Looking at a map, it is clear that Canada is a really big country, but it took visiting the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies for its sheer vastness to really hit home with me. The terrain is so big, and vistas so grand, that describing it as awe-inspiring falls short of the real experience.
While there is more than ample room for many sasquatches in the mountains outside of Calgary, Alberta, there is not a great number of sightings on record. I think this can be attributed to not only the huge amounts of land for the bigfoots to inhabit, but also to the fairly small number of people.
Back in the 1970's, veteran bigfooter John Green noticed the correlation between rain fall bigfoot sightings. The eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies receives significantly less precipitation than the mountains of British Columbia to the west, and the number of sasquatch encounters reported drops in proportion. To find a bigfoot in this vast landscape would be harder than usual, and it's never an easy task.
We came to the area to investigate a video obtained by Todd Standing. I heard about Todd several years ago as a man who had supposedly obtained several pieces of footage of sasquatches at a secret spot that he called “Sylvanic.” He then put the clips together into some sort of film and was showing it in small movie theaters around Canada. Not long after, his name popped up again as a man who was lobbying the Canadian parliament for official protection of sasquatches.
Todd Standing and Cliff Barackman
Having never really taken the time to look closely at Todd's videos, I was pleased to be going to meet him. I find that so much more information comes out when speaking to the actual videographer, and it was an opportunity to come to an informed opinion on Todd's work for myself .
We met Todd on a rainy day in an empty campground where several bigfoot encounters had happended over the previous several years. He refused to take a jacket or use any rain gear, claiming it was not cold. He was soon shivering in a wet, cotton shirt, maintaining his position that it was a nice day.
Todd is a very polite and well-spoken man. I genuinely liked the guy, as well as his message regarding sasquatches: protect them, and let them be. He has taken great strides to increase the public's awareness of bigfoots through his actions. While these actions are labeled as self-serving by his critics, the fact that attention was brought to sasquatches is undeniable.
Todd currently lives in Calgary, but he lived several hundred miles away when he obtained his videos at Sylvanic. He told us that he could not take us to the actual spot because it is a three-day hike back to this secluded valley, and the last day would be spent belly crawling up a river bed in a specially designed gillie suit made by Todd himself. He went on to say that nobody wants to be back there because of the problem grizzly bears that inhabit that area. He claimed that the rangers say there is a 10% chance of being killed by a bear while in the area, and it was too dangerous to go. It seemed to me that a bunch of hurdles were put in the way of anyone wanting to see the location for themselves. Todd did offer to take anyone there who wanted to go at a later time, but it would take a week or two for the trek.
Questioning Todd, I soon learned that at this time he had five videos that had bigfoots in them. The first video is apparently only a sound recording with no images of sasquatches (I didn't get to hear the recording). We investigated video number two, with the creature quickly bending over out of sight while above Todd on a hill. His third video shows what is either a bigfoot or a man in suit running on a hillside. This creature is the same brownish orange color as the creature in video number two. Video number four is a close up of what appears to me to be a bigfoot puppet behind some branches. Its dark eyes stare unblinking off to frame right, and there is very little movement visible. The skin appears very much like felt, and its fur lacks the flow pattern that one would expect from a living creature. Video number five is a similar shot, but with a much more convincing bigfoot head. It slightly resembles Patty from the Patterson/Gimlin film, but with a rounder face and more dog-like nose. Over the last month or so, there seems to have been another still released showing this same head, but possibly from another film.
I asked Todd what was up with video number four, the one that looked like a Muppet head. He said that he does not know why it looked so bad. He suggested that the lighting might have made it appear that way.
We were to be investigating his second video, the one with a brief glimpse of a creature bending down facing away from the camera. The video is very brief, but it seemed that it showed something bipedal and hairy. An arm and even possible buttox muscles can be seen, or are at least suggested. We were to rely solely on Todd's measurements since we were unable to go to the actual film site. This would be problematic for our reconstruction, as going to the actual film site is very important for a sense of scale. Trusting someone's measurements when you're trying to find out if their film was hoaxed makes little sense anyways, but it's all we had to go on.
Todd claimed to have not even believed in bigfoots at the time he obtained his second video. It was his film flip that convinced him they were real. This was very peculiar to me because he claimed to have made approximately a dozen trips to the location trying to film a bigfoot by the time he got his video. He chose Sylvanic as likely bigfoot habitat, and he even developed an intricate theory of sasquatch social/family structure, all before he believed in bigfoots. I personally don't believe that griffons exist, and I don't plan expeditions based on how they would live (if they were real) to see if I'm wrong...
Questioning Todd further, we found that he was unaware of the elevation of the Sylvanic location. He said that he never paid attention. This, if true, would be a very dangerous thing to ignore, as we would soon find out during that night's investigation (it snowed on us in August). How could Todd have chosen a location, planned his hikes in (most likely using topographic maps), visited a dozen times, and not noticed the elevation? This seems very unlikely.
When investigating a film, I sometimes think of the late Rene Dahinden and his comments on the Patterson/Gimlin Film. He said that what you need to know is in the film. Certainly, Rene would think that the context of a film is very important, too, but I like to examine films starting with what is actually seen. Good films stand on their own, and their context only serves to reinforce or put in doubt a clip's authenticity.
With so little to go on for video number two, I am left with not knowing what is in it. The film looks like either a bigfoot or a guy in a suit bending over. Since there is very little information to be gleaned from the actual video, I have to rely on the context. Todd was unable or unwilling to go to the actual spot, there were inconsistencies in his story surrounding the clip, and there's that Muppet face staring, unblinking in film number four... These leave me with serious doubts about what is shown in any of his videos.
Expressing my concerns to Todd, he correctly stated that video will never be enough for proof. How true. Todd goes on to say that only a body will ever suffice. As much as I hope this isn't the case, it could very well be the grizzly truth at the end of the bigfoot mystery.
We did the first night investigation in a nearby valley. Ranae and Bobo headed up a trail while Matt and I walked up a road. It was raining, but as my team gained elevation, the precipitation quickly turned into a heavy snow. It was a dramatic change from just a few days before when we were roasting in the mosquito-filled swamps of Northern Minnesota. It was also a reminder of paying attention to your elevation. Ignoring such a detail could prove to have fatal consequences here in the Canadian Rockies, even in the middle of August.
The night investigation was relatively quiet. Our calls were magnificent, though. The rocky walls of the valley threw our vocalizations for literally miles in both direction. We counted to see how long our echoes lasted after we stopped calling: eight seconds. It was very cool.
The Canadian Rockies are amazing in their size.
The next day, we were to meet with tribal representatives from the Stoney Nakota First Nations tribe. The elders were considering helping us in our quest, but they wanted to ask us some questions before they agreed. Bobo and I met Lenny and Peter (a different Peter than the one who blessed us on camera) for breakfast. After a short meeting, they realized that we were not there with the intention to hurt sasquatches in any way. They shared that things are changing, and the elders were interested in helping raise consciousness about sasquatches. Lenny and Peter soon were comfortable that Bobo and I had good hearts, and we shared some common goals and ideas. They agreed to bless us in a smudge ceremony the following day.
Lenny is a master tracker. He has had several encounters with bigfoots on tribal lands over the years, and gave us much to think about. He reminded us that there is more to this world than what can be observed with the five senses, and he shared his tribe's belief that sasquatches walk the line between two worlds. He taught us about noticing the temperature differences at different elevations within a valley, which dramatically affect the direction of air currents at that level. He told us about the habits of the deer, elk, and moose in the neighboring valleys. He reminded us to trust our feelings and intuitions. He was obviously a master tracker, and probably part Jedi who is clearly strong in the Force.
Our town hall had a pretty good turn out, especially when considering the nasty weather that was hitting the area. Many reports surfaced from the local area and as far away as Edmonton. Lenny showed up to the meeting and addressed the crowd for a few moments with his message as well.
The next day, Ranae and I met with Tyler Huggins. Tyler saw a bigfoot while hiking with his brother and a dog. The sasquatch darted across the trail just 15 or 20 feet in front of his brother, while Tyler was a bit further back. Both witnesses got a clear view of the creature. The sasquatch ran down a very steep slope, hurdling logs and debris until it was out of sight. Tyler then observed a large tree being violently shaken, though he could only see the top of the tree, not the creature doing the shaking. While Ranae kind of came a little close to replicating the running across the path, she would not even attempt to sprint down the hill, let alone hurdle the debris in her path.
While the crew was filming the recreation of Tyler's sighting, I walked up the trail a few hundred yards and then off into the brush a ways. Sitting in undergrowth and enjoying the quiet, I started looking around. Just from where I was sitting, I saw no less than five types of edible plants, including raspberries and rose hips. When you consider that I am unfamiliar with the plants of this region, there are probably many others growing nearby that are nutritious. It is clear how so many large mammals can live in this area. There is abundant food, at least in this time of year.
Wild roses and their seed pods called rose hips
The next day, all four of us interviewed Lonni and Donna about their encounter. They were both attendees on a BFRO expedition that lasted several days. Several occurrences hinted at sasquatches being in the area, with the strongest evidence being the rock that was thrown at the tent. The night of the rock throwing, a group of women stayed in camp and talked with each other, laughing often. I believe these sounds caught the attention of a local bigfoot and brought it in for a closer look.
Lonni shared photographs of an indistinct track way through the grass with us, and told us of his encounter the night before with something that gave him a low growl that he could “feel through his body.” While no visual sighting was had, the context strongly suggests that a bigfoot came by to see what was going on.
Our last night investigation took place a short distance away from Lonni and Donna's encounter location. We were to be using a mechanical deer to try to draw any predators (or other animals) out into the open so we could film them. The deer looked great until it was made to move by using a remote control. Its head would slowly twist right to left, and its tail would slowly flick up and down. It strongly reminded me of the Washington episode from first season with that remote control goose cam. Like the goose cam, it was clear that the technology for remote controlled deer is lacking. After a few wiggles solely for the sake of the camera, I let the deer just be still. I thought it might have a better chance to draw something out that way.
Cliff and a friend
While Ranae and I were in the hunting blind with the thermal camera, Bobo and Matt climed a nearby hill to do calls. We were hoping their calls would draw some attention to the meadows below where Ranae and I were stationed. At one point, Matt claimed to have heard a bigfoot vocalization through the parabolic dish he was using. Bobo did not hear it at the time, and the recording was faint and muddy.
Down below, Ranae and I heard a very interesting sound. It sounded like a clear, high pitched tone, almost like a bell tone, but clearly organic. We both agreed that it was unlikely to be from a coyote, and neither of us knows what made the noise. It came from a good distance, and much further away than the coyotes we had been hearing off and on for several hours. The call was made twice, and not heard again.
The Canadian Rockies were a challenging place to go bigfooting. The area is simply huge, and there are very few roads penetrating the higher elevations. Not a lot of sightings come out of the area were were in, but then again, there aren't a ton of people there either. What people there are stay in the cities, or on the few roads that are available. Still, the witnesses we spoke to at the meeting, the lore and knowledge shared with us by the Stoney Nakota First Nation Tribe, as well as the sightings we investigated leave little doubt that bigfoots live in the area.
On our one day off, Ranae and I went to Lake Louise
in Banff National Park. It was staggeringly beautiful, but
packed to the gills with tourists...
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