Gila County, Arizona
Tonto Creek, Mogollon Rim County north of Payson, Arizona
Bigfoot at Tonto
the sand bar on Bluff Creek in the summer of 1964 the depressions in the
sand made by Bigfoot unlocked something in my mind. Something I had glossed
over and forgotten for a long time. It was the depth of the impression
in relatively hard packed sand that triggered a response in me. The unusual
two or three inch ridge thrown up by Bigfoot's step was the catalyst.
Soon thereafter it all began to come back to me. Bit by bit. Even fairly
recently, I have remembered a few more details.
In the summers of 1944, 45, and 46 I attended 10-day sessions at a Boy
Scout Summer Camp in Arizona. I was 12, 13, and 14 respectively in those
years. Late in each 10 day session the scouts divided up into troops of
may 25 boys and a adult Scout Master and went on an overnight hike of
maybe 15 miles round trip.
The Summer Scout Camp
was located about 20 miles northwest of Payson, Arizona in a Ponderosa
Pine forest just under the Mogollon Rim of author Zane Grey fame. A creek
named Tonto Creek flowed through the camp.
In one of those years, I believe 44 or 45; I joined a group in an overnight
hike to an area of Tonto Creek some miles downstream from the Scout Camp.
It was an area not often visited. The US Weather Bureau had a automatic
weather recording device there that was due to have it's recording paper
changed so they requested the Scouts to do it on one of their hikes. The
area was a little harder to get into than most hike destinations were.
The last few miles in the trail we were following passed alongside Tonto
Creek through generally level forested country. The troop spread out along
the trail maybe an eighth of a mile from those in the lead to those in
the rear, all headed towards the campsite. Although none of us had ever
been there before we knew it would be easy to locate the camping spot
as the trail would lead right to the weather reporting apparatus.
Another boy and I decided to race all the rest of the scouts and each
other to see who would get to the campsite first. We began to run along
the trail passing everyone in front of us. We didn't know how many were
in front of us so we just kept running along the trail passing others
and each other in a bid to be first.
As we rounded a large tree that grew near the trail the other boy, who
was just ahead of me, came to a sudden dead stop. I tried to get past
him but he held me back as he stared down the trail. The trail headed
more or less straight past a couple of clearings to the left and the creek
to the right. The big tree and the boy in front of me kept me from having
a really good view of what was ahead, but I could make out a reddish brown
figure coming up the embankment from the creek onto the trail with a strange
sort of rocking motion. The figure stopped on the trail in a sort of left
profile to us and partially turned its body with quick strange kind of
jerk and looked down the tail towards us. At this moment I was able to
break past the other boy, who screamed at me to stop, and started running
down the trail.
The brown/reddish figure ahead of me I took for another "Scout"
approximately 100 yards ahead. Immediately as I got past the other boy
the "Scout" stepped into the woods and was lost to sight. Since
this "Scout" was a good 100 yards ahead of me I ran pretty hard
but still paced myself for a distance I believed to be about 100 yards
What I didn't realize at the time was that it is very hard to judge distances
in the woods. All you can go by is the perceived length or height of a
known object. Trees, rocks, and bushes don't help. I judged the distance
of 100 yards based on the height of a Boy Scout or Scout Master. I was
surprised when I was only about half way to where I had last seen the "Scout" that I began to run out of steam. When I finally got
up to where the Scout had entered the woods I was really winded. I noted
that the "Scout" had missed the trail and gone off into the
woods a bit in the wrong direction. This gave me added incentive as I
thought I would have an advantage over him by keeping on the trail that
he had missed. I continued running along the trail. It was not too far
after that that I reached the camping area and found out that I was the
first one there.
Some time later the rest of the group started to arrive. They seemed relieved
to see me and several asked if I was all right. When the boy I had been
racing arrived (he was one of the last) he asked me about what we had
seen on the trail and if I had encountered it again. He argued with me
that it wasn't a Boy Scout. I told him that was what it looked like to
me, and if he hadn't held me back I could have seen it better, but what
I glimpsed seemed more like a Boy Scout than anything else. Besides, what
was it if it wasn't a scout? He didn't know but he said he would prove
to me tomorrow that it couldn't have been a scout. It seems he had expressed
some fear for my safety to the other scouts as they caught up with him
on the trail. But later when I was questioned and didn't seem to be aware
of anything very unusual the rest of the group pretty much lost interest
in what the other boy was reporting.
We made camp, stretching out sleeping bags and setting packs and gear
in place. It was then getting to be late afternoon and some of the boys
that had brought fishing gear went back down along the creek to try to
catch some trout. I always found fishing along Tonto Creek to be non-productive,
but to my surprise this time a few fish were caught. A couple of the boys
came back saying they had heard someone in the brush near where they were
fishing, but when they called out they got no answer. One boy said he
ran into the brush to see who was there but all he saw was the brush moving
where someone had left in a hurry.
One boy came back mad as could be. He claimed one of the boys stole a
fish or two that he had caught. He questioned everyone that had been fishing
until he had it pinned down on the last boy to come in, but when that
boy arrived he didn't have the fish either. The boy that had lost his
fish had gone away from his pole and fish into the bushes for just a few
moments and when he came back his fish where gone. His very nice fishing
pole and all his fishing gear hadn't been touched which seemed very strange
to all of us. Most of the scouts felt this boy was making it up about
catching any fish. The Scout Master decided there might be some kind of
peculiar individual hanging around the area and cautioned us all to stay
in camp together but not to be alarmed as whoever might be out there was
very much out numbered and besides there was no indication that he meant
any harm. The next day while crossing a high divide on the way back to
the main Scout Summer Camp we came upon an old grizzled prospector with
his donkey and equipment; perfect model for a crazed individual.
That evening after supper we sat around the campfire late into the night
telling ghost stories. At one point I thought I might have seen a movement
out in the darkness but decided it was my imagination being influenced
by the ghost story.
It was late when we broke up and got into our sleeping bags. We had laid
them out in more or less a straight line up a little ways above and back
from the campfire area. When I got into my bag I discovered some hard
tree roots poking through the ground up into my back. I moved my bag several
times, but everywhere I tried there were more tree roots. Finally I gave
up, picked up my bag and carried it down past the campfire area looking
for a decent spot. I finally found a spot in the middle of a soft dirt
path on the far side of the campfire area near the weather reporting station.
The path was very soft (and dirty) and ran between two areas of bushes.
It was something like sleeping between two rows of hedges about three
feet high. One of these rows effectively screened my vision of the campfire
By that time I had been up for more than 16 hours during which time I
had hiked the better part of 10 miles with a full pack and sleeping bag.
It was only a few moments until I dozed off. It wasn't very long after
that that I heard someone fussing around the campfire area. I could hear
him rustling his silverware as if looking for something. This lasted a
little while then stopped. I fell back asleep. Then it happened again.
The noises woke me again I figured someone else had come looking for something
he needed. It lasted awhile and then stopped. Back to sleep, then it commenced
again. This time it went on for some time. I could almost sleep in spite
of it but it kept waking me up. Finally I spoke out and told him to quit
making so much noise and go to bed. Then the noises stopped . . . for
a while. Then a little while later I was again slowly to awaken by the
noises coming from the campfire area. As it wasn't a steady noise, just
the rattle of silverware or metal utensils from time to time, I found
myself alternately waking and sleeping in small doses. I was really tired
and not really getting any sleep.
Finally I heard footsteps coming along the path towards me from the direction
of the campfire. The steps rounded the bushes on the path were I was lying
and stopped at the foot of my sleeping bag. I peeked out and saw what
I thought must be the "Scout Master" standing there, except
he seemed much taller than I figured he should be, but I was lying down
on my back and figures sometimes look taller when viewed that way.
There was a bright moon that night, maybe it was full. It was to the right
and a bit higher than the head of the "Scout Master" I was looking
at. In the moonlight I could see hairs sticking out from the sleeves of
the "Scout Master's" jacket. I was surprised that he was wearing
one of those big lumberjack type jackets with hair like fibers protruding
out from it. But it had to be one of those jackets because it hunched
up around his neck and was very bulky. Still it was strange he was wearing
it now as I hadn't seen him with it before and this was a summer night
and not very cold.
Very strange to me that he just stood there silently at the foot of my
sleeping bag not even moving. The moon was bright enough to hinder my
vision a bit but he must have been able to get a good look at me. I sat
up in the sleeping bag adjusting my position so that the Scout Master's
shadow would shield me from the moon and allow me better vision.
In a few moments I could see better, and what I saw gave me the shock
of my life. There, standing still less than four feet in front of me was
a monster- like man. (Please note that I did not say a man-like monster.)
The creature was huge. Its eyes were deep set and hard to see, but they
seemed expressionless. His face seemed pretty much devoid of hair, but
there seemed to be hair along the sides of his face. His chest, shoulders,
and arms were massive, especially the upper arms; easily upwards of 6
inches in diameter, perhaps much much more. I could see he was pretty
didn't observe really how thick the body hair was. The face/head was very
square; square sides and squared up chin, like a box. Whenever I see a
reconstruction of the skull of a Gigantopithecus I am struck by the similar
square shape of the sides and bottom.
To me this night apparition looked like the half monster-men that sometimes
used to appear in American comics in the 1930s. Heroes like Mickey Mouse
had to outsmart them. They were massive and somewhat manlike in shape
and body structure but with a touch of the dumb heartless beast in their
For just a second or so I sat there, my eyes about even with the creatures
knees, looking up into the face of this monster. Then I fell back into
my sleeping bag, pulled it up over my head, and crunched down scared to
death. I didn't scream. I didn't try to run or call for help. If this
thing were real, none of that would work anyway. But it couldn't be real.
There was no such thing as what I had been looking at. I must be dreaming.
Hunched down in the bag I listened intently for what my visitor would
do next. I heard nothing for a little while, then I heard it slightly
shuffle its feet and then I heard a crash/crunch just above my head on
my right side, the side away from the campfire area. This was followed
by several footsteps moving away from me in the direction away from the
head of my sleeping bag. Then I heard nothing more.
Soon I began to smell something and I realized that I had been so scared
I must have involuntarily had a bowel movement right there in my sleeping
bag. It smelled awful. Still, I was so scared I wasn't going to do anything
about it except scoot over as far as I could so as not to be in the mess
any more than I could help. But the smell got worse. I needed some fresh
air. Finally, monster or not, I chose the lesser of two evils and pulled
the sleeping bag open and freed my head. Didn't help. The smell was just
as bad with the bag open, maybe worse? I lay there gasping. After a while
it seemed to dissipate a little or else I got more used to it. I pulled
the sleeping bag up over me again, crouched to the side away from the
mess I made, and tried to figure out what was what.
The next thing I remember was waking up to noises around the campfire
area. It was morning and I could hear footsteps coming along the path
from the campfire just like in the middle of the night. The steps stopped
at the foot of my sleeping bag. I slowly pulled the bag down and looked
out. The Scout Master was standing there. I realized later he had been
following footprints that led him to me.
"What did you see? he asked probably noticing my relieved expression.
"I didn't see nothing" I replied in a matter of fact manner
using very poor grammar. Looking past my head he gave a startled look
and said, "What is that?
I turned and looked. Just beyond my bag a bush on the right hand side
of the path had been squashed. The main trunks of the bush were a couple
of inches thick and the bush had been several feet high. Now it was lying
against the ground, the trunks splintered. The Scout Master noting the
surprise on my face must have believed me when I told him I had seen nothing.
He must have figured I had slept through whatever had happened. He said
to me "Get up and get packed, we are leaving right away".
I told him I would, but I waited until he moved away to get out of my
sleeping bag, as I didn't want him to see the mess I had made. Figured
I would clean the bag and myself as best I could now and really give it
a good cleaning later in the day. But when I opened the bag to survey
the mess there was nothing there. The bag was clean. No bowel movement.
With relief I realized it was all a dream. No monster-like man, they just
dont exist any more than the mess in my sleeping bag did! Must have
been those ghost stories. Thankfully and purposefully I forgot it all.
I was the last one up. When I got around to the campfire area I found
out why we were leaving without having breakfast. There wasn't any food.
Everything edible had been eaten, breakfast and lunch for 20 or so boys,
including a whole box of dry pancake flour. Everyone's mess gear, all
the cooking gear, and the remnants of food packages had been gone through
and scattered all over the place. Never did find all my equipment. At
first all the other boys blamed me for the mess as I was the only one
that had slept apart from the others, but they soon came to realize I
couldn't have eaten everything especially the dry pancake flour, so they
figured it must have been that crazy guy in the woods.
On the hike out when I came to the clearing area where I had seen the
reddish brown figure the day before I found the scout I had been racing
sitting on the sand below the trail and near the creek. At that point
there was a yard or so from the edge of the creek to a drop off of maybe
three or four feet to the level of the sand which gradually sloped down
10 or 12 feet to the edge of the creek. There in the sand, approximately
where we had first seen the figure the day before, were the prints. They
looked to me much like what a rain boot leaves in very soft mud, several
inches deep with a ridge thrown up around the impression.
The other scout pointed out the tracks to me as proof that it couldn't
have been a scout we saw the day before as I had said. It would have been
impossible for a scout to make these tracks. I answered that I couldn't
see why not and stepped in one of the tracks and then in the one near
it that showed the track maker turning around to go the other direction.
The other scout then said to me, "OK, now how are you going to step
in that one?" pointing to the next track that was about twice as
far away as my stride could take me.
I took an extra step on the sand, leaving almost no mark and stepped into
the indicated track. At that the boy got very upset with me, telling me
to stop stepping in all the tracks as I was ruining them. It didn't register
with me. About then the Scout Master came along as he was taking up the
rear. He stopped. The other boy was so upset he was almost crying but
he asked the Scout Master what had made the tracks. The Scout Master said
he didn't know and comforted him a bit.
It never occurred to me to look inside the tracks before I stepped in
them. All I really noted was the depth and thrown up ridges. Deep tracks
in sand, similar to the depressions I would see twenty years later at
Bluff Creek that would resurrect a long forgotten incident.
© Don Davis (1932-2002)
Story published at the request of Dmitri Bayanov in memory of the late
Don Davis, who passed away suddenly in February 2002. We will miss him & his contributions to sasquatch research.
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