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...


  1. Cliff - thanks for the blog, I enjoy following it. I had a Class B experience in the Tollgate neighborhood in 1997. Glad to hear you're exploring there! Good luck, Mellissa

  2. Great posts, thanks for sharing your adventures, enthusiasm and pictures.

  3. You paint a nice picture, Cliff. Makes me homesick for the north woods (I'm a Yank from New England---spent a fair bit of time in the woods of New Hampshire---living in Australia). Somehow you manage to strike the perfect note and your entries straddle the realms of science and adventure nicely. Enjoy the journey!