The Search for Sasquatch
Looking for Bigfoot in the north woods of Minnesota
(page 3 of 3)
OUR EXPEDITION went on, and over the next few days, Dave and I dutifully joined the others on dark walks, coordinated our schemes to lure the ’squatches into our thermal sights, scoured the ground for prints, cupped our ears in the hopes of hearing howls or knocking, and peered into the trees for stick structures.
All the while, I rode the seesaw of belief and doubt. Our campsite had been a bust—exactly zero primate activity (apart from ourselves). But at Heart Camp, just down the path, they had faces peering in their thermals. They heard sticks breaking. They had Ohio Screams just outside their camp. One morning, they announced they’d had berries thrown at their tent all night. But when I went to look for them, there were none. So in the interest of peer review, I mentioned this to Andrew.
“Did you get there before or after they picked up all the berries?” he asked. “They picked them up?” “Yeah, I was out there and I asked them the same thing. They said they picked them up and counted them.”
Later, I also asked members of the group if they’d picked up the berries, but it wasn’t clear if they had or not. It was exactly the kind of maddening nebulousness that fueled the cynic in me—and reminded me of Ocham’s razor, which says the simplest answer is usually the right one.
Carl Sagan once observed that extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof. Which is what we didn’t have after several days in the woods. Sure, there had been more knocking and our neighbors at Heart Camp claimed to have been pelted with discarded candy. There had been one dubious daylight sighting of a big ’squatch, but even the investigator noted that he “could find no trace of it, nor where it had gone. The scene looked mostly unspoiled except where [the witness] had walked.” The “women’s camp” (Sasquatches are supposedly more willing to approach females) had been a bust.
And so, as we entered the third day of ’squatching, things seemed to be winding down. All the camps had reported a similar drop off in activity.
“Every group of Sasquatches has its own way of dealing with people,” Andrew explained at the morning meeting. “Usually, either they start getting aggressive and try to drive us out of the area, or they shy away and give us a few days to see if we’ll leave. Does anyone else have anything to report?”
No one did.
“Okay,” he said. “You have your free rein to choose what you’d like to do. There’s one location that we’ve never been to before. North of Hazelnut Camp, there’s a road that veers off. It’s overgrown with poplars, because it hasn’t been maintained since it was logged years ago. But there’s a stand of hardwoods down there that no one has ever gotten to.” It was exactly the sort of area that Sasquatches like to “nest” in, he added.
THE 'SQUATCH CLOCK was ticking. In less that 24 hours, I’d be on my way back to civilization, and I still hadn’t gotten any pictures, found any hair, heard a single tree knock, or seen any inkling of a stick structure. In other words, I had nothing to show my wife. There was only one thing left to do.
Up the road past Hazelnut Camp, I found the old path Andrew must have been referring to. The trees were thick, and the road was badly overgrown. As I walked down the trail, the voices in the camp grew faint until they finally disappeared.
It occurred to me that in addition to Bigfoot, there were other large mammals I might also stumble across, which I didn’t really want to find. But I put those fears aside and pushed ahead. Farther into the woods, I came to a place where the road had been blocked off with a sapling that was bent over, broken at the base in a suspicious way. I stepped over it, and went on. The path turned right, then headed into a bog and I followed it for a while. Then trees began pressing in on both sides, and the way got narrower and more defined.
I swallowed and kept going.
The odds of me stumbling into a nest of Bigfoot babies was, I knew, small. But the possibility remained. I could feel it. I could almost smell it. And yet, what would happen if we actually found Bigfoot? What if we returned with proof that such a creature lived in the bogs of Minnesota? Or what if Meldrum did? Or some other weekend warrior?
I felt a wave of sadness sweep over me at the thought. The reason I had always loved the idea of Bigfoot was that, if he was real, it meant the world still contained mysteries, things that were yet unknown and maybe even unknowable. It meant the woods were still big and dark enough to harbor something like Sasquatch. Bigfoot was like a hairy wood sprite loping through my dreams—the spirit of the wild! Find him and, well, he’d be just another monkey.
I pushed farther into the bog, and came to a place where a stand of small trees had been knocked down. Suddenly, I felt a sense of dread, a pressure in my chest. Was I being zapped? Was I being hunted? I looked around and saw nothing. Nothing to prove Sasquatches were here, but also nothing to prove they weren’t. Maybe, I thought, it was better not to know.
I turned around and headed back to camp. The path widened. I could hear people’s voices. Once I got there, I would file my report: I would tell the others that I had been to the edge of the unknown, and that while there, I had found nothing at all.
Frank Bures is a writer who lives in Minneapolis.