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DATE: 8-11 Sept 2005
COUNTY: Lake County
NEAREST TOWN: Leadville
OBSERVED: The BFRO Colorado Expedition was conducted in a remote area in the same part of Colorado as some major ski areas -- Vail, Ski Cooper, and Breckenridge. The area was heavily forested and had plenty of water.
The expedition was well planned and was executed well. The majority of the participants arrived at the initial base camp location on 8 Sept and individual camps (groups of two-three) were positioned along the drainage.
We had all been briefed on the history of sightings, tracks, and vocalizations in the area, and the methods we'd use to determine their presence. We spread out that evening, stayed in touch via walkie talkie, and conducted wood knocking and calling in an coordinated manner.
We had night vision devices, recording devices, and IR detection equipment. We worked well into the early morning hours (2 AM). Nothing was heard.
The next morning (9 Sept) the guides said we should move the base camp to another target area, because we would have heard any sasquatches the night before if they were in that drainage. We drove a few hours to a new location across the Continental Divide.
The night of 9 Sept was spent in canyon near the new base camp. Participants were positioned a half mile to quarter mile intervals (I think) with the sound blaster positioned in the middle of the group. The calls and wood knocks announced and timed so as not to be confused with a response. Nothing was heard.
The next day (10 Sept.), the focus moved to a different canyon, near where some possible vocalizations were heard the night before by one of the guides. A group of five or six worked the top of the drainage from well above the timber line and hiked down in the direction of the base camp. Two others worked the road on ATVs above the valley, and a few others worked the hillsides above the drainage.
I hiked up the same drainage starting from the base camp. As I was walking up the trail next to the creek, about a mile or so from camp, I was in radio contact with the group above me. We would announce when we would call or wood knock. We could hear the knocks and calls between us, but just barely.
I proceeded to a fork in the trail and found an old hunting camp site that had been used in previous years but had shown no signs of recent use. I started to take an old trail that went through the camp site when I heard two distinct and clear wood knocks to my left approximately 150 - 200 yards away at most – close enough to startle me significantly as I was by my self.
I stopped and immediately got on the radio – no one was within a mile of two of me and no one had said they were knocking. The sound was much closer and more distinct that those made by the guys way up on the ridge above me.
After about two minutes, I picked up a large stick and made two or three loud wood knocks in reply. I got an immediate response of two knocks that appeared to be a little farther away (maybe 300-400 yards) but still very clear. The knocks were similar to the first I had heard but just a little farther away.
I responded again with knocks and then a whoop or two over a 30 minute period but got no additional replies. I was alert to any movement or smells in the area but noticed none. Eventually I decided to return to base camp.
After arriving at camp I linked up with a few other guys. We road ATVs to the location where I heard the knocks to investigate further. One guy took the ATV further on the trail that forked to the left at the old camp site. He went for about .7 miles in the direction where the sound came from. He later said he noticed a musty smell in that area.
The group that worked the drainage from the top had found a couple of sets of tracks (which they photographed). I saw the pictures and thought they were pretty clear. As they moved down the valley they also noticed a distinct smell about 500 yards to the left of the above referenced wood knock incident. This is the same area where Lee picked up the smell and turned around on the trail.
Some things happened later that night around the base camp. I'll let the others describe those incidents.
I recommend that as a prerequisite for attending expeditions, each attendee should listen closely to the Sierra Sounds CD. I bought it after the trip and wish I had heard it before the trip. It gives a good understanding of what they sound like, the wood knocks, the vocalizations, and all.
The expedition guides from the BFRO were very informative and helpful. They brought a lot of experience to the event. The guides from Colorado had extensive knowledge of the encounters in this area, including some of their own. Other attendees were witnesses from Colorado.
I hope to work with the Colorado guides and the other newbies over the next year (may even be up for a trip to Wyoming). I now have a working sound blaster, and a couple of digital trail cams – enough to be dangerous. I hope to attend some of the other expeditions over the next year (Oklahoma, Arizona or Oregon) and work with this group again.
My wife thinks I have lost it. I have to get her involved.
TIME AND CONDITIONS: Various times
Follow-up investigation report:
Curt Hovenac is a retired, U.S. Army GIS/Mapping specialist.
Regarding the camera / audio strategy for this expedition -- see the commentary about the BC expedition (Aug.'05). Click here for that report.