A Night in the Sierras
It was June, 1988, and I'd been camping for three days in the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. I was in my sleeping bag and listening to my short-wave radio at a loud volume. It was almost 9 p.m. and there'd just been an announcement for the Lone Ranger on radio station KNX. Only a few minutes before a party of three went by on the trail and I exchanged a few words with them about the local fishing. It was only moments later when a scream rang out that could turn your hair white. It was no further than 100 feet away from me, but out of my line of sight due a nearby ranger-snow-survey cabin.
I've never to this day heard anything even remotely like that sound, not even in the recorded sounds that Peter Guttilla was kind enough to send me.
It was a deep BIG sound. Despite the immediate trembling fear I felt, I got up and grabbed my 6-volt flash light and put the light to the ground ahead of me. I walked over to the trail in the direction of the sound. The size of what I saw running off toward the river almost makes me wish I'd never gone to look. I remember shaking, standing there hearing it thrash through the small lode pole pines and brush down by the creek. The only way I have of estimating its size is by the administrative pasture corral that was between me and it. Even though I never saw it face-to-face, the split-second glimpse I got turned me into no better than a frightened three-year-old who'd just seen a monster.
A conservative estimate of its size would be seven-feet plus. There's no way this was a bear or (mountain) lion. I've spent hundreds of nights in the mountains and I know what I saw and heard. And I've been looking for it ever since - ever since I realized it was out there. I think it was there all the time, but I never put it all together until last year (1991) when I met a man who told me about a sighting of a Sasquatch a few miles away from a favorite quail-hunting spot of mine down in the transverse ranges.
What got me to go investigate was that something had made feel uneasy enough to pack up and leave early from a great hunting trip. At the time I had no idea, but when I went out to the area of the man's sighting and heard banging and whistling in the chaparral, that's when I realized I'd heard that unique high-pitched whistle before when I was in Kern County. Since then I've read all I could on the subject and this year I started to blow a slide whistle in an attempt to attract the creature so I could get a moving picture of it. I know this is a lot harder to do than it sounds, and I know it'd take cunning and nerve to get close enough to actually film it.
Getting back to what I remember about that night, the prominent thing would be the smell. Initially I noticed nothing, but over the next few hours I kept smelling what I thought were rotting oranges. At times it smelled very strong, like when you have a bag of fruit in your refrigerator and open it and find them green and moldy. I'm sure it was around for a few hours. I don't know how to describe it, but you could feel it. I kept hearing things, first on one side, then on the other down below me in the creeks. I just sat there with my single-mantle Coleman lantern on, listening. I kept trying to rationalize it away, but the experience was shocking, very hard to deal with in your mind. I decided to build a fire and then I felt safe.
At about 1 a.m. I found myself drifting off to sleep. My lantern was almost out of fuel so I filled it and put in by my ground cloth and slept until first light. I remember thinking the birds were a good sign that it moved on. When I woke, the lantern was still burning which helped me realize it wasn't just a bad dream. All I could think about was getting as far away from there as I could as fast as possible. I spent about half an hour looking for tracks, but all I could find were some splashed areas near the creek and some small plants that had been pulled up and put down on a stump that weren't there the day before.
All I can say about a description is that it weighs a lot more than I do and it appeared black, although I never put my light directly on it. It was gone from view in under ten seconds. In retrospect I realize I should've stayed around the next day and looked for physical evidence, but the only thing I could think of was getting out of there. That evening the people - they were on horseback, by the way - who'd gone by just prior to the scream the night before, came by going the other way. I asked them if they'd heard the thing and what they thought it was. These people worked cows in the area for years.
After a short discussion about the sound I'd heard and speculation on whether it could've been a fisher (weasel-like animal with dark fur), the older man in the group suggested that it must've been a Bigfoot! I let him bring up the subject.
When I got back to town, I went to the forest service station office and a man with a backpack was filing a report about how half of his food vanished from a tree in the middle of the night. He said his food was seven feet off the ground or higher. He was about six feet tall. He tied two bags of food to one side of his bear-rope with a parachute cord and counter-balanced the other side with a piece of wood of equal weight. He put a 30-gallon plastic trash bag over the food about 1 a.m. that night, the night after my adventure, because it had started to rain. When he got up, the plastic bag had been stretched apart and one bag of food was gone. Nothing was ripped, chewed, shredded or torn and the other half was still in the tree. I've yet to meet a bear that exhibited such traits. I mentioned the word "Sasquatch" and all four forest-service employees in the room went silent and looked around at each other. One man said it must have been a marmot (burrowing rodent).
Since this time I talked to a man who has lived in the area for most of his 60 years. He told me he and his 80-year-old mother had seen a nine-foot-tall, red Bigfoot in the area two years earlier. He described the tracks perfectly. He said he never talked about it with anybody because no one would believe him. (In the same area in 1986 two scientists doing wildlife studies reported hearing loud screams they couldn't identify.
With grateful permission...but the author requested anonymity.
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