Joyce Kearney in Willow Creek, CA (Oct 2007)
I received a phone call last Fall from a friend named Joyce Kearney. She’s a sasquatch researcher and enthusiast from San Francisco, California who sponsored the Patterson-Gimlin Film 40th Anniversary Celebration in 2007. She also generously sponsored last year’s Yakima Bigfoot Round-Up. Her involvement in the subject takes her from the mountains of California to Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Texas and Ohio traveling areas of historical importance. She was calling to see if I might travel with Bob Gimlin so he might attend the 2010 Ohio Bigfoot Conference. After checking with Bob and consulting the 2010 calendar, we agreed this was an offer we couldn’t refuse. The itinerary was booked in February for the mid-May journey to Ohio. Two other friends from California - Mark Stenberg & Terry Smith - decided to join us and on May 12th, the adventure began.(Right) Gary & Mary Lukehart with Bob Gimlin, Dec. 2009
Mark was already in the Seattle area so I booked a one-way flight from Oakland, CA to the Seattle-Tacoma Int’l Airport. We had a smooth drive through the scenic Cascade Mountains between Seattle and Yakima. Upon arriving at the Gimlin residence, we prepared for flights to Ohio the next day and then took a drive to Naches, WA to visit our good friends Mary and Gary Lukehart at Running Springs Ranch. It just so happened to be the anniversary of the Yakima Bigfoot Round-Up that was held there last year. We enjoyed the visit reminiscing about that momentous occasion and talking about plans to get together later this year. (Left) Bob Gimlin and Mark Stenberg on the tarmac at Pasco, WA airport
Thursday, May 13, 2010
We left early for the airport located 82 miles southeast in Pasco, Washington. It’s a wonderfully small, regional airport and we were soon boarding a sleek, commuter jet bound for Denver. For some reason, boarding by walking up to the plane on the tarmac is always a thrill. We captured the moment with a photograph. The flight took us over the Blue Mountains near Walla Walla, WA, an area rife with bigfoot lore. The Snake River and the mountains of southern Idaho were in view along the way as well. After a lengthy layover in Denver, our 2 hour flight to Columbus, Ohio landed us in the buckeye state at 11:00 p.m. local time. Our fourth traveling companion, Terry, had arrived a few hours earlier and procured excellent transportation for the Gimlin party. As we drove east to Zanesville the excitement level rose as the clock struck midnight. Bob Gimlin and Terry Smith in Salt Fork State Park, Ohio
Friday, May 14, 2010
We rose early and did some shopping to get the things we would need for the weekend. I needed a new AAA Ohio state map and frames for some of the souvenir photos I brought along with us. We enjoyed a great tex-mex lunch and were soon on our way out to Salt Fork State Park, site of the annual bigfoot conference. Before arriving at the lodge, we decided to see a little of the park, Ohio’s largest, and were guided to the trail to Hosaks Cave. We were well aware of the tragic deaths that have occurred here in the past when visitors venture to the edge of the cliff above the cave and stayed down below enjoying the afternoon sounds and smells of the woods. It was an easy walk to the overhanging rock formation. We also stopped by the picnic area that is surrounded by dense forest. The air was humid and the big black bumblebees were buzzing all around the picnic pagodas. We couldn’t wait any longer and drove to the lodge to check in.
We were greeted by a dozen conference attendees milling about the main entrance to Salt Fork Lodge. That’s what we were here for – to meet the folks from back East who we’ve known about and interacted with on the internet or by phone. It is always a delight to be at these events and socialize with friends both new and old. We had a great room overlooking the grounds towards the forest and lake. We had arrived and after relaxing for a bit, went back to the lobby area to visit and greet new arrivals. (Left) Tom after playing for an hour at the bonfire on Friday
That evening the host and organizer of the conference, Don Keating of the Eastern Ohio Bigfoot Information Center, kicked off the weekend’s activities with a meet & greet buffet dinner. It was special to be participating in the event as Bob Gimlin was going to give a short talk and I was there to play my bigfoot songs between speakers.
After dinner there was a bonfire on the grounds of the lodge and a few dozen folks made it out. I played a few bigfoot songs and many more from the campfire repertoire. Liam Mrkvicka – an acquaintance from the blog talk community – also entertained us with Irish folk songs he performed. After an hour or so, we retired for the evening.
Saturday, May 15, 2010 – Event Day
We awoke refreshed after a good night’s sleep – the lodge facility is very accommodating. Everything is very centralized and provides a perfect setting for a conference. The actual conference began at 4:00 in the afternoon, so our morning was free to relax and enjoy the time. A barbeque lunch was organized by Steve and Robin Pickett and the East Coast Friends of Bob Gimlin. They had reserved a picnic pavilion at the beach a few miles away. Rides were arranged for us by Eric Altman from Pennsylvania and I got to make a new friend in Joe Bielo from New York who drove me there. You know, that’s what makes these events so important – the opportunity to learn about what others have done in this bigfoot/sasquatch endeavor. Both of these guys and the folks we would be lunching with are in some ways doing the same things we are – looking for information, accounts and possible evidence that supports the existence of the sasquatch. (Left) Honored Guests of the East Coast Friends of Bob Gimlin -
Dr. Esteban Sarmiento, Bob Gimlin, Dr. Jeff Meldrum & yours truly
Many friends were in attendance including a few who had traveled west last year to join us at the Yakima event. I’ll let the photos tell the story. It was a casual affair on the expansive lawns that line the beach area. Memories of the day were captured in photographs and it ended with a presentation of gifts to us who were participating in the event. People are always touched and inspired by Bob’s demeanor and presence and they presented him with an engraved silver pocket watch to commemorate the lunch. Not only was the food delicious, the quiet, comparatively small gathering was a nice way to spend the afternoon before the evening’s main event.
The conference began at 4:00 p.m., so we arrived a little early to set up our table with photographs and 2 posters to auction. We didn’t have many, but everyone was appreciative to the fair price and the ability to have it signed and go home with a treasured momento. Bob enjoyed the hospitable crowd and there was a positive feeling of admiration in that room. He was never without someone to greet, take a photo with or sign something for them. Dr. Jeff Meldrum presenting to the 2010 Ohio Bigfoot Conference.
Don Keating took to the podium and welcomed the sold-out room and auxiliary viewing area – over 450 people seated and ready for the presentations – while hundreds of others milled around the vending tables in the lobby area over the course of the evening.
Dr. Jeff Meldrum was introduced and his talk would focus on possible evidence of these creatures in Vietnam and southeast Asia. There was a possible track documented in the early 1980s and the information on file allowed for an extensive forensic examination. Dr. Meldrum always sets the context of what is purported to be evidence and we learned that the geography of the central highlands of Vietnam is similar to that of temperate forests throughout the northern hemisphere. There are also anecdotal accounts from soldiers who fought here during the war in the 1960s and 1970s. His talk was well received and a great way to commence the event.
After a short auction, I was introduced and gave a brief statement thanking Don and Joyce for making the trip possible. I also wanted to state to those in attendance my positive regard of the state of bigfoot research thanks to the involvement of scientists such as Dr. Meldrum and Dr. Esteban Sarmiento, who was also in attendance. I also mentioned a few other prominent biologists who participate in this research including Dr. John Bindernagel, Robert Michael Pyle, John Mionczynski and Leila Hadj-Chikh. In this day and age, we are beyond the “chuckle factor” thanks to books like Dr. Meldrum’s “Sasquatch : Legend Meets Science” that assemble and explain the possible evidence in a very compelling manner. Pep talk concluded, I performed the song “Roger and Bob (Rode Out That Day), my tribute to them and the events surrounding the Patterson-Gimlin film. I was delighted with the response.Bob Gimlin is introduced and receives a standing ovation.The other presenters and host captured the moment in a photograph.Bob Gimlin addressing the 2010 Ohio Bigfoot Conference
Don then introduced Bob Gimlin, the special guest of the event and the crowd jumped to their feet for a lengthy standing ovation. Clearly moved by the reaction, Bob took all the time he wanted to introduce himself and tell of his involvement with the famous bigfoot film from October 20, 1967. His talk was not prepared in advance, yet he smoothly recalled how he met Roger, their days of “rodeo-ing” and Roger’s intense interest in the bigfoot subject. He recalled how Roger enlisted him to join him on an outing near Mt. St. Helens in the late summer of 1967. After returning to Yakima, news of bigfoot track discoveries in Northern California had Roger back knocking on Bob’s door with the encouragement to make a trip down there. It wouldn’t be arranged for several more weeks, and they arrived in mid-October in the Bluff Creek area. He recounted what they did during their time their prior to the film event on October 20th. The audience was treated to a firsthand account of the film event – the same account detailed at that time in 2 newspaper articles and later in Ivan Sanderson’s excellent piece in Argosy magazine.
When he finished, the audience again rose to a standing ovation. Clearly, the crowd was appreciative of this rare public speech by Bob Gimlin. He then answered dozens of questions from the audience for another 25 minutes. The third standing ovation capped the first half of the presentations and we broke for dinner. Well, not right away as our table and Bob were besieged by the enthusiastic audience. Dinner table with Bruce Harrington's friends and conference presenters.
When we did break for dinner, we had a reserved table with dinner awaiting us thanks to our good friend Bruce “Maverick” Harrington from Boston, Massachusetts. Some of his friends joined Bob, Terry, Mark and I along with Jeff Meldrum, Larry Lund and his friend Nita. That was a delightful respite for an hour and a great opportunity to get to converse with Jeff and Larry beside me and others across the table. Tom plays "John Green" at the conference.
The conference reconvened at 8:30 p.m. and I played my tribute ballad “John Green” for the crowd. I haven’t recorded this song yet, but there is a youtube video of a performance from 2007. “He was out seeking sasquatch wasn’t seeking no glory, He was the one documenting the story. An’ who was always one of the first on the scene? If a sasquatch had been there, so had John Green!”
New England historian, sportscaster and renaissance man, John Horrigan took the floor to deliver his presentation on a variety of paranormal activity observed over the years in a region in Massachusetts. Everything from mysterious creatures to hauntings to UFOs have been documented in this area. For bigfoot enthusiasts, the Hockamock Swamp outside of Boston has a history of sightings and activity. It was well documented and thorough and John is a pro when it comes to public speaking.
Long-time enthusiast, researcher, bigfoot historian and self-described “sasquatch sleuth,” Larry Lund of Vancouver, Washington took the podium for the final presentation. Over the years, Larry has accumulated a vast collection of bigfoot books, information, research documents, casts, video archives, taped interviews and memorabilia. He brought along a fair amount of these to sell as he’s close to “retiring” from his active interests in the field.
He was a close friend of the late Rene Dahinden, a notable figure in sasquatch research.
He spoke about the people he has known and then focused on the items he had that were relevant to the Patterson-Gimlin film since Bob was here and it was his first time meeting him in person.
At breakfast, Larry joined us briefly and showed Bob a photo that combined two pictures taken by Rene Dahinden from the hillside above the film site on Bluff Creek. These appear in Christopher Murphy’s “Meet the Sasquatch” and we call it “the aerial view of the film site.” Bob recollected the film event for Larry and us as he pointed out locations and subject movements on the picture. Larry asked Bob if he would come up and do that again for the audience. He gladly rose and utilized a laser pointer to show the audience where he and Roger were in relation to the film subject. He described the creature’s slow retreat versus where Roger moved while he filmed. He also showed where he was during that exciting, heart-pumping moment.
It became evident to some of those present, including Jeff Meldrum and myself, that this was not the whole photograph collage. In fact, the relevant portion was not attached to the jpeg being projected on the screen. I volunteered to interrupt Bob and point this fact out by stating that indeed all the distances and behaviors recounted were correct. The photo did not contain the location however. I held up the complete photograph and indicated to the crowd what the complete photo collage contained. That little awkward moment settled, Bob thanked everyone again for their interest and their attendance and we soon wrapped up the 2010 Ohio Bigfoot Conference by posing for photographs at the podium. That was a moment I’ll never forget. Don Keating also had commemorative plaques made for all of us and we posed with Don with our plaques displayed. It sure was an exciting end to an excellent conference. We stayed afterwards to pose for personal photos with some attendees and as they introduced themselves and voiced their appreciation for the event. 2010 Ohio Bigfoot Conference Presenters and Host Don Keating.
That night there was another bonfire, so my evening was far from over. We played outside until it rained and forced us to find refuge in the extensive lobby area in front of the big fireplace. There the singing and socializing continued on well into the night.Relaxing lakeside at the cabins on Sunday with Rebecca and Mark.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
It was time to say good-bye for most of those staying at the lodge. We were staying over another night, so we headed out to a lakeside cabin that Terry had rented and enjoyed the afternoon relaxing and recalling the previous day. What a great time it was in Ohio for all of us in our group. We got to see old friends, meet distant acquaintances in person and make new friends. An event like this is one for the ages – something that goes so well, it’ll be remembered fondly for years to come. I hope the recounting and the photographs portrayed the weekend in a way to make you feel like you were there. Of course, my recollections are biased as it will always be recalled as our fantastic journey to Ohio in 2010.Dinner with our friends Rebecca and Shawn on Sunday night.