It’s 1:30 in the morning on a remote ridgetop above the Mogollon Rim, deep in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. It’s dark and it’s cold. Two men sit in lawn chairs in the darkness, listening to the sounds of the forest. They can’t see much. In the dim starlight they can barely make out their immediate surroundings … each other, the Jeep, two small dome tents and the black wall of the forest on all sides.
One of the men shifts in his chair and grumbles, “My feet are cold. I shoulda worn my insulated boots.” The other man chuckles, “I wore mine. I knew it would be like this.”
We’ll call this man Warm Feet (WF). The other man is Cold Feet (CF). CF is new to this late-night activity, but WF knows better what to expect. The cold will work its way through even the heaviest of winter clothing and cold feet can make for a miserable night.
WF stands up and swings his arms, stiff from sitting in one spot. A wooden pick handle leans against the Jeep. He takes it and walks to a large dead pine tree about 50 feet away. He steps carefully in the darkness. Reaching the tree, he takes a baseball stance and swings. The hickory pick handle makes a surprisingly loud “Thwack” as it hits the tree, echoing in the late-night stillness. WF puts the pick handle back and rubs his hands together. The dense hickory wood transmits stinging vibrations that hurt even through WF’s heavy gloves. He swears softly and sits back down, telling CF that they’ll give it a little time and see if they get an answer.
As the minutes crawl past, both men find themselves fighting sleep after a long day. But suddenly in the distance, they hear the unmistakable sound of an answering tree knock. It is not close, but not far either. A shot of adrenaline brings both men out of their drowsy fog, and they are both suddenly hyper-alert.
“Bingo,” says WF.
They hear a soft “Whoop” sound in the distance, and suddenly they notice that the forest is silent … no bug noises, no bird noises, as if someone turned them off with a switch.
More minutes pass, and nothing. WF stands up and reaches for the pick handle. Time to try another knock. Just as his hand touches the handle, a tree branch snaps in the darkness — directly in front of where they sit. WF moves back to his chair and sits back down.
“We have visitors,” he softly tells CF.
A few more minutes pass as they strain eyes and ears. WF takes a telescope-like device out of his pocket, brings it up to his right eye and scans the tree line. It is a night vision scope, but he can see only as far as the tree line in the ghostly green light. Sometimes even the fanciest technology is useless in the deep woods at night.
CF says he can hear the rustle of something moving off to his left. Then another branch snaps, this time just on the other side of the Jeep. Close.
“I think there’s more than one,” whispers WF. They had placed their chairs with the backs up against the Jeep for a reason, so nothing could get right behind them.
WF whistles. Not a loud whistle, like someone calling their dog, but a single tone, maybe 10 seconds long.
Immediately, from the darkness directly in front of them, a return whistle, exactly the same. Same pitch. Same duration, less than 50 feet away, the whistler totally invisible in the inky blackness. Both men are unnerved and the hair on the back of their necks is standing up. This is scary stuff. WF claps his hands together. One clap. No more. An answering clap comes from the same place as the whistle. Right there. It feels like the men could just reach out and touch the clapper, but they can see absolutely nothing.
A pebble or other small object comes flying out of the night and hits the tent next to CF, thudding against the stretched fabric. CF jumps. It didn’t hit him, but it easily could have if the thrower had wanted it to. A few more pebbles follow, then a pine cone lands near WF’s feet. It is big enough and close enough that WF sees it coming, even in the darkness. It didn’t fall from a tree. It was thrown.
More minutes pass, then from behind them on the other side of the Jeep comes a soft “Woof,” a sound like a dog would make if he was lying on the living room floor and thought he heard a noise outside. Not a big woof, just a little one. The men hear the sound of something taking a deep breath … something with a large lung capacity. It lets out a long, deep sigh. It is obviously something very big. The men can tell by the sound.
Then, just as suddenly as it started, it is over. No sounds, no twig snaps, nothing.
After a few minutes, the night sounds gradually start to return. The men discuss what they have just experienced, and as the night progresses the adrenaline gradually wears off and the chill returns. Exhausted, they decide to call it a night and crawl into their tents and the warm embrace of their sleeping bags.
So just who are WF and CF, and what actually happened out there in the middle of the night up on the Rim?
Quite simply, they call themselves “Squatchers.” That’s squatch, as in Sasquatch, also commonly called Bigfoot. Some squatchers prefer to be called Bigfoot Researchers. Most don’t like to be called Bigfoot Hunters, as that makes it sound like they are trying to hunt and kill one. They aren’t.
But do Sasquatches really exist? Eighty-six percent of the population doesn’t think so. And maybe they are right, but you’ll have a hard time convincing WF and CF of that. They know what they have experienced out there, on this trip and on others. Even though they never actually saw anything, they know that something big (and probably more than one) was there. They know that in order to pick up a stick and hit a tree with it, you have to have opposable thumbs. Same for throwing rocks and pine cones. They know that you have to have lips to whoop and whistle that way, and that you have to have some type of higher intelligence to know to answer tree knocks, whistles and hand claps.
They also know, from the reported experiences of many other squatchers over many years, that these creatures are nocturnal, have excellent hearing and night vision and have an amazing ability to move quickly and silently through the thickest trees and brush. Though seldom seen, it is believed Sasquatches live in small family groups in many locations throughout North America.
In Arizona, a small but dedicated number of squatchers, many of whom know each other, spend countless nights out in various known “hot spots.” The locations remain closely guarded secrets, not unlike a fisherman who won’t tell anyone where his favorite fishing hole is.
So do they exist? That is a question that everyone will have to answer for themselves. But if you want to learn more, you can start with the Internet. If you go to Google and type Bigfoot, the first site that comes up is the Web site for the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, commonly called the BFRO, at www.bfro.net. The Web site contains lots of information, including reports on thousands of encounters, some in Arizona, and even a few near the Payson area.