Saturday, March 4, 2017

Strange Footprints on a Mountain Road, an excerpt from "On the Track of Bigfoot"

If you want to catch a glimpse of a huge hairy man like monster called Bigfoot, you have to go to Bigfoot Country. That takes some doing.

The following excerpt is from the classic Bigfoot book,"On the Track of Bigfoot" by Marian T. Place.

One excellent location is near the boundary separating Humboldt and Dell Norte counties in northwestern California. Humboldt County is it magnificently handsome region slashed through by the wild Klamath River and it's swift tributary creeks. Mountains crowded in all sides, forming a maze of steep summits and shadowy ravines. The slopes are forested with towering pine, spruce, and cedar trees. At the foot of their thick trunks are tangled masses of prickly vines and shrubs. The ground cover is so dense and cross-hatched with fallen timber that men standing fifty feet apart cannot see each other. Yet deer and elk move easily and swiftly through the tickets. Bigfoot does too, so witnesses say.

Deer often escape hunters by remaining motionless behind the screen of vines or shrubs, and spying on sportsman. Evidence has been found that suggests Bigfoot does this too. However, the hairy man-animal has one characteristic common to both civilized man and wild creatures. He is curious. Very curious, at times.

Who says so? Ask any of the crew constructed a road from the mouth of Bluff Creek into the mountains, in northern California. Especially ask the bulldozer operator who did the pioneering, or first-stage clearing, for the roadway through the forest. Ask the lady who wrote a letter about the "wild man" to Andrew Genzoli, editor of The Humboldt times, published at Eureka, California. Ask editor Genzoli what developed after he published that letter.

If you should ask any or all of these people, this is what they will tell you about Bigfoot.

Usually they begin by explaining that until a road and intruded on Bigfoot's territory, white men had no idea that such a creature roamed the Bluff Creek drainage. The Hoopa Indians, whose reservation is close by, had known about him for generations but kept the information to themselves. Thousands of square miles of wilderness, so rugged that it has been surveyed only from the air, are drained by Bluff Creek. It's watershed is bounded on the north by the Siskyou mountains, on the east by the Klamath and the Salmon mountains, on the south by the Hoopa Valley Indian reservation, and on the west by small grows of redwood trees and the coast range of mountains bordering the Pacific Ocean. The headwaters of the creek burble forth on a mountainside in Del Norte County. As the cold clear stream gathers momentum, it washes southward passed a giant sized trees and small mountain meadows into adjoining Humboldt County. There it flows from miles at the bottom of a narrow V-shaped valley. Finally it spills into the Klamath River.

The road which follows Bluff Creek into the hinterland is called a timber-access road. It was constructed primarily for logging trucks which haul logs from sections where the United States Forest Service permits timber to be harvested. The logs are transported to sawmills in the area. The road is also used by forest fighting crews when necessary, and by hunters and fishermen. The lower water level segment of the road surface with gravel and is wide enough for trucks to pass. Father on it climbs in zigzag fashion with sharp switchbacks, until it pinches down to a rutted one way track gouged into the mountainside. Logging truck drivers are accustomed to driving roads like that. Sportsman in four-wheel drive vehicles bump and grind along uncomplainingly because the road leads deep into country were deer, elk, and bear still outnumber the hunters. But to freeway drivers and cityfolk, upper reaches of the Bluff Creek Road or nerve-wracking.

Reaching the mouth of Bluff Creek is no problem. Turn west of the central California I-5 freeway onto State Highway 96, a few miles north of Yreka. Immediately cut your speed to 35 mph, and follow the narrow winding paved road along the Klamath River for 70 miles to Happy Camp, a village frequented by sportsman and loggers. Another long drive brings you to the confluence of Bluff Creek and the Klamath River where the US Forest Service maintains a fine campground. Highway 96 continues southward over a difficult mountain pass, then drops down across the beautiful small Indian reservation to Willow Creek. There are you may turn west onto much improved State Highway 299 to Eureka on the Pacific coast, or drive east along the southern perimeter of the Trinity Alps wilderness to Redding, where are you rejoin the I-5 freeway.

Construction on the Bluff Creek Road began in 1957. Ray Wallace, the contractor, employed the crew of about thirty men, including several Hoopa Indians who were experienced loggers. The first task was to cut down the huge trees blocking the proposed roadway. After the logs were hauled out by a man operating a bulldozer, which is a powerful tractor driven machine equipped with a heavy steel blade, gouged out the stumps and undergrowth, and leveled a rough swath through the forest. Then the crew moved in with machinery to construct the actual road. Ten miles have been completed by the time work ceased for the winter. Operations resumed in the spring of 1958 with the hiring of some former workers and new ones, including a machine operator named Gerald "Jerry" Crew. During the week the crew lived at campsites set up near the advancing head of the road. When work shut down on Friday afternoons the men returned for the weekend to their homes in Happy Camp, Weitchpec, Willow Creek, and other settlements. But as the road strung out another ten miles of Bluff Creek, some brought in trailers so that their families could vacation in the woods. The campsite was not moved anymore because now the road angled sharply upward across the face of a mountain. The creek was no longer visible.

At quitting time on Friday, August 24, the workers gathered their tools as usual and rode in pick ups back to their camp. The bulldozer operator, Jerry Crew, was last to leave because he worked a quarter-mile beyond the others. Crew ran the big machine back-and-forth over the newly scraped earth and shale rock before driving it down the mountain a short distance to his pick up truck. The only tracks in the soft damp ground behind him where those of the tractor and his own boots. Moments later he set out a two-and-one-half-hour drive over the mountain to Salyer, A hamlet southeast of Willow Creek. He and his family were so involved in town and church activities that he still drove home weekends. On Monday morning, August 27, he returned to Bluff Creek. At the campsite he spied the job foreman standing in the doorway of a shack which served as living quarters and office. Crew beeped his horn lately but when the foreman waved casually, he knew he need not stop. He drove on up the mountain and parked beside the bulldozer.

Before Crew left his truck he kicked off his moccasins and laced up thick soled boots. He was clad in khaki work pants and shirt, his head protected with the lightweight aluminum hardhat. Since he was a little early, he took time to enjoy the forest quiet. At the moment the air was clean and fragrant with the set of pine and cedar. He inhaled deeply, savoring every breath because soon choking clouds of dust would turn up under the bulldozer, and the noise and stands from its engine would pollute the mountain air. As he strolled toward the machine he noticed a large track or two on the ground. But already intent on deciding where he would operate during the day, he dismissed them as bear tracks. Not until he climbed up onto the seat of the big rig did he observe a line of footprints approaching the dozer, circling it, and continuing on down the outer edge of the rock road way. Puzzled, he leaned over and from his high seat gazed straight down onto the nearest tracks.

One long hard stare told him they most certainly had not been made by a bear. The tracks were not only larger than anything he had ever seen in years of hunting big game, they were unmistakably those of a human foot!

Immediately he thought of vandals, a constant problem around construction projects. Quickly he check the machines instrument panel and gears. They were all right. He switched on the engine and let it idle a few moments. Nothing wrong there, so he turned it off. Next he jumped to the ground and knelt beside one of the huge tracks. Deeply impressed in soil that had been soft when he left Friday but was now dry and crested was the clear imprint of a bare five-toed human foot!

Impossible, Crew told himself. For one thing, the imprint was too deep. One glance at his own fresh tracks and the out-sized ones made him break out in goose pimples. Only a giant weighing several hundred pounds could form that massive and deep a footprint. And the stride! Crew walked alongside the prints for a short distance, then strode vigorously a few steps, and then sprinted. At no place did his average-sized human footprints come anywhere near the depth and breath and distance of the mysterious track-maker.

Crew push back his hardhat and wiped his four head with his sleeve. He was sober; in fact, he never drank intoxicating liquor. He was sane. At least he hoped he was, but these tracks made him doubt his sanity. Living all his life in the mountains he heard a good many tales about crazy hermits and wild men loose in the forest. Hardly anyone took them seriously because no one had ever proved any of the stories was true.

Suddenly Jerry Crew chuckled, and relaxed. He was positive he had solve the mystery. After he left Friday some of his friends on the project must have come up here, somehow made the tracks, and then left. Probably they were waiting for him to race down the road, skid to a stop at the camp, and babble excitedly about finding monster-sized tracks. Grinning, returned to the bulldozer. He'd sure liked to outwit the pranksters. Maybe he could pretend he hadn't seen them, and say nothing. Or he could drive the dozer over them. Then, when his friends asked if you had seen any strange tracks he could answer innocently, "Tracks? No, I didn't see any strange tracks."

On second thought he knew that no man, weary of working all week, would spend his leisure time caring out such an elaborate joke. The possibility of an outsider making them didn't hold up either because no man in his right mind would venture this far of a raw road to pull a joke on a stranger. Besides, Crew realized breaking out in goose pimples again, there were only two sets of tracks visible… The big-footed ones and his own.

He decided to do a little investigating. First he walked up the road to a point where the line of tracks came off the steep mountain side onto the road. Turning around, he traced them back down the road to the bulldozer, circled it, and then continued down the road several hundred yards more to the place where they turned off abruptly down-mountain into the forest.

For a moment Crew debated whether to spend anymore time tracking the footprints or to report his discovery to the foreman. The choice was easy. The foreman, Wilbur Wallace, was the brother of the contractor, Ray Wallace. Both men expected their operators and drivers to look after the equipment assigned to them, and report any irregularities. Since mysterious footprints certainly qualified as irregularities, Jerry hurried to his pick up.

You can read more from the classic Bigfoot book,"On the Track of Bigfoot" by Marian T. Place by buying the book here!

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