Number one item in your toolkit

The most important thing you should take on a Bigfoot research outing is you! And I mean all of you. Your:

  • Eyes
  • Ears
  • Nose
  • Sense of touch
  • And your brain

You will use all these to gather data.  Data are facts that cannot be argued.  But the first thing to determine is what to gathering data on?

Ordinary or Extraordinary?

Let me tell you a story.  One day I was out for a hike on a trail in the North Cascades in Washington State.  It was fall, and the wind was blowing winter down the mountain and right into my face.  I was cold.  The wind whooshed inconsistent sound waves that made it difficult to hear my fellow hiker so we had limited conversation.  If there were Bigfoot knocks or howls, they blended into the cacophony.

The cold made my eyes water, and I found myself hunched against it, eyes on the ground, only seeing what was in front of me, which was a well-traversed trail.

Now, one important thing I learned about survival in the woods is to pause once in a while and look back at the trail you just covered.  The reason for this is so that when you are hiking out, you know what the way out looks like.  If you are in a situation like I was, head down and focused on the trail, it is easy to get lost.  Pausing now and then to deliberately notice your surroundings can save your life.

It was on one of these pauses that I noticed something I had never seen before.

I was standing in a grove of Alder trees.  Alder tree bark is identifiable by smooth, ash gray to white color.  As they mature, they darken in color and it is common to see white lichen clinging to their sides.  Alder trees are deciduous, which means they lose their leaves in the winter.  This grove stood bare in the late fall, their leaves piled on the forest floor.

The wind was now blowing on my back, which made it easier for me to lift my face up to notice the sky for a moment.  And in that looking up, I saw something odd.

High on one of the white smooth trees was a section of bark that was brown and deeply grooved.  I couldn’t tell at first if it was a strange growth on the tree, or if it was something separate.  I had to backtrack a bit to get closer.

When I got next to the tree, I realized that this random section of strange bark was about 16 feet up from the ground.  There were no lower branches, and I had no way to reach it, but I could tell that it was definitely separate from this tree.

This piece of bark was about 11” x 7” and there was a hole in it that looked natural, like there had been a knot there, maybe.  That hole had slipped neatly over a short branch of the Alder tree and hung there like a random picture on a wall.

And this is what I mean when I say that you are your most important item in your Bigfoot research kit.  I used my eyes to notice things that didn’t seem to belong.  I used my ears to hear the wind.  My personal height helped me guess how far up the tree this strange thing hung.  And now it was time to use my brain.

Research just means asking questions

All research projects are simply about asking and answering questions.  All questions are worth exploring, especially when you are starting out.  Maybe 90% of the “odd” things you see have a non-bigfoot cause, but you won’t know if what you are looking at is “odd” until you have eliminated or reduced other options.

My questions were:

  • Was this piece of bark from this tree? Or a different tree?
  • If this piece of bark was from a different tree, then what kind of tree did it come from?
  • How in the world did it get placed 16 feet up this Alder tree?

Formulating Theories

The first question was something I could research and maybe get a solid answer.  My research involved calling my hiking companion over and asking him.  He was a logger and knew his trees.  He said that it looked like it could be bark from a Fir tree.  Now, it should be noted that my companion was not as nearly intrigued by this as I was.  So his casual glance and identification did not have the level of scrutiny that I would have liked.  But, if he was right that it was a chunk of Fir tree that had somehow got hung up in an Alder tree, then that fueled my fascination with the situation.  I looked around to see where the Fir trees were, and I started throwing out theories.  Theories are guesses about the questions you have.  And sometimes theories lead to more questions.

Question: How in the world did it get placed 16 feet up this Alder Tree?

Theory: A Fir tree fell down, as trees do, and part of it snagged on this tree.  I searched the ground for fallen Fir trees.  Nothing but sticks and leaves from Alder trees.  In fact, I couldn’t see a Fir tree anywhere nearby.

Theory: misidentification that the bark was from a Fir tree.  Possible that this is just part of the aging process of the Alder tree.  Question: Do trees shed bark like snakes shed skin?

Theory: It was very windy.  I have seen the wind blow things for miles.  Could this chunk of foreign bark have been blown here and then somehow become impaled on this Alder tree?

Theory (and this one is my favorite): A Bigfoot hung it there on purpose as a signal to fellow Bigfoot.


When researching, there are two kinds of information.  There are data–things that can’t be argued with.  Data includes the location, the weather, the measurements, the type of trees, etc.

Then there is the interpretation of the data.  The interpretation is more subjective and can lead to heated debates.  But that is a topic for another day.  For now, on your next research outing, simply remember to use all your senses, make a note of the facts, and ask lots of questions.

By the way, what theories do you have for why there was a random chuck of Fir bark hanging on an Alder tree?