Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Mystery at Elk Valley...

June 7th 2016

I had been in contact with researcher Wolfgang Moser for a few months and he had expressed interest in going to the Patterson film site in June. As we watched the countdown to the end of the seasonal Port Oreford Cedar closure we saw it was extended due to recent rains in the area. Our schedules lined up for a trip to the Klamath high country above Bluff Creek where we could make an attempt to hike into the remote valleys at the headwaters of Blue Creek and retrieve the three trail camera that we had installed last year with Robert Leiterman.

Bald Hills Rd looking out over Williams Ridge
I left Orick about 10am and headed over the Bald Hills, the location of many bigfoot sightings. The road is very pretty on top and I stopped to photograph some elk along the way. When I got into Marten's Ferry I noticed some recent graffiti on the stop sign that said "STOP forest service harassment". I thought this was interesting. I arrived at the Bluff Creek Lodge about 11:45 where I met Wolfgang and his friend. After talking for a be we proceeded to drive up to Orleans, about 15 minutes from the Bluff Creek Lodge. We headed up Eyesee Rd (the GO road) and stopped at the pull off for cedar camp rd to look down on Bluff Creek. We continued up to GO road until we got to mile marker 28 at the Elk Valley Rd. The gate to Elk Valley was open and we were able to drive in. There was a small camp there and a couple cars. It looked like a long term camp as it was well established with canvas tents. We continued in our vehicles to the end of the road which is the start of the Flatiron Lake trail.
Chimney Peak and Turtle Rock looking over Elk Valley in the Yurok High Country. This is the headwaters of Blue Creek.

At the trailhead we had some lunch before we headed out. We were unarmed as usual and had only walking sticks and bear spray. The trail to the camera location was greatly overgrown and was lost easily. Right away we noticed large track impressions on the trail that we had assumed to be from bears. The mud on the trail had hardened and the animal that made the tracks did so in the mud as the impressions were deep in the dry ground and our footfalls only produced compression of the grasses, which leads me to believe that the trackmaker was there at least a week before when it was raining. The tracks were indistinct and only a few registered, the width was about six inches at the ball of the foot and about four inches wide at the heel. None of the tracks that I saw had any clear indication of toes. Some of the better registered tracks measured over 15 inches in length dwarfing my size 12 heeled logging boots with no obvious indications of a composite register or "one track on the other one". I had assumed that there were bear tracks at the time as bears are common in the area. I didn't think much of them at the time and proceeded to check the trail cameras. This is where things got interesting.

Photo of the Reconyx after it had been recovered
When I approached the first camera i did not see it on the tree from afar like i should have been able to. That was the Reconyx HC500 that Bart Cutino had donated to us. When i got close enough i saw that the camera had been spun around the tree 180 degrees and was now facing backwards. The plastic buckle had been snapped. It was only attached to the tree by the security knot i tied with the excess strap. It had also been opened up and was exposed to the elements. The memory card was intact and the camera had not been fouled by exposure. The batteries had been strewn on the ground as well. Only after i cut the strap with my knife did i think it necessary to start taking pictures (hindsight is 20/20).
The location of the Reconyx camera

Second Camera on ground as found
I left my gear at the first camera location and proceeded to look for the other cameras. I located the second camera location but the camera was missing. I could see impressions and compressed grass all around but no sign of the camera. After a bit of searching i found it under an adjacent tree on the ground. The connecting buckle had been snapped by great force. The camera itself was facing up was covered in a light coating of mud, dirt, and dust. It had remained sealed and there was no major damage to it. A quick inspection revealed no obvious damage to the the camera itself.

I then attempted to locate the third camera, a Bushnell Trophy Cam. Once located i could see that the buckle had been snapped on this camera as well, it was held on to the tree only by the safety knot that tied the two end of the strap together. It was spun around the tree about 60 degrees and resting on the ground.I was able to locate a small hair attached to the third camera that had been stuck in a spiders web. I was able to save the hair and secure is in a band-aid for testing at a later date.

I had not expected to be in this position of having to possibly deduce an encounter. I had assumed we would check to footage and see a bear clearly assaulting the camera. I cannot explain what happened or why it happened to all three camera at once. In the five years that the Bluff Creek Project has been operating I have never seen a bear snap a buckle like that, let alone three in such a short period of time. I am not a believer in Bigfoot but i struggle to explain what happened.

1 comment:

  1. Bear prints would leave me to believe that yes it's a bear!
    P.S. I'm a believer!