Bigfoot Encounters

RAMBLER TO THE TIMES … Bigfoot Was Ready for TV? 
By Vance Orchard, Walla Walla, Washington 2005

One could almost get the impression that the Bigfoot creatures were alerted ahead of time that a television documentary crew was coming to their neighborhood to shoot some film.

Or, it seemed that way when the crew from Planet Grande Pictures, of Malibu California showed up and interviewed some of the Walla Walla people who have been involved for many years in this Bigfoot matter. It’s an issue, which zoomed off into national publicity for this area when the late Paul Freeman reported having come upon one in his patrol duties with the Forest Service in 1982.

No longer is it any secret that the creatures possibly make their home in the nearby Blue Mountains (and there has been evidence of a “family” of two juveniles and one or more adults, judging from tracks on more than one occasion.).

So, it was somewhat of an anomaly that the TV program is titled “Small Town Secrets,” viewed here on Cable channel 43 (CMT) coming on following “The Dukes of Hazard,” at 8 [p.m. on a Friday.

Invited to appear for interviews were Brian Smith, Dar and Mark Addington and this writer, all from Walla Walla, and Bill Laughery of West Richland. The family of the late Wes Sumerlin was scheduled for interviews but apparently time ran out for the TV crew.

This amounts to a major mistake because there is likely no other group of people more knowledgeable about this feature of the Blues, as they have witnessed it over many years and some of that prior to that 1982 report by Freeman.

The crew was Tiller Rusell, director; Loren Mendell, cameraman and Curt Miles, sound man. Veterans of many such filmings for the TV program about some of the things that go on in small towns, the men were eager to get into their tasks as “stuff about Bigfoot is No. 1 for viewers,” one said.

Laughery and I led off the interviewing and provided some background for the program. Laughery has been involved in this for several years and is an admitted “one time skeptic of the whole thing.” Until he saw his first track, that is. The one time game warden and Columbia County native son has seen a couple of the “real things” too.

The Bigfoot thing has been high on my personal agenda of Blue Mountains subjects since I wrote a story about a motorcyclist having come across some “really humongous” tracks on the Mill Creek Road above the intake back in 1966. The AP story was read in Yakima by the late Roger Patterson and he came over here to check them out and my interest has gone from there to include a pair of books about the Bigfoot we have found here.

So, it really hasn’t been exactly a well kept small town secret!

Unique aspects of those who hunt Bigfoot around here are the pack goats raised by the Addingtons on Locati Lane. One, a smallish doe critter even might tip them off some day to a Bigfoot. The animal has a keen nose and eye for the unusual items when on a woods trip, picking up a lone bear or elk on a sidehill long before her owners do. So, the Addingtons escorted Russel, Mendell and Miles up to the Five Points region above Dixie to show how the goat does her thing.

However much we might have been of help to the TV crew, it remained for the guy who is the prime hunter of Bigfoot around here these days, Brian Smith of Walla Walla, to really give the show a boost.

Smith took the guys right to a spot which has been a Bigfoot crossing in past years and bingo! A set of 14 ½-inch tracks and lots of them!

Just like I said: Almost like the critters knew the TV people were coming!

Smith said the tracks did not prove to be of first class quality due to the pounding rains the area had had prior to the camera coming along. Hopefully, the photo accompanying this column will reveal some details. Smith said the tracks measured 54 inches to 56 inches apart as the creature strode along.

“You know, your average,” Smith wryly observed with a grin. “Going down a slope they increased to 60 inches apart.”

The Bigfoot seemed to be “just striding along, not running or anything like that,” Smith added.

The tracks were found at the top of the Scenic Loop Road, close to where Mormon Grade meets this roadway, Smith said. It was from this area 10 years ago that tracks of three creatures were found and followed several miles across a side-hill field down to the Meiners Road, then up it and back to the mountains.

Smith said he had asked the finder of the Skookum body cast prints in western Washington recently, Richard Noll, to check out the Scenic Loop tracks. Noll agreed that while the tracks were admittedly washed out and not in great shape they “were okay.” Smith added.

So, if we around here have had a “little kept secret” about the Bigfoot matter, it just likely won’t be a secret of any kind after the program “Small Town Secrets” hits the national TV air waves.

April/May 2005

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