We all need a little diversion during these high-strangeness days of COVID-19. What better way to get our minds off the news of the day than to ponder some Bigfoot stories?
The vast colonies of Sasquatch roaming the Sierra Nevada (at least according to Skip Welch, see Meth, Murder, and Bigfoot) are, of course, masters at social distancing. But every once in a while, these elusively shy creatures venture close enough to so-called civilization to be spotted.
Here are a few sightings from our neck of the woods.
In Meth, Murder, and Bigfoot (see Part Four of that series, “Sasquatch in the Sierra”), I discussed a number of Sierra Bigfoot sightings, from prehistoric Hairy Man legends and pictographs of the Tule River native tribes, to an 1873 sighting of a gorilla-like creature by hunters near Badger, to the 1980s sighting of Bigfoot near Shaver Lake by St. Elmo’s Fire actress Ally Sheedy. None of those accounts, however, compare to stories by Skip Welch, the suspect in Theresa Bier’s 1987 disappearance. He told of regularly observing colonies of the Bigfoot creatures at a place he called Ghost Canyon, south of Yosemite National Park.
As it turns out, Skip wasn’t the only person to see Sasquatch in that area. In the fall of 1988, two deer hunters were camping a few miles from Ghost Canyon, at Bowler Group Campground in Sierra National Forest. Early one morning, just after break of dawn, these hunters headed up to a ridge to hunt.
“As it got light enough to see the top, we noticed someone already on the ridge, wearing what seemed to be black of all things.”
The two seasoned hunters watched as this “person” dug around in the brush, pausing occasionally to stare off in different directions. They joked that it was probably a hunter from the city, because who else would be crazy enough to wear black during hunting season.
This eyewitness account, which comes via the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, continued: “Then he began to walk down the hill right for us. He would walk a little ways and then stop and look around just as if he was hunting, but with no rifle. He walked just like a human, so at this time there was no reason to think it was anything but a man. When he was about 50 yards away, we realized we were not watching a man, but this was a Bigfoot! He had jet black, shiny fur, with a reddish color around where his eyes were.”
The creature was then startled and began to run at a speed that amazed the hunters. One of them tried to spot the large, hairy, bipedal humanoid in his rifle’s scope to get a closer view. Seeing the rifle raised, the other hunter hollered, “Don’t shoot!”
The creature quickly disappeared behind a tree and was gone. They never saw it again.
In a follow-up by a BFRO investigator, the interviewed witness claimed the creature was over seven feet tall and looked exactly like the Bigfoot in the famous Patterson-Gimlin film (image in top photo). He assumed, because they spotted it in a well-traveled deer migration route, it too was there to hunt deer.
Furthermore, he noted that his hunting companion later said it was the fourth Bigfoot he had seen in that area, “but would deny it to his grave for fear of ridicule.”
The BFRO, it should be explained here, touts itself as a “virtual community of scientists, journalists and specialists from diverse backgrounds whose mission is to resolve the mystery surrounding the Bigfoot phenomenon.” This goal, they claim, is pursued through the proactive collection of empirical data and physical evidence from the field and by means… okay, they go on and on.
What do you expect? It’s an internet thing. And while they do have a certain sheen of legitimacy, they are nonetheless a little nutty. If I can coin a phrase: “internutty.” But they do have a lot of information, and you can judge for yourself what you believe or don’t believe.
Bigfoot in high places
Another BFRO report illustrates just how expansive Bigfoot’s range is in the Sierra. This particular sighting occurred at high elevation in the eastern edge of Sequoia National Park’s backcountry. At 13,153 feet above sea level, Forester Pass is the highest point on the Pacific Crest Trail.
It was in there that a lone hiker spotted something unusual one August afternoon in 2007.
Described by BFRO as a “credible gentleman in his fifties and an avid solo backpacker who enjoys hiking in challenging terrain,” the witness claimed he noticed two upright figures in the distance.
At first he assumed they were other hikers until he realized they appeared to be covered with dark fur. Though hard to gauge from a distance, they seemed to be incredibly large creatures with disproportionally long arms. The hiker observed them as they walked around, looking at the ground and totally unaware he was watching them.
Eventually it dawned on the witness that they were probably Bigfoots. He had a small camera in his pack, but was so caught up in what he was seeing that he didn’t think to take it out.
After several minutes of watching the strange creatures, he decided to make a “coyote call” to see what would happen. When he did, the figures did not appear to look around at all before moving quickly out of view, down into the canyon.
Three Rivers: Class A and Class B sightings
What about sightings of an even more local nature? Oddly enough, one encounter with Sasquatch right here in Three Rivers was discussed at a town hall meeting in Shaver Lake (Fresno County). The mountain resort community is such a hotbed of Bigfoot activity that Animal Planet’s popular reality show “Finding Bigfoot” once based an entire episode there.
In 2012, more than 100 people showed up to a public event the show hosted at the Shaver Lake community hall. They came to hear stories such as one by a man who claimed he and his crew had a huge rock hurled at them while hiking near Three Rivers.
It was a massively heavy rock, he said, and came from a ridge top 300 feet away. One of the more athletic men of the group tried to throw the recovered boulder and could barely toss it more than a few feet.
“If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I’d have a hard time believing it actually happened,” the man told the Finding Bigfoot producers and gathered crowd. But that wasn’t really a Bigfoot sighting, and hardly qualifies as “finding Bigfoot” in Three Rivers.
Again, let’s consult our friends at the BFRO. They divide encounters into three classifications: Class C are second- and third-hand reports and stories without traceable sources; Class B involve encounters without clear visual evidence (such as poor lighting or great distance) or with only audible or other evidence (such as howls, tree knocking, or thrown objects); and Class A are reports that involve clear sightings where misinterpretation or misidentification of other animals can be ruled out with great confidence.
In August of 1998, Three Rivers had a Class A sighting of Bigfoot.
An anonymous witness reported that while driving on South Fork Drive, he saw what he thought was a bear in the middle of the road. He was about 500 feet from the silver bridge (four miles from Highway 198), near a lone ponderosa pine that grows along the road.
Suddenly the creature stood up on two feet and ran. It jumped over a nearby barbed-wire fence and kept running into the woods until it was gone.
The report is scant on details, but as BFRO classified it as a Class A sighting, they evidently put credence in the theory that this was no mere bear, but a Bigfoot.
The report lacked any follow-up by an accredited BFRO investigator, but the following year another report about the incident was submitted to BFRO, this one by a man who said he worked in Visalia and had decided to do a little investigating himself.
This amateur Bigfoot investigator, familiar with Three Rivers, drove to the location described, finding it easily with the landmarks of the pine tree and the silver bridge. He noted the homes in the area, took stock of the vegetation and topography, and finally interviewed two local men, who told this intrepid investigator it was the first they ever heard of a Bigfoot sighting.
“If something like that had really happened, everyone in town would know about it,” one of them commented.
Both were certain that there was no truth to it, even as a rumor. Had they EVER heard tell of a Bigfoot sighting in Three Rivers? They had not, and were in fact incredulous that this “investigator” would even take such a thing seriously.
One of these local gentlemen then surmised that it could have been the then-Three Rivers resident deputy.
“He stands about 6-foot-6 and often wanders about town. He is the closest thing we have to a Bigfoot.”