“Now is the moment of truth,” I thought. I rotated the heavy imprint upward and gasped. A giant footprint had been captured in the cast, revealing details that were hard to see in the rock. A wave of euphoria swept over me. Seeing is believing. “I’m not nuts! This is a real footprint! Woo-hoo!” I screamed, venting excess adrenaline in joyous celebration. Then the tide of epiphany receded, leaving paranoia. “This is not my land. Did anyone see me? Or hear me?” I heard the sounds of a small plane overhead and looked up. “Can they see me?”
I quickly packed the still-warm print cast into the bucket, padding the treasure with a fleece shirt. As if to hide a crime scene, I stashed all evidence of the casting into the pack. I placed heavy rocks over the footprint, then topped them with dead brush. The sun was now sinking below the hilly horizon. Satisfied with the natural concealment, I hiked out. I was giddy with excitement, muttering, “I just found a Bigfoot” over and over, interspersed with whoops and laughter.
Once home I showed my wife Mary (the Princess) the cast. “Wow, that sure looks like a huge foot. Amazing!” she said. She has always been my biggest cheerleader. I hid the cast in the garage, checking on it periodically while contemplating the next move.
When the weekend came, I returned to the print in the rock and made another cast with real plaster of Paris. Then I took photos, including the front page of the North County Times newspaper in the frame, to verify the date. I measured the print’s length and width — 18 inches by 8 inches — and even took off my boot and stuck my foot into the indent. It dwarfed my size-13 foot. This beast had been huge.
After some coaxing about the benefits of a good, healthy hike — and with the additional guilt trip of “If I die, you need to know where it is” — Mary agreed to accompany me on my next trip. Being the better photographer, she took more photos. She then treated us to a swank picnic lunch, with turkey-on-wheat-bread sandwiches, pickles, crackers and cheese cut into perfect slices, juicy red grapes, and the “necessary” napkins. I don’t call her Princess for nothing.
After the initial rush of the discovery subsided, I pondered the next logical step. Should I contact scientists, the media, or keep it a secret? The media should be alerted, I figured. Who better to spread the word of Ramona’s Bigfoot? I compiled a list of the major San Diego TV news stations and newspapers, then sent a typed letter about the discovery to each. I waited for one week. Nothing. “They don’t get it,” I thought. Again I did a mass mailing, this time with copies of the Bigfoot photos. Now they got it.
The phone rang. “Hi. This is the news director from Channel 8 News. Can we send a reporter and a cameraman to the site?”
“When?” I asked.
“Would tomorrow be okay?”
“Sure, but don’t send anyone out of shape. This is a rough hike; they wouldn’t make it.”
The next day, reporter Don Teague and his cameraman, both in shape and chomping at the bit, showed up early. They couldn’t decide which camera to take — a large shoulder version or a small, high-tech Sony. After looking down at where we were headed, the cameraman chose the small one. We hiked to the print site, arriving at 9:00 a.m. For stealth and maximum impact, I didn’t tell them at first that we had reached the site, allowing them to think it was another needed rest stop. When their backs were turned, I removed the brush and stones from the imprint in the rock.
“Gentlemen, what do you think?” I said. I pointed at the now-exposed footprint.
Surprised, they put down their water bottles. “Oh my God,” Don Teague said. He placed his fingers in the footprint.
“That’s really huge!” said the cameraman. “Let’s get some video.” They swung into action.
Their excitement was palpable and, to me, a relief. I hadn’t known what to expect from seasoned news professionals. Don took off his hiking boot and inserted his foot into the imprint. “Man, this is huge!” We were like three adolescent boys, bouncing with exuberance over the discovery.
Don called via cell phone to his newsroom. Within 20 minutes, the News Eight chopper was hovering 30 feet overhead. A cameraman inside filmed from above.
That night on TV, sultry, smoky-eyed Kathleen Bates gave a teaser about what was to come at the start of the news report. “Did Ramona once have a Bigfoot? A Ramona man thinks so. Details at 6:00.” Super-serious Marty Levine and Kathleen Bates led the newscast with the story. It led the news for the next two days, as other local stations caught Bigfoot fever. Fox News picked up the story and ran it on a national program. Pandora’s media box had been opened, and out stomped Bigfoot.
A bubbly gaggle of excited teenagers from Ramona High School rang the doorbell one morning at 8:00. I invited them in. They begged me to take them to the Bigfoot site. “Our English teacher said we could do a report on anything we wanted, and we decided to do a story on your discovery,” their cute spokesgirl said.
“We need to see it,” an athletic-looking boy in a letterman’s jacket chimed in.
The thought of party-animal teenagers rockin’ out at the Bigfoot site steeled my will. “No, sorry,” I said. “I can’t do that yet.”
Disappointed, the girl pleaded, “Please, please.”
Not wanting to be a complete Scrooge, I brought out the plaster foot cast and the photos, spacing it all on the dining room table for their inspection and photo session. After a quick tape-recorded interview of who, what, when, how, but not where, they filed out the door, still high on the idea of a Ramona Bigfoot.