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Geographical Index > United States > Oklahoma > Pushmataha County > Article # 357

Media Article # 357
Article submitted by Allen Calvin

Friday, December 5, 2003

Big footprints causing big stir on Black Fork Trail and beyond

By Bob West
McCurtain Daily Gazette

Two weeks ago Wednesday, shortly after a logging crew had pushed out a road off Black Fork Trail in the Kiamichi Mountains of Pushmataha County, Eric Hardaway of Pickens spotted a series of unusually long, five-toed tracks.

Eric, who is logging a tract of steep mountain timberland with his father, showed the tracks to Terry Don Hardaway, his dad.

The tracks - about ten of them were found - were subsequently measured at 17 3/4 inches long and six inches wide.

They measured the average length from one track to another at seven feet. At one point, the left and right feet were side by side, with a three feet distance from the inside of one print to the inside of the other.

The road that had just been pushed out a few days earlier was started on the north edge of Black Fork Trail.

One of the heaviest rainfalls of November had occurred two nights before, and the dozing of the road was done between even heavier rains the previous week, and the rains that fell Nov. 17.

The Oklahoma state forestry rainfall records show Battiest had accumulated 1.82 inches and Flagpole Mountain 2.16 inches by the morning of Nov. 18.

The tracks were spotted Nov. 19. By the next day, videos had been made by Eric and his uncle Johnny Hardaway of Battiest.

Johnny Voss, Redland, hauls two loads from the site daily to the Wright City sawmill, working for the owner of the tract, John Davidson of Idabel.

After seeing the apparent footprints the morning of Nov. 21, Voss went to the nearby town and bought a camera to take pictures.

When the tracks were made isn't exact. However, Eric Hardaway says it would have had to been at night.

The crews are there from daylight to nearly dark, and there was not much time if someone was trying to pull off a practical joke.

Eric Hardaway said he's thought a lot about the possibility of a prank.

"If it was a hoax, someone took a lot of time up there in the middle of the night. I don't see how it could have been made," he said.

The recent Battiest High graduate and former Panther basketball player feels it's unlikely not only because of the narrow time window, but also because they found no human prints besides the large prints.

Davidson said hunters came into the area for deer gun season, and Black Fork Trail is a well-tracked trail used by individuals and groups setting up camp.

Could someone have come in and used fake prints to make the tracks then removed their own footprints?

Davidson, who didn't get to see the tracks before the next rain, but did see the photos and talked to the men who made them, doesn't believe that is likely.

But no one has any explanation for the size of the track, and especially the distance between tracks.

And bigfoot theories are hard to swallow, the loggers say.

Hardaway recalls how he spotted the tracks.

"Me and another boy were talking about deer hunting and I was checking for tracks. I saw what we thought was bear tracks and looked at it closer and could tell it couldn't possibly be a bear."

How did he know that?

Hardaway said once you really examined the print, it was easy to see the difference: Bear prints are smaller at the heel but more rounded and flared out at the front, more like a pad. They're not straight and elongated with five toes, as this print was.

The deep heel imprint pressed several inches into the soft dirt and rocks on the side of the just-built log road.

"I studied it two or three days...I've lived in these mountains all my life and I've never seen nothing like it," said Eric Hardaway.

"I tried to figure it out. There's nothing these footprints could be. They were 100 inches from footprint to footprint and it sunk down two or three inches" into mud interspersed with rocks.

"I found this spot where the left and right feet were side by side. They were three feet from inside to inside."

The steep mountaintop within the 1,440 acres of the tract Davidson is having logged is at 1, 850 feet elevation. The mountain's slopes provide the starting point for Cripple, Paley and Garland creeks.

Cripple Creek runs into Black Fork Creek, which runs into Little River south of Nashoba.

The tracks led from the southwest diagonally across Black Fork Trail and then across the newly pushed-out road.

Despite the rocky terrain on the mountain, and despite the traffic on the road, which mashed down on some of the prints, some prints could also be found in the compact roadbed and some in grass.

Even the prints found in firmer ground caused a depression that Hardaway said he could see both in the grass and roadbed. This indicated that whatever it was weighed a lot.

But the depression was deeper and more clearly seen along the muddy sides of the road.

The distance covered by the tracks found was estimated by the loggers at less than 100 feet. They were able to track the direction of the tracks to the point the ground reverted to timber and leaves.

The tracks appeared to be headed in the direction of Cripple Creek on the north side of the mountain, a fairly steep downhill path (but not as steep as the south slope).

That path would have the tracks dissecting another log road at some point down the mountain.

But the loggers didn't pursue the other road down to Cripple Creek.

Asked if he planned to go back and hunt for the animal, Hardaway said only if he were paid to do so.

"If I looked for it, I would take a gun and if I saw it I would shoot it," he said.

He's been told that a bigfoot carcass would be worth millions of dollars.

He said a man from Ada, whose name he couldn't recall but supposedly connected with a "bigfoot federation," came to the site and outlined some interesting theories.

But Hardaway says he's not ready to buy them.

The videos and photos have been seen by a lot of people, and word of the "bigfoot tracks" has gotten around on CB radios, radio stations in McCurtain County and all around the hills of Battiest, Pickens and Nashoba.

"Half the county has found out about it," said Eric, who is a little put off by some of the inferences this attention draws.

"Some people have told me I'm lying or making this up but I invited them to look at the video."

When they do, they don't call him a storyteller anymore.

The Ada "expert" said it was the best print of "bigfoot" toes he had ever seen. It was bigger than any other print he had seen as well.

Hardaway said the Ada man told him several theories he has.

One is that they breed this time of year in this remote mountain range.

Second is that they follow creeks and are nocturnal, traveling at night.

Third is that they cover a lot of territory, 15 or 20 miles per night.

"He has these theories but he's never seen them," says Hardaway, who remains dubious about bigfoot.

Animals seen frequently at the site are hogs, deer and bear. Bear were seen fairly often last year, when the site was logged for about six months, but not this year. However, they have only been on the site during the late fall, which may not be a time bears are moving as much.

The mountains have big rocks, but they have also not found a bear den.

Davidson said the Hardaways are all experts at identifying animal tracks and that this find really stirred them up and puzzled them.

"You can tell where it slid, and turned up some mud in the palm of the foot," said Eric Hardaway. "It was real good tracks to see."

The site starts 4.8 miles north-northeast of Nashoba (about six road miles to the top, using Black Fork Trail) and the mountaintop is midway between the Kiamichi River to the north and the Little River to the south.

The trail cuts through the property from southwest to northeast.

Old logging trails are found in the area showing it was logged many years ago, said Davidson. Some of the shortleaf pine stands are about 90 years old, he noted.

The mountains and the Kiamichi Mountains that adjoin them on the north at Tuskahoma extend east-northeast into LeFlore County, to the Three Sticks monument on U.S. 259 at Big Cedar.

Word got around as deer season progressed. Calls came from people in Durant as well as Ada.

Johnny Hardaway said Dr. Lewis Stiles, who is on the wildlife commission, was among those contacted.

Eric Hardaway said he used to make fun of people who told bigfoot stories. Now he says he won't be so quick to make a judgment.

Is he starting to change his mind?

"I heard the people around Honobia talking about it three years ago, but didn't believe it then," he said.

Hardaway is still not convinced, but yet is puzzled about what the tracks could be.

But he doesn't make fun of those people anymore.

"Randall Wright came to my dad's house and looked at the video," Hardaway said.

Wright, of Honobia, knew a man named Humphreys from Honobia who had something that he felt was a bigfoot was pestering his dogs and throwing rocks at their house. "It scared them to death and those people moved clear out of the country," said Eric Hardaway.

Some people around Honobia said the Humphreys were believable people, but they didn't know what to make of the bigfoot implications.

Another man from Ada who called Eric's dad, Terry Don Hardaway, was "wanting us to find hair" around the tracks.

Tim Harjo, who took part in an Oklahoma bigfoot video on a syndicated channel earlier this year, has a friend who was driving in on Black Fork Trail to set up a deer camp Nov. 21. This friend saw the loggers looking at the tracks and contacted Harjo, who reportedly came down after deer season started and wants to follow up the investigation.

Another man who came to the site tried to make a cast but it didn't work and wiped out a clear footprint, said Voss.

With Black Fork Trail, which ultimately runs into Cripple Mountain Trail, and K-Trail which follows Kiamichi Mountain just a few miles to the north, it makes this a well-traveled area in deer season, but there are few year-round inhabitants on the mountain.

And never before has anyone traversing this mountain reported a bigfoot traveling or crossing it.

"I don't believe in what they call Big Foot," said Eric Hardaway. "If I seen it, that's the only way I would believe it."

But he does look more closely at the ground and the surrounding woods now as he gets down from his machine to bind a load of logs.

And Johnny Voss, who leaves home at Redland at 3:30 a.m. each morning to arrive for the first load from the mountain before sunrise, says hes a little apprehensive but feels better at first light.

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