Half asleep in the grey morning light, I heard movement and conversation from inside the hotel room. I had slept that night on the balcony of Paul Graves’ room at the Red Lion Hotel in Eugene, OR. I was very tired, not so much from the late night, but rather the early morning. It was only 7 am, after all.
A familiar voice made me look up from my cozy sleeping bag to see Bob Gimlin looking through the sliding glass door. His deep country-drawl voice boomed, “You’re not Autumn! Damn you’re ugly!” I muttered something back along the lines of, “You know you love me,” and got my butt out of bed, laughing. I love it when I awaken to a Bob Gimlin alarm clock. Moving slowly, I started my day with a quest for coffee before heading over to Lane Community College.
Autumn Williams was the first speaker of the day. Her presentation consisted of information on a possible habituation from Florida. Her witness, Mike, has supposedly gained the trust of a group of sasquatches to the point where they freely walk in his campsite close enough to him to touch. Like many habituation stories, there are details that sound feasible and some that sound ridiculous. Only time will tell which is which. In the meantime all we can hope for is some form of data to support the claims. Data and traditional research is no longer Autumn’s main focus, but unfortunately until some data is obtained, stories are just stories. I am looking forward to reading Autumn’s new book, Enoch, which details Mike’s accounts. I have heard from other researchers that it’s a good read.
Autumn Williams’ new book.
Sali Sheppard-Wolford, author of Valley of the Skookum: Four Years of Encounters With Bigfoot was next to speak. I had only met Sali for the first time the previous day, and she is a kick to hang out with. I read her book a year or two ago and found it interesting. Her presentation was mostly reading parts of her book aloud, so having heard the information I took the opportunity to step outside the hall for a few minutes and walk around the beautiful campus. I returned in time to catch the last few minutes of the talk.
After a catered lunch, David Rodriguez was the next speaker. David detailed his multiple encounters with sasquatches before going into detail about tree breaks. Many bigfoot researchers commonly attribute tree breaks to damage done by sasquatches when in reality much can be blamed on snow. David had some excellent diagrams showing the process of how heavy snow loads break trees, even to the point of leaving twists. I do not know if David has published his findings anywhere, but it would behoove any bigfoot researcher to take a look at his work.
After David, it was my turn at the podium. My presentation was an overview of the Silver Star Mountain photographs taken by Randee Chase back in November of 2005. I basically applied the work done by Bill Munns on the PG Film to the Silver Star photos and found the height of the subject to be 7 feet 8 inches tall. I still have some minor details to work out, as well as a statistical analysis to wade through, but I will publish my findings in a future blog, which will also be permanently archived on my website at www.NorthAmericanBigfoot.com.
Cliff Barackman addressing the crowd.
After a break, Thom Powell took the stage. Thom’s presentation was multi-faceted, covering such topics as how to write a bigfoot book, habituations, and his own research on his rural property in Clackamas County. For those of you familiar with my website, Thom’s property is not far from the “Clackamas River Project” site that I have featured (though I have not had any interesting activity to note from there for quite some time).
No bigfoot conference would be complete without reference to the Native American perspective, so having Kathy Strain speak was a highlight. Her presentation was similar to the one she gave at the Yakima event last spring, but as with any good presenter, she has tweaked and updated it to reflect new findings. Of particular interest to me was her closing slide where she showed a video of Karuk elder, Charlie Thom singing a traditional bigfoot song specifically from the headwaters of Blue Creek in California. I was there when that was taped, and it is fair to say that simply meeting Charlie Thom has changed my life in subtle, yet important ways.
Kathy Strain talking about Charlie Thom.
Dinner brought the opportunity for more conversation with bigfooting peers. I spent much of that time speaking with Dr. Jeff Meldrum about various aspects of the current research. Talking to another “cast geek” is always refreshing to me, as I don’t have to explain much for understanding. Instead, Jeff has to do that for me (but perhaps to a lesser degree than he usually does).
After dinner, I got caught up in a conversation with several of my regular field partners. Due to this, I missed the story-telling session with Esther Stutzman. The next thing I knew, Toby (the organizer) came outside and started pointing at me to go inside. Apparently it was time for a question and answer session with the day’s speakers. Most of the questions were directed at Autumn and Dr. Meldrum, but I got a few minor points across that I felt good about. For example, one participant asked if we were wasting our time trying to get data or evidence. I pointed out that I’m not wasting my time doing so because I love the process of doing so. I don’t care so much where it leads us, but I love the ride itself. How can doing what you love be a waste of time?
After the day’s events, many of the participants headed over to a nearby Irish pub for food and beverages. I found a seat with Steven Streufert, his friend Ian, and Autumn Williams. We engaged ourselves in talking ‘squatch for a while, but then an interruption occurred.
Steven Streufert and Cliff Barackman
Shortly before 11 o’clock, I received a phone call from a good friend, Rich who is a deputy sheriff on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. He told me that his buddy was scouting elk the previous day and ran across 29 sasquatch footprints. Most of the prints were “not that good,” but he did take a photograph of the best print. I asked my friend if the picture looked good, but he hadn’t seen it yet because he does not have internet access from home and the photograph was on his email.
At that point, I decided that I wouldn’t act on this new information until I knew more. I’ve been on plenty of wild goose chases in my bigfooting life… Don’t get me wrong, I love me some wild geese, but there was a whole day of bigfooty stuff happening the next day that I wanted to be a part of.
Rich told me that I could go into his email account and look at the photograph if I would like (thank you, my friend, for trusting me like this). After giving me his account info, I used my iPhone to take a peek at the print. After seeing the photograph, I excitedly said my goodbye’s and headed home, arriving back at my humble house shortly before 2 AM.
Good prints are even rarer (and possibly more important) than actual sightings. The benefit of prints vs. sightings is that they can be documented and shared as data, leaving all subjectivity out of the equation. Reviewable data is my main focus and what drives me, so I had to leave.
The next blog will detail my adventure trying to find and document these footprints. They were destroyed before I got there, so don’t get your hopes up (despite the obvious pun, I didn’t want to leave you with a cliffhanger). Come back later to see the photograph that sent me running, and to read more about the real trials and tribulations of a bigfoot field researcher.