dozen elk darting through the trees in the morning light.  They had run within twenty-five feet of my tent.  No wonder the ground was shaking so!  I'm just glad it wasn't a herd of bear, as my dream first indicated.  I'm not sure what I would have done if faced with such an absurd reality...

Since I had once again placed my tent in the direct morning sun, I figured it was time to get up.  I gathered my gear, made some coffee and hit the road.

My plan for the day was to drive back towards Portland and stay in the Cascades for a night.  I had things I needed to take care of on Sunday, so I wanted to put myself in position to arrive home early the next day by making my drive as short as possible.

I called my frequent field partner and friend of the 'squatch, Craig Flipy, from the road to see if he had gone out bigfooting as he planned.  His voice mail was the indication that he had indeed made it to the woods.  To my surprise, he soon called me back from the woods.  He had cell service.  We live in strange times.

Craig Flipy and his shadow

Craig indicated that he was at the spot near the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness area where Will Robinson had recently recorded excellent knocks.  He invited me to join him, and I agreed.

When going to the woods, I try to always start with a full tank of gas, so I stopped in The Dalles to fill up.  I gave the gas station attendant a bigfoot card, and he was kind enough to share a couple stories of him finding footprints in the snow, and of his friends seeing giant man-shaped shadows lurking around the outskirts of the west side of town before it was developed.  Nearly everybody has a story...

I headed up towards Mt. Hood from the city of Hood River along highway 35, took a turn on highway 26, and headed off on smaller logging roads until I found Craig and his two ridiculous dogs hanging around a meadow.  We greeted each other and spent the rest of the day walking the outskirts of the marsh looking for prints.

At dusk, we heard one clear knock coming from north of the marsh.  We were some distance from camp at that point, so we headed back to start our recording gear (which we should have already had running).

I made an ostentatious work of natural art to serve as a pedestal for a food offering.  Tonight's menu would feature a bright yellow spaghetti squash on a stick structure.

Andy Goldsworthy goes bigfooting. 

Later in the night, shortly after midnight, we heard a series of five knocks coming from the very distant southeast.  Were they gunshots?  They were too far away to tell.  

Soon, a much louder, much closer sound erupted from this same direction.  I was moving around when it happened, but to me it sounded like one long sound of a tree falling.  Craig suggested a rifle shot, but was not by any means positive on his identification.  

After reviewing the recording upon returning home, it was most likely the sound of two gunshots.  My only issue with this is that there are no roads in the direction we heard the sounds from.  Oh well, another "maybe."

Nothing else of significance happened that night.  Craig woke up early and left as I was just getting myself up. I slowly wrapped up my four-night exploratory trip to the Blue Mountains by driving Highway 26 back to my home.  

Here are some other pictures from the trip.  Enjoy!

A toad in the Cascades.

That deer from Indian Camp

Self portrait at Indian Springs

The Moon and Venus setting over Walla Walla, WA.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Blues Part 3

The Mill Creek Watershed

The sun beat down on my tent viciously.  I always seem to forget to set up my sleeping quarters in what will be the morning shade.  I guess that's what I get for setting up tents well after dark.  Still, with bedtimes averaging 3 am, the early morning sun seems more like an unwanted guest than the source of all life on Earth.  Oh well, up mine.

I brewed a morning cup of joe, and soon found out that where I was camping was really more of a trail than a campsite.  The ATV that came rumbling up from behind some downed logs was a little of a surprise.  A man, probably in his 30's (and whose name escapes me), and his 7 or 8 year-old daughter riding in tandem stopped their mechanical mount and turned off the engine in my camp.  They greeted me kindly, and asked if I was scouting for elk.  Once again, I dropped the "BF bomb" on them and told them I was a bigfooter...and of course this guy had a story too, as so many folks do!

When this man was just a boy, he tagged along on a hunting trip to the bottom of Mill Creek Watershed.  The hunting party ran across footprints in the creek that were huge.  "If they weren't bigfoot tracks, I don't know what else they could have been," is what the man said to me about the clear impressions.  We chatted a bit more before the two rode off into the dusty morning.

My plan for the day was to drive southwards to Tollgate, OR.  There is a cafe in Tollgate that reportedly has several bigfoot casts on the wall, including the original Tollgate cast as detailed on my website.  Where there are casts, you'll eventually find me, so I headed off down the lousy, dusty road.  I stopped at several springs long the way to look for sasquatch footprints, but found none.  There were many footprints of numerous other species, though.  Just no bigfoots....

These beautiful black bear prints caught my attention.

I veered off of the more direct route to Tollgate at one point to stop at two springs that caught my attention on the map.  One was Skookum Springs, and the other was Wild Woman Springs.  If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know I'm a big fan of squatchy geographical names, and your really can't get names more squatchy than these.  Still, the above statement that I found no bigfoot footprints remains true, no matter how squatchy the springs were.  I guess the urge to visit these spots comes from the bigfoot tourist inside of me.

The Tollgate Store

My gas level was slightly below a quarter of a tank when I pulled into the Tollgate Store.  This was not only the location of the first gas pump I saw, but it was the location of the bigfoot footprint casts too.  On the wall the establishment had a number of casts on display.  There was the Tollgate cast, Dermals (given to the place by none other than Dr. Grover Krantz), the Marx hand print, and two casts I had not seen before.  One was attributed to a man named Kevin Lindley.  The cast was taken near Tiger Canyon and Skyline Road (which would put it at a place called "Tiger Saddle," a site of several other bigfoot cast events) on June 12, 1987.  The other, which the store's owner said was an admitted fabrication by another man, was noted to have been found in the Walla Walla Watershed.  Much to my chagrin, all of these casts had been screwed into the walls by the previous owners.  It broke my heart to see the original Tollgate cast (one of my favorites) literally screwed into the wall.  At least I got to see it.

1987 Lindley Cast

Walla Walla Watershed Cast (likely fabrication)

The owner of the Tollgate Store was a man named Jeff.  A woman also worked there, and I assume that they are married or something like that, though I might be wrong (I didn't ask).  The woman's name was Alethia.  (I asked if her parent's had a lisp, but they were just hippies.)  When asked about recent bigfoot stories, Alethia said that there were prints found to the south just two weeks or so before.  There was a large and a small set of prints, presumably from an adult and juvenile sasquatch.  I asked for the location, and Jeff was kind enough to note the general area on my map.  I soon set out for this area.  

Being Friday, there were plenty of campers in the woods, and most of them were obviously settling in for the weekend.  I eventually found an out-of-the-way corner of the woods to call my own for the night.  The drive in was not easy, though.  The willows that grew on the sides of the road scraped down the sides of my truck leaving scratches both in its paint job as well as its thick dusty coating.  I had to move several small trees that had fallen over the road as well.  

I thought these grassy areas would bring
 in the ungulates. I was right.

As dusk grew darker, I started hearing noises to the west.  The loud "crack" of a branch breaking sounded, quickly grabbing my attention.  On alert, I stood still and listened.  Just to my north, perhaps 75 feet away, I could just make out a bear-shaped shadow rounding the corner and stepping across the road.  It was obvious the animal did not see me, so I shouted, "Hello!"

Stopping in mid step, the bear looked directly at me.   Though it was quite dark, I could just make out a patch of lighter hair on its face, clearly indicating its muzzle.  Its rump was about three and a half feet in height.  It was not a small animal.  

We both stood still for a moment, just looking at each other.  Foolishly, I had not set up my thermal imager, and it was too dark for cameras to work well.  I thought about the scent lures I was to soon place out.  Several other quick thoughts raced through my head before deciding that this bear could be a problem if I made it feel welcome in any way.  Loudly shuffling my feet across the rocky ground with my hands high in the air, I took a few quick steps towards the bear while yelling, "Yah!"  The bear turned tail and fled in the direction it had come.  I could feel the ground shake as it ran away.  After the bear reached the safety of the thick brush, I never heard it again.  It was not far, I just never heard it.  

Being alone in a place where nobody knows you are with large animals around is an experience worth having.  

More in the next blog.  Check back soon...

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Blues Part 2

I woke up at Indian Camp on Thursday morning thinking that it was Friday morning.  When I became a little more temporally oriented, I was pleased to find that I now had a whole extra day to explore the Blue Mountains outside of Walla Walla, WA.

I found that the deer that was lurking around the night before had never left.  While foraging, she routinely came withing spitting distance of me (no, I didn't try to spit on her), and I knew I had many photographs of her on the six game cameras that I routinely deploy around camp each night.

One of a zillion pictures of this doe taken on a game camera.

Leaving the campsite, I headed south to check out a half dozen springs for footprints.  While checking my maps at an intersection of roads, a beat up truck with two passengers rolled to a stop next to me.  The passenger was a young man wearing a baseball cap, while the driver was an older gentleman, well-tanned from being outside, with an endearing drawl.  He asked if I was scouting for elk.

"No, I'm doing bigfoot stuff," was my reply.

The next hour of conversation revolved around his fifty plus years of experience in the Blues.  While he had never actually seen a sasquatch, he was positive they exist.  He said you can tell when they're around by the prickly "hair standing up" sort of feeling that you get.  He told me that there aren't many animals that smell worse.  He said that he's been seriously creeped out in the woods when there was no reason to be.  He also personally knew every bigfooter in the area, based on the names I threw at him.  He knew Paul Freeman because (like Paul) this man's job was to patrol the Mill Creek Watershed, though never worked on the same shift as Paul.  He was good friends with Wes and Peggy Sumerlin.  He knew Darr Addington (sp?) and every other name I did, except he knew the people themselves.  

The Blues are thick and lush, yet dry.

This man, whose name was Cecil Berry, was such a part of the local history of the Blue Mountains that he actually had a spring named after him (Berry Springs in the northern part of the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness Area).  Cecil had actually built some of the only trails leading down into the Mill Creek Watershed.  He was such a fantastic source of history and lore for the area I was now exploring.

Since I had a local right there, I popped the question of "Is there anyplace in the Blues that is widely known to be haunted, or where bad things happen and people just don't go?"  Cecil laughed and replied in the affirmative.  Apparently, problems used to happen at the bottom of Beaver Creek.  Forest Service workers have gone in and never returned.  Other civilians, as well.  He briefly mentioned the "guardians" at the Twin Buttes cabins, too.  He went on to explain that he never saw one of the guardians when he was living there (he ran away when he was just a boy and lived for three years in the area of these cabins), but he heard them and knew "it" was around.

Taking my leave of Cecil, I headed to some nearby springs to bushwack and look for prints.  I found none, so I checked a handful of other nearby springs.  I found no prints at the other locations either, so I drove north to see if I could get close to Beaver Creek, which was deep in the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness.

There was no obvious place to camp looking out over Beaver Creek (at least the stretch of river where "the problems" were occurring), so I explored little-used roads for an hour or so.  I did stumble upon a cluster of cabins that border the wilderness area.  Nobody seemed to be home, so I dropped a business card or two off in their empty refrigerators on their porches.

Dusk was settling in for the night at this point, so I spent the next two hours driving along the Kendall Skyline Road from vantage point to vantage point and doing calls.  I wanted to call into the Mill Creek Watershed, though I targeted the saddles between the watershed to my west and the wilderness area to my east.  No calls were heard during this time, so I eventually ended up camping for the night at Deduct Springs.

A monument at roadside.

After making a small meal, cracking open a beer, and playing some guitar, I started doing calls.  After about an hour and a half, I heard a clear, yet distant, howling reply from the south.  The vocalization came from the upper reaches of the Walla Walla River.  This response was unfortunately not captured on my recording device, though I spent a considerable amount of time trying to pull it out of the background noise using sophisticated audio software.  Oh well.  That's bigfooting...

Check back soon to read about my next day's adventures...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Blues Part 1

With summer vacation drawing to a close, I wanted to do a short solo trip to a place I'd never been.  Being a cast geek, I decided to travel to eastern Oregon to see the Blue Mountains where Paul Freeman obtained numerous sasquatch footprint casts throughout the 1980's and 90's.

The Mill Creek Watershed

Paul Freeman's casts have a checkered reputation.  Some bigfooters believe that all of Mr. Freeman's casts were hoaxed, while others believe that none of them were.  While I do admit that some of the casts don't look quite right to me, many of them show interesting anatomical features that are consistent with great ape anatomy.  Certainly Mr. Freeman was not an expert in biolocomotion and ape anatomy.  (A friend of Freeman's recently told me that Paul "wasn't an expert in anything.")  Academic authorities, such as Dr. Jeff Meldrum, have weighed Freeman's evidence and found many of the casts to be quite compelling.  Until I obtain a PhD from an academic institution, I'll defer to the experts.

The Blues are about a four and a half hour drive from Portland.  Getting an unhurried start, I found myself passing through Walla Walla, WA in the late afternoon.  I turned onto Mill Creek Road and headed to the hills.

The terrain soon turned from low, brown, rolling hills into steep canyons with lush river bottoms.  Homesteads and farms dotted the landscape as I drove to higher altitudes up the winding gravel road.  Reaching the ridgeline, I obtained my first view of the legendary Mill Creek Watershed.  Mill Creek is the water source for the city of Walla Walla, and therefore is off limits to nearly all human traffic.  Only a few government employees and a very small number of elk hunters who get lucky enough to pull a tag for this area are allowed into the watershed.  For the vast majority of the year, the bigfoots pretty much have the run of the place.

These signs were posted along the road bordering the watershed.

In general, the Blue Mountains are a fairly dry place.  The roads were quite dusty in most spots (adding to their ability to take and hold footprints), and the plant life was similar to the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, or perhaps the Siskiyous of Southern Oregon.  The ridge lines were often brown and bare with the thicker forests appearing nearer the bottom of the river valleys.  Often the mountains' cooler northern slopes would be thickly wooded while their southern slopes would be treeless.  With so much open area between the patches of trees, I couldn't help but think about ways to possibly capture footage of sasquatches if they could be lured out into the open...

My first stop was Deduct Springs, the site from which several casts in my collection were collected, as well as the location where Paul Freeman obtained his famous 1994 video.  I was told the area had changed significantly since the film was shot, which was true, but the rumor that a parking lot had been built was false.  There is no pavement there, only a pit toilet and a trail head sign next to a pond.  

The Deduct Springs trail head sign.

There was an amazing array of yummy smelling grasses and herbs growing in the area of the springs.  A small creek trickled into a pond across from the trail head sign, so I plunged into the undergrowth and followed it to its source, looking closely at the muddy ground along the way for signs of sasquatches.  No sign was encountered, but no ticks were encountered either.  I was thankful for that because I'd heard that the Blues can be thick with ticks during certain parts of the year.  Ticks, and in fact arachnids in general, are not endearing to me at all.  

Paul Freeman's bigfoot footage, filmed at Deduct Springs.

After poking around Deduct Springs for a while, I hit the road again.  There is a large number of springs popping up here and there all throughout the Blues, so I made it a point to stop at every one that was near the road in order to search for footprints.  I didn't have to drive far to find springs, but footprints eluded me wherever I looked.

Driving northward on a very dusty road, I found an isolated campsite called Indian Camp, also the site of Indian Springs.  The campsite was at a trail head above the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness Area.  There were plenty of deer around, as judged by both the sheer number of footprints, and also that two of them kept coming to within forty feet of me, then running off if I made any sudden moves.  My night was spent in this valley making calls and knocking, but receiving no responses.

More on my trip to the Blues, coming soon...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Wenatchee World Article

This article from the Wenatchee World newspaper was recently brought to my attention.  Thanks for the shout out, Paul!

The Worm: ‘Strange Days,’ sightings from NCW

“Strange Days” search: In NCW, you’re probably more likely to encounter a Sasquatch than a celebrity. Now Paul Graves of Wenatchee has done both.
Standup comic and former “Full House” star Bob Saget embarks on a new TV project with his A&E reality show “Strange Days,” due to premiere on the cable channel sometime this year. The show features Saget immersing himself in “different unusual cultures from the world of mail-order brides to joining a survivalist cult prepping for the end of the world to rushing a fraternity,” according to A&E.
Q: What does this guy have in common with the guy below? A: Mysterious, unconfirmable sightings in NCW.
Among the show’s early expeditions was a three-day Olympic Peninsula quest for Sasquatch, led in part by Wenatchee artist, musician and cryptid-hunter Graves, 49. He’s long been associated with the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, a private group that seeks out evidence of the mysterious woodland humanoids (called “Choanito,” or “Night People,” by the Wenatchi Indians).
Graves estimates he’s probed some 300 Sasquatch reports in the Wenatchee area alone, most recently a direct visual sighting up Blewett Pass five weeks ago. He’s also recorded what he believes are Sasquatch calls, and played one for Saget’s crew that he captured near Lake Wenatchee two years ago.
Saget and his crew joined Graves and fellow researchers, including Cliff Barackman of Portland (who blogged the affair) and Tom Yamarone of Pleasanton, Calif., for their Bigfoot-hunting weekend in early April. The segment has no confirmed airdate as yet. Graves said he felt the show producers were impressed with the expedition.
“It’s always an interesting subject for the public, and it’s one that’s not gonna go away,” he said.