On the trail of bigfoot
Was recent sighting a San Juan sasquatch or early Halloween hoax?

A recent sasquatch sighting near Silverton has renewed discussion on whether the elusive, apelike man-beast has taken up residence in the San Juans./Photo by Todd Newcomer.

For centuries, a primordial man-beast standing 8 feet tall has allegedly stalked the woods of North America. Covered in matted black hair and reeking of sulphur, it has managed to eke out a solitary, primitive existence while eluding even the savviest of would-be captors. In fact, the only hard evidence of the creature, whose name meant “wild man” among ancient coastal Indians, is a grainy, 35-year-old, one-minute clip of black and white 16-mm film.

Until now that is.

Earlier this month, several eyewitnesses on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Train got a glimpse of a loping, apelike creature whose unmistakable profile and overwhelming stench could only mean one thing. Sasquatch is alive and well in the San Juans.

“The first thing that struck me knowing the Silverton people was that it was a joke,” said Vi McCoy, of Durango, who was on the fateful second train out of Silverton on the afternoon of Oct. 1.

According to McCoy, who was riding the train with her husband, the creature approached the train from behind not long after it left the Silverton depot.

“Most of us didn’t see it until people started squealing,” she said, adding that the sasquatch was about 100 yards from her car. “It all happened so fast.”

McCoy, who had just put her camera away when the beast appeared, described the sasquatch as “wild and woolly,” with a solid black coat.

“This looked like one of those gorilla suits from a movie scene,” she said.

And while it would be convenient to pass off the incident as a case of premature cabin fever among the local populace, McCoy is not so quick to dismiss it, based upon a TV documentary she recently saw.

“If I hadn’t seen that documentary, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought,” she said. “But it looked so much like those old documentaries 85 and anything’s possible in this day and age.”

McCoy’s account was corroborated by at least one D&SNGRR higher-up, Kristi Nelson-Cohen, who also happened to be on the train that day – part of an annual entourage that reserves the Parlor Car every year on Oct. 1.

“It was just before Mineral Creek shortly after 2 o’clock,” she said. “The train had just pulled out, and sasquatch was to the east of the train.”

If Nelson Cohen sounds a bit unfazed by the sighting, she admits it’s because sasquatch sightings are not all that uncommon from the well-stocked Parlor Car.

Nevertheless, Nelson Cohen managed to get a good look at the beast and in her defense said that cocktails “had not yet begun flowing” when the incident took place.

“It was very tall and hairy,” she said, adding that the creature appeared “far too tall” for any standard gorilla suit. “It walked straight and with a long gait.”

Nelson Cohen said the bright orange steam train apparently caught the lumbering primate off guard.

“The sasquatch looked a little nervous,” she said. “The whistle must have scared him.”

Profiling the beast

According to the Bigfoot Field Researcher’s Organization, an international group of scientists dedicated to studying the mystery of bigfoot/sasquatch (which are one of the same), such sightings are rare but not unheard of in Colorado. Since 1998, the group has recorded 63 sasquatch sightings in Colorado, not including the latest one in Silverton. Of these, two have been in Archuleta County, one in Hinsdale County, one in San Juan County, two in Montezuma County and one in Dolores County.

The other reported sighting in San Juan County occurred in July of 1998 when three hikers spotted a sasquatch in the region of the Twin Sisters, about four miles south of Silverton, according to a report posted on the BFRO website. More recently, two sasquatches were reported across the border in Hinsdale County. In August of 2005, a 54-year-old woman reported coming within several feet of a mother bigfoot and her assumed offspring while camping in the San Juan National Forest.

“We stared at each other for what felt like a long time, then it made a low rumbling sound and turned its head,” reported the camper, “Julie D.” of Boulder, who also told her story to the Denver Post. “(The female bigfoot) looked back at me, then they turned and loped off out of sight.”

The Silverton sasquatch quenches his thirst at Handlebars after a hard day of scaring train riders./ Photo courtesy Ken Boden.

The Hinsdale sighting dispels a common myth: that bigfoot is a single entity. The BFRO maintains there are between 2,000 and 6,000 bigfoots – male and female – roaming the hinterlands of North America, with sighting as far north as Alaska and as far south as San Antonio, Texas. The animals commonly have black or dark brown hair (contrary to popular belief bigfoots do not have “fur”) although their coats can range from red to gray or white. The average adult grows to 7.6 feet tall and 640 pounds, although they have been know to weigh in at over 1,000 pounds and 10 feet tall.

A little-known fact about the sasquatch is the unbearable stench that frequently accompanies one within close range. According to the BFRO, about 15 percent of people having close encounters with bigfoots also reported an “intense, disagreeable stench,” which is believed to come from the sweat glands of the sasquatch armpit. Despite this offensive trait and the fact that bigfoots have been known to lift mobile homes from their bases, the BFRO reports that they are mostly docile and passive to a fault. Rather, sasquatch are reported to be gentle, smart, nocturnal creatures that would just as soon hunt nuts and berries than humans.

“There is no documented case in the past 100 years of a sasquatch doing deliberate harm to a person,” the BFRO reports on its website, www.bfro.net. “This species, having likely evolved alongside humans, became astonishingly adept at avoiding human contact through a process of natural selection.”

Fact or Fabrication?

This apparent evolution and ability to evade humans may explain why most people can go an entire lifetime without spotting a sasquatch and why Charles Moore, undersheriff for San Juan County, has never received a sasquatch report in his 13 years policing the sleepy hamlet.

“I have never personally received any calls and don’t know of any calls on sasquatch, bigfoot or the yeti coming into this office,” he said in a recent phone interview.

And although he says he “wasn’t there and didn’t see” the most recent sasquatch sighting and thus, could not comment on it, he wagered a guess that it was a case of mistaken identity. He also noted that the purported sighting was in a location that would be “a very convenient place” for a gorilla-suit clad human to make a mad dash from the nearby bushes.

“It probably is a total fabrication,” he concluded.

But there is at least one local who stands by his sasquatch sighting. When asked to comment on a trail of suspicious black hairballs and large footprints that led through the town’s dusty streets to his establishment, Ken Boden, owner of the local watering hole Handlebars, caved.

“There’s no doubt sasquatch lives at Handlebars,” he admitted. “He likes our food.”

And in a development that is likely to shake the very foundation of the Bigfoot research world, Boden acknowledged that he has rare footage of sasquatch (which has been obtained by The Telegraph), the likes of which haven’t been seen since the famous Patterson-Gimlin footage.

“I think he was in here watching Monday Night Football,” Boden said in a recent interview from Silverton. “Scared the heck out of me.”

Nevertheless, despite the sasquatch’s startling appearance (“big and furry...fingers that almost drag on the ground”), less than perfect manners (“he sounds like Mush Mouth”) and distinctly fishy odor (“he eats a lot of trout out of the Animas”), Boden says sasquatch seems to get along OK with the regulars.

“He’s a good guy,” he said. “But we’re hoping to find him a Mrs. Sasquatch.”

Unfortunately, Boden said any sasquatch trackers wishing to get a glimpse of the shy giant of the mountains will have to wait until next year. Handlebars closed for the season this week, taking with it its legendary clientele, which is said to spend the off season in warmer climes.

“He hibernates in Phoenix,” he said.







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