Note: This article was originally published in Alaska magazine and is reprinted here with permission.
Another note: This article is based on a true story.
This summer, while deep in the wild mountains of Chichagof Island in southeast Alaska, I came across something that made me a born again “squatcher” (a person who believes in, and frequently devotes their life to finding, Sasquatch.) Dappled light poured forth from the heavens, illuminating a trail of giant footsteps worn deep into an alpine ridge. Each footstep was about six inches deep, 18 inches long and nine inches wide. They were in a pattern that was obviously bipedal. On the branches of a nearby stunted mountain hemlock tree were long brown hairs. My heart fluttered and my lower lip trembled. Only one thing could leave tracks like that—and that, of course, was the big ol’ hairy fellow. I spent several minutes fist-pumping, roundhouse kicking, and somersaulting with joy.
“Who’s laughing now, Mom!” I yelled, my voice echoing off the mountains.
I took a moment to appreciate my newfound glory. It was no small thing to be the first person to find irrefutable proof of Sasquatch’s existence. When I returned to town, I’d take my place at the forefront of the science and celebrity communities. Ivy League universities would grovel to rename themselves after me. My Instagram following would skyrocket. I’d start a business selling squatch spray, squatch bells, and other must-have gear for safe travel in Sasquatch country. I’d have my own squatch-hunting reality TV show. The most hardcore squatchers—the Kim Kardashians, Tom Cruises, and Kim Jongs-un—would blow up my phone so much that I’d have to block their calls.
A friendly – or perhaps not so friendly – dispute
My hiking partner, whom I won’t name for reasons that will soon become apparent, came up behind me and let out an excited yelp when he saw the Sasquatch trail.
“Wow, that’s a cool grandfather trail! How many hundreds, even thousands, of brown bears do you think have stepped in each of those tracks?” he said.
“I’ve lived in Alaska all my life and that’s no bear trail! I’m a wildlife expert and this could have been made by one thing and one thing only, and that’s…”
“Brown bears,” he said.
Our argument ended with blows. While I was lying on the ground admiring the deep holes left in the ground and how vibrant, yet fragile, alpine flora is, I thought of a book—considered blasphemy amongst squatchers—written by a mostly unknown Italian named Reinhold Messner. It was entitled, My Quest for the Yeti. In 1986, during a walk in Tibet, Messner encountered what he thought was a Yeti. Messner spent years searching for the Yeti afterwards, only to conclude that what he saw was a Tibetan brown bear. He went on to make the outrageous claim that reports of Yeti, Bigfoot, and Sasquatch were all the result of misidentifying brown bears.
Right then, a large brown bear appeared on the opposite end of the trail. The bear, an adult male that was way too skinny, ground its paws into each track left by Bigfoot.
“Told you so,” my ex-hiking partner said.
“That proves nothing. It’s like all those times you’ve tried to convince me that the Earth is round or that reality television isn’t real! It’s called ‘reality’ for a reason,” I said.
Brown bear or Bigfoot
I don’t suffer fools, but it did strike me as odd that a brown bear would have the audacity to travel a trail made by Sasquatch—a superior creature that obviously preyed upon them. We backed away from the bear and watched with binoculars as it sniffed tracks. It was obvious he was taking in scent marking from a sasquatch’s anal glands. The bear swiveled his hips back and forth as he traveled, walking like a cowboy going into a saloon looking for a gun fight, sloshing urine all over the place. He stepped off the trail and began dry humping and peeing on a tree. Though I felt cold and empty, it was still cool to watch.
My ex-hiking partner waxed pretentious as we hiked down the mountain.
“To think that bears have likely been traveling this same ridge, stepping in those same tracks, since the glaciers melted from southeast Alaska 12,000 years ago. Sometimes these grandfather trails appear in seemingly random places and vanish just as inexplicably. Even the biologists aren’t sure why they go out of their way to step in each other’s tracks. I guess it’s just one of nature’s many great mysteries,” he said.
“That’s all poetry, but that trail was made by Sasquatch,” I said.
“Ever consider that maybe you shouldn’t go looking for something that doesn’t want to be found?” he said.
“If you keep yapping, I’m going to squatch spray you,” I said. It was a silent hike back to camp.