We found this carving of Bigfoot (Sasquatch) on a stump at our campsite on Azalea Lake in the Red Butte Wilderness.
The Red Butte Wilderness: Part II
In my last post, Peggy and I backpacked into the Red Buttes Wilderness, which is located about 10 miles from us at the crow flies. Our objective was to reach Azalea Lake but about half way there, our bodies had another idea. Camp. Today’s post starts off the next morning.
Our bodies grumped as we made them get out of bed to finish the hike. Loudly.
Not far from our camp, we passed the lonely grave of Sylvan Gosliner, Ruby Gosliner and Alma Pratt. Their airplane had crashed in the canyon in 1945 on a return trip to Portland from San Francisco. Why, has never been determined. The forest service had retrieved the body of the pilot while relatives of the Gosliners and Pratt had chosen to bury their family members beside the trail. It’s a beautiful location. Wreckage of the plane can still be found in the canyon below.
The rock covered grave of Sylvan and Ruby Gosliner and Alma Pratt along Butte Fork Creek with its simple bronze marker.
Red cedars replaced the pines as we continued our climb through the dry forest, while cheerful tiger lilies and other flowers brightened our way whenever we crossed a stream. Eventually we arrived at Red Cedar Basin. Peggy zonked out on a flat rock while I wandered around the meadow, which was filled with corn lilies. Had there been water, it would have become camp. But Azalea Lake beckoned. We dutifully shouldered our packs and completed the trip. We found an attractive campsite and settled in for the afternoon and next day. Numerous insects greeted our arrival and some came by to take blood donations. By seven PM, Peggy had disappeared into the tent. She’s been known to disappear inside at the buzz of the first mosquito— leaving me outside to entertain our flying and crawling visitors.
Red cedars replaced Douglas fir and sugar pine trees as we climbed in elevation.
While the forest was dry with limited vegetation most of the way, it changed whenever we came to streams, turning into a vibrant flower garden with flowers such as this tiger lily…
And Indian paintbrush.
I caught Peggy napping at Cedar Basin…
And she caught me in our camp at Azalea Lake.
Azalea Lake is a jewel located in a basin surrounded by peaks and ringed by azaleas. Tall, incredibly straight lodgepole pines provided us with shade on our layover day as we hung out, snacked, read, and went for a hike around the lake, where we found a couple backpacking and carrying a tent, literally. Noisy chickarees (small tree squirrels) scolded us for our intrusion. As did the always vociferous Stellar jays. Quieter birds such as robins, Juncos, and fly catchers merely went about their business of scrounging for food as the sun made its way across the sky. A Pileated Woodpecker caught our attention with a more stentorian call.
Azalea Lake nestles between peaks in the Red Butte Wilderness. I took this photo on our first trip into the area. The peak on the left and the draw is featured below in the setting sun photos.
An early morning shot on this trip…
And an evening shot.
Azaleas surround the lake but we arrived when most of the blooms were gone. We did manage to find these however.
And some interesting bear grass.
A close up.
We also found these two backpackers carrying a tent. “You have to let me take your photo,” I insisted. “We are only moving a couple of hundred yards to find a better campsite,” they explained, a bit sheepishly.
Incredibly straight lodgepole pines provided shade for our camp. The dead tree provides a good example of just how straight these trees grow and why they served as center ‘lodge poles’ for roofs on early pioneer cabins.
As the sun prepared to say goodnight, it bathed the surrounding peaks in soft light, an event that always sends me scurrying with my camera. Peggy and I hiked down the trail but couldn’t catch any clear shots through the trees. A surprise was waiting for us back at camp, however: an ingenious carving of Bigfoot. I don’t know how we had missed it; we had walked by it several times. I considered the discovery a sign that I needed to go out again to capture a photo of the alpenglow— and just possibly the illusive giant.
Trees blocked our view of the peaks above Azalea Lake as the sun began to set.
The Bigfoot carving in our camp at Azalea Lake.
While Peggy stayed in camp, I made my way through the trees to a meadow at the base of the peaks. A half dry, meandering stream had created a small marsh. Looking up, I had an unobstructed view of the rocks above. I worked my way around the meadow for different perspectives. A draw made its way up the mountain, providing access for animals crossing over the peaks. Apparently, it was well used. The meadow was full of deer sign; there were tracks galore.
A meadow with a small marsh sat at the base of the peak.
The small meadow gave me a clear view of the sun setting on the peak.
A draw made its way up the side of the mountain and provided access for wildlife to the lake.
Numerous deer tracks suggested that the draw was well used.
A large track caught my attention and I stopped to check it out. Something heavy had landed and launched on the spot, apparently in a hurry. A huge bear was my first thought since the depression was a good two inches deep. The deer tracks were closer to a half-inch and bent grass was all I was leaving. I looked around nervously. But something wasn’t right.
- A bear would have left another track beside it. There was nothing.
- The print was oblong, very long. Bear prints tend to be more rounded.
- The paw prints weren’t showing any claw marks, which you normally see on bears. In fact, they looked more like toes!
I found myself getting excited. Had I discovered a track of Bigfoot’s big foot?! I rested my boot alongside the track. I have big feet myself, size 14 American (49 European). The track was seven inches longer, over 20 inches long (50.8 centimeters)! I did a more thorough search for other tracks. A more expert tracker may have found something, but I didn’t. My thought was the creature who made the track was bipedal and running. It had traveled from the dry ground to the marshy area and back to the dry ground.
Was my imagination working overtime? Was I creating a Big Foot where none existed? Maybe. I took photos using my boot and 5×3 inch camera case for comparison and returned to camp to share my treasure with Peggy.
The depression stretched from the front of the foot on the left to the heel mark on the upper right. My 3×5 inch camera case is for comparison.
The impression on the left looked like a toe print to me.
My own size 14 shoe was dwarfed by the print.
The next morning, we were awakened at five AM by a loud thump outside our tent. It sounded a lot like a deer. The deer that live in our neighborhood are forever thumping across the wooden deck next to our bedroom. We sat up with a start and stared through the mosquito screen of our tent.
“There’s something huge and brown beside our packs!” Peggy declared. They were located maybe 15-feet away.
We scrambled for our glasses. We’re both blind as bats without them. Yes, there was something big and brown. A big brown doe. We laughed. For some reason, the doe kept circling our camp for the next hour. Sleep was not an option. We were up early and had our breakfast of oatmeal, coffee and dried apricots. By 8:30 we were packed and ready to go. The trip back to the truck took us half the time of the hike in. And yes, our bodies continued to whine, but only half as much.
NEXT BLOG: Peggy and I head out on another backpacking adventure near our home in Southern Oregon. There’s no Bigfoot, but we discover some really weird natural wood sculptures, and we camp in a beautiful grove of trees where there were more varieties than I have ever seen in one location. Many of them were giants. I thought of it as a sacred grove.