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COUNTY: Dolores County
LOCATION DETAILS: See description.
NEAREST TOWN: Silverton
NEAREST ROAD: Just off FR 578
OBSERVED: Possible footprint observation, FR 578 near Hermosa Peak, Dolores County Colorado, Friday, June 20, 2003
We were staying in a cabin northeast of Vallecitos on Middle Mountain, just off of FR 724. I arrived in the area Tuesday the 17th of June. We had spent several days in the area, including trips to Mesa Verde, horseback riding on West Mountain in the Weminuche Wilderness, and fourwheeling up FR 724 on Middle Mountain.
Friday morning (the 20th), we drove into Durango and rented a couple of late model Jeeps. We drove out to attempt a drive on FR 682 but found it closed due to a recent fire. The Jeep rental folks had suggested FR 578 as an alternate if we found 682 closed, so we proceeded north on US 550 to the Purgatory\Durango Mountain Resort area and picked up FR 578. At the junction we followed FR 578 and took it up through the Graysill Mine and Graysill ghost town, over Bolam Pass, and then west from the junction with TR 638.
We followed FR 578 until the trail terminates at a berm installed on a spur of FR 578, presumably installed to close the trail to motorized traffic. While my wife and daughter and I stopped to eat lunch, my sister, brother-in-law and father hiked towards the base of Hermosa Peak (12,579 ft). I estimate we were at approximately 11,500 to 12,000 feet, near the timberline.
When they returned from their hike (about 3 PM), my sister (age 28) reported that she had noticed what she thought looked like a large bare human footprint on a closed portion of trail, approximately ¼ mile WSW from the berm.
Having been interested in the Bigfoot phenomenon for some time, I though she might be pulling my leg but I took my video camera and we walked down the path together, looking for where she thought she had seen the footprint. We noticed a large amount of Elk sign in the area, and what appeared to be motorcycle tire tracks.
We had not noticed anything and had actually started back towards the area where the Jeeps were parked when she found the print. I videotaped the print, and compared my hiking boot (size 12) to the print. The print appeared to be perhaps 2 inches longer than my hiking boot which measures 12¾ inches, and about 1 to 2 inches wider than my hiking boot which measures about 5 inches wide, making the print approximately 14½ or 15 inches long by about 6 to 7 inches wide. The print had what appeared to be a clear heel line, foot shape, ball print and toe marks. The print appeared to be a left foot.
As we continued towards the Jeeps, we found another print, much more clear than the previous print about 3½ to 4 feet away. When we first observe this print I am clearly heard on the tape to say “Oh my God” because the print was so obvious. This print appeared to be a right foot. Relative size compared to my hiking boot was similar to that noticed on the first print. This print had more definition of the heel print, arch and ball print, indicated flexibility due to a sharp rock that would have been near the center of the foot, and had five very distinct toe marks. The rock appeared to have been displaced either by whatever made the print, or subsequent to that by the passing of Elk or my family. My sister joked at this point that “he stubbed his toe” due to the shape of the print and proximity to other rocks.
About 3 or 4 feet further along the trail (heading back ENE) we found a third print that was not as easy to distinguish but which approximately matched the distance from the first to second print and was again similar in size. The ground on the trail was getting progressively harder and more stoney, but this appeared to be a left foot again.
No further prints were observed as we made our way back to the Jeeps, but we continued to observe Elk prints made in the muddy sides of the closed trail (evidenced by curling and ridges on the prints).
I initially took the whole event in a rather non-serious way, even though I have been a real student of Bigfoot stories and research for sometime, especially during my teens and early twenties. In hindsight, we could have marked the prints and tried to take more accurate measurements of gait, print size, even sketched them, as well as heading back down the trail (towards Hermosa Peak) where the ground was softer and more likely to have recorded additional prints. We also could have looked around the area for other signs, there were several nearby stands of trees, snow and other fresh water sources.
I do have several minutes of video that includes the surrounding area to verify my location and for reference, and this includes some clear images of all three prints. I weigh about 180 pounds and made very little in the way of tracks in the dirt, with only occasional traces of boot tread showing in the same area. I do not recall noticing ridges on the prints indicating they were not likely made while the ground was overly wet or muddy.
I am 33, do not drink or smoke, work in management at an aerospace company, and am married with a 7 year old daughter. Having had several days now to think about this event, and to have gauged the reactions of the few folks I have told about our observations, I am still not exactly sure what we saw and what I taped, but it definitely appears to be large humanoid footprints, made in varying terrain, showing a 3 to 4 foot gait and a foot that is somewhere near 14 or 15 inches long and about 6 or 7 inches wide.
I am not a great outdoorsman but I am aware that some bear prints can appear almost human, but the video shows what I believe to have been clear human or humanoid footprints with no evidence of claws as on a bear.
Honestly, the thought now that we might have seen footprints of a large animal such as Bigfoot is quite unsettling, and made me uneasy at night, both while in the cabin near Vallecitos, and even at my home in Rio Rancho, near Albuquerque.
I can be available for any follow-up or to try and make copies of the video available if desired.
ALSO NOTICED: When we reached the area of the trail which had been closed (berm had been placed across trail), I walked up a ridge line to the north of the turn around area. I felt a little uneasy but chalked it up to my imagination. This occured before my sister told me about the print she had observed.
OTHER WITNESSES: Myself (33), my sister (28). We had been four wheeling up FR 578, and had been on Bolam Pass about an hour earlier.
OTHER STORIES: No. I did not ask anyone in Durango, Vallecitos or elsewhere, but I do have friends who hike and camp in the area frequently who I may ask.
TIME AND CONDITIONS: Early afternoon, about 3pm Mountain time.
ENVIRONMENT: Near the timberline, about 11,500 feet. Many Pine stands, streams, and snow.
Follow-up investigation report by BFRO Investigator Dr. Steven Coy:
I talked with the witness on August 2, 2003 by telephone and requested a copy of the video tape of the footprints. I have no doubts as to the credibility of the witness or his experience as related in the report. He hopes to return to the area in the future for further field search of additional evidence.
About BFRO Investigator Dr. Steven Coy:
Former wildlife biologist - US Department of Interior