1972-74 Sasquatch Events in Sequoia Kings Canyon, California
The organization had just secured a lease on an abandoned and neglected girl scout camp at the end of road 14S29 in Sequoia National Forest. Along with about a dozen other staff, I arrived a couple of weeks before the first batch of students to begin the arduous process of getting the camp in shape for the summer. This involved numerous repairs to virtually every building, reconstructing the water system, and complying with various fire safety and health requirements.
While we worked there the days tended to be cold and foggy. There were still large patches of snow on the ground. At lunch we would huddle around a fire eating soup and drinking hot chocolate, pretending we were inmates in a Russian gulag (a few of us were reading "A Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovitch" at the time).
I had my dog with me, a black Irish Setter-Labrador Retriever mix named "Whiskey." A lot of animals came through the camp that first season; we commonly saw deer and several times Whiskey chased bears up trees. When he did this at night it was very annoying; he would bark until I went out and found him and dragged him back into the cabin where we all slept.
We slept with the cabin door open; the way the cabin was constructed made it possible for us to raise flaps all the away around, so it was pretty much open air sleeping on bunks, with a roof above. One night Whiskey woke me up when leapt from bed barking, dashed out the door and ran partway up a small hill nearby. Then he suddenly went dead silent. I thought, "Oh no, a bear finally fought back." But in a moment I felt him crawl back onto my bunk; he was shaking.
Then I heard a series of footsteps coming down the hill toward the cabin. They were very heavy; I thought I could actually feel my bunk vibrate from their impact. And each stride seemed to be very long; in a moment the footsteps reached the cabin, paused briefly, then passed by the front door and crossed the length of the cabin--approximately 16 feet--in what seemed like two strides.
I lay awake for quite awhile trying to figure out what to do if the creature returned. The only solution I could think of was to hold my sleeping bag over my head and pretend I was asleep. I've had occasion to use this strategy several times since then, and it's worked--I'm still alive to tell the story.
One thing that was strange that night was the total silence in the cabin; as far as I could tell everyone else had slept through it. But in the morning I found out how wrong I was. Everyone was talking about it. Turned out I was one of the last people to wake up that night; some had been awake for several minutes listening to what they described as logs being thrown around on the hilltop. And, fearing an attack, everyone had developed a survival strategy, most of which were more promising than mine: a couple were ready to jump out the back of the cabin and run, some were going to burrow under their bunks, and so on. We searched for tracks, but the pine duff had not been raked away in several years and none of the snow patches held any tracks.
Several of us had brought hunting bows with us for recreational target practice. One day most of the staff had gone for a few hours to Stony Creek Village, about three miles away, leaving two staff there. These two, who we will call JB and John, were practicing with their bows when they heard a horrific screaming noise coming from near the outhouses, about 60 yards away. They ran into the kitchen, closed and barred the door, and waited behind a large commercial stove with arrows nocked on their bows. They heard the scream two more times from just outside the kitchen. They stayed locked in the kitchen until the rest of us returned, when they emerged to tell us the story.
A month or so later I was in the back country with the head climbing instructor, who we will call PC. I was his assistant (which started my career as a climbing instructor). Instead of traveling with groups, we traveled independently so we would meet with various groups at back country peaks along the Great Western Divide, to guide them to the summit. We were camped next to a stream at Comanche Meadow, near Sugarloaf Valley. It was a warm night, and we slept with our down bags unzipped all the way to our feet.
I came awake suddenly when I heard a sound coming from near PC's sleeping area. It was like a low growl or moan. Immediately I felt a sense of terror, and I kept my eyes closed. My sleeping bag was lifted away from me, exposing my body. Keeping my eyes closed, I reached up and grabbed it and pulled back down, holding it tight against my chest. Then three times I was lifted off the ground, all except my heels, and put back down again. I tried to scream but was too scared. After the third time I lay awake for an hour or so, and did not hear another sound. I couldn't tell if whatever had lifted me was still there, standing over me, or if it had silently crept away. Eventually I fell into a fitful sleep. I told PC the story; he dismissed it as a bad dream. He is now a doctor in New Zealand.
About two weeks after this a group of students were placed on solo along Cunningham Creek. Solo lasted two or three days, during which times students were alone and were instructed to stay within a prescribed, small area. Staff visited once a day to check on each student. Students were given whistles to blow in case of an emergency. One afternoon all the whistles started going off. The staff on duty ran from site to site, and heard from several students that they had witnessed a large hairy creature on the banks of the stream, walking on hind legs through dense willow thickets.
In winter of 1973-74 a group of about 10 of us skied into our base camp (the location of incident I). The road in is unplowed during the winter, and it is a 3 1/2 mile ski trip to reach the camp. JB (of incident II) was along on the journey. The snow conditions were not good; it had not snowed for a week or so and the surface was crusty and hard, except in the afternoon where exposed areas would soften a bit in the sun. We spent our first two days practicing skiing techniques, inventing little "Olympic" course, and so on.
On the third morning I walked from the kitchen in the direction of the outhouse described in incident II. As I crossed a large clearing I came across a distinct set of tracks that came in from the woods to the north and disappeared into the woods to the south. The tracks were not deep at the edges of the clearing, but were about 1" deep in the center, where the sun had softened the snow the afternoon before. These tracks were about the same length as my foot, but half again as wide. The toes were very distinct, and the big toe was elongated into the pad of the foot, like a thumb. If I remember right, the big toe was in line with the other toes; but it's been a long time. The stride was considerably longer than my stride, maye 4 - 4 1/2 feet. Those of us who thought it was sasquatch figured it was a juvenile.
I went back to the kitchen and told people about the tracks. We all went to look at them. One of our staff was an avid hunter; his father had worked as hunter in some official capacity with the forest service, and so our staff person had grown up hunting and tracking and fishing. He inspected the tracks while the rest of us waited for his verdict. Eventually he said, "Well, they're real tracks. They aren't bear. They aren't human. They aren't any animal I know of. And I ain 't gonna say no more."
Later in the day of incident V it started to snow. We were happy about that, since skiing conditions would improve a lot if it didn't snow too much. JB (of incident II) took a group of about 6 students on a tour down a logging road that traversed a hillside below the camp, heading down toward Stony Creek. Just a few hundred yards from camp they came across the same tracks we had seen in the morning, now clearly outlined in freshly fallen snow. As the snow was still falling, they decided to follow the tracks while they were still visible. They followed them on the road, downhill for about a quarter mile. Then they came to a place where the track-maker had paused for a while; they could see how it had shifted about in one place. From that place they had a clear view of a portion of the road they had skied down a few moments before. The tracks left the road and when up a gully through thick dogwood and willow.
There are some other interesting stories from those seasons also, but the six I have shared seem most likely to be sasquatch related. I've felt a bit nervous in the back country since these events took place, even though I have spent literally hundreds of nights sleeping peacefully in many wildernesses at all seasons. To this day I still don't like to travel alone in the wilderness.
August 6, 2006
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