Seeking Sasquatch in Washington

Seattle-based writer and photographer Amanda Castleman shares her experience searching for Bigfoot in the North Cascades.

“Hear that? It could be a Bigfoot,” someone whispers.

Up high in the North Cascades, night and forest shroud my group in near-darkness. Just enough ambient light remains to toss snowballs—a playful salute from one species hoping to communicate with another.

Fascinated by the legendary Pacific Northwest Sasquatches, I’ve tagged along with investigators from the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO) on a winter search outing. Summer expeditions are open to the public, but only true believers brave the freeze. So when these “squatchers” whoop and drum on trees near Morton, just two hours south of Seattle, they’re braced for one of the state’s estimated 20,000 man-apes to respond.

“No one in the world is an expert, but we’ve all had encounters,” Spanaway resident and BFRO member Scott Taylor says. “My first made a beautiful vocalization that scared the crap out of me.” He and other BFRO members now counsel others alarmed by the inexplicable.

“It helps to talk to someone who won’t laugh,” he adds.

According to a 2012 poll, nearly a third of Americans believe in Bigfoot, but scientific journals demand proof. A much-ballyhooed DNA study failed peer reviews last year, and a few groups continue to gun for hard evidence: a body. Happily, “creeping around all commando” is not the BFRO way.

These squatchers prefer a family-circus approach—heavy on jokes and singing— and welcome kids as young as eight. As Puyallup’s Michael Beers points out, “You’re not actually hunting—you make yourself interesting so they come to check you out.”

Despite my skepticism, I pocket my yeti-spooking flashlight and inch through the dark winter woods. My senses are alert to every creaking branch and stirring animal. I even bust out a Bigfoot call, which slides off into unfortunate goose-honk territory.

We end up finding only snowmobilers this time, but I admire the spirit of it all: the playfulness, the adventure, and the sense of endless possibility.

I sure hope the squatchers’ truth is out there.