The Caribou Wilderness, California
Red Cinder Peak, 1980

I just read the sighting report by Dave in the Caribou Wilderness. I had a sighting in the same general area. I am intentionally leaving some details vague because I do not wish to be identified for employment reasons. I realize this may affect the credibility of my story.
I am a smokejumper for the U.S. Forest Service.

In the late 1980's I jumped a fire with two others in the Caribou Wilderness just a few miles north of Dave's area, in the Red Cinder Peak area. It was a single tree lightning fire and very little ground fire. We fell the tree and put out the fire without any difficulty.

Afterwards, we made camp next to the burned area with the campfire inside the burned area. I awoke in the early hours, just before dawn when I heard a rustling in the brush. At first I thought it was one of the others, but when I looked they were both asleep in their bags. We normally do not see wildlife around fires, the noise and commotion seems to keep them away.

Since our campfire had long burned out and we were asleep I thought it might be some animal coming to investigate. We are pretty careful about our trash and waste, anything that cannot be burned is packed out. We don't want to be responsible for something getting addicted to human food. So I grabbed a headlamp (a flashlight that attaches to a hardhat) and shone it towards the bushes to scare it away. The first thing I noticed was the yellow eyes shining back at me about 50 feet away from a clump of small trees. The eyes seemed to be 8 feet or so above the ground with a large dark shape below it.

<-- National Monument in Prineville Oregon honoring the Storm King Firefighters who lost their lives

My first impression was a bear standing on its rear legs, so I grabbed a stick and threw it at the animal while yelling, "go away!" The animal turned and ran off downhill. As it ran I saw it was moving upright, like a person, with its arms swinging at its side. Bears will stand on their rear legs, but can't run or walk like that. About 150 feet or so downhill it stopped, raised its hand and pushed a tree branch aside, turned around and looked back at me. It was still upright.

The other two were awake now and looked where I was shining my light. One of them asked "A bear?" I mumbled something like "Yeah, a bear". Then whatever it was turned, ran off and disappeared. I said "Go back to sleep. I'll rebuild the fire to keep it away." They went back to sleep. I built a large fire, and walked around the perimeter of our camp gathering wood. I kept shining my light around but I never saw it come back.

In the daylight I checked the ground where I first saw it. The ground litter was visibly disturbed, but I couldn't make out any footprints. About noon we packed our gear and started to the trailhead to get picked up. While hiking I kept turning and looking around but never saw anything. The others kept kidding me about being stalked by a bear. To this day I am convinced it was not a bear. I have never seen a bear act like that, or walk/run on two legs. Over the years other smokejumpers and heli-tack crews have told me they have seen something big that was not a bear, but they go unreported. Reporting things like that can affect your career. [The Caribou Wilderness is a small wilderness area set on the eastern side of Mount Lassen, California. It's only 9 miles from top to bottom and 5 miles across, the 20,500 acre area is home to numerous lakes within easy walking distance of each other. The gentle, rolling plateau is great for beginning backpackers and day hikers]

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Please leave my address off and list as available upon request.
Tue, 21 Sep 1999