An Ancient Forest of Giant Trees—and Bigfoot… The Red Butte Wilderness: Part I

Peggy checks out a large sugar pine along the Butte Fork Creek that runs through the heart of the Red Buttes Wilderness. Eventually the creek empties into the Applegate River that runs by our house.


A friend once asked (with a grin), why I believed in flying saucers. “Because I saw one,” was my tart reply. And I did. A saucer-shaped object flew into a cloud in Sacramento going one direction and then flew out going another. It accelerated rapidly and disappeared in a couple of seconds. It was enough proof for me.

“And what about Bigfoot?” he followed up, his smile widening to Cheshire proportions. My response was different. I smiled back.

“Because the world can use a little magic; and it’s fun.”

I’m not anti-science or scientific proof. Quite the opposite. Of the magazines we subscribe to, Scientific American is the one I read cover to cover. Religiously. Some 70 books on science grace our library shelves. (I just counted them.) They range from Brian Greene’s The Elegant Universe to Richard Feynman’s The Pleasure of Finding Things Out. I’ll confess here, however, that the far-out edge of science looks a lot like magic to me.  Imagine entangled photons mirroring each other’s actions simultaneously over hundreds and even billions of miles. Or how about parallel universes existing side by side on and on to infinity?

Scientifically speaking, however, Bigfoot hardly has a leg to stand on, or a foot, even a big, hairy one. Blurry photos, a few hairs, footprints and little else constitute proof. There’s not even a body or bones. If Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, or Yeti, or any of the other names the species goes by around the world exist, they must have an Einstein-level genius at camouflage, hiding and misdirection.

What exists are numerous sightings, often collaborated by other people. A close relative of mine, who prefers to remain un-named, recently told me that one of the big fellows had run across a logging road in front of him up near Oregon’s McKenzie River in the early 70s. He’d never said anything about the incident. I didn’t get his reticence. Had it been me, I would have been screaming the news from the top of Mt. Hood. But he was working in a conservative industry at the time, and felt they might not appreciate his encounter with the giant. It is such sightings, however, often by responsible, sober-type people, that provide hope for Bigfoot’s existence, the frosting on the magical cake.

The Red Buttes Wilderness, located on the remote, northern edge of California in the Siskiyou Mountains, is prime Bigfoot country. We can see the Buttes from our house in southern Oregon, some 10 miles away as the crow flies. We went backpacking in the area three years ago and decided to go again last week. Giant red cedars, sugar cone pines, white pines and Douglas firs dominate the area. They’re the type of trees that make the logging industry salivate. They would have been cut down decades ago except for the difficulty of getting them out. Now they are protected in one of America’s rare virgin forests. If I were Bigfoot, it’s a place I would certainly want to live.

The Red Butte Mountains of Northern California and Southern Oregon.

The Red Butte Mountains as they appear from our patio.

The world’s only Bigfoot trap is located about five miles from where we live. A miner was once hired to build a cabin beneath the trap and given a tranquilizer gun and a pair of large handcuffs to capture the big guy. Only bears were caught. The doors have long since been welded shut. Otherwise they might have trapped some of the teenagers that insist on spray painting the trap with graffiti. 

Peggy and I drove up a pothole-strewn forest service road to the Shoofly Trailhead to begin our adventure. Just beyond a large parking area, the trail dropped quickly for a half mile or so to the Butte Fork of the Applegate River and then followed the creek uphill for 7-8 miles to Azalea Lake, which was our destination.  We made a leisurely trip of it, letting our time-tested bodies adjust to being on the trail again. At about five miles, they decided they’d done enough adjusting and went searching for a campsite. It was a wimpy thing to do, but our minds gave them leeway for being out on the trail at all. Following are some photos of what we took along the way.

The Butte Fork of the Applegate River is right where the Shoofly Trail meets up with the Butte Forks Trail. It makes for a wonderfully refreshing stop, either going or coming.

Another photo of Butte Fork Creek.

Portions of the Red Butte Wilderness resemble a rainforest. Other areas are quite dry.

Peggy and some of the large trees that live along Butte Fork Creek.

She holds up a sugar pine cone we found beside the trail.

An old cabin built by the Civilian Conservation Corp out of red cedar in the 1930s, still exists along the trail. For a while it was used by the forest service to house a forest fire fighting crew. Given its age, I decided to show it in black and white.

A view of Rattlesnake Mountain and Desolation Peak from the Butte Fork Trail.

There came a point, just under these trees next to a small stream, that our bodies decided it was time to camp. While I ranged far above and below the trail looking for a suitable campsite, Peggy found one nearby!

There was just enough space for our small tent.

It came with a bower…

A small reflecting pool with cool water…

And a pair of shelf fungus that seemed to want to talk.

I soon whipped up a quick dinner and we crawled into the tent as soon as the sun had dropped behind the canyon walls.

NEXT POST: We hike on to the pretty Azalea Lake and I (possibly) find proof of Bigfoot’s existence! (Peggy and I are off on another backpacking trip. I’ll respond to comments and check in on blogs when we return.)


31 thoughts on “An Ancient Forest of Giant Trees—and Bigfoot… The Red Butte Wilderness: Part I

  1. What a fun trip, Curt! That little cabin is charming. Love your thought about the edge of science looking a lot like magic. Even wi-fi is magical and miraculous! Looking forward to the next post and what you find.

    • You are right on the magic. It’s all around us, Kelly. Our science fiction is rapidly becoming reality. Did I mention I’ll be backpacking up in the Desolation Wilderness in a few weeks? –Curt

  2. Oh what we would give for that sugr pine cone!
    Anyway, the most recent is one of a supposedly new monster in Scotland. A good rendition of a tree stump and a curved rock…

  3. How lucky to have that kind of backpacking opportunity so close to home! I love the cabin photo, and your campsite looks wonderfully cozy and picturesque!

    • We are lucky to live out in the woods, Lex, with so much wilderness nearby! The campground is marked in our memory banks. I suspect it will be very hard to get by that place now without stopping to use it. 🙂 –Curt

  4. But he was a conservative businessman at the time, working in a conservative industry

    Ah, a man in need of magic.

    I once visited a place untouched by plastic packaging material….. Okay, yeah, busted, you caught me spinning a myth.

  5. These photographs are beautiful!
    I never knew that they actually built a trap to catch Big Foot. That is so cool!
    I would love to go hiking in a place like this but I am scared of getting attacked by a bear. Did you see any bears?

    • Thanks, citygirl. We didn’t see any bears but there was some bear scat (poop) along the trail. Black bears, for the most part, stay away from people, especially in the lower 48. Grizzlies can be more problematic. Usually if you are careful around black bears with cubs and don’t surprise bears in general, you’ll be fine.
      The Bigfoot trap is amusing. We take most people who come to visit up to see it. 🙂
      Thanks, it’s beautiful country. –Curt

  6. ‘Big Foot and the Hendersons’ – one of my favourite movies. My 4 year old grandson is presently obsessed with the stories of the Loch Ness Monster. He asked me if I had ever been to Scotland and had I seen it, I told him I would take him so he could look for it himself!

    • We showed our grandkids “Harry and the Hendersons” last time they were here, Andrew. We all loved it. And looking for Nessie is always prime fun! I remember sitting in one of those ancient, ruined castles that perch on the edge of Loch Ness and thinking it was an appropriate time for Nessie to make an appearance. –Curt

      • It would be nice to think that there are still some unsolved mysteries out there somewhere Curt. When I was a boy I had the Reader’s Digest Book of Strange Stories and Amazing Facts, it was always one of my favourites. I’ve still got it but it is in a box in the attic.

      • I think I had the same book, Andrew. My mother was a big Reader’s Digest fan. I tend to think that the world is a lot more mysterious than we give it credit for. None of this means we won’t someday have scientific explanations. Maybe. 🙂 –Curt

  7. So funny — I just read the post of a woman who has a black bear stealing pears from her tree. She had a photo of the bear taking its leave, and I said the profile of the creature reminded me of all the blurry photos i’ve seen of Bigfoot. He does get around. Every now and then someone else who’s sighted him (them?) pops up on Coast-to-Coast, and it’s great good fun to listen to them. And besides — no one’s proved that he’s not out there!

    • The other day I was looking at an Internet site that listed states where Bigfoot sightings were most common, Linda. I was surprised to see that Texas is right up there. 🙂 –Curt

      • Know what you mean, Curt. This reminded me of a mystic 17th century poem – this guy’s poetry was only found by chance at the beginning of the last century.

        Shadows in the Water
        By Thomas Traherne
        In unexperienced infancy
        Many a sweet mistake doth lie:
        Mistake though false, intending true;
        A seeming somewhat more than view;
                 That doth instruct the mind
                 In things that lie behind,
        And many secrets to us show
        Which afterwards we come to know.

        Thus did I by the water’s brink
        Another world beneath me think;
        And while the lofty spacious skies
        Reversèd there, abused mine eyes,
                 I fancied other feet
                 Came mine to touch or meet;
        As by some puddle I did play
        Another world within it lay.

        Beneath the water people drowned,
        Yet with another heaven crowned,
        In spacious regions seemed to go
        As freely moving to and fro:
                 In bright and open space
                 I saw their very face;
        Eyes, hands, and feet they had like mine;
        Another sun did with them shine.

        ’Twas strange that people there should walk,
        And yet I could not hear them talk;
        That through a little watery chink,
        Which one dry ox or horse might drink,
                 We other worlds should see,
                 Yet not admitted be;
        And other confines there behold
        Of light and darkness, heat and cold.

        I called them oft, but called in vain;
        No speeches we could entertain:
        Yet did I there expect to find
        Some other world, to please my mind.
                 I plainly saw by these
                 A new antipodes,
        Whom, though they were so plainly seen,
        A film kept off that stood between.

        By walking men’s reversèd feet
        I chanced another world to meet;
        Though it did not to view exceed
        A phantom, ’tis a world indeed,
                 Where skies beneath us shine,
                 And earth by art divine
        Another face presents below,
        Where people’s feet against ours go.

        Within the regions of the air,
        Compassed about with heavens fair,
        Great tracts of land there may be found
        Enriched with fields and fertile ground;
                 Where many numerous hosts
                 In those far distant coasts,
        For other great and glorious ends
        Inhabit, my yet unknown friends.

        O ye that stand upon the brink,
        Whom I so near me through the chink
        With wonder see: what faces there,
        Whose feet, whose bodies, do ye wear?
                 I my companions see
                 In you, another me.
        They seemèd others, but are we;
        Our second selves these shadows be.

        Look how far off those lower skies
        Extend themselves! scarce with mine eyes
        I can them reach. O ye my friends,
        What secret borders on those ends?
                 Are lofty heavens hurled
        ’Bout your inferior world?
        Are yet the representatives
        Of other peoples’ distant lives?

        Of all the playmates which I knew
        That here I do the image view
        In other selves, what can it mean?
        But that below the purling stream
                 Some unknown joys there be
                 Laid up in store for me;
        To which I shall, when that thin skin
        Is broken, be admitted in.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s