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COUNTY: Skamania County
LOCATION DETAILS: Climbers bivouac and Ptarmigan trailhead.
NEAREST TOWN: Cougar
NEAREST ROAD: FR 80
OBSERVED: My son and I were elk hunting in November 1997, and were standing on a ridge overlooking a semi-forested flat area below us. The ridge we were on was fir trees and heavy brushy groundcover, and the area between us and the flat at the bottom of the ridge could not directly be observed. As we were watching the flat below us for signs of elk, I heard what I thought was two hunters slowly walking up the ridge and softly talking to each other. I could not make out any words, only the soft murmuring sound of a voice. I told my son, who was to my left and about ten feet from me, that I hear two hunters coming toward us and we'll let them come up so they know we are there.
Just as I said that, we heard a heavy thumping sound, which later I thought sounded like heavy footfalls, going back down the ridge, and suddenly saw a flash of black at the bottom of the ridge as something vanished into the trees on the flat. At this same time, my son snapped his .300 Winchester magnum rifle to his shoulder and looked through his scope. He had also seen the black object as it emerged on the flat. I asked him what the hell was it, and he said, "dad, I don't know what it was ."
He said whatever it was, it was big, black and moving fast into the trees. We both decided it was a black bear, but later on back at camp, we talked about it and there are a few questions that we can't answer.
1. Bears are't very vocal, and I was thoroughly convinced I heard human voices coming toward us. What did I hear?
2. We heard distinct heavy footfalls running back down the ridge. A bear runs on all fours, and we did not hear the sound of brush being ran through. What was running down the hill away from us?
3. What was the black, fast-moving creature we both seen briefly at the bottom?
4. Would a hoaxer take a chance like this during elk-hunting season and hunters with high-power rifles? I have lived and hunted in this area my entire life and think about this encounter often.
5. We know it was'nt an elk, deer, cougar or bear, so what was it?
TIME AND CONDITIONS: 4:00 P.M.
ENVIRONMENT: Second-growth reforestation on steep ridges with open areas limited to ancient lava and mud flows. Area is located on the southern flanks of mt. St. Helens.
A & G References: Pg. 33, D7
Follow-up investigation report:
Update on 11/16/99:
After speaking with the witness by phone, I am convinced that he and his son experienced something that defies immediate explanation. As he stated in his report, they were hunting just off of the southern slope of Mt. St. Helens. It was approximately 4 PM.
NOTE: I should add that this location is only about 2 miles NE of the infamous Ape Cave, and 4 miles SW of Lava Canyon (See Database: Skamania County, WA, June, 1998). The witness seemed very credible. He also called to talk to me at his expense for over half an hour. He has told this story to very few people, and decided to report it to us after having seen us on the news (KATU Portland). He is also very interested in becoming involved in future investigative expeditions. What I find most interesting about this particular sighting is the "murmured" vocalizations that accompanied it. The witness stated that he thought some other hunters were coming up the ridge towards them, due to their footfalls and what he believed to be the conversation between them. I asked him to describe the sounds more distinctly, and he said it sounded like a couple of guys talking just out of earshot, where you could hear the tones, but couldn't make out the words. He also said that it may have been more like mumbling, though, as if those making it were within audible range, but weren't actually speaking in a coherent fashion. This incoherent mumbling seems to be more plausible, as he guessed that they were only about 10-15 yards away when they stopped, turned around, and retreated back down the hill. Due to his position on the ridge, and the amount of brush in the vicinity, he did not make visual contact with the subjects. He heard a series of 5 or 6 "thumps", at one second intervals, as the subjects retreated down the ridge, and then exposed themselves briefly at the bottom of the ridge. It would seem that, whatever they were, they covered a great distance of ground in well under 10 seconds, although the witness does not know the exact distance they travelled during the sighting. Although both father and son immediately thought it must have been a black bear, as that was the most reasonable explanation, both later decided that could not have been.
The other thing that I find odd about this sighting is that only one series of "thumps" was heard leaving the area, and only one creature was seen at the bottom of the ridge. If I may be afforded a little speculative latitude, here are a couple of possible scenarios:
A: The subject was in fact alone, and merely grunting or mumbling to itself prior to becoming alerted to the witnesses' presence.
B: One subject retreated down the ridge, while the other simply slipped into some cover and stayed in the area. Many investigators on the "hunting" side of Sasquatch research have expressed a belief that the creatures will employ a "bait and switch" tactic to lure the unwary into a trap. I do not embrace this theory, but I am presenting it as a possibility.
In closing, I find that this event is most compelling in that it is not easily explainable. The witnesses did not get a very good look at the subject at the bottom of the hill, and are not saying "Yes, it was a Sasquatch", however, much of the evidence, albeit circumstantial, points toward the possibility that it may have been.