Friday, January 17, 2014

Sasquatch Winter

"Sqwuack!  Sqwuack!'  The sound of a grey jay never sounded so welcoming as it did this sunny morning at 8000ft in the picturesque high country of trinity county.  A friend come to visit gave Chris the final ounce of courage needed to roust himself from his place of safety.  Searching the remains of last night's raid, he couldn't discern whether or not anything was missing so he gave into his rumbling stomach.  Placing his stove on a rock, he struck a match to the granite and kissed the hissing valve with a "poof".  Propane burned blue under a titanium pot.  He carefully measured out two cups of water and poured it onto the hissing pan.  Unfolding his havalon knife, he checked its edge against the packaging of freeze dried biscuits and gravy.  The brand new razor edge passed with a clean slice and he poured the contents into a lightweight bowl, still slightly marred with the remains of last nights kung pao chicken.  "Adds extra flavor" he could hear his Dad say as he shook a few tablespoons of coffee into a tin mug.  By this time the water began to bubble so waiting, he turned his attention to the breathtaking surroundings.  Granite faces, scree slides and vast, flowing boulder gardens offset the greener, softer patches of willow and aspen.  Sunbeams began their march down the mountain faces and Chris suddenly noticed the vibrant contrast from last night.  Mountain chickadees quarreled in concert, squirrels bickered and the intermittent throttle of a woodpecker all joined in the cacophony.  Like the "camp robber" who woke him this morning and now waited patiently on a spruce bough nearby, the animals kept him company.  Unlike last night, when he felt alone.  Alone like a solo tourist who suddenly found himself in a dark alley with three or four "local boys".  Was it just the onset of darkness that unleashed the cloak of silence over the valley?  Or was there a real presence, in the form of a giant ape-man that opened a gigantic can of "shut the hell up" over the area's inhabitants.  Chris had read many stories of the "feeling" that people got from being near a bigfoot.  Now he knew that its presence was as unmistakeable as a light switch:  click it "On" and the creepies invade your gut and escalate to the top of your scalp;  Switch it "Off" and all the heavy, dark feeling lifts as a fog from the marsh.
The water reached a rolling boil.  Poured into the containers, a steam lifted in the air.  His sister used to say you were releasing a spirit when you did that.  Quickly he wolfed down the biscuits, chopping them up with his spork to release the vapors.  Sipping his coffee meditatively, he pondered the dilemma of finding such an elusive creature in such a vast landscape.  His experiences and research told him that looking for them was a futile exercise.  Best to exploit their natural curiosity and let them come to you.  Still, he couldn't just sit and wait all day for nightfall so he laced up his boots and headed for a secluded ridge at the fire side of the alpine lake where he might search for some sign along it's banks and then head for high ground to glass for clues.  He planned on buying a deer tag for this coming fall so was going to use the opportunity to scout for sign.  Figuring he could kill the proverbial "two birds with one stone", he set out to look for signs of life and possibly a bachelor herd of high-racked blacktail bucks with their antlers still puffy in velvet.  His March was a brisk one and he found himself in the valley before the sun.  Skirting the creek, more like a seep really, he searched for muddy spots that might hold a decent track.  Finding one, he squatted to read the story. 

Sasquatch Spring

Chirping, twittering, singing, song birds serenaded Chris whilst he warmed up a pot of water for coffee and oatmeal.  Still in his sleeping bag, half protruding from his tent, the morning sun burned through the sequoias in a hazy eastern dawn.  Bolstered by the warm illuminating forces of our closest star Chris chuckled at last night's paranoia.  Caffeine surged through his veins and a plan began to formulate:  No one ever finds him, he finds you.  Rummaging through his gear, Chris located his trail cam and checked that the batteries had juice and the memory card had space.  He strapped it to a tree overlooking his camp and camouflaged it as best he could with pine boughs he slipped between the straps, careful not to block the flash, trigger or lens.
The skeptics popular argument:  With all of these game cameras in the woods, why don't we have some clear pictures? -Is a decent one.  Though there are a few shots of dark, fat fingers and even two decent photos of a gangly adolescent sniffing some bear bait in Pennsylvania, no one has hit the jackpot yet with an indisputable shot of an adult, complete with facial features.  Maybe, as some conjecture, the camera emits some sort of low frequency sound that is alarming to biggie, or maybe they are just intimately familiar with their own living rooms and shy away from any new and unexplained "packages" in their territory.  Much like a flight attendant might flee from and subsequently report an unmanned backpack in an airport terminal.  In any case, Chris was out here to beat the odds and, just like you can't bag game if you don't go out and hunt them, one cannot catch anything in a trap if it isn't set.  So Chris gathered a day pack full of belongings and headed for the top of Castle Crags, the highest peak in the marble mountains, and left his camera and a sprinkling of hope behind at his base camp.
Heading off at a familiar clip, eating up ground at a pace that wouldn't break a sweat, Chris gained elevation and a new outlook with every step.  The trail bissected a boulder field and then wove it's way through a heavily forested draw, spitting him out again in more alpine terrain, his view spreading out and growing.  As he  marched he recalled the video he had watched over and over on youtube.  The video that brought him here and rekindled his confidence that a hairy apeman could be delivered safely into the context of rational conversation.
What is seen in the video is an outing for kids who are mentally handicapped but obviously fit enough for a trek into the high country with their supervisors.  The footage begins with the counselor narrating for the folks at home as he pans over what appears to be a bigfoot's shelter.  He comments on the materials used to create the structure and the fact that no sharp object appears to have cut the branches limbs and boughs that make up the tidy A frame shelter.  Whatever made it appears to have used an abundance of brute strength to crack off limbs over 6" across.  In the background one of the students blurts out that the owner is returning or something to that effect and for the remainder of the video we watch a very tall, upright creature with long arms meander down the spine of castle crags, skylined atop a towering peak.  How tall is unclear until a re-enactment shows it had to have been upwards of eight or nine feet.  The narrator notes the creatures agitated behavior and puts words in the Squatches mouth as it were, "Get out of my camp, Get out of my camp!"  Comments ranged from seriously skeptic to convinced but what stuck with Chris was the gait of the mystery camper.  The arms swung down near the knees and the head attached to the shoulders directly.  It's knees seemed perpetually bent as it stooped down the steep slope.
Chris had chosen his campsite carefully based on what he could glean from the footage and now he hoped to reach the area where the creature had stood.  Calves and thighs protested with an intense burn now and he paused to take in the scenery.  An intense vertigo overwhelmed him as he turned to face downslope.  A gently breeze rocked him like a seasickness as the panoramic abyss threatened to swallow him whole.  He marveled at the landscape.  Hundreds of thousands of acres here and more than the eye could see constituted a territory few modern humanoids could even comprehend and yet most "expert skeptics" are convinced there is nowhere for an as yet underdiscovered animal to hide.  If only he could drag them here for one look.  One taste of this native anthropoids home turf and possible seems more plausible than impossible.
Suckling from his bladder in between gulps of too thin-scratchy alpine air, he returned to the mission at hand:  reach the tree from the video and then literally reach for the limb.  The one the silhouette walks under without ducking, creating a perfect frame of reference for Chris to see for himself just what kind of height range the creature belongs in.  The cluster of trees grew larger with each step and he approached the last few paces cautiously.  The last sip of a fine chardonnay.  The closer he got the  more he doubted what he was seeing and then he was under the exact limb.  It had to be as the cluster was made up of only five altitude defiant trees and this, the one on the right was easy to pick out.  Chris reached his hand to it's full height of 7 feet and felt like he did as a point guard in high school, small.  The limb was perched at about the same height as a regulation basketball hoop putting the creature convincingly, at least to Chris, in the 9-10 foot range!
While it's plausible that a 7 foot man could have hoaxed or colluded to hoax the video, climbing 1000 extra feet to become a youtube anomaly.  But to do it on stilts becomes a circus act of epic proportions.  Highly, highly unlikely if not impossible.  Chris shook his head and sat down to admire the world from his perch sans vertigo.
Later, from the peak, Chris pulled out his spotting scope and glassed the valley below.  Even with 25 power glass, his tent was only a small grey speck in the tableu of alpine habitat.  He wondered what the creature was thinking as he paced agitatedly from this crows nest.  He also realized how easily the creature had traversed the treacherous terrain.  Every one of Chris's steps was calculated and accompanied with the real fear of falling to his death.  The film subject sauntered down the mountain like a neighbor retrieving his newspaper from the driveway.  Whereas before the Marble Mountains footage was intriguing to Chris, it was now convincingly legit.  No question an agitated squat had been here, would probably return and was very likely in the vicinity at this very moment.  Possibly it was watching him plod along right now.