Kris and I continued on alone, unconsciously entering into our silent mode. When we were kids, we would often play in the woods together and hunt as well. We spent a lot of time together, and I know it sounds corny, but we could communicate with each other non-verbally when in the woods. It wasn’t anything we had developed, though we do use some gestures and such; it is more an understanding of each other and how we move and react to things. It is a state of being aware of everything around us. We are an effective team. Kris is an excellent visual hunter and tracker. I, though not bad at that, am much more in tune with the sounds of the forest. Once when we were teens, we came across the fresh prints of a small deer herd. We tracked those deer for over a mile before catching up to them. Then we sneaked up very slowly to them until we were within thirty feet of the closest one. There was a doe and two yearling fawns. We looked at each other, realizing only then that we didn’t have our bows and started laughing. The doe jumped about five feet in the air and bolted off. We laughed even harder at that.
Anyway, we went into our hunting mode and, with him in the lead, proceeded down the path. Occasionally, we’d come to a location where the trail seemed to end. Every time this happened, we’d notice a twisted down balsam top. When one of us would go to the top, the way through would become clear and the trail would continue. We found at least three of these spots before we reached the end of the trail. I call it the end because it just stopped in a clearing, and we could see no other way it could go. We did find something strange though. One young poplar, about three inches in diameter had the bark stripped starting at about 6 feet up and stripped down. There were no claw marks, only a huge bite mark. It looked like a human bite, as if one had gone up to the tree, turned one’s head sideways, and bit into the bark, pulling off a strip with one’s teeth. The strip was still hanging there. This was fresh damage. Although I said it looked like a person, it could not have been though. The semi-circle formed by the bite was nearing four inches across. I’m big, but my teeth from side to side are only two inches across. There were no sharp or pointed teeth marks. All the marks in the clear semi-circle formed by both the top and bottom jaw were chisel shaped, like flat incisors. And they were huge, at least half again as wide as my front teeth, and I have big teeth. This damage was fresh, the sap was still oozing from the tree. It couldn’t be more than a day or two old at the most.
I started going through suspects. Not bear, there were no pointed teeth or claw marks. Not deer or moose, they don’t have upper teeth, just a hard palette. Not human, it was too big. I tried to mimic the stance needed to do it and with my head turned I came in a full foot lower than the bite mark on the tree. The only animal I could think of doing it would be a horse, but this was fresh and there were no horse tracks, manure, or other evidence to suggest that there had ever been a horse there. While I was looking at this bite, Kris noticed another, about a foot taller than the first on the back side of the same tree. That one was darkened with age. It was at least a year old, probably older. Whoa! That means that if this were somehow a hoax, it would have had to have been staged for over a year, not to mention that I could not see how it was accomplished. It simply made more sense that this was done by a sasquatch. I was dumbfounded. I took pictures. I radioed our find in to camp. No one answered. I had really bad radios.
Beyond the bitten tree we noticed a large patch of almost ripe blueberries. Could the bite be a food marker like the bent trees seemed to be trail markers? At this point, we realized that the shadows were getting longer. We also became aware that we were standing alone at a spot that, judging by the height of the bites, a seven to nine foot squatch had been just a day or two prior. We headed back to the High School Guys. On the way, my mind was racing. We had come down this trail looking for a game trail that the squatches were using to navigate the area around the swamp. We thought we hadn’t found it. I realized that we had; we were on it all along.
When we got back to the strawberry meadow, the guys had their tent fully pitched. Kris and I told them what we had found down the trail. They all got a bit wild eyed about that. I said, “What’s more, we think that this trail IS the squatch trail we’ve been looking for.” All three of them looked at their tent. I looked too; it was sitting directly on the trail. “Well,” I said, “if something large steps over your tent tonight, don’t be too surprised.”
“You really think they might come around?” one of them asked with a bit of a tremor in his voice.
“Well, it looks like this area is not a hoax.” I said, “That bite would have been almost impossible to fake, so yes, I think there is a good chance you will be visited, given the info Matt gave us on the forum. Remember, Kris and I are only a twenty minute walk down that trail. My radio seems to be getting others transmissions, though I may not be able to respond. I will leave it on all night and we can come with a crew if you need us.”
At that point, Kris who’d wandered to the edge of the meadow said, “Andy, check this out.” He was looking up at another poplar.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” I said going over to stand by him, looking at the bite mark and stripped bark on this tree that we had walked past earlier. The High School Guys gathered around the tree talking quickly and taking pictures.
“Nope. You think it is marking the strawberry field?” Kris replied.
“Maybe,” I said, shrugging. Just how smart are these animals, I thought to myself, not wanting to further alarm the teens. “Well,” I said, looking at the lengthening shadows, “It’s getting dark and we don’t have our red lights with us. I want to get back before I can’t find the trail.”
“OK,” said one of the guys, clearly not wanting us to go. “We’ll see you in the morning.”
“Good night and good luck.” I said. Kris nodded and we left the clearing.
Now that we knew the secret of the trail markers, finding our way back was simple. After walking a ways, I stopped Kris and said, “Why don’t we try something. If I go walking along like nothing is going on, something might step out behind me to get a look. Why don’t you fall back and go in silent mode? That way if anything steps out you have a chance of seeing it.”
“Sounds like a plan,” he said.
I started walking. It was a nice evening. I resisted the urge to look behind me. I knew Kris was behind me, but I couldn’t hear him or even know he was there. Yes, he’s that good. It was a beautiful evening, but the light was fading fast. I was really enjoying the evening and the walk, when I started getting uneasy. I didn’t know why. I tried to dismiss it as nerves based on the evidence we found earlier. We had walked about half of the way back to camp when suddenly there was a thunderous “WHUMP.”
I jumped and looked towards the source. It seemed like it came from the brush no more than thirty feet to my left, on the bog side of the trail. It was loud. I can’t describe how loud. It sounded like a boulder had been dropped onto the soft earth. But it was more than sound, I FELT it through my feet. What’s more, I knew it was still there. I don’t know how, other than I hadn’t heard anything leave, but I felt it, watching me. I scanned the brush but it was too thick and too shadowed with the fading light for me to see into the woods. I motioned for Kris to come to me. I quickly told him what I had experienced. He hadn’t heard it, but then he’d been about fifty yards behind me. I asked him to keep closer to me. I wanted to get going and get back to the fire. At this point, I absolutely did not want to be on this trail any longer.
I started out, and Kris followed, this time about a hundred feet behind me. This time I went in quiet mode myself, walking as quietly as I could, and on that sphagnum moss, that was silent. I made virtually no sound. I did this not because I wanted to sneak up on something, but because I wanted to hear everything. I wanted to hear if I was being paced. In that brush, there was no way it could follow me without making noise, or so I thought.
We made good progress, though the light was fading fast. I had heard no sound of anything moving with us, so I was starting to relax a bit. Ahead I could make out the boggy spot and stream that crossed the trail about a hundred yards from camp, when “WHUMP!”
I almost jumped out of my skin. It had happened again on the bog side of the trail. It couldn’t have been more than twenty to thirty feet from me.
Kris came up immediately as I stood frozen scanning the woods. “I heard it this time,” he said.
“Yeah,” I said, quietly, “I felt it too. Whatever made that sound is huge. A large bear couldn’t have done that. I think it was a squatch, stomping the ground. I can’t think of anything else that makes sense. Damn, it followed me all that ways and I heard nothing. NOTHING! How is that possible?”
“I don’t know, but let’s get back to camp, it’s getting dark and I think we’re being watched. Man do you feel that?” He said.
I nodded. Yeah, I did. The hair on my neck was standing up, my stomach was clenching, and I just wanted to break and run. I almost did, but instead we took a deep breath, and walked the rest of the way to camp. In passing the bare muddy area, I remembered my plans for baiting it.
“We’ll have to come back and place the apples.” I said, especially if we are being followed.
“Sounds good, let’s just get it done and get back to camp.” Kris agreed.
We rounded the corner and could clearly see the fire going in camp. Two of the IR Light Guys were playing with a light-up Frisbee, the other was messing with some equipment by the fire. We came into camp and they asked us what had happened since they left. I guess we looked a bit spooked.
“Later,” I said, “I have to get the bait placed before it gets too dark to see.” Already the colors were starting to fade. It was the twilight time, where your red and yellow vision turns to grey but you can still see green. I ran to the van, grabbed a pair of apples from the cooler in the back and headed down the trail again. Kris followed me.
At this point, I started recalling the great apes section of the animal behavior class I had taken in college. Don’t look them in the eye, keep your gaze down, keep your movements slow and steady, and take a submissive pose. “Listen,” I said to Kris, “I’m going to try something here. When we get to the corner, stay there, but let me approach he bait site alone.”
We pressed forward. At the corner, Kris stopped within sight of the bait spot. I took a deep breath and walked forward to the spot, my head and eyes down, my shoulders slouched in submission, and one apple in each hand raised above my head and forward in a gesture of giving. I wanted whatever was out there to see me and know that I was offering these to it.
As I got to the dirt patch, I got very apprehensive and frightened. I had to take a few deep breaths to steel myself and keep moving. I showed the apples to the wall of trees, offering them to the woods, then I bent over and placed them in the center of the bare patch. I swear I was being watched. I could feel that it was there, I don’t know how, but I knew I was not alone. I backed away from the site slowly, not turning around until I was with Kris. By this point the light had failed enough that all was grey and darkening fast. We turned around and walked back to camp.
The guys were there, waiting for us. I recounted the entire tale of what had happened since we parted. I even tried to replicate the sound of the “Whump,” but my 270 lb frame just could not do it. The chubbier of the three went back to his chair and grabbed a large spot light, at least nine inches in diameter. It was glowing a dull red in color. He started shining it down the trail and at the woods while looking through a set of night vision goggles. Matt had specifically said that we were not to shine lights of any kind into the woods, even our red lights. Even though this was IR, the squatches likely didn’t know it wasn’t a spot light that could be turned on at a moment’s notice. This was exactly the kind of behavior Matt had forbidden us from doing.
“Hey,” I said, “no lights.”
“It’s IR.” he said, not even bothering to look at me. “Man, it really lights up the night.”
“Yeah, but we’re not supposed to shine any kind of light into the woods, or give the squatches the impression that we could do so. That definitely looks like a spot light and it will to them too.”
“Listen, I paid a lot for this trip and this equipment. I’m using it, I don’t care what Moneymaker says.” he growled at me.
“We all want a sighting; that is why we are here. But that is exactly why we should be following the rules.” I argued, “Moneymaker has been doing this a lot longer than us, I’m sure he knows a lot more about what will produce an encounter than we do. Please put it away.”
“Yeah, Dwight,” his friend said, “put the light away.”
“Fine,” he snapped glaring at me now. He shoved it into the bag by his chair.
The rest of us proceeded to play Frisbee with the glow in the dark Frisbee. It was really fun doing that in the dark in the woods. I’m not sure what the squatches may have thought of it, but it was fun. Meanwhile, Dwight pulled out the light as soon as we had turned our backs and resumed scanning the woods. I rolled my eyes but said nothing more. After about a half hour, one of his friends went over and spoke with him. They got into a rather heated discussion, but this time I stayed out of it. This began a cycle that repeated itself several times over the course of the next couple of hours. Around midnight, they said good night, got in their car, and headed back to the campground.
Kris and I sat around the fire for a while more, watching the flames die down, talking about our day so far, and watching the amazing starry sky. A little after midnight, Matt’s voice came over the radio telling us all to go to bed and let the squatches have time to visit our camps after we were asleep. I stirred the fire a bit so it was little more than red coals. We looked at each other in the gathering dark. It was very creepy and we felt very alone. We didn’t waste much time brushing teeth and getting the camp secured before we were in the our bags with the tent sealed shut.
I decided that I was going to lay awake and listen for something to happen. Typically, I don’t sleep well when camping, so I thought I’d let Kris fall asleep and start snoring while I listened for something to happen. Strangely, I never heard him snore before I was waking up with bright morning all around me. The one night I had wanted to stay awake in the tent, and I fell asleep immediately and slept all night. Figures.
Continued in Squatch Crazy, Part 7.