We got all the video production formalities out of the way by nightfall. Then it was time to start baiting a bigfoot. Barackman hypothesized that the area would be popular with sasquatch-kind because of a rich huckleberry marsh. It was huckleberry season and apparently the squatches love huckleberries.
I was apprehensive about the bigfoot calls at first. I felt silly hooting and hollering and hearing my echo mock me. But after belting out a few, they started feeling sort of liberating. The knocking was fun—you just wind up with a Louisville Slugger and swing away against a Douglas Fir. Four years on varsity softball were really starting to pay off.
At about 11 p.m., we split into two groups. Guys went a quarter-mile down the road one direction and Jen and I went a quarter-mile the other direction. We were told to keep talking because Bigfoot likes the higher pitched voice of the human female. (I have no idea how he knows this.)
Soon Jen and I started to feel the absence of the three guys, and I began to get nervous. Not necessarily because I was afraid of bigfoot, but because we couldn’t use our lights. All I had was my thermal camera and I had it up to my eye the whole time. It was my only source of comfort helping us navigate the treacherous road and confirm animal noises weren’t mass murderers.
Barackman radioed for us to do a knock. Then he knocked. Then we listened. The other thing you do when baiting sasquatch is listen. A lot. In the middle of the woods, on a moonless night, the more I listened, the more my mind toyed with me. (Hello, acute anxiety.)
Suddenly it occurred to me that if there was a bigfoot out there, then I was trying to get it’s attention. What the hell was I going to do if I got it? If I didn’t get a Bigfoot’s attention, then maybe I was giving away my location to a rabid coyote.
Barackman radioed for a yell. Jen yelled. Then he. At midnight, these yells sound all too human and the screams sent a chill up my spine. We found an open spot where I could relax a little bit. Jen and I started talking again, and that’s when ...
Someone or something had taken a large stick and busted it across its knee. At least, that’s what it sounded like. I whipped the thermal imager up to my eye and looked in the direction of the noise. Nothing, but the thermal could only see so far into the thick forest, and I couldn’t be sure from how far away the noise originated. We waited for the telltale softer bustling that would signal an animal running away or climbing a tree.
“Haley, you know they say bigfo…” Jen started to say.
“JEN, I KNOW.” I was too freaked out to talk about the noise.
After another minute or so, we both started getting scared and radioed Barackman to meet us back at camp. According to him, the sound we heard was a classic sasquatch response to the knocking and yelling we’d been doing. I felt like I should have been able to see the source of that noise. It was too loud and too close. It didn’t have to be a bigfoot, but it had to be something.
By this time, it was after midnight and we’d had enough. FLIR folks packed up, but Barackman wanted to stay overnight. I’m amazed at his dedication and mental focus, but while watching him unfold his camp chair, the word “obsession” crossed my mind for the first time. I asked him if he ever got scared and said sure, these are scary creatures. But he didn’t even acknowledge the possibility that when he sensed a presence it could something other than a mythical creature, like a bear or a coyote or a homicidal maniac.
The four of us talked about that “snap” for most of the trip back to the office. Jen, of course, was convinced a sasquatch intentionally made the noise. Doug and John were dubious, undoubtedly attributing our experience to some situational hysteria.
I just can’t be sure. That “snap” is as clear now as it was when I was standing on that road in the middle of the Mt. Hood National Forest at midnight. Something made that noise. But I have no evidence and I’m not willing to make the leap to say it was or wasn’t a sasquatch. I have to chalk it up to unexplainable phenomenon. True believers would say that’s exactly what bigfoot is, an unexplainable phenomenon.