Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My First Expedition

I was at work on my lunch break one day last spring and out of the blue decided to check the BFRO website. I knew that they did expeditions for people who weren't members but I was hesitant about checking. I logged on and there it was, a list of days and places where the summer expeditions would take place and the one that was closest was the Central Sierras in California.

I had done some light research, reading books and reports, before checking the site and I felt, "Hey, why not give this a shot? Who knows if they'll actually accept me?" So, I read their requirements and mental preparation lists and since I thought I could handle it and know how to act, I sent them an email saying I wanted to participate. I had only been camping once before and enjoyed it and so I knew I could at least handle that and maybe have enough mental capacity to take in seeing a Bigfoot if I came across one.

A few days later, I got an email saying I've been accepted and the next step would be a phone interview to make sure I wasn't some nutcase and that I was seriously interested. Scott M. called for my interview and I told him I was interested because it was about time I got serious if I wanted to pursue the subject so I had to put all my research and knowledge into practice. He told the woman who put applications forward, Caroline, that I was a good candidate and my next step was to pay the $500 fee. That seems like a lot of money for a 4-day/3-night trip into the woods with no guarantee of activity but I knew it would be worth it for the experience. My mom helped me pay the fee, fax my contract, and I was all set. I bought a bunch of camping gear and I was ready come June.

Scott, the BFRO member who interviewed me, had sent me a huge recommended reading list and the first one I read was Loren Coleman's Bigfoot!: The True Story of Apes In America. I was fascinated by the amount of history behind Bigfoot and some of the experiences people had. The book made my heart race into overdrive and the trip seemed so far away and I just wanted to get out there.

June 20th, 2013 finally arrived and I was off to the Central Sierras to look for Bigfoot. I can't reveal the exact location but it was about four hours away from Reno. Driving has never been a grueling task for me but I couldn't keep my eyes on the road at all. I was looking at every inch of forest I drove by in my amateur hopes of seeing something similar to what I saw 10 years prior (Story). The road was full of twists and turns and I was just amped and completely excited. I took pictures of amazing landscapes and scenery and I was ready to get into the woods.

(Driving to base camp. Also looks like Smoke & Mirrors album cover)

I stopped at the local market, I guess it's popular for Bigfoot, and got a couple souvenirs being the tourist I was.

Anyways, trying to navigate the back roads on this little map was difficult but I only got turned around once or twice. I finally pulled up to the base camp that our BFRO expedition leader, Bill, set up and was given a map, general schedule, and a patch. This was it. I was really here, doing something I didn't think I ever could.

I could have chosen to park and camp at base camp but instead, I drove up a bit further and set up camp with some expedition repeaters. I met another person from Reno, Evan, who said he had camped there so I set up my stuff and waited for him. One of the younger repeaters, Darrin, introduced himself and we set off to explore a nearby creek. He was interested in pheromone chips and was looking for an interesting place to put some. They couldn't be too close to camp but were not far off either. While we walked along the creek, we found a bear print, which was a good sign that there's food sources in the area. We walked back to our camp and I met Evan and the other repeaters. Some of them had been researching for a few years and had wilderness experience so I learned about their experiences.

That night, we had our first meeting at about 5pm. We met one another, shared our purpose and interests, and where we came from. Some came from as far as North Carolina and Virginia. I was blown away by that dedication to come to the Pacific Northwest, the "motherland" of Bigfooting. Most of the people attending were first-timers like myself so I didn't feel too left out. I thought I would be a complete noob but I wasn't. There was also another BFRO Investigator, Rob, so we had 2 representatives to guide us into things.

We broke off into two teams and one set off towards the camp I was at and one by base camp. I was in the one at base camp and we trekked along, maybe 15 of us, on a trail into the forest. Some people brought thermal imagers and shared them, which I'll always be eternally grateful for because I can't afford the basic $3000 unit. We walked for a few hundred yards, stopped and listened, looked around, and then kept pushing on. At one point, we stopped and people kept saying that they saw glowing eyes and things that looked like Bigfoot. They asked me if I saw "it" or "that" and to be honest, I have enough trouble seeing in the dark, so I was honest and said that I saw and heard nothing. I'm not the type of person who gets caught up in mob-mentalities so I had to be honest and say that it was too dark for me. I originally thought that the eyeshine people had seen was a case of pareidolia (where the mind puts an image or sound to something not really there) but I made a mistake in thinking so. M was in my group and a few people had seen eyeshine so one girl had to move M to the spot to see it. She was looking upwards but the eyeshine was crouched behind some foliage. I didn't see anything whichever way I stood. I wrongly accused M, thinking it was a case of paredolia, but with the other witnesses, I think they saw something. I may have just been too objective. We came to a pond/creek thing that looked like a possible area to find tracks but no one saw any interesting tracks other than local animals. Later on, we rendezvoused at base camp and the group who went toward my camp said they possibly had heard some howls. 

That night after everyone had dispersed to go back to bed, around 12-1am, I had to walk from base camp back to my tent alone. I'm honestly scared of the dark, especially in the woods, so I was looking all around me, worried that something would attack me. It is relatively irrational to think a Bigfoot would just come bursting out, unprovoked, to attack me on this road, but the mind plays tricks so I jogged back. That night, I was so cold and unprepared and scared of something walking around me that I did not get much sleep. I got enough but I was ready for daylight. It's just something about the unknown that makes me uncomfortable but I had to stick it out. My tent was also a good twenty feet in the woods away from the repeaters so I felt secluded and helpless. Irrational, yes. Being a baby, surely. Feeling scared in the situation, not alone.

The next morning, I woke up to the smell of fresh bacon and home cooking. These old dudes "roughing it" was totally laughable because they had all the high-end amenities, meats, and were pretty much divas about their meals and tents. The next step for them would be getting an RV. Not far off. But they were funny, so I kept my witty comments to myself. I had a Lunchable (perfect camping food), and I wanted to explore the hillside across from our camp. Evan and Tiffany were wanting to explore too so I waited for them to pack up and then we set up the mountain.

I enjoy hiking off trail, getting lost, and exploring so we went up the hill and a few hundred feet up, Evan and Tiffany said they just caught a whiff of something smelling really bad and pungent, like a Bigfoot. I didn't smell a thing and said as much and I just wanted to press on. As we kept walking, there were boulders that had stacks of little rocks on top of it. Evan and Tiffany were suspicious because we were off any beaten path and there are reports of Sasquatches making these little towers but I'm skeptical of things like that because there's no reason a human wouldn't do the same to make it a landmark so I couldn't definitively say what made it. Evan and Tiffany decided to head back down and go explore somewhere else after that.

I continued up on my own and turned on my walkie talkie just to be safe. As I continued up, I heard some needles and twigs being broken at about 1 o'clock from the direction I was walking. These weren't like dead falling branches or pine needles falling off the tree where you could hear them bounce around on their way down. It was one sound with each "step" or whatever was crunching around. I didn't want to call out to see if it was someone else exploring ahead of me because if it was a Bigfoot, there goes my opportunity of seeing something. So, I radioed in asking if anyone was up on the mountain across from camp and base camp. People replied and no one had come up here. Being unsure of what I heard, I just said, "Alright." and kept going up.

(My view while climbing the mountain alone)

A little ways further, I found what looked like a den or shaded enclosure. There were a few trees on the ground and some bear and deer tracks in the area. I found some deer scat that looked a few days old along with a couple fresh pieces 10 feet to my right. As I walked over to photograph this stuff, why I did is beyond me, I heard what sounded like rocks clacking together. I froze and it continued, 2-3 taps at a time. Again, they weren't natural rocks rolling down because you would hear it landing in the brush and what it would hit on the way down. These were rhythmic taps, rock on rock, and the only thing besides humans that do this are Sasquatches (and maybe bears but don't quote me on bears). As usual when people try to document something, I pulled out my iPhone and used the Voice Recorder and the sound stopped. I let it record for a good five minutes and the rock tapping stopped. I radioed in and asked in a whisper if anyone had come up since I last checked in and no one was around. Here I was, in this 20ft shaded enclosure, alone, and something right outside the border was tapping rocks. I climbed up to catch a glimpse but did not see anything. I decided to keep going.

I was determined to reach the top of this mountain, out of some manly pursuit of strength and motivation, but as I was climbing, I got more and more spooked. I eventually came to a horse trail that lead perpendicular to my climb upwards. The area was open on this part of the mountain and I looked all over to see if anything was lingering on the edge. I checked out some rocks that made a small cave and walked along the left trail.

(Mini den/cave. Not big enough for Bigfoot but was for me)

As I was walking, I heard something making the same sounds of needles and twigs snapping behind me. I stopped, looked back, and saw nothing. I waited and no more sounds. I continued on and kept hearing something behind me but nothing stepped onto the trail and nothing in the forest side. I started to climb into the clearing when I heard something in front of me but in the forest past the clearing not far from my right. I was spooked. I think I was being pursued and "escorted" away from where I had entered. I turned and started walking down the mountain. I had no clue how far I walked away from that straight shot up from my camp but I knew I couldn't be far from base camp. I began my descent faster than I was walking up. I kept looking behind me to catch a glimpse of something but saw nothing.

(In front of me on horse trail)

(Behind me on the horse trail)

There was a huge path of just rock heading down so I walked on that and found a dry creek and when I eventually came to the road, I had passed base camp but about 100 yards. I told Bill that I found a horse trail and the den enclosure and heard things and he said he didn't know about the trail. He said my experiences were interesting, a Class B sighting (audible stuff but no visual), and that was that.

(That huge rock I walked down to reach base camp)

 I was pretty pumped that I heard something since I went in with no guarantee of experiencing anything, so I was ready for the night investigation. I didn't want to follow the same path like the night before, I wanted to see if I could experience what the other group had with their possible howls or whoops. I chose the group going by my camp and  we went into the woods for quite a long way. We went to a big rock that looked out on a meadow and used the thermal imager to scan the area. We mostly sat and listened and we made a few calls. We got some coyotes responding but no sasquatch. One group stayed at base camp and said they heard something across the meadow that wasn't us and it was not too far away from camp; maybe the edge of the meadow. We decided to head back to hear about it and on our way, David and Rick were hearing something following behind us and possibly off to the side. The three of us decided to space ourselves out and I think I went first and kept about 30 yards behind the group and I was just looking all over and felt a really cold chill of something, anything, watching us on the trail we were on. David and Rick bringing up the rear, caught up with us in the end and Rick said he had definitely heard or seen something and we agreed to explore the area in the morning. David seemed a bit spooked but was a ranger for a long time so he had experience in the woods and Rick was some sort of police officer so he had a clear head as well. I believed them. The base camp group said that they had done some calls and got responses that were not from our group so Kevin, now my friend, set up his audio recorder for the night. Being the scaredy cat I was, I packed up my camp and joined the base camp group for that second night. I definitely slept better since I wasn't basically off on my own. Kevin got some recordings which can be found here.

(Maybe Evan took this. My mom's infamous fuzzy chair. Camp hard.)

That night, in a camp occupied by a Marine and his son and three dudes (Jordan, Justin, and Matt) who looked like jokers had an experience. Ed, the marine, and his son didn't hear or experience what the three guys did. In the night, some hotdogs or sausages had been accessed from a styrofoam cooler on Jordan's tailgate and there was apparently a finger mark where something just scooped it's finger into the package and pulled out a single piece and ate it and left. The guys got pictures of it and it looks just like they described it, a single scoop in and only one was missing. Justin and Matt say it wasn't them playing a prank and Justin was genuinely creeped out. I guess they also had footsteps and other things happen that spooked them enough to leave camp in the morning and stay at a nearby hotel. Jordan was practically in tears he was so scared and if it was real, and I'm not saying it isn't because I wasn't there and lack the authority to dispute it, I don't blame him or the others for leaving. Ed and his son stayed though and said they didn't have anything happen, I don't think. But both groups had camps quite aways from one another; they weren't close neighbors.

The next day, day two, I went with David, Bill, Ron, and Rick to where he thought he had his sighting. There was a fence that had been pretty beaten up but upon further inspection, the fence was basically a border that had a drop off to a creek. Rick said he saw eyes glow on the other side of the fence but the drop off was too steep and didn't seem to add up. I can't dispute what he claims, nor can I argue with it, but the fact remained that it did not seem plausible. He also couldn't say definitively what he saw either but he was pretty sure it was eyes glowing. But, the area was interesting so we crossed the fence and began our trek across the creek and meadow to the mountain beyond.

I had found the safe fence crossing and went off looking around while the others were trying to piece together Rick's "encounter". I found nice, wide open areas around these massive bushes that could easily hide and shelter something up to 10ft tall. The others caught up and we explored all over this area. There were game trails all over the place and enough areas for quick cover that we decided to climb up some steep rocks and trails to reach the top to get a good look around. I love exploring and looking ahead and when I climbed up to find a suspicious area, I heard a wood knock. Clear as day. It was in front of me, maybe a few hundred yards up, but I heard it. There was only one and I was the only one who had gotten this far. I waited, listening, and then trekked to the edge of this hill and saw a fence below. Nothing could've gone that way, so maybe it went up and over one of the many other ridges. Nothing but humans and Sasquatches can make wood knocks because of our opposable thumbs. I couldn't see anything around these areas and it was big ridge after big ridge and they had really good escape routes in the back that would be easy access for anything lurking around. I ran back to the others and they said they didn't hear anything and that wood knocks in the daylight don't seem reasonable because nighttime seems to be when Sasquatches are most active. But I heard what I heard, tree on tree, but after that, nothing out of the ordinary happened.

(After I heard the wood knock. We climbed up high)

We started to walk back to base camp and crossing the creek/stream was a lot more difficult because we were off from where we originally entered the meadow. David slipped and fell in on his stomach and Rick got his ankles cut up on thorns or barbed wire. That was probably the most fun because the rest of the walk back, we were concocting stories about Rick fighting off a huge Sasquatch, getting bit or scratched on his leg while David bodysurfed the creek and threw the Bigfoot in and we barely escaped with our lives. What a great story that would be if it were true!

That night, I decided to stay at base camp instead of going in either directional group because the night before, Cathy and her group had those whoops across the meadow. I did not hear anything and don't recall if anyone else did after I fell asleep.

The next day, Sunday, was a day for people to wrap up their trip and do as they pleased and people mostly packed up to head home. People had flights to catch (which is still weird since I drove and lived close). I decided to pack up and hit the road. I said farewell to my new friends Kevin, Melissa, Tim, David, and Rick. People asked if I was going to the other expeditions a few weeks later to Bluff Creek and the Redwoods but I didn't have the funds. I'm glad these people were still going though. Rick didn't want to take his pre-made casting packet back on the plane with him so he gave it to me; which I still have and hope to use! I tried to encourage everyone to check the message board and post pictures but I think only one person posted a picture. The message board is no longer accessible since it was last year, so I can't check in with anyone except the few friends I made on Facebook.

I had such a great first trip and was so happy to experience what I had that I have since become obsessed. My library of Bigfoot books has grown exponentially, and I learned quite a lot. At one of the 5pm group meets, I learned how to cast prints, Bill told be about the Sierra Sounds Bigfoot Recordings (which I had no clue about and HIGHLY RECOMMEND), and I learned about distinguishing animal sounds from one another and all kinds of stuff. I have since signed up to go on this year's (2014) trip to the same area and also the Redwoods. I hope some of the same people attend and can't wait to meet the new people.

This story can be further elaborated on, with many other anecdotes and experiences, but these are the general Bigfoot activities. If anyone has any questions or feedback, please leave a comment below. I'd love the input and enjoy opening up dialogues. Feel free to email me at squatchlif@gmail.com as well.

(Next: I travel to Washington for Sasquatch Summit)

Thanks for reading,

I posted it above, but Kevin got some audio recordings you can listen to here.

Here's some final photos. Enjoy!

(I hate selfies)

 (Rock. Wow.)

 (Our group, minus Matt and Rob who may be taking this photo)

What Got Me Into Bigfoot

My interest in Bigfoot goes back to when I was in 5th grade. I went to one of the many book sale things happening around town and found a book on monsters from film movies and mythology. I found fascinating stories and pictures on all these weird creatures of lore and cryptozoology and I was hooked. Some were terrifying yet I'd still HAVE to look at them and study up.

It was around that time, 6th grade or going into middle school (2003/2004?), and my friend Mike asked me if I wanted to spend a weekend on his house boat in Bullard's Bar. Now, I don't know exactly where Bullard's Bar is, either CA or NV, but it's a big lake where people do water sports and hike in the surrounding mountains. The trip was fun and all but on our way home, that's when I think I may have had my sighting.

I can't say definitively what it was that I saw but it was something I can still visualize all these years later. Now, there are lots of reports of people driving on highways and seeing a bigfoot crossing the road or even walking parallel in the forest. This is the type of sighting I had. I was looking out the window into the forest and for about 3 seconds, a big dark figure caught my eye and I stared. I wasn't seeing what I wanted to see because bigfoot was the furthest thing from my mind, yet this thing in the woods was really there and it wasn't just my imagination. It was big (relatively, since I looked up the hill at it), black, and was walking in the tree line but close to bordering the drop off to the road. I didn't look at the face but I saw the chest and the arms swing and the legs move.

I didn't tell Mike or his mom because I knew I was the only one looking at the scenery and I also didn't want to risk getting ridiculed. I never get caught up in mob-mentalities or try to provoke things so I never ask if anyone saw anything. I don't join in on what others say so I didn't want to try and sway anyone to believe me about anything unless they ask me personally. I can't say if it was a man in a suit or if it was a real creature but it was interesting and stood out amongst the light brown trees and green pine. Black tends to stand out. I don't think it was a man in a suit because it was the hottest time of the summer and that would be quite great lengths to go to to try and hoax something. I wonder if anyone else saw it while driving by.

Bigfoots being in heavily trafficked areas is also an extremely rare circumstance so while I can't give a definite answer on what I saw, that thing in the woods further sparked my interest into the unexplained.

(Next: I take the plunge into the world of Bigfoot research!)