MONSTER OR IMAGINATION, BIGFOOT STILL STIRS MIND
June 3, 2007
Jeff Pinsker is a big man, about 6-feet tall and weighing close to 250 pounds. Even so, the Tollgate Resort owner's size 12s fall far short of the plaster casts of large footprints set along the entrance into the dining area. The casts cover a wide range of years and vary in size and shape, but all are big.
Casts that may show the footprints of Big foot, the legendary, or purely imaginative large, powerful bipedal ape man creature about 8 feet tall and covered in dark hair that may or may not inhabit forests and wilderness areas across North America.
Whether or not such a thing exists, of course, is the subject of debate in some circles. But that's not something Pinsker engages in. He seems practical about the matter. He doesn't divulge if he's a believer or not, but he likes the chatter the casts often cause. Although he laments a bit that at one time there were as many as 20 of the things on the wall, but as owners changed and moved, so, apparently did the casts. Luckily five remain.
"And a couple even look real," Pinsker said.
There are two that stand out and have a look of authenticity about them (of course, just what authentic means when talking about Bigfoot is unclear). The two include the one taken at Tollgate 20 years ago, and another that longtime-Bigfoot proponent and Washington State University physical anthropologist Grover Krantz cast. That one particularly is intriguing. But more on it later.
A couple of old codgers sat near the casts. They said they've lived "on the mountain" for many years.
"I've seen bear tracks that wide, but not that long. So, what happened was the bear slipped in the mud," one of the men said.
Oddly, even though each claimed to be a skeptic and said they had never seen any thing like a Bigfoot lurking around the woods of the Blue Mountains, neither consented to have his name in the paper.
Were they hiding something? Maybe they knew more than they let on. Would it be worth sticking around at night to find out? Pinsker's already seen the type who would do that. He moved here in August from Folsom, CA, after purchasing the Tollgate Resort. He's already met two or three groups of people that have come through the region searching for Bigfoot. They carry cameras and other recording devices, some mounted on vehicles.
"They're really into it," Pinsker said.
So is Matt Moneymaker, a 40-year-old lawyer and e-commerce developer from Orange County, CA, who's the founder and president of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, which he set up in 1996 as an Internet Web site.
Moneymaker, said the BFRO is the "fast track to meeting people and getting close to the animals." He and other core members lead Bigfoot expeditions throughout North America. From June 14-17, the BFRO will be in central Oregon, taking about 50 people from as far away as New York, Florida and one from Great Britain in search of Bigfoot.
The expedition has been sold out for months.
Several places in Oregon are supposed Bigfoot hot spots, Moneymaker claimed, including the Blue Mountains of Eastern Oregon.
The BFRO just hasn't gotten over here, yet.
Moneymaker said he grew interested in Bigfoot like many other people -- from watching documentaries on television. Then he met someone who claimed to have seen one of the creatures. Moneymaker visited the location of the alleged sighting.
"I was there and found a footprint. I was hooked," he said.
BFRO expeditions don't concentrate on gathering evidence, but instead seek to get people near the creatures. Moneymaker said the idea is to observe and listen carefully to confirm if a population of things exists.
"And we are very successful at that," he said.
Moneymaker comes off as almost desperate to dismiss Bigfoot doubters and skeptics. He got particularly perturbed when talking about those who scoff at the notorious 1967 Patterson Gimlin film that may show one of the hairy monsters (?) traipsing off into the forests of northern California, or it may be a big man in a fanciful ape suit.
"These people don't know what they are talking about," Moneymaker said emphatically.
He argued anyone with the "slightest education in ecology" would understand just how difficult it is to obtain proof of what he called a rare, nocturnal creature that also is very smart.
And he said nonbelievers need to understand there isn't a large, well funded effort to find these things. Further given Bigfoots are supposed to exist in dense forests with hard terrain, it makes sens people only see them for glimpses at a time, such as when one is crossing a mountain road.
Right now, he said the BFRO is refining its methodology to get footage of the creatures.
Often, he said people who go on a BFRO expedition expect a "glorified snipe hunt." But when they are in the woods at night and communicate with the creatures through thumping big sticks on trees -- a tactic Moneymaker said Bigfoots often do -- they come away with a different view.
Moneymaker said the goal of a BFRO outing is to obtain mutually collaborate evidence about Bigfoot's existence.
"After a certain number of witnesses, you realize they must be seeing something," he said. "Society values that kind of evidence. It's a clue as to what reality is."
Moneymaker also dismisses claims from people who say they faked Bigfoot prints. He said chances are they only make the claim but haven't made any fake tracks and only want publicity.
Further, Moneymaker said, BFRO investigators are not so gullible to fall for a faked footprint. Without revealing any methods, he said the organization can discern real prints from fakes.
Moneymaker also said people are more likely to hear them than see them, so he advised listening for Bigfoot vocalizations, such as howls and piercing whistles and screams. And he said Bigfoots like to throw rocks to warn off anyone too close and, of course, they knock on trees to communicate with other Bigfoots in the region.
Maybe that is what a small group of Pendleton men should have done one late spring day in June of 1991.
A TRUE ENCOUNTER?
An Eastern Oregon hunter -- who agreed to talk as long as his identity was kep secret -- revealed a tale of an encounter he and his tree friends had in a canyon near the "Salmon Backs" or "breaks" of McKay Creek on the south side of Interstate 84 around the very top of Mecham.
The four men were in there early 20s. He said they all grew up around Pendleton and had been hunters and outdoors men since they were young. He said they went there to scout it for the upcoming deer season. He had hunted the area in the past and had always met with success.
They drove there with the plan to camp for about three days near the top of McKay Creek, but found heavy rains and runoff had eroded the road in some areas, including where they wanted to go.
So at about 9 a.m. they packed the camping gear, headed across the wash, humped it along the road for almost two miles and set up camp on a green, lush island about 30 feet by 30 feet in the middle of McKay Creek, which by now was running about knee deep.
"That way we had a good view of all the hills around us -- and we were thinking we could see some deer or elk on the sides of the hills in the early morning or late evening."
While setting up camp he scanned the surrounding canyon walls and saw a lone pine tree on the crest of a hill. He told his buddies he would like to hike there to look for any deer or elk.
About noon they finished setting up camp and headed up the steep canyon to the tree.
"As we we're working our way up we saw some deer, but not very many, not as many as we had in the past," he said. "I thought it was odd -- in the past it was nothing to see 10 or 12 deer jumping up out of the brush on the sides of those hills."
Near the top he saw a cave about 100 yards away. They decided to investigate and were surprised.
"Right there at the mouth of the cave were an abundance of bones," he said. "You could see big leg bones, rib cages, big pelvis bones like you would find in deer or elk."
The men settled on a bear as the cause for the assortment of death, but because they hadn't brought a flashlight no one was going in the cave.
The group arrived about 30 minutes later to the pine tree at the top of the hill. The hunter said there was nothing within 50 yards of the tree, which stood about 7 to 8 feet tall.
They looked the sight over for a bit but needed to get to camp before dark. On the way down the men talked about returning in the morning with a flashlight to venture into the cave.
"That cave seemed to capture the curiosity of all of us," he said. "My friends were all active hunters and outdoorsmen and none of us had seen a cave like this."
Then about 9:15 p.m. he looked up at the pine tree.
"As we sat there talking I glanced up there and saw what appeared to be another tree next to it. I tried to register what I was seeing because I knew there was nothing next to that pine tree."
He asked his friends how many pine trees were there and they replied there was just the one.
"Then what is that next to it?" he asked them, because he could see daylight between the tree and a new, large silhouette that was as tall or taller than the tree. Then it moved from left to right across the horizon line.
"As we watched it, it turned and started coming down the side of the canyon in our direction."
One of the men asked what it was.
"My reply to him was, "I don't know and I'm not sticking around to find out."
He and the others grabbed whatever camping gear they could and started for the road.
But it was at the base of the canyon and in the same direction as whatever was coming down the hill.
Then the hunter said he heard it.
"As I started off the island, I could hear what almost sounded like a screaming noise - a high pitched scream."
He was still 25 yards from the road, and maybe two miles from the vehicle. The scream made him pick up the pace.
"Flight or fight mode kicked in, and I took off at a dead run for the road," he said.
But his sleeping bag was unrolled. It slipped through his arms and wrapped around his feet. He fell into the creek.
"My friends didn't help," he said, "but ran right over the top of me."
He shed the sleeping bag and sprinted away.
"All that was running through my mind at this point was 'Please God, don't let it get me,!' Oh man, I was scared to death."
He hit the road and turned left toward the vehicle and saw movement to the right. He looked, and about 20 feet away was the thing.
"It was coming down the side of the hill, and it was taking steps I can't even reach in a stride. At that point I hit overdrive. I was screaming like a school girl. And I go rushing past my friends. I blew right by them like they were standing still."
But I forgot there was a five-foot high embankment caused from when the river ran high. "I ran smack into the embankment."
When he hit it, he said he lost his air and that's about when he felt his friends run up his back.
"And I could hear them arguing 'Who's got the keys,'" he said. "They were two for two running me over."
The only time he chuckled telling the story.
He dug and clawed his way up the embankment and someone produced the keys. They threw themselves into the vehicle and one of them yanked on the headlights and saw nothing more than the outside.
The four decided to stay there and return to camp in the morning to retrieve items left behind.
"Well one of my friends in the back seat, bless his heart, dumped all the beer in a sleeping bag and brought it with him."
The hunter and a buddy in the front seat stayed awake, drank beer and grew some courage while the other two slept in the back.
"We sat in the car and drank too much beer and thought about it too long," he said. "We went back up the road a way with a flashlight to check out what we might be able to see.
It was eerie as soon as they stepped out.
"One of the things I remember about that was that it was dead silent. Not a frog, not a cricket, not a coyote howl, Nothing. The only thing we heard was the creek running."
They walked about 200 yards and spied a band of standing timber about 50 yards wide and 200-300 yards long with windfall inside.
So, of course, they entered it. As they approached the middle they heard branches breaking and twigs snapping. The sounds moved closer.
"I said, 'We got to go.' And at that moment I heard a blood-curdling scream that sounded so loud -- I had never heard anything like it -- it wasn't a cougar scream. It was louder than a cougar or a bear or anything like that. It was the loudest thing I had ever heard."
They turned to run through the timber and he watched his friend run into a tree and hit the ground.
"I was thinking, I wish I could help you. I just hollered at him, 'get up and come on.'"
They bumbled their way out and back to the vehicle, but it seemed the chase had stopped.
"He wanted to let us know he was there, but he wasn't going to let us know what type of thing he was."
They stayed in the vehicle the rest of the night and returned to camp at daylight. On the way they found logs 12-15 feet long that in the night had been placed near the road. They also saw foot prints in the soft dirt.
"Almost two of my feet would fit it, and was wide as two of my feet. And you could make out toes -- Not real defined, but you could make them out. I was really starting to believe this concept that we had an encounter with Sasquatch or Bigfoot or whatever it is."
He said the camp had been ransacked -- the tent was demolished, the camp stove was bent, lanterns were busted, sleeping bag in the creek was torn apart and the ice chest was almost torn in half.
And all around the camp was brown hair, about 5-6 inches long. "It was really course -- like hide on deer or elk -- but it was much longer."
One friend had connections to an elder of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
"And he told us about a creature that lives in the Blue Mountains... It can be aggressive but usually just runs people off. The creature is really territorial of the area."
But could he corroborate the story?
"The guys I went up there with, it actually scared us so bad they won't talk about it. For quite some time I didn't either.
He returned once to the area, but was too creeped out to stay long.
"I fully believe what we experienced that night and what the Indian elder told us about the creature in the mountain there, and from what I've seen on TV... I fully believe we had an encounter with the Sasquatch. There's no other explanation for it in my opinion."
He never sold his story and he never felt the urge to track down what it was he had encountered that night.
"I don't feel I have to prove to anybody what I saw. I know what I saw... I've never been that scared in the mountains before from something else that was living there. Quite frankly, I don't want to encounter it again.
He said where this happened is now privately owned and access is restricted. And with no one else to back up the tale, it remains just another chapter in the Bigfoot saga.
But as he told his story, he seemed so earnest. The little details -- how high the creek was, how long things took, the saved beer -- have the feel of truth.
And then there is that footprint back there at the Tollgate resort. The one Krantz had cast.
If you go there, ask Pinsker if you can look closely at it. If you need, ask him if you can use a chair to stand on. Look around the big toe. That's where you'll see them.
Dermal ridges. The things that make for finger and toe prints.
Thank you Lou Farish of the UFO Newsclipping Service for this very interesting story. It is especially interesting to me because I was born on the Umatilla Indian Reservation on McKay creek. I can still remember swimming in it when I was a little girl with my Dad.
The second reason is because Paris Colorado, Dan Edwards and myself hiked up the north Fork of the John Day River for 9 miles to Paris's gold claim. That is also in the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon. One night we were in our tents; Paris in his and Dan and I in another. Dan is deaf in one ear so he always sleeps with his good ear down so he doesn't hear anything to keep him awake. Paris whispered to me, "Aileen, do you hear that". Yes I did! You could hear something moving around our tents snapping the twigs. Pretty soon it went away. In the morning we found big footprints in the soft dirt around a hole that Paris and Dan had been digging. One step crossed over the hole which was about 6 feet across. Then you could see in the moss and twigs where something very heavy had walked around the tents! We left that morning.
Paris always felt something was walking in the forest along the trail as we hiked up to the camp. It was an eerie feeling! We left most everything there in the camp because we were in such a hurry to get out of there.
So yes, I believe the hunter's story.