In Pursuit of a Legend: 72 Days in California Bigfoot Country (2005, 2nd Edition 2016)
Chapters and Excerpts:
Chapter 1: Doubts
“In the darkness, doubts flowed through me… JT fought wilderness fires and I needed him along for his knowledge of the outdoors. And yet, in terms of temperament, he was easily provoked or easily bored, and I had reservations about spending three months with him. I knew that if we didn’t find much immediately he was going to use those same arguments that he’d used before. “Do you know how hard it is to so much as run across a bear in the wilderness?” he had said to me. “You could go months and not see one.” And I knew full well that what we were trying to find, granted that it even existed, was far more elusive than a bear.” p. 14
Chapter 2: Beginner’s Luck
“JT’s footprints were visible on the trail ahead, and I glanced back at the prints I left behind. A feeling of liberation ran through me. It became stronger and stronger, like a deep continuous breath. I felt I was entering a whole new world and leaving a problematical one behind.” p. 25
Chapter 3: Visions of Patterson and Gimlin
“The rock under my feet stretched for a half mile and I pictured it even longer, a belt holding tight the earth. Much of the Great Bear Wilderness took on the appearance of another planet, its rock formations splaying from the crust, mountains of it, if not in the shape of a dome, then earthly alien, like hands clasped in prayer or a resurrected half face pushing from the ground, and all this ever changing under the sun, in the light, in the shadows too, the particulate rays a gold water, the rock a hard white at noon, a soft Mars red as the sun went down and the pine trees leaned nearly horizontal.” p. 49
“As we made our way downstream, I envisioned Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin on horseback and their encounter with a Bigfoot at Bluff Creek, how, upon rounding a bend, they saw the animal crouched at the stream… I wondered what it must have been like to have been in such a position. It seemed like such an extraordinary circumstance as to defy the imagination. Maybe in the end it was nothing but a burden, with so many trying to discredit their film.” p. 53
Chapter 4: Fire
“When I took off my sunglasses to wipe the dust from the lenses, JT looked like a shadow on the verge of being engulfed. Then, sinking behind a crest, he seemed a man who had walked straight into the sun’s fiery belly without the least hesitation, no longer part of this world. Sun and heat and the feeling of trudging up to meet it—that was primal hiking reality for me, to be worked and sweated through, teeth clenched and jaw set. In it, as now, I felt myself to be a packhorse overly aware of the weight pressing on my shoulders, getting heavier, often asking myself how much farther, then telling myself it couldn’t possibly be that much farther and shouldn’t I be there already.” p. 61-62.
Chapter 5: Alone
“In the darkness, I believed in the tracks more strongly than ever, though I didn’t want anything to do with the mystery I had set out for at the moment. I wanted it as far from me as possible. Despite the contempt I had for them, I didn’t even want my interpretation of the encounter the two horsemen had with the Bigfoot to be real. I wanted nothing to do with what the night held. I wanted it to peel back, not come with odd sounds I strained to hear as I closed my hand in a fist. There was no mistaking the coyote howl, which wasn’t troubling since I knew what it was. It was more those indefinite sounds that carried no exact distance and left me guessing whether they were near or far.” p. 82-83
Chapter 6: Grunt
“I glanced at my lone tent on the slope and the pines lining it on the uphill and downhill side. There was nothing of the familiar here. The place felt alien. In the absolute stillness, I was convinced this was a trail nobody ever used. It occurred to me that I must have been crazy to be out here searching for a creature that might not even exist. I began to feel very negative about my fate and how locked in it was to the writing. My buddy Walter called two days prior and told me he couldn’t believe that I was going through with this stupidity. “That’s a damn fantasy,” he said. “How long do you think you can keep doing that writing besides? That’s not real. How many years do you think you can keep wasting? I’m working my ass off every day and you’re doing all that Bigfoot fantasy crap.” I replied by asking him when he had become such a part of the system. He certainly never had been before.” p. 89
“Toward eight-thirty, I heard a rock being smashed against another, loud and distinctive against the silence, downhill from my camp. It stopped me cold. I put my map aside. I trained my eyes on the area of its origination. Over the course of minutes, I heard this sound three more times, though none so loud as the first. It sounded nothing like deer hoofs across rocky terrain. My mind strained for an explanation. I waited, expecting some movement. Maybe it was the buck after all. Amber outlined the mountain to the west as the sun fell. Then a vocalization came from the pines to the right, perhaps 200 yards distant. It was so unlike any sound any animal of the Sierra would make that I felt my voice leave me. I couldn’t have spoken in that moment if I had wanted to. Because it sounded like a deaf person attempting speech, more humanlike than animal, I could only think of it in terms of a vocalization. When I didn’t hear anything more, my voice in place again, I took my flashlight from my tent. I made a cautious approach toward the trees. It was dark enough that my flashlight made shadows. I didn’t feel easy, but I couldn’t see anything in the trees. The gloom, together with the night I spent out in the darkness, made me aware of how reliant I was on my sense of sight and how completely handicapped I felt without it.” p. 90
Chapter 7: Adam
“My thirst gone, I felt rejuvenated. My senses seemed more acute, capturing additional degrees of the world’s spectrum. Knowing that my canteen was full, as simple as it sounded, was the most reassuring thing on the trail. Farther along, I gazed up at the sand-colored cliffs. A smooth, impossibly round boulder balanced on top of an oblong rock. A little more to the left or right and it would surely fall. Elsewhere, a diagonal row of squares was etched out of cracks and fissures. This was geometry courtesy of the gods.” p. 99
“I stretched out on my sleeping bag. What a relief. No way was I going back outside. That lemon drink was officially my dinner and lunch.
It wasn’t long before Adam was in his tent.
“Did you make it in without any mosquitoes?” I asked.
“Some got in.”
I felt for him. “I hope you’re in good metaphysical standing, the sum of your good deeds outweighing the bad, because these swarming mosquitoes just gave me a vision of hell.”
Adam seemed to think he was okay in that regard. “It’s a pick your-torture deal. Either sweat to death in layers of clothes or get bitten to death.” p. 103
Chapter 8: Breakdown
“On the drive back to Muskeet, the engine started to steam. I checked the rearview mirror, then pulled onto the shoulder and felt the slowing jolt of the gravel like a kind of quicksand. In the back of my mind, I had expected something to go wrong with the truck at anytime, but this still did nothing to alleviate the sinking feeling that came over me. I had hoped the blown tire would be the big mishap that would carry me through the summer, as if the truck had met its quota in that regard, but here I was at the side of the road again.” p. 109
Chapter 9: Dark Thoughts
“The early track find had fooled me into thinking the search was going to be easier. Where else to look if not in a place like this?
I sat down in the sand at the lake’s shore to enjoy the scenery. At least that much I could accomplish. Later, I swam to the island, as much to rinse as cool off. I did another of my turtle sunning itself on a rock impressions. It was one of my finest ever. Near perfection. I couldn’t have soaked up any more rays unless I’d had mirrors on all sides of me. It was a shame no one was around to appreciate it. If nothing else, I figured I would have bragging rights to having sunned myself, turtle-like, on the shores of thirty lakes when all was said and done. Who else could claim such a thing? Ah, the whole world was missing out on such a grand endeavor. My buddy Walter’s words rang in my mind—“I’m working my ass off and you’re living a damn fantasy.” p. 121-22
Chapter 10: Call
“Deep into the night, while I was either coming out of sleep or falling back into it, a call pounced upon the static quiet. It shook me to full consciousness like two hands clutching my shoulders. It was like nothing I should have been hearing, yet I knew beyond all doubt what it was. It was so completely apelike as to be unmistakable. I tried to grasp other details as another cry belted out, but could only retain the apelike quality and sheer piercing intensity as I tried to gain my full bearings in the dark tent. LOUD. Overpowering. To the northeast. On the mountain ridge above.” 137-38
Chapter 11: Report
“It was so loud and apelike as to be unmistakable. I’ve heard recorded Bigfoot screams on the Internet, so I knew immediately what I was hearing. Even if I hadn’t heard similar calls, I still would have recognized this call as not belonging to a mountain lion or coyote or any other silly explanation; it was just so completely apelike, and the decibel level was unbelievable.” p. 147
Chapter 12: Pain
“I thought about Kathy telling me that science wouldn’t recognize Bigfoot as fact until it had a body. I don’t know that it mattered to me one way or another if science recognized it or not. I now took it as a matter of course that the proof that science insisted upon would be realized, though it might not occur for another five or fifty or a hundred years. In that regard, I found the Bigfoot phenomena to be more a commentary on the scientific community, how largely resistant it was to an ongoing, centuries-old phenomena. With that type of longevity, it at least called for open-mindedness, if not outright investigation and field study. Apparently, the stale, recirculating air behind academic doors was an addiction onto itself. Curiosity fell to outsiders, those without a voice. In the end, it just may have been better that way, too, for the sake of the mystery, for the sake of the dream and the myth, for the sake of the last of untrammeled nature and a creature intent on escaping the awareness of the destructive species in its midst.” p, 150-51
Chapter 13: Bear, Owl, Chickaree
“I was starting to view the Bigfoot phenomenon in an almost mystical light. Events had to come together in just the right way and conspire in your extreme favor. Maybe something was even required of the observer, be it a state of mind, an openness, even a karmic standing. Only then were you allowed in. Perhaps I thought like this because it was day fifty on the trail and I was impatient in wanting more, felt time slipping, and the reality that the search was dirty and hard and wore at you and was nearly impossible and was in every way a manifestation of the material plane left me grasping for the ethereal.
At least hearing a Bigfoot call only required being in the general area. I was motivated by that. Every time I’d strapped on the backpack since that four a.m. cry, my aim was as much to hear a Bigfoot as to see one. Such a goal seemed more attainable, requiring me to be in the generally correct area, not the precisely correct area of a sighting. In its call, which welled tsunami-like from the deepest fathoms of the night, the North American ape composed itself. I saw it alive and unrestrained in that, more so since I was blind at night, when it was active, and was forced to see with my other senses. Perhaps seeing it blind was the best way to catch sight of it. The power of its lungs sent a portrait of it as bigger and denser than any man, though just as upright in posture as it stood on a peak to allow its ape tongue to carry as far as possible.” p. 167-68
Chapter 14: JT’s Return
“At five-thirty, I caught sight of him on the edge of the lake. I waved my hands overhead. I couldn’t tell if he saw me or not. When he was near, he stumbled on a rock and swore at it. He met my eyes with a scowl and, without saying a word, threw off his pack. His shirt seemed to drip from him he was so damp with sweat. His face was an overheated red, even his eyes. After gulping the water from his canteen, he tossed it like he had no need for it anymore, then splashed into the lake with his clothes on and disappeared under the water. The bubbly wave that rose to the surface looked like the aftermath of a torpedoed ship. For a moment it seemed as though he wouldn’t come up again. When at last he resurfaced, he dragged himself onto the sand then collapsed against it, breathing the tiny grains into the air.
“I like your method of resurrection, my friend: face down in the sand and arms akimbo.”
One eye opened, then the other. His chest rose and fell. He lifted his head to look at me, then let it fall back to the sand.” p. 174-75
Chapter 15: Mire
“Mine was the only vehicle at the trailhead, a first for me. Any day hikers were no doubt scared off by the posted sign warning of mountain lions. I pushed through some vines overhanging the trail. Five minutes in, I realized this was going to be vastly different from my experience in the Sierra. It was a mire overgrown with vegetation from forest floor to canopy, wet and beaded with moisture, a kind of soup. Where ferns didn’t mushroom from the forest floor, other thick and tangled brush spilled onto the trail. Tree branches dangled moss and lichens. Dead stems and leaves hung as well, fallen from higher up, disordered nests not yet shaken to the ground. One fallen tree with branches splayed in every direction was so covered in moss it resembled a thrashing, tentacled octopus. Yellow slugs writhed in the wet shade along the trail. It was fed by a greenhouse humidity I could feel heavier when I breathed, nothing like the dry heat to the south. My line of sight amounted to the trail ahead or in back. No more than twenty feet off the trail, I heard something large thrash through the brush. I had no idea what it was. The overgrowth might as well have been a wall. It moved in response to me, but I wasn’t about to throw myself in after it and find myself face to face with something I’d rather not.” p. 187
Chapter 16: Shadow
“The movement through the brush picked up and I tried to place it, but it was in back of me and off the trail. I assumed it was a big bull elk, and I quickened my pace, thinking it was a good idea to stay ahead of it anyway. But it kept coming and I felt like I wasn’t making any distance between it and me. I moved off the trail alongside a tall pine to catch my breath. Elk prints were on the trail, one to two days old, and I was thinking maybe this elk wanted to use it, too. I slipped out of my backpack, looking around as I did so, in case the elk emerged. I took my long-sleeved shirt out from my pack and put it on; it took away the chill. I waited, but not seeing anything after a loud thrash trailed off into the trees, put my pack on. I went down the trail to where I thought I’d last heard the noise. Nothing.” p. 200
“…At the end of my list, I wrote down an adjective and underlined it twice: manlike. I stared at it for a long time.”
Chapter 17: Fates
“Bigfoot as an interdimensional being was a confused translation of Indian thought by the white man who interpreted it as a movement between time or spatial dimensions. What the Indian meant was that Bigfoot existed within and without the mind of man, a manifestation not only of the material plane, where the white man’s view of things as separate and apart from himself was acutely pronounced (unfortunately destructively so), but also as a psychic manifestation within where it was charged with a more potent symbolism. At least in humanity’s case, an ancestral cord linked the two more closely than any other species. Man shared the root of his racial memory with this other hominid. Should he drive this hominid to extinction, closing another part of his spirit mind, he foretold his own extinction.” p. 213
Chapter 18: Beginning Again
“In offering a glimpse, the mystery had gotten more convoluted. More profound. More sacred. Beyond one layer was another. Beyond the mystery of Bigfoot’s existence was the mystery of what it was. Bipedal ape? Or man along some other branch of the evolutionary spectrum? In no way could I have ever foreseen myself grappling with the later, though, admittedly, to call it a man was my highly emotionally charged reaction to it. More scientifically, the term was likely cousin hominid, though I didn’t know that a third-rate poet such as myself need be concerned with such things. In my own mind, I took what seemed the smallest of liberties and thought of it as a brother hominid, and, metaphorically, there could be no argument there.” p. 219-20.
Copyright T. A. Wilson 2016. All rights reserved.