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COUNTY: Pitkin County
LOCATION DETAILS: Trail access was off a BLM access road, about 2 miles up West Sopris Creek Road, on the left.
NEAREST TOWN: Basalt
NEAREST ROAD: West Sopris Creek Road
OBSERVED: I lived in Colorado for 29 years. Eighteen of those I spent working at ski resorts. Over the years I've seen hundreds of deer and elk as well as dozens of bear, everything from cubs to large 400 pound males. In the last 4 years I've had 3 separate sightings of 4 creatures that I hesitate to identify.
My second sighting occurred during February 2001 near Aspen. I was hiking with my dogs on BLM land at the base of Sopris Mountain. I was on a steep trail that snowshoers had packed down firm. My dogs began to sniff the air and get excited, so I knew they had picked up the scent of an animal. Then two dogs that live on the other side of the road and up the hill began to bark.
When I looked down at them I realized they were looking at something ahead of us, not at me or my dogs. Sure enough not 50 yards ahead of me sat what looked like a gorilla sitting in the snow under the shade of a pine tree. It was looking at the barking dogs across the little valley. I could tell it hadn't spotted me yet and I was determined to keep this one in my sight.
The trail switched back to the right up ahead and I wanted to see it move when it did finally see me. After walking about ten more feet, I tripped in a deep hole in the snow that the snowshoers had left with their poles. I stood up as fast as I could only to see the back of a large furry head disappear over the ridge. I tried to find a path or some tracks to follow up the hill but without success. The snow was up to my waist off the trail so I couldn't get any closer.
ALSO NOTICED: Complete lack of deer and elk trails.
OTHER WITNESSES: One
OTHER STORIES: Recently while in Aspen I overheard two teenage girls dicussing sighting a "man-bear". I knew them so I asked them about this man-bear. They described it as a hairy manlike bear that walks on two legs. When I asked them where this happened they said off of West Sopris Creek Road in Basalt. But they didn't want to discuss it further. I then went to library and read similar accounts dating back to the early mining days of Colorado.
TIME AND CONDITIONS: Clear skies, morning light.
ENVIRONMENT: Ponderosa pine forest, above a valley.
Follow-up investigation report:
Witness, 42, said he was first alerted by his dogs scenting the air.
"We were in a little narrow valley there. On other side road was a house, which was elevated a little off the valley floor, and I heard their dogs start to go crazy. I wasn't paying attention to them at first, but then I realized they couldn't see my dogs and they were looking up ahead of me barking like crazy, just going nuts.
"There was a little ridge 50 yds ahead of me with some pine trees, and sitting in the shade, (9:30 am, sunny clear) sitting on the north side of a tree in the shade was what I can only describe as a male gorilla sitting there looking at dogs.
"It had an enormous head. As it was seated from the butt to the top of the head it looked like 4 feet. This time, I was like "Don't blink.'' I tried to figure out a way to get up there by taking a deer trail. He obviously was not looking at me. So I get around the ridge, getting a little closer... I walked 10 or 12 more feet and I stepped right into ski pole holes. And I'm thinking to myself, ""Get up get up get up," But when I did, all I could see is the back of an enormous brown head disappearing behind the ridge.
(The animal was 50-75 yards away when the witness first saw it.) "It only seemed like the width of a football field.''
"So it was gone, and I thought to myself, let's see if we can hike up the ridge to look for tracks. But when I stepped off the trail, I was immediately up to my waist in snow. I had shoes with "stabil-icers" on them, so I might have made it up there in an hour. There's always deer trails and I usually walk on their snow. We went around a couple more switchbacks, and there weren't any deer trails heading up. I thought that was extremely unusual because there's always new fresh deer trails heading up there.
"It was the damnedest thing. It looked nothing like a bear, other than having fur everywhere.
"The shoulders and head had a lot of weight and mass to them. Sitting upright the way it was, it almost looked like it was sitting in the lotus position. I saw a little shoulder and arm, but didn't notice hands, feet or anything like that. I remember seeing a thigh, and the waist of the animal was very thick. The head on this one appeared to be bigger than on the Leadville one. This is the only one I compare to a gorilla.
"There was a big point on top of its head, a thick neck, a large jaw, and kind of a flattened nose just above the mouth. The eyes were sunk back a little bit. The hair was brown around the top of the head and back. The last thing I saw was what looked like the back of gorilla's head, with a large point and a grayish sheen on hair.
"My impression was it may not be as tall as the one in the Leadville sighting. The head seemed larger, the shoulders seemed larger or thicker. Guessing here, it was easily 500 lbs of animal. I've seen 400 lb bears carrying a lot of fat.This thing was muscular. It looked very very strong. I've spooked a lot of bears. Usually all you see is the rump and ears going up and down. This thing was definitely on two feet.