We camped in an area that we’ve been to many times previously, and that we love because of its beauty. We’ve had activity every time we’ve been there, and this was no exception. This was absolutely a pleasure trip – a fun get-away with dear friends with some squatching thrown in - and that meant our activities were very passive; day hiking and scouting, and sitting around the fire at night and just listening and thermaling occasionally. Mirroring us in approach, the response from the big guys was also rather passive in nature, although when we put it all together it actually amounted to quite a bit of activity that might not have been noticed by the average camper.
Our first night around the fire brought wood knocks from 3 different directions, six in total and two of them very sharp ‘cracks’ that were quite close. We had done no knocks or calls ourselves, and in fact did nothing the elicit a 'response' the entire time we were there. This was obvious communication between at least two individuals.
The next day while day hiking we had something large thrown off of a cliff behind two of us. I was in the lead with Ashlan behind me, and whatever was thrown came in an arc and hit behind her some distance away from the cliff, and close to the stream. We could not find what had been thrown. We were ahead of the main group at the time and when Sybilla caught up to us and I began to move ahead again, Sybilla and Ashlan both heard movement on the cliff above them. Significant to us, of course, but something that might not have been noted as out-of-the-ordinary by the average person.
We followed a trail that we always thought ended where the mountain came down and met the creek. Upon further exploration however, we determined that the trail actually continued across the creek, so we carefully made our way across some very cold and fast water that was boiling over and around large boulders, to find a beautiful back packers trail that wound it’s way through a somewhat open forest with the stream continuing on the left, and a mountain rising on the right. All along that trail we found dozens of branch breaks and twists – some of them older, and some of them extremely recent, perhaps even done the night before or early that morning, as the leaves hadn’t even begun to wilt. Before we turned around to head back toward camp a single wood knock was heard ahead of us, which made all of us smile. On our way back out that trail, we found a place where a section of the trail split away and went higher than the low trail we had come in on, and then eventually rejoined the main trail. Teresa and Ashlan took the high trail and were growled at, but whatever was doing the growling remained hidden from sight, which was in itself significant.
We spent the rest of the afternoon playing in the creek and enjoyed observing schools of some sort of small darter that was bright orange in color. From the photos I’ve been able to find, I’m guessing we were seeing schools of the Slackwater darter. Whatever they were, they were beautiful. It almost looked like schools of goldfish.
That night brought a visit from something large that blacked out the star glow and tree outlines above Ashlan’s tent. She also heard movement and stealthy walking behind her tent. Several wood knocks were heard before day break. Again, all very subtle and other than the thrown object and the growl, very passive activity. And that started me thinking…..
In wilderness areas where people come to camp, human behavior becomes a very easy read for the Sasquatch. They quickly learn the places where tents or travel trailers will be found, they observe the common human behaviors over and over again – fishing, hiking, swimming, children playing, etc. They know that if humans are in the woods they’re going to be on the trails and that they are unlikely to leave those trails. And they also know that come nightfall, the humans will be hunkered down around campfires, cooking food that just might be left laying out (although in bear country most people do a good job of following the bear safety rules related to food). But the point is we’re pretty darned predictable. Do things change a bit during hunting season….of course. But I believe we underestimate the ability of these amazing beings to discern intent. I believe they read us as easily as we read a book. And even during hunting season, we’re very predictable. And sadly, pretty disappointing as a species based on the amount of trash that we found and picked up at every campsite we visited and every trail we walked.
I don’t profess to be any sort of expert in this field, but I would venture to speculate that the Sasquatch have developed an excellent system of ‘keeping check’ on human behavior while easily avoiding us in state and national forests and parks. When my dear friend R, and her father M, had their up close and personal class A encounter in the Shawnee National Forest a few years ago, they were within sight of the parking lot at the head of the back packers trail. They had hiked in on a cold January night, built a fire, cooked some bacon, done some calls and wood knocks and seemingly gotten no response. Deciding to pack it in, they were hiking back out to their vehicle when something caused M to turn his headlamp to the left and there stood the big guy, not 40 feet away, quietly observing them. I remember when R first called me to tell me about their exciting encounter that my first thought was, I'll bet that Sasquatch routinely checks the parking lot for vehicles, and if he finds any parked there I’ll bet he parallels the trail until he finds the humans so that he can see what they are up to. Makes sense, don’t you think? I wonder how many campers, hikers, back packers, or hunters have been quietly observed without every having been aware of it.