“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
I signed up for what again?
If you’re akin to the idea that everything happens, at least in some part, for a reason, then this story may intrigue you. I thought I knew exactly what I was signing up for when I hit the submit button for a fun-filled, fully catered weekend; what I received in return was far more than I bargained for. So, let me take you along for the 48 hour journey that changed my life.
The Fathom Frontier team invited me to a ‘Bigfoot Adventure Weekend‘ hosted by themselves and Sharon Lee, the “The Bigfoot Field Reporter” with special guests from the BFRO, and other leaders in the Midwest who research the phenomena, as an introductory intensive into the world of Bigfooting. Hands-on classes, lectures, daytime land surveying, equipment tutorials and the intrigue of nighttime investigating like the pro’s! I was so incredibly excited! Never mind, I had a personal score to settle with Salt Fork after a possible thermal sighting with Mark Maisel of the BFRO. It was like this illusive park was once again calling, nay, taunting me, to return. It seemingly spoke to me, “Let’s see what you’ve got now, Bea!” My answer was confident– ‘BRING IT ON!’
So I arrived not just kind of late, try a whole day late (on account of work), to this group campsite at the Salt Fork State Park on Friday. Oh well I figured, better late than never. The Casting 101 class had already begun, the folks parted the way for me to drive through. The group camp area was vastly larger than I expected and sort of intimidating. I’m sort of a site snob and every site was near some sort of well-trodden animal path breaking from the thick brushy woods and I detest both poison ivy and spiders. Hmm… well, no one else seemed to mind, I guess I’ll get over it- or so I thought. I was greeted with smiles and a huge welcome! I meandered over to the casting class and joined the lecture in progress. Looking around, more fresh faces greeted me with smiles. I knew a few folks and settled into a comfortable stand listening to Eric Altman, from Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society. A gigantic smile crept over my face- I had made it!
After the class I set up my tent with help, of course, after deliberating where the ‘sweet spot’ lie at great length. I threw a few things in it and deemed it home for the next few days. Now this tent is a special tent of sorts. It’s been up once, yet never slept in. About a month prior was its inaugural unfolding along the ‘Bigfoot Ridge’ where I ran off into the night and felt lucky to have had the nerve to throw it in my car. So, it was kind of a big deal that this time, this weekend, I was going to sleep in it. Had I been camping before? -Sure, lots of times, but never by myself. And although I was surrounded by near-perfect strangers, I was still by myself. I didn’t know anyone well enough to go screaming into their tent if a deer ran into me or worse- the unknown! My little imagination was already getting to me. I thanked my childhood for the many years growing up in the country, as I knew nearly every nocturnal animal sound possible. But I wasn’t here for the possible; I was seeking the impossible.
Jesse and Alan, the Fathom Frontier team then took us on a pleasant walk down to a larger animal track intersection to teach us about trail camera’s. I have a small avocation in photography and consider myself above average in the technology behind camera’s both digital and 35mm, but this was outstanding! Care and consideration of the natural landscape were all looked after while the apples and Nutella came out of the backpack for a bonus lesson- BAITING 101! Oh yea- it’s getting serious now! Alan spoke to the game cam and Jesse spoke to baiting techniques, what a great experience! And this was only in the few few hours of the day! WOOT! I was silly with excitement and anticipation!
Marc DeWerth, President of the Ohio Bigfoot Organization, was next on the agenda for the nature walk along the Sagebrush trail. There had been a recent alleged double Bigfoot sighting along this same path we were going to walk! I felt like Shirley Temple when she says “OH MY GOODNESS” and bobs her little head full of red curls! As it turns out, Marc is an amazing bird-guy. Really- he’s phenomenal, Bigfoot and birds- who knew. It was pretty impressive as he nonchalantly answered nearly every bird call with the name, location, description and fun facts. So, it wasn’t just enough to be walking along the same path as squatch, we also had a private field guide for the birds. I loved that! I had no idea a ‘Hairy Woodpecker’ even existed next to the Pileated, let alone the difference in knocks. At any rate, when I’m in big groups on walking trails (which also goes for any big group I’m in), I like to hang at the back. Yea, I’m that person, some call me a straggler- I prefer to call it observing.
I don’t like feeling rushed, worrying about getting a flat tire, or tearing my achilles from a wandering boot. I sometimes like to touch plants along the way, smell a blossom, look at rocks along the path, critters in the brush, and simply soak up the ‘big picture’ graced by nature in all the elements. It just so happened that the Mad Troubadours in the front of the group had finally pulled away while I’m looking around in the mud with a few others folks. Oh well, I was tired. The sun was high and this was a welcome break. Three of us sat just off the trail. I listened to the men speak of man things; squatchs, habitats, movies, music and kids. The cool breeze under the tall tree canopy lulled me into a dream state. Words sounded like music, birds singing in chorus, leaves whispering, I could’ve actually nodded off, I’m not sure. But I am sure I felt amazing when it was time to depart back to camp. Free time was nigh before plans were finalized for the ensuing night hike. And yea- I’d had only a few meager hours of sleep the past few nights. After all, my adrenaline was already pumping, and I decided it in my best interest to slow down and take a legit nap.
Evening came and dinner was amazing. (On an aside; If anyone ever asks- Sharon Lee can cook over a fire. She would definitely be a contender on my Zombie Apocalypse team, if, for no other reason- you’ve gotta eat! It would be a toss-up with my friend, Lori. But that’s another story.) While sitting around the fire I heard excited recaps of the previous night’s outing – where apparently I missed the bear caught on thermal! OH MY GAWD! I was more than a little jealous. I’ve only seen a bear close a few times.. so, bears are in the woods here, too…mental note to put that on the list of creatures to look out for! As folks were gaining momentum for the evening, I found myself caught in the rush of energy! Oh yea, this was happening and I could hardly contain myself. We broke from dinner and started gathering our gear together. Lights, water bottles, boots, hats, coats, backpacks, pocket knives and who knows what else? Every person on this adventure was unique, there were a few teenagers with their adults, singles, couples, newlyweds (How cool is that! Seriously!!), skeptics, believers, newbies, tenured- you name it. It was a beautiful cross-section of life. And then there’s me. I don’t even know what I would consider myself… Interested? Amused?
Walking that fine line between skeptic and believer, maybe having seen a squatch a few weeks earlier on a thermal, but not 100% sure-I was my own mystery. I was looking for something more. Something to solidify my theory, anything. I was, in my own special way, researching this phenomena with an open mind and a lot of leftover skepticism. So again, bring it on, I’m ready.
To be continued…