A listener writes “I have never told this story to anyone. At the time it happened I was coming to the end of a messy divorce after a more than 20 year marriage. I truly felt if I said anything, those that cared about me, they would have thought I had cracked under the emotional stress of the time.
In the spring of 2007 I was making my way out of a long term less than uplifting marriage. I had lived in the small town of Pinawa for more than 20 years at that point. It is located in the eastern region of Manitoba; it is rural, with a population at that time of about 1200 people. I had trained as a Veterinary Technician, and prior to marrying I had worked for the government vet clinic in the area, mostly a large animal practice. But because we were the government vet, at times we had to deal with wildlife matters, so I was not stranger to animal behavior. After I had children and was a full time mom, I also did some injured wildlife rehabilitation for the DNR, on limited bases.
The local DNR supervisor for the area was a neighbour and a friend, and it was an unofficial position, helping him out at times, and giving my children a unique opportunity to interact with animals that otherwise would be off limits. I say all this because I feel it is important to stress that wildlife and animal behavior in general were something I was very familiar with. Bears were very much a part of everyday life from early spring till late fall. The town site, teams with an overflowing deer population. The large predators ( wolves, coyotes, and the occasional cougar) in the area seemed to have pressed the whitetail deer into the sanctuary of the town site. As well as the buffer zone that existed for the deer when hunting season was on, the town site became the haven for deer that it is still is to this day. The walking trails around the town site are superb.
I should mention that this town was no mere hamlet that had sprung up in the pioneering days of yore. It was in fact a well planned “model” town created by the Canadian Government in the 60’s, as a Nuclear Research facility. And besides the abundance of White tailed deer, its claim to fame was more PHD’s per capita than anywhere else in North America at one time. It also meant that while this town was carved out the bush and Canadian Shield in the 60’s it was well funded back then and every effort in creating wilderness tails that would accommodate skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts as well as hikers surrounded the wild woods abutting the town site was seen too. There is also a large golf course that is wild and beautiful and straddles the one road into the town; the dead ended highway that ends at the lake. The lake is truly a group of lakes and river system that winds its way through much of western Ontario and into Eastern Manitoba, and as far south into Minnesota and the Lake of the Woods and in Manitoba, Ontario and Northern Minnesota much of these interconnected lakes and cedar swamps have been declared parklands, and or protected forests. Even the areas outside the designated parklands are largely uninhabited crown lands, leading to thousands and thousands of miles of wilderness. Pinawa sits right on the edge of this wilderness. It is surrounded on three sides by Parkland, and the forth side is 13km of crown land before you come to the first sparsely populated area.
Because of the divorce, I had begun to make it my habit to get up very early, usually before dawn to walk the trails outside of town clear my head, get my game face on for the day ahead and try to be out of striking distance as the EX got ready for work. Things were really tense, as I had filed for the divorce and in the midst of sorting and packing…the less time we spent together was better.
It was May, the snow was gone, the weather was warming and I headed towards the dead end of the highway and across the path that was adjacent to the golf course and towards a causeway of sorts that had been created between the lake and a river channel that was a manmade diversion dam. The granite had been blasted out of the Shield and the area has many granite rock piles that have managed to acquire a few trees clinging to the sparse earth that has blown in the crevasse of those piles. So to the right of me there is the lake, to left on the causeway is a small canyon, sheer granite walls, and a drop of more than 60 feet, probably closer to 100 feet to the river below.
There are a few faster areas on this river, but no white-water and nothing even close. Pass the golf course and under a suspension bridge that links to the trans-canada trail. The channel and the trail finish at Old Pinawa Dam, a heritage park on the site of an old hydro dam and town site of the original Pinawa, that was abandoned in the 40’s I believe. It is about less than 10km away as the crow flies, and has relevance to my story.
As I walked to the entrance of the causeway the first thing I noticed was two crushed garter snakes at my feet. It was odd, because one was badly crushed and I couldn’t figure out how it had gotten there. No cars could drive where I was now. The highway was about 100 meters behind me, with no way that I could imagine it could have gotten there. The second snake was still alive, but very bent, and I thought it very strange that racoons or the otters that are in the area did not find them. It was too early for snakes to be out yet. In the spring we get large mating balls of garter snakes, where hundreds of snakes can be wrapped in a ball. The very area I was walking was a spot where all the local kids knew snakes could be found by the hundreds, turning over a few granite rocks or reaching into the rock crevasses would yield handfuls of snakes.
But even if it was kids who had done this the day before it was odd that they should still be here on the path, at the very least crows will quickly pick up a snake in the open. I scooped the one still alive up and placed him off to the side in the grass.
It was about this time I noticed a bear in front of me, about 200 hundred feet or 60 meters slightly off to my right standing on all fours in the water near the edge of the lake, it’s back to me. The sun was now up, but not by much, and I scanned the shoreline for cubs. I watched as it took a massive “dump” in the lake. The old saying “does a bear shit in the woods ran though my mind, with the response…”no apparently he doesn’t he shits in my lake!…and it shits a lot! The draft horses I had could not easily match the amount that was dropping out of this thing. I began to think the bear looked odd. Really odd. Just as the thought formed, the bear began to stand up, and it was no bear at all. I guess at full height it was well over 8 feet tall. It was hair covered, and black. It swiveled at the waist, did not turn it’s head at all, rather it’s whole upper body turned towards the left. Then it’s legs followed and it stood side on to me for a split second. In one fluid motion it was out the water, on the back and moving towards the tree line directly in front of me. It looked like it was on skates. The movement was like nothing I could understand. I was frozen on the spot.
It was only about 200 feet away, it turned towards me for just a split second, showing me it’s teeth and giving off a “gerrrruuufffff” sound…that was low and rumbling. I could see it’s face. Not human at all…well I guess perhaps in some sense it was. But it was not normal at all. The eyes seemed dark, but from that distance it was more of an impression than actual sight. The mouth however was huge, it had shown me it’s teeth twice, making kind of a grimacing face as it did so. Directly behind the creature there was a kerfuffle in the bush. I have never been so scared. There was another one in the bush/trees a further 10 meters beyond the black one standing in front of me. I remember thinking about keeping my knees locked. I felt like the blood was draining out of me. I needed to get back across the causeway. I was only about 10 meters across the causeway when I was stopped in my tracks by what I thought had been a bear. I needed to back out of here, that was the only way out, but there was a narrowing, where two granite rock piles were stacked at the start of the trail, on either side of the of the path.
I was worried if I stumbled walking backwards I would never be able to get up. I could feel my pulse in my ears, I actually felt dizzy and sick with fright. But there was only one thing for it and that was to back up slowly. I got to being about even with the granite rock piles and I heard a loud roar from the bush, the first creature that I had mistaken for a bear was now moving to the trees and he moved in such a way that he almost looked like he floated into the tree line as the most massive bones shaking roar came from the woods. It was a bellow, a roar like a lion. It shook your insides as it blew through you.
As if that wasn’t enough, I heard something to the left of me on the far side of the rock pile. I was parallel with the rock pile at this time, I couldn’t swallow, I could hardly breathe, and I was focusing on locking my knees with ever step I took backwards: When I heard the unmistakable sound of the clatter rocks sliding on the backside of the pile. I would guess the pile was about 30 feet wide, and about 20 feet tall. There were some grasses and bushes and a few scrubby trees on the rock pile but it was mostly still granite boulders. The roar in front of me and the clatter of the smaller rocks falling to the left of me had made me stop in my tracks again.
I was pretty much parallel to the rock pile at this point, perhaps just a few steps past it’s centre. I was willing myself to just move my foot, take another slow deliberate step back. More rocks tumbling behind the pile. Ahead there was still movement in the woods though the tall black-haired creature was now mostly hidden from sight. Slowly backing up, another few steps would have me past the rock pile. But it was then I saw some movement not 20 feet from me, to the left… and up. About 6 or 8 feet above my head and twenty feet to the left I saw the glint of auburn/brown hair. It was just an arm, a massive muscled gigantic arm was reaching around the rock pile, I could see a hand which seemed remarkably less hair covered than I would have thought, with what were clearly fingernails, thought dirt and debris covered.
I distinctly remember the knuckles, which seemed very large…like deformed large; bulbous even, almost like someone with very dire arthritic and swollen knuckle joints…on a large hand with long fingers and attached to a ridiculously large arm. Somehow I was moving backwards…slowly steadily moving. I saw not more to creature #3 than the arm and shoulder. It did not peer round the rock pile to look at me, that I could see. Where it had come from I have no idea. It had gotten almost behind me as the other two had me distracted ahead. I was now past the rock pile, still backup slowly, backing down a small dip and back up an incline that had obscured my sight of the arm. When I was up the incline I could not see the arm anymore. All I could do was pray that they were all three in front of me and that there was not a 4th creature waiting to nab me as I continued to back towards the dead end of the highway. When I got to the road, I turned tail and ran. I made it only about 200 meters before I was throwing-up at the side of road, and shaking like a leaf from head to toe. It was a mind numbing stumbling run to the street I turned down and to the house about .5km away.
Okay what did I know about Bigfoot before I stepped out the door that morning? Well, at 14 I had read a book by John Green, not much of one, a thin paperback as I recall, it was in the school library. Like all other kids around that some time I had seen the Patterson-Gmilin Film. I was living in Alberta at that time and did think there was some kind of Sasquatch creature living in the Rocky Mountains. I often would scan the slops when I was in Banff, Jasper, or Lake Louise hoping to see a Bigfoot in those teen years.
I had somewhere gotten the notation that all Sasquatches were black, and were solitary mountain dwellers. For the most part that is what I knew.
When I moved to Pinawa, I had heard a rumor that while the town was being built, that Bigfoot tracks had been spotted at the work site. But account seemed vague and not certain at all. My Ex husband and his family were one of the founding families of the town and had been there since its inception, and the Bigfoot tracks story came from the Ex and some of his friends, though like I said it was all pretty sketchy.
However about 10 years prior to my sighting I was working for a time in the town that was adjacent to Pinawa. I was working in a Seniors care facility doing actives with some of the residence there. The facility was geared toward long term care for acute patients suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s, as well as other degenerative geriatric conditions. One of my Alzheimer gentlemen was difficult to engage as he succumbed to the progressive nature of the disease. Nevertheless I had stumbled onto something that sometimes would reach some of the difficult far gone cases; and that was to try and associate past memories (childhood and early adult years linger in the memories much longer than the more recent past for many of the Alzheimer patients) with a strong sense of smell. It seemed to be a powerful invoker of memories if you could access it.
My gentleman had at one time been a mail delivery man to the now abandoned site of Old Pinawa. The mail would come from a town northwest of the Old Pinawa and the closest depot back in the early 40’s when his story took place. The road was what was called a corrugated road made of logs laid down on it, and the only reliable way was to still take the mail and supplies in by horse and wagon as the cars just couldn’t make the trip I was told. My old guy used to be that driver when he was a young man, and one afternoon I brought him in a well used harness form my draft horse, with the old Scotch Top Collar, embedded with the hair and sweat from more than one horse. Old George took the collar and right away started smelling the leather, the horse sweat, and dirt and a story began to spill out of him, one that I knew was true, because his Alzheimer’s made it impossible for him to recount a tale that wasn’t true at this point in his illness.
He had worked in the spring of that year on that road, the road that shook the bones right out of you he said. And it was the last spring he worked there, it was when he stopped doing the mail run…he quit the job and went off to work in the mines after that. He claimed he was chased by a hair covered giant. He said an Indian fellow he knew back then told him the Ojibwe called them the “Wildmen” they often saw them on the trap lines and in the swamps. On this day he was seeing the Giant Wildman for himself. His horse was so badly spooked, he was sure he was going to ripped from limb to limb as this creature yelled and bellowed at him, and snapped the trees off along the road. He kept driving the horse on. Kept moving…but his head down, he said he pretending like he couldn’t hear or see the things. But all he could do was hear and see it, he said. I did not press him at all.
I could see the memory was still a fearful one even after all these years. But George talked for about an hour strait that afternoon, and he had been pretty much silent for the most part up to then, a word or two, maybe a sentence on a good day. But that afternoon with the harness in his hands the story poured out of him about his last mail run and the Wildman.
That road where George had his encounter over 65 years before mine was only about 5km in a straight line from where I had my encounter.
One other brief event which afterward seemed to perhaps be related took place two years before my encounter. Only meters from the spot. My Ex took my youngest daughter out for a camp out one night along the channel just down from the causeway that I stood on. They had driven to the dead end of the highway and packed in on foot the small tent and sleeping bags and supplies in for a night out bush camping. They locked the truck and left it there, took our dog with them and headed off for a camp out. My older daughter not being very outdoorsy opted for a night at home watching scary movies with mom.
About 3 am, and almost perfectly timed, as we arrived at the most terrifying part of movie number 3 her father burst through the front door of the living room with the youngest in tow and a trembling dog. There was a fare bit of shrieking and gobsmacked fearful moments on both sides as they came barging through the door.
Their story was that while they were sleeping a massive bear must have been hunting deer near their tent. They awoke to crashing in the bush all around them, deer (many deer, he thought at least half a dozen) came flying out of the bush charging down the game trail they were camped on at the edge of the granite walls that lined the canyon to the river below. The dog bolted, there was terrible growling, more like roaring he said, that shook right through them. He commented over and over on how he had never heard anything like this, and the bear must have been a massive one, his roars shook right through them. He grabbed the youngest as they listened to the bear stumble or something and end up about 60 feet below them at the bottom of the canyon hearing some splashing in the water below and feeling and hearing a series of roars that scared the hell out of them/him. Now my Ex was a lifelong winter camper, had grown up in the bush, and was not afraid of much of anything. But he was scared, he was really shaken up. My youngest was in tears.
They had just run for the truck, left everything there and just run. They found the dog waiting at the truck when they got there and they just jumped in and high tailed it home. The next day they went back to the spot in the afternoon. Got the gear which they thought none was missing but must have been turned on end when they fled, and in the mad scramble to get out of there things must have gotten tossed about he said. He never spoke about after that really.
After my encounter I have often wondered if it really was a bear hunting deer. Black bears don’t chase down deer really. They might take a fawn they find, or an injured one. But I have never known black bears to hunt deer.
Within the month of my encounter I was divorced, moved to Winnipeg with my youngest child; the oldest was in university already in the city and I never went back to that spot. I only went back to the town once that summer after the divorce and stayed well away from the bush/woods. That was the last trip I ever made to Pinawa. I have no desire to see the place that for more than 20 years was my home.
Now my youngest is grown up in university herself, and we have had a couple of Bigfoot talks. Though I have never told her about what I saw, we have often talked about the tree knocking we would hear when we would be out foraging in the bush for Saskatoons, blueberries or high bush cranberries. Or the woops we would hear from time to time. She has told me a couple of times when she was playing at about age 8 or 10 with a girlfriend in the woods not far from the house.
All of a sudden they felt watched, would feel afraid and heard a mumbling kind of chattering she said. Though she never saw anything, she now wonders if possibly there was something more there. It happened more than once…but not often.
I did not have the courage to say anything about what I saw. With the shows like “Finding bigfoot” out there and most of the folks who seem to be associated with Bigfoot as questionable inbred hillbillies or out and outright liars and con-artists I have just felt like I could not own that moment in my life with any confidence that she would understand, or that I would not look like a fool or be associated as “one of them”. It has been complicated with the remarriage to city slicker, whose idea of wildlife is about as extensive as cotton tail rabbits and raccoons.
I dare say he and I will have this talk…and soon. But I feel ashamed to be associated with anyone who claimed to be part of the Bigfoot phenomenon which seems to have nothing at all to do with the reality I experienced. I have a wonderful life now, a step-son who I adore, who seems to truly love and respect me, and I don’t want to undo my credibility with any of them my associating with crazy Bigfoot world.
Yet they all know I have said I believe there is something out there (the gutless wonder that I am that can’t say “I know, I have seen it with my own eyes”) and they all still poke fun at me (in a light and good hearted way) for even claiming to believe, so I just smile and say no more. Yet I still have nightmares. I won’t walk alone in the woods near where I live now, even though we are really not at all in the wilderness, but after one day taking the dog on a hike I walked into a bear, I have never ventured that far again: My thoughts being, if bears are in the area, well…who knows.
So that terrifying moment seven years ago is still with me, and still make me feel ill inside when I think about it, and I am afraid, in the woods I once used to love to spend time it.
On the positive side when I stumbled onto the radio show in late February I literally cried after listening to a couple of them. You guys were not all nuts, and in fact you seemed to understand the utter terror of such a moment. The Bigfoots I hear about in most encounters would have you believing they run skipping through the woods, dropping pinecone sculptures and daisy chains as they go. Yet I felt it was a life threatening moment when I saw the ones I did. There was nothing cool about it.
There was no Squachy-ness to it. It was horrible; I had no way of quantifying what had happened. The silence on my part since then has probably made the experience worse…but who do you tell who will have an inkling of what you are talking about? So when I heard the radio show, it was a tearful moment (tears of joy) that at least somewhere out there were some “normal” folks who had an idea of what I was talking about.
Okay…stopping now. That was more than enough I am sure. Sorry to be so long-winded but it takes a few words to try and give a cohesive narration of the event. If you have any insight into the event, please let me know. Perhaps in my own mind I have blown it out of proportion, but I really and truly felt afraid for my life.
Taking a breath now, feeling a wee bit better having at least shared the story on paper with someone.
With thanks for reading this far…”