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YEAR: circa 1978
DATE: around 18th
COUNTY: Routt County
NEAREST TOWN: Steamboat Springs, CO
NEAREST ROAD: Buffalo Pass road
OBSERVED: At the time I was a resident of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Each elk season we would put up an elk camp about 15 miles (horseback only) northwest of Strawberry Park in the MT Zirkel wilderness area.
On the opening morning we were kept in camp by a rather heavy wet snow that did not stop until around 10 AM at which time the sun came out and we saddled up our horses to take a quick look for elk tracks, intending to return to camp for a quick lunch. On my return to camp I cut a set of tracks that looked like a big barefoot person had passed by.
The tracks were about 12 to 13 inches long with only four toes that I could see and a broad arch and heel area. I returned to camp and brought the camp cook back to look at them since they crossed the creek only about 100 yards from our tents. I decided to follow the tracks and found where the creature had stood on the other side of the creek milling about as if trying to decide where to go.
The tracks led uphill through the black timber, which I followed for about half an hour. The tracks had begun to interest my horse a great deal. He kept sniffing the tracks and became more and more skittish until, in an area of several big blow-downs, he refused to go any further and began to show signs of panic which of course was transmitted to me. I took a hard left into a big avalanche area which I followed for about 300 or 400 yards. The black timber which I had just left began to turn into Aspens so I cut back hoping to reacquire the track. Whatever it was was still in the black timber (Spruce trees) and I didn't have much heart to go in and look. End of story.
I am an experienced woodsman, have spent lots of time in the high country on horseback, had a pack of Plott hounds for bear hunting, and have never encountered any tracks like these. And the horse in question I had was a great mountain horse, was not gun shy or spooky in any way. His skittish behavoir and was the biggest reason I gave up the hunt on the tracks. He lived to be 40 years old and was with me from the time he was 9 months old.
OTHER WITNESSES: Just the camp cook, my wife.
OTHER STORIES: There is a local legend about a big foot encounter in an area called California Park which is NW of Steamboat Springs. This story was relayed to me by the Routt County Sherrif who investigated the incident.
TIME AND CONDITIONS: Around noon, clear blue sky after a morning snow storm
ENVIRONMENT: Typical Colorado high country with open parks, Aspens and black timber; quite mountainous of course.
Follow-up investigation report by BFRO Investigator K.Hovanec:
I spoke with the witness at length about the incident and found him to be a very serious and credible witness regarding his report of a series of tracks that he discovered is fresh snow while elk hunting. Although this track find had occurred 30-years ago, the witness was very consistent and offered great detail about the incident. He is now retired from the commercial airline industry and currently resides in Texas. He is an avid outdoorsman with extensive experience hunting and camping in the backcountry.
As stated in his report above, he came upon this set of tracks while elk hunting in the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness area north of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. This is a remote area that is accessible only by foot or horseback; they were about 15-miles from the trailhead.
He and two other hunters (all on horseback) had left their camp to look for elk as a snowstorm (heavy wet snow) had just ended. They had jumped some elk but were not able to get a shot and decided to head back to camp for lunch when they saw a set of tracks and decided to investigate. He described these tracks as about 12 to 13 inches in length with a wide, arch-less print similar to a human but wider and with only four toes that he could see. He compared the track size to his size 9 1/2 pack boot. In the timber where the snow was only a few inches deep, the tracks were very clear and easy to see that they were human-like and clearly not made by a bear.
With the exception of areas where the creature stopped to mill around, he said that the creature's stride was about the same as his stride if he were walking fast. The other two hunters, who also witnessed the tracks decided to head back to camp to prepare for an afternoon hunt, while he decided to investigate further. He followed the tracks in total for approximately a half-mile until his horse (and he as well) got spooked as they ventured into the black timber and aspens. His horse sniffed the tracks at one point and spooked considerably and he though this unusual, for his horse was a seasoned mountain horse, familiar with the smell of wildlife. He noted that he could even shoot his gun while riding this horse and the horse would not spook.
He circled above the timberline around the heavy timber where the tracks went and there were no apparent exit tracks - he said that he was sure that whatever made those tracks was still in the timber, as his horse continued to act in a nervous, spooked manner. The fact that his horse was extremely nervous was what caused him to give up following the tracks further.
He said that there was no unusual noise (no wood knocks or walking sounds) and no odor. After leaving the area, he headed back to camp to show the tracks to his wife (the camp cook), as the track way passed only about 100 yards from their camp. She remarked to him that they had found a set of young Bigfoot tracks.
Based on discussions with the witness, I believe this to be a credible Class B account. The fact that the snow had just fallen that morning, the remoteness of the area, the multiple witness of the tracks, and the length of the track way rules out the possibility of a hoax. The BFRO database has three reports #16661, #1373, and #1372 that are relatively close to this incident.
While talking with him, he assured me that he saw these tracks - they were real and not like anything in the wild that he had ever encountered before. In light of his bear hunting experience, he said that these clearly were not made by a bear.
The witness offered two more related incidents for that area. He and his wife, along with some friends were horse camping northeast of Clark, CO near Diamond Park about 25 miles North of Steamboat Springs. Above camp where the horses were tethered, they heard a loud screech or scream in the night like nothing they have ever heard. He said it was chimp-like, not like an elk, hawk, owl, cougar or coyote. Later, they saw a movie / documentary about Bigfoot and the Sasquatch vocalizations recorded and aired in this documentary were very similar to those that he and his wife had heard years before.
The other incident was the one he mentioned in his initial report about an incident or maybe a local legend that occurred in the California Park area around the 1972 timeframe. I only mention it as it was told to me by the witness. He said that when he told the local deputy sheriff (later to become the Sherriff of Routt County) about his track find, the deputy told him of an incident that was a matter of record and subsequent investigation. Three hunters hunting the California Park area northeast of Steamboat Springs, CO were leaving the area because of a heavy snow storm that had started. They had put their rifles behind the seat of their pick-up truck and were in the process of putting tire chains on the vehicle. They jacked-up one side and installed the chains and were in the process of doing the other side when one of the hunters said - look at that bear approaching on two legs. What they actually saw was not a bear but a large, primate-like animal with heavy reddish-brown fur walking on two legs, with a human or ape-like face approaching the truck. The hunters jumped into the vehicle and closed the doors, the animal approached, and according to them became aggressive. They drove away rapidly, clipping a tree and leaving the remaining chains and jack-stand.
They reported the incident to the Routt County Sherriff’s office and allegedly filled out a sworn statement or report. Later on, a team from the Sherrif's office investigated the incident and found where they had left the chains and jack-stand and where they had collided with a tree as they hastily drove off. No tracks were visible due to the new snowfall. Although this is a third-hand story, it is interesting in that it is in an area near where other Class A and B reports have been documented.
About BFRO Investigator K.Hovanec:
K.Hovanec is a retired US Army Engineer and systems engineer for a defense contractor. He attended the BFRO Colorado Expeditions in 2005 and 2008, and will attend the CO 2009 Expedition. He continues to conduct search and investigative follow-up in Colorado.