My schedule has been downright nutty lately. School is winding down, time is short, and the smell of report cards is in the air. My work day is a whirlwind of responsibilities and paperwork, both of which often eat up many hours after the standard work day. Meetings, field trips, grades, paperwork, students, and more fill what seems like nearly every waking minute I have. After all that, I still try to have a little bit of "Cliff" left over at the end of the day for me. It gets tough sometimes.
Still, a guy's gotta 'squatch... So, I do.
Seizing the opportunity given by this holiday weekend, two friends and I set our course for adventure and headed to Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Our ultimate destination was going to be one of several choices, all of which centered around the vast swamplands known throughout the bigfooting community as Skookum Meadows. I was optimistic about the roads being relatively free of snow, which can be a real hindrance this time of year, but a combination of dreary weather, two-wheel drive, and icy patches thwarted our plans.
We initially tried to access logging roads to put us on the north side of Lone Butte, but were turned around by a fifty yard stretch of icy road. I probably could have plowed through the snow drift, but the accompanying vehicle was only two-wheel drive, and would have most certainly gotten stuck. No worries, though. In zones of high 'squatch-potential like Skookum Meadows, specific locations need not be committed to. There are plenty of other spots close by.
Our next plan was to head to the trail head of Placid Lake. We couldn't even get close to that location. The road was completely engulfed with snow, leaving us with little choice than to head somewhat back towards the direction we came.
We took a right at Lone Butte Snow Park and headed towards the gravel pit that so often is the campsite for bigfoot tourists wanting to camp near Skookum Meadows. Many of these sight seers do not realize that this gravel pit is was the base camp for the expedition when the Skookum cast was obtained. In fact, one needs to drive right by the actual site of the cast in order to reach the gravel pit.
The Skookum Cast site taken on 9/22/07,
seven years to the day after the casting event.
seven years to the day after the casting event.
We almost got to where we were headed to, but again were turned around by snow. I did notice a grouse, rabbit, and large blacktail deer all within a mile of each other. Food was in the neighborhood. It was time to do some exploring. (My favorite.)
We drove back to road 3211 and did some scouting. Before long, I saw a dark road heading into the brush that seemed to call out to me. Never being one to ignore a whim, I radioed to the other car to stay put for a few moments while I drove up the road a bit to see how it looked.
In a word, it looked squatchy. The road twisted its bumpy way through a dark forest thick with brush. Swampy areas were commonly seen where the plant life was not too thick to obscure the view. Several times I found the vine maples on either side of the road making a veil through which I'd drive my vehicle allowing the branches to scrape across my truck's already tattered paint job. I eventually found the road to be blocked by a dead fall, and backed down to the only medium sized clearing seen, which was fortunately only 80 yards behind me. I radioed to the other vehicle that I had found our campsite.
Home sweet home.
Before long, my friends arrived and we started setting up camp. I placed my tent near the edge of the tree line in hopes of inviting a close approach by a nocturnal visitor, while Craig and Barney practiced their bush craft skills and set up temporary shelters in the trees nearby.
After my tent was ready, I soon got to work putting three trail cameras along the access roads leading to (or from, depending on one's perspective) our camp. I spent close to an hour finding appropriate locations to place each camera and meticulously hiding them under a layer of soil, ferns, sticks, and debris.
The night was spent walking, whooping, knocking, and recording until fatigue overtook us around 2 am. The conditions for bigfooting were not optimal, either. There was a steady rain that obstructed our hearing as it pitter-pattered on our tarps, hoods, and tents. Having worked early that morning, I was ready to lie down at that point anyways.
Rising late the next morning, I found Craig making coffee. He had been up for a while, and had gone walking to the southeast along a road to find a meadow just a few hundred yards away. Having heard a chorus of frogs the wet night before, this made perfect sense.
The meadow was not on any of the maps nor GPS units we had with us. Since we didn't know what to call it, we dubbed the location "Flipy Meadow," after Craig Flipy, who stumbled upon it that morning. I don't have any idea if that location has a proper name or not, but for now "Flipy Meadow" seems just fine.
We circumnavigated the meadow that morning. Elk and deer prints were plentiful, and one set of boot prints were found in the mud at the margins of the bog. Our party split up at one point with Craig and Barney circling back downhill to the road while I continued my lap around the meadow. I found two small streams trickling out of the meadow which presented me with some easy tracking, but for the most part the ground was covered in brush and gave few opportunities for decent impressions.
After returning to camp, Craig and I explored the far reaches of the many forks in the road we were camped off of for most of the afternoon. When night arrived, we found ourselves again doing the bigfooting routine. This night would not be as quiet as the last.
Soon after our calls started, we heard the sound of sloshing from down towards the meadow. Listening closely, it was clear that a large animal was wading in the shallow water of the meadow. I hurried to ready my thermal imager only to find out that I was unprepared to film. One of my two power supplies was depleted. I decided that seeing a bigfoot through a thermal imager without recording it would be an embarrassing blog entry, so instead of rushing down with the therm to do just that, I took an hour to charge the power supply off of my car battery before leaving camp. Craig and Barney had already gone down to the end of the road towards the meadow, and we were in constant radio contact.
The creature in the meadow could be heard moving about nearly the entire time the power supply was charging, giving us an opportunity to assess what it could be. To me, it sounded like a creature trotting through shallow water. We tried occasional knocks and whoops to see what affect this would have on the creature. To our surprise, we had faint knocking replies from further to the south. The creature in the meadow paid little notice to our sounds. It seemed even less likely that this was a sasquatch at that point.
It turned out that I was correct, for when the power supply was sufficiently charged and I descended into the meadow I caught a glimpse of the trotting culprit. As Craig, Barney, and I clumsily walked off trail through the dark without lights towards the meadow, I caught a the following footage on my thermal imager.
As you can barely see, there is an ungulate (probably an elk, based on the size of the creature and the distance from which it was shot) running from left to right soon disappearing into the woods. Oh well.
Still, several knocking events were heard that night, as well as some branch breaking from a different direction. I'm not positive that any of these were bigfoot related, but it's possible. To the south, where the knocking was heard, is a popular stretch of road for campers, so it's at least possible that we were hearing door slamming or something similar. So far, the review of the night's recording has not turned up any knocks on the audio file, but they could have been too faint for the recorder to pick up. I still have several more hours to review.
Before retiring, I made some "molisquatch cocktails" and put out an apple pile. Molisquatch cocktails are rags soaked in anything smelly and out of the ordinary for sasquatches to smell. In this case, I used orange-flavored mouthwash. The cocktails' sole purpose is to attract an sasquatch using their sense of smell and curiosity.
The next morning had me rising well before my companions. I picked up the cameras, packed my gear, and hung out in the morning silence until they arose. It had been since the Bob Saget gig that I had two consecutive nights in the woods, and I was very thankful for them.
When I checked the apple pile, I found the apples to be gone with nothing but small apple scraps left over. Looking closely at the situation, I soon found the telltale tracks of crows in the muddy ground. Crows and other birds are designed for flight, so they weigh very little for their size. One can tell where birds have walked mostly from the marks their talons make as they hop around. The area where the apples were had many small black holes in the mud indicating the sharp talons that made them. They were not obvious at first, but it is our responsibility as amateur primatologists to spend the time to figure out what happened so we aren't too quick to blame a missing apple pile on a visiting sasquatch. Having "bigfoot on the brain" is a dangerous affliction, if we are to be taken seriously as investigators.
Upon my return home, I reviewed the game camera pictures. I was pleased to find some nice shots of coyotes and crows, which I will share with you.
Having literally stumbled upon Flipy Meadow, I am positive I'll be headed back there at some point. It's a super squatchy area, complete with food, wildlife, swamps, and heavy cover. Small creeks permeate the landscape, and we even had some possible knocks to indicate that somebody might have been home.
Now, I'm off to the east side of the Cascades for the week followed by a couple nights in Big Sur, CA next weekend. Neither trip is bigfoot related, but that flavor of thing seems to follow me wherever I go. I'll keep you posted.