Saturday, February 25, 2012

The London Tracks: Where Serendipity Met Synchronicity

Part of the London, Ore. trackway at sunrise

Serendipity (def.)- Accidental scientific discovery; specifically a discovery made while looking for something else.

       Max wasn't trying to find bigfoot, or even bigfoot evidence.  He was looking for an old car to buy.  He never found the car, but he did find some of the best bigfoot evidence ever discovered. Talk about serendipity.
      Max Roy, of Eugene, Oregon is an antique car buff.  He sometimes drives the rural roads around Eugene looking for old cars that he might buy and restore. Last Sunday, February 12th, Max was cruising the Weyerhauser-London Road south of Eugene looking for a car he could use for parts. He decided to stop alongside a reservoir to take a half-hour walk.  What ensued is one of the most remarkable combinations of serendipity and synchronicity that I have yet encountered.
     Max and headed for the trail when he encountered a pet owner who was coming the other way.  This unidentified gentleman cheerfully informed Max that, while he was walking his dog, he should keep an eye out for some bigfoot tracks a short distance up the trail.  Max knew a little bit about bigfoot.  He had seen the cable TV series and his interest was piqued by this unexpected invitation to inspect real evidence for himself.  The unidentified dog owner pulled out his cell phone and showed Max a photo he had taken.  Now Max knew what to look for.  Max headed down the trail and sure enough, he happened across three plainly visible large barefoot tracks. Later, that day, Max happened to tell his insurance agent and friend about the tracks he'd seen.
     The insurance agent's keen interest took Max completely by surprise. He insisted that this was a big deal.  Max needed to return to the site, he insisted,  with a camera and a ruler and get proper photographs.  It was this unexpected conversation that initiated yet another remarkable series of events.  Max went back and got the photo.  Then he decided to take his insurance agent's advice and put the photo in front of someone who might know what to do with the track find.  As it turned out, Max had a pretty good idea where he might find such a person.
Photo of the original track taken by Max Roy
      Being a career car salesman, Max always noticed people's cars, and one car in his neighborhood stood out when it came to bigfoot.  It was a black SUV that was decorated with stickers of bigfoot tracks. Surely, Max supposed, a person with bigfoot tracks all over his car would be interested in this track find. On his way home, Max detoured down the street where he'd seen the bigfoot car, but it wasn't there.  Later, he drove by again and saw the car, but the bigfoot tracks weren't on the car anymore. Still, being a 'car person' Max was certain it was the same car that had once been festooned with footprints. Max knocked on the door. A woman answered and Max explained the reason for his interruption.  The woman explained that the car used to belonged to her ex-husband, Toby Johnson, but now it was hers. She didn't care much about bigfoot evidence, but the polite woman assured Max that her ex, Toby, would be very interested. She gave Max Toby's number and, being a man of persistence and determination, Max continued his quest. He rang up Toby.  Now, ya gotta be impressed by any individual who would go so far out of his way for a situation like this that had no obvious personal benefit.  Eugene, Oregon, as it turns out, is full of people like that, and Max is one of them: community-oriented, alternative-minded folks who are very open to fringe ideas like 'bigfoot evidence'.
     Max later confessed that it was actually his insurance agent (and friend) who had impressed upon him the importance of this serendipitous discovery. Anyway, Max wasn't going to let his insurance agent down, and at last, Max had a bigfoot expert on the phone.  Soon after being alerted, Toby Johnson and his friend 'Tracker' were making their way south out of town toward the London Road.

Synchronicity (def.)- The coincidental occurrence of events that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality

     Sure enough, there were three exquisite seventeen inch tracks waiting for them right beside the walking path. Although they had no previous experience with casting bigfoot tracks, Toby and Tracker set about preserving the evidence of Bigfoot's passing.     Toby decided to call his buddy and casting expert Cliff Barackman for some casting advice. Meanwhile, Tracker took off on a whim to survey the surroundings and apply his tracking skills to resolve the question of exactly what this creature was doing when these tracks were made. What Tracker found next was beyond belief.  While searching the surrounding area, Tracker happened across a whole bunch more tracks.  There were over a hundred tracks in the mud of the exposed lake bed! They weren't the same size as the first tracks. It appeared as though a second, smaller creature had ventured across a broad expanse of fine-grained lake bed sediment. The scope of this track find just went from interesting to epic. Tracker dashed back to inform Toby. Toby got back in touch with Cliff, who was just leaving a school science fair where he was making a guest appearance.  Cliff jumped in his truck, got on the freeway,  and headed south out of Portland.
     It was now Thursday, Feb, 16th. Cliff cleared his schedule and headed 130 miles up the Willamette Valley toward Eugene and Cottage Grove. Toby also alerted Chris Minniear in Cheshire and John Bull of Eugene, and me. Cliff notifed Autumn Williams. I e-mailed a message to Jeff Meldrum.  Meanwhile, I was also pinned down at a school science fair (it's science fair season, you know).  Chris left Newport, purchased 200 pounds of hydrocal-white at a landscape supply place, and headed for the scene.  John, Chris, and Cliff converged on the scene and spent the entire night casting seventy prints.  Autumn Williams showed up and cast another. The team pulled seventy track from the scene before they ran out of plaster. At least thirty more tracks remained in the ground, gradually deteriorating by the combined forces of time and weather.. By late Friday, Guy Edwards, Beth Heikkenen, Toby Johnson, Tracker, and myself were back at the scene with more plaster.
      It was dark, windy, and raining when we arrived on the scene.  The wind was blowing away the covers that Toby had made for the tracks. Sticky mud caked thicker and thicker on our shoes with every step.  My flashlight batteries were fading.  There just wasn't the time to stand there and debate the question of whether the tracks were legitimate or not. We just had to get the evidence preserved before it washed away. In any case, I had already spoken with Cliff by phone and he was confident that the tracks were, in fact, the real deal. That was good enough for me. In some of the most adverse weather conditions imaginable, we put our chins down and got busy. We managed to cast the remaining thirty or so tracks.  (A detailed diagram of the track find can be viewed at Guy Edward's blog, Bigfoot Lunch Club.)

Beth Heikkenin (l.), Toby Johnson, and Guy Edwards casting tracks at night in a rainstorm
     It did occur to us as we worked in the wind and rain that this was not an ordinary track find. Usually, a track find consists of only one, or maybe two tracks.  We usually stand there debating the pros and cons of whether the one track is authentic. Then we casually mix a small batch of plaster, cast the best track, and shine on another one, if there is another one.  This job, on the other hand, was enormous. We didn't get excited, or even try to grasp the enormity of the situation.  There wasn't time for that.  We just worked until the job was done, at which time we were soaked to the bone, and covered in  mud. There was no jubilation, just exhaustion. Around midnight we crashed in a near by motel room, returning to the scene the next morning before dawn to take measurements, make photographs, and extract the now-cured casts from the sticky mud.
At sunrise, Toby Johnson compares his stride to the track casts

    Family obligations beckoned and as soon as we were through, Guy and I headed back down the valley toward Portland.   Beth and Toby stayed in the area and rested.  Tracker joined them and the trio headed back out into the surrounding woods in search of any other evidence that might corroborate the view that sasquatches were indeed circulating in the London area. For the next two nights the team penetrated logging spur roads under the direction of John Bull, the most experienced local field man. While they did not have any eyeball sightings, the experiences they had on those night investigations left absolutely no doubt in their minds that a group of sasquatches was in the area.
     One road they penetrated was so spooky that two of the five nocturnal investigators turned back before they got very far from the car.  Three remaining investigators, Toby, Beth, and Tracker, pressed on. While there was a vague uneasiness being felt by the group, their considerable experience with these night outings enabled them to forge ahead. They crept along without flashlights, for two miles up a long hill. They reached a darkened clearing at the crest of the hill when the group began to feel very ill-at-ease. As they stood there peering into the night, the feeling gradually became more intense. Soon, the trio was completely overcome.  Their legs simultaneously turned to jelly.  They couldn't stand up.  They fell to the ground and just lay there, face down on the dark, wet ground.  They had been rendered helpless in the face of forces they could not even see, much less understand.
     Toby asked me to emphasize that, at least for he and Beth, it was definitely not  fear that they were feeling.  He describes it as more like a feeling of awe and wonder. Based on previous experience, they knew what the source of the intense vibe was. There was no doubt in their mind that it was coming from a sasquatch. I think that there was a certain reassurance they derived from this knowledge and that made the situation more tolerable. Tracker, on the other had, had no prior experiences on which to draw from.  He had never experienced anyhting like this before and, for him, the vibe and the sudden powerlessness and vulnerability was much more frightening.
     Add to that the fact that Tracker was also the only one of the three that was wearing a sidearm.  One wonders whether that sidearm was perceived by the creatures they confronted.  It seems Tracker was the target of the most intensely debilitating vibe. Was the stronger feelings of terror Tracker was feeling due to his lack of previous experience or because he was armed and the creatures knew it? Now, there's a question sasquatch researchers can endlessly debate.
     In any case, the situation continued to evolve beyond the control of the group. Now the group was on the ground. Their skin tingled like they were being microwaved and they couldn't move.   Their emotions surged. This is what sasquatch field researchers (like Chris Noel in Vermont)  refer to as 'getting zapped', and boy did they get zapped!
     Their strength gradually returned, and they all felt very sleepy.  It was all they could do just to stay awake. They were eventually able to get back on their feet.  By now, they had had much more excitement than they bargained for.  They were clearly 'outgunned' and it was time for a strategic retreat. The slightly traumatized trio headed back down the long dark road toward their car. The fact that Toby and Beth had both experienced such bewildering events at least once before enable them to maintain some perspective and recover from this harrowing experience.  Tracker, being completely new to the sasquatch business, had no such previous experience.  The powerlessness of the whole matter caught Tracker completely by surprise and left him feeling particularly traumatized.
     As the trio descended the road, I just happened to ring Toby's cell phone.  They were still high enough on the hill to get cell coverage and Toby picked up.  He told me what just happened. "Yikes! Sounds like you guys just got zapped," I observed, with my usual knack for stating the obvious..
     "No doubt about it.  We just need some time to recover."
     I hung up.  I felt a bit sorry for them but I still couldn't help but smile. It may not have been a sighting, but I knew full well what it all meant.  They had encountered a powerful adult or maybe a group of adult sasquatches. The eager-beaver researchers had gotten too close and they got a taste of the power these beings can bring to bear. It's the sasquatch's way of saying, "That's far enough. You will not come any closer."
     The next day, Joe Beelart and I returned to the scene of the London track find to take more photos and have another look around.  Beth and I headed up the road to the scene of the 'zapping'. We walked up the long logging road as she recounted the experiences of the night before.  Somewhere along the way last night, Beth had lost a glove.  I strongly suspected we would not only find the glove, but we would do so under slightly mysterious circumstances. We did.  It was lying in the middle of the road, right in the clearing where they had been zapped. A foot-long stick had been neatly placed atop the glove, as if to keep the glove from blowing away. We found a curious configuration of sticks in the woods twenty feet away from the glove.   Other than that, it looked and felt like a very ordinary patch of woods that day.  We left some gifts of food and trinkets. Beth went off to be alone with her thoughts. We walked back to the car without incident and met up with Joe Beelart and John Bull.
     That's the way it goes in the bigfoot field research game.  One night, the woods brims with menace, mystery, maybe even terror, and the next day, it's just an ordinary patch of woods. By light of day, we saw a few stick signs and other subtle clues to possible sasquatch presence, but nothing definitve.
      It is my guess that Toby, Beth, and Tracker bumped into the same group of creatures that left the tracks in the mud by the lake.  They got too close and they got a taste of the formidable power that these creatures have. You might say, they were 'shown the door' and were instructed through actions, not words, that it was time to leave. They had the kind of intense experience that most field researchers wish for, but when it happens it is no fun at all.  The feeling of powerlessness and vulnerability is deeply frightening and very humbling.
    A day in the life of the bigfoot field researcher.

The result a long night's work

Lifting out the last cast the next morning.

     Only time will tell, but I tend to agree with the observations made by Cliff Barackman on his recent blog post. Cliff observed that the London trackway is some of the most significant evidence ever found, just by virtue of the sheer volume of evidence, if nothing else.  The changes in the shape of the foot and the splay of the toes from track to track is a thing to behold. Cliff also observed that the remarkable degree of cooperation and quick action that was exhibited by a diverse collection of dedicated amateur researchers was a thing to behold. It was 'citizen science' at it's finest. I think we will be talking about the events of February 16th through 20th, 2012 for a long time to come.
      The exact quality and quantity of physical evidence will not be fully known for a while. The casts have to cure for two full weeks before cleaning can even be started, and there are over a hundred casts to clean. The trackway sat out in the elements for the better part of a week before it was fully discovered and ultimately cast, but the earth that the tracks were taken from was a nearly ideal substrate for the preservation of fine details. It is beyond rare to find so many tracks in bare earth, especially in the lush rainforest of western Oregon, where vegetation and plant litter usually covers every square inch of ground.
     The amount of detail that the casts will yield when they are cleaned can only be supposed, but with so much material to work from, the potential for extracting detailed information from the casts seems enormous. Then there's the anecdotal experiences of the team during the subsequent night investigations. F&B researchers will roll their eyes at the events that are being described, but they fail to grasp the courage, experience, and utter reliability of the field team that made these remarkable observations.   Their night experiences, in my view, support not only the view that the tracks are authentic, they also support numerous other accounts by field researchers continent-wide that suggest these beings have considerable ability to manipulate fields of energy that we are not even close to understanding. Some people want to call that 'paranormal'. I prefer to call it unknown. Whatever it is, it can be corroborated by Ron Morehead, Chris Noel, and a host of others who have personal experience with this feeling of being completely immobilized in situations where they managed to put themselves in close proximity to a sasquatch. 
    As Cliff Barackman said, this series of events is a shining example of cooperation and team work, but even the best team cannot do anything without good, timely information.  For that, we have to recognize the remarkable effort and achievement of Toby Johnson, Max Roy, Max's insurance agent, and even the anonymous dog-walker who first alerted Max to the tracks. Somewhere in Lane County, Oregon walks the patron saint of bigfoot researchers and I doubt we will ever know who he is. It all seems like such a happy accident; a synchronicity.  But, I sometimes wonder whether there are ever any real accidents.  Maybe Toby was meant to find those tracks.  When I first saw those tracks cutting a broad arc across the exposed lake bed, I could see no obvious reason why that creature was even out there in the first place. There was no food or shelter to be found, and the tracks indicate the creature never interacted with the lake itself. It clearly was not a traveling creature on the move.  It just took a stroll out across the lake bed as a bigger creature stood guard on the bluff in the distance.
     The creature that walked the mud flat was just admiring the scenery, or it walked out there for the deliberate purpose of leaving tracks. But, why would it do that? We'll never know for sure but I certainly enjoy speculating. I can't help but wonder whether the creatures just felt like giving us a gift. They threw us a bone, and it was a very meaty bone, at that.  I tend to think it was all a gesture that was meant for Toby Johnson.  Toby lives nearby, he's always out skulking about the woods in that area at night without a flashlight, and so the sentient local sasquatches must surely know of him. If they do, they must also know that Toby is one of the most good-hearted, live-and-let-live bigfoot researchers you can find. He's not carrying weapons, or cameras, though he does have an iPhone. Toby clearly grasps the subtleties, the feng shui that would endear him to the creatures that he calls our 'forest friends.'
     So, call me paranormal, but I'm pretty sure 'the locals', know Toby Johnson.  In any case, I'm sure glad I know him. In fact, I'm definitely going to nominate Toby Johnson for 'Bigfooter of the Year'.
     And, I'm going to go out and put bigfoot stickers all over my car. 
The only two casts that have been cleaned so far are these two that were broken in transport and are being repaired.