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Media Article # 329

Sunday, January 5, 2003

Camper says she was 12 feet from curious giant.

By Theo Stein
Denver Post

Sunday, January 05, 2003 - When Julie D. burst from her tent in a remote part of the San Juan National Forest late on the afternoon of Aug. 5, 2000, the 54-year-old musician expected a confrontation with a hungry bear.

What she got was the surprise of her life.

"It was gigantic - it must have been 8 feet tall," said Julie, an experienced backcountry camper from rural Boulder County and a former volunteer with the Great Bear Foundation.

"My first thought was, 'I'm looking at something I've never seen before,"' she said. "I didn't even think Bigfoot. The notion that these animals were out there in Colorado never crossed my mind."

Too afraid to move, the former instructor at the University of Colorado Law School simply stared at the visitor standing 12 feet away.

"It had very, very broad shoulders - huge shoulders," she said. "Its face was almost completely covered in fur but human-like, on the human side of halfway between a human and gorilla."

Medium-chestnut fur "like an Irish setter's" covered the giant, which stared back at her in apparent curiosity with big brown eyes.

For five years, Julie volunteered with the Great Bear Foundation in Montana, and gave several presentations one summer seated at the foot of a stuffed grizzly.

"I've had a lot of time to get to know what bears look like up close," she said. "This animal was bigger than any bear."

Jule said the giant uttered a low rumble, and immediately a second animal - slightly smaller and lighter in color - peered at her from behind the big one.

Then they turned, ran back into the forest, and disappeared. She left the next day.

For two years, Julie kept quiet about her encounter, sharing it with only a handful of friends and the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, a volunteer group that tracks reports of Bigfoot, or sasquatch, across North America.

Hers is one of 54 reports of sasquatch sightings, tracks or vocalizations in Colorado during the past 40 years that are listed by the BFRO on its website.

Like most witnesses, Julie did not want her name published at the time. And she did not add her account to the repertoire of songs and stories that make her a favorite performer on the folk scene.

But a Washington state family's recent claim that their father's crude hoaxes were responsible for the Bigfoot phenomenon spurred Julie to come forward.

"Ray Wallace's family is saying the entire thing's a hoax," Julie said. "He may have hoaxed some things, as people have long suspected he did. I don't disagree that there have been other hoaxes in populated areas."

Wallace's family says their father, who liked practical jokes, created the modern myth of Bigfoot by stomping a track of oversized footprints in a Northern California logging camp in 1958, using wood-carved feet. Wallace, 84, died Nov. 26 in a Washington nursing home.

That confession doesn't explain sightings and tracks found in Colorado or elsewhere in the interior West, Julie said. Nor does it account for Native American traditions, which hold that hairy giants have inhabited certain mountain ranges since the beginning of time.

Or what happened to her.

Jule had left Spring Creek Pass with a string of four pack goats and two border collies. She'd planned a 10-day trip down the Colorado Trail to Durango.

But after three days on the busy trail, one goat got sick. So Jule left the trail near Jarosa Mesa, hoping to find a secluded area where she could tend the sick animal. She set up camp in a meadow with a spring at the far end. After more than a day tending increasingly nervous animals with her, it reached the point where "I knew they were alarmed, and whatever it was it was right outside the tent."

She yelled at her dogs to stay put, grabbed pepper spray, and rushed out to face the intruder. "In my wildest dreams, I might have expected to see a grizzly from the south San Juans," she said. "There is no question in my mind it was not a bear."

Or a hoax, for that matter.

Not a soul knew where she was.

"I know from looking at the expression on its face and from the graceful way it ran off that there was no way it could have been hoaxed," she said. "It was absolutely a beautiful lope. You could see muscles moving under the fur."

Julie knows the Bigfoot hoaxes and her resume as an entertainer will lead many to scoff at her account.

"I don't care if anybody believes me or not," she said. "I know what it was, and it was real."

"There's nothing more persuasive than staring something straight in the face."

Bibliographical Information:

Sunday Edition of the Denver Post.
Theo Stein, Denver Post Environment Reporter

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