The Creature in the Woods
Jon Letko is generally not one for tall tales. Of course, having spent many a night around a campfire in the woods, he has heard his share. From fantastical ghost stories to legends of mythical creatures, Jon’s climbing friends loved to stretch the imagination. Jon, an inherently rational person, always laughed them off. So ridiculous was the prospect of a monster lurking in the woods that such tales could not possibly be true. Or so Jon thought.
One weekend in mid-September, Jon flew up to Washington State for a hiking trip. His goal was to complete a challenging loop trail in the North Cascades National Park, situated north of the Seattle area. Although the trail would take a normal hiker almost a week to complete, Jon had studied the trail maps and concluded he could complete it in a single weekend.
The hike began without a hitch. The fall weather had forced the swarms of bugs which normally pester hikers to retreat for the year. Also gone were the long, warm summer days – but the sun still shone down from the sky, streaming through the trees and onto trail the below. Fields of granite rock marked the steep slopes in the valleys above. In some patches snow remained, but most had melted over the course of the summer.
Jon Letko usually prefers to have a hiking partner on trips such as this. Exploring remote areas can be an isolating experience, and Jon finds that it helps to have someone with you to break the silence from time to time. However, on this particular occasion his usual companions had all made other plans; Jon was out in the woods alone this time.
After a long day of hiking, he selecting a flat area near a small stream to be his campsite. Jon Letko unpacked his gear, set up his tent, and proceeded to make a fire. Dinner was a can of chili – one of his favorite meals in the wilderness. Before crawling into his sleeping bag, Jon took the remainder of his food for the trip away from his campsite and stashed it in the bear canister he always carried when hiking in the Pacific Northwest. A bear canister is essentially a large container with a screw-on lid to prevent wildlife (and bears especially) from getting into a hiker’s food. With his food tightly secured, Jon Letko stamped out the fire and turned in for the night.
The rustling noise that woke him up around 3AM was startling not because of its proximity, but because of its ferocity. By the sound of it, the disturbance had to be from a large animal. Slightly groggy but now on high alert, Jon grasped his flashlight and slowly unzipped the door to the tent. Turning in the direction of the noise, his flashlight illuminated a patch of brown fur amid the hanging branches of a nearby tree. A bear! From his outdoors training, Jon knew better than to confront the animal if he didn’t have to. Besides, his food was safe in the canister – the bear would soon give up and move on.
Sure enough, the rustling noises stopped shortly after and Jon drifted back to sleep. After waking early the next morning, Jon went to retrieve his food to prepare a small breakfast before heading out on the trail. Immediately, something seemed amiss. The bear canister was toppled on its side and covered with a strange sticky substance that resembled saliva. As Jon picked up the container, his heart skipped a beat – why was it so light? He quickly unscrewed the lid. Impossible. The canister, which had been packed full with food the night before, was empty. All that remained inside was a couple of empty Ziploc bags which had once held peanut butter sandwiches.
Jon stumbled backward in shock and sat down on a log. How could this happen? The screw-on lid makes opposing thumbs a basic requirement to open the canister. Provided the container is properly closed, it is impossible for animals to open. Jon had even double-checked the lid the night before. He was flummoxed.
It was only then that Jon Letko noticed the footprint. It sat in a soft patch of dirt just a few feet away, and resembled nothing Jon had ever seen before. For one, it was massive – more than 8 inches across and several feet long. Beyond its size, though, the print looked nothing like that of a bear. The more Jon examined his finding, the more he realized that it bore an eerie resemblance to a human foot.
Normally a level-headed individual, at that moment Jon Letko experienced a feeling of unconstrained fear – a physical sensation that traveled from the pit of his stomach all the way up to the back of his throat. This could not be happening, he told himself.
Now without any food supplies, Jon was forced to abandon his quest and head back toward the trailhead. But that was fine by him – Jon was rattled, and could barely keep it together as he proceeded down the trail. He kept swiveling his head to scan the trees, periodically stopping and whipping around to check the trail behind him. After several miles, he’d seen nothing out of the ordinary. “Maybe it’s all in my head”, Jon found himself thinking.
Just as Jon Letko was beginning to let his guard down, he broke through the trees. The trail cut across an exposed rock fall on a steep slope, with large boulders strewn both above and below the trail. As he crossed this section of trail, something caught Jon’s eye on the rocks above. He looked up and immediately froze. Standing atop a boulder roughly 100 feet up the slope was a massive creature, perhaps 9 feet in height, and covered in brown fur. To Jon’s astonishment, the monster stood on two legs, and had the unmistakably features of a human. For a brief moment, they locked eyes.
Without a moment’s hesitation, Jon put his head down and bolted down the trail. His heart pounding, Jon did not stop running until he reached the trailhead and the safety of his car.
Understandably, he remains reluctant to talk about the experience, even years later. Suffice to say that Jon Letko discovered one mythical story he does believe in: the legend of Sasquatch.