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No Limit 'Squatch
Poker + Bigfoot = Insanity
“This is ridiculous,” I mumbled to myself as I dusted snow and ice crystals off my face for the third time in twenty minutes. I’m a bit of a klutz, that I admit, but the pre-dawn darkness, broken flashlight, and rocks concealed beneath the two inches of fresh powder didn’t help.
“Just be careful where you fall,” Paul bellowed the moment he finished laughing at my latest mishap. “You’ll mess up any fresh tracks.”
His real name wasn’t Paul—I gave him that moniker in homage to Paul Bunyan, the mythical, larger-than-life lumberjack, when we hooked up two days prior at Spokane International Airport. With his thick beard, strapping NFL lineman’s frame, and red & black flannel shirt, the nickname was bang on. But one more face-plant followed by a guffaw from that big sonofabitch and I’d be the one swinging the axe, and not at any defenseless trees!
The word ‘lunacy’ summed up this adventure, if you could call it an adventure, as there really hadn’t been much in the way of action or excitement or, duh, adventure. Sadly, the only person to blame for my predicament—tromping through the woods in the middle of nowhere while it was colder than a penguin’s pecker—was none other than yours truly. But perhaps I should start at the beginning…
Not long ago I received an e-mail invitation to join a Bigfoot expedition heading into the wilds of northeastern Washington state in the dead of winter.
The expedition was actually a hunt—a gun-toting quest to bring down a Bigfoot. Unlike the majority of Bigfoot/Sasquatch/Yeti/Abominable Snowman expeditions that take place throughout the world on an annual basis, this one was proceeding with the intent to bring a specimen back, in all likelihood un-breathing. In this day and age of fraudulent photographs, doctored videos, and suspicious biological evidence, only an actual specimen (living or dead) would prove the creature’s existence. Granted, a live Bigfoot would be ideal but, considering Sasquatches are supposed to stand well over six feet tall, weigh more than three hundred pounds, and have more strength than a pissed-off grizzly, I’m pretty sure the creature ain’t just gonna come back to civilization with a smile.
Now, before all you animal rights activists get your non-fur-lined panties in a bunch, let me state for the record that I LOVE ANIMALS! And even though I love me some steak, I openly support groups like PETA and ALF and despise anyone who would intentionally act in a cruel manner towards any two- or four-legged (or finned or feathered) critters. While I don’t have any issue with legal hunting, or those that take part in the sport, I would much rather take up arms against a similarly equipped bipedal asshole than a beast.
On top of the morality issue, there’s this: Bigfoots (or is that Bigfeet?) are a protected species. In the U.S., there are numerous penalties and fines for the intentional harvesting of a Sasquatch; up to five years in prison and $100,000 ($10,000 in Skamania County, Washington alone), more than enough to discourage just about anyone from dropping the hammer on a mysterious Chewbacca-like being.
But as I said, the expedition I was being asked to join was vastly different. Apparently, in the interest of science, a computer software mogul—no names forthcoming so don’t ask—had agreed to pay all associated fines and foot the bill for the best possible legal defense if and when a Bigfoot was brought down and the shooter was brought up on charges.
As to my potential involvement in this funky foray, that’s courtesy of my journalistic endeavors and, perhaps more importantly, my secondary degree—a B.S. in Cryptozoology from the University of Haiti in Port au Prince. When it comes to looking for monsters like Bigfoot and Nessie and Chupacabra and Ogo-Pogo and Donald Trump, I know a little bit more than your average bear.
Up to that point I’d been on two legit Bigfoot expeditions—one in Alaska, the other in Vermont—but I didn’t see the object of our intention on either sojourn. In fact, on the Vermont outing, in five days all I saw was a few birds, a handful of squirrels, some deer shit, and an empty Ben & Jerry’s “Chunky Monkey” container. No Bigfoots, no sign of Bigfoots, no sound of Bigfoots, no smell of Bigfoots, nothing. This new effort to prove the creature’s existence caused me to wrinkle my nose a bit. First, I didn’t recognize any of the names (guides, scientists, scholars, etc.) associated with the endeavor. Second, it didn’t sound as if the “plan” was fully sketched out yet. Hell, it didn’t seem as if they had a plan! And third, but most importantly, I didn’t feel like tromping around in the woods of northeastern Washington in the middle of freakin’ winter! But there was a caveat…
According to the Sasquatch Information Society’s sightings database, Washington had far and away the most reported “contacts”—over 100 at the time of this writing, as compared to the next closest, California, with 25. With better than a 4:1 ratio, either Washington’s residents had nothing better to do with their time than make up phony Bigfoot encounters or there was some serious enormous furry creature activity going on up there. So, yeah, I was curious. What semi-deranged journalist with a passion for Cryptozoology wouldn’t be?
But still, the whole operation reeked of uncoordinated amateurism, the timing was shitty, and there were just too many questions. A long time ago, I learned a very simple lesson: If you have questions, there’s your answer. And so, I got my head out of my ass and typed a four-word reply: Thanks, but no thanks.
A few minutes later, while still online, I received a one-word response: PUSSY! A phone number accompanied the remark. My call was answered before the second ring.
“So I’m a pussy, huh?”
“You are if you don’t go with us,” a husky voice replied.
“If you’re looking for coverage, the only mag I’m writing for these days is Bluff Europe.”
“We’re gonna play cards every night in camp,” he said. “C’mon Adam, just man up and do it. You were a unanimous second choice to go with us. Don’t let us down.”
“Who was your first choice?” I queried.
Definitely not the name I was expecting to hear. “But she’s an actress, not a journalist,” I replied.
“So? You mean to tell me you wouldn’t want to spend five frozen nights inside a tent with her?”
Okay, he had me there.
“Chance of a lifetime,” he added. “You miss this op, you’ll be sorry.”
Am I really seeing what I think I’m seeing? In the distance, a beast-like creature walking upright… NBA forward tall, heavyweight bodybuilder thick, Chewbacca hairy… And the stench… Sweet Jesus! The odoriferous emanation is like a nasal wrecking ball. Strange, it smells a lot like fresh dog crap. Uh-oh, the furry biped just spotted me. Now it’s coming toward me, approaching faster! Mother of freakin’ God, that thing is huge! Time to make like a banana and split. What the fuck? I can’t run; my legs are frozen in place like they’re encased in hardened cement. Shit, it’s too late! The thing is on top of me. Bye-bye world. It’s been fun! The monster extends one of its hairy tree limb-like arms, opens its huge catcher’s mitt of a hand, Pringles can-sized fingers encircling my neck, about to squeeze when —
My eyes flick open. I’m drenched in sweat. 3:07 AM according to the digital clock on my nightstand. I fell asleep with the TV on; a commercial for Jack’s Links Beef Jerky is just ending, part of their laugh-out-loud “Messin’ with Sasquatch” campaign. That putrid poop smell, which added an extra dose of realism, was courtesy of my Boston terrier’s bunghole; he’s asleep on the pillow beside my face, ass a few inches from my nose. Must’ve let one rip! TV commercial aside, the dark dream is no coincidence. In less than six hours I’m flying to Spokane, Washington for my third “official” Sasquatch safari, although this one is as unofficial as it could possibly get. Still, I’ve got Bigfoot on the brain and the nightmare probably would have occurred without my subconscious locking on to that goofy, Roger Patterson/Bob Gimlin film-inspired, product-pitching creature on the screen.
48-year-old “Paul” met me in the Spokane International Airport’s baggage claim. A successful bank manager from Seattle, Paul had been a Bigfoot buff since he was a kid. He used to accompany his dad on hunting trips throughout Washington and Idaho; nights around the campfire were always capped with a new Sasquatch story.
“It didn’t matter that we never saw one, or any sign of one for that matter,” Paul explained. “Just the possibility that they existed was enough for me. And as I got older, I went looking every chance I got. On many of my hunting trips, I spent more time searching for Bigfoot than big game.”
Although he resided in Seattle, Paul owned a cabin just outside Kettle Falls, a small city 80 miles northwest of Spokane, roughly 30 miles south of the Canadian border. It was the perfect launching point for his hobbyist expeditions, not to mention a restful escape from the rigors of work and marriage. Not long ago, he and his friends started referring to the cabin as “Chateau Sasquatch.”
“I’ve spent a lot of time up there,” Paul admitted. “A couple years back, the wife and I went through a rough patch, so I took a fourteen-day ‘medical leave’ from the bank and went straight to the cabin. Best two weeks of my life. Besides searching for Bigfoot, the hours in the woods really helped put things into perspective, made me realize everything I’ve got to be thankful for. Hell, if I didn’t really enjoy wearing a suit and tie during the week and going to strip clubs on the weekends, I’d be content living up there.”
Paul’s eyes did a wild dance when he mentioned the strip clubs, causing me to wonder if he had a deviant side I needed to be worried about. After all, I was heading into unknown territory with this guy. What the fuck was I thinking? I made a mental note that if I returned to civilization alive, I would give serious thought to abandoning my oddball journalism career to pursue a safer literary profession, perhaps that of a greeting card writer. Fortunately, my duffel finally appeared on the baggage conveyor, otherwise that conversation may very well have eroded into a spooky Dr. Phil Show meets Grizzly Adams diatribe—definitely NOT the story I had in mind!
I reached for my duffel but Paul good-naturedly pushed me aside, plucked it off the carousel, and hefted it over his mountainous shoulder as if he were lifting a small satchel, not an extra-large nylon sack over-stuffed with cold weather clothes and gear.
“Allow me,” he said cordially. “You’re my guest.”
We headed into the parking lot. I fully expected to see a monstrous, crew-cabbed, diesel-powered pick-up truck or some other hardcore vehicle befitting Paul’s rough-and-tumble, mountain man persona. The Range Rover HSE he unlocked via remote, in Tonga green metallic of all colors, took me by surprise.
“You don’t approve?” he said in response to my curious look.
“I figured you for something a little more, uh, butch.”
Paul gave a hearty laugh, a hickish guffaw that perfectly conveyed his easy-going demeanor. It was a laugh I would become all too familiar with over the next few days as he did it quite frequently, often for no apparent reason.
“I like luxury,” he declared. “It’s got nav, satellite radio, heated seats, and permanent all-wheel-drive. But my wife’s got an F250 with tires bigger than my balls—and my balls are pretty friggin’ big.”
Definitely more info than I needed. I contemplated racing back into the terminal, but before I could make a run for it Paul tossed my duffel into the Range Rover’s rear cargo area atop his gear and motioned to the passenger door.
“Let’s go smoke a Bigfoot.”
On the trip to Kettle Falls, Paul brought me up to speed on the latest Sasquatch evidence.
“Jerry, who you’ll soon meet, was scouting for elk a week before hunting season when he noticed a fresh game trail heading deep into the timber. A hundred or so yards along, he spotted deep tracks, obviously from something large and heavy. But they weren’t paw prints, more like footprints—in twos, not fours. And no claw marks, either. They were more rounded at the top, like toes.”
Now understand, I’ve heard innumerable stories of “Bigfoot prints” over the years, to the point that I’m now more skeptical than an atheist at a Church picnic—but I still believe.
Paul continued: “Jerry’s been hunting and tracking game since he was a toddler. Look up redneck in the dictionary, you’ll find his picture. If he says the tracks are from something big that walked upright that’s not a bear, I believe him.”
“No photos?” I queried.
“He wasn’t scouting for Field & Stream Magazine,” Paul retorted sarcastically.
I nodded quietly, not sure what to think.
“Skepticism is a good thing,” Paul added. “That way, when you’re confronted with proof, it’ll be much more satisfying.”
Makes sense. But again, I’ve heard that sentiment before. Every Bigfoot hunter—including yours truly—wants to believe that the next sample of proof they’re presented with is the real McCoy. So much, in fact, that they often blur the lines between what is legitimate and what is questionable. Still, who’s to say that the next sighting, or picture, or cast of prints, or swatch of fur won’t be the gospel? That’s what keeps us coming back for more.
We arrived in Kettle Falls, “population 1,550 friendly people and one grouch,” according to the Chamber of Commerce. Beautiful, remote little city, as picturesque as they come. The kind of place you live if outdoor pursuits such as hunting and fishing and bird watching and hiking are tops on your recreational list. Or the kind of place they send you if you’re in the Witness Protection Program. Nobody will look for you up there. After picking up some last-minute provisions from the Barstow General Store, we headed for “Chateau Sasquatch.”
When we arrived at Paul’s cabin—a rustic, mid-sized, three-room dwelling complete with a wood stove and a host of modern conveniences (including electricity and running water), and heavily decorated with memorabilia from Seattle’s professional sports teams—the other two members of the expeditionary team were already there.
Jerry, an orthopedic surgeon, didn’t look anything like the seasoned woodsman I was expecting. He was in his early 50s, stood about five and a half feet tall, and was very thin, almost meek. But when it came to hunting, the guy was like Peter Hathaway Capstick.
“Jerry’s hunted on every continent, for every kind of animal,” Paul had said of his good friend and fellow Sasquatch seeker. “Put a rifle in his hands, whatever he’s aiming at is toast.”
Carl, the third member of their triumvirate, a credit analyst at Paul’s bank—a tall African-American with a shaved head and a diamond stud in his left ear lobe—didn’t resemble the “typical” Bigfoot hunter, if there was such a thing.
“When we first met, Carl didn’t know Bigfoot from Big Ethel,” Paul explained during our introduction. “But after joining us on one search, all because he lost a bet, he was hooked.”
“It’s a great way for me to suck up to the boss,” Carl said with an ivory white-toothed smile.
Paul let loose with one of his trademark belly laughs. That’s when the smell hit me, and I was soon treated to a luncheon feast—enough Bratwurst, braised red cabbage, and in-state brewed Boundary Bay Imperial Oatmeal Stout to feed a small army, let alone the four of us. If they were planning on going Bigfoot hunting any time soon, I’d have bet everything I owned that we wouldn’t see one; any creature with a nose would smell us coming from miles away.
After lunch, the guys showed me their guns. I’m talking firearms, people. The only sausage I like is on my pizza! Paul had a Remington Model 700 Extreme Conditions Rifle (stainless steel barrel, synthetic stock, corrosion-resistant finish), topped with a variable scope, and chambered for the potent .375 Remington Ultra Mag. The gun was brand-spankin’-new, not a scratch on it. I hoped he had taken the time to sight it in prior. You never want to go into the field with an untested weapon, especially after a creature as potentially dangerous as a Bigfoot. Veteran big game hunter Jerry had a true African safari rifle, a brutal .460 Weatherby Magnum, complete with a hefty muzzle brake to lessen recoil, and iron sights for expedient aiming. The wood stock had myriad nicks and chips, and the bluing had a nice aged patina. Jerry said he had taken elephants, Cape buffalo, and grizzly bears with that rifle and never felt under-gunned. And then there was Carl’s cannon was a .50 BMG Barrett, a semi-auto variant with a ten-round mag.
Since I’m running low on word count and high on story, please allow me to summarize the trip: TOTAL WASTE OF MY FUCKIN’ TIME! What’s more, it was a VERY COLD total waste of my time.
At night, we played $5/$10 Limit Hold’em and $1/$2 No Limit Hold’em and I won just under $700 over the four days. What sucks is I should’ve come home up $7,000! Trust me when I tell you, these guys sucked at poker more than vampires sucked necks. But I just couldn’t get a hand to hold up. Folding was like a blasphemous act to these guys and at least one of them called every river bet no matter what the board showed. Didn’t seem to matter what they were holding, either. Pairless hero calls were par for the course with that group. Unfortunately for me, the poker gods weren’t in my corner. As for the mid-game banter, it was like a broken record—a broken Bigfoot record. Story after story after story about their favorite moments from previous Bigfoot expeditions, none of which yielded anything more than speculation.
Each morning, we headed out at approximately 4 AM and would spend the next ten hours or so checking areas that they believed a Bigfoot would be sure to occupy. Multi-day missions that journey deep into a specific territory have always made more sense to me, but they were convinced this creature was staying closer to civilization. Why? No clue. It was their charter, so I kept my mouth shut and remained cold, bored, and miserable. It rained, it snowed, my flashlight didn’t work in the icy weather, my boots gave me blisters, I would sweat and then I would freeze, I tweaked a muscle in my hamstring and pinched a nerve in my neck and whenever I had to piss, my Johnson nearly froze. On the upside, the beer was tasty and free and Carl was one of the best “camp cooks” I had ever met, even if all he could prepare was bratwurst or bison burgers. Still, the grub was pretty damn good, bordering on exceptional.
Moral of the story: Hell, there really isn’t one. Would I have had a much better time staying home to do my Christmas shopping? Yup. Or watching paint dry? Affirmative to that one, too. But what would that have said about my zest for life? My ceaseless quest for adventure? My overall stupidity?
The only thing I can say definitively, to the extent that I’d bet my testicles on it—well, maybe just one of them—is that Bigfoot DOES NOT reside in the vicinity of Kettle Falls, Washington!