Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The 'Uma' Is Howling

I recently received the following email:

As I grow older and not much wiser I'd like to share two separate incidents where I believe I heard the howl of a Bigfoot in the high Sierra. In 1972 I was about to start college at Columbia Junior College (Now Columbia Community College) and had secured lodgings in the town of Long Barn a 45 to 60 minute drive from Sonora, the largest city in that area. My roommate whose last name was Crotch...yes just like that kind of crotch was a disgusting human being but could cook and knew how to find big mushrooms. He talked me into a three day jaunt into the nearby Immigrant Wilderness which is now adjacent to the Pacific Crest Trail. In those days you could hike into the Immigrant and see no one for weeks at a time.

It was early September, perfect hiking weather, and we head out towards Sonora Pass and walked into the Immigrant with surplus gear, the best two poor college students could afford. Crotch did find some excellent mushroom and proved himself an excellent cook. I let him eat it first, just in case. Our second night out was unusually warm for that time of year in the high Sierra (perhaps seven thousand feet) when the light breeze brought into our tent an unusual smell. It smell of dung, rotting flora of some kind, and fish. Now I must explain I was not a newbie to the high Sierra. My uncles and older cousins would take me hunting as a child and then I learned fishing techniques both legal and illegal by my two native American uncles. So I had smelled decomposing animals and skunks many times. This aroma had no comparison. The night was lit by a half moon if I remember clearly. This also is unusual for it is not uncommon for mountain nights to be cloudy or hazy. So this point stands out in my mind. We then heard a howl that I immediately knew was not a mountain lion, coyote, coy dog, or a dying creature of any kind. It sustained its howl for what seemed an ungodly long time. Then came a knocking sound like wood on wood. This was not the sound of trees scrapping together in a wind. There was no wind, just a very very light breeze if any. Crotch who hailed from Southern California and was familiar with the San Bernadino mountains and the animals of that ranged asked me what the sound was. I felt embarrassed to say, "The Uma." (pronounced Eww Ma by my uncles.) "Bigfoot." Crotch was too scared to contradict me (which he did about everything.).

The following morning after a very unrestful sleep we packed up and headed deeper into the Immigrant. We found tree branched broken and twisted every few yards for about a quarter mile. I'd like to say we found a huge foot print but we weren't really looking. We did find much to our delight the wreckage of an old WWII cargo plane with some of the cargo still intact. These wrecks litter the Sierra. We illegally took some of the cargo back to our cabin in our backpacks. I wish I still had that Remington made Colt .45 pistol.

The second event occurred only four years ago at a primitive skills and herbal fest my school used to sponsor. We had about twenty people who came to the fest and we camped at an established campground just below the part time community of The Dardanelles (there are no winter residents). My wife had camped at this area as a child and we brought our own children there for many years. With the exception of the occasional raiding bear no one had ever had problems at Clarks Fork. At perhaps three in the morning I was sleeping in our large tent with my foster daughter (my wife slept in a separate tent to avoid my snoring) when we both woke up suddenly. We then heard a howl, somewhat high pitched, that continued for over a minute. But this howl sounded as if it was coming from something that was running. It echoed around the campground. Except for the higher pitch it sound just like the howl I had heard in the late summer of '72. My daughter and I clutched each other. "Is that what I think it is?" she asked. I nodded and fumbled out, "Yeah...the Uma. Bigfoot."

The following morning I asked my students if any others had heard the sound. One person said it was a bad imitation of Bigfoot at three in the morning. A few others admitted to hearing it. And only this past year three others finally admitted to it. In October of that year I went to the site of a Bigfoot research group and listened to supposed recordings of the creature. Of the five good recordings, four matched what I heard perfectly. My wife was upset that she missed the excitement. Since then we've returned to Clarks Fork, but the creature has never given us another late night serenade. That being said we still camp there and will continue to do so. I just feel so grateful to have heard it. But I do remember something my uncle's shared. "Once you heard the voice of the Uma, your life will be changed forever. It may be bad, it may be good." Well so far, though I have yet to win Lotto, my life with the woman I've loved for thirty years has been good. Sincerely, 'Doc'

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