have in - Canadian Writers Group


have in - Canadian Writers Group
If there’s
the perpetual
fogs of
the Pacific
have in
with the
mists of
time, it’s the
within them.
Saturday, March 22, Harrison Hot
Springs, B.C.
So pervasive is the hirsute hominid vibe here that, shoveling down
the last of my eggs, I overhear this from a mother riding herd on a nearby family of scribbling brats: “That’s a nice, hairy Sasquatch, dear.”
In a nearby souvenir shop, however, lurks the true Bigfoot bonanza: T-shirts, mugs, key fobs, fridge magnets, letter openers, teaspoons, pins, books and a genuine “Sasquatch Crossing” sign. When
we mention we’re “hunting” Bigfoot, the shop girl pauses to take our
measure, then grows straight-faced with concern.
“You guys know there’s a law here that says you can’t kill a Bigfoot,
don’t you?”
First light on a stormy March morning. We’re driving east along the
broad reach of the Fraser River on British Columbia’s dank south
coast. It’s murky, with rain falling in sheets, smoky tendrils of cloud
angling off mountainsides, and fog pooling in the valley—typical winter conditions.
When the sky clamps down here, the clouds swallow peaks whole,
and roadways become veritable enclosures; colour bleeds into the
dark forms of rock and tree that loom from ditches, shrinking suggestively toward the woods in the rearview and defining the region’s oftSunday, March 23, Hemlock Resort,
cited spookiness. Nosing off the highway toward Harrison Hot
Agassiz, B.C.
Springs, such foggy phantoms take on a whole new context.
The sign as you enter town reads “Sasquatch Country.” And
The short drive from Harrison to Hemlock is tantamount to running a
whether the legendary creature exists or not, Harrison can claim the
Bigfoot gauntlet. At the confluence of Highway 7 and the Hemlock
sign as legit. After all, this is where John W. Burns first alerted the
road sits the Sasquatch Inn, Café and Pub, showcasing another,
public to what local Chehalis Indians were telling him about hairy
almost comic-like carving. (Most in the region feature caveman-style
giants; “Sasquatch” being Burns’ spelling of the Chehalis name.
clubs, but this one has a rock attached to its weapon in an advanced
The iconography parades past: Sasquatch Provincial Park,
Neolithic overture.)
Sasquatch Springs RV Resort, and Bigfoot Campgrounds, with its lifeUnsure of the gimmickry’s origins, all the owner knows is that his
size wooden carving hoisting a rock, and next door a
Sasquatch burgers move well: “It’s local culture. A
30-foot-tall statue with an erect, foot-long penis that
woman up valley who says she saw it was interviewed
municipal council forced the owner to turn because its
here in the bar a couple years ago by the Discovery
phallus pointed directly at people entering town.
Channel. But for real believers, talk to the natives… it’s
Today, 90 years after Burns’ proclamation and an
part of their mythology.”
avalanche of alleged sightings later, Harrison remains
This is obvious when we pass a native healing centre
ground zero for Sasquatch lore and research, or—
whose sign features a Sasquatch rendered in the famildepending on your point of view—the industry of deluiar, stylistic Northwest native art form. Once again, the
sion that clings to it like a hungry tick.
pose—full stride perpendicular, nonchalantly turning
It’s also a jumping-off point for Hemlock Resort, a
its head toward the viewer—is lifted from the iconic
smallish ski area 45 minutes to the west with the
Patterson clip.
motto “Discover the Secret.” Intended or not, this douThe road winds up through dense brush, with cotble entendre alludes to Hemlock’s role as one of a
ton-candy fog teased through the teeth of an evergreen
handful of areas—Mt. Baker, Alpental, and Stevens
comb for a classic West Coast feel. Up top there’s new
Pass in northwest Washington being others—rooted
snow, and we waste no time charging the socked-in
deeply in both the soils of Bigfoot belief, and the
promise of another captivating myth: sunny powder
A true family gem, Hemlock’s three chairs service
days in empty resorts in one of the wettest places on
35 runs of mostly intermediate and expert terrain comEarth. Which is more realistic?
prising a wide, wraparound bowl with open powder
Considering that the magnitude and density of the
fields up top, natural halfpipes down the middle, a
region’s mountainous jumble is a virtual metaphor for
smattering of trees, several cool terrain features and
wilderness, it had seemed a reasonable plan to plumb
hiking that accesses everything from open bowls to
the intersection of both. The kicker was something I’d
classic slot-like Cascade couloirs. In big snow years—
frequent, given the region’s heavy precipitation—it proEdmund, Washington,
“It would be kind of sad if we found [him],” Bigfoot
vides plenty of powder for the dedicated Fraser Valley
Bigfoot enthusiast
enthusiast Richard Knoll of Edmund, Washington,
clientele who help dig out the lifts.
mused in an Oregon newspaper. “Without the possibilThe wind howls and graupel stings our faces as we
ity of Bigfoot, there is no wilderness left.”
make several runs in uncertain conditions with zero visibility.
Welcome to Harrison.
Wondering where we are, we huddle around a rime-encrusted sign
that confirms Hemlock—with rumoured annual sightings and Bigfoot
hecking into our hotel, I jokingly ask the clerk if she’s seen
as de facto mascot—as the heart of the legend. Its infrastructure
prominently features the nomenclature: Sasquatch Triple, Bigfoot
“No, I’ve heard it, though. And a girl in my class saw it. And another
Lodge, runs like Abominable and Yeti.
girl in my class—well, her grandfather is an expert. He lives here. Want
The lodge’s bar contains a DJ booth set into the discarded cab of a
his phone number?”
groomer and walls adorned with the usual ski kitsch. Looking around,
John Green turns out to be an internationally renowned
we marvel at an old-style poster of helmeted, goggled, smiling parentSquatchophile, with several books to his credit and a sideline career
and-child Sasquatches, skis slung over their shoulders. Created long
of verifying reports filed with The Bigfoot Field Researchers
before Kneissl introduced its “Bigfoot” snowskate or B.C.’s Kokanee
Organization (bfro.net). He isn’t home when I call, a fact for which I’m
Brewery dreamed up its popular snowboarding-Sasquatch campaign,
strangely grateful.
the Hemlock poster stands as the first official pop-cultural melding of
The Lakeside Café, facing the beach, engages in the ubiquitous pracsnow-sliding tomfoolery and corporate Bigfootery.
tice of giving kids crayons to draw on placemats. Waitresses tack the
Marketing/promotions manager John Ens, who’s skied Hemlock
more interesting ones to the wall. Among these is an excellent rendersince 1976 and worked here 25 years, follows our gaze.
ing of a Sasquatch—the pose culled directly from the infamous and now
“Yup, that’s a good poster,” he allows, “but we want to update the story
discredited 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film of a supposed Bigfoot crossing a
a bit, modernize it, you know? We’re thinking about a race of snowboardcreek bed in Northern California. How many kids would know this?
ers that result from crossing a Sasquatch with a human. Whaddya think?”
“There had been sightings… near our home, and at that time my husband and I laughed about [it]…. One
[spring] morning, I decided to take a walk… I had crossed [the] small creek by our place… when I heard
the most God-awful sound. I can still hear it in my mind… the volume was immense…. I knew all the calls
of the animals around… and this wasn't the same…. Later I was watching Unsolved Mysteries. They
played [Sasquatch] sounds that [were] very similar, and [I] said to myself, ‘There’s the sound… no one’s
going to believe this!’ For 10 years I walked all through those mountains, my small children with me, and
these Sasquatches never bothered us.” —1970 report, Stevens Pass, Snohomish County
“…my husband… and I were picnicking… in the area of
Heather Meadows. About 2 p.m. we observed a large
black figure that appeared to stand erect traversing a
snowfield below Table Mountain…. At first we thought we
were watching a person but realized a human could not
move at that speed…. We were mesmerized by the speed
and the steepness of the terrain...” —2001 sighting, Mt.
Baker, Whatcom County
“For a Sasquatch to be an
easy target for casual photographers, it would have to
wander repeatedly into the
open, in daylight, and in predictable places frequented by
humans.… Because viewing
opportunities are exceedingly rare to begin with, especially in daylight, the odds of
a random person photographing a Sasquatch are
negligible.” —bfro.net
sad if we
Without the
of Bigfoot,
there is no
Monday, March, 24, Mt. Baker Ski Area,
Glacier, Washington
The notion of a human-Sasquatch mating seems as remote as being
abducted by aliens… until you drive the Deliverance-esque back roads
of Washington’s Whatcom County. Typical Bigfoot signposts may be
few and far between, but the hulking, bearded primates lurking
around tarpaper shacks and backing rusted Subarus up to the gas
pumps in Glacier (the most backwater “ski” town in the lower 48)
make up for their absence.
Glacier is gateway to Mt. Baker, a legendarily isolated ski area situated in what can only be described as a contemporary visage of Middle
Earth. If Sasquatch exists, then the creeping, iridescent, mossencrusted understorey of this claustrophobic landscape is just the
place you’d expect it to dwell.
Above snowline, however, it’s a whole new ballgame. With the glacier on 2,900-metre Mount Shuksan hanging like a malevolent chandelier, Mt. Baker boasts the most dramatic ski-area backdrop in the
U.S.—not that many see it; with annual snowfall averaging 20 metres
and a world record approaching 30 (1998-99 season), any visibility
here is considered a blessing.
But sunny skies are only the first of several benefactions. The second, as we crest the top of the C-8 chair, is patrol’s opening of Shuksan
Arm—Baker’s massive, in-your-face OB showcase—to hikers after 100
centimetres of new. Should we be surprised? Not at a place that advertises 94 days of fresh snow per winter, 35 powder days of 20cm or
more, and 15 days of 35 to 95cm. As we offload, the rope drops and a
steady stream boot-packs up the ridge through deep snow. From the
crest, we get a commanding view of the area’s sprawling layout, substantial given the modest 460m vertical. Nine lifts service about 30
parsimoniously designated runs, some of which are acres across.
Joining the scramble on Shuksan Arm, we make tracks on a myriad
of lines that represent one of the continent’s best-kept ski secrets,
catching low traverses back to Daytona, one of many impeccable
cruisers, then bombing that back to the chair. It’s a glorious yin morning, followed by the yang of afternoon gloom and fearful turning in
heat-weighted snow—Pac-Nor’westese for “time to leave.”
On our final run I gaze west toward the 3,250-metre volcanic cone of
Mount Baker, across an expanse of snow-covered mountain wilderness
that, according to bfro.net, represents dozens of Sasquatch sightings.
The truth, it seems, is out there.
est and I know he’s out there. I did see a UFO, though. I was sitting
right out here in the parking lot, and…. Hey, Barb—you remember that
UFO that scanned us?”
The sudden, lateral digression toward other paranormal phenomena sends us scurrying for the car. On the way, a pierced and goateed
modern primitive overhears our mutterings.
“My old man swears he saw one,” he offers enthusiastically. “Up
near Mt. Pilchuck, where we used to go hiking when I was a kid. He
told me about it over and over. Don’t know if he was just trying to scare
me or not, but he had that look—you know the one someone gets
when they’ve seen something real spooky? So I think he was telling
the truth. ’Course, he used to tell me moose were 16 feet tall….“
onsulting my sightings file, we opt for a lengthy detour before
the return to Seattle. Roslyn is a tiny, coal-mining community
on the eastern slope of the Cascades, a patchwork of hopeful pastel
roofs adrift in a sea of skeptical pine. The town’s most recent claim
to fame—real-life set piece for filming of the popular ’90s television
series Northern Exposure—is a perfect ode to its outpost feel and
quirky characters.
We’re in the local pizza parlour only five minutes before we’re
tipped off that a woman named Sarah—who claims a recent sighting—
is drinking at a bar called Marko’s. Electric at the thought of a genuine
encounter, we track her down.
Young, hippie-ish, half-cut, and rolling a cigarette with methodical
precision, Sarah is happy to talk: “Dad and I were putting up signs
near the watershed, watching some
goats across the valley feeding on the
hillside, when all of a sudden they got
spooked, and something huge starts
running up the hill, arms swinging side
to side. Just booking it. All of a sudden
it turns and looks at us. It was big and
white—you know, like a Yeti, an
Abominable Snowman. Weird. We just
clearing day,
said, ‘Let’s get out of here.’ Dad wanted
We’re lucky
to have
65 centimetres
of unforecast
snow, pole
position for
the opening
of the chair,
and two
the region’s
tree run.
Tuesday, March 25, Alpental Ski Area,
Snoqualmie Pass, Washington
Two days later, a slow-moving Pacific front drags in a long night of
precipitation. At Alpental, 40 minutes from Seattle up I-90 in
Snoqualmie Pass, we find decent turning in deep but dense snow in
the higher reaches of the resort.
Alpental’s steep-sided geographic twilight zone offers a hodgepodge of secrets: Although the vertical is added up in increments,
pockets and terrain pods abound, and the rock gardens, cliff hucks,
back bowls and welcoming glades form an amalgam that reeks of a
smaller, wetter, more northerly Squaw Valley.
Eventually the scary high traverse to Alpental’s bountiful backcountry opens (mercifully closed to snowboarders and other two-legged
creatures), and we follow out under nasty loaded chutes, crossing
heinous ribs of avie debris just shot down by patrol, who uncorked 70
kilos of bombs in the area. The descent offers plenty of vertical; the
first 450 metres are deep untracked pow, the last 160 scary pig snot,
an acceptable tradeoff by local standards.
Despite good skiing, yo-yoing freezing levels make for a soggy day.
As the meagre light is eclipsed by even denser evening cloud that has
fog battling with silver-dollar flakes for supremacy, we head for the
bar, where the lone server—whose name-tag reads “Rex:
Alpentender”—responds willingly to interrogation.
“I ain’t seen no Bigfoot, but I heard lots of strange noises in the for-
“The Sasquatch is a wild man… who makes his home in a
cave [near] the head of Harrison Lake. He is… the legendary
enemy of the Chehalis Indians. How many… there [are] is
not known, no census taker ever having been brave enough
to make a cave-to-cave survey.” —“Sasquatch Still Feared
by Indians,” Vancouver Daily Province, January 1, 1914
“Search for Bigfoot Outlives
the Man Who Created Him.”
—New York Times headline,
January 2003
to report it to town council….”
But dad didn’t, echoing the unreported nature of most
sightings and begging the question: With so many reports
documented, and an order of magnitude more not, just
what is going on out in these woods? Whatever it is, folks
seem more comfortable with bemused beliefs than actual facts. Fittingly, the wall at Marko’s features Kokanee
big-feet—six-toed graphic reminders of Sasquatch’s
whimsical hold on the region and perfect comic juxtaposition to someone seriously discussing the issue.
As Sarah finishes, expertly crafting another handrolled while juggling a pool cue, a wild-eyed character
named Aaron—who’s been sitting silently next to me at
the bar—leans over and, in hushed tones, offers: “I think
they can materialize and dematerialize. You know?
Appear and disappear whenever they want.”
“They’re of higher intelligence, like humans, but just
decided to go a different, kinda spiritual route,” explains
Aaron. “They’re watching us and thinking, Whoa, don’t
want to be like that, so they just evaporate whenever we
get too close. That’s why there are so many sightings
but no actual proof.”
Satisfied his hypothesis covers all the bases, Aaron
sits back, sips his beer and moves on to other concerns.
“Hey, nice jacket…. Do you ski?”
Wednesday, March 26, Stevens
Pass Ski Area, Stevens Pass,
“We both spend our lives chasing that beast, and we both
have to look at ourselves in the mirror every morning and
say, ‘I am not a fool!’” —One Sasquatch hunter to another in
Universal Pictures’ Harry and the Hendersons
“Bigfoot eat their dead.” —Regional axiom explaining the
lack of evidence
“I… came upon three creatures I thought were grizzly
bears, but they were upright
and… scuffling. Two began
mating in the normal human
fashion instead of from the
rear. I… took a shot at one with
a rifle but missed, and the
three ran into the woods...”
—A case of Sasquatch coitus
“I noticed what looked like a big stump at the back of the sunlit area. All of a sudden it got up and started running… I saw a long thigh come up level as it ran… it was very muscular in the back; I could see how
the hair came to a V shape at the spine…” —1999 sighting, Chilliwack, B.C.
“I looked at the ‘tree trunk,’ and the hair on the
back of my neck stood up. I was about 25 yards
from it and… it had eyes and they moved. My son
said [yes], he saw it move… It was almost black
with a lot of grey hair… about six to seven feet
tall, no neck, very wide.” —1990s sighting,
Cle Elum, Kittitas County
Ascending a grimly dark expanse of the highway
between Seattle and Stevens Pass, with the jaggedglass massif of 1,900-metre Mt. Index rising from the
forest and dense brush cowing the road, we round a corner to behold a most bizarre oasis.
The Espresso Chalet, caught in the crosshairs of
Seattle coffee culture and Bigfoot leitmotif, is surrounded
by signs hollering, “Welcome to the Cascade Mountains
Bigfoot Park” and “Bigfoot Crossing next 4 mi.”
Whether cause or effect, a litany of Bigfoot paraphernalia reveals this as the filming location for the Bigfoot
Museum in Universal Pictures’ Harry and the
Hendersons—the John Lithgow vehicle documenting the
adoption of a Sasquatch by a Seattle-area family that hit
it with their car. In fact, the actual Sasquatch suit worn
in the movie now sits, ratty and sun-damaged, behind a
cracked pane of glass illuminated by bare light bulbs—
like some macabre diorama from a turn-of-the-century
carnival sideshow.
Proprietor Mark Klein pulls espresso and chatters
about the movie production through a trailer window
framed with Sasquatch dolls, postcards and jerky. But
lest we think this enclave simply a slice of Disneyesque
whimsy straight off the Universal back lot, Klein dispels
the notion with a quick shrug.
“First time I came across Sasquatch I was 25 miles
up Chiwawa Creek with my sled dogs,” he states matter-of-factly. “There were tracks coming over a hill and
down to the river. They couldn’t have been made by anything else, and there was no one else around because I
broke trail all the way in. The dogs weren’t happy.”
As if to emphasize the point, a spine-tingling howl
erupts from the valley and is soon joined by others, rising into a wailing canine chorus. Spooked, we stare into
the forest, shifting feet.
“My dogs,” interrupts Klein, prying our minds from
werewolves and wendigos, but keeping them firmly submerged in freakishness, “probably know we’re talking
about them.”
“Anyway, I made an outline of the tracks from memory,” he concludes, fishing under the counter for a wooden replica, an unremarkable giant foot covered in what
could be a coffee menu—or simply the autographs of
visiting Sasquatch scholars and Bigfoot groupies.
Another wooden footprint, hanging on the map board
and labeled with “Nordegg, ALTA, 1969” and “Ruby
Creek, B.C., 1941” looks suspiciously similar. But then,
so do all the footprints.
alf an hour later we’re making our own footprints in
the snow. It’s positively blizzarding at Stevens Pass;
the jet stream has shifted south, and heavy snow showers accompany the unstable air of a descending cold
front. Up high, it’s blowing a gale, and deposition in lee
areas is over the knee, ramping up the already considerable avalanche hazard above 1,400 metres. Careful but
dedicated powder hounds like ourselves are in heaven.
The terrain at Stevens—550 metres of vertical on
three sides of two separate mountains—is wicked, and
the snow quality a blush of midwinter magic; a short
stroll from the top of Double Diamond chair, the steep
chutes into Big Chief Bowl offer an energizing intro to a
Mach 3 pow-fest, while the Mill Valley side’s Orion powder fields are sweetly deep and empty. Late in the day,
local Zach Getsinger, an Oregon State grad who’s been
here three winters, leads us on a long tramp across
ridges to a secret cabin, below which spread several
hundred virgin turns down to the highway. But it’s nothing compared to what’s to come.
Late in the afternoon, intermittent snow showers
harden in their resolve, and by sundown it’s dumping
several inches an hour. We spend the night at Zach’s
cabin buried—literally and figuratively—deep in the
pass. When the snow finally slows around midnight,
there’s a solid 30 cm of new, and by morning 35 more.
There are no questions next morning, save which
shovels to dig out with, and the only lingering mystery is
how we’re lucky enough to have another clearing day,
65 cm of unforecast March snow at January temperatures, pole position for the opening of the Big Chief
chair, and two unchallenged runs down the region’s alltime, fall-line tree run, Wild Katz. It’s a long-suffering
Pac-Nor’west skier’s dream come true.
After that it’s a shot of steep, thigh-deep on
Double Diamond before plumbing more trees around
Sohim’s Meadow. We join local cognoscenti keeping
an eye on the 7th Heaven lift on Cowboy Mountain,
which has been closed for days. Joining a line of
folks who’ve been standing there an hour while we
shralped fairy dust, we watch several give up and
leave, while others, even in the complete absence of
any evidence the lift will open, hang on with grim
determination. It makes me realize that our apparent
luck is, in fact, no mystery.
The diehards understand what it has taken us a full
week to learn. In the Pacific Northwest, encounters
with both powder and Bigfoot clearly involve similar
leaps of faith and blind trust. So sighting the beast or
finding deep snow and blue skies is as simple as this:
You’ve simply got to believe.
Ski areas:
mtbaker.us, alpental.com,
Bigfoot areas:
Believe it or not, Sasquatch
sightings occur in almost every
state and province. Predictably,
Washington, Oregon, and
California lead the way with
triple-digit report numbers;
B.C.’s handful of sightings reflect a strange paucity for such a
vast geographical area: Is
Sasquatch taken so seriously
there that few feel compelled to
report sightings?
Selected books:
Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us,
by John Green; Bigfoot Sasquatch
Evidence, by Dr. Grover S.
Krantz; In Search of Giants:
Bigfoot Sasquatch Encounters, by
Thomas Steenberg; My Quest for
the Yeti, by Reinhold Messner
(yes, it’s that Reinhold Messner)
The Bigfoot Field Researchers
Organization is the only “scientific” organization probing the
phenomenon, as shown by the
site’s extremely professional
content: an extensive geographic database including maps, theories, research projects,
detailed reports and follow-up
analysis, plus tips on collecting
evidence and a standardized
sightings report form.
A collaboration of the cryptozoology community (which studies
weird, legendary and mythical
animals) and the Bigfoot Society,
this is an open forum for sharing
research, information, stories,
and art. Despite a recent and historic bibliography database, the
photos of souvenirs and an online store with plaster casts,
videos and books suggests this
site is less professional than
bfro.net, a tenet proven by a listing of events like the “3rd Annual
Oklahoma Monkeychasers BBQ.”