Aug 2

I Didn’t See What I Thought I Did?

A listener writes “I’m 48 now and this happened when I was 23 or 24, so it was some time ago. I live in the Lehigh Valley, in the Bethlehem area of Northeast PA. Sasquatch sightings (as far as I know of) are unheard of in this and surrounding areas and probably for good reason … the immediate area is very populated and not far from other major cities like Philadelphia. This is most of the reason I decided to share, I can’t possibly have seen what I thought I did, not in this area. Or did I?

Anyhow, my buddy and myself were very avid campers and back-packers at the time and we have explored a better part of this state and surrounding areas. The Appalachian Trail runs through the state very close to this area. There is a popular spot near here on the AT called the Bake Oven Knob. It’s basically a look-out type spot where you can oversee most of the valley. One of our favorite hikes was to start here, and work our way North/north-east along the AT until we hit the highway Rt. 209 and then turn North/north-west off the trail and into the Delaware Water Gap. This route would take us barely over the New Jersey border for a little ways before heading Northward again into the gap. Our ultimate destination was Promised Land State Park but we wouldn’t always make it there. Navigation at this time wasn’t as easy as it is now. I had a flip phone at the time and GPS was well out of my price range so we would navigate with a map and compass utilizing land-marks along the way. Once we left the AT and entered the Water Gap, there were no more defined trails … it was mostly trail-blazing and bush-wacking from that point on. By car, this trip is only around an hour and a half but we could easily turn it into a 3 or 4 day hike (sometimes longer) just lolly-gagging and camping along the way. It was super easy to get lost and we only ever knew an approximation of our location until we hit our next landmark.

On this particular trip we had just hit Rt. 209 and cut north into the Gap. We hiked a better part of the day just exploring the area until an hour or two before sunset. We decided to set up camp for the night and were in the process of looking for a clear enough area to pitch our tents which wasn’t always so easy since the woods were so thick and overgrown in the area. We were working our way up what seemed to be a well traveled game trail when we stopped for a drink and to check out the map to get our bearings. As we were looking at the map I noticed I could smell what I thought was swamp water. It was the rotten vegetation smell you get when slogging through muddy, stagnant, swampy water. It truly stinks like sewage.

To my right was mostly uphill, a fairly steep grade not suitable for a tent, and to my left it seemed a bit flatter but really hard to tell because you couldn’t see more than a foot off the trail. The bushes and growth were thick and tall making it difficult to see anything without beating a path through just to see what was on the other side. I figured if I could smell a swamp then hopefully the land would open up a bit more if there was a body of water close by. I decided to have a look and see what lied beyond the bushes so I turned to my left and took a whack at the bushes with my machete to try and clear a path through. The very second I did that, something took off in the opposite direction. I’m guessing it could have been only feet from us and scared the holy hell out of me. I jumped so much that my machete flew off a considerable distance behind me (I found out later). It was not at all uncommon to stir up a deer or other animal in the areas we traveled, and sometimes just like this, where they don’t bolt until the last second and scare the daylights out of you. Just as my buddy started to laugh at me he abruptly stopped because the sound of what ran off was not at all normal. It sounded like a truck barreling through the woods, running down everything in its path. You could hear the sound of the brush and snapping branches, big branches too, as this thing took off.

Imagine a 1000 lb bowling ball about 10 ft round, now load it up into the world’s biggest slingshot, and finally release it into heavily wooded land overgrown with brush. That was the sound. I was initially thinking large buck or black bear, but it was fast, way faster than any deer or bear. Within seconds it seemed like it made it almost a hundred yards through heavy brush (probably not that far but I would guesstimate between 40 and 60 at least). Deer tend to take off in big leaps and bounds, and never just plowing down what sounded like small trees. You can tell the sound of a deer running and leaping. I guess it could have been a bear, I dunno, we never got this close to one. I personally thought it sounded bipedal as it ran but I wasn’t sure at all and not nearly qualified enough to make that determination. All I know is that you can tell the difference between a 4 legged creature and a 2-legged one as they walk through the woods, and this one didn’t sound like the 4-legged variety. Honestly, it was hard to tell over the immense crashing noise. I regained my composure and decided to have a look and see, so I pushed my way through the bushes and it did indeed open up some, but not much and certainly not wide open.

There was more distance between the trees and the brush was still incredibly thick, albeit not as tall as it was near the path. I looked in the direction of what ran and this boggled my mind. It was a slight downhill slope and I’m guessing what was some sort of ravine, run-off, or small hill/cliff some distance away. The reason I thought this was because I saw the back of a head and two arms from the elbow to the hand, as it jumped down into something. I caught literally 1 second of this. If a person were to jump from a small height or distance they tend to stretch out their arms to the their sides and slightly upward, kind of like the “I surrender” pose. That’s what this looked like but from behind. The thing was as dark as a black bear. I’m assuming it was covered in hair but it was so fast I really couldn’t make out any detail. Determining size was also difficult as I had nothing to compare it to and it was pretty far away at this point. The one thing I can say is that from hand to hand, with arms stretched out, there seemed to be every bit of 8 ft or more of distance between them. Its arms were slightly bent at the elbow and the only thing I can say for sure about the size is that given the distance, any person would look much smaller. The reason I’m not thinking this was any other type of animal is that I could clearly see the separation between the fingers and no person could plow through such thick brush so fast.

I thought for a second or two about going down there but decided against it. The buckthorn around here can get pretty tall and plentiful and the area was covered with that and Giant Hogweed. No chance I’m bush-wacking through that stuff. Besides, what if it didn’t go much further than the drop-off and was still down there? I was so confused about what I saw. There is no person or animal I know of that could have covered that distance in such heavy brush in such a short time. As more thoughts and scenarios ran through my head I got increasingly more anxious/nervous/scared. My buddy came through the bushes shortly after me and only said “What the “F” was that?” He didn’t see anything but wholly agreed that nothing he knows of sounds like that as it runs through the brush. I did take notice that there was no water or swampy areas in the vicinity and the smell seemed to be dissipating, or I was getting used to it. I told my buddy what I saw and his only response was “Well, what then? Bigfoot?” Well, at least he was the first to say it. I honestly couldn’t tell if he was joking or not but the thought stuck with me. I didn’t know what to think, and still don’t, that sort of thing is unheard of in this area. We decided to get the hell out of that area before the sun completely set.

We found a small clearing about a mile or so down the game trail. We were torn about what to do because now we really didn’t want to be out in an unfamiliar area after dark, especially with what just happened. The clearing was feet from an obviously used game trail, and the area was ripe with wild blueberries and raspberries that attracted all sorts of beasties. Not an ideal camping spot but the only one we’ve come across in quite some time and time was running out to press on looking for another. The grass/weeds in the clearing was fairly tall and it looked like something bedded down in there recently. Actually there were at least 3 larger areas where the grass was completely matted down. This in itself is not unusual, I see it often, but I don’t know what was using this space and are they coming back? The clearing wasn’t huge so we decided to pitch only one tent which honestly wasn’t big enough for the two of us, but truth be told sounded much better than sleeping alone. I didn’t ask, but I’m sure my buddy agreed. We used the remaining space to make the largest campfire we could manage without melting the tent. We spent a better part of the night tending the fire and jumping at every sound. We didn’t have any weapons besides bear spray, so like a couple of frightened girls we crafted spears from large sticks and “stood guard” for hours. Besides the earlier incident and a less than ideal camping spot, we didn’t have much reason to be so scared but perhaps our imaginations were getting the best of us.

It was around 2 am by the time we decided to turn in for the night. Nothing noteworthy happened up until this point so we put the remaining wood on the fire and crawled into the tent. We laid inside and talked in whispers, neither one of us attempting to go immediately to sleep. Eventually my eyes got heavy and I felt myself starting to doze off. It was around this time that we heard the loudest “thunk” of something hitting the ground. The light from the fire was getting lower by this time but now it flared bright for second before flickering and getting dimmer. The window on my side of the tent was partially unzippered and when I looked out I could see thousands of sparks floating up from the fire in all directions. There were no words, I almost pissed myself. There was no way I was going outside the tent let alone trying to leave the area in the pitch dark, flashlight or not. I was glued to the window, terrified that I would see something, anything at all that I didn’t want there. Nothing was out there, just the dying fire. For the next few hours we listened to what sounded like something large walking around the woods but close to the clearing. It wasn’t constant. Here and there we would hear a rustling of bushes, snapping of branches, the shuffling of dry leaves, and what sounded like branches falling from the trees hitting other branches on the way down. Every so often something small would hit the tent but that wasn’t uncommon either. Lots of times things would fall from the trees and hit the tent but now it was super scary. The clearing was relatively small so trees were close, but nothing overhead. Every time we heard the noises we would shout “Hey bear, go away bear” and things of that sort. Every time I would scan the area with the flashlight … nothing. It didn’t help and we never did sleep. I contemplated spraying the bear spray around the perimeter of the clearing to discourage anything from coming closer but I was too chicken to go out there. The noises stopped sometime before sunrise and I honestly thought I was going to die that night, either attacked by a bear or otherwise. My imagination was my worst enemy that night.

At the first hint of sunshine we were out of the tent. We didn’t even bother to fold it, just shoved it in the pack. I noticed that the fire was spread out, like something kicked it. It was nothing but charred pieces of small logs and branches, clearly burned in the fire, and one pristine, sizable log the size of my leg smack dab in the middle of the burnt pieces and ashes. It didn’t have the slightest hint of being in or near the fire and I’m positive we threw the remaining wood on the fire before turning in. Did it fall from a tree? I don’t think so … the way the fire was spread out it looks like it was thrown with force from the opposite direction. Besides, we were in a clearing and there were no trees directly overhead. We didn’t investigate any further. We got out of there as fast as we could manage. Since Rt 209 was the closest landmark, we headed back in that direction and made arrangements to be picked up from a nearby gas station.

I’ve been back to that general area countless times since then and never heard or seen anything else out of the ordinary. What in the hell did I see that night and what was it doing around here? I gave it a lot of thought since then and I suppose it’s within the realm of possibility that something could make its way over here. The water gap is only a skip and hop from Allegheny National Forest and darned close to the AT as well. I suppose it’s possible for something to travel from Ohio or elsewhere, into the Allegheny National Forest, through the Delaware Water Gap, and then down to the AT. Once down to the AT it could use that as a corridor to make it anywhere from Maine to Georgia. This is just a thought of course and I could be completely off base but I can’t help but wonder how in the hell it’s possible to have a possible sighting in Northeast PA.

In hindsight I wish I had the nerve at the time to investigate further. Look for tracks or something …. anything. I didn’t know anything of Sasquatch at that time, and it really wasn’t my first thought. I tried to rationalize what I saw in all sorts of ways.”


3 Responses to “I Didn’t See What I Thought I Did?”

  1. Bill F

    Grew up in the PA mountains, 1st and 2nd sightings were there as a kid.

    PA is swarming with them always has.

    It has gotten to the point in my life where I don’t understand how anyone can spend lots of time outdoors and NOT have seen at least one of them.

    I have run into them inside city limits and out in the most remote areas of the Canadian and American Rockies. They are everywhere.

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