Date:December , 1985
Toulumne county, CA
Nearest town: Dorrington
Description of event: By way of explanation, before I moved to Oregon 8 years ago, I lived for about 10 years at the edge of the Stanislaus River canyon about 3 miles west of Big Trees State Park between Arnold and Dorrington, California. This is in the Sierra at about the 4,500 ft. elevation. My location was actually on the borderline between literally square miles of fairly pristine California wilderness and the occasionally more populated area. I lived there alone full-time and was self-employed, working in my home workshop, so became pretty much acclimated to the rhythms of the surrounding forest and felt very comfortable in this environment.
When I first moved in there, about 1985, I had been hiking down into the river canyon on an old logging road one day and was impressed by some sugar-pine cones which had fallen from a huge sugar-pine and landed on the carpet of pine needles beneath the tree. As you may know, the cones of this species are often 12-16 inches long and very ornamental. I noted this location, right beside the road as it was, and hiked out without much thought. However, it being near Christmas, and my mother back in New York State a great lover of Christmas and decorating for it, I thought some of these cones would probably bring her great joy. I knew she'd never seen anything like these. So a week or so later, I decided to gather a knapsack full for her.
On the particular day I decided to go, I worked late in the day and then was invited to dinner by a next-door neighbor. Since it was early December, it got dark quite early, but familiar with the environment as I was, I knew I could take advantage of a full moon rising later in the evening, no snow, which was unusual for that time of the year, and go down there to pick up what I wanted. I ate dinner, went home and got my knapsack, 8mm Mauser rifle and a flashlight and was on my way about 7:00 PM. Sure enough, the full moon was soon above the canyon and the road was lighted as if it were almost daylight. I don't think I turned on the flashlight once. I hiked about a mile down the road, enjoying the hike in the brisk air and soon came upon the tree. The wind was gently blowing up the canyon towards me from the river, about 1/4 mile below. I easily filled the knapsack and of course, with a carpet of pine needles beneath my feet, did so silently, not that I was particularly trying to. However, this fact, and the fact of the wind blowing towards me, was probably the reason for the next event, which is the point of this story.
I shouldered the knapsack, picked up my rifle and flashlight, and turned to go back up the road to home. However, the moonlight was so beautiful in the trees, backed by the starlight and gentle murmur of the river in the distance, together with the fresh air, I paused for a moment or two, just to take in the glory of it all. I stood there for about 30 seconds and was just about to begin the climb upward when suddenly from what I thought no more than about 50 ft. away and slightly down the steep ravine from me, came probably the strangest sound I ever heard in the woods. It began as a low pitch, best described as a moan or wail, but it was not what I'd call "scary" such as heard in a horror movie, etc.. It was not threatening, or at least, I didn't get the impression of a threat. It commenced as a low moan, baritone, possibly, but then raised in pitch, higher and higher, until it reached a certain level, perhaps a tenor in pitch, which it held for a few seconds, until it trailed off into silence. This "wail" lasted about 30-40 seconds as I recall and began with what I would describe as the word "Who" or "Ooooooo".
When this sound first started, needless to say, I was quite startled. It was close! And, it certainly got my attention! However, I was not frightened in the sense of being terrified or anything. I have a certain attitude in the woods (sensible or not!) that I am superior to anything I might find there, and my distinct impression at that time was that whatever made that sound was totally unaware I was present. Upon retrospect, I think this impression, due to my presence upwind from the creator of the sound and the sound-deadening effect of the pine needles, was probably quite correct.
As a result, I stood there, more or less frozen by the impact of such a strange sound, and with senses at full alert, found it very interesting to hear that this "call" was almost immediately answered by another, at what I estimated about a half-mile away, in a direction that seemed across the river canyon. This was followed by another and possibly a fourth, each more distant than the other, one after the other in more or less timed sequence, as if "they" were expecting a call from "one another". There is no question in my mind this was a form of "communication", in the sense coyotes, for example, "tag up" with one another by calling for miles. In fact, at the time, I thought this probably was a coyote, but was puzzled because the "wail" was so much lower in tone than any coyote I had ever heard, and because the wail simply tapered off and was not followed by any "yip, yip, yip" or "yammering" as are most coyote calls. Nor were any of the "replies" consistent with coyote yelpings I normally heard, a fact I found mildly interesting at the time. I've also noted coyote yelpings to be somewhat unpleasant to the ear, and in contradistinction to this sound, are most generally of a higher overall pitch.
In any event, I paused for a couple of minutes more, hoping to hear everything again, but then thought I probably had witnessed all I was going to hear for a while and started homeward, moving as silently and as much in the shadows as possible...why, I don't know...perhaps instinct. (I grew up the grandson of a famous Adirondack guide so from childhood training, when moving in the forest, I try to blend with the surroundings and not disturb wildlife any more than possible anyway, so that's probably the main reason for my "silent" exit.) It wasn't out of any sense of threat that I felt, although I did glance back quite often while hiking out, just to be certain I wasn't being followed, or if I was, so I could be aware of it. I don't think I was, however, and the impression still remains that I was completely unnoticed at any time. I certainly didn't "feel" I was being followed or hear any "crashing in the brush", etc., as with some of the stories I've read.
At the time, while I had read about Sasquatch at some time or another, I was not really thinking about them and in my mind, they were as distant from my life as would be an elephant in the same environment. Now, however, perhaps living in Oregon as I do and having access to the Internet and sites such as yours, I have a good deal more awareness and in retrospect, think this may have been a possible "encounter"...such as it was.
To describe the sound more exactly, at least as best I can recall, I would have to say it had "timbre", as I guess they say in the "opera" business. It was as if the "producer" of the sound had a very good set of lungs. It certainly had the power to "project" this sound across a river canyon with no effort...as did the recipients who heard and projected it to others up and down the canyon area, probably for miles. Also, the sound was not harsh or irritating. I would have to describe it as actually, melodious. By this, I mean it certainly had what my ear would describe as "overtones" or depth. In fact, the "depth" of the sound was what impressed me the first few seconds I heard it. I might be wrong, but I couldn't imagine at the time such a sound emanating from the "mere" lungs of a coyote, but I had no other explanation in my mind at the time either.
In any case, I heard a lot of strange sounds in the forest thereafter, especially during the middle of the night at times when I'd sleep with the windows open and be awakened. However, I soon got rather complacent with it all as there were bears, coyotes, cougars, etc., there, all bringing down prey in the middle of the night so screams of terror by these victims, mating calls, the barking of my own dogs which I acquired later, and all the rest soon became "old hat" and I pretty much ignored it all as much as I possible so I could get some sleep.
record updated:2003-01-09 00:00:00