Nothing like camping and bonding over a cryptozoological legend, right?
By Val Brkich
When most people think about where Bigfoot (aka Sasquatch) lives, they think of the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest or maybe even northern California’s Bluff Creek, where, in 1967, Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin supposedly captured the only known video footage of the legendary beast. But way across the country, in the Allegheny Mountains of western Pennsylvania, there’s a place called the Chestnut Ridge where for years people have been reporting encounters with Bigfoot, not to mention sightings of UFOs, giant birds, black panthers, and ghosts.
It was here in this paradise of the paranormal in Farmington, Pennsylvania where my daughter (aka Boogieface) and I spent a memorable weekend during the 2019 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure at Benner’s Meadow Run Cabins and Camping. I’d already gotten her hooked on two of my obsessions: Star Wars and The Andy Griffith Show. Now, it was time to bring my daughter into the world of Bigfoot.
Hosted by Pennsylvania Bigfoot researcher Eric Altman, the three-day event is a celebration of all things Sasquatch, featuring a number of Bigfoot-themed vendors, speakers, and celebrities (yes, there are Bigfoot celebrities). I was particularly excited to meet Cliff Barackman, formerly of Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot,” as well as Dr. Jeff Meldrum, professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State University. OK, so it’s not George Clooney and Keanu Reeves. But in the world of Bigfoot, you can’t find two bigger personalities related to the subject.
Being two of the first attendees to arrive, as soon as we set up our camp, Boogieface and I walked over to the event area and immediately met and took pictures with Cliff and Dr. Meldrum. I’m not sure if my daughter cared all that much, but I was school-girl-giddy enough for the both of us.
The festival officially kicked off later that afternoon with a welcome by Altman, followed by a “town hall” where a few brave attendees shared their own personal Bigfoot sightings with the crowd. There was even a “Yeti Yowl” contest, where kids had the chance to showcase their best Bigfoot calls. Boogs and I just sat and soaked it all in while enjoying a Bigfoot-sized meal of chili dogs and cheesy-bacon-ranch fries.
Later that evening, we joined Eric and a family of four for a twilight hike in the thick forest surrounding the property. By the time we hit the turnaround point and started making our way back, the woods were eerily dark and foreboding. Pulling up the rear, I kept glancing back, looking — hoping — to catch a glimpse of a tall, dark, shadowy figure somewhere back down the trail. But, alas, it was just us homo sapiens.
Back at camp, I enjoyed an ice-cold one while Boogieface stuffed her face with I-don’t-know-how-many s’mores. That night I had a restless sleep, mostly due to a very vocal barred owl, but also because of the cacophony of snores from a few of my fellow nearby campers.
Saturday I woke up bright and early at 6 a.m. thanks to some loud neighbors — both the campers and the local song birds. With nothing on the event schedule until 10 a.m., my daughter and I jumped in the car for the short ride to Ohiopyle, one of Pennsylvania’s most scenic and visited outdoor locales.
After grabbing a coffee at Bittersweet Cafe, we headed back to the campground and spent some time perusing the vendor area. Boogs picked out a pair of Bigfoot earrings for herself and a necklace for her little bro. We didn’t get Mommy anything, though (which I’m sure she greatly appreciated). Meanwhile, I got a chance to chat with two other paragons of the paranormal, Stan Gordon, author of Silent Invasion: The Pennsylvania UFO-Bigfoot Casebook, and Seth Breedlove, founder of Small Town Monsters.
That afternoon we endured the blazing sun while listening to a talk by Dr. Paul G. Johnson. A professor of chemistry at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Dr. Johnson spoke of some of the more bizarre local Bigfoot sightings involving creatures that were seen disappearing in plain sight, floating across lonely country roads, or even being shot at point-blank range with no effect. He explained: “Pennsylvania Bigfoots can mimic the rules of quantum physics.” He then went on to attempt to explain his theory, but it was just too hot out to be thinking that hard. Instead, Boogs and I headed off to take a dip in the campground swimming pool. Not surprisingly, no one cared that we were swimming in our clothes. Such is the campground life.
Later on, back at the event, we really enjoyed Stan Gordon’s presentation on Bigfoot and high-strangeness. We also indulged in another heaping helping of cheesy-bacon-ranch fries, this time with a bit of processed chicken thrown on top. You know, to make it “healthier.” After that we headed back to camp, hoping that sometime during the night we’d get a visit from the hairy man of the woods. (At least I was.)
By the end of the weekend, we still hadn’t seen any Bigfoots (Bigfeet?); we did enjoy some amazing father-daughter time, and cast what could’ve been an actual Bigfoot print. (You can read all about it HERE.) Best of all, Boogieface already told me she wants to come back again next year.
Looks like we’ve got another Bigfooter in the family! (Sincere apologies to my wife…)
by Valentine J. Brkich, July 2019
Hailing from the charming town of Beaver, Pa., Val and his wife enjoy discovering other small towns and dragging their two young children along for the ride (sometimes literally). Read his blog SmallTownDad.com and follow him on Twitter @valentinebrkich.
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