Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
John R. Salmond plans to head to a remote corner of northeastern Utah this weekend in search of a legend.
Salmond, 44, is a new member of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, which plans to explore the Ashley National Forest near the Utah-Wyoming border this Thursday through Monday looking for elusive Bigfoot evidence. Founded in 1995, BFRO claims to be the only scientific organization dedicated to finding Bigfoot.
Some 26 years ago when he was 18, Salmond, of Clearfield, said he discovered three sets of footprints of varying size while on a Boy Scout trip in southwestern Wyoming. In his mind only one type of creature could have made those tracks: Bigfoot.
Since then, Salmond said he's recorded knocks and whistle sounds that fit the evolving profile of a Bigfoot or sasquatch. He has viewed strange night-time thermal images of something he can't quite describe. And he says he has even had rocks thrown at him in the darkness of the high Uintas by what he believes was one of the large, hairy nonhuman primates that, according to folklore, roam North America.
"I've had some experiences," he said. "I can't deny what I saw."
Purported sightings in the Utah are not uncommon. Less than two weeks ago, Ryan Burns said he spotted a strange, hairy creature in the forest south of his home.
"I saw a reddish figure," he said. "At first, I thought it was a person in a fur coat."
Burns, who runs a bed and breakfast in Duchesne, said he had a weird feeling about what he was seeing. He said the figure looked at him and "disappeared into the brush." He raced after it on horseback, but it eluded him. He doesn't believe a human could move away that quickly, and he said few people ever frequent the rugged area he was in.
A member of the BFRO's 2007 expedition to Utah, Burns believes from the recent sighting and other experiences that Bigfoot is real.
Experiences like those Burns and Salmond describe are the reason Bigfoot researchers are returning to Utah.
"Our target area (in Utah) has everything we look for," said Caroline Curtis, secretary/investigator with Florida-based www.bfro.net, which besides the Utah trip has 16 other expeditions in the U.S. and Canada planned this year. "The location is kept secret, not just to keep it unspoiled, but also for safety and scientific purposes."
The group participating in this year's hunt will be relatively small, about 25, including investigators and first-time participants. The team will set up a base camp from which it will venture out in search of clues during the day. At night they'll use night vision cameras and sit around the campfire swapping Bigfoot stories.
Reported Bigfoot sightings vary, but according to folks like Curtis, 80 percent happen at night and are usually in the mountains, the foothills or near open spaces. Most involve a creature who is reserved, though a little curious. Bigfoot may watch a camp in the mountains from a distance, but is rarely aggressive. Some people reported their trucks or campers being rocked by a Bigfoot, but Utah Bigfoot expert Ryan Layton says that is rare. A foul odor usually permeates a Bigfoot encounter, he said.
While few scientists give Bigfoot's existence any credence, one who does is Jeffrey Meldrum, an associate professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State University who has two zoology degrees from BYU. He is the author of the book "Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science," a companion to the Discovery Channel documentary of the same name. Dubbed by some as America's "Bigfoot professor," he's been a believer ever since he came across 15-inch footprints a decade ago in the woods near Walla Walla, Wash.
"I'm not trying to proselytize that Bigfoot exists," Meldrum told the Associated Press. "I place legend under scrutiny and my conclusion is, absolutely, Bigfoot exists."
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