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Bigfoot? In the Jemez? Perhaps.

SANTA FE, N.M. — You will find my serious journalistic efforts in another section of this newspaper today – a hundred column inches or so of important news events of the year, compiled under the smellsome sobriquet “Cowchips.” It’s an annual year-in-review from the “udder” perspective.

But before you dive into those fresh cowchips, we need to talk about Bigfoot.

I spend a fair amount of time in the woods on snowshoes in the winter and in trail shoes in the other seasons. I’ve seen bighorn sheep, bear, elk and many a man on horseback, but I’ve never seen a Bigfoot.

It turns out I’ve been spending most of my time in the wrong forests. Animal Planet, in its episode of the “Finding Bigfoot” series last week, zeroed in on the Valles Caldera in the Jemez Mountains and some video evidence that a large, hairy manlike creature – a Bigfoot – might have been spotted there.

Animal Planet uses a loose definition of “animal” these days. It has reality shows about a midget that rescues pit bulls, the Nogales Police Department and mermaids.

Then, there’s “Finding Bigfoot,” a hit series that follows a team of investigators as it tracks the elusive sasquatch. They’ve been all over the United States and the world investigating accounts and video clips of purported Bigfoot sightings, which to my untrained eye often look like guys in black clothes or ape suits.

The New Mexico episode centered on a nighttime thermal video taken in the Jemez on an outing of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization in 2011. The TV team camped out in the Jemez in the same spot that the BFRO captured a figure lurking in the woods and tried to lure a sasquatch by howling and urinating to mark territory in hopes the apeman would move in to defend it.

They also held a town hall meeting at the Los Ojos saloon in Jemez Springs, where New Mexicans described ‘squatch encounters. A woman recounted a Bigfoot peering into her cabin window. A man said he saw two running across N.M. 4 at dusk. And two campers told of a big apeman tearing apart their campsite.

New Mexico was described in the episode as being “super ‘squatchy” and “one of the ‘squatchiest places” in the country. The searchers speculated the Bigfoot liked the country because they could snack on elk.

New Mexico has produced Bigfoot evidence for decades. There have been reports of them skulking across dark roads on the Navajo reservation, peering into an RV near Red River and moaning in the Carson National Forest near Gallegos Peak.

Just last week I was hiking up Flechado Canyon aiming for the top of Gallegos Peak in a couple feet of wet, heavy snow.

We followed some coyote tracks for a while, saw two frozen waterfalls and heard an elk bugle, a woodpecker hard at work and aspens groan in the wind.

We spotted “John Nichols Died Here 6-11-77” carved into a tree, which I suspect is untrue but, given the steepness of the canyon, can assume felt quite accurate at the time.

No one had walked in the canyon since the recent snowfall, and so each step broke snow and left a large deep impression. A snowshoe is longer and wider than a foot. Ours are about 2 feet long and have claws in the instep to grip the snow and ice.

After we left the forest and sat by the hearth with glasses of holiday cheer, it occurred to me that we had left something in the woods for the next people to choose that trail: unmistakable evidence of big feet.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Leslie at 823-3914 or llinthicum@abqjournal.com. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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