A skeptic's encounters with 'Finding Bigfoot'

FLIR's IR technology can help find more than suspects and evidence, pushing search and rescue to another level

One late spring evening, the believer (Jen), the agnostic (John) and the skeptic (myself) met Fay and Moneymaker in Olympia and then headed into the Cascade Mountains. When we arrived, we interrupted the tail end of interviews being conducted by ABC’s “Nightline.” Bigfoot was getting a lot of exposure. It occurred to me that bigfoot would be well-served to hire an agent and grant his or her first interview to the highest bidder.

After a quick dinner with some of the cast and crew (pork chops and potatoes never tasted so good), we headed out to meet the rest of the production. “Renegade” was sent to specific coordinates at higher elevation. We would rendezvous with them after we picked up the rest of the cast and crew.

This is when the giant foot of fate stepped in and started causing problems.

We spent the next two hours getting so lost in the wilderness that eventually our caravan—which included our FLIR truck, three minivans packed with crew, a U-Haul loaded with production gear, and a flatbed truck towing a two-seat ATV—became trapped at the dead end of a logging road in the middle of an immense clearcut. Logging roads are known neither for their sparkling maintenance records nor their width. While watching the flatbed negotiate a 43-point turn so it could drive back out of the clearcut, I’m pretty sure I witnessed a couple of production assistants’ careers dissipate. 

Then, no sooner did we finally reconnect with the “Renegade” coach than we discovered a flat tire on the flatbed. Fortunately for the production crew, the only tools available for a flat repair of that magnitude were in my FLIR truck—at least we’d found the coach.

It was finally time to start searching for sasquatch. The show's cast was now in their element, and they were chomping at the bit to get out there.

Holland and Fay took their posts in the Renegade command center. Moneymaker and Barackman took off across the valley on the ATV. By now the sun was almost fully set. It was a clear night but moonless. It had been raining for days prior, so anything that wasn’t rock was mud, and the air temperature outside was around 40-degrees F—ideal conditions for thermal imaging.

Riding and walking almost blind, Moneymaker and Barackman came to a stop about four or five miles across the valley from the coach. Holland and Fay then guided them across the terrain from the command center. Apparently bigfoot doesn’t like light, especially when it’s manmade.

Soon, the word “squatch” started being used as a noun, adjective, and verb as the “Finding Bigfoot” cast did their thing. Moneymaker and Barackman took turns bellowing out ear-piercing sasquatch calls. In the Renegade, Fay and Holland pointed out the different groups of deer that we could see all over the place, outside Moneymaker Barackman never knew they were there.

By the time the first light of dawn streaked across the sky, the most fascinating event we had witnessed was a doe giving birth to two fawns about a half-mile away. It was amazing to see, especially through a thermal camera in the middle of the night. Maybe bigfoot wanted to give the doe her privacy because he didn’t make an appearance that night.

Nevertheless, I got to witness firsthand the passion and drive that the cast and crew puts into their searches. Believe in the creature or don’t, but know this: These folks work their tails off.

A second chance    

While my first bigfoot venture did nothing to quell my skepticism, it did pique my curiosity. When Barackman invited us to join him for a one-night search in the Mt. Hood National Forest, I didn’t hesitate to accept. One, we didn’t have to deal with all the logistics of a cast and crew. Two, the location was only about a two hour drive from my office in Wilsonville, Oregon. And three, sometimes a skeptic wants to be converted.

Jen and I took John the cameraman and Doug the director—another FLIR colleague—and met Barackman at an Estacada coffee shop. He led us up to a remote lake in the Mt. Hood National Forest that was accessible only by a poorly maintained gravel road that was rougher than a cob.

Mt. Hood cut the forested horizon beyond a small lake and meadow. Shadows were lengthening fast and we had our choice of gorgeous light, but we had to move fast. It’s one of those majestic spots you visit and wonder if anyone else knows about, even though a city populated by more than a million people is less than 70 miles away.           

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