Starting point: University of California, Berkeley, 11 November 2016.
In the fall of 2016 our prose writing workshop (“Traveling, Thinking, Writing”) read books by Eddy Harris, Linda Grant Niemann, and Robert Michael Pyle. Pyle’s book is called Where Bigfoot Walks and one weekend in early November we endeavored to go out walking in one of the places where Bigfoot is reputed to walk, Siskiyou County in northern California. We drove north for five hours—in a rented van—from Berkeley.
Friends owned a piece of land in unincorporated Cecilville, on the South Fork of the Salmon River and we arrived after dark in the rain and set up our tents by flashlight. We were unsure that we were in the “right” place until one of us found a pizza delivery receipt bearing the name of one of the owners. The second day we hiked up past the snow line to Hidden Lake and later, upon our descent, traveled to eat and drink and mingle at the Emporium, a bar and sandwich shop in Callahan, California. On the third day we returned to Berkeley.
At the Emporium we met various people and engaged in a number of conversations. It was the weekend following the national election of 2016 and Berkeley’s county, Alameda, had voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton; most Siskiyou County voters had cast ballots for Donald Trump. But politics was kept on the back burner, as it were, and we talked about the terrain, the numerous dogs present, travel by horseback to remote places, our families, and Bigfoot. One man, Nick, let us know that he had in fact had an encounter with Bigfoot. His report, published originally on the Bigfoot Research Organization website is excerpted below.
We had hoped and intended to contact members of the Karuk Tribe but those connections did not materialize. In the Karuk dictionary (http://linguistics.berkeley.edu/~karuk/karuk-dictionary.php?lx=ara&ge=&sd=&lxGroup-id=4215&audio=&exact-match=&index-position=526) is this entry: “maruk’áraar / maruk’arara- • N • uphill person, giant, ‘bigfoot,’ ‘sasquatch’; Literally: ‘uphill person.’ ” Our interest continues.
Many Northwest Native groups have stories involving Bigfoot, the Sasquatch, Dzonoqua, Omah, etc.
Clayton Mack—who died in 1993—is author of the memoirs Bella Coola Man and Grizzlies and White Guys. Both books are well known in British Columbia, his native province. He was a member of the Nuxalk Nation and a famous guide. In Grizzlies and White Guys he recalls meeting a Sasquatch while in the employ of an American hunter:
"I look at his face and his chest. The shape of his face is different than a human being face. Hair over face. Eyes were like us but small. Ears small too. Nose just like us, little bit flatter that’s all. Head kind of looks small compared to body. Looks friendly doesn’t look like he’s mad or has anything against us. Didn’t snort or make a sound like a grizzly bear. On the middle of his chest, looked to me like a line of no hair, hair split apart little bit in the middle. Skin is black where that hair split apart. It was a male I think. I can’t, no way am I able to shoot him. I had a big gun too…
After we see it, we just leave it. That Sasquatch went in the woods, went in the big timber. He took off fast. Looked like he used his hands when he took off first, like a hundred-yard runner, looks like it. Pulling himself up with his arms, with his hands first, looks like. He never made a sound. Just moved off into the heavy timber like a fast moving shadow."
I’ve spent a fair amount of time in northern B.C.--last bike trip there (starting in Oregon) was 2013--but the closest I’ve come to Bigfoot has been in southern Washington (camping/ hiking in the Gifford Pinchot 20 years ago) and on another cycling trip along the Salmon and Klamath Rivers here in California in 2011. Closest? I “believe” in nothing except that sometimes there’s something about the woods. Bigfoot is just interesting.
“In Salishan mythology, Seatco are large, hairy wild men of the forest. There are two different kinds of Seatco that appear in folklore: powerful but comparatively benign forest spirits sometimes referred to as Night People (similar to the Sasquatch of the Halkomelem tribes,) and fearsome, malevolent man-eaters sometimes referred to as Stick Indians. The two beings are often confused in folklore and anthropology alike, because it is believed to antagonize these spirits to call them by their Salish names in public, so general terms like Seatco (which just means ‘spirit’) Night People, and Stick Indians are much more commonly used by Northwest Native Americans.”
Grover Krantz (1931-2002), professor of anthropology at Washington State University, was one of the scientists interested in the possibility of Bigfoot. He studied at U.C. Berkeley and earned a B.A. in 1955 and an M. A. in 1958. He went on to earn a doctorate at the University of Minnesota. In the early 1960s he worked at Berkeley’s Hearst Museum of Anthropology and in 1970 donated to the museum his plaster casts of enormous footprints that had been found in the snow in Bossburg, Washington. The casts were last exhibited in 2008 and at a Gallery Talk at the museum (reported by the Berkleyan, http://www.berkeley.edu/news/berkeleyan/2008/02/27_bigfoot.shtml)
Berkeley philosophy professor Sherrilyn Roush “noted that scientists once refused to credit the claims of lay people who reported seeing meteorites falling from the sky. Drawing the analogy to the numerous eyewitness accounts of Bigfoot, many of them from Native Americans, she suggested scientists have been unduly dismissive of ‘marginal science.’ ”
Siskiyou County Haikai
(by the personnel listed above)
Ms. Zhao kept track of the seen animals. Skunks, deer, foxes. Poet said, Their eyes flash once in car headlights and are gone. Dark road was banked for driving. Five people breathed in the van over some Coast Range shoulder—Zhao’s black bangs, three bearded boys, LaSalle’s brown hair pulled back severely from her face and stuffed into her Glacier hat. Poet said, Their deaths are not elegant. At the Callahan store someone said to find Bigfoot up in Happy Camp, with the Karuks. Marukáraar’s the word up there—“literally, uphill person.” Poet said, They have the faces of no-one.
Tick-tock the clock is deafening and evokes the anxiety of the rain that soon will follow. Staley finds the pizza box that verifies the rain will fall on us in the right country. In Cecilville, Zhao and LaSalle pitch their tent and Staley’s tent is already set. The voice said, in that country the animals have the faces of people, and there is eagerness and anxiety of our talk with “N” and Jensen, before we even know we will meet them.
November rubbed her back against our campsite, stretching out her leafy arms to hide us from the morning sun. Rain pooled in pockets of mud, heaving a dampness up from the stew of rotting leaves and earth. Weiya said in the meadow there are horses, and so we hurried with carrots purchased before we even knew we would meet them. Two mangy horses, one white, the other brown, eating the grass—the beautiful uncut hair of graves—waited for us in the island of sun. My fingers slowly unfurled in the warmth and on my flat palm I offered a baby carrot.
Leaving statue horses who’d learned to graze, we ourselves grazed upward, exchanging muddied earth for snowy patches that steamed with elevated atmosphere. The sign lay fallen. We were somewhere unmarked. Upward one mile, five-thousand-two-hundred-and-eighty-feet, lay something hidden. If we could find it, and could we make it? Skeptical clamberers were scoffed at. Pick up, for God’s sake. When we call you back to the lake. There was a child waiting, its tiny feet submerged in frigid water alongside brindled furs and a mountain family. They smiled and graciously burned our celluloid, twice, before we lost our trail upon the descent.
Five-thousand-two-hundred-and-eighty feet above sea level, we woke up late to quiet blankets enveloping the city. It fills with alabaster wool / the wrinkles of the road. Ice spidering across the windowpane, delicate webs staining glass opaque. “Snowpocalypse 2016.” News tickers flashing red; we stayed inside. Curiosity and pleading yellow lab eyes drew us out, borrowing scarves and robust brown boots to sink step by step into the heaping drifts of cotton candy. Jeep groaning in protest at the pillowing piles beneath its feet. Emerging into stony orange, a spiral of massive sunset slabs smothered in blinding white.
One must have a mind of winter/ To regard the frost and the boughs/ Of the pine-trees crusted with snow. The first snow greeted Nankai University yesterday, my host university in Tianjin, northern part of China, clothed the whole campus with a white layer. Seldom in the south of China could people see snow and they will be overexcited for snow, making snowman, snowball fighting, etc. In Chinese tradition, a timely snow promises a good harvest. Two months later, Chinese New Year, with a sea of red colors and possibly the greatest migration of people in the world for family reunions, will arrive.
Cited: Margaret Atwood, William Bright and Susan Gehr, Emily Dickinson, Guided by Voices, Wallace Stevens, Walt Whitman.
Except from Nick’s posted story on the Bigfoot Research Organization website (http://www.bfro.net/GDB/state_listing.asp?state=CA):
YEAR: 2012/ SEASON: Fall/ MONTH: September/ DATE: 9/23/12
STATE: California/ COUNTY: Alpine County
…I continued left into the grove and found a 25 foot tree placed upside down next to another tree well over 50 feet high. The base was about 18” and had been snapped not sawed. Some branches had interwoven into this tree just like the little blind I first discovered on the groves edge. I’d guess the elevation was 8,500 feet, as the top of the hill was 10,000 and our camp was at the base of about 7,000. I now had an increasingly strong feeling of being watched again at this point.
As I left the second blind/upside-down tree working my way up and to the left I saw the silhouette of a bipedal primate about 8 feet tall standing still looking at me. It was perpendicular to me, faced up hill in almost a runners stance, and looking over its right shoulder, at me, slightly with its wide muscular torso turned to me. It’s brow was extremly pronounced, its forehead was small with the back of it’s head slightly pointed. His head (assuming a male as it did not have breasts,) was proportionatly small in relation to it’s body. It’s arms were extremly long, hairy, lean yet muscular, It’s hands had very long palms and long fingers that curled back with a thumb that curled forward forming a backward capital “C” type shape. It then sprinted up the hill and vanished behind the trees faster than a deer bolts into a dead run from a standstill. It was on the left edge of the grove with a clearing behind it. This all happened in a second or two. I went to the place I saw it (60 yards) and found no footprints as the ground had at least a foot of pine needles that cushioned footprints and would spring back up when you walked. I used a tree that was close by gauge it’s height. It was of dark color but not sure if dark brown or black as it was shady in the grove with sunlight behind it in the clearing.
I was in a state of kind of shock and almost not believing what I saw but knowing I did and simply just amazed. Because of this when I got home, later that week I decided to consult a hypnotist. I had never seen one but figured since they help witnesses recall a crime and descriptions of accounts that happen quickly or under stress it would probably help me confirm what I saw. The hypnosis confirmed my sighting.
An e-mail from Nick:
It was great meeting you and your students this weekend in Callahan. I hope you gathered some more eye witness accounts in the area. If there is any writings of the research gathering I’d love to read it and share it with Coach Jensen. Also he has a photo album of footprints, scat, and a handprint that I’m sure he’d show you if you return to the area. He also has two plaster castings he took of footprints.
In closing, I am attaching an illustration I found painted by Paul Smith on the Southern Oregon Bigfoot website. This painting is, what most accurately illustrates the one I saw in Alpine County. The arms though should be longer and the palms should be longer (rectangular shaped instead of square) with longer fingers and thumb.
Arguably the most important word in Robert Michael Pyle’s title, Where Bigfoot Walks, is “Where.” A moment from Pyle’s account of his foray through northern California, through territory quite close to the place where we camped at the edge of Cecilville:
I was not looking for tracks but rather for the spoor of the beast on the breath of the night: a sense of the place that spawned this particular case of mass delusion or rich encounter. At the moment I didn’t particularly care which it was.
From Zhao Weiya’s final essay, “From Mr. Stick and to a Fusion of Horizon”:
I met Mr. Stick during my hiking to Hidden Lake in Cecilville, in northern California. He was a crooked stick, seemingly not a good choice as a walking stick. But it was a falling-in-love-at-the-first-sight choice and he proved to be greatly helpful to me, mentally and physically….
I still carried a deep impression of the death of my maternal grandma, who died when I was a middle school student and of the terrible scene of her body in the cupboard and the stretcher of the crematory coming into the furnace room and back with nothing and the horrifying wail of my aunt, with which I frequently woke up in the middle of the nights right after her death, with great pains.… My aunts had tried to make her mouth close but failed and when my younger brother arrived and mourned her death, everyone there noticed later her mouth was fully closed. This had been an unbelievable thing to me for a long time, when pondering over the whole thing currently, I believe that was the last radiance of her life, fragile yet resistant. The funeral, in our local tradition, had lasted several days, with the mourning music repeated endlessly.
So I was shocked when Isabelle asked me to hum the Chinese mourning music, to lament Mr. Stick who finally sacrificed his life to our campfire. I was rather reluctant but tried to hide it since it was hard for me to find a solid reason to refuse her request. I struggled for several seconds, passing unnoticed. To tell her it is not appropriate to do so in Chinese tradition? But I am in the U.S. now. To tell her I fear that it will incur bad luck? But this seems groundless. Courageously and hesitantly, I opened my mouth and finished the music in an abrupt and uneasy way. Then, in order to get rid of all these terrible feelings, I turned to Isabelle, asking her about the American version. “Amazing Grace is the name,” she began and then readily went ahead. I was lost in the two words “Amazing Grace”…
The camping with my teacher and classmates in Cecilville last month is another antidote, especially humming the mourning songs around the campfire. And “amazing” and “grace,” the two words in the American version and Isabelle’s readiness to sing the song made death smoother in my mind. Besides, it is clear to me that death is inevitable even when I avoid talking about it and possibly the best way out of the haunting thing is to live in a delighted and meaningful way everyday. What’s more, I sensed I was physically and mentally stronger after the hiking to Hidden Lake since I made it, out of my expectation and with the support of my teacher and classmates, as well as Mr. Stick.
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