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Media Article # 54

Sunday, January 14, 2001

Colorado sightings, tracks hard to ignore

By Theo Stein
The Denver Post

A pair of hikers emerged from the Snowmass Wilderness last summer with a wild tale.

Several Bigfoot shadowed them for two nights, they said, peering into their camp and even walking right up to the tent as they listened in fear and awe.

Forced to make camp in a high pass as a storm approached, David Riley poked his head out of his tent Aug. 22 and found a giant creature with glowing eyes standing on two legs and staring at him from just outside of camp.

"I was stunned," said Riley, a Manhattan public relations professional hiking with a friend from Crested Butte to Snowmass. "This thing was huge. I thoroughly believe now, that's for sure."

While Riley's tale was riveting, Colorado Bigfoot researchers were more excited about last spring's events along the Eagle River, where two fly-fishermen found giant, humanlike footprints several days and 7 miles apart.
Bill Heicher, a Colorado Division of Wildlife biologist, examined a photo of one of the tracks, a deep impression of an 18-inch, five-toed foot found by former Vail resident Bill Brice just feet from the rising Eagle River on April 2. Heicher came away believing that it was not faked, an assessment shared by Eagle County sheriff's Deputy Don Kaufman.

Heicher passed a photo of the track around to other state biologists.

"Nobody, including myself, had any good answers," he said. "It wasn't made by a bear. It wasn't made by a human. And why would anyone be barefoot at that time of year?" Colorado has not been the traditional focus for research into Bigfoot, but stories of big, hairy apes appear in traditional Native American tales and run through the mining era to modern times.

Coloradans have reported seeing the animals walking along a stream below Loveland Pass, drinking from a pond in the Lost Creek Wilderness, running after deer in the Roosevelt National Forest, chasing cars near Gypsum and roaring at hikers, campers and fishermen in various locations. The reports have come from scientists, medical professionals, wildlife biologists and elk hunters.

Heicher, who works in the Division of Wildlife's Eagle field office, excluded hoax as a possible explanation for the Eagle River track in part because whatever made the track had placed it in a hard-tospot area - a stony riverbank that was soon flooded by snowmelt.

"If you were going to perpetrate a hoax, you'd put it in an area where people were likely to stumble on it," he said.

The fact that Grand Junction resident Vern Parsons discovered similar tracks west of Gypsum several days earlier also got Heicher's attention.

Kaufman, the sheriff's deputy, examined the Eagle River print, which he said was pressed deep into the riverbank. "You're looking at something that would weigh probably 400 to 700 pounds to make an impression that deep," he said.

"There was nothing we could come up with from our background, education and experience to say what it was," Heicher added. "We couldn't even narrow it down." Idaho State University anthro pologist Jeff Meldrum, who studies Bigfoot tracks, examined the same photos as Heicher and read a detailed investigation report compiled by Kansas bowhunter and Bigfoot researcher Keith Foster. Meldrum said the Eagle tracks had all the hallmarks of the tracks he's examined from the Northwest.

Foster has investigated dozens of Colorado reports for the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, including Brice's. Foster believes he and other researchers have identified at least three areas of consistent ape activity along the state's rugged high country. Some locations have produced a stream of Bigfoot reports for 120 years.

Reports of "The Lake Creek Monster" made the Leadville papers in the early 1880s. More than a century later, retired Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist Richard D. McCuistion began to study Bigfoot after hearing primate-like screams near the National Fish Hatchery in Leadville.

Foster said he's had more than one encounter with his elusive quarry.

"I'm convinced that you don't find Bigfoot; they find you," he said. "The closer to their home base you are, the more likely they will be curious." Riley, the Manhattan hiker, said he certainly wasn't looking for a Sasquatch when he and a friend began the trek from Crested Butte to Snowmass Lake. But on the evening of Aug. 22, Riley said, he stepped out from the tent after a heavy rain shower and saw a giant with highly reflective eyes staring back at him from the edge of the camp, while two apparent juveniles peeked around the giant's bulk.

Paralyzed, the 32-year-old Riley summoned up the courage to turn on his headlamp. When he did, he said, his fear morphed to terror.

Riley said he stared at the animal, struggling to make sense of what he saw. "It was definitely over 8 feet tall. Its eyes were huge ... and the glow was unlike any other animal I've ever seen.

"I was flipping out," he said.

Another apparent hot spot is the Conejos drainage of the southern San Juans, where Foster is searching for the giant ape that he said his father and mother surprised next to a cabin eight years ago.

"They said the creature looked like and was built like a hairy, dark chocolate-brown, very muscular man with a sloping forehead and a point at the back of the head." Before the animal sprinted off on two legs down a hill and across a stream, they estimated its height at 8 feet because the top of its head was even with the eaves of the cabin. One 16-inch track was left in the silt by the stream.
McCuistion's encounter came on Oct. 23, 1994, at about 1:30 a.m. He was trying to sleep in a cold camper near Mount Massive when he heard two enormous bellows next to his camper.

"It sounded like a really huge man," said the former Marine, a Vietnam combat veteran. "It was loud enough that it was almost like you could feel the sound."

A third focus of reports centers on the Pike National Forest, where Foster has investigated a series of sightings to the west of Colorado Springs, and where big-game guide Jeff Dysinger reported two encounters in as many years.
In September 1998, Dysinger and another guide were packing out four clients when a large bipedal animal jumped off a bank in front of his startled horse and disappeared down a hillside. A year later, Dysinger was bow-hunting alone one morning when he watched a 7-foot-tall reddishbrown ape through binoculars in clear light for several minutes.

"I've been hunting all my life," said Dysinger, an Army vet and a hunter since the age of 12. "I had some of the best optical equipment money could buy. At 150 yards you're not going to miss too much. Unless there's a 7-foot-tall gorilla running around this part of the world, there was nothing else it could have been."

Heicher and Division of Wildlife bear biologist Tom Beck aren't so sure. While the high country is certainly able to swallow up large objects, like any number of plane wrecks, they believe a lot more people ought to be reporting evidence of Bigfoot.
"Eagle Valley is very popular with lion hunters and bear hunters who use dogs," Heicher said. "They're out there all winter looking for tracks. These guys are pretty knowledgeable woodsmen, and I've never heard a credible report out of them."

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Theo Stein is the Denver Post Environment Writer.

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