One really never knows what Life is going to throw at you . One never really knows what will cross your path in any given moment, or on any given day. What I am about to tell you is a true story. It really is …. This unique experience happened recently on my last camping trip in the forest nearby a couple of weeks ago….
My story begins on Tuesday, July 9th, when my friend Lynne and I set out on a 4-day and 4-night camping trip into a nearby watershed. Our camping location on Ash Creek is about 20 minutes outside of my tiny town in northeastern California. We arrived at our campsite late afternoon and set up our tents and other camp subsidies we would use for the next 4 days. I went out for some evening fishing, by myself, as I always do. I came back to camp at dusk….I staked the fish I caught in the cool evening stream, with the plan to clean it the next day. We went to bed….ending of our 1st day.
Day 2 – The next morning, I woke up and went to wash my face at the creek. During the night, something had removed my strung fish and placed it carefully on the grass. It was actually decorative to look at, no bite marks on it and it was still tethered to its string. Now, a raccoon or a skunk would have bitten it or even eaten the fish. But no, there were only scratch marks on the fish’s skin, not even deep enough to break through to the flesh. I asked Lynne if she had pulled my fish out and her reply was “No”. Hmmmm, peculiar. We sat in camp over a cuppa hot coffee and noticed the complete absence of birds. No birds, no critters, no nothing. We had camped out at the same spot last month. We saw and heard no critters at that time either. The Silence of the Forest was eerie to say the least. We pondered on potential reasons why, but came up with no answers. There were ample bugs for birds, and lots of fresh water…..
I headed out about 9am to fish, hoping the sunshine would make the fish hungry. I traveled upstream, alone as always, searching for some good ripples to put my line into. I was fishing in a remote spot…there was no access for someone to come in except by way of walking the stream. I caught one fish and was working on getting another for dinner when I heard voice(s) that sounded high pitch, kind of like a mother scolding a child. But, I was in a very remote area. “What would a mother with a child be doing out here?” I thought. I looked around, hearing the timbre of the voice, but I could not make out the words. Puzzled, I looked around carefully, and saw no one. I was located in a deep drainage surrounded by basalt boulders and talus slopes. There was absolutely no access from a road into the area. I returned to camp and told Lynne what I had heard. We continued on our day with no other incidents.
Day 3 – Lynne and I spend much of our day in silence, Listening. For hours, no kidding. It is simply something we do to hear and identify wildlife activity around us like birds on the wing, or a deer wandering in to take a drink. That morning a loud, trilling “chirp” was heard…. “What is THAT?” We both asked each other simultaneously. We both are avid birders, and can tell the difference between a warbler and a wren. Neither one of us could identify this call. The chirping was heard only once that morning, it was not repeated, and the rest of the day was uneventful.
Day 4 – Morning began early with hot coffee and our usual practice of Listening. No birds heard, but we observed a female white-headed woodpecker feeding her male juvenile seeds in the mountain mahogany. At about 11:15am, we heard what sounded like a hammer hitting a hollow tree. … “Thump, thump, thump…..thump!”. We turned ourselves to face the sound, “Thump, thump-thump.”
Lynne surmised that “There must be someone up there building a fence.” I told her that there was no road access way up on that ridge, it didn’t make sense, perhaps it was a pileated woodpecker. We walked up out of our camp with binoculars and stood at the bottom of the slope listening. This drumming went on for a period of 15 minutes. No particular pattern, but consistent. When we turned away and returned to camp, the drumming stopped.
After returning home, I went dumpster diving on the internet to try to find out WHAT would or could make that kind of sound in a forest. I looked at chipmunk, woodpeckers, bear, raccoon….the list was huge. I DID find a couple of MP3 recordings that matched the drumming we heard perfectly. I sent the recordings to Lynne and asked her if they sounded anything like the drumming we heard. She replied ” Damn it Barbara, they sound EXACTLY like what we were listening to!”. She asked me the name of the animal who could make such a drumming sound, and I told her, “It’s a Sasquatch”.
As strange and incomprehensible as it may seem, we had been in the presence of a Bigfoot, as they are called down here….. It spoke to me directly one day, whistled to us the next, and drummed to us the third day. The creature may have been warning us, warning others of its kind about our presence, or just interacting with us. We will never know. We were simply curious and felt no fear about the interactions. We had no idea we were being visited by such an elusive creature. Information from the Northwest Bigfoot database showed that earlier reports of sightings and vocal calls had been reported in nearby watersheds almost 20 years ago.
So, my question is: What Medicine lies in such an encounter? It spoke to me when I was alone. Both of us received its call and drumming….. hmmmm. I am still not afraid, but stand in wonder at it all. And yes, I will continue to camp in that watershed.