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A homey cornered me outside Fred Meyer last week after trotting through a couple rows of parked cars. He was excited about wild places opening. And he had a very specific mission in mind.

“Look,” he said breathlessly, “Bigfoot has been in the news across the state since before the big shutdown. There was that video of one using that wildlife bridge thing up by Snoqualmie in January, and another one seen up north by Sherman Pass. And I’m thinking that after the shutdown and people staying out of the hills, that a guy ought to be able to take a ‘bigfoot drive’ with his family and have a good chance to see one in person. I know you believe in these guys. Where should we go look around? What do you think? Hmmm?”

Well. I am a believer. And there has been a lot of “bigfoot” noise this year. (Google “bigfoot in Washington” and see for yourself. Particularly, check out the links to the Bellingham Herald and Mercury News.) I finally just shrugged and suggested any remote drive with OK and safe roads — maybe starting with Bethel Ridge, above Rimrock Lake off Highway 12.

I’m not entirely sure what that pic and video from our Washington State Department of Transportation are showing, but both are certainly intriguing. I have yet to see Sasquatch with my own eyes, but I have heard one eyewitness account I would take to the bank. Brother Brad Rodgers is a straight-shooter — several times publicly commended for coolness under fire and credited with saving lives in high mountain glacier mishaps. Brad says it; I believe it.

After a long day of scrambling across the basalt at the mouth of Whiskey Dick Creek, several of us were parked around a nice fire on a chilly 2001 evening. Brother Brad agreed to tell his story:

“Well, about 1977...my old girlfriend Rory and I, and another couple, Mike and Connie, went canoeing down the White River, north of Lake Wenatchee. We put in at the Tall Timbers… to float down to the lake. The plan was... two nights out.

“So we canoed down probably five… six miles that afternoon. We found this sand bar and were setting up tents and whatnot and Rory and I wanted to get some firewood and there was this great pile of brush on the other side. Mike and Connie stayed in camp and Rory and I commuted across the river to fill up the canoe with good firewood. We walked back into the woods 20 yards, or so...out of sight of each other, but not very far.

“All of a sudden there was this blood-curdling scream from out in the boonies. I thought it was Rory, so I went running back. And she thought it was me and we kinda met in the middle and ‘What the %?$# was that?’ It was like nothing I had ever heard before and I’ve heard cougar and bear and all kinds of things... and it was nothing like that. It was this deep, loud, guttural scream like somebody being disemboweled. Very big.”

“So we went, ‘Well, that was kinda weird, and it sounds like it’s far enough that whatever it was isn’t here now.’ So we loaded the boat and went back across to Mike and Connie and they said ‘Yeah we heard it, and thought it was weird and well, we don’t know what it is and we feel pretty safe.’

“So we built a big fire — like this one — and made dinner. We were around the fire — like this — and we heard stuff kinda rustling in the bushes… We thought deer or somethin’ and Rory and I went in our tent and Mike and Connie went in theirs. As soon as we zipped up the tents, and turned off the lights, one started screaming again. And then another. And another. Until there were like six or seven distinct different ones, all joined in. And there was movement all around us, through the bushes. They were close enough that they could see us, because when we unzipped a tent, they’d stop. And we zipped it back up, they’d start again. It just kept us up all night long...and it was absolutely terrifying...one of the few times that I felt really out of control and nothing you could do. We basically stayed up talking to each other, and just reassuring and reassuring each other and just kinda hanging on…

“First light, we just threw everything… Just pulled up stakes and pulled out tent poles and just threw everything in the canoes and we got outta there.

“The river is a real S-curve... We camped on the north side and the river went around to the west and came back to the east in a hairpin. And, as we made this first bend in the river, facing east again, Mike and Connie were in the front canoe, just a few yards ahead of us. They saw it first. It was standing in water right below its knees and this big hairy thing... and it took off running through slide alder, thick... And it just took off through there, just breaking slide alder, just hand over fist, just breaking it like it was a matchstick… a dry matchstick.

“I was in the back of our second canoe and by the time I got there, I just saw the very back of it, as it went crashing through the bushes. So I didn’t get the full face-on view that Mike and Connie got, but...it was not a bear. It was not anybody playing tricks. And it was screaming just like the day before. And we back-pedaled for a long time… thinking about what we were gonna do and ‘God, do we continue..’ and ‘what the hell..’ And finally after we heard this thing go through the bushes a long ways, it was far enough it didn’t feel like a threat to us, and so we went over to the spot it was standing in the water. In the wet sand …there was a footprint that was like this big, and like that wide and about that deep into the wet sand. So it was a big boy.

“Instead of camping another night...we just kept on going all the way to Lake Wenatchee.”

Well, here’s to summer — and Sasquatch/Bigfoot stories — in Paradise.

Jim Huckabay is retired from the Department of Geography at Central. His “WILD WINDS and Other Tales of Growing Up in the Outdoor West” is available online and at bookstores. Contact Jim and join in discussions at www.insidetheoutdoors.com.

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