Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Bigfoot Runes

The following story is from my first book, "Bigfoot Campfire Stories," and I've had a number of requests to finish it, but I didn't know any more about how it ended than you do. 

That's changed, as I've now heard back from the professor in this story. I'm working with Kickstarter to raise funds to write a book called "The Bigfoot Runes." I've posted some cool rewards at for anyone who wants to participate. Here's the link.
This is the only story in this collection that didn’t come to me over the smoke of a campfire or from a friend. 
I was contacted by the professor in this story when he somehow heard that I was working on this book. He wanted my opinion on the matter. 
I found his story fascinating and asked his permission to publish it, which he gave, although he says he’s thinking about writing a full-on book on the topic, depending on how things shake out. 
(Once again, all names and locations have been changed, in case you feel an urge to go find this cave.)

My story has not yet ended, but let me tell you what’s happened so far. My name is Bryce and I’m a professor at a large university in the western U. S. I have a PhD in Linguistics from Princeton University. 
Some think that linguistics is when you can speak a lot of languages, but it’s really the study of languages. It’s actually a very interesting and somewhat difficult field.
Here’s how the story begins. I was in my office, grading papers, when I got a call from the department secretary. She said I had a visitor downstairs, should she send him up? 
This was a really unusual call for her to make, since normally people just came up to my office door and knocked. She never screened our visitors. I knew something was up, and this was her way of telling me. 
I thought for a moment, then asked, “Judy, can you talk?”  She replied that she couldn’t. So I told her to stall him for a few minutes while I came downstairs. That way if something were fishy, we could steer him away together.
My office is in one of the older buildings on campus. It’s very picturesque, a three-story stone building with ivy growing up the sides, just like in the photos of ivy-league universities. 
Before I knew it, I was hosting one of the least likely people to ever sit in an ivy-covered university building. Why I let him into my office I’m not sure, because he certainly didn’t look like anyone I would ever have anything in common with, or even be likely to associate with, for that matter.
My guest was wearing green khaki clothing from head to toe, along with worn army-type boots. He was rough looking and scruffy with a short unkempt beard, and his longish dark hair was graying. 
His face was tanned and leathery, like someone who had spent their lives outdoors. And he had a big knife strapped to his belt.
I asked him to sit down, and he looked distinctly uncomfortable. He sat on the edge of his chair, kind of leaning over my desk. I had no idea why he was here, he looked to be in his mid-forties, certainly not a typical student.
He introduced himself as Sam and got right to the point.
“Prof, you study languages, right?”
I assured him I did.
“Are you able to crack codes, you know, like maybe something that looks like it might be a written language?”
I told him that it might be possible, depending on the amount of information available.
He sat there for awhile, as if assessing whether or not he wanted to continue. I guess he decided he did, because he then asked, “Can you keep a secret?”
I assured him I could, but it would depend on what kind of secret, and I couldn’t make any promises until I knew more. 
This made him even more uncomfortable, and I thought he might get up and leave at that point. I was actually kind of hoping he would, to tell the truth. I wasn’t interested in some Indiana Jones adventure, and this was starting to remind me of the start of a bad movie.
He now leaned back in his chair and said, “I’m kind of an anarchist kind of guy. I don’t fit in, in case you didn’t notice. I’ve had kind of a rough life, and I sure ain’t no educated man, like you. But, I know how to survive on my own. I do odd jobs to make it, and I hunt my own food. I know we come from different worlds, but I would really like your help. I’ve found something that’s really interesting, and I’m totally out of my league.”
I was beginning to wonder if this wasn’t some kind of practical joke by some of my students. Maybe they were filming it. It wouldn’t be the first time a prof had been pranked. I went along with it, kind of surreptitiously looking around my office for a camera, trying not to be obvious.
“I’ll help if I can. Go ahead.”
“Prof, promise me you’ll keep quiet about this. It’s just between you and me, OK?”
“OK, but you can call me Bryce instead of Prof.”
“OK, Prof, that’s a deal. Have a few minutes?”
I looked at my watch. My next class was in two hours. The papers I was grading could wait. I nodded that I did.
Sam then reached into one of the pockets of the fisherman’s vest he was wearing, its pockets stuffed with who knows what, probably matches and survival gear. 
He pulled out a little notebook and handed it to me. “Take a look, Prof, and tell me what you think.”
I carefully opened the small notebook, which looked like it had been so well-used that the pages were nearly coming off the small spiral binder. 
The first page had some kind of diary entry, something like—spg, falow gzly ck 3 mi e 2 jagd rck, lft...” —that kind of thing. Sam said to turn the page, so I did.
The next page had three simple connected lines drawn on it. They looked like some sort of rune.
I turned to the next page, same thing, but different. Also the next and the next. Runic-looking inscriptions, each different. I pointed out the obvious, that they looked like some sort of runes.
“Just what exactly is a rune?” Sam asked.
“Well,” I explained, “In short, they’re a sort of alphabet. They preceded the Latin alphabet we now use. There were a number of runic alphabets, but the better-known ones were used in Scandinavia, as well as in Germanic countries. They’re a simple way of creating letters. I’m not a runic expert, but I do have some experience with them from graduate school, although it’s been awhile.”
Sam replied, “Well, let me tell you more. I was up hunting in the...” He paused, then added, “I can tell you more about where later, but let’s just say it’s a very rugged area with lots of limestone caves.” 
“Anyway, I tend to try and get into areas where nobody else goes, because that’s where the game is. Deer are smart, they know where to hide. It was last October, and no, I wasn’t poaching, I had a legit license.”
The way he said this made me think he did a lot of poaching. He continued.
“I’m a bow hunter. Part of the challenge is hunting the old way. I’m a purist, and I hate modern hunters, they’re just a bunch of posers. I won’t go into that, but I bow hunt, which means I’m very quiet and stealthy.
“I was way way back in there, in country so wild I bet nobody’s been in there since the Indians. That’s just me, I like wild country.
“Anyway, I was walking along really quiet when I saw what you see on the second page there. It was carved into an aspen tree. I stopped to look at it. Since I was so remote, I was kind of surprised to see anything man-made. 
“I thought maybe it was made by some sheepherder, you know, they have a tradition of carving in aspen trees. They get bored and carve all kinds of stuff. But it wasn’t really old, you can tell by the growth of the tree. A tree will try to scar over the cut, but it was relatively fresh, and anyway, this wasn’t sheepherding country. 
“It was thick fir and spruce, with a few aspen and a rough understory. Not easy going. And bear country. No sheepherder in his right mind would run sheep there, you’d lose them all the first day, if not to the country, to the bears.
“So, I decided I’d write it down and see if I could figure it out later. I thought that maybe it was some kind of code or marker made by another hunter to find his way around. So I put it in my little book. I put everything in my little book.
“I was now following a little path. It was just a little winding path through the thick forest where the leaves and all had been beat down enough you could walk easier. An animal path.
“I hadn’t gone more than 50 feet when I found that second mark, or rune, as you call it. I copied it into my book. I thought, this is getting interesting. But I sure as heck didn’t want to run into anyone.
“And now, a third. All of these right along that animal path, carved into aspen trees. I kept walking along, and for some reason, I started getting the willies. I felt exposed, even though I was in a deep forest. Not too many aspens, as they need light, and the fir trees were getting too thick. 
“I decided to step off the path and try to parallel it from in the brush. Hard to do, but it felt safer. I was beginning to wonder if I hadn’t stumbled onto some kind of pot growers deal, and they are very dangerous.”
Now Sam shifted in his seat and paused, as if he’d forgotten himself and was reassessing the situation to see if I could be trusted. I was already caught up in his story. 
I asked him if he wanted some coffee, and he said yes, so I started a cup in my little espresso machine. I then told him to go on, his story was very interesting. He continued.
“Well, Prof, I was getting nervous, I can tell you. I followed alongside that little path and would find more trees with runes and copy them down, then get back off the path. It was easy to find them, ‘cause like I said, there weren’t that many aspens. 
“This went on for a good mile, a long mile, winding in and out of trees and bushes and snags. I now had a good bunch of those runes in my little book, as you can see.”
He paused while I handed him a cup of coffee. I was more and more intrigued by his story.
“Now, Prof, this is the part where you’re likely to say I’m making this up, but I have something else I’d like to show you.”
At this point, Sam pulled out a small pocket-sized digital camera, turned it on, and handed it to me. 
“Be careful, Prof, these are the originals, and I don’t have any way to make copies. I traded a nice Dutch oven for that camera. I figured it might come in handy someday, and it has. Push that little button on the left and you can scan through the photos.”
I took the camera and carefully started scanning through what looked like photos taken indoors, vague and fuzzy, but I could make out an entire series of the runic figures. 
Then, I could make out an entire wall of runes, then pages from a book. It reminded me of the Codex Runicus, a manuscript from around 1300 A.D. containing one of the oldest and best preserved texts written entirely in runes.
“Sam, this is amazing! It looks like you found a bunch of them on a wall in a cave and in a book or something?” 
“Can you make anything out?” he asked.
“I don’t know. They’re too small on the camera to really tell. I need to download them on my computer before I can make any sense of them. They’re too small.”
“I need to know I can really trust you before you download anything, Prof.”
I replied, “I understand that, but if I don’t download them, I can’t be of any help. What in the world could I possibly do with them?”
He didn’t say a word, but nodded his head. 
“Look,” I said, why not take these to the local photo shop and have them put the photos on two discs, one for you and one for me. They deal with proprietary stuff all the time. “
I continued, “Just have them print out a statement saying you own the copyright, and I have permission only to examine them, not to show them to anyone else or to use them in any other manner. I’ll sign it when you bring the disc. Our secretary can witness it. That should work.”
Sam relaxed and sipped his coffee for a bit, then said he would do that, and would I like to hear the rest of the story? 
I answered, “Of course.”
He continued. “I followed alongside that path for awhile, and I could see it was leading up to the side of a cliff. I was really afraid of being ambushed by someone, so I was very careful, took my time. 
“I actually kind of circled around and came in along the cliff from another angle until I could see where the path went. It disappeared behind some rockfall up against the cliff.
“Now, there are tons of caves in this area, it’s pocketed with them, like I said before, it’s limestone. Spelunkers love this region, and they even found an Indian fellow inside a cave a few years ago. Archaeologists came in and recovered the body. It was very well preserved and carbon dated at around 5,000 years old.” 
Sam paused and sipped more coffee, then continued.
“So now I was beginning to suspect this was the entrance to a cave, and the trail had been made by cavers. I knew now it wasn’t no grow op, you can’t grow pot inside a cave with no electricity, so I relaxed a bit. I hid my pack in some nearby bushes.
“I sat there awhile, surveying it, until I felt comfortable going in. I quietly went down off the little hill I was on and looked in the rocks, and sure enough, there was a dark hole. 
“It wasn’t really big, but large enough that two or three people could enter it side by side if they wanted. But as I was looking at it, I found more of those runic things. They were carved all around the cave entrance. Carved into the rock, mind you. 
“Why would someone take the time to do that? It would take forever to carve, even though it’s limestone. There’s a photo of the entrance, you can see it later.
“I always carry a headlamp in my pack, and I dug it out and carefully entered the hole. 
“I will confess I was scared, but the wanting to know what was going on led me in there. Actually, you have no idea how scared I was, Prof. The place gave me the creeps.
“It took awhile for my eyes to adjust, so I stood there in the entrance with my headlamp off for a bit. Actually, I moved a bit to the side so I wouldn’t give someone a profile to shoot at or whatever. You can never be too careful in a situation like that.
“The hole opened up into a bit of an alcove, maybe about 10 feet high by 15 wide. I stood there, checking it out. 
“Could be that was all there was to it and it was someone’s home or something. I have run into a few hermits, and they usually aren’t very friendly. I even had one try to rob me. 
“There was nobody in there, so I turned on my light and looked around.
“More runes or whatever they are, but now above another hole in the back wall. The cave went on in. I took a photo. You’ll see it, Prof.
“Now things were getting dicey. The hole was easily big enough for me, but it looked like a tunnel, and I really hate being in dark narrow places. I’m a bit claustrophobic. 
“I nearly bailed at that point, what business did I have being in there? But something kept me going. I have no idea what, I’m not much of an underground explorer at all.
“I slipped into the tunnel, wondering if somehow I would hear a clang as someone closed a gate behind me. I was pretty nervous. I decided I would only go in a short ways, then bail.
“I hadn’t gone more than 20 feet when a bunch of bats came flying out, right in my face. OK, that scared the crap out of me, right then and there. I stopped and caught my breath and thought, what scared those bats out? Was it me, or was there something or someone back in there? 
“I decided it had to be me, ‘cause if there was someone in there the bats would already be gone. I could now see a bigger area ahead, and I knew my light was shining into another room, so I went ahead, but I can tell you, I had my knife ready.
“I came into the room, and this one was really big, maybe 30 by 30 feet. It seemed huge after crawling through that tunnel. And I now noticed a really overpowering dank smell, I have no idea what that was, maybe the bats. 
“Once again, I stepped aside and surveyed the situation, and turned my headlamp off.
“So, Prof, I stood there listening and I finally turned on my light and surveyed the room. I had to walk around to get the full picture. There were no other holes, this appeared to be it, the end of the cave.
“As I walked around, I could see more runes carved into the walls. They seemed to kind of point to a certain place. They were in a thin line until you kind of got to this place, then they were thick. It was like a ribbon around the cave wall that culminated in a bunch of runes.
“And under that bunch of runes was a little table, made of deer antlers. It was crude, but someone had jumbled antlers together until they formed a small table. You may have seen something like it, sort of a folk art. 
“And on that little table was a book. A very crude book. It was about a foot thick and maybe two feet square. Once again, there’s a photo. 
“I have no idea what it was made from, but the cover was leather, looked like chewed deer hide, very soft and pliable. 
“I stood there for a long time, thinking about all the stories I’d heard of weirdoes doing sacrifices and all that, Druid types, you know, hippies. I was freaked out and wanted to run like hell, but something made me stay. 
“I wanted more photos, and then I would get out. I needed photos so I would later know I wasn’t crazy. Plus, I was curious.
“I really hesitated to touch it, but I slowly opened the book. 
“It felt like it was made of some kind of homemade paper, very rough, and it smelled like that dusky odor I mentioned before—strong, almost made me gag. 
“I opened it, though, and I took photos of every page. I hurried as fast as I could. I felt like I was a spy on some kind of mission.
“When I was done, I got the hell out. I actually ran down that passage and out the door and up the hill where I’d stashed my pack. I grabbed it and headed back for my truck, staying completely off that path. I just had the creepiest feeling about that place and wanted nothing more to do with it.
“Once I got back to my truck, I hauled ass out of there. I’ve never been back. I have no idea why I took all those photos, they kind of give me the creeps and it’s not a good feeling. I kind of wish I’d never found that place.”
Sam now got up and looked out my window. He seemed nervous, so I reassured him he’d done the right thing, that mysteries are best when solved, it takes the fear away. 
I promised if he’d bring back the disc, I’d do my best to figure out the runes, but I also told him it’s impossible to decipher anything without context. He seemed ready to leave, so I let it go at that. 
I asked him one last question. “Sam, what was in the book?”
He looked puzzled, then asked, “I didn’t tell you?”
“No,” I replied.
“Well, dammit, they were full of the runes. And there were a couple of drawings. You’ll see when I bring back the pictures. You know, Prof, that was about five months ago, and I can’t get that place out of my mind. That’s why I decided I needed help, to figure it all out. I want to forget it.”
He was half out the door, then turned and thanked me for my time, seeming almost embarrassed. I assured him I would do my best to get to the bottom of things. 
At this point, I was deeply interested and wanted him to return with the photos. I once again assured him his secret would stay with me. 
We shook hands and he left. I would never believe him if I hadn’t seen a few of the photos.
I barely had time to finish grading papers and get to my class, and I was completely distracted through my lecture about the history of the English language. 
After I returned, Judy stopped me and asked what the visit had been about. 
I just laughed and said, “Oh, some wild story about finding some strange language. If he returns, let him come up. He’s very entertaining, a real character.” 
And I let it go at that, expecting to never see Sam again.
I went back up to my office to prepare for another class, but I couldn’t concentrate. I kept seeing his photos of the runes and wondering if it was all fake, or if perhaps he hadn’t discovered evidence that the Vikings had been here, or that perhaps the Native Americans did indeed have a written language. If either were true, it was the stuff linguists would die for.
The next day, Judy brought up a package for me. It was bubble wrapped and taped with my name on it. It was from Sam. I wondered why he hadn’t come up when he brought it, but the note inside answered my question:
Prof, don’t need paprz, trst u, livng in pickup, leevng, wll be in tuch, do yr best, sam
I opened the package, and out fell a disc, along with photocopies of his notebook. I almost started shaking, I was so eager to see what he’d found and examine it in detail. 
I put the disc in my computer, hoping it worked, which it did. I felt like a spy on a mission, just like Sam had described his feelings when he photographed the book. 
I eagerly printed out each of the photos. There were over 100 total—some were of the runes around the cave entrance, some of the interior of the cave, but most were of the contents of the book. 
I printed everything. I had to insert a new ink cartridge in the middle of the job, but I finally had hardcopy. I made a cup of coffee and sat down to examine everything. I had all afternoon and evening, as my next class wasn’t until tomorrow.
The first photo was of Sam’s truck. Why he’d photographed his truck I’ll never know, but I was later very grateful that he had, because one could also make out the Colorado plates. 
They were Pioneer Plates, which meant he was a descendant of original Colorado pioneers, as one had to prove their family had been in the state for 100 years to get such plates. I was surprised he’d go for the prestige. His truck was an old blue Dodge, and it had a camper on the back of similar vintage.
The next photo was of a sign. I do this myself, I often take pictures of signs to later identify where the photos were taken. I think Sam forgot that photo was on the disc, because it identified the area his cave was in, and he wanted it kept secret. But I wasn’t about to tell anyone, as I had my own vested interests at this point.
The sign said “Coffeepot Springs.” I suspected there would be more than one Coffeepot Springs in the state, but it was a start.
The next series of photos were of the path, which was very faint and hard to make out, but gave one an idea of what the terrain looked like. Rugged. 
After that, there were a few photos of the cave entrance and then close-ups of the runes carved in the rock around the cave. Then came a few of the first room, then the tunnel, then the next big room.
Then came the gravy, so to speak. Photos of the runes carved around the big room, then of the book. It was big, and rough looking, just as he’d described it. 
If he were trying to hoax me, he was doing a remarkably good job of it. Next were photos of each page, very legible. 
Then I stopped, shocked. These must be the sketches he had referred to. There were two of them, dark figures that were very muscular, with broad faces and wide shoulders, and faces that looked almost human, very intelligent. 
One wore a sort of crown that looked like it was made of antlers. The other looked female, it was less massive, and wore a crown made of leaves. Both were impressive looking, with heads that came to a sort of crest, or point, their shoulders melting into the neck muscles. And both were covered completely with dark hair, head to toe.
I sat back for a moment, not knowing what to think. Were these some conjured mythic figures that went with the stories in the text? Or were they sketches of real creatures? 
I shivered a bit, then got up and closed the window. It was spring, and still a bit chilly.
There were more pages of runes, and now I was to the end of the photos, and there were four pictures that I couldn’t figure out. They looked like photos of the ground. 
I put down the photocopies and went back to the computer and enlarged the first of the four strange photos. I sat and looked at the screen, unable to make anything out.
Just then one of my students, Roger, came into my office. He looked at my screen and said, “Wow, those are really big footprints. What are they?”
Footprints? I got up and walked across the room a bit and then, there they were, footprints, clear as day. I was just too close to make out the difference between the prints and the dirt, but now it was obvious.
“I have no idea what they are, Roger, they were brought in by some guy with some other photos. Hey, stick around a minute and look at the rest, maybe you can help me figure them out.”
I pulled up the other three photos onto the screen and sure enough, Roger had no trouble at all making them out, more footprints. 
We studied them a bit, comparing them to nearby plants, and we deduced they were in the range of 20 inches long and about 8 inches wide. They looked like a huge barefoot human foot with wide feet and big toes. 
“Bigfoot,” Roger remarked. This made me stop, as his assessment fit perfectly with the sketches.
Roger was intrigued and wanted to know more, but I wasn’t able to tell him, since I’d made an agreement with Sam. 
But I did consider that maybe Roger would make a good partner in the project—he was very bright and knew linguistic analysis, I had taught him myself. I decided to share the story with him after talking to Sam and seeing if it were OK.
I told Roger I couldn’t say anything now, but would like to include him in on it later, if I were given permission to do so. 
He looked at me with a sparkle in his eyes that said he would never let a simple promise stand in the way of a good adventure, and I should just tell him now. I laughed and asked if he’d ever heard of Coffeepot Springs.
He had. Interestingly enough, Roger had grown up in the small tourist town of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and he and his dad had hiked that area. There was a Coffeepot Springs up on the Flattop Mountains above town some ways out.
“Were there caves up there?” I asked. He said there were caves all over the Flattops, it was limestone. 
This was too easy, I now knew the probable area of the cave. But there was a lot of territory up there, one could look forever, I realized. 
Roger sat there, puzzled and with a look on his face that asked to be let in on this one. And I wanted him in on it, I knew he could help me figure out if this was some kind of language. 
He was a bright and hard-working graduate student, and I was an overworked professor trying to get tenure. But I had given Sam my word.
Fast forward a few weeks. I’d been working in my spare time trying to figure out what the runic mystery was all about. I’d copied them into a notebook, studied their sequences and patterns, and done all a trained linguist can do to analyze a language. 
But I was getting nowhere, because one needs a framework, a context, for figuring out a foreign language or system. That’s why the Rosetta Stone is so famous, it provided the link between the old and the new. I needed a Rosetta Stone.
I had determined that the inscriptions were probably made by different writers, as there were differences and similarities. They also looked like the real deal, not a hoax. 
I needed more information before I could even guess at when they were made. I needed to see them up close on the stone to determine how old they were using dating methods. My archaeologist friends needed to be there with me. And I needed that book.
I also needed more information from Sam, but he had left no way to contact him, no phone, no address, nothing. I also wanted his permission to get Roger involved. Until he returned, I was pretty much at a dead end.
Then, one day in early May, after I’d pretty much given up, Sam showed up in my office. He looked exactly the same, down to the clothes and boots and haircut, or lack of one. I made him a cup of coffee.
“Hey, Prof, havin’ any luck?”
I told him what I’d been able to find out, and what I needed—to see the inscriptions for myself with an expert archaeologist. I also needed some kind of intermediary translation, which I doubted would be forthcoming. 
I had compared his runes with those of the Norse and they had absolutely nothing in common. I was now thinking it was a completely independent system and probably Native American, but I wanted to show them to a runic expert.
I was frustrated, I needed more information, I needed help, and I needed to know where these things were located.
But Sam wouldn’t tell me anything more. He could see how earnest I was at solving the mystery, but he didn’t trust me enough to show me where to go.
I added, “And Sam, my friend, I need to be able to get in touch with you occasionally. Not being able to reach you has slowed this thing down, you know.”
Sam nodded, then said there was no way because he lived in his truck and had no phone. He assured me he would check in whenever he could.
The only thing I could think of doing at this point was to send Sam back and have him collect the data we needed, since he wouldn’t reveal the location. 
I could get him in touch with an archaeologist who could walk him through how to measure the depth of the carved inscriptions, bring back rock samples, more detailed photos, that kind of thing. 
Sam said that would be OK, as long as no one else was let in on what was going on. I agreed to keep the secret from all but Roger, who would also be sworn to secrecy. 
I called Roger and he came up to my office. Sam OK’d Roger’s help, after meeting him to gauge his trustworthiness. I don’t think Roger had any idea what he’d gotten himself into, because when we explained it all, he looked as incredulous as I had—and excited.
I told Sam he could park his rig in my driveway, which he did, but he wouldn’t come inside. I did manage to sneak a photo of him from inside the house. I don’t know why, but I just wanted some sort of verification this guy really did exist and wasn’t a product of my imagination. I was later glad I did, though at the time it felt sneaky.
The three of us spent part of the next day meeting with an archaeology prof and getting the information we needed to try and date the inscriptions. I also went down and bought a better camera for Sam to try and get more photos.
Sam was very quiet through all of this, and when it came time for him to leave the next morning, I flat out asked him if the location wasn’t in the Flattops. He didn’t seem surprised and noted that I must’ve seen the sign for Coffeepot Springs. I said I had.
He then said, and I’ll never forget it, “This isn’t at all what you think it is, Prof, it isn’t Indians.”
I asked him what it was. 
“Didn’t you see the footprints? That should tell you. Those footprint photos were taken right outside the cave. I don’t want to go back. I don’t care about what it is anymore. It’s too dangerous.” 
He handed me the camera I’d given him. “Thanks, but I just can’t do this.”
“Sam, can you tell me where it is so I can go in there?” I asked.
“No, it’s too dangerous. I’m wishing I’d never told anybody about this.”
“What is it, Sam, if it’s not Indians? Tell me.”
He paused, then said, “Bigfoot. It’s some kind of a Bigfoot holy place, or their history, or something. Nobody belongs in there, I know that.”
I was a bit shocked, but I remembered that Roger had said the same thing, Bigfoot. I then told Sam I’d spent many hours on this and it was definitely a real language, it had the pattern frequencies, the markings of consonants and vowels, and I’d even been able to make out some of the syntax. I wasn’t ready to quit.
But now I realized that I should’ve quit right then and there. Maybe Sam would still be alive, assuming he’s dead.
But I didn’t quit. I was able to talk Sam into going back, against his better judgement, and I suspect that he may have lost his life because of that. He listened to me instead of his own instincts.
Anyway, Sam went back out, promising more photos and the information we needed to try and date the inscriptions. He would also try to get a sample of the paper without harming the book. There was no way he would even consider bringing the book back. 
I gave him a cell phone, and he promised to use it to call me in a week or so when he got back from the cave so I’d know he was OK.
A week went by, and I began anticipating Sam’s call. Nothing. Two weeks, nothing. 
In the meantime, Roger was now working on the runes, trying to see what he could come up with. 
At the beginning of the third week, we agreed we needed to notify officials of Sam’s absence. I called the sheriff in Garfield County and emailed them the photo of Sam’s truck, along with the photo of him I’d taken, and I mentioned Coffeepot Springs. 
They sent out a search party that same day. They found his truck, sitting at the springs, but no Sam.
Two days later, I received another call from search and rescue. They hadn’t found him, and they were going to give up the search, as a big spring storm was in the area. It was snowing, and they were dealing with whiteout conditions. They would try to get back in there when the storm lifted.
But they had found tracks about two miles from the springs, going up against a mountainside. There was enough fresh snow that they’d managed to track him. 
They were worried he’d run into a bear, as there were lots of big footprints around his in the snow, but melted and not very clear. But the bears should still be in hibernation, so they weren’t sure what was going on.
I asked if they’d found a camera or cell phone, and they had found a camera in his pickup, but no phone. But there was no coverage up there, anyway. They said they would send me the camera. 
I felt sick. I was responsible for this, he hadn’t wanted to go back and I’d talked him into it. Roger said it was ultimately Sam’s decision, his choice, no matter what I’d said to him, and I shouldn’t feel guilty—but I did anyway. 
I put the runes on the top shelf, so to speak, and halted the project. I was tempted to throw everything away, now that Sam was missing and maybe even dead. I received the camera, but I didn’t even want to look at its contents, so I gave it to Roger.
I still had no idea where the cave was, except in a general sense, although I thought it might be located using the information on the first page of Sam’s notebook. I was torn between wanting to go find the cave and hopefully Sam  also, or forgetting it ever existed. 
Could Sam have had a run-in with Bigfoot? I had no idea such creatures might really exist, I thought it was just a legend from the Pacific Northwest. But in Colorado? Bigfoot? The mystery haunted me, and I couldn’t forget it, but I also now wanted nothing to do with it.
After two weeks of looking, search and rescue gave up the hunt. Sam would stay missing until he either came in by himself or someone found his body. I hoped for the former. I suspected it would be the latter.
Then, one day in mid-June, Roger walked into my office. He was excited.
“Professor Johnson, I’ve found it! I think we can solve the rune mystery!”
I was shocked.
He continued, “You know, I’m doing some work on the Lakota Archive with Professor Taylor. I came upon something really weird in an old manuscript from the museum in Bismarck, North Dakota. It was a photocopy of an old sun calendar they have in their archives with some Siouan inscriptions they thought we might be interested in.” 
He pulled out the copy and pointed to an inscription in one corner. “Look, Professor. Runes. And under them, Lakota Sioux. It looks like a translation. There’s a lot of them. If it is, it may be enough to break them.”
I was dumbfounded. Were the Lakota Sioux ever in the Flattops area, or were there Bigfoot in other regions? Had these huge creatures, if they even existed, actually communicated with the Native Americans? 
Was Sam right, was the cave some kind of archive for them? Had they killed Sam for entering it? It all seemed like something out of a fantasy novel.
But Roger had more. He had downloaded the photos from the camera I had given Sam, and there were photos that looked to be a new cave. There, on its wall, were more runes, and under them, more Lakota Sioux.
I was astounded.
To make a long story short, as they say, Roger and I are working on the runes, and we think we may indeed have the key. We are now trying to translate the book, and are having some success, although there are some gaps. What we’re finding is amazing, to put it mildly. It seems to be a historical account.
I am currently grappling with the ethical considerations of revealing this information to others. It’s a fascinating manuscript, but do I have the right to print it? I don’t know. It’s a real issue for me, and one I may never be able to answer. 
On one hand, this is very sensitive information about a creature not even believed by most to exist. And on the other, it would solve many mysteries and perhaps provide more evidence for their existence and ultimately, their protection. 
But my reputation as a credible professor of linguistics could also be at stake if I were to publish the information.
I keep hoping Sam will walk in the door. If and when he does, I suspect there will be more solutions to this mystery. 
Until then, Roger and I will keep working on this amazing project.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Tired of Tourists

Well, as promised, here's a story from my new book, Ten Intense Bigfoot Campfire Stories. Enjoy!

I’ve been up into Canada several times, but always with a pretty good sized group of people, and I’ve never had the chance to really do any Squatchin’. But based on the Canadian stories I’ve heard, the Bigfoot up there, which they often call Sasquatch, aren’t nearly as amiable as the ones this side of the border. 
This story came from a fellow who called himself Crow, and why he called himself that I never did find out, but he was a heckuvva fisherman. I enjoyed his story, though it did leave me feeling a bit uncomfortable about traveling alone in the Canadian Rockies.  —Rusty

My story took place in the summer of 2010, in early August. I was between jobs (as in unemployed), so I decided to take some of my savings and do something I’ve always wanted to do—go to Canada. I’ve always wanted to see the Canadian Rockies.
So, I got my passport and, since I have three dogs, I got their shots all current along with the veterinarian exam papers that Canada requires. After all that, I was never asked to see the dogs’ papers, but I sure didn’t want to risk not being legal.
I live in Wyoming, so I decided to just head north and see the country at a leisurely pace. I went through the Tetons and Yellowstone and finally arrived in Glacier National Park about three weeks later. I was an old hand at camping, having done it since I was a kid. 
I was camped kind of illegally in Glacier, way out on a back dirt road off the highway that loops from St. Mary’s around to Hungry Horse, the back road that most tourists don’t take, as they want to go over the Going to the Sun Road. 
It was a sweet camp, and I’d set up my big tent and all, and I knew nobody ever went in there because the grasses were growing so high you could barely find the road, which ended at my campsite. And man, what views! I could look down and see St. Mary’s Lake and huge distant waterfalls from my tent door. It was paradise.
Because of finding this great spot, I decided I’d go up into Waterton National Park in Canada, and make it a one day trip instead of packing up and then trying to find a camp spot up there. A friend who had been up there told me that the park would be very crowded that time of year. 
I wanted to spend most of my time in Canada in Banff and Jasper National Parks, and I wanted to backtrack through Montana and cross the border north of Kalispell, so I wanted to come back down that way anyway, no need to change camps.
I got up really early, made some coffee, filled my thermos, fed the dogs, grabbed some lunch stuff, then we all jumped into my pickup and headed for Canada. It was  a beautiful drive, and we crossed the border with no problems and were soon coming down the grade into Waterton. 
I couldn’t believe the size of these mountains, even though I’d just been in Glacier, they seemed bigger and even more magnificent. I had to stop several times to just sit and stare.
Well, I made it into Waterton, and boy, was I disappointed. The park advertises itself as a quiet untrammeled place, and I suppose it is in general, but the little town of Waterton is a tourist trap bar none. It was hard to even find a place to turn around, and the streets were packed with people walking around, with nowhere to even park. 
I drove around a bit, checked out the little waterfall there, then left, heading for Cameron Lake, which is at the end of a windy road that climbs high in the mountains above Waterton.
The lake was beautiful with a white glacier hanging above its far shores, but once again, it was crowded with people. You could rent canoes there, and the lake was just hopping with boats. I found a little side trail that I had no idea where it went, but it said dogs were allowed, so I put everyone on leashes and headed out. They needed a hike.
I hadn’t got more than 50 feet when I was greeted by a group of about 20 people coming up the trail, yelling and laughing and all that. I don’t usually mind people, but—well, OK, I do mind people when I want solitude, and I especially wanted to let the dogs stretch their legs a bit. This wasn’t the place.
We got back in the truck and headed back down the windy road. I was too busy watching the road and dodging RVs to even see much of the scenery, and there were almost no places to turn off and get out, so that was kind of a blur.
I decided to go see a place called Red Rock Canyon. It was the opposite direction from how I’d come into the park, so I turned left at the bottom of the hill and let everyone else go on back to Waterton. Good riddance.
Red Rock Canyon sounded attractive to me because the name reminded me a bit of the Red Rock Desert in Wyoming. I guess I was getting a bit homesick by that time. The Canadian Rockies are all sedimentary rocks, not granite or volcanic, which makes them truly spectacular because they have lots of layers and colors. Red Rock Canyon sounded like a place I should see. 
One thing I’d discovered about Waterton was that you could hike with your dogs, unlike the national parks in the U.S., which I found to be a very cool thing about Canada.
Well, there wasn’t much traffic on the Red Rock road, which was nice, and it wasn’t all narrow and windy, once you got up above the highway a bit. It kind of went through a big wide valley with a nice creek running through with lots of willows. A good place for moose, I remember thinking, though I never did see any.
I hope I’m not going into too much detail here and boring you, but I really want to paint a picture of how it was. 
Anyway, I hadn’t gone more than a few miles when I saw a sign saying that the road to the canyon was closed at a certain point for construction. Great, no Red Rock Canyon for me. I was getting kind of fed up with Waterton National Peace Park, as Canada called it, pretty as it was. 
By now, I really needed to get the dogs out. I spied a campground to the left across the creek, so I turned in there, but the sign said full, so I just turned around and went on down the road. Too many people everywhere. You have to remember that I’m from Wyoming, and there’s almost no one around where I live, so I’m not used to many people.
Before long, I came to a turnout that had a historical marker, so I stopped there. I read the marker, and I can only recall that it was something about the natives there and some explorer, but I don’t recall anything about who or when. 
I let the dogs out for a minute, and they went into the bushes and did their thing, then I decided this would be a great spot to get them out for some exercise.
I was kind of wishing I’d just stayed at my camp in Glacier, as we would’ve had a nice day just goofing around there, but on the other hand, at least I’d seen Waterton now, or a bit of it, anyway. But we were used to getting out, and we needed some exercise. 
We headed up a big hill that appeared to be part of the foothills of a big mountain that rose above them, I mean a really big mountain. It was beautiful, all layered in various shades of red.
The dogs were really happy to be out, and we all kind of bounded up this big hill for a bit. I had to stop and catch my breath, and the views were stunning. I was really enjoying this and now liking Waterton, and so were the dogs.
But all of a sudden, the dogs stopped cold. They just stood there, looking ahead, and as I came up behind them, I could see that the one closest to me, Otis, was shaking. I’ve never seen my dogs shake. I then noticed they were all shaking. Before I could even say a word, two of them had turned and were hightailing it back to the truck as fast as they could go. We hadn’t come very far, so they were back down there really fast, and I could see them crawling under the truck.
Now Otis was running back, too. He was very protective of me, and I’d never seen him do anything like that. I decided it must be a big grizzly bear, and maybe they could smell it, where I couldn’t, and I’d better pay attention, so I was soon also heading back at a good clip.
I unlocked the truck and everyone jumped in, which was unusual, as I typically have to get after them, they always want to fiddle around, smell everything. I jumped in and locked the doors.
Now I started scanning the hill, wondering why we were all so scared. I finally rolled down my window, but I didn’t hear or see anything. By now another car had pulled up to read the sign, and they smiled at me and got out and acted like everything was fine.
I was puzzled. What had the dogs sensed or smelled?
I’ve been a bit of a photographer since I was a kid, even though I never could afford nice equipment. But most of my stuff was landscape photos, as there wasn’t much where I lived except deer and antelope in the sense of wildlife. 
But ever since going through Yellowstone, I’d come to understand why people are so attracted to wildlife photography. I’d taken some photos there of wolves and buffalo and even a huge great-horned owl. So, I was kind of hoping this grizzly would come out to where I could get some photos—from the safety of my truck, anyway, and where I could get away fast.
I set there a bit, even though the dogs were again shivering. I have a club cab, and Sunny and Maggie were in the back, hiding on the floor. My dogs are all labs, and they’re happy-go-lucky, and I don’t think they think enough about things to get scared much. Even fireworks don’t usually bother them. So I knew this had to be something really scary.
I rolled the windows back up. The other car left. I started the pickup and turned it so I could make a quick getaway, if needed, then turned it off and just sat there. Whatever it was, it was still around, according to the dogs. I got my camera ready to go.
By now, it was getting on towards late afternoon. It had been a long day, and I wanted to take a picture of this grizz, then I would head back to Glacier.
Just then, something huge jumped onto the back of my truck. I have a camper shell, so whatever it was, it had to have jumped onto the bumper. The whole front end of the truck came up, including the front wheels. We just hung there in the air for a minute.
I was shocked and dropped my camera. I couldn’t see what was holding the truck up, but it was something big. I hadn’t seen anything coming, which was really strange, as I kept looking around and in the rear-view mirrors.
Just then, I heard a breaking sound. My truck was falling apart! The front came down with a wham and I nearly smashed my nose on the steering wheel.
I had the presence of mind to start the truck and slam it into gear and peel out while I could. Dirt and rocks went flying into the air, and I know they must’ve hit this thing in the face, as it had to be standing directly behind me.
As I peeled out onto the blacktop, I felt something slam against the side of the truck, and I saw a big tree branch rolling down the road behind me. By then, I had the accelerator floored and was quickly getting up speed. But not fast enough, because I noticed something in my passenger-side rear mirror, and this really shook me up. 
Something big and human-like was chasing me, wearing a fur coat, and it had nearly caught up. It looked like it was trying to grab onto the door handle. I reached down and hit the auto-lock, making sure all the doors were locked. By now, Otis was whining his head off in the seat beside me. Maggie and Sunny were still on the floor, so I couldn’t see them at all.
By now, my truck had ramped up and we were finally able to leave this thing behind. I never did get a really good look at it, but I can tell you this—it was no grizzly. What I did see was that it was huge and covered in light brown, long, flowing hair. It was a Canadian Sasquatch, and you can believe me or not—it doesn’t matter either way, because I know what I saw. 
I drove like a madman towards Red Rock Canyon, the direction I’d had the truck pointed. I’d forgotten the road would be closed, so I was surprised when I got a mile or two down the road and saw a flagger ahead, wearing orange. It was a woman, and she stopped me and told me I had to turn around and go back.
I was in shock, and I told her I couldn’t turn around and go back. I hardly knew what I was saying. She said I had to turn around, as they were working on the road. I just sat there. Finally, another car came up behind me, so I decided I would turn around, then follow it back. There was no way I was going through that stretch of road alone. 
I turned around and pulled over to let the other car go around me. It then dawned on me that I should get out and see how much damage my truck had taken. What I saw really messed with my mind—my entire bumper was gone! And there was a big dent where the tree branch had hit, just above the wheel well.
It also dawned on me that I needed to get that bumper back, as it had my license plate on it. I would get pulled over with no plate, and what was I to say, that a Sasquatch had torn it off? I had to stop back there and get it. But I couldn’t, there was no way.
About then, a pickup came along with Montana plates, and I flagged it down. I explained that I’d lost my bumper back down the road, and I needed someone to help me load it into my truck—would they mind following along and helping? The driver was a real nice guy, he looked like a rancher or something, and he said he would.
I hoped I wasn’t getting them involved in something bad, but when I got to the pullover I slowed down, did a quick look around, then pulled over. Sure enough, my bumper lay there, all twisted up, but the plate was still on it. I hoped the Squatch had moved on.
The guy from Montana got out and asked me what had happened, but I couldn’t tell him the truth, so I said I’d backed into a rock and hadn’t realized it until later. He looked skeptical, but helped me load it into the back of my truck. 
I couldn’t wait to get out of there, especially after I smelled a strong skunky odor. I thanked him, then he asked me if I was OK. I decided to tell him the truth, so I quickly told him what had happened. He commented on the strong odor, and then jumped into his truck and drove away. I think he believed me. I was right behind him.
The drive back was a blur. I don’t really remember anything, not even the border crossing. By the time I got back to Montana and the little resort town of St. Mary, I had had it. No way did I have the courage to go back to my camp, so I rented a room, no matter that it was really expensive and I had to sneak the dogs in. I didn’t care.
The next day, I drove back to my camp. What I saw scared the heck out of me. All around the tent were huge bear tracks. I know it was a grizzly. It hadn’t bothered anything, but had just walked around a bunch.
I was then glad I’d stayed at the motel, because if I’d come back, who knows what would’ve happened. Maybe that was why nobody had camped there for so long, it was prime grizz territory.
I packed everything up and headed home. I’d go see Banff and Jasper another day, which I did, but from the comfort of motel rooms at night. I’ve never camped since, except in the desert. 
But I’ve often wondered if that Squatch hadn’t felt like I did that day—sick of tourists everywhere.