We set out before dawn the next morning, Mike Grayle’s gigantic black Hummer packed with camping supplies and hunting gear. We headed for the hills where the Bigfoot tracks had been found by his construction crew, the military-style vehicle climbing the muddy dirt roads like a mountain cat.
I rode shotgun as we drove in silence; each of us lost in our own thoughts. I guessed the old big game hunter was dreaming about the glory, fame and financial rewards that would come to him if he actually bagged himself one of the legendary man-beasts. Me, I was thinking what a damned fool I was for coming along on this insane hunt, and wondering how I could stop Grayle from killing a legend – if it existed at all.
We set up camp a mile or two up the mountain from the construction site where Grayle’s crew was building a hotel. It was there that the Sasquatch’s footprints had been found, but Mike figured that the creatures had to live in the caves that riddled the mountain higher up. Once we had a base camp established, we set out to hunt for Bigfoot. Mike carried his weathered and beaten Holland & Holland, while I carried a Nikon camera and my trusty Glock in a Bianchi holster, worn low on my hip.
The terrain was rocky and wet; water dripped from the trees and the rocks were slick with soggy moss. It was slow going. Every once in a while Mike would stop and inspect the ground searching for spoor, but he never found a trace of his quarry. Not so much as a footprint or clump of hair.
For three days we found nothing. We’d hiked what seemed like a couple hundred miles up and down that mountain, forged frigid streams, and poked our noses into countless dark caves. It had rained from dawn to dusk each day. By evening on the third, Grayle was getting ugly and short-tempered, and truth be told, so was I.
"How much longer are we going to traipse around out here, Mike? My feet are cold, my ass is wet, and I’ve had just about enough of this foolishness." We paused to rest beneath a massive outcropping of granite, our backs against the stone as we tried vainly to get out of the rain.
"They’re here, Walker. I know it. Just shut up and come on."
"I’m not kidding, Mike. I’m not going to spend the rest of my life on this mountain looking for a figment of some hoaxer’s imagination. If there are such things as Bigfoot, they’re not on this mountain.
"Face it, pal. You’ve been had."
I let that sink in. Grayle’s face, already pink from exertion, turned bright red with rage. "What’s happened to you, Walker? We used to hunt lions together, for chrissake.
"Maybe you’ve gone all lily-livered on me. What’s the matter, old man? Yellow?"
"Shut up, Mike," I warned. "We’re both tired and wet and miserable. Let’s just head back to camp – it’ll be dark soon. We can get out of these wet clothes and get something to eat. We can talk about it there."
"I’m not ready to go back yet, Walker," he said menacingly. I didn’t like the look in his eyes or the way he held his iron. I tickled the butt of my Glock with my fingertips.
"I’m going," I said, and took a step toward the trees.
He raised the massive Holland & Holland, and I stared down two gaping barrels. "You’re not going anywhere. I’m going to bag myself a Bigfoot, and you’re going to be there to document it, understand?"
"This is nuts, Mike."
"Hand over that fancy shooter of yours, Walker."
I stared into his face and wondered if he really was crazy enough to kill me. As if reading my mind, he thumbed back the hammers on his rifle. "Give me your gun."
I slowly pulled the Glock from its holster with two fingers and tossed it into the mud at Grayle’s feet. He crouched to pick it up, but the H&H was too heavy to handle with one hand. When the barrels dipped, I took my chance. I acted without thinking; if I’d given it any thought at all, I never would have been so reckless.
I dived for the old hunter and grabbed at the rifle, pushing it away from me. He lost his balance and fell in the mud. Thank God the gun didn’t go off. It would have cut me in two.
I stepped on it, burying it in the mud. "You crazy S.O. B!" I yelled, adrenaline surging through my body, my hands clenched into fists and shaking. "You tried to kill me!"
He shook his head. "No… I…"
Then he stopped.
His eyes were wide and fixed on some point behind me, back among the trees. "Walker..." he whispered. "Behind you."
"I’m not falling for that old trick, Mike." Did he think I was as crazy as he was?
"Walker, old man, I’m sorry. You really have to look. He’s there."
His whole manner had changed. His face was pale. All the rage and insanity had disappeared from his face.
I took a chance.
I slowly turned my head.
There, only thirty feet away, among the wet pines and half-hidden by the undergrowth, stood a tall, dark figure.
It had to be seven feet tall, massively muscled and covered with black, matted hair. It stared at us as we stared at it, and in the shadows of twilight I can’t be sure, but it seemed to me that there was sadness in its dark eyes. We watched it and it watched us for several minutes, and Grayle seemed to have completely forgotten about killing it.
After a while it moved, and I heard Grayle gasp. It turned and headed off into the trees. "Walker, your camera!" Mike hissed.
I had completely forgotten it. Quickly I pulled it from my jacket pocket and snapped off a shot.
We made our way back to camp and neither of us said a word about our encounter with a legend. I know the experience changed me, and I suspect it changed Grayle, too.
He left his gun on the mountain.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
The Walker Files: Hunting Bigfoot, Part 2
Here's the second part of my first "Joe Walker" tabloid adventure. For an explanation of this series of stories, scroll down and check out the previous post.