The inclination to believe in the fantastic may strike some as a failure in logic, or gullibility, but it’s really a gift. A world that might have Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster is clearly superior to one that definitely does not. ~ Chris Van Allsburg
I had planned a week off to go to Sequoia National Park and spend some time out in the forest with the giant redwoods. I had gotten the time off, booked my rooms and was waiting to see if one of the cabins would be available inside the park on March 24th. When March 24th rolled around I went to the park site to check on cabins and what I found instead was several alerts for the park detailing the damage the recent atmospheric river storms had done. This included washing out the entrance roads, so not only would there be no cabins available, the park itself is likely fully closed until May. I was really disappointed, and after a couple of days of sitting with my disappointment I decided that if I couldn’t see giant trees in central California, I could certainly see them up north. So I made a detour and headed north to Redwoods National Park. The park is actually a series of state and federal parks that run for nearly a hundred miles.
This of course is also Bigfoot Country. I’ve always been interested in cryptozoology and have always had a serious fascination with the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot. In fact, my first presentation in tenth grade was on the Loch Ness Monster which included showing an episode of In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy. This even inspired my first hike in Scotland, the Great Glen Way which ends at Loch Ness. I first entered Bigfoot Country in 1988 when I came to Arcata, California to be the best man in my friend John’s wedding. I even bought a Bigfoot sightings map that hung on my wall wherever I lived for at least a decade afterward. And in searching for an image of it, I found and have just purchased it on eBay.
So since I was making the trek up north I looked into what I might be able to visit related to Bigfoot. What I found was the Bigfoot Museum in Willow Creek, just south of where the most famous Bigfoot sighting and filming took place at Bluff Creek by Patterson and Gimlin.
The Museum at China Flat hosts the Bigfoot Museum collection, it’s one room in the back, but it’s definitely worth the trip. I was excited while reading through the website only to find that I’d be able to be in town on Tuesday, but this time of year the museum was only open Wednesday through Sunday. I was completely devastated until I read a little sentence on the site about possibly open by appointment. Normally I would have just planned not to visit, but I really wanted to go and so I took a shot and fired off an email to the museum. I got a fairly quick reply back from the director who was very nice and the message said that if there was a volunteer available, we might be able to work something out. A day or so later another email came in saying that a volunteer name Terri could be available at noon on the day I was in the area. I was totally excited!
Willow Creek is no metropolis and other than a few restaurants, there isn’t a lot there. But I got into town about an hour early, walked around and checked out the Bigfoot Capital of the World. It’s a cute little town, people were generally nice and welcoming and there’s a nice little park next to the museum.
At the appointed time I walked up to the Museum to meet Terri, who greeted me by name as I arrived. She was super friendly and nice, and by chance I even got to meet the director I’d been emailing with, she was also incredibly welcoming and nice. The main part of the museum is really interesting, there are a lot of cool little exhibits about the history of the area. Terri was super knowledgeable and clued me in to some of the neat facts about the exhibits that I wouldn’t have picked up on my own.
But of course, the big prize for me was the Bigfoot Exhibit. The exhibit is in the back corner of the museum and while not a big room has a ton of information and displays. For the uninitiated, the room will give you a great background into the Bigfoot phenomenon. For those of us that have been digging into this for some time, it’s a bit like coming home. Yes, I knew the general history of Bigfoot, I’d seen the lists of sightings, well over 100, as well as the details of some of the more famous cases. But the real treasure of this museum is two things. First, the casts, there are a bunch of casts including a lot of casts that Gimlin made including some replicas of the casts from the famous film.
There was also some cool info on some DNA testing from a local sample that matched human-ape DNA but didn’t match any known DNA specifically.
The second treasure of the museum is the fact that it’s there, that the volunteers have been around this for there adult life. Terri was full of stories, but not the stories you expect. There are notebooks in the museum where people have written down stories of encounters. But the stories I found really fascinating were those about how the museum got started, the donations by Bob Gimlin that made it possible and a further donation that included an early copy of the Patterson-Gimlin film. The early copy was digitized and is likely the one you now see when you watch Bigfoot documentaries. Terri was amazing and a wealth of information about the researchers and especially Bob Gimlin. It wasn’t what I expected but it was so much better than I could have hoped for.
Of course there was also Bigfoot merch and I loaded up, cool stuff, decent prices and so my nieces and nephews are all getting there own Bigfoot gear. The museum was a blast, even got to give Bigfoot a little fist bump before heading out to the Mexican restaurant next door, for a very solid and huge portioned lunch before leaving town. The museum was fun and I’m thinking now I’ll have to make a return visit for Bigfoot Daze in July. If you’re a Bigfoot fan, definitely worth the visit.