Bigfoot Encounters

Bigfoot at Tonto Creek 
Gila County, Arizona
Tonto Creek, Mogollon Rim Country north of Payson, AZ
by the late Don Davis (1932-2002)

Gila County, Arizona
Tonto Creek, Mogollon Rim County north of Payson, Arizona

Bigfoot at Tonto Creek

At 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 or so.

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 area.

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 hairy, but 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 features.

For just a second or so I sat there, my eyes about even with the creature’s 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 don’t 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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