• Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

On an overcast January day in 2002, I plunged into the backcountry of East County, carrying a half-full pack and weathered walking stick. Hiking into the serene green of silence and solitude was my escape, and lately it had become an obsession. It offered a mental, physical, even a spiritual reprieve from the fast-paced SoCal lifestyle. Like alcohol to an alcoholic — the more I hiked, the more I craved.

The worn dirt trail dropped steeply, and unstable footing made for an on-again, off-again controlled slide for both Richard, my long-time hiking buddy, and me. We had been on 200-plus hikes over the years, feeding off the challenges and discoveries each backcountry trek would bring. This trip appeared to be no different. As we descended into a magnificent green-and-brown, chaparral-filled valley, the pristine headwaters of the San Diego River beckoned, shimmering silver in the weak sunlight 1500 feet below us. Beyond the open valley, brooding on the horizon to the east, the proud Cuyamaca Mountains sat like squat kings, mute sentinels lording it over their kingdom below.

After 50 tense minutes of knee-pounding, ankle-twisting descent, we abandoned the rutted trail and slipped into the tangled chaparral. The low, brittle branches tore at our pants as we stomped up the river gorge. We followed a faint deer trail that only animals and brush-savvy humans could discern. The narrow trail zigzagged upward into the ravine. The pungent smell of sage filled our nostrils. For the next 20 minutes, the only sounds were heavy breathing and branches snapping, occasionally punctuated with an “Ow!” as another branch slapped my face. By the time we were ejected into a clearing, my T-shirt was soaked with perspiration, and goose bumps had exploded across my bare arms.

The rare brushless area was an open oasis of rock and moss, a needed break from the profuse vegetation of the surrounding sides of the gorge. Rock ruled here, arousing our prospecting curiosity: we were eager for a glint of elusive gold. I chugged an entire liter bottle of water. After doing the same, Rich headed one way and I the other. I was enticed by a dry streambed littered with jumbled boulders, granite worn smooth by millenniums of moving water and wind.

An unexpected shape caught my eye. “What the heck,” I murmured. “That looks like a huge footprint.” Closer, I ogled a five-toed imprint embedded into the rock. “Hey, Rich, I just found Bigfoot!” I shouted over my shoulder. Rich made his way toward me. I squatted down to examine the impression and noticed dermal folds under the biggest toe. The toes were flexed to the side in unison, the way mine would be if I stepped at the same angle as this foot once had. “Oh, yeah, I see it,” said Rich. “It’s probably a natural rock formation. Sure looks real, though.” There was an unspoken rule of hiking courtesy between us: You show interest in what I find, and I’ll do the same. It didn’t matter what it was — animal skull, pottery fragments, arrowhead, an oddly shaped rock, an old rusty can, etc. A buddy inspecting your find was a way of justifying the hike.

Rich rock-hopped up the streambed, searching again for his own finds, while I lingered. Clearing the print of dirt and debris, I studied it, unable to determine with certainty whether this huge gorilla-like footprint was authentic. It had so many apelike/manlike features — opposing side toe, heel indent, ball of the foot, the indent between the ball and the toes, toes with toenail points, dermal folds under the big toe, plus the scrunched toes all racked in unison to the side, corresponding to the load of a biped stepping at an approximate 45-degree angle. A coincidence? It couldn’t be. Or could it? I’d seen hundreds of imprints in rocks, but this was beyond bizarre.

I shook the cobweb of questions from my brain and followed the sounds of snapping branches made by Rich, already swallowed up by the green sage. We explored until the weak winter sun found its way into the western sky. We hiked out in the dark, as usual — flashlights are for emergencies or wimpy hikers, and we were proud of our night-hiking prowess — yet already, I was planning my return to the rock enigma.

Soon, curiosity about the footprint had eroded my ability to think of anything else. A general contractor, I got off work early one day and decided to put the issue to rest. I stuffed my backpack with a five-gallon bucket that contained a gallon jug of water, a third of a bag of 20-minute (hot mud) drywall compound, a jar of Vaseline, a paintbrush, a trowel, and some cardboard and tape. Then I made for the trailhead. The extra weight, along with my usual pack items, left me exhausted. When I arrived at the rock site, I collapsed and lay on the sun-warmed granite beside the footprint for a while. Then I got out a paintbrush and began to sweep the indents in the rock.

With the dirt removed, I splashed water into the print and cleaned it meticulously, wiping it dry with my T-shirt. I felt like an amateur anthropologist, smearing the warm, gooey Vaseline into every inch of the print’s surface, careful to leave only a thin uniform coat. I stroked the Vaseline with the brush to remove any excess lubricant.

The wet drywall compound smoothed to a cake batter–like consistency when stirred in the bucket with the trowel. I quickly built a low cardboard retaining wall and secured it to the granite with masking tape. The wall was needed to keep the drywall compound from flowing out of the footprint. Gingerly troweling in the hot mud, I questioned my judgment, vacillating between “This is nuts. What are you doing? What a waste of time. Are you mental?” and “No, I need to know. Do it! Follow through.”

The fast-setting drywall compound was hard in about half an hour. Yet because of its thickness, I gave it another half hour to be sure. I’d come too far and expended too much energy to blow the casting because of haste. With timid prying, using a 12-inch K-bar knife, I tried to lift up the cast — nothing. More pressure. Still nothing. For 40 minutes, the white casting couldn’t be budged. The sun was heading home when, with a final pry, whoosh. The cast separated from the stone in one unbroken piece.

  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

More from SDReader

More from the web

Comments

graybunny Jan. 13, 2010 @ 5:50 p.m.

Great story!

Welcome to the wonderful, terrible world of Bigfoot believers, skeptics, and the ambivalent. If you want to study human nature, the phenomenon of bigfoot will teach you tons.

Good luck to you and thanks for the very provocative read!

0

Fred Williams Jan. 13, 2010 @ 7:31 p.m.

Uh, where to start?

  1. Wouldn't the big toe be splayed outward if it were made by a creature that walks upright? Where's the little toe?

  2. Wouldn't it require that the rock be sedimentary for such an imprint to be made? Granite is an igneous intrusive rock, crystallized at depth. So for an impression to be made in granite would require a creature that steps into hot lava...underground.

  3. Wouldn't a "creationist" have to cite scripture first? I don't recall the biblical passage that goes, "Yea, verily, did the big footed one feel the wrath of the lord."

I guess I should compliment the author for his honesty. "I won’t look to science to validate the find. Because seeing is believing."

Just yesterday I was cooking french toast...lo and behold, I saw the Virgin Mary on the first piece. The second piece showed Jesus on the cross. And the third piece revealed an alien holding a rectal probe.

I've stopped cooking french toast...but the devine apparitions kept coming. I looked at Google Maps, and what do you think I saw right in the middle of the city? That's right, a major road intersection shaped just like a cross!

To clear my head, I went out for lunch and ordered the pasta special...you guessed it, right on my plate I saw the Flying Spaghetti Monster!

I have an press conference next week to reveal my findings to the world media. I'm hoping for a multi-million dollar book contract, and have already lined up interviews with noted scientist Sarah Palin on Fox News.

See you on television! (I'll be the small man inside the screen. You can't miss me.)

0

antigeekess Jan. 13, 2010 @ 10:39 p.m.

I'm sorry you were disappointed in your experience with Jeff Meldrum. He's supposed to be an expert in the mechanics of primate locomotion, so it seems like he'd be EXACTLY the right guy to evaluate your print. Did he get to see the cast itself, or just pics?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-Uih5QCdQg

0

MikeEsordi Jan. 14, 2010 @ 2:58 p.m.

My name is Michael Esordi and as a long time and legitimate member of the cryptozoology community I would like to address a few points in this article by James Snyder. Mr. Snyder contacted me some time after his 2002 discovery of the footprint in Ramona, CA. When I met with Mr. Snyder he showed me some photographs and his cast, but when I enquired about the possibility of seeing the site to obtain better evidence he refused. However, I respected Mr. Snyder’s wishes and decided to see what we could determine based on the evidence collected. I posted the amateur photos Mr. Snyder took to the website to allow researchers across the nation to examine them and comment. As a result I did have a number of well-known and highly respected researchers comment. However, given the quality of the images it was difficult for any real determination to be made at that time regarding the footprint. On the occasions I met with Mr. Snyder he conveyed two things to me. One was that he wanted to determine what had made the footprint and the other was to see what kind of monetary compensation could be made from his find. After some discussion, I obtained Mr. Snyder’s permission to make a cast from his original and to offer it for sale on the website. I personally covered all costs of production and manufacture on the item and did place it into commerce on my website. However, there was minimal interest in the item and no profits were ever made on it. Given this fact, I discontinued sale of the item after a relatively short period of time. Around the time of my relocation to the East coast I attempted to contact Mr. Snyder on a number of occasions as I wanted to follow up with him on to my decision to pull the cast and to discuss feedback from the researchers who were interested in the footprint. Unfortunately, Mr. Snyder chose to not respond back to me and I was left assuming his interest in the matter had waned.

I feel Mr. Snyder’s article is skating a dangerous line with some of the litigious verbiage he uses to describe our interaction. I’m certain if he realized he was committing what is considered libel that he might have chosen to more closely examine his recollections of our meetings and would have described things quite differently. Again, I would like to set the record straight and say I never made a profit on the cast I produced and I did attempt to contact Mr. Snyder on numerous occasions with no response back from him. In all of my interactions with Mr. Snyder I only conducted myself with the utmost professionalism and with a high level of integrity as I have a reputation in the research community I have spent many years building. Unfortunately, in his article, I feel Mr. Snyder has portrayed legitimate and highly qualified researchers in the field of cryptozoology in an unfavorable and unfair light.

0

SDaniels Jan. 14, 2010 @ 3:59 p.m.

"So for an impression to be made in granite would require a creature that steps into hot lava...underground."

Wow, let's bring in Buster Pointdexter on this one, as Big Foot takes that first step: Feelin' Hot hot hot!

And why not, the B52s! Hot lava! Reeeedddd, hot lava, yeahhhh! yeah!

0

Visduh Jan. 15, 2010 @ 7:22 p.m.

Does Mr. Esordi protest too much? Libel is a tort of commission, not omission. "I said, he said" and "I did, he did" doesn't make anything libelous. The test for libel is a very high bar of proof. Cool it.

0

ans34578900 Jan. 16, 2010 @ 3:22 p.m.

Hi Mary and Jim,

Thanks for posting this on facebook. Provocative indeed!

As the wise man says, "Labor not to be rich, but labor for that which is good" then the TRUTH will set you free.

GOD BLESS!!!

0

SDaniels Jan. 16, 2010 @ 6:03 p.m.

As the wise BIGFOOT says, "Labor not to be rich, but labor for that which is good" then BIGFOOT will set you free.

BIGFOOT BLESS!!!

0

Fred Williams Jan. 16, 2010 @ 11:09 p.m.

There I was, minding my own business eating a bean and cheese chimichanga, when who do you think reached right over and took a bite?

That's right...BIGFOOT!

I was all like, "Yo, dude. That is SOOO not right."

He just gives me this toothy grin, strokes his beard, and says, "Whatcha gonna do 'bout it, punk?"

Now I'm a peaceful guy and everything, and I don't go around picking fights with mythical creatures from the northwest slumming in San Diego. Besides, I've got PROOF (it was on television news, so I know it's true!) that he can walk in hot lava.

Maybe it was the intestinal gas, or maybe the twelve pack of Corona...whatever. I took a swing.

You should have seen him. What a total baby! He was all crying and begging, "Please, please, don't hurt me, Fred! I'll make an imprint for you, for reals, man. Just don't hurt me."

So I got on the phone with my agent in Los Angeles, and he said he'd call me back.

I still haven't heard from him.

0

ans34578900 Jan. 16, 2010 @ 11:48 p.m.

Twisted LEvis abound and ripe for harvest!

0

SDaniels Jan. 17, 2010 @ 11:59 p.m.

"So I got on the phone with my agent in Los Angeles, and he said he'd call me back."

...And then I wrote this really kick-*ass poem about it. :)

To ans34578900 of the constipatedly cramped numeral moniker:

"LEvis?" Is that a shifting accident, a well-known brand of dungarees," or a slang term for "soul?"

'Cause, ah, I think Fred and I and a few others here need to be "harvested," and not by just anyone, tsk tsk...No, we need to be saved by YOU, my friend ;)

0

SanDiegoParrothead Jan. 18, 2010 @ 12:56 p.m.

Uh, there's a big difference (literally) between Kathleen Bade and Kathleen Bates.

0

ans34578900 Jan. 19, 2010 @ 2:43 p.m.

To one who is innardly full of hits...you could do two things:

a) Orally regurgitate them or

b) Anal-ethically liberate them

Then maybe, just maybe, you'll be saved;-)))

0

SDaniels Jan. 20, 2010 @ 9:04 p.m.

re:#14: Good one, ans!

Just take care. Your prescription for expulsion is contraindicated by your own production and retention --the saving of--your own hits ;)

0

ans34578900 Jan. 20, 2010 @ 11:57 p.m.

re:#14: Good one, ans!

Why thank you SDANIELS!

I didn't think I had it in me to throw, with the same alacrity, indelicate syntax to match your brutal malversation to the story itself and to my post. Don't keep kicking the man when he is already down!!!

Don't we sound silly? Honestly, I think you have the gift of glib and I like the feisty way you handle yourself, very much like I was at a younger age...just don't do it to hurt people!

btw - the constipatedly cramped numerical moniker is actually PSALM 29:3,4,5,7,8,9 repeating "The Voice of the LORD" that is, to those who read the scriptures:)

0

ans34578900 Jan. 22, 2010 @ 3:40 a.m.

Jim,

I've perused your response to Mr. Escordi's post and I commend the way you handled yourself.

Gentlemen are hard to find nowadays:)

0

SDaniels Jan. 22, 2010 @ 4:51 a.m.

re:#16:

"Don't we sound silly?"

But that's the idea, isn't it?

Kicking a man when he's down? Never.

We are only playing around here, though I'll let you in on a little secret--I've only been blogging in the wilds of the Internet about a year, but can tell you, these here blogger types are a bit snarky now and then. You'd better bring the 50 SPF, rainproof bibles, and plenty of shiny trinkets to amuse the savages while you save their souls. Netbooks might help, too, if your mission can afford them.

"Honestly, I think you have the gift of glib and I like the feisty way you handle yourself, very much like I was at a younger age...just don't do it to hurt people!"

Aww, your assumptions about my age, conduct, and feist level are adorable--matched only in cuteness by your attempt to seat yourself, yogic-style, on an important cloud within the moral ether.

Now, we've had a few exchanges-- are we saved yet? ;)

0

SunshineDesign Jan. 22, 2010 @ 10:05 a.m.

I have to say this is a silly article and should only be given the topic for humor and how far people will go to promote their opions and not any value for scientific inquery. I have spoken to the author and his conclusions and opinion have no basis in scientific fact nor reason. I also hike all around the hills of San Diego county and have many pictures of the very strange rock patterns due to wind, rain and fire on the granite of the region. I have seen many very interesting erosional patterns in the Mount Woodson granidorite we have all around the area. For the article author to suggest that "bigfoot" left the impression in molten granite is laughable. The granite here is tens of millions years old and was formed deep underground by the typical subduction processes that existed on SoCal coast 10-15 million years ago. In my opinion this article is solely for the purpose of self promotion and fantasy. I feel it greatly hurts the real research into strange undiscovered animals and brings the topic disrepute. Read it and have a good laugh by all means.

0

ans34578900 Jan. 22, 2010 @ 4:03 p.m.

re:#18 Aww,your assumptions about my age...? Back track and read my post again;)

I'll let in on a big secret...neither do I have a "religion" nor do I adhere to man's "DOCTRINE!"

I don't belong to any missionary religious group...and I have no desire in recruiting souls...just trying to recruit my own back to my Savior and Redeemer:)

NOW...WHO'S ASSUMING...???

0

marydakin Jan. 23, 2010 @ 8:42 a.m.

Anytime someone wants money for proof of Bigfoot, Sasquatch, or Yeti type creature, I'm immediately more skeptical. I'd love to believe that these type of creatures exist, but why don't we find any skulls, skeletons or bones? Scat or living quarters? Wouldn't they be breeding and increasing their numbers?

0

SDaniels Jan. 23, 2010 @ 3:33 p.m.

It's called "innuendo," ans. See your post #16.

"Don't we sound silly? Honestly, I think you have the gift of glib and I like the feisty way you handle yourself, very much like I was at a younger age..."

I'll spell it out: Either you were putting down the age I am, or the age you think I behave (with the latter, welcome to online commentary) If you didn't know you were doing this, well then, welcome to Subtext 101).

If you are just trying to recruit your own soul back to sky dad, why did you come on with a judgemental comment about redeeming (or rather, "harvest[ing]") others'?

Which reminds, you never did explain what a 'LEvi' is, in #10. I'm ready to be schooled meself, and all ears, ans :)

0

remfster1 June 19, 2010 @ 2:28 p.m.

To be straight and to the point,In my opinion, Mr Fred Williams is suffering from terminal rectal myopia.It's surprising he has not succumb to this prolific disease. This person (as with many disbelievers)would not admit seeing one or even verify it's existence even if it was standing in front of them! Their loss! Good job Mr Snyder!!!

0

leftysteve Dec. 31, 2010 @ 12:51 p.m.

Bottom line... It appears to be a big foot print of an ape/man like being... However many years ago it happened... You people need to lighten up and just accept it....

0

Fred Williams Dec. 31, 2010 @ 10:21 p.m.

Bottom line...it's a bunch of B.S.

You can either believe in reality, or you can fool yourself with delusions. Anyone who thinks that igneous rock can hold foot impressions is too ignorant to be published, let alone taken seriously by anyone with even a ninth grade education.

The best we can do is mock these idiots, in the hope they'll slink away in shame...or at least take the time to read a book on geology before making absurd claims about mythical creatures.

For those who choose to believe Mr. Snyder...good luck. You've got far bigger problems in life, like a basic misunderstanding of how the world works, and I predict it won't end well for you.

0

Sign in to comment