Oregon Coast, continued
The southern third of Oregon's coast has some noteworthy vista points.
Many sit atop cliffs much like those along the entire American coast, but
the rock formations at sea level are stunning here. At many points,
jagged rocks rise 100 feet or more from the sea, dozens of feet out from the
shore. Combine this with choppy surf and intermittent fog, and any of
these scenes could be on a postcard. Most probably are.
Speaking of fog, it engulfed route 101 for nearly 100 miles this morning
— not that I am complaining, mind you. The mountains above trapped the
fog as it rolled in from the ocean; and the road, halfway up the cliffs, had
no choice but to endure. Fog shrouded the road, the cliffs, and the
redwoods in a pulsating, almost living veil. It was the perfect tease
for the offshore rock formations. At times, visibility was less than
50 feet. Fortunately, it cleared enough in the area of Gold Beach for
me to see (and, of course, photograph) a tsunami danger zone warning sign.
The most striking feature of this fog was its translucence. The sun
was bright and hot, shining through a cloudless sky. Instead of
blocking the sunlight, the fog dispersed it and glowed like a luminescent
algae growing on everything — the trees, the rocks, and even the air.
The overall effect was like looking at a white cotton T-shirt stretched over
a light bulb, and it was bright enough to require sunglasses.
For lunch I stopped at the Forest Café in Klamath — across the street
from Trees of Mystery and Paul Bunyan. The café put a unique spin on
the ubiquitous forest theme of redwood
country. The stuffed bear and woodland mural were to be expected,
but the ceiling covered with faux vines, bushes, and flowers — as thickly as
a jungle floor — completed the forest feel upon entering. On the right
was a transition, then a complementing forest lake theme. The mural
here showed the comings and goings of freshwater fish, vegetation, diving
ducks, and a human swimmer. From the ceiling hung duck butts and
webbed feet, the keel of a rowboat with accompanying oars, and other
assorted floating items.
Route 299 between Arcata and Willow Creek offers several nice vista
points overlooking the rolling hills, but they pale in comparison to the
views from the outbound lane of Rim Road at Crater Lake. I forewent
these points on the trip eastbound, as it was two o'clock, and the Bigfoot
museum would close at four.
The Bigfoot consumer experience begins long before you approach Willow
Creek: shop after shop for 50 miles along route 101 sells Bigfoot souvenirs
— hats, magnets, T-shirts, hats, carvings, photos, and footprint casts. The
region is heavily forested, and one can easily imagine how trees and
shrubbery viewed at night or in bad sunlight could look like a Bigfoot. For
a fleeting moment, I thought I saw one myself — until I realized it was a
shaggy hitchhiker with a brown backpack. The only other thing to note on the
way to the museum is the music playing on the airwaves. The Willow Creek
area has two pop music stations, two country/western stations, and at least
seven Christian stations. This must mean something, but I am not sure
The China Flat Museum has two rooms. The larger is dedicated to local
history and the smaller to Bigfoot. The proprietor is very
knowledgeable about local sightings, the major American trackers,
and her collection. She will talk your ear off if you let her. (I did.)
The first thing you notice as you walk into the Bigfoot room is the
10-foot poster that dominates the far wall: a blowup of a
Patterson-film frame where the lady Bigfoot appears to be holding an object
— helpfully highlighted in red. Most of the exhibits line the walls,
forming a ring around the center display cases, which contain over a dozen
footprint casts. Most are copies of casts made locally, dating from
the Wallace casts of 1958
through last year. Most of these come from Bob Titmus' personal
collection and those he made himself; he donated much of what he collected
in decades of Bigfoot hunting before he died. While the museum does
not have a copy of the Skookum cast, it does have a large display to lady
Bigfoot's right, with detailed diagrams of the body impressions and
narrative background information on the Skookum expedition and the
pheromone-scented plastic chips used to lure the creature.
The first display along the wall is on the find which instantly
transformed Bigfoot from a regional curiosity to an international celebrity:
the tracks planted by Ray Wallace
in 1958. The display features period press clippings and a scale drawing of the casts
made the next day by a member of Wallace's construction crew. The exhibit
has a picture of Wallace and a caption with his name, but it neglects to
mention his family's revelation after his death that he had faked the
tracks. Apparently, in the Bigfoot business, any hint of skepticism is bad
for business. (Not that I expected anything different, really.)
Wallace's wry smile in the newspaper photograph, however, is priceless.
The next display introduces gigantopithecus blacki and strongly suggests
(without making an outright claim) that the extinct (or so "they" tell us) ape is responsible for
the Yeti legends in China. Next comes an illustrated summary of a
comparative morphological analysis of Bigfoot casts and the Patterson film,
allegedly written by D. Jeffrey Meldrum of Idaho State University. Interestingly, his web site does not list this among his papers. The display
on the Patterson film is a breathless tribute to its authenticity which
glancingly refers to the "controversy" surrounding the film and ends with,
"…but no one has disproved it!" It also makes no mention of Patterson's and
Gimlin's recantation of the film decades later. The remaining displays
show timelines and maps of the region, pinpointing where tracks and fur have
been found and where sightings have occurred.
If you visit, be sure to check out the souvenir shelves on the way out. I
picked up a nice blowup of
frame 352 of the Patterson film for a few bucks.
It will make a nice addition to my wall, next to the aerial photos of crop
Oh, and one last thing. I could not resist staying in the Bigfoot Motel
for the night. It was hard not to, being in the Bigfoot spirit….
Willow Creek & Environs
One block farther down route 299 lies Cinnabar Sam's, which was a
happening place that night and a nice dive for breakfast the next morning.
The most striking feature of this establishment is its devotion to local
history without dwelling on Bigfoot. In fact, the only Bigfoot mention
I recall seeing is a glossy photo of this year's winner of the Little Miss
After the museum closed at four o'clock, I had about four hours of
daylight remaining to explore. I was too tired to drive two more hours
to see Bluff Creek (next vacation, perhaps); so, on the advice of the
Bigfoot Motel proprietor, I headed down to a swimming hole in Trinity River.
The rocky beach was almost fifty feet wide, and the water was excellent for
swimming – broad, slow current, and deep enough to dive into from the
ten-foot-high rocks on the far side. The swimming hole was set against
a backdrop of a steep hill covered in scrubby brush and trees.
I met a nice park ranger named Jillian who was kind enough to snap my
picture. She was about my age, so I struck up a conversation and asked
her to recommend something else local to see with what little daylight I had
left. She obliged with another river viewpoint and, after some more
conversation, Cinnabar Sam's for dinner. The way she said it, it was
an invitation, so I asked her to join me. I think she left her post
early, but I was not about to argue. I was shocked to learn that
Jillian knew almost nothing of Bigfoot lore, and I was all too happy to play
professor for over an hour. She never sounded bored. (Honest!)