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Friday, July 02, 2010

Del Norte County

And now I present the third story of the encounters of Thomas D. Cantrall

Del Norte County Sasquatch Encounter
May 1978
By Thom Cantrall
In the spring of 1978 I worked for a timber company located on the California-
Oregon border at Highway 101. My job required that I drive from the mill yard inland to
our logging jobs west of Orleans, CA. To get there, I had to drive a huge circular route.
Leaving the yard, I drove south on US 101 for just over sixty miles through the coastal
Redwood groves to the Bald Hills Road just north of Orick, CA. I followed the Bald
Hills Road for about thirty-six miles to Weitchipec, CA and Highway 96 where I turned
north for approximately fourteen miles. At Orleans, I turned back to the west and drove
for about twenty five miles to our job sites. Since much of this was driven on gravel
roads, the trip required four to five hours to complete,
depending on the amount of traffic on the highway. I was
required to make this trip an average of three times a
week.
There existed at that time a road that ran directly
from the small town of Gasquet, CA, up the south fork of
the Smith River and past Doctor Rocks and on into
Orleans.
This direct route shortened my trip to about ninety minutes and was known as the
Gasquet-Orleans Road, or more familiarly, the G-O Road. It was paved on both ends, but
there was, in the middle, from east of Blue Creek to the west of Doctor Rocks a stretch
that had never been constructed beyond a bulldozed trace through the timber. The U.S.
Forest Service had plans to finish this road, but was being fought vigorously by the
lunatic fringe preservationists who pretty much control California, it would seem. The
final result being that, looking at a current map of that area, it shows that road still not
being completed.
Much of this primitive section of the road was at sufficient elevation that winter
snows drifted deep and kept the track closed until early summer, at least, under normal
circumstances. This particular spring, the shortcut being so important to us, we hauled a
D-7 Caterpillar as far in the west end of the road as we
could before the snow stopped us. There, we unloaded
the Cat and let him clear snow across the ten miles or so
until he broke out of it on the east end. We used a rubber
tired road grader to clear what drifts were amassed on the paved section east of the
primitive road. At the beginning of the pavement, we reloaded the Cat back onto its
trailer and hauled it on to our road construction site.
With the G-O Road open to Four Wheel Drive vehicles, our crews could leave
home two hours before time to be at work on Monday morning, work their time, spend
the week in Orleans at a logging camp we’d set up there and return home after work on
Friday. If there were something sufficiently
important to do at home, they COULD make
the trip in midweek, though this was frowned on.
On the week in question, I had meetings scheduled
with the U.S. Forest Service Sale Administrator on
Thursday to set where the roads into the next unit
would be located. I then had a conference with our road construction boss set for Friday
morning. I determined to drive over on Thursday, have my USFS meeting, spend the
night at our camp in Orleans, meet the road boss on Friday and drive home Friday
afternoon.
Since I was meeting with government workers on Thursday, I knew I could sleep
in a bit longer as they would not leave their office in Orleans any sooner than 8:30 am.
Since I knew I would be staying over, the pack I always carried with me in my
truck in case of emergency was especially plush that Thursday morning as I pulled out of
the mill yard at 7 am. The sun was well above the eastern rim when I reached the snow
line on the G-O Road. That I was the only vehicle to cross this morning was evident in
the icy slush that was on the road in various places.
I had traveled about a half mile from the point the snow began and was on a slight
uphill grade traveling west to east. I spotted tracks
in the snow. The tracks came from the north,
dropped down into a shallow swale that opened
onto the road in a very muddy stretch. They
continued on south, up the slight bank on the south
side of the road and disappeared into the distance.
My first thought on seeing the tracks was
that a bear, just out of his winter’s sleep had been
on a trip of exploration, probably for his morning
meal. I am always interested in locating sizable
critters, and especially since there were no cub tracks I could see, it would most likely be
a lone boar, I stopped short of where the tracks crossed in the mud of the road to measure
this bear. As I walked up to the tracks, my jaw dropped like a rock! There in the muddy
slush was not the bear tracks I expected to see, but a very large, very human shaped foot
print... not just one, but a whole series of them. For several moments I just stared! Bare,
humanoid foot prints that measured just over eighteen inches in length with a stride that I,
at six feet, four inches could not begin to emulate. For me, a full stride, left and right is
exactly five feet in length. I’ve measured it time and again in my capacity as a forester.
The stride on this creature was well over eight feet in length! That was an awesome
stride! My first inclination, after regaining mobility, was to follow them to see where
they led, and, hopefully, what was making them.
I had but little time to devote to this. A multi-million dollar logging operation
could not be left to falter because I wanted to chase a Sasquatch. I did flag the spot well,
so I could find it easily on my return trip. I knew I could be done by noon on Friday
because I did not have to wait on the USFS and
could meet the road boss on the job at six am.
Noon Friday found me in my little truck,
climbing the last grade out of Blue Creek
Canyon that led to the crossing… not that I was
anxious or anything. When I reached my
markers, I found a secluded spot without much snow where I could park my truck out of
sight of the road. I knew the cutting crew, the logging crews and the road building crews
would be passing through here tonight and, knowing that most knew my truck, I did not
want them to know what I was about doing here.
When I was ready to travel, I set out on the now day old tracks with little hope of
catching up with this particular creature, but I had to follow. Down the ridge we went in
the snow. Within a half mile, we broke out of the timber onto a sunny, south-facing slope
that was clear of snow except in the very shaded areas. Every few hundred yards there
would be a patch of snow varying in size from a few feet across to
some that probably covered more than an acre. Although it was not
difficult tracking in the bare trail that varied from damp to muddy,
these snow fields served to let me know I was still on the same animal.
Very late in the day, when I felt I had hiked about eight or nine
miles from the G-O Road, hunger was beginning to rear its demanding
head so I decided to look for a good campsite, enjoy my dinner and take a little time to
explore my immediate area before dark spread its tentacles and drove me back into camp.
The area I was in was populated with stands of magnificent old-growth Douglas Fir of
huge proportions. Some of these were more than seven feet in
diameter and it was obvious that they had survived many, many
fires. Between the stands, especially on the south facing slopes,
the scars of those fires were very evident. When I dropped down
onto a flat gravel bar adjacent to a beautiful, clear running stream,
I thought I had probably found my campsite and when I noticed
that several of the huge old behemoths had their trunks burned
out, leaving a warm, dry, cave-like den, I determined that I was at
home for the night. This had everything I normally look for in a campsite, level ground,
cover from possible lightening storms that the current increasing clouds could certainly
deliver, and abundant fresh, clean water.
The only disconcerting thing about my campsite was a rather putrid smell that
wafted through from time to time and, in searching the den burned from the tree trunk,
there was a large number of long, black hairs lodged in the bark and wood. I thought I
had probably found a bear’s winter den and, since they were out and doing now, they
would not mind sharing quarters with me, since I was determined I would not be there
when next they needed it for hibernation. This area, as I have described it here was the
model for the second Sasquatch camp in the narrative to follow.
The first thing I did after getting out from under my pack was to hike up the
stream for a couple of hundred yards, checking closely for dead critters lying in the
water.
The coming night was just beginning its tenure when I heard from the timber the
most god-awful, gut wrenching, piercing, high, ululating cry. It was absolutely stunning
and bone chilling to hear. I had, at the time, absolutely no idea what could be singing
that song and I wasn’t really sure I wanted to know. I had heard descriptions of the call
of the Sasquatch, but, believe me, no description I had ever heard even began to prepare
me for the reality of it. The first call went on, varying in pitch and modulation for what
seemed like minutes, but which was probably between thirty and forty-five seconds. It
then ended by fading away in volume to zero.
I was sitting by my fire, completely at attention, eyes and ears under full strain to
learn more when it began again though not in the same place. Where the first call was to
the south, this call was from the northwest. Again, the same high ululations, almost a
warbling sound followed by a steady tone
only to be varied again. This time I was
able to be a bit more clinical about it as I
was not quite so in awe of the sound in
and of itself. I timed this scream at
twenty-five seconds when it again faded
away.
When the calls ceased, there was not a sound to be heard from any source save
two. The bubbling of the small creek which was wholly unimpressed with the nocturnal
display I had just witnessed was one sound. The other was the thumping of my heart in
my chest. I judged the calls to be just up the ridge from my lair, not over two hundred
yards away from me.
After these two calls, nothing more was forthcoming. I built my fire up slightly
so that it afforded more light. When about two hours had elapsed with no more contact, I
noticed a shadow flicker across one of the openings to my den. A moment later, another
shadow. They were not really close to my tree, but just at the edge of the light cast by my
fire. I quickly searched my pack for the flashlight I always carry there. Unfortunately,
when I found it, I could not get it to work. My pack seldom leaves my truck so that I
always have it in an emergency. Normally, I remove the batteries from the hand light and
store them separately in a plastic baggie to prevent what I had just discovered. Evidently,
at some prior time, I had broken my own rule.
Without artificial light, I was relegated to making the most of the light my little
fire afforded. By sitting near the opening with my fire at my back, I was able to see my
“guests”. There were three of them that I watched most of the night. Evidently, I had
unwittingly commandeered their den and they did not appear overly pleased with the
prospect of sharing it with me. At any rate, they were with me all night long, a night that
lasted, I might add, approximately one hundred and seventy seven hours.
Towards morning, I dozed in short catnaps that were often interrupted by the
sounds of woofs and yips that I heard from outside my
nest! Somewhere near dawn, these sounds stopped and,
my fire built up to last a bit more, I slept soundly for a
time. When I woke, light covered the land, my fire was
burned down to coals and the only sounds to be heard
were those common to the mountains in the daylight
hours.
On emerging from my retreat, the first thing I
saw were myriad tracks. From these tracks, I discerned that there where, indeed, three
separate creatures of three separate size classes. My assumption is that it was a family
group, however, that is strictly an assumption on my part. As soon as I had completed
my breakfast and morning ablutions, I hoisted my pack and my butt and hied out of there
and back to the road and my waiting truck. I have always wanted to go back in there and
check that place out, but I left that job and that area within a month of this incident, and
have not been back in that area for any period of time since this occurrence.

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