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COUNTY: Walla Walla County
LOCATION DETAILS: Walla Walla Mill Creek Watershed. On the intake trail between Green Peak and Lewis Peak. Sighting occurred on an open, rocky face, within 1/4 mile of Lewis Peak, just before leaving the National Forest boundary.
NEAREST TOWN: Dixie
NEAREST ROAD: Lewis Peak Road
OBSERVED: My dad got drawn for a big bull elk permit in the Mill Creek Watershed. He harvested a bull on November 1, off of Green Peak. We were packing out meat on Tuesday, November 4 in the late afternoon. We were taking our time following the trail back to Lewis Peak. There was about an hour of light left. We stopped at a rock outcropping to take a breather when I saw motion out of the corner of my eye.
I told my dad that there was something coming across the openning we had just previously crossed. I was not sure what it was, as it had moved behind a tree. As it continued across the ridge, I noted that the animal was walking on two legs. The distance from where we were to the animal was approximately 500 yards. It was very clearly a bi-ped. We are very experienced hunters (20+ years for me, 40+ years for dad), with a lot of time in the field. We have harvested many, many deer, elk, and bear. This animal walked upright, and very quickly covered the distance across the openning, which was over a steep, loose-shale part of the trail. The trail was covered with packed snow from foot and horse traffic, and was fairly slippery in the cold weather. We had just crossed it, and had to take our time with the backpacks to make sure we did not slip. The animal crossed this openning very quickly, with no apparent difficulty whatsoever. It appeared to be approximately 7-8 feet tall and very dark from head to toe. It did look our direction, but did not stop to observe us.
After a quick debate about what the heck we had just seen, noting that we were not carrying firearms at the time, it was heading in our direction, and that we had two loads of elk parts on our packs, we quickly left the area. I watched the trail as my dad tied the packs to the 4-wheeler, but did not see anything come down the trail.
ALSO NOTICED: Hiking through this area for several days we noticed an odd smell that was not familiar to any of the animal species we regularly encounter.
OTHER WITNESSES: There were two witnesses, myself and my father.
OTHER STORIES: Have heard of many many sightings in the Blue Mountain areas between Dayton and Walla Walla.
TIME AND CONDITIONS: Late afternoon, about an hour before dusk.
ENVIRONMENT: The Walla Walla Mill Creek Watershed is a large area, closed to public access except for one week out of the year, when 40 elk hunters (selected by state game department) are allowed entry by a special Forest Service Permit. The permit holder may bring one other person in with them after they have harvested an animal, to assist with removal of the animal. The area is heavily wooded, extremely steep and rugged terrain, with numerous water sources, and natural grasses interspersed across some open hillsides. The watershed functions as a large funnel, supplying water for the city of Walla Walla. The upper perimeter has a semi-maintained trail, and there are several less-than-maintained trails that run through the watershed. At the time of the sighting, there was snow on the ground, and conditions were slippery. Weather was below freezing, partly cloudy with periodic snow showers.
The hike from Lewis Peak to Green Peak takes about 1 1/2 - 2 hours, depending on the pace. There is some public land surrounding parts of the watershed, however, neither of these peaks have good public access points.
Follow-up investigation report:
I spoke with witness and the following is from our conversation.
The witness was with his father at the time of the sighting. His father had downed a bull elk that morning and they were in the process of packing the animal out. They had to make four trips to pack out the animal, about a three-hour pack back to the truck. They were on the third and last trip of that day.
They had driven the witnessí truck to a point and then used an ATV to get to Lewis Peak. Permission was needed from the landowner to use the area for travel, and then it was another three-hour hike to where the elk was harvested, the slopes being up to 70%.
They were walking back to the ATV and just crossed an open area on an icy, steep shale slope and the witness looked back at the area they had just crossed, approximately 500 yards away, to see a dark figure about 7 feet in height and moving very fast across the same slope that took minutes to cross.
Because they had another twenty minutes to pack and another half hour of daylight, the witness could not look for tracks. The witness and his father were not the only ones using that area for hunting. There were other hunters, some with horses, in the same area. When they went back the next day to retrieve the rest of the elk, he looked for tracks, but because of other traffic in the area and limited time to pack the animal out there was not enough time to completely search the area for tracks.
When they arrived where the elk was downed they had noticed tracks in the snow and the elk had been partially eaten. They had recognized the tracks of a bear. It appeared that this bear had finished the best cuts of the elk and partially buried the rest of it and looked to be coming back later to finish.
At no time after the sighting did the witness feel any different, only after seeing that a bear had fed on their elk. There was no feeling of being watched even when they had to return the next day. There was an abundant source of game in the area, from the other rifle shots heard in the area, and the bear was still feeding.
The witnesses have a number of years hunting that area and are very comfortable in being in the outdoors, hunting, hiking, biking et cetera.
They will continue to hunt the area and this sighting of a dark biped will not deter them from the area.