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.

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