Bigfoot Encounters

1987 encounter in Mountain Ranch,
Calaveras County, California
Unearthly scream rattles nerves
In the spring of 1987 I was out at a friend's place in the boonies... about 5 miles from Mountain Ranch, Cal. in Calaveras County, in the Sierra foothills @ about 2500 foot elevation. I was there for several days mining gold in Salamander Creek, using a small suction dredge. The area isn't wilderness, but it's sparsely populated, heavily wooded, and very rugged terrain.
 My friend Jonesy is a character who I have known since Jr.High, and he has owned his 90+ acres since the mid 70's. Jonesy is uneducated, but definitely not dumb. He has almost preternatural senses when it comes to woodcraft, & what comes & goes in the bush.  I've learned over the years to take some of his stories with a grain of salt, but not to be surprised when something unbelievable that he has told me turns out to be true.
For years I had heard his tales about Mt. Lions, Bigfoot, and UFO's out on his "ranch", and I always nodded & said "sure Jonesy...I believe you". Over time I confirmed the Mt. Lions, but I pretty much disregarded the other stories as BS, or products of an overactive imagination. His place is very conducive to such thoughts, heavily wooded mixed oak/pine/cedar & dense brush in any open areas. Not a good place to try to venture anywhere on foot at night.
On this occasion, we had dredged all day in the creek & were sitting around the fire BS'ing just outside his shack on the hill. Jonesy is a guy who will; if you spend enough time around him, tell you the same stories over & over again. I had heard about Bigfoot from him many times, and the gist of his tale was that Bigfoot guarded the gold mine that Jonesy knew was on his land..and he wouldn't let anyone find it. While I didn't necessarily disbelieve in Bigfoot, I didn't really take his stories seriously either.
 We were both concerned about a local dirtbag sneaking in at night, & messing with our operations in the creek below the shack...about 200 yards away & maybe 100 feet down. Goldmining engenders paranoia, & we'd take turns walking down there well armed, and checking things out. Around midnight I grabbed my twelve gauge & headed down to perform watch duty, check on our vehicles & equipment.  I had the gun because there are lions & bears in those woods, not because I seriously suspected to find anyone or anything that would require it's use. It was an ink black night with no moon & I did not take a flashlight.
When I got down to the creek at the bottom of the hill, I squatted down for several minutes & just listened. Out there at night, your hearing is about the only sense you have that will give you any information, and it's virtually impossible to move around & not make a racket.  There was no indication of anything irregular after several minutes, so I lit up a smoke and determined to return to the fire when it was finished.
Not long after I lit up squatting there on the creek bank,  I heard something crashing through the brush on the hillside above me, away from the shack. The noise came from an area which Jonesy called his boneyard...where there were 15-20 junk vehicles in a small clearing. It sounded like something big was literally tearing it's way through the bush, snapping sounds of tree limbs breaking & a kind of intermittent thud-thud sound like someone walking & stopping...then starting again. I knew the area well, and I knew that no person could just walk through it like that, even in broad daylight. I snuffed out my smoke & went on maximum alert as whatever it was moved along the ridge until it was right above me in the pitch-black night...about 50 yards away. I figured it had to be a big bear, they were around & they were the only animal I could conceive of that could possibly explain what I was hearing.

There was silence for maybe a minute...and then there was the most unearthly scream I ever wish to hear in my life. I have heard a Mt. lion scream & this wasn't the same at all. It started low & went higher & louder, ending in a series of woofing sounds. I've never heard anything like it, before or since. It made every hair on my head stand out straight, and my bowels went loose & I nearly lost control of that function.  Then I was hit by a smell so foul, it made me instantly nauseaus. I was huddled there in the dark with the safety off, & my shotgun pointed towards the sound for maybe another minute or two, when the crashing & thudding sounds started again & headed back the same direction they had come from. This time they were continuous until they moved away & then suddenly ceased entirely.
I stayed where I was, shaking like a leaf for several more minutes. There wasn't another sound, but the foul smell lingered. Finally I got up & slowly & as quietly as possible retreated back uphill towards the shack...stopping & listening, and never turning my back on where the noises had come from. When I got back to the fire, Jonesy looked up at me & said "What's the matter Frankie, did you see something? you look like you just saw a ghost". I poured out what had just happened, and Jonesy laughed & said "that was Bigfoot, so now you believe me huh?"
The next morning we both went over to the hill where I had heard the sounds, and looked around. There was an unmistakable track along the hillside that looked like a rhino had just run through it. Small cedar & oak trees 4-6" in diameter were snapped off near ground level, & low branches on larger trees were broken & hanging down where whatever it was had passed through. The foul smell still lingered there. There were no prints in the forest duff, and backtracking the destruction we came to the edge of the "boneyard", where all sign disappeared.
This was, & still remains the creepiest thing I have ever experienced in the woods, and although I never saw whatever it was that made the noises I heard...I am of the opinion that only a "Bigfoot" could account for what I witnessed. I am not superstitious, afraid of the dark, or prone to imagining things. I have a lot of outdoor experience, and I know about all the critters in the woods & this wasn't one of them.

I know absolutely that this creature was aware of my presence and the display I experienced was made for my benefit. It certainly worked, if scaring the bejeezus out me was the intent! To this day, I will not stay at Jonesy's Ranch after dark...for anything.
Frank Gault
Vallecito, California.
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