C 2014 by Jan MacKell Collins
Portions of this article originally appeared in the Colorado Gambler magazine.
It’s a question that never grows old: Is Bigfoot out there? Commercials, movies, television shows, documentaries, books, and most important of all, photos, have focused on a legendary primate-type critter who stands between seven and ten feet tall and enjoys lumbering around in the woods. He is generally described as smelly but gentle-appearing, walking with slow-moving gracefulness or loping through a field. In some instances he looks casually at the observer but doesn’t appear the least bit interested in the humans who spot him.
At night, some claim, you can hear his haunting screams echoing through the remote backwoods. Some have said he grunted at them during an encounter. Others say he is responsible for making knocking noises with large pieces of wood in the forest. Still others have given reports of having rocks thrown at them and witnessing feasts by the beast on wild game. Depending on the region, this giant ape-like being goes by Sasquatch, Yeti or, in Colorado, Bigfoot.
Bigfoot sightings have in fact been going on for centuries all over the world, including the United States. According to the official Bigfoot Field Researchers Association, Hawaii is actually the only state without one. Delaware and Rhode Island rank the next lowest with only five sightings each. Washington State ranks first with 577 sightings since 1996. California comes second with 427, and Oregon has had 235.
Indeed, the Pacific Northwest was where the first Bigfoot sighting in America occurred, clear back in 1811. But in the great ranking of the most sightings, it is interesting to note that Colorado takes 8th place (the state is actually tied with Georgia at 115 sightings). The first time anyone reported seeing a Bigfoot in Colorado was in Jackson County, when a hunter watched two of them stalk an elk way back in 1926. For many years Teller and Park counties, nestled next to each other and surrounded by plenty of remote forests, took first honors above the rest of the state with numerous sightings. Increased populations and mining activity in Teller County especially have changed the numbers only slightly in recent years; these days Park County leads with nine sightings, while Teller, Lake and Conejos counties have each had eight. Nearby El Paso County follows with seven sightings.
“Bosh!” say some who staunchly deny the big hairy guy exists at all. Enough reports have surfaced, however, to merit looking into the matter further. Take 1972, for example, when a couple hiking in the Lost Creek Wilderness observed a creature squatting near a pond. “When he stood up erect and looked at us we knew it was not a bear,” stated one of the witnesses. Although the couple was unable to obtain a photograph on subsequent visits, “Unsolved Mysteries” television show covered the incident in a segment during the early 1990’s.
Closer to Cripple Creek were two sightings in the 1970’s, one during the day by two brothers hiking and another by a young girl camping with her family. Both happened on the west side of Pikes Peak. In the latter instance, the creature was peering into a camper trailer when the girl awoke and came face to face with it through the screened window. “I quickly pushed the curtain closed and laid there completely paralyzed with fear,” she recalled in later years. The woman also remembered hearing a “chatting” noise that first awoke her, and that the next morning the apples and potatoes had been stolen from the back of the family truck. During that same time, other hikers noted large footprints in the snow on the backside of the Peak.
Just a few years later, in 1981, a mine watchman near Cripple Creek was badly shaken when he spotted a tall, two-legged creature near one of the mine buildings. In 1984, another young girl spotted the long-armed hairy man walking amongst some cows along Phantom Canyon Road. More tracks were found near the Cripple Creek watershed in 1986. And in 1987, two Florence boys working at a donut shop watched “a very large hairy looking thing” sauntering down the main drag on two legs in the dead of night.
By then, Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin’s famous film documenting Bigfoot for the first time had been debated over for some twenty years. Even today the seconds-long footage of a hairy beast strolling along a creek in 1967 infatuates researchers everywhere. Gimlin recently theorized the incident might have been a hoax, especially since hundreds of such have been perpetrated over the last 40 years.
In 1987, for instance, Green Mountain Falls resident Dan Masias claimed to have seen two Bigfoots booking down the road in front of his home. When unidentifiable hair was found on the door of a home that was broken into, the story began making international headlines. Masias’ last sighting was in 1992, but rumors circulating that he confessed to faking the whole thing slowed down the amount of witnesses coming forward for a few years.
Once things cooled down, the Bigfoot sightings made a reprise. Cadets at the United States Air Force Academy reported seeing and hearing a Bigfoot from Jack’s Valley above the base throughout the 1990’s. Four accounts in Teller, Douglas and El Paso counties in 1997—including one along Ute Pass—plus four sightings in as many surrounding counties in 1998, and the big guy was back on top. In December of 1999 a trucker spotted one south of Colorado Springs. During the fall of 2000, people reported hearing “eerie human-like calls” and finding footprints in the Pikes Peak National Forest. Also, a tribe of Romanian gypsies near Fairplay beat a hasty retreat after a seven-foot tall creature appeared at the edge of their campsite.
The sightings continued. In May 2001 a woman and two small children living near Lake George distinctly heard an animal emit a blood-curdling “rooster-dog” howl outside their home. A month later, when a nine-year-old boy spotted a Bigfoot at the first rest stop along the road to the top of Pikes Peak, officials had already half-jokingly posted a sign warning of Bigfoot sightings. Finally, a hunting guide and three other people heard the rumble of an unidentifiable animal, heard something knocking logs together and found large but melting tracks in the snow off Gold Camp Road near Victor in November.
During 2002, reports in El Paso and Park counties told of hearing eerie screams, including one that was in response to a hunter’s elk bugle. There were two more sightings in 2005. The first was in January near the Crags Campground, where some mighty large footprints were photographed in the snow. Then in October of 2005, employees of the Arrowhead Gold Course off Range View Road in Douglas County saw a “huge whitish gray figure” peaking at them on Hole #13. And in May of 2006 a hunter saw a Bigfoot walking in the hills west of Fort Carson.
More recently, in August 2010 a woman delivering newspapers west of Buena Vista during in the early morning hours was startled to see “a large upright dark figure” cross a two-lane highway in just three steps. And in May of 2012, two women on an evening hike near Bailey watched as a creature measuring seven to eight feet tall and standing upright ran from them into the woods. And for every sighting reported on the BFRO website, numerous others – such as huge tracks found in the snow near Cripple Creek during the winter of 2012 – do not get reported.
Going by all accounts, the Bigfoots of the Pikes Peak region have been seen, heard, or left their tracks at all times of the year. They seem to favor steep and forested terrain. Upon seeing humans they usually exhibit a gentle curiosity before moving on, rarely venturing nearer. Now and then they let out a screaming howl, sometimes in answer to the call of another animal. And, they tend to be a bit smelly. Most of the many websites covering the phenomena advise to be at the ready with a camera if you see one. None of the sites say what to do if you really do see one, but those who believe ought to have some extra fun hiking and camping this summer.
Enough sightings have been reported along the route up Pikes Peak in Colorado that officials finally posted this sign some years ago.