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COUNTY: Fresno County
LOCATION DETAILS: Provided in the main part of my report
NEAREST TOWN: It might be Shaver Lake, but it is hard to tell. At any rate, we were a very long way from Shaver Lake or any other town, up in the mountains. We parked the car at Courtright Reservoir.
NEAREST ROAD: Courtright Road -- the road that leads to the dam at Courtright Reservoir.
OBSERVED: In late August of 1981 I heard a distinct distant wailing animal call similar in character to some of the recordings posted on the BFRO website. I was backpacking with two other people in California's Sierra Nevada mountains, near the northern boundary of Kings Canyon National Park. About a year later I wrote down a very detailed description of the event. I have always wanted to report this to some appropriate organization, so now that I have found the BFRO site, here it is.
I was 16 at the time of the event. I am now 37. The following is a refined version of a description I wrote one year after the event.
I was on a backpacking trip with two family friends who were about my parent's age. Our destination was the Devil's Punchbowl in California's Sierra Nevada mountains which is about a 19-mile hike on good trails from the parking lot at Courtright Reservoir. [You can find a topo map of the area at http://www.topozone.com/map.asp?z=11&n=4112372&e=335727&s=50&size=m] The first night we camped at a place called Long Meadow. The second day was a long hike to Fleming Lake (elevation about 9600 feet,) where we made camp just before sunset. Our camp was at the northeast corner of the lake, about 50 yards from the shore, up against a low, steep granite slope. We were the only people camped at that lake that evening. The two adults set about making dinner, and I went fishing at the lake since the fish were jumping vigorously. I started at the point on the lakeshore that was closest to the campsite and worked my way around the north edge of the lake towards the west. It was starting to get dark, the wind was virtually calm, and it was so quiet and peaceful that I could clearly hear occasional sounds from camp about 100 yards away: talking and the clinking of cookware. I was really focused on the fishing since I was very eager to catch something before it got too dark.
I was changing a lure when I heard the sound. It was a distant wailing coming from the north/northeast, up a broad open valley, to my left. Fleming Creek runs through this valley. This call is very hard to describe, but one could describe it as human- or primate-like in its smooth, round character. The call was broken up into segments that rose and fell in pitch. Each segment lasted about 1.5 seconds and each followed immediately after the one before it, like "oooOOo, oooOOo, oooOOo" with the pitch and volume rising in the middle of each segment and trailing off abruptly at the end. There were about six segments in the call, making the total call length about 10 seconds. The sound was somewhere between an "oooo" and a "wow" sound.
I froze immediately upon hearing this. It did not really scare me, but it commanded all of my attention. I heard it very clearly though it was faint and obviously far away. I would guess its origin could have been anywhere from one to two miles away, up the valley to the north/northeast. As I said it was very calm that evening and sound carries far in conditions like that. The call stopped after the first six "oooOOo" segments, and I immediately and very consciously decided that I was hearing things and ignored it and went back to working on my lure. Then I heard it again and there was no ignoring it. There was a total of five or six very clear, distinct calls made up of about five or six "oooOOo" segments each. The entire event lasted maybe 45 seconds or a minute.
Once the second call started I stopped what I was doing and listened very carefully as the call repeated. I was definitely not hearing things. It was not the wind, since the breeze was barely a whisper. I was in an open meadow with a lake immediately in front of me and a tree-covered granite mountain behind me. The sound was not echoing, as there was nothing for it to echo against, and the sound did not trail off as it repeated as an echo does. It started and stopped very deliberately.
This spooked me and I packed up all my fishing gear and went back to camp. I told the others that I had heard an animal call of some kind and asked them if they had heard anything but they had not. My guess is that the sound was masked by the noises from their own activities and the steep but low granite slope behind them. I forced myself not to think about it much, since we still had four nights to spend out there and we were headed deeper into the mountains. I did not hear, see, feel, or smell anything unusual for the rest of the trip, though I was pretty keyed up and attentive after that.
Regarding the quality of the sound:
About a month after I got back from the trip I read in John Green's book "On the Track of the Sasquatch" the description of the Puyallup recordings from 1973. It describes very well the quality of the call I heard: The unidentified noise is not an "eeeee" scream, but more of a long "whooOooOooOoo" or "whoopwhoopwhoop" at a high pitch and with immense volume. Heard from a distance it can be compared with the sound of a siren far off but it definitely is not that. When I first read that I got chills all over and I felt a little shocked, since that is an extremely good way to describe what I heard.
I recently found your website and listened to all the supposed Sasquatch sound recordings, and the sound I heard could easily have been made by the same source. But the sounds on your website are mostly long wails or howls, and what I heard undulated up and down fairly rapidly. The voice itself sounded like a cross between the 1973 Puyallup sounds and the 1993 Del Norte County "angry Bigfoot" scream. But what I heard did not sound in the least threatening. In retrospect, it seemed as if the caller were simply announcing to everyone that it was present. Though there were multiple calls, they all seemed to come from the same source, from the same direction. I did not hear anything that sounded like an answer.
To my mind there is no way this could have been a person unless they were playing with an amplifier. The noise was obviously far away and I find it hard to believe anyone (short of an opera singer) could project a call like that over such a distance. There were not that many people out there anyway. Since then I have heard coyotes, owls, horses, donkeys, grouse, and other animals in the wild, and they don't sound anything at all like what I heard. I have never to my knowledge heard a cougar, so I guess that is a possibility. I have heard that there could have been elk in that area, but I have listened to several elk bugles on the Web, and none of them are remotely like what I heard. Those elk recordings sound like someone trying to make a sound on a saxophone for the first time (dry and squawking), and what I heard had a very smooth "primate" quality.
ALSO NOTICED: As we approached Fleming Lake, the trail followed Fleming Creek which was maybe 100 feet below in a ravine. The bottom of the ravine was thickly covered with brush and trees. Down in the ravine we all clearly heard what sounded like a person or a large animal moving at a walking pace downstream (opposite direction of us.) It sounded like someone moving through thick brush and occasionally breaking branches, not even trying to be quiet. Later, my guide told me she thought it was a bear, since she had experience with them in this area before. To this day I have no reason to think otherwise.
OTHER WITNESSES: No other witnesses. The other two in my party did not hear the sounds, though if they had been standing where I was I am certain they would have.
OTHER STORIES: There are several other reports in your online database from this general area. I read a report on some other bigfoot-related website about three years ago that described a virtually identical call at the same time of day from the same general region on approximately the same date, but I have not been able to find it again. I was really surprised to read that report, since it could even have been the same incident reported by someone else.
TIME AND CONDITIONS: Maybe 7:30 in the evening. Dusk. Clear, calm. Not even enough wind to cause ripples on the water. It had been a warm day. Nights were relatively cold, with temperatures dipping to just below freezing. It was dry, since it was late in the year. There was not a lot of water in any of the creeks.
ENVIRONMENT: High Sierra conifer forest, near the treeline. Fleming Lake is at about 9600 feet. Lots of forest interspersed with cold lakes and meadows. Snowfields present on the shady side of many of the peaks. Very rugged and remote, though back then the area got a fair amount of backpack and pack horse traffic. We saw lots of bear and deer prints in the area.
Follow-up investigation report:
I talked with the witness by phone. This report is very thorough. The only information that can be added is that the witness believes that the vocalization may have come either from a female or a young male.
This type of vocalization has been noted before. It could be speculated that opposed to being a territorial "scream," this may have been a location call, intended to let other bigfoots in the area know where he/she was.