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COUNTY: Skamania County
LOCATION DETAILS: The summit of Silver Star Mountain that we hiked to via the Grouse Vista Trailhead. Coordinates: 45.747963, -122.238859. See environment section below for more details on the location.
NEAREST TOWN: Yacolt, WA
NEAREST ROAD: SR 4109 (we arrived via L-1200)
OBSERVED: My girlfriend and I both had Friday off, 5/15/20, and decided to go do one of our favorite hikes up to Silver Star Mountain in Skamania County, Washington. We live in Portland and go up to that hike at least once or twice a year. We regard it as one of our favorite hikes in the area due to its proximity to home and its sheer beauty.
I was born in rural SW Missouri, and then spent my formative years growing up in Colorado. I am an avid outdoorsman and spend a large amount of time backpacking, hiking, camping, snowboarding and surfing in the wilderness (as well as my girlfriend). I went to school for/work in environmental science and have years of experience collecting data in nature, including animal tracking and navigation.
We left around noon and arrived at the Grouse Vista Trailhead and began our hike at 1PM. The hike is around 6.8 miles roundtrip and can be challenging on the way up due to the 2,000 feet of elevation gain to the top of Silver Star Mountain. The trailhead was filled with cars, although most of the foot traffic we encountered was on the way up as others were headed down. We like to hike in the afternoon for this very reason. We are both active/fit and didn’t stop on the way up except for once when nature called.
Near the top, we encountered some snow (as was expected), but not nearly as much as the year prior. We finished the hike and were at the top of Silver Star Mountain. It was overcast with patches of sunlight, but no wind or rain and was generally pleasant. During that time, we were alone on the craggy peak and only a handful of other people were on the ridge to the south. The mountain is surrounded by valleys carving through the landscape on all sides.
My girlfriend is in the medical field as was on call that day. She was digging through her backpack for her work phone to check voicemails (we had very limited service). I was rummaging through my pack for snacks. It was during this time that I heard the first series of very strange noises from the closest valley to the north. It was a distinct and loud “whoooo-ooop whooo-ooop”. The first “whoooo” segment of the noise was deep, with second “ooop” part having an extreme pitch change that I could not correlate to a known animal. I ask my girlfriend if she heard it, but she was preoccupied with her phone.
It was around this time that a couple of other hikers showed up with their dog. We wanted to sit out on the rocks overlooking the views, so we moved slightly further down the ridge from them to a rock outcrop and ate some snacks and took photos (I can provide these photos for reference). In between conversation, the noise happened again from the same spot in the valley to the north. It was about 15 minutes from the first one. It was loud and filled the entire valley, giving me the feeling that it was a rather large animal. My girlfriend heard it this time and we both looked at each other puzzled. The other hikers behind us were carrying on conversation and didn’t seem to be paying attention to the noise, but their dog had kept going to the ridge and looking to the direction of the noise. We waited in silence to hear it again, but never did. We decided to head back down the trail.
About halfway back down, the trail passes beneath Pyramid Rock. We had always wanted to scramble this rock to see the views and felt energized that day to do so. Pyramid Rock is comprised of loose talus and can be dangerous to climb. We picked our line going up the north side of the rock, which was rather steep, and came to a shallow cave toward the top. It was probably 20 feet wide and 20 feet high, but maybe only 10 feet deep. There were remnants of a campfire here, as well as a 4-foot wall or blind made of stacked rock around the entrance. After making it to the top, we decided we were hungry so we high-tailed it back home.
Upon returning home, I decided to check BFRO for reports from Silver Star Mountain and found Reports #13115, #1652. These reports are from the exact area we were in. The photos included in Report #13115 were taken from the top of Silver Star Mountain where we were sitting and heard the noises.
I would also like to note that the first few seconds of the Berry-Morehead “Whoops and Knocks” audio here on BFRO are nearly identical to what we heard that day.
ALSO NOTICED: We had noted that there was far less snow this year than the previous year when we last hiked it (exactly one year prior). We did a quick scramble up Pyramid Rock on the way down to catch some views and found a shallow cave with a primitive campfire and blind made of stacked rock at the entrance.
OTHER WITNESSES: Myself and my girlfriend both heard the sounds. We had just finished the hike to the top of Silver Star Mountain and were resting on a rocky outcrop overlooking the valleys to the east. We were eating some snacks and celebrating making it to the top.
OTHER STORIES: Prior to the hike, I had read the latest Skamania County report on BFRO (Report #65295) which is roughly 30 miles from Silver Star Mountain as the crow flies. It wasn't until we got home that I found the two reports (#13115, #1652) from Silver Star Mountain. The photos included in Report #13115 were taken from the top of Silver Star Mountain where we were sitting and heard the noises.
TIME AND CONDITIONS: It was around 2:20-2:30PM according to the pictures I took at the top of the mountain. The weather was typical for the springtime in the Pacific Northwest. Overcast with patches of sunlight, fast moving/low hanging cloud coverage. We were unable to see Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Hood which are normally visible from the top of the hike in clear weather. There was no wind or precipitation.
ENVIRONMENT: Silver Star Scenic Area is undoubtedly gorgeous. Silver Star Mountain itself is a craggy inactive volcano with lots of loose/jagged rock and cliffs and is roughly 4,300 ft in elevation. There are trees below the mountain, but not on the mountain top itself. Flowers were starting to bloom and things were very green. Areas not vegetated with coniferous trees were mainly covered in grasses and boulder fields. There are streams and rivers flowing down from the mountain into all of the surrounding valleys. When you sit on top of the rocks and take in the views to the east, the next prominent ridgeline is Little Baldy Peak. There are valleys on either side (north and south) of this ridge that connect Silver Star Mountain and Little Baldy Peak. The north valley is where the sounds were heard. I can provide photos I took at that exact moment for context and would be happy to markup a map of where the sounds came from (roughly the headwaters of Star Creek).
Follow-up investigation report by BFRO Investigator Jeff Sidebottom:
The witness explained to me that he is an environmental scientist and is very educated on wildlife and their sounds in the area.
He and his girlfriend hike Silver Star Mt. frequently. On their 3rd trip this spring is when he had his first encounter hearing vocalizations.
There was still some snow near the top
Temps were mild in the 50s. Windy but nothing major. Occasional gusts.
Description of encounter:
They heard an extremely loud noise from down in the canyon.
Looking east, the sound echoed from northern area of canyon. The noise was described as a whoop beginning with a low deep pitch then increasing to a very high pitch. An increase described as several octaves. Too low for human then too high for human in his opinion. The sound had a human element but projected over a greater distance at a volume a human could not duplicate. The witness said the hair stood up on the back of his neck.
He said they had a 2nd experience at Silver Star after that. They went back around June 20th. No snow left. Arrived around 6pm. They saw Mt Goats. Maybe re-introduced to the area like Mt. St. Helens. They set up camp and went to bed about 10:30pm. Around 2:00am or 2:30am he awoke to something hitting the tent pole. He believes rocks or small pebbles. He heard something rustling outside the tent and thought maybe it was the goats they had seen. He raised up and made noise and whatever it was ran off and was so heavy it shook the ground and with what sounded like extremely heavy footsteps. It was so fast it was out of ear shot within 3 seconds. The campsite was in lots of rock and shale. No tracks found. No smells noted. He said wildflowers were in bloom, but a bit cold for berries that early.
He also said they hiked Mt. Jefferson earlier in June and found tracks. He will email the pictures of those tracks.
Aerial and Topo of the area:
About BFRO Investigator Jeff Sidebottom:
25 years as a Journeyman Tool & Die Maker/Machinist. Went back to school, earned Associates Degree in Computer Electronics Engineering, then Bachelor's Degree in Information Systems Security. Worked in the Telecommunications field for more than a decade. Currently manages a company phone system serving 43 sites in 2 states.
Originally from Kentucky. Grew up hunting and hiking. Spent much time in the woods and forests. Moved to Washington state in 2013. Loves the Pacific Northwest. Firm believer in Bigfoot since childhood. Has FLIR thermal imager and nightvision scope.