Let it Loose
(Red Dear Records)
The Blakes are Seattle’s best export right now. There I said it. Yeah, and I meant it. I wasn’t sold on the new songs right away, but, nope, nope, now I am. The live show is undeniably fantastic, but this debut full-length, which, if there were any justice in the world, would be flying off shelves at your local Virgin Megastore (or Hastings), is so full of great dancey, jangly rock ‘n’ roll that it’ll make you cry in wonderment. Or at least dance like a maniac (maaaaaaniac on the floor…).
Back to Higher Ground
SideOneDummy is a mixed bag for sure-you’ve got your gypsy punks (Gogol Bordello), your girly-punks (Go Betty Go), your Irish punks (Flogging Molly), and your hardcore punks (The Casualties). From all sides, though, what is most important about S1D is that they’ve maintained QUALITY punk music. No Fueled by Ramen flavorings, not even any Epitaph weaknesses, just solid punk music. So punk isn’t your thing? So be it, the integrity of the roster holds up. The Briggs are the label’s newest offering, and they land somewhere in the mix, near the Casualties end of the spectrum, but without the screaming. Oi!-flavored, but more accessible to the mainstream.
Welcome to the Drama Club
(Eleven Seven Music)
Art Alexakis, you had me fooled for most of my teen years. My formative years, dude! I defended you for so long. I said you were misunderstood. I said you were a good guy. I said that you were just about the art, Art, man. I did it for so many years that it’s embarrassing. Now all of my friends who knew me then are like “Dude, you totally blameshifted on that sh**, what gives?” What gives is the truth, friends. I wanted to walk into this latest disc with a clean slate, but the words of former Everclear-er Craig Montoya were ringing too loudly in my mind. Some nasty stuff went down, friends, and where Everclear stands today, with a disc of songs that show no growth, no real conviction, and nothing beyond sad, rehashed themes of absent dads, broken bonds of love, etc, etc, really shows where the career of the band’s only original stands. (That said, please don’t forget how great Sparkle and Fade was though, because, dang, at the time it was so good.)
Give Me a Wall
Reader, I know there are a lot of synthy pop bands out there right now-and we may have even bent your ear on one too many at this point. For that I am sorry, but please, please, lend your eyes and dollars to this name, which will likely be one of the biggest things of the coming months. Forward Russia is fer real, yo. Forget what you even think you know about synth pop and just invest in this. No more needs to be said … Except, just, PLEASE. I love you so much and this really matters to me. It’s so good.
THE HIDDEN CAMERAS
(Arts & Crafts)
The Hidden Cameras shares that “bigness” of acts like the Arcade Fire and Architecture in Helsinki. That bigness, that feeling that the room is jam-packed with smiling faces that are slowly, carefully taking over your brain and closing in on your thought processes. There’s always that trickley piano line playing underneath that seemingly-innocent pop number that you both can’t help but hum along to, but also can’t help but think this might be the last thing you ever hear alive. And maybe that’s okay, because, shoot, Joel Gibb and crew, cult-ish or not, make ya feel quite alright, don’t they? Or do they…
Forgive them the clichs in the title track and Dublin-originated La Rocca will likely win your heart. This disc feels like an old friend-both a little too familiar, and so very welcome. La Rocca is a band with a smoky barroom mentality, but the sound and the offerings here are clearly so very much better than that. Lead-off track “Sketches (20 Something Life)” is both fortunately and unfortunately the best song on the disc-it gets you in, but you might find yourself looking for something to top it. Overall, though, the progression of the disc will keep you listening.
Oh, Omaha, I hardly knew you had this in you! This screaming, pounding anthemic rock! I’ve not heard it from you! Must be those outsiders, those folks not born and raised in your native lands, in this band that are making it sound so unlike your norm. Don’t get me wrong, the norm is frickin’ unbelievable… but this, ooh la la. This reminds me a little of your like-structured (read: incestuous) label peer, three.one.g-this intensity of sound and propulsion. It’s like a marriage of the two mindsets. MIND BLOW.
Is it possible to attain new heights of progressivism when you’ve already defined the far progressive reaches of the metal genre? This age-old question is answered atop Blood Mountain-elevation: infinity. The new LP is filled with some serious noodling (“Bladecatcher”), but this album also packs a serious crunch (“Crystal Skull.”) Excellent cameos from Neurosis and the Queens of the Stone Age. Take the time and climb Blood Mountain, the view from the top is like nothing you’ve ever heard.
Live at the Big Easy, Spokane WA 9/15/06
Few bands are as relentlessly innovative and long-lived as the Melvins. Their newest trick? Adding a second drummer achieving the impossible task of making their sound even heavier. The result was a completely different show from the last time they came to town. I thought I felt some tugging on my pant leg-but it was only monstrous soundwaves. Material from the forthcoming record sounded great.
Lonely Road Revival
Trainwreck Riders never quite manage to live up to my expectations of Alive Recordings experiences of the past-namely, Two Gallants. They tour together, they recorded their debuts for the same label… but it’s unfair to compare. After all, Two Gallants is a diamond in the rough, a perfect pearl emerging from a sea of rough, rough, ugly waters (of bands). Trainwreck Riders are mellower, twangy-er, and, fittingly, not quite as exciting. But! They are still worth checking out. Just don’t go into it with “Two Gallants: The Sequel” on the brain.
Get Yr Blood Sucked Out
I’m all about the cute couples making pop music-love The Rosebuds, those Mates of State kids, those Dresden Dolls. But dammit if the best thing about husband-wife duo Viva Voce isn’t that they just … rock. And rock hard. They’ve got the cutie-pie faces, but when Viva Voce is playing, whether on the stereo or on the stage, there’s no mistaking their hard-nosed vintage rock. Amen.
YO LA TENGO
I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass
Can Yo La Tengo even be reviewed at this point? Hmm, maybe. This album title kicks the ass of all other album titles in the history of album titles.
Magazine Article, Music Reviews |
I have sort of an embarrassing problem with this month’s urban outdoors column (and I’m not talking about the above illustration which often portrays me wearing suspenders and shorts, like a Von Trapp family singer.) Here’s my problem: I haven’t actually been “outdoors.”
Instead, I spent the month in a series of hotels and airplanes, where I invariably encountered chatty retirees demanding to know: a. where I’m coming from; b. where I’m going; and c. whether it’s wise to drink a tenth airline bottle of rum before takeoff. (Distrustful of that whole seat cushion business, I stockpile the little bottles just in case, “during the unlikely event of a water landing,” I need to make my own flotation device.)
“So … Spokane,” the passenger next to me will usually say. “What’s that like?”
“Oh, you know. Sophisticated. Urbane. The Paris of Eastern Washington.”
“What are the big industries there?”
“Abstract painting. Interpretive dance. Carnie training.”
“Is there a lot of traffic?”
“There would be, but almost everyone kayaks to work.”
One thing I’ve noticed about Spokanites: when we’re here, we mostly complain about it. But when we travel, it’s suddenly heaven. I know I do this. And when I talk about Spokane’s charms, I inevitably find myself bragging about our many outdoor sports and activities, even though I practice almost none of them. For instance I’ll go on about the great snow skiing, even though I only go once a year. I’ll even brag about rock climbing, mountain biking, parasailing, anything I can think of.
“Do you parasail?” the retiree will ask.
“Honestly,” I’ll say, draining another rum, “I don’t even know what that is.”
So, recently, I vowed to only brag about the outdoor events that I actually participate in.
This happened on my last cross-country flight, returning to lovely Spokane. I was hoping to sleep but I found myself wedged next to a sumo wrestler (in uniform) apparently suffering from Ebola virus. Various parts of him spilled over onto my seat and when I sat, we were … sort of … as one.
He coughed on me. “Sorry.”
“No, it’s okay.”
The woman on the other side of me was homicidally cheerful. She kept smiling at me and kept grabbing my arm to tell me how friendly the flight crew was. “It’s like they take happy pills, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” I said.
“So where are you from?” the woman asked cheerfully.
“I’ve heard that’s a great outdoors town.”
And vowing to only mention the things I actually do outdoors, I said, “Yes. There’s wonderful lawn mowing. And raking. It’s a great place to walk to your car.”
And right then, the sumo wrestler shifted and I wished to God I hadn’t worn my shorts and suspenders because the rubbing of our haunches sparked a small fire that quickly engulfed the wing and as the plane dipped I clung to my little booze bottles, and prayed that in the unlikely event of a water landing we wouldn’t hit any commuting kayakers.
Jess Walter’s new novel, The Zero, is available in bookstores
Jess Walters: The Urban Outdoors, Magazine Article |
I love to go backpacking, but sometimes I don’t feel like driving to far-flung places just to reach a trailhead to then hike with 30 pounds on my back. That’s why Heart Lake in the Bitterroot Mountains is a quick and easy weekend getaway to the backcountry. It takes only two hours to drive from Spokane to the trailhead outside of Superior, Montana, in the Lolo National Forest, and after just three miles of hiking you reach a beautiful alpine lake.
When my husband and I started our trek with our husky dog, Emerson, we knew it would be great for our canine kid since it’s included in the book Best Hikes with Dogs – Inland Northwest by Craig Romano and Alan L. Bauer. The mostly shady trail follows Trout Creek and includes a gradual 1,150 foot elevation gain. There are a few log bridges, but you must seriously ford the creek at about 2.75 miles, so a pair of Keens or Teevas is necessary. Follow the trail left. (If you go right, the trail will lead you to the Bitterroot Divide and the Stateline Trail-a possible day-hike destination.)
Soon Heart Lake (elevation: 5,824 ft) will come into view and you’ll find yourself right at a couple of campsites. Although you could pitch your tent here, if you have the endurance to hike a bit further, head to the south end of the lake for a more secluded and adventurous campsite. Continue left on the trail to the logjammed outlet; cross it and follow the trail along the eastern shore. This three-quarter mile trek has a few tricky spots that require some creative footing. There is a shady campsite along this trail, but keep going because there are two more sites ahead with better lake access. We wanted the furthest one (based on a recommendation from a kind hiker on his way out) and were fortunate that it wasn’t already claimed by the time we arrived that afternoon. It had easy access to the lake, sweeping views of the surrounding peaks and a snow-fed creek for using our water pump filter. There was already a designated backcountry kitchen area, with a rock fire ring and surrounding logs. We didn’t make a fire, but set up our leave-no-trace camp stove here. There was plenty of shade for our dog and we all loved hanging out at the lake’s edge. A puzzle of rocks and logs make for a canine water park and a great picnic perch for hanging tired feet into the cold water. There could be a couple other tent site possibilities around the boulders, but in late June we were still surrounded by snowfields. We found some creative uses for these-such as boot-skiing with a husky!
Some fellow backpackers were spin fishing from the southwest shore of the lake and even had a float tube. They were successful, although we would’ve preferred to see them catch and release since the fish were so small. A nice breeze from the lake kept mosquitoes away all night long. And we hung our food overnight to keep it away from the mice that were scurrying around after dark and any possible deer (like the ones we saw on the hike in). The soothing sounds of the creek lulled us all to sleep.
In the morning, our tent’s internal temperature rose as the sun crested the eastern ridge. Later (after boot-skiing), Emerson kept staring-with his ears perked-to a spot high up on the ridge near the Montana-Idaho border. We couldn’t figure out what it was until a huge mountain goat became visible with the naked eye. The beautiful beast easily climbed down to munch on the foliage, crossed one of the snowfields and came within a quarter of a mile of our campsite. He exchanged glances with us, but was happy to forage for his food as we packed up camp.
If you have more than a weekend or the extra energy, there is a trail to Pearl Lake that starts near the south end of the lake-but we didn’t do it. We hiked out in time for dinner in Superior at Durango’s, a restaurant with an adjacent bar/casino and gift shop. For about $15, we both enjoyed unique Montana inspired hamburger entrees, and were back home in Spokane in time to unpack and get a decent night’s sleep before work the next morning. Heart Lake is definitely a quick and easy destination for any city dweller seeking a backcountry fix.
When You Go:
From Spokane, head east on I-90, take Exit 47 at Superior, Montana. Go east on Diamond Road, also known as County Road 257. After six miles the road becomes gravel. Pass Trout Creek Campground and enter the Great Burn Wilderness Area-named for the wildfire that engulfed the area in the early 1900′s. After 20 dusty miles you come to a switchback with trailhead parking on the right side of the road. The Heart Lake trailhead and signage is on the left.
Magazine Article, Road Trip |
For most runners, finishing a marathon is a goal of epic proportions. Don Kardong, a competitor in the 1976 Olympic Marathon, founder and race director of Bloomsday, has run about fifty of them. He’s currently training for the Seattle Marathon, and running around 40 miles per week. If he runs fast enough in Seattle on November 26, he’ll qualify for the Boston Marathon and a whole winter’s worth of marathon training. Here’s what works to keep him running through the colder weather.
Shoes: “If you get the shoes right, everything else falls into place,” Kardong said. Shoes are especially important when running greater distances: “Something that might not show up when you’re running four to five miles per week will make a difference when you start training for a marathon.”
Currently, Kardong is running in Asics, but he also commented favorably on old pairs of Nike and New Balance shoes. Keep in mind, though, “one person’s favorite shoe is another person’s poison. If you stick with well-known brands, you’ll have plenty of choices.” Kardong replaces his shoes about every 500 miles.
Clothing On Top: Early in the fall, Kardong only adds a long-sleeved shirt, but as the weather gets colder, he’ll wear at least two layers: a turtleneck long underwear top and a nylon-type jacket. Be careful with layering, though, he warns, because if you have to take something off, you won’t have anywhere to put it.
“People tend to put on too much-when you head out the door, you want to feel a little cool. Then, around ten minutes in, you should feel good.”
Clothing on the Bottom: Kardong prefers running tights that are soft and warm, with a little stretch to them. “A Lycra and synthetic blend works pretty well for just about any winter running conditions.”
When it comes to cold-weather gear, “I don’t look so much at the brand as the kind of fabric, along with fit and function.”
Watch: A Triathlon watch by Timex.
Hat: “If there’s actually rain or snow, I’ll wear a baseball cap-something to keep snow and rain from coming directly into my eyes.” Some people will tell you to wear a wool hat, but “typically I’m interested in radiating the heat, rather than keeping it in.” Instead, he recommends wool socks. “Wool is kind of underrated as a fabric for socks.”
Water Bottle: On a long run, Kardong will sometimes carry a water bottle, usually in a small fanny pack that sits on the lower back.
Additional Accessory: Access to a treadmill, for when the slush, snow and ice make the winter roads too difficult to navigate, and some music to pass the time on said treadmill.
Kardong recommends either running with a partner or making a plan and sticking with it in the colder months. “It’s very easy to just roll over and go back to sleep, but don’t be afraid of the winter. I haven’t found anything that makes me feel as good in the winter as getting out for a run just to be outside. It’s a great feeling – don’t be afraid of it.”
Magazine Article, What's Your Gear? |
In May of 2005, Ed Viesturs, one of America’s leading high altitude mountaineers, completed his extraordinary quest to climb all fourteen of the planet’s 8,000 meter peaks without supplemental oxygen. OTM got in a few words with Ed recently to ask him about his climbing exploits, his new book, and his visit to Spokane on Friday, October 13 at 7 PM at the Met Theatre.
Q: You’ve given presentations to diverse audiences from major corporations, to climbers, to the Seattle Seahawks. What can people expect When they come to
A: My climbing career, particularly my sixteen-year project to climb the fourteen 8,000 meter peaks. How I did it. Why I did it. What it all meant, and all of the stories that go along with it.
Q: Why should non-climbers consider showing up to hear a mountaineering legend?
A:They don’t have to show up [laughing]. But I do tell great stories and show some pretty nice photos. I try to be as entertaining and educational as possible. A lot of people wonder why people go into the mountains, why they climb mountains. They think we’re dare devils and we take risks, and I would have to say that we go out there and we manage the risk, we try to be as safe as possible. We just love what we do, and we have great adventures doing it. Most of the people I talk to on my speaking tours are non-climbers.
They usually take something away from my presentations, like ideas for reaching a goal or working as a team.
Q: Give us your best pitch for your new book, No Shortcuts to the Top, which recounts your experiences climbing the world’s highest peaks.
A: I wanted people to understand what I did, and hopefully be inspired to do something difficult or challenging and to not say that difficult projects are impossible. You can accomplish great things if you put your mind to it and take it one step at a time.
Q: Now that you’ve achieved your ambitious goal of climbing all of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks without bottled oxygen, do you have any other major outdoor objectives in mind?
A: You know, nothing that will compare to climbing all of those peaks over sixteen years, but I have smaller goals now. I’m still climbing. I still want to do adventures. I am planning to guide on Everest again in spring of ’07 on the north side. I’ve also been invited to run the New York City Marathon in November, so I’m training for that. They’re definitely smaller goals than what I did over the past twenty years or so.
Q: Between going to school at WSU and living in Seattle for several decades, have you done much climbing in Washington?
A: Oh yeah, a lot of my climbing, especially in the early years was done in the Cascades. I’ve guided on Mt. Rainier since 1982. I’ve done a lot of climbing in the Cascades. You know I could be quite content just climbing in the Cascades for the rest of my life. There’s so much to do there. It’s just a great, great place to climb and do adventures, and it’s still equally as challenging.
Q: What are some of your favorite climbs in the Cascades?
A: God, there are so many. Mount Stuart is an awesome mountain to climb. It’s a big granite peak under 10,000 feet that has a lot of great alpine climbing on it. Mount Shuksan is another great one, and even Mount Baker is a pretty cool mountain to be on. That part of northern Washington is so beautiful.
Q: Did you ever get a chance to do any rock climbing around Spokane or bigger climbs up in B.C.?
A: I haven’t done any climbing in eastern Washington or northern Idaho. When I was living there in Pullman, I was so busy with veterinary school that I didn’t have as much free time as I’d wanted. Since then I’ve gone to British Columbia a couple of times, particularly in the Banff area and goofed around there a little bit, but most of the times I was there the weather wasn’t very good, and I didn’t get to do any major climbs. I’d certainly love to go back up there though.
Q: There are a lot of different climbing philosophies and styles. How would you describe your approach to climbing?
A: Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory. I always try to be very prepared, like training, having the right gear, and doing my homework before I ever get to the mountain. I always figured that when I’m on the mountain that’s when I have to take the test. I’ve always felt that I’ve wanted to be very safe and manage the risks that are there. My main job has always been to come back home. It had to be a round trip, and it had to be fun as well. I’ve always done it for myself and wasn’t trying to prove anything to anybody other than what I can do personally. I was self-motivated and never had pressure from anyone. Even my sponsors never pressured me
For tickets to 10/13 show and more info call
Mountain Gear at 325-9000. Read more about
Ed Viestur’s and his plan to offer a guided
ascent of Everest during the spring of 2007
Magazine Article |
On Wednesday, October 11, the Inland Northwest Trails Coalition (INTC), Spokane’s own non-motorized trail advocacy group, is hosting a reception to highlight their trails vision for the Inland Northwest and hopefully inspire other outdoor enthusiasts to help the all-volunteer group achieve their mission to protect, promote, and connect the Inland Northwest’s trails, waterways and recreational destinations.
The group of local outdoor leaders has a bold recreation vision for the Spokane area. “We envision an Inland Northwest with an extensive network of trails and bike and pedestrian transportation routes integrated with and connected to a well-distributed system of parks, recreational opportunities, and natural areas designed to enhance the region’s economy and quality of life,” says Lunell Haught, the Coalition’s Board President.
While the vision may be ambitious, the group has already made some serious headway. “Since several local recreation, conservation, and business stakeholders formed the coalition only two years ago, we’ve been working with Spokane County, the City Parks Department, and others to create and submit a county trails plan as part of the Spokane County Comprehensive Plan, which is an important step in preserving, connecting, and expanding our region’s trail network as the Spokane area grows,” says Haught.
The coalition’s current projects include working with the Bicycle Alliance of Washington and a grant from REI to organize public support for completion of the Fish Lake Trail, which will provide an important link between the Columbia Plateau Trail near Cheney and the Centennial Trail in Spokane. The group is also looking at taking on other local trail projects and is working to coordinate and support the efforts of well over a dozen member groups.
INTC is encouraging the public to attend this free reception, which will be held downtown Spokane at the Community Building (35 West Main) from 6:30-8:00 PM on Wednesday, October 11. “The event will include several speakers talking about INTC’s vision, maps and displays of the Spokane County Trails Plan and the Fish Lake Trail, complimentary hors d’ oeuvres and drinks, an opportunity to network with other outdoor enthusiasts, a silent outdoor gear auction, and information about ways to get involved,” says Haught.
For more information, check out INTC online at: http://www.inlandnorthwesttrails.org
Magazine Article |
First, a story. Brian Smith was a 20-year-old kid in 1989 when he moved from Houston, Texas to Walla Walla, Washington. Just weeks after arriving, he borrowed his dad’s Volkswagen, and with a friend from church, decided to go bombing around in the woods of the nearby Blue Mountains. As he steered the car up Tiger Canyon Road it was getting to be dusk of a late August night so he turned on his headlights. What he saw next is still vivid to this day.
“I came around a little bend in the road when two Bigfoots just stepped right out in front of me. One was about eight-feet tall and one was about seven feet. They were holding hands as they walked across the road, the bigger one leading the shorter one. They just looked like humans covered in hair, more ape than man. The headlights were shining in their eyes and their eyes were shining back yellow. They didn’t seem to care that I was there; they just looked at me and went on their way. I wasn’t threatened at all but I know if they wanted to they could have picked that car up.”
“Two weeks later, I go to the Eastgate Mall here and there’s this display with two life-size mock-ups of Bigfoots, and I was like, ‘Dad, I just saw those, like two weeks ago up in the woods!’ ”
Reports of an elusive, hairy, man-ape roaming the shadowy forests of the Northwest go back over 200 years. Native Americans in the area have passed on stories for generations. Among the Spokane Indians, Bigfoot was known as S’cwene’yti (pronounced chwa-knee-tee), which translates to “Tall, hairy, smells like burnt hair.” Bigfoot advocates hypothesize that the animal is the offspring of an ape from Asia that wandered to North America during the ice. They suggest there are about 2,000 of the creatures walking upright in North America’s woods today.
Although Bigfoot sightings have been reported in all 50 states, it seems the creature has a particular fondness for the Evergreen State. According to the Bigfoot Research Organization (BFRO), more sightings (338) have been reported in Washington than any where else in the nation. “I’ve talked to over 200 people who have seen him,” says Paul Graves, an avid Bigfoot enthusiast from Wenatchee and one of about six investigators in the state of Washington for the BFRO. His job is to follow up on reports of Bigfoot encounters and determine their legitimacy. There is the occasional hoax, he says, like kids from Loon Lake who were running across the highway in a gorilla suit a couple years ago. Some of the reports he’s heard include a man watching Bigfoot look both ways before crossing the road and one log truck driver reported seeing a Bigfoot “grab a Christmas Tree-sized tree, yank it out of the ground and throw it out in the middle of the road.” Graves has never seen the creature himself, but says “I’ve heard them three times this year…” He’s recorded their night screams, which he describes as incredibly loud. During the day, he says, “they use a wood knocking mechanism, a whistling mechanism and a short whoop whoop sound.”
Probably the most famous piece of evidence is the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film, a grainy 16mm clip which shows a hairy hominid casually strolling across a sandbar in Northern California. It has become to Bigfooters what the Zapruder film is to JFK assassination buffs. After that appearance, interest in the Big Guy soared, becoming a pop cultural phenomenon, peaking in the mid ’70s with films like The Legend of Boggy Creek, Curse of Bigfoot, and Revenge of Bigfoot. By the time he became the Bionic Bigfoot in at least three episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man, he’d secured his position among one of Hollywood’s A-listers.
In Spokane, his shaggy image can still be seen peering over the roof of the Bigfoot Pub and Spokane Community College’s mascot is none other than the Sasquatch himself.
Looking for Bigfoot
On a recent hazy, late summer day, I find myself trailing Brian Smith in my car, trying to keep up with him as he speeds along-Baja-style, around the tangle of washboard dirt roads that penetrate the Weneha-Tucannon Wilderness of the Blue Mountains. His car is invisible in the cloud of thick dust it stirs up. Finally, we get to the spot, not far from where he reported seeing the two Sasquatch seventeen years ago. There we meet Tim Boone, a wiry, energetic 44-year-old Bigfoot tracker from Purvis, Mississippi, who arranged to meet up with Smith after reading about the area. He has never seen Bigfoot, but after years of obsessive research on Bigfoot sightings, including correlating sightings with moon phases, he determined this was the best place for his search. “I think I saw some tracks,” he tells Brian as we get out of our cars. “And I think I may have something on the video, too,” he says, as he hooks up the camera to his laptop screen on his truck. “Right there, see it?” he says, pointing to a small brown spot in the trees. It looks to me like shade.
We set out hiking to check out the tracks Tim saw earlier and to look for other possible signs of activity. After determining the tracks were something other than Bigfoot’s, “probably elk,” Brain says, we continue tromping around for a few hours. “These are where you find good tracks, Brian says, noting a muddy area from an underground spring. As we head back to camp, Tim jokes to Brian, “C’mon man, find us a Sasquatch track.”
Back at camp, there’s a pile of apples, left earlier for bait, and two heat-sensitive cameras set with a range of 60 feet. Tim checks the camera to see if anything triggered them while we were gone. “Two pictures on this one,” he says. The pictures turn out not be Bigfoot photos. Tim later theorizes that the creature is probably “too smart” to be caught by the camera.
As they sit down for dinner, I ask Tim and Brian what brings them out into the middle of nowhere to look for something that many people consider to have no more chance of existence than a flying troll or swimming unicorn.
“Ever since I saw that movie,” Tim says, referring to Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot, “I’ve been interested in finding out what made that scream. Even though I’ve never had an encounter, it’s been like an obsession. He shows me a binder full of reported Bigfoot sightings along with the moon phases for each. “Eighty-five point six percent of all the sightings were within a couple days of the full moon,” he says, “and last night was a full so I think that helps our chances.”
Not all encounters are visual, sometimes you hear him and sometimes you can smell him. “The smell is really bad,” says Tim. “They say it smells like the combination of a skunk, a wet dog, a dead human and a sewer.” Though he’s never had an encounter, Tim’s belief in Bigfoot is unshakeable. “All I can say is get out of your house, get out of your office, go up here in these wood and look for yourself and you’ll find the evidence.”
“I mean, what is wilderness without a monster?” says Brian. “I don’t really think he’s a monster,” says Tim. “I think that it’s one of the only animals on the face of the earth that can reason like a human.”
“I looked him in the eye,” says Brian. “We watched each other. I’m not saying they’re human or animal, they’re in a class of their own. There was just something about them that was awfully intelligent.”
By now it’s dark and the nearly full moon is making its appearance. Brain belts out a couple of Bigfoot calls, “whoooup!………….whoooup!……….whoooup!!” There’s no response. Tim turns on the stereo in his truck, which has “ten speakers.” Brian hands him a CD and says, “here, let’s try this.” As he puts in the CD and cranks it up, I look at the cover and see that it’s Ted Nugent. It’s not classic Nugent, “Cat Scratch Fever,” or even Amboy Dukes. It’s new Nugent and it’s blasting out into the quiet dark of the night forest. “Do you think this will attract Bigfoot?” I yell, straining to be heard over the chainsaw guitar sound. “I don’t know,” says Brian, “but it would attract me.”
Bigfoot and Indians
Stories of Bigfoot were told long before the earliest white man came along. In 1804, a missionary to the Spokane Indians, Rev. Elkanah Walker, wrote a letter back to his Missionary Board of Commissioners, telling of the stories he heard about the creature:
“…Bear with me if I trouble you with a little bit of their superstitions. They believe in the existence of a race of giants, which inhabit a certain mountain off to the west of us…. they say their track is a foot and a half long. They will carry two or three beams upon their back at once…they frequently come in the night, steal salmon from the Indian nets and eat them raw. If the people are awake, they always know they are coming very near by their strong smell that is most untolerable. It is not uncommon to come in the night and give three whistles, then the stones will begin to hit the houses.”
The Colvilles viewed him as a cousin and would toss him unused fish heads to keep him out of their camp. There were stories of interbreeding. One story tells of a young woman who was carried off by a Bigfoot. During her stay with him she became pregnant and when she returned to the tribe months later she gave birth to a son named Patrick. “The main theme among all Northwest Indians is that they viewed Bigfoot as a human being, not an animal,” says Ed Fusch, an anthropologist and author of a book about the relationship of Bigfoot and the Spokane and Colville Indians.
Where Legend Meets Science
While most mainstream scientists scoff at the mere mention of Sasquatch, there are some who are not so quick to dismiss the idea. Dr. Jeffrey Meldrum, a 48 year-old professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State University wants to take the legend and put it under the microscope of science. Meldrum’s interest started when, as a fifth grader at Indian Trail Elementary in Spokane, he went to see the Patterson-Gimlin film at the Spokane Coliseum. Meldrum, who specializes in the evolution of human locomotion and bipedalism, was generally skeptical until he started analyzing some of the footprints. In his lab, he has nearly 200 plaster casts of alleged Bigfoot prints, the largest collection in the nation. After studying the dermal ridges (fingerprints) and the specific foot structure that the prints suggest, he says the evidence is just too intriguing not to explore. “The idea is to take what is perceived by many people as just simply a legendary entity and pose the question, ‘is there any data that indeed suggests that there is more to this than just legend.’”
Meldrum, whose new book, Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science, was just recently released, has put his impeccable academic credentials on the line for pursuing the controversial topic. One professor at his own university, in a recent article, remarked, ” He might as well be investigating Santa Clause.” Meldrum says, “I’m just mystified sometimes by the attitudes of some of my colleagues. I still think it’s one of the most intriguing natural history questions that remains to be resolved.”
The Death Of Bigfoot?
Fifty years ago the modern myth of Bigfoot was born after the discovery of large, mysterious footprints in Bluff Creek California. When Bigfoot enthusiast Ray Wallace died in 2002, his kids announced their practical-joking dad was the man behind the prints. Confessing to an elaborate hoax, they say he used a pair of carved wooden feet to stomp out the oversized tracks. News reports all but reported the death of Bigfoot. Proponents say rumors of the hairy creature’s death have been greatly exaggerated. “This is something that cannot, should not be off-handedly dismissed by simplistic, cynical remarks,” says Meldrum. “I’ve been told, ‘it cannot exist, therefore it does not exist, so why are you bothering with the so called data.’ ”
Any debate about the creature’s existence will invariably lead to the skeptics bottom line question, “where’s the body?” After fifty years, no bones or hair samples have ever been found. Proponents point out that it is rare to ever find the bones of grizzly bears that have died naturally. Like the bear, they say, when they sense they are dying they wander off to hide.
“I’m not trying to prove this to the world, it’s not like a UFO,” say Paul Graves, who also plays guitar and writes songs about Bigfoot for his rock band, Moss Dog. “I mean, this thing is upright, tall and looks like us. To me, it’s so intriguing that there could be something so big that could be related to us and is still out there. It’s mind blowing to me.”
“Something is definitely afoot in the forests of the Pacific Northwest,” writes Robert Michael Pyle in his book, Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing The Dark Divide. “Either an unofficially undescribed species of hominoid primate dwells there or an act of self and group deception of astonishing proportions is taking place. In any case, the phenomenon of Bigfoot exists.”
“I used to be 90% certain, but after coming up here and listening to people’s stories I’m now 100%,” says Tim Boone. Boone is convinced after hearing multiple first-hand stories that not only does Bigfoot exist, but there would be more acounts of Bigfoots sightings if such reports did not invite intense ridicule from skeptics.
Freud might suggest that Sasquatch is nothing more than a product of our primal fears and collective imagination, a monster made after our own image. Perhaps the words of an old sherpa says it best: “There is a Yeti in the back of everyone’s mind; only the blessed are not haunted by it.” //
Jeffrey Meldrum’s recent book Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science is based on a 2003 video documentary of the same name. More information on these projects can be found at http://www.bfro.net/LMS/LMS.asp.
Those looking for additional scientific examination of the Bigfoot phenomenon should check out this 1998 paper available on the web by forensic examiner J. Glickman: http://www.rfthomas.clara.net/papers/nasirpt.pdf. Glickman concludes that Bigfoot’s existence is unlikely but cannot be ruled at this time. The paper includes an interesting list of of Bigfoot-style creatures in Native American oral tradition.
In 2005 the Colville Confederated Tribes erected a 12-foot tall steel Bigfoot statue created by artist Virgil “Smoker” Marchand. The statue can be seen on the Coulee Corridor Scenic Byway atop Disautel Summit, on the Colville Reservation between the towns of Nespelem and Omak. In November 2005 Marchand was quoted in Indian Country Today commenting on his statue. ”It is our aspiration that the sculpture brings back the legends and experiences of our history and culture as it was once shared with us by elders and families. We’re hoping to put together a pamphlet from stories gathered to help the traveler better understand our culture.” Anyone wishing to contribute stories is asked to send them to Virgil MarchanD, Planning Department, P.O. Box 150 Nespelem, WA 99155.
Magazine Article |
Saturday night we put the kayaks in the Spokane River a couple blocks south of Mission Avenue. A guy with a cigarette and a big coat struts by.
“You guys goin’ on a canoe ride?”
Heidi looks down at our kayaks.
“Yes, we are,” she says.
He laughs hard at us, but its a friendly laugh.
A crawdad scurries away as we slip the boats in the water. The additional beauty the river exudes when you are in it, as opposed to driving over it, is amazing. The mirror-flat surface perfectly reflects the gnarled vegetation on the banks as a thousand water-flies dance at eye level. An invisible current draws us downstream toward a series of old bridges.
The water is low and clear and part of our fun is trying to see what we can find in it. It’s a contest to see who can spot the first grocery cart. Give me bonus points for spying a bike frame, a no-parking sign, a bedroll, and a sign warning of sewage overflows.
We pass the pylons of Iron Bridge, one of which has trapped two huge driftwood trees. Have those always been there? Further downstream are more pylons from a bridge long gone, which now look like two islands covered with a burst of orange river brush. The setting sun has reached a glowing zenith when we get to the Hamilton Street Bridge. From underneath the concrete is pockmarked by hundreds of pancake-sized spider webs.
Backtracking towards Trent, we hide our kayaks in the bushes, securing them with interconnecting bike locks to make them a pain in the butt to steal. Nobody says anything to us when we pull up to a packed bar at Northern Lights Brewery with wet oars and lifejackets-and that’s fine. We’re here to slam a couple of pints before we need to get back to pay the sitter, not to chit-chat about
Back in the water we don our headlamps for the float back. Heidi warns me to steer clear of two guys fishing off the Trent Street Bridge.
Paddling past the streetlight’s yellow gaze we are suddenly alone in a big black stretch of water. I swear we can see more stars than usual. We are a thousand miles away from the city, yet right in the middle of it. It’s going to be tough to top this date.
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