You know, for a large portion of my life I really was concerned about what other people thought. I pretended I wasn’t. Pretended that my own ideals went well beyond the concerns of lesser minds. But the truth is if I really didn’t care what other people thought, I would have shared this story with the masses long ago.  But now we have gotten to the point where the internet can easily demonstrate that there are a vast number of tales that are far stranger and more unbelievable than mine. So I might as well share.

It was quite a few years ago; summer of 1980. Mid August, the 19th to be precise.
I was on a lone venture in the Oregon Cascades.

Had you known me in my youth, you would have considered it typical for me to hop on my motorcycle for an unplanned exploit. Even in the forest with nothing more than a backpack, bow and arrow and a couple bottles of water. Oh, and a camera. Always a camera. I was, after all, an inspiring photographer.
But this trip was a little different. This time was not in the semi local timber of the Santa Cruz Mountains. This was a venture to the wide and dense Oregon Cascades –beautiful mountains, so plush, fresh and green. Dense with the life of the forest unexplored by me, untried, and really, unprepared for.  I reached Crater Lake after a day’s stop in Crescent City California.  Cruising into the Park entrance on my Honda Silver Wing 650, man I was cool!

I didn’t need much from the ranger station; didn’t even sign in, as all good backpackers or overnighters are obligated to do. With the bike secured, backpack in place, and camera in hand, I simply picked a trail and began walking. Fresh, clean mountain air filled my lungs as broken rays of sun sporadically warmed my face and shoulders.  Passing a wooden bridge that spanned a small ravine and running creek, I eventually found the prime location to setup camp; a small clearing, close to sparkling water, and no one else in sight. Yep, it was perfect.

After painstakingly opening my favorite camping meal; a can of tuna with salt and pepper, I decided to grab my camera and search for the best view to capture the sunset, which I was expecting in about an hour or so. Once again, off I went on another adventure.
But the funny thing about the Cascades, at least in that area, in that year, the trees are dense. So dense, that no matter how far I traveled, there was never a vantage point to shoot from. I was aware the sun was setting, but I was never witness to it; only experienced the darkness that continued to overtake the light. Soon, or at least sooner than I was prepared for, the entire forest was enveloped in night. Forest green had become forest gray. The ground could only be sensed with each step, and the sky, well, there was no sky.  The canopy of branches that prevented me from finding a picturesque vista also prevented any remaining light from reaching the ground, or my eyes.

I had already begun my trek back to camp, when I walked right into a solid, full grown tree. It was so dark I could not see my hand in front of my face or the tree in this case. I felt it was more dangerous to continue walking than it would be to wait out the night. There I was; alone, and in total darkness. There was no food, no water, no weapons or even elements of thick covering for warmth, save the shirt on my back. A tense situation it was. Was I scared?  I have to admit the truth. Of course not!  I was cool, and this, after all, was an adventure.

I had a watch, but this was before I owned a digital, LED or backlit screen. So I had no idea what time it was when the coldness started to take hold. My only option to try to stay warm was to begin singing. At the top of my lungs, for what must have been hours on end, I sang any song I could think of. I sang each song over and over again, as many times as I could. This was for survival and it served a purpose. As long as I kept singing, my blood was pumping, my lungs would fill with air, and my body would stay warm. But there was another reason for the loudness; to give warning to all of those strange sounds of large predators I heard roving the woods.  I wanted to let them know that there was a totally crazy person out here, and they should just stay away from the insanity.  And it worked –for a very long time, until all of my energy ran out. Again, I had no way to judge the time, but at some point, the cold, the lack of food and water, and the exhaustion from a long day, had taken its toll and the music died.  Shivering, I curled myself into a ball, tried to cover myself with the branches I felt close at hand, and made my best attempt to squeeze my entire body into the hat that was on my head.  To say it was freezing would be totally accurate. The following day, when back at the ranger station, I checked the overnight temperature for the area. It had gotten down to 29 degrees. That’s cold!

Now imagine, here I lay, in a curled up shivering ball, no longer making a sound, drifting in and out of consciousness, when I began to hear distant thumping.  I could not discern what could be making such a sound. Certainly not a bear. Other than a fierce growl or roar, a bear will only create the cracking sound of breaking branches as it wanders its dominion. Unless it’s taking a large log and beating it into the ground, there is no way a bear would have created that sound. And they were large, deep thumps.  That sound was not a moose. A moose has 4 legs. Even if running at full clip, thereby using two of the four simultaneously, the sound would differ greatly. It would be closer to a heart beat than the continued, evenly spaced and loud thumps I was hearing. And they were getting louder. And closer! Then I heard something else. It’s hard to describe, but I will liken it to the sound of a well trained athlete exhaling in a similar fashion to a three to one beat.  What I mean by that is, if a running athlete is pacing himself, and is trained to do so, he will take in three breathes and exhale one strong one.  I don’t know what made me think of that, alone in the dark, but that is exactly what it sounded like.  Only it didn’t sound like a man. It sounded much larger.  All other creatures in the forest were still. Perhaps all of the other animals were asleep or more likely, they knew what was creating the sound and wisely made certain to be out of its range. Then, through the echoing of the cold forest air, I heard something new that etched its place in my memory forever. A noise! No, a speech. A sound as if someone was talking garble and making nonsense noises to pretend to be talking. It was loud and guttural.  It made no sense. But there is no possible way it came from any typical backwards creature that I had ever encountered.
OK, NOW I was scared –really scared, petrified in fact. I kept as quiet and as still as I possibly could, not even opening my eyes to see what type of creation of God or Demon was soon to rip me apart. There was no reason to open my eyes. The night was as black as pitch anyway. I thought, “How could anything see, let alone run in this blackness?”

I don’t know how close it passed, or how large it was, or even if it sensed I was there, but whatever it was, it was traveling further away now  as the thumping also faded into the distance.  I was no longer cold, or even scared, just relieved.  I was even more relieved  when hours later, enough light returned to the sky that I could find my way back to camp. I did not even realize then how lucky I was the previous night. Not because I survived a passing encounter with some unknown terror, but because I discovered that, in my walk through the darkness, I had actually passed over the wooden bridge instead of walking over the edge of the hill and into a ravine and down to a cold river. Wow, how lucky.

Back at camp, and with the last bit of strength I could muster, I crawled into my sleeping bag.  Ah, the comfort and warmth was truly joyful.  By now the sunlight seemed to barely be streaking through the tops of the trees. It was 4:30 am, maybe 5, I thought. No sooner had my head been zipped into the mummy bag than I began to hear that thumping sound in the distance again. And guess what? It was getting closer! Revived from the quick dose of adrenaline, I popped up to scan the horizon.  And there, in the distance, I knew exactly what I saw. I can describe it with the best possible verbiage, but to personally mimic the likeness is the only way to truly allow others to imagine what I saw.  It was the figure of a man. A man, not a bear, not an ape, not a hunched Neanderthal, but a man figure.  He was running, but not really. He was traveling fast, with an extended gate, but his knees were scarcely bent at all. His arms swung by his side, low and even. And his face, his entire body, was covered with hair. I wish to emphasize this. It was hair, not fur. As though a homeless man, living on the streets went unclothed and his hair never stopped growing, in any region.  And then, as if to prove to me that this vision was not a dream, that speech once again echoed through the trees. The grunt, or garble or whatever it should be called. I heard it clear as day.  Since all of my total fear was consumed the previous night in the cold, I had none left to overtake me.  So there was only one thing to do. I put on my shoes, grabbed my camera and began running.  Not away from, but toward the vision. When I had reached a spot at the creek I know he had crossed, I looked for evidence. He was long gone, disappeared into the distance long before I got even close to the large tree branch that I watched him walk over. He walked over it without even hopping, but it came up to my thigh!  There was nothing left for me to photograph. No foot print, no hair, no trace.  Even if there was, the lens was totally fogged over from the temperature difference between the camera bag and the morning air.

Later that day, after a much needed rest, I made my way to the ranger station. I started up a conversion with the ranger on hand, and queried him about the possible siting of Big Foot.  He chuckled and mentioned that “People say they have seen him in these mountains.”  Innocently, I asked as to where the “thing” had been sited.  Rick (aren’t all rangers called Rick?), pointed to a glass covered map on the counter.  My lip quivered and chills crept down my back as his finger came to rest on nearly the exact spot where I had made camp.  I didn’t share my story with him because he already made it obvious that he felt anyone with such a tale was either mischievous or crazy.  Basically that is the same reason I rarely shared the story with anyone over the last 30 years.

In fact there were many times over the years that I tried to explain away my own memories by attributing it to lack of sleep or food, or the tricks that hypothermia can play on the mind. But years later, after the internet began to connect people in ways that were previously impossible, a friend directed me to a Big Foot website.  That particular website had not only drawings and photos, but sound recordings.  When I clicked on one of those recordings, it instantly brought me back to the forest, the Cascades, to the summer of 1980.  There is no way, no way in the world that some other person could create exactly the same sound that I heard. Not without meeting me, knowing me, and working with me. But there it was, in multiple recordings.  Proof to me that Big Foot really does exist.
Sound at the bottom of this page:

So at this point, actually long ago, I developed a few theories as to what Big Foot is and why we rarely see him.  I can share these theories with those who are truly interested.  But to people out there, who, like me, have seen but still may not trust their own experience, I say this:
Believe! You are correct! You really did see what you think you saw. I believe you. And others, many others, over decades upon decades and into the centuries, have seen and experienced what you have.  Those you meet who choose not to believe, well, let them. It is their life and their experiences which create the life they will have. But your life, your experiences are so much greater and richer–at least for this one time.