Mystery creates wonder, and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.”Neil Armstrong
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On our way back from our epic hike to Crater Lake (read about it here), I toweled off the condensation from inside the windshield, while Phil drove cautiously through the descending darkness of Oregon’s thick, old-growth forests. We arrived at Winema National Forest’s, Annie Creek Campground to find it just as we had left it. Every site was open except one… the tent was still there, but no vehicle accompanied it.
Pulling into the extra-large, river-side campsite that we had been coveting since we found it earlier in the day, Phil backed the trailer as close to the river as possible. We warmed up dinner on the camp stove, did some reading and then nodded off to sleep.
In order for the reader to visualize the story that is about to unfold, one needs to “see” in their minds eye the layout of our sleeping arrangement. Our full-sized bed lies crossways in the back of the van. Because Phil is 6’3″ and needs all the leg space he can get, he positions himself in the middle of the center windows which bow out, his head fits nicely in one window well, his feet touch the opposite window well, allowing him a few more inches of room. I, being a foot shorter, am perfectly comfortable being positioned next to the back windows, which are propped open to allow for air circulation .
In the middle of the night, around 3:30am, I felt the sensation of my pillow being lifted on the end that was nearest to the window. It felt as if someone had their hand under my pillow and was gently lifting the end of it, then letting it go down, doing this several times. In between sleep and consciousness, I was trying to pull myself out of the brain fog that had its grip on me.
After I fully awoke, I lay there thinking to myself, “What kind of dream was that??” Never had I experienced anything like it in my sleep. It seemed SO freaking real!! While pondering this unnerving sensation, I heard a loud, “KERSPLASH!” coming from the river, directly behind our trailer. What the heck was that?? Immediately, I reached over, shook my husband and whispered loudly, “WAKE UP! There’s something big jumping in the river!” As he pulled himself closer to the open windows at the rear of the van, we both heard another, “KERSPLASH!”, and I thought I heard large sticks breaking just inside the forest, on the far side of the river. Phil thought he heard rock hitting rock. It’s a bit sobering when two people hear the same sounds, but interpret them differently. Or, maybe we did hear different sounds and were so focused on them, the other noises were muted. A mystery never to be solved…
“Phil!” “Take your light outside and see what it is!” I insisted. “No way am I going out there, you go out there!” he insisted back. We both lay motionless, frozen in fear, listening for any sounds we could hear. For Phil, an internal struggle was waging a war inside of him. Nature was calling, but the fear of the unknown was keeping him prisoner inside the perceived safety of the van. Finally, after an agonizingly long time for him, he conceded to the call and ventured into the darkness. Not far, mind you.
A full moon had peeked in and out of cloud cover earlier in the night, but now, as the moon had made its voyage to the west, there was no light emanating from the sky. Our trailer concealed the area where we heard the noises, so trying to shine flashlights from the inside of the van would have been useless in identifying what was making these loud, splashing sounds.
We lay in bed, replaying in our minds the sounds we heard, like a recording, and Phil described what he heard was like a rock being thrown into water… it has two-parts. The initial sound when the rock hits the surface of the water, and then the blow-back when the sound from under the water is forced to the top.
In hindsight, we should have taken our flashlights outside and tried to identify the noise maker, but we just couldn’t! Fear is a very powerful and tangible force that constricts the body, even going so far as to stop one from breathing! I was holding my breath, straining to hear anymore sounds close by, but whatever had disturbed our sleep, was gone. My heart was pounding in my ears and my mind whirled with thoughts of what could have possibly made those loud splashes in the churning, rapidly-flowing river?!
The very first thought I had after hearing the loud splashes was that whatever it was, was big. Oregon has some large animals such as deer, elk, moose and bear. If the animal was jumping in the river to cross it, we would’ve heard a commotion when they tried to clamber out of the river. Besides, animals don’t “jump” as in doing a cannonball into the water. As I thought more about it, I agreed with Phil that it did sound more like rocks being launched into the water and there are only two possibilities of who or what could have thrown rocks: people…and…BIGFOOT!
I couldn’t shake the thought of what had woken me up earlier in the night. Was it just a dream or had someone actually stuck their hand through the back window and messed with my pillow? But how, if it was a person or a Bigsquatch, would they have gotten their hand past the screen? Screens are not custom in the rear, push-out windows of a GMC Vandura, so Phil had “MacGyvered”, as Phil successfully does, attaching screens on the inside of the windows using strong, circular magnets. He then devised long, metal, poles to keep the windows at a 45-degree angle so that cool breezes could enter the van.
The following piece of information was not known to me until after I had verbalized the mental struggle I was having, to Phil. I mean, it is absolutely impossible for someone to get their hand through those screens without making some noise, right? My husband cautiously, like treading on thin ice, walked me through what had transpired a few days previously.
While visiting our nephew in Salt Lake City, the keys to the van had mysteriously disappeared. We searched everywhere, from inside the apartment where we had been visiting with Caleb and his roommate, to the van and surrounding area. In order for Phil to search the inside of the van, he had to “break into” it, thinking that he had locked the keys within. This required him to move several of the magnets holding the screen in place so that he could get…his…hand…through…the back window...to unlock it… AND, he never put the magnets back to secure the screen!!!
What the WHAT?!?! There WAS an opening large enough for a man-sized hand to reach into our van??? Suddenly, a chill cut through me like a laser, from the top of my scalp, to the ends of my toes!! Was it possible that the sensation I felt, waking me up at 3:30am was NOT a DREAM???
My mind whirled with disturbing images, and I did not allow myself to go back to sleep until I heard the birds singing their morning song, and daylight began to creep through the dark, mysterious forest.
After we awoke to a partly cloudy morning, we immediately put on our detective caps and went to work, looking for any clues we could find to identify our early morning visitor(s). We first searched around the van, looking for footprints. We found prints, but couldn’t be sure if they belonged to an intruder, or to us.
Phil and I have had many discussions about whether a type of great ape could inhabit the vast expanses of forest in North America. I am a firm believer in the possibility of such a creature existing, and I also do not believe that everyone who has had an encounter with Sasquatch is a liar. There are far too many people across the continent, people from all walks of life, nationalities, and professions; from teachers and doctors to forest workers and engineers, from veterinarians and psychologists to military and law enforcement officers who have seen an upright, two-legged, hairy, human-like animal that they cannot explain. (Check out this website that documents thousands of first-hand accounts given by people from all over the country: BFRO Database )
My deep-seated belief is that we as humans do not know of every living thing that exists on, in, or under this earth or bodies of water. My mind is open and I like it that way. Phil believes in the possibility, but takes a more “guarded” stance and wants to actually see this creature with his own eyes before he says he believes. It’s a free country…
Crossing the bridge that was formed by a downed tree, we found large, deep depressions in the soft, pine-needle covered ground, but with the soil acting as a thick sponge, no identifiable tracks could be found. We scanned the shore and shallower water for large rocks and couldn’t find these either. There were no rocks anywhere to be seen, so we decided to do a perimeter search, looking for rocks and/or tracks.
We did end up finding an assortment of different-sized rocks down at the Annie Creek bridge, which was less than 100 yards from our campsite. There were no people at any of the campsites. The tent that we had seen the day before was still there, and as we walked by we could see that the door was partially unzipped.
A pair of boots lay just outside of the tent entrance, and in the middle of the campsite a folded-up lawn chair was left lying on the ground. An empty, five-gallon, blue, water-cooler container, and a pink blanket were lying, haphazardly, nearby in the dirt. When we had passed by it yesterday, we thought it odd that someone would leave their tent door open and their boots out in the weather, but, not wanting to be “nosy”, we didn’t investigate further.
Today, Phil took a closer inspection, trying to see if it was inhabited, and thought he saw a pair of fleece-covered legs lying on top of a sleeping bag. Feeling somewhat uneasy after peeking into the opened tent, we kept walking, continuing our perimeter search, which turned into a several hour hike down a snowmobile trail and through the pine-filled, Winema National Forest.
Looking for clues as to what might have jumped in the river or thrown rocks, we came upon deer tracks, scat, and then we spooked several mule deer from the trees. We watched as they bounded gracefully off into the forest, then resumed our search for clues.
Continuing our walk, we relaxed and allowed the sights and sounds of nature to permeate our very being, calming our slightly rattled nerves. Rain clouds would form and light moisture would fall, then the clouds would clear and sunshine would light up our world. It’s amazing how different one feels in the daytime, versus the night. I didn’t have a care in the world, roaming the wilderness areas of Oregon by day, but once darkness fell on the land, I became much more cautious and wary of my surroundings.
On our way back from exploring the National Forest, we found signs of people. Along the trail, we came across one New Balance, running shoe, and a cheap camera bag containing an inexpensive, digital camera with the SD card in its slot. Crazy thoughts ran through our minds and Phil thought we should take a look at the SD card and see if we could find out who this camera belonged to. As we strolled through the tall pines, both of us were having the same thought of staying one more night at Annie Creek. This time, we would be prepared with an uninhibited view of the river, cell phones ready to record sound, and fully charged headlamps within reach!
Crossing the bridge on our way back to our campsite, we thought we’d have one more look in the tent to see if the person Phil thought he saw was okay. The zipper to the tent was broken, and someone had used a safety pin to close the top portion, leaving the lower half wide open to the elements. We discovered that no one was inside the tent and there were three sleeping bags lined up next to each other, pillows laying on top. The ladies-sized boots that were left outside had been out in the elements for days and were waterlogged. What had happened to the campers?? Why did they just desert their camp site and leave all of their camping gear behind? As you can imagine, our minds ran wild with all kinds of terrifying explanations… Unable to call the authorities for lack of cell service, we went back to our camp site to talk about our options.
As we were sitting in our screen room, eating our late lunch, a small car drove past, toward the bridge that was closed to through traffic. Maybe they had come to retrieve their tent and camping gear? We ate our food, discussed why they may have abandoned their gear and decided to go ask them for ourselves. As we approached the site, the car with three adults began to drive past us and I waved them down. It turns out the two men, one woman and small baby, were from California and were looking for a place to fish. They had no knowledge about the abandoned tent but were wide-eyed when I told them about the excitement we had early that morning!
Settling back inside our screen-room, Phil had a nice, warm, fire crackling in the fire pit. Temperatures were falling, but at that moment, no moisture was. Our experience with Oregon in these two short days were that it could, and would, rain at any moment.
As an avid reader of real-life accounts with Sasquatch, I had learned about a way to communicate with the creature called “gifting”. What it amounts to is leaving a “gift”, either a sparkly, enticing bauble that peaks their curiosity, or an item of food that will bring them into an area where it is thought they already inhabit. Sometimes, Sasquatch will take the gift and replace it with a gift of their own. Pieces of bone, pine cones, and stones have been known to be Bigfoot’s gifts of choice.
We had some oranges and I thought I would place one on the far side of the downed tree, across the river, close to the area we thought the splashes originated from. The following morning, we would check to see if anything had taken or moved the orange, then look for tracks. The excitement was mounting… would this be the night that we would get confirmation that Bigfoot actually existed?? My adrenaline was amped!!
We never did get our afternoon siesta in, so it was unlikely that we would be able to pull an all-nighter, waiting for more unexplainable occurrences. As we formed our plan, readied our gear for documenting any unusual experience we may have in the night, the sun came out and it began to rain simultaneously… welcome to Oregon! There was a rainbow somewhere through the tall, canopy of trees.
Setting my alarm for 3:45am, Phil and I double-checked that we had everything in place, so that if, and when we were awakened by any activity around the area, we would attempt to record the sounds we were hearing. Retiring to our bed, sleep did not come easily for me.
I awoke just before my alarm and shut if off. Letting Phil sleep, I strained to hear any sounds that were audible. Over an hour later, after detecting no sounds out of the ordinary, I drifted off to sleep and never woke until 7:45am, when Phil asked me if I had heard anything in the night. As we lay there chatting about what we’d heard the night before last, a beautiful little hummingbird came buzzing up to the screen, looked in at us, then flew off into the forest.
We peered out to where I had placed the orange and it was gone!! I threw my clothes on and bolted out the door, walked across the tree-bridge as fast as I dared, and found the orange laying on the ground, next to the log I had placed it on, with several, small, chew marks piercing the rind. Guessing a rodent or a raven was the curious culprit, and had caused the orange to fall, I felt some disappointment in the outcome.
I looked for tracks, but found nothing that would point to a large, bipedal creature. Our time at Annie Creek was coming to an end, but our spirits were soaring like the eagles that glide above these majestic mountains. We were on our way to the Pacific Coast, baby, and maybe, just maybe…we would catch a glimpse of the Wildman of the Forest!
Since we had to drive right by the Crater Lake National Park, we thought we should stop there and ask a Park employee to notify the authorities about the abandoned tent at Annie Creek. The employee at the Park’s entrance said she would call law enforcement and asked us to wait there until the officer arrived. He arrived in about 15 minutes and asked us what we observed at the site. After explaining what we saw, we asked him what his thoughts were. He told us that he sees all kinds of different scenarios in the back country and seemed a bit apprehensive to offer any theories. Thanking us for bringing the mysterious situation to his attention, the officer assured us that he would check it out and we parted ways.
Feeling better after knowing we had done all that we could by alerting the authorities, Phil pointed the Vandura westward. Many rugged and beautiful miles lie between us and the Pacific Ocean, and we would enjoy every one of them!
To be continued…