I want to tell you a story about an experience that I had when I was 14 years old. This a memory that is still quite vivid even after 16 years. I am talking about the time I had an encounter with Bigfoot.

I was inspired to write after watching a bunch of Monsterquest episodes on Netflix. For anyone that hasn’t seen the show, the premise is that they go out to search for legendary creatures using the best technology that their budget allows. After 50 minutes of suspenseful music we find out that they didn’t actually find what they were looking for (except for the giant squid; that was pretty cool), but that there is evidence that it still could be out there. What we end up with at the end of each show are people who really believe that they saw what they saw and skeptics who do not think that the existence of these creatures is possible.

I am a casual believer in Bigfoot (or Sasquatch to the PC crowd) based on my one experience in the Boundary Waters as a kid. Here is my story:

When I was 14, my school had us go on a fall canoe trip into the BWCAW. At this time in my life I was not very fond of canoeing, but it was fun to be out with friends in the woods. It had been a cold morning on the day of the return trip, and I had put on several layers of warm clothing which was rapidly becoming uncomfortable as the sun heated the portages. We were on quite a long portage and my friend Mike and I had run ahead of the others who were carrying 70’s era Grumman canoes. Those old aluminum tankers will slow anyone down, and we were planning to drop our packs at the far end of the portage and go back to help the others.

When we got to the end, Mike went back to the group while I decided to stop and remove those warm clothes. Anyone who has taken off layers, fumbled with the straps on a an old canvas Duluth pack, opened the waterproof liner, reloaded the pack, and closed it up again knows that it can be quite a process. Probably four or five minutes later I started heading back.

I had only been hiking for a minute or two when I saw something cross the trail about 100 yards ahead. The point of the trail where it crossed made a bend to the left, but it crossed silently to the right and into the forest. As I visualize the image in my mind, I still feel the hair rising on my neck. It looked for all the world like the dark silhouette of a chimpanzee walking on two legs with its long arms swinging. It didn’t look at me that I could see, it just crossed the trail and disappeared into the brush.

Being 14 I wasn’t thinking about Bigfoot, I thought that Mike was hiding in the bushes to jump out and scare me. I crept quietly to the point where I saw the creature cross the trail, but it was long gone. At that point I got pretty wierded out by the situation and double-timed it back to the group. Mike had already been back there for quite a while, and swore that he never crossed the trail in front of me (and either way, if it was him, he could not have beat me back to the group if he had wandered into the brush).

I have tried to piece together the location of my sighting from memory, and the best I figure is that it is within a 2 to 3 portage radius of West Bearskin Lake (we were based out of Camp Menogyn on that lake), but I don’t know for sure what our route was. I have been in the area several times since then, but I have never seen it again.

Before anyone tells me that what I saw was a bear, I know what a bear looks like. I have seen black bears in the woods; I have seen them on roadsides; I have fed them in animal parks; I know what a bear looks like. This was not a bear. It did not have the silhouette of a bear. I am not saying that I saw a Bigfoot for sure and for certain, but I know that I did not see a bear.

What I do know is that my encounter has added another layer of spice and mystery to the forest for me. I tend to be coldly logical at times, but living in a world without some mystery would be pretty boring. I hope that they never prove or disprove the existence of Bigfoot. We need a few legends just to stay legends, if only to scare our friends with around the campfire.