Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Washington Expedition Journal (6/22-28/15)

Washington Expedition Journal
June 22-28, 2015
Skye Evans

*Disclaimer: What’s written is from my own experiences. Roughly 35 people attended and their stories are their own. This is mine.

Since becoming an investigator for the BFRO in October, many opportunities have been made available to me; one being the ability to attend any and all expeditions that I want. Washington has been on my bucket list for quite awhile so I signed up when the date was posted for the expedition. The expedition was hosted by Barbara Olvera and Cindy Caddell from June 25th-28th, 2015.
 I loaded up on drinks and snacks for the road and left Reno on Monday at 3am after getting a mere 2-3 hours of sleep post-Father’s Day activities. While driving through the Lassen County National Forest, a small bird was flying across the road and as I was passing it, the bird doubled back and kamikaze’d into my tire. When I got close to the Modoc National Forest, a big black and white bird (name unknown) hit the top of my windshield. I don’t know if I’d call it natural selection but this was a sign of things to come.

On trips like these where I drive nonstop, I find myself never having to stop for restroom breaks but it seemed like every hour, at least ten times, I had to pull over. Distractions like this made my 10-hour drive two hours longer.
On my way up to basecamp, I drove past a deer carcass that had been placed over a tree. It was on my left as the road curved right and I had to double back to get a picture. I hadn’t seen anything like that. Bigfoot? Totally. 

I drove past a live deer further down that just stood on the side of the road checking things out. Not even a few minutes later, I came around another turn and on the right side of the road, out pops a family of four coyotes. The adults stood in the road and two little ones ran across the road and up the steep side of the road. I think I managed to get a couple quick pictures while I stopped for them.

(They're kind of hard to see)
I had been following Google Maps and it led me 12 miles through gravelly back forest roads and upon further inspection of Barbara and Cindy’s directions, I could’ve spent those 12 miles on nice paved roads leading to the same place. I finally arrived at 3:20pm and was the first one there. I parked in the rock quarry that I thought was basecamp and poked around for a few minutes before deciding that I needed a nap. I saved my tent with the intention of using it as a dummy camp later that week (which never panned out) so I tried sleeping in my car. It was way too hot.

I sat outside reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe while harvest ants were pillaging my feet. Now these ants weren’t just walking all over me, they were full on crawling into my flip-flops and biting me all over. Fellow attendees Ken and George showed up at about 6pm and set up camp ¼-mile down the road in a nice enclosed area. I went to sleep as soon as the sun had set behind the row of trees and shade finally reached my car.

I was startled awake at 7am when I heard something walking around my car. I hadn’t heard a car pull in and something bipedal was moving nearby. My heart was racing and I looked out and saw... Kourtnie exploring. When she saw me look out, she threw her hands in the air like, “Don’t shoot!” and I finally calmed down and went back to sleep for another hour.
I sat in my mom’s famous fuzzy blue chair and finished by book at 9am. I wore a cutoff shirt to try and get rid of my farmer’s tan but ended up with a wicked bad sunburn that lasted a few days. I went to go talk to George about Bigfoot and his rock n’ roll drumming career.
I found a Restoration Project trail that led to a small meadow with a creek nearby afterwards when I was out exploring. I later walked down the road and a deer with its fawn came out of the forest 20 yards ahead of me. They stopped and looked at me for a minute then walked around the corner and left. All this wildlife coupled with the thick forest convinced me that this was prime habitat for predators like Bigfoot. My hopes for seeing one increased after the coyotes and deer.
The sun in that rock quarry was killer and I knew I wouldn’t get any sleep if I couldn’t get any shade so I decided to bite the bullet and drove an hour back to Hood River, OR and went to a very small Walmart to buy a canopy along with other supplies. I ate at a Subway while in town that really hit the spot. My final stop before returning to basecamp was Rite Aid and I picked up some candy and expensive sunscreen. It wasn’t quality sunscreen either; it was their generic brand for $10.99. It was my own fault for not thinking about it.
Hood River, Oregon is extremely beautiful along the shoreline. It’s a big river with picturesque views of people wave boarding, paragliding, swimming, and kayaking. I wanted to go swim so badly but wanted to return to basecamp before it got dark so I drove across the $1 toll bridge and headed back. The bridge is a death trap. I’m convinced that they built it to test people’s driving skills of looking at the scenery while also driving 25mph in a compact lane where car paint streaked across the railing and every passing car spelled “side swipe.”

I made it back to basecamp at 6:10pm. Just as I turned my radio on, Chris had called in to say he was pulling in too. I decided to move my camp from the rock quarry to the next area over and set up next to Cindy. Setting the canopy up was easy but staking it down was impossible. The entire area was so rocky that I bent three stakes and had to use two of Cindy’s because they were so heavy-duty but even those only went in about half way. That night, I sat around the campfire until midnight with Cindy, Top (from Texas), Chris, and Kourtnie. Everyone told really good ghost stories, which is something I’ve been dying to discuss for a long time. I tried to watch a movie on my tablet when I snuggled into my sleeping bag but I fell asleep really quickly. My terrible sunburn made sleeping on my side impossible and I tossed and turned all night.
I woke up Wednesday morning with sunburn pains and helped Cindy get her canopy up with the same stake trouble that I had with mine. At 11am, I went on a short hike with Cindy, Jim, and Kourtnie to a small meadow (what I call Kourtnie Meadow) down the road where Kourtnie had a Class A sighting the year before. The road hadn’t been used in a long time because trees were growing over it and plants grew in abundance in the middle of it. The dense forest alleviated the 90-degree heat a bit and the humidity was just below the level of discomfort.

Kourtnie set up her trail camera in the forest opposite the road and meadow into the tree line where she had her sighting and I set mine up to look out across the meadow. The only videos I captured were of a bee that has hovering in the middle of the frame looking directly into the camera lens. It was funny because it would come in and out of the frame like, “What is this doing here? Oh! Here it is!” and taunted it. I should adjust the settings to have it trigger for better heat sources but this was just funny.
Barbara arrived late at 7:30pm after people had been getting worried since she said she would arrive on Tuesday. During the day, 16 out of about 40 people had shown up. The expeditions always formally begin on Thursdays and few people ever arrive the day before so 16 early people was pretty interesting.
Kourtnie and I had wanted to return to the smaller meadow nearby Kourtnie Meadow that evening and I thought we would be the only ones who wanted to go on a night hike but I was wrong. What was supposed to be two of us turned into 13, so we left for the meadow at 10pm. We followed the road to a dead end where it looked like people had been cooking up meth or doing something other than camping.
 I used my baseball bat and made a wood knock at 10:23pm and three minutes later, I heard something like a “bwaaahh.” Cindy and some other people heard sticks breaking nearby. I did another knock a couple minutes later and we immediately heard a bear and what sounded like a woman talking between our position and the road. It was the weirdest thing because it was distinctly voices but we couldn’t make out any words. Turns out, Cathleen and her son Iain had been walking down the road trying to catch up with us but eventually turned back. Kourtnie made two calls 10 minutes apart with no response.
We then decided to walk back up the road to spread out and sit in the smaller meadow. We were there for about 45 minutes and Cindy and Kourtnie decided to walk around and sing a little bit. It was pretty funny hearing them far off trying to get a “setlist” together. Cindy asked, “Do you know Cher?” and Kourtnie replied, “Fuck yeah I know Cher!” They didn’t seem to stir up any sort of response. Bigfoot must not be a Cher fan. 
About the time they were walking back, I thought that I had seen the controversial eye glow everyone talks about but this was white. My night vision is bad enough so I wasn’t sure if it was my eyes and brain trying to connect the dots. Greg walked out to where I had seen it and there wasn’t anything there so that validates my skepticism in my own ability to differentiate between true eye glow and bad vision. Without having seen the “real thing,” it’s tough to know what you’re really seeing. Midnight rolled around and we decided to call it a night and I went to bed at 1:10am.
I woke up Thursday morning wanting to explore and set up another trail camera. I was browsing the area on my GPS and found two small ponds that were a little further down the road and set that as my destination. I asked the people who were awake if they’d like to come with me to scout out the area and Jim, Meighan, and Greg with his son Nathaniel decided to come along. The first pond was small and inaccessible from the road so we walked another 50 yards and came to the bigger one and followed one of the many game trails to reach it. The trails had bear, deer, coyote, and many other tracks.
There wasn’t any shore to walk on so we stayed on the side by a marsh. Opposite where we were was a big game trail that lead upwards to the road but it was too steep to lead a group in. I had an internal debate about whether to leave a camera or not and ended up deciding against it because I don’t think the trigger range was long enough to capture something and finding a spot to place the camera was difficult.
We bushwhacked our way out and back onto the main road to walk down a bit further. When we got to the next crossroad, Ken and George drove by in their car and told us that Little Fish Lake was up ahead. That had been one of the areas I wanted to find but my GPS looked like the only road nearby was about a mile from where we started so I didn’t mention that to anyone earlier and we tried to see if a creek was accessible enough to follow but it was too dense. When Ken told us it wasn’t very far ahead, we decided to go for it and hike up the road.
When we reached the turnout, we found a big log tent structure around a fire pit. Bigfoot stick structure? Of course. We found the trail and walked down into Little Fish Lake. It was the perfect spot to hang out, listen, and set up a trail camera so I put one up in front of some very fresh bear scat and overlooked the shore. The muddy shore at the entrance had some bare footprints where someone had gone in to swim. 

The only videos I got were of Scott looking around the next day and John Hammer picking his nose. What was supposed to be a short and easy trip turned into a 3.5-mile hike and everyone was hot and exhausted so we hiked back to basecamp.

Everyone met at 7pm for our first meeting around the big fire pit. We went around in a circle introducing ourselves with fun facts and I was able to remember everyone’s name, something that is difficult for me to even remember one person’s name. Barbara asked me to help lead a night hike with her and I told her I’d like to go to Little Fish Lake and she wanted to play music so that was where we went for the evening. I was glad that Barbara had taken my suggestions and asked me to help lead for some of the hikes.

Barbara let me borrow her guitar and Top had just picked up playing the guitar so I borrowed his tuner and capo for the evening. While I was tuning, Top brought his guitar out to show me his progress on his favorite Vivaldi piece. Lou heard the music and came over while I was messing around with Arlo Guthrie’s “Ring Around A Rosy Rag” and joined in playing lead. It was a fun little jam session. Cindy came out of her trailer and told us about her past as a singer in bands so we tried to find something we could all play. I followed Lou and we played a bit of some Eagles song and Cindy sang. She promised that she’d bring her songbook to the Oregon trip and we could really play.
At 10:30pm, Barbara grabbed her bodhran signed by Bob Gimlin and we drove up to Little Fish Lake. We carried in our chairs, sat down, and the Little Fish Band was formed with Cindy, Cathleen, Brian, and Eric and his daughter Kaitlyn. I played “I Hope You Come Around” and a butchered version of Tom Yamarone’s “Bigfoot – The Living Legend.” Kaitlyn played the bodhran and the echo across the lake was so thundering and cool. Later on, I just played a chord progression and everyone clapped to make noise. We couldn’t hear the calls or knocks from other groups and no one could hear us so we were pretty isolated. At 12:45am, we decided to pack it in and call it a night. I eventually went to bed at 2am. I did have my recorder set up nearby so I expect the Little Fish Band album to go triple platinum this year.
I woke up sweaty and tired, as with every morning since the sun rose where I had no shade, and went to Barbara and Su Sikora’s talk at 9am Friday morning. There wasn’t any shade at the fire pit until the evening so we had the talk and subsequent morning meetings down the road in the shade. Su brought these neat evidence envelopes with all the info people needed to consider when collecting evidence and Barbara talked about the importance of science and going about Bigfoot in a professional manner. I think it was good for the first-timers to learn just how much goes into research and how to go about it the right way.
At the 11am meeting where everyone goes over what happened during the last night’s hikes, no one seemed to have any action except Top. Barbara had attained a $12K “R2-D2” FLIR unit from the BFRO that could be mounted on the hood of a truck and remote controlled inside to have a 360-degree thermal image. Top had volunteered to be the driver and take groups out at night in groups of four. On one of the drives where there were some road construction dividers, a rock had been thrown from the woods to the right that scratched his paint and left a dent on the lower right-hand side of Top’s rear bumper by the taillight. It wasn’t him breaking a branch by driving over it, a rock getting kicked up, or anything like that. Jerry had heard the *Whack!* and they stopped and therm’d around but couldn’t see anything. That was the only interesting thing to happen to anyone from the previous evening.
I needed some ice so luckily Cathleen was going into town and I hitched a ride with her. At the store, I grabbed a bunch of drinks and snacks and almost paid when Cathleen said, “Skye, don’t you need some ice for all of that?” and I’m so glad she spoke up because I would’ve left without having the one thing I really needed. The 30-minute drive back to basecamp was nice because we talked about traveling, careers, and the car was so cold with air conditioning that I almost fell asleep.

At 3:15pm, after drinking some SoBe, I agreed to go along with some people that were going to a creek to look for footprints. I was extremely tired at that point but it’s not every day that you can do things like this with strangers so I went along. There were four vehicles going to the creek and I rode with Cindy and others. We were quite the caravan parking on the side of the road to go explore and we all got out en masse and headed for the creek. 

Cindy’s daughter Megan decided to come on the trip so I hiked with her and Iain ahead of the group and bushwhacked around in exploration. There were three spots where something had walked through the creek but there wasn’t a chance of foot definition for reasons that will become apparent below.

We were crossing logs when Megan fell in the creek. I had to cross a log and the sand looked sturdy enough to hold me jumping across so I took the plunge and the sand gave out. I sunk down to my knees and everyone laughed. When you fall in that deep, you think you can just lift your legs out but I was stuck for a second so I threw my arms up and laughed. It was in that moment of losing control that my tired mood shifted 180-degrees and I was suddenly having the absolute best time of my life. It’s when you stop caring so much and give in to the fact that you can’t control everything that letting it all go means you’re really free. My legs were covered in mud, my boots were soaked, and I couldn’t change any of it so I went with it and was bouncing all over the place happier than I’ve been in a long time.

Iain, Megan, and I continued on ahead of the group and went far off across a frog-filled meadow into the forest where there were a ton of deer and elk tracks everywhere. There were so many trails around that we could’ve explored forever but Cindy was calling out for Megan thinking she had been alone so we turned back to join the group. Following Iain out of the woods, we came across a patch where something had hunkered down and depressed the grass around it. It couldn’t have been a herd of something because this was the only spot like it so I took a photo and we moved on back to the cars where everyone was waiting for us. I took my boots off and smacked a lot of the dirt off and walked around the road in my wet socks. Cindy drove us back and I immediately threw those socks in the trash, put on my flip-flops, and set those boots out to dry.

That evening, Su and I led a small hike to try and find this elk meadow with David and Jim. We had walked almost a mile and my GPS showed what looked like the meadow but we never found it. People had said we’d know it when we saw it but we learned that we didn’t walk far enough and we were only about half way. While walking on the road, we heard what sounded like a knock but was actually an elk scratching its antlers on a tree.
Cutting our losses, Jim and I decided to check out the area my GPS had pointed out and Su and David walked ahead on the road. We bushwhacked through the thick trees and bushes and found a small restoration area that had some small open areas. Jim wanted to follow the path but I thought that it wouldn’t lead anywhere and we were pretty far in so we made our way back to the road. It was like walking through a crowded concert, that’s how dense the trees were. It was a blast.
Barbara was conducting research on eye shine and if humans could do it so when our group reconvened at 12:10am, we tried it. One person stood still, another 10ft and 20ft away shining a flashlight into the others’ eyes, and 1-2 people stood behind the flashlight to see if the eyes shined. None of us reflected the flashlight shine.
David did a knock at 12:02am with no response. I heard definite steps 30 yards away in the woods for 3 minutes but couldn’t see the source of the movement. We walked down the road to where Brian Herzog (Zog) was camped and laid on the road listening for sounds. David did a wicked cougar call, Su made great coyote calls, and I did a Bigfoot call. No responses were made. The group had been talking and I, being comfortable lying on the warm road with my sweatshirt as a pillow, fell asleep. Su, who has a very soft voice, was repeating my name trying to wake me up and I had no idea I had fallen asleep. Jim told me I was out for about 20 minutes. That was the best catnap.
We eventually made it back to basecamp, somehow I made in back in my slumbering stupor, and we sat around the campfire. Theresa and Kelly’s daughters were making s’mores and it was hilarious to watch their fighting and explanations for bizarre techniques. I took another catnap and Top woke me up to ask if I wanted to go for an R2 ride but I was too tired and decided to go to bed at 2:30am.
Saturday morning, I woke up after everyone else at 9:30am and lounged around eating bagels and listening to Cindy and Meighan talk about anthropology since Cindy had her degree and Meighan is in school for it. At the 11am meeting on last night’s events, Cathleen heard a distressed deer and Zog and Megan heard a couple unannounced calls. Su and I didn’t take any notes and Barbara was disappointed when it came around to us to describe events but we didn’t have anything to report other than our eye shine experiment so there were no notes to take.
At noon, Brian tagged along and we went to go collect my two trail cameras at Little Fish Lake and Kourtnie Meadow. We talked the whole way and it was nice talking to a stranger but having similar interests. Brian is big into fly-fishing and I have a friend Jeff who also is so I think Brian is Jeff’s future self. It was quite a hike to go to both spots and on the sign out sheet at basecamp, I approximated our return as 3pm and we made it back at 2:56pm so it was perfect and just in time for Chris’s foot casting class.
Chris had a great handout with formulas and techniques and his class was extremely thorough. He had three methods (bucket, bag, and bottle) and enough supplies for a few groups to go out and try to cast various tracks around the camp. The bottle method is like a Shake Weight and we all had a great time watching Greg and Nathaniel from Texas shaking the stuff together. I helped Jerry find a couple bear tracks so we casted those and he let me keep one of them. It was nice of Chris to prepare all of that and give people something tangible to take home as a memento of the expedition because you can’t really bring Bigfoot home.

We had a potluck at 7pm and I made the mistake of having already eaten a cup of ramen and spaghetti & meatballs so I wasn’t particularly hungry. I ate some of my Chips Ahoy and chips & dip though. I did have a turkey slider though because, well, turkey slider. Cindy’s “The Human Past” anthropology discussion followed right after and her handout was fascinating. George asked some great questions and the discussion went quite well.
I decided that my final evening would be pretty low-key so I sat up on the rock quarry for a little while and then rode with Top to try out the R2 unit. I was the only one for that since everyone else was out at other places so I got the whole cab to myself to control and watch the 19” TV screen for thermal sightings. I got to ride around for the longest, an hour and a half, and saw two deer at separate times and places. Out of all of Top’s previous groups prior to me, they had only seen one deer so I doubled that. Ha! We both got pretty tired, I’m sure I catnapped in classic Skye fashion, and we drove back to basecamp to hang out with Megan and Kourtnie.

We all sat around the fire discussing the finer things in life, Unsolved Mysteries and X-Files, when out of nowhere, the three of them heard three calls that weren’t announced and occurred around 1:15am before Greg called in his three calls from far away so they decided to go sit at the rock quarry, everyone else having gone to bed, and listen for more calls. Jim was at Steamboat Rock and had been announcing that he was making calls but we never heard them. I hung back around the fire and couldn’t hear any of Greg’s aggressive calls. At 1:31am, I heard a definite knock to the left of basecamp. No one else was awake and Mark had already returned from the group that went to a meadow in that direction. That was pretty cool.
The Blue Team, which Greg was a part of, returned at 2:30am. Ken and George were the original people who went to Steamboat Rock and they had come back around 1am and at the time, we had no idea that it was Jim who was alone up there. Jim followed them up there and then hung back to listen. When Blue Team returned and we finally figured out that it was Jim up there and we could barely hear his radio transmissions at basecamp, Greg and Nathaniel drove up as a rescue team and Jim had already been on his way back. He wasn’t responding to any of our messages and I could only hear bits and pieces when he would call in like, “Call. Alone. Scared.”
Jim finally pulled in and the first thing he did was put a dip of tobacco in his mouth, light a cigar, and take sips of rye. It was comical for the rest of us but he had some interesting experiences and it was his first expedition AND he was all alone and out of radio contact for the most part. He heard branches breaking, big thumps, and a whoop in response to one of his own nearby. Jim said that at one point, he raised is arms in surrender and that’s when he’d hear movement and when he put his arms down, the movement stopped. This happened a few times and he started talking to whatever was out there with him. After a while, it stopped and he decided to come back to basecamp. I don’t know if he heard any of our transmissions to him.
After Jim was finally settled down back by the fire, we were hearing movement behind Chris’s camp and it moved along across the path where we walked to cast stuff. It ended up around Kourtnie’s camp and Top, Cindy, Greg, Nathaniel, and I decided to go follow it.
We anxiously walked in and it was brought up that in our fervor, we forgot bear spray so I ran and got some from Jerry. Back on track, we followed it and it sounded so close that we all turned on our white lights and found nothing. Greg grabbed a branch and made a couple of small knocks and I figured basecamp would know it was us but I radioed to them that it was us and after I spoke, my walkie-talkie beeped. Low battery. It died. I told everyone it just died and said, “Uh oh. This is how it all starts…” and we all broke out laughing and walked back to the fire full of glee.
At the fire, Iain mentioned that a lot of the bear growls we heard around camp, and there were a ton of them every evening for a few hours, that they were most likely the tail feathers of a nighthawk. The sun comes out at 4:30am and I went to bed at 4:15am. That’s the latest I stayed up during the entire trip and it was a great way to end the expedition.
Sunday morning, I woke up at 8am and packed up my car ready and anxious to return home to a nice bed. The 9am meeting went well and none of the groups had any action other than what’s already been noted. The goodbyes were bittersweet since we all became great friends during the trip and it was all coming to a close. I left basecamp at 10am and arrived home at 9:08pm. I stopped for gas once and food once; no restroom nonsense like before. It will take awhile for me to review all of my audio and that will be posted at a later time.
I’ll never forget this trip and all the funny memories like John Ray’s trivia where he’d give out Bigfoot trinkets, “Arkansas Bill’s” funny stories, and the in-depth discussions with various people. The expedition was top-notch and the purpose of expeditions is to not only get evidence of Bigfoot but to also teach people how to go about it and apply it to their own personal research. The best part that I get out of it is the networking and building friendships with complete strangers and bonding through a shared interest of Bigfoot. It doesn’t matter who you are or your stance on the subject; we’re brought together for a common cause and we’d never experience anything like this in any other outlet in life.
Seeing Bigfoot is never guaranteed but sometimes it’s more about the journey than the destination. What I take away from these trips is so much more than the unusual sounds and stories. Finding words for these expedition journals is difficult but finding Bigfoot is a whole other story.

If you read this entire 16-page tome, thank you. If you read any of it, thank you too.
I will post any good audio after I review it. All photos are posted on the Facebook page.

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