Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Iggy look-a-likes, and Whippoorwills...in Wawa land

I had never been to New Jersey, much less the Pine Barrens. The thought of 1.1 million acres of unique forested landscape between Philadelphia and Atlantic City, seemed interesting, and something I've always wanted to explore.
The spring NESRA expedition would take place there, in the Wharton SF...within the NJ Pine Barrens. I made the 7 1/2 hour drive there, after work in the the overnight hours. I was pumped up with instant energy drink, but that did not make driving through almost 90 miles of thick fog from Binghamton to Allentown, any better. AAA can shove their trip ticket, as I found a much better way to get into Jersey, than through the heart of Philly....and the 6 hour time estimate, is not for anyone using cautious and defensive driving skills, at night. I missed the exit I wanted, and came into the forest from the south, which turned out interesting, to see the pigmy pined forest on each side of the Atlantic City Expressway.
In the town of Hammonton, I experienced a lot of hurried (ride your bumper) type of drivers. I was in no hurry, and was just making sure I was following the right roads in. At a stop sign, I had to pull out left onto a divided highway, that had a fair amount of traffic. While waiting for my chance to pull out, I heard the constant horn of the driver behind me, and upon looking in my rear view mirror....saw him waving his arms and flipping me off, from his convertable sports car. Apparently, he thought it was Ok to pull out into on coming traffic with my big, loaded boat....and that I was driving like grandma (?) I could feel myself starting to get pissed, and when I finally did get the chance to pull out, I pulled over to let the jerk by me, and if he wanted to discuss the situation...all the better. My anger turned to amazement, as the dude drove by in the weird looking orange colored Lamborghini, and continued to throw me the bird...but didn't have the nuts to stop, and put it in my face, and tell me what he thought of my cautious driving. When I looked at his face, it was like a blast from the past...the splitting image of punk rock icon, Iggy Popp. Right down to the eyelashes, mop hair, short bangs style, no shirt, facial features...a dead ringer (a saw his act twice, on stage). It obviously wasn't the real "Iguana", as Iggy is well into his 60s now. So, for most of the weekend, I had this song buzzing around relentlessly, in my head (ever had that happen ?) :


I wonder if two roadies had to carry this dude into his leather bucket seat?
Conclusion, the closer you get to the megalopolus near the Atlantic (Beantown, NYC, Jersey, Philly, Baltimore,Washington).....the more aggressive and impatient, the drivers. All the more fascinating, that there is a large tract of wild forest left preserved, within this mass of humanity.
I arrived at the ranger station early, and walked around a bit. I took a nap, and then met my NESRA contact (Mike), who was the only one that would be at the meeting location, for this expedition. We got the skinny from the forestry people, and proceeded down the narrow white sand duned forest roads , to the heart of the forest, and parking area. We hiked into the primitive camp, and set up our tents and organized our gear. This was truly a large and beautiful area, next to a branch of river, that had very red-brown and slow moving to still waters. It turned out to be the norm, for this area, as we encountered the same in all of the water locations we visited. An explanation for this can be found here:


We hiked and scouted out a large open area, that we thought suitable for our first night operations location, where we would observe this area from a hill, with night vision.... and listen, with our audio setups. We had no success in finding any unusual tracks, accept for a couple questionable depressions...that could have come from many sources. I also did a test run on my new helmet cam, that seemed to need repositioning forward on my helmet, after my partner (Mike) pointed out that the angle of the video, was probably pointing up in the lower tree branches. Dinner was fast, as we were assaulted by mosquitoes (at dusk), that seemed to like flying into my mouth, and following the trail of hot Bush beans and giant hotdogs, from hand to mouth. Just one of the things you have to put up with, in a boggy environment. When my partner went to pick up our third member (John) at the ranger station..., I waited by the vehicle, and just listened in the dark, before the mosquitoes drove me into my vehicle....that was also filled with mosquitoes.....nice ! The good news was, I don't recall getting many bites...just constantly buzzed and annoyed. The tropical insect repellent I used overseas, seemed to do well here, also.
After John arrived, we let him eat, and helped get him set up in camp. The other two guys that were camping in the other end of the area, came down and talked while we were setting up, and asked Mike for a ride to their vehicle, claiming the forest station folks had not told them how to drive to the parking spot, where we were parked. The guy offered to buy our ice (that I needed) and anything else, for the ride. Possible... yes, but I found the story and the guys...a little far fetched. Just a feeling (survived , so far...with my gut feelings) I had about these guys. One was doing all the talking, while the other was looking a bit like Egor (a nutty, kiss ass, tag along type) that just grunted and looked around all crazy eyed. The shirt he was wearing "White Trash and Proud of It" gave the rest away...to me, anyhow. Other than this rather bold (but well ending) encounter, they kept to themselves...so, absolutely no harm done.
Our night opps took place on a hill we scouted out earlier, that overlooked a large open sandy area. We got a little excited when I heard and recorded a set of 9 distant knocks...that after further review and talking to John (he listened to the recorded track) back at camp...turned out to be our neighbor buddies chopping up more wood, for their fire. We were about a mile and a half out of camp, and well with in the pickup range of my dish and mics. The ongoing sound of Whippoorwill courtship (or maybe nesting?) could be heard all around in the forest. Other than that...a dead calm and silence, that was rather eerie. We were out, and up till 4 AM, but did not have any other results. While driving back to camp on the sandy narrow road, Mike's headlights revealed... none other, than our camp neighbors walking in the opposite direction. After talking for a bit, we found out, that they decided to walk (in the pitch black darkness) back (Lord only knows, how far) to get their vehicle. The Egor looking dude was sharing down at me, and saying nothing (like usual). That's when it hit me, that he really looked just like the older kid enforcer (Malachai) , from the first Steven King horror flick "Children of the Corn". There was something strange there, and I didn't want to find out, what. A comfortable distance between us , and them.... is what I wanted.
The Whippoorwill activity got rather intense, a couple hours before dawn. I think these recordings will attest to that, recorded from my tent set up in camp. I even got some owl action along with the whippoorwills. Some of the close up Whippoorwill events (within our camp) can be heard here, at these two links :



The following day we hiked along a trail that followed the river, but after a while, we realized that there were no muddy or sandy areas (or riverbank) to speak of, to look for tracks...only an immediate drop off from the forest, into the red-brown water. We heard a dog barking, and then saw that a family had taken the dog along in the boat, for the canoe adventure. We turned around and hiked back, finding more spots to check out, away from the river...than near to the river.
We scouted out our 2nd night opp spot by vehicle, before we made an ice run. Our Saturday night position was next to a large pond and forested area, where we set up with chairs and our equipment, and silently viewed the pond and forest with night vision goggles.... and just listened. While Mike was test tapping trees for a set of wood knocks, I had heard what sounded like a whistle (through the teeth) coming from the forest on the east side of the pond. We walked up the road near the area, and scanned with the goggles (and saw nothing), and even tried a couple of our own whistles, to maybe provoke a response...but nothing. After I got home and reviewed the entire recording, the "whistle" turned out to be a deer blow. The clip can be heard here, and there are actually a few deer blows, and the sounds of a deer bounding around:


The next day, we packed up leisurely, and could tell it was going to get hot. On our first night there, we actually had the heat cranked in the vehicle, and bundled up in the tent.... as the temps went down much lower (clear sky and calm), than forecast. While hiking out of camp with full packs and equipment, we came across 3 younger guys that asked us where they could find the pump toilet, and some water...as they were running low (and probably had to crap). They also, did not have a vehicle anywhere nearby, and looked very exhausted...with a story of how they hiked all day, and didn't find this campground, slept out in the forest, and didn't seem to know exactly where they were. One of the guys followed me up and asked me (politely) if it would somehow be possible to catch a ride out of the forest, and if I owned the big vehicle. The three of them were all around my son's age (early twenties) and looked like... they'd really had enough. They also had a dog, that was thirsty. We gave everyone some water, and I rearranged my vehicle to accommodate sitting everyone for the ride out. Although I was happy to help out these guys, it did distract me from doing my own gear check, and the usual things one would do, before leaving a camp area.
We got everyone (and my vehicle) out of the forest without incident, and I ended up taking them to the nearest store, so they could eat, drink, and wait for their ride, in comfort. I said my goodbyes to Mike and John, and proceeded to drive to one of the famous area mini marts in this region (on Mike and John's suggestion), to check it out, and get another large cold drink for the long ride.
It was at the Wawa store, that it hit me like a hammer....my f@#%ing recorder was still in a tree and recording, from where I left it, near the parked vehicles for the last overnight.........damn. After multiple awe shits, and curses....there was no doubt...I Was going back for it. At least I was not yet out of Jersey, or even worse ...back home in NY, before the thought had occurred.
It took another 3 hours, before I was back by the same Wawa (where I stopped again for more drinks, and a sub). I did not go all the way back, to where we parked near camp, because of the fear of my big rear wheel drive"burban" getting stuck in them sand dunes, with no one around to help me. On the very hot and sweaty walk back in , I spotted a lizard sliding through the white sand dunes...very cool, and the only highlight of this little unplanned return. And after researching it..... came to the conclusion that it was definitely, this:


So, what is with this Wawa thing here, I'm hearing.... and just what the hell is a Wawa ? It's Jerseys and Eastern PAs (and elsewhere in the region) version of our Seven Eleven.
Anyway, I thought it was a nice store, and it had it all..... and the AC was blasting. The people were even.... friendly ! I had asked Mike about it, earlier, and he seemed to think that the name could be a take off, on the Beach Boys classic song (Little GTO).
Well, after getting caught in an hour long Sunday traffic jam in the heat, from the Jersey shore crowd, all trying to get on the Turnpike, at once..... I'd really had enough. For the long seven hour plus ride home, I had That Beach Boys song (to replace the Iggy one) buzzing around in my head, relentlessly...but it Was, a damn good sub.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Why am I going to continue my journey into bigfootery ?

The question has been asked, to me. To start with.....I'm interested in the phenomenon. I first and foremost want to prove this creature exists, to myself....as seeing is believing. I'm almost totally convinced now, but I need to see it for myself. This must come first, before I would ever consider trying to prove it to anyone else. I don't consider this selfish...it's just the way it is, with me. So far, I've experienced enough strange unexplained things happening out there, to more than keep me interested. Were all these incidents sasquatch related ? I'm not completely sure on that, but suspect that they very well could be. Whatever unknown source caused them... I would very much like to find out, more about. This blog contains many of those experiences, and I'm hoping there are more to come. I would like to be able to explain them...first, to myself. These incidents have only been a tease, and I feel the need to go out and (at least try to) get more solid answers. Forums are helpful for gathering information, and I've met a lot of good people in my internet travels ... and also some not so nice ones, of whom I try to avoid, and not argue with...about things that none of us are really sure of. Anyway, the answers are not there on the internet... they are out there in the forest....... somewhere.
The other things that have convinced me.... is my wife's eyewitness encounter (as a young girl, in the Philippines), and hearing from indigenous tribesman (that had no qualms about telling us... that hairy, stinky "wildmen" do exist out there, in the mountainous regions of remote forest, on Luzon) ..... half a world away. Also, the sheer amount of witness reports, and the similarities of the reports across N. America and elsewhere... although I can accept that a certain percentage of these reports, are BS. What percent are actually real ?, I really haven't a clue...and neither does anyone else.
I tend to give the person telling the encounter story.... the benefit of the doubt, first. I can't see how someone reading a forum, can "red flag" a witness report, when they have nothing other than the report itself, to compare it too...and know nothing about the witness, personally. Just because certain folks are top dog posters on a forum, and have "heard it all", it doesn't make them capable of determining a true story, or a made up story....by just reading a report, or someone's post about a field incident.
At the same time, I am puzzled how the investigator taking the report can deem a witness "credible", by only a phone conversation. On a face to face interview...I can understand coming to a conclusion about a witness and account story. Witnesses are the best thing we have, in exploring this phenomenon, and should Always be treated with respect....whether one chooses to believe their incident story, or not. Respect is disappearing from our society in general, and bigfootery is just another example of that overall trend. Respect is contagious (just like ridicule and disrespect, are)... so it is my guarantee that everyone I deal with in this field of interest...will get that respect, from me...to start with.
I can understand some people involved with this research.... wanting to remain anonymous , to protect their professions and families, from some of the elements out there, that could do them damage. For me, I am beyond the point of caring what others think of me, in regards to my interest in the subject, within my family, friends, or at work. I will laugh out loud, the day someone tells me at work....to "come down off that ladder", or out from under that dirty crawl space or work station....and renounce any beliefs in sasquatch....or take my tools and get out.
My family does not worry about it. My wife worries more about my safety, and me not coming home from an expedition, or camping trip. She has seen a version of this thing, and already knows it exists. I give my little daughter, and my older son.... the straight answers (what little I really know) about my interests.
My long time friend and camping partner, no longer smiles at me...when I speak of the strangeness of the investigations. He has taken on a different attitude, since experiencing an incident while we were camping together (in an area with a previous witness report), last year. My other friends, don't really care at all. If anyone (outside of my family) wants to walk away from me for wanting to continue doing this, to try and get some answers....no big loss, on my part. As far as believing my stories, about my incidents....you either do, or you don't.....no big deal, or hard feelings here. I've never been a good liar, or comfortable telling a fib, or tall tale. I have no need to impress..... anyone.
I don't want to get deeply involved in the seemingly endless politics of bigfootery, that is mainly conflicts between people that don't like each other, or just have different opinions.... and has little or nothing to do with the actual field research...which is what I am interested in. This field of interest is not my profession (is it for most folks?) , but a pastime. I've vowed to keep my free time activities....fun, and not filled with unpleasantness, or bickering....like at work. This means, avoiding the people that will make it, not fun. This does not mean I am not serious about the field of interest. You can be serious and still have fun.
I see this as a "can't lose" situation for myself. If all of my future efforts in the field, are unsuccessful, than I still got out into the field, camped, hiked, recorded, was introduced to some awesome new field locations, and met some other like minded folks, that I can call friends.
Bigfootery is just a made up word, for a field of interest that involves field investigations, conferences, gatherings, radio shows, and whole lot of internet chit chat.
I'll stay the course, until I feel that I'm completely wasting my money and time. I can't see that happening, until my body won't carry me out there in the forest, any longer. Let the journey continue.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

NY City....safer, but not cheaper or saner

I had little choice, but to go there. No longer can you renew an international passport, by mail. Another example of how 911 screwed the common folk in America, while others seem to profit from all of the many, post 911 regulations, so we are (of course) , safer ....... hmmmmmm.
My wife and daughter's Philippine passport was due to expire next month, and the Philippine consulate is in midtown Manhattan. I considered driving to the consulate in Toronto, but after adding it up (expenses) and thinking about the border crossings, currency exchange and the Gardner Expressway....naa, notta. Not to mention, that every time some China man airport security screener(while passing through Hong Kong) on route to and from the Philippines, examines my families passports...they Will ask...."why you live in NY, and this issued in Canada?...please step over here..... please".
I booked the flights, took a day off from work....and hoped for the best, in NYC. The only good part of the trip, was the flight down. From there, we waited in a taxi stand and then caught a cab to midtown. If anyone has ever traveled on the Van Wyck, during rush hour.... you already know what a nut house it is. Cabbies are all foreigners, and aggressive drivers, that will scare the crap out of you, all the way in, for the hellish ride in bumper to bumper traffic coming at you from everywhere. Fortunately, my wife and daughter slept through it all.
The Philippine consulate on 5th Ave, is not unlike any government building that I experienced while in the Philippines. In fact, it is a little slice of that experience...right here in the USA. Crowded, never enough chairs or space to get out of your own way, hot (no fans or AC), and an important looking Pinoy wearing a Barong Tagalog...pointing everywhere, and not speaking his known English (Yes, this is America). Despite this confusing (not to my wife, of course) run around pain in the ass....the process of paperwork, fingerprints, and photos all went ok, and was done there at the consulate, in an hour and a half. Everyone smiles there, at least. The main reason we went...is accomplished.
We caught another cab to Battery Park, so that my wife and daughter (and me) could experience the ferry ride to the Statue, and Ellis Island. The ride was bumpy, with the Arab looking cabby heavy on both the brakes, and gas peddle. My daughter has a riding motion sickness, and it kicked in high gear. You would think he would slow down and ease up some...well, not a chance. My daughter lost her breakfast, lunch.... and was suffering. When we finally arrived, there was a thick line of people, that I estimate was at least a quarter mile long, or longer. I don't believe we would have made a ferry ride, much before sundown . Due to my daughter's terrible condition, we canceled our restaurant plans (Jollybee, in Queens) and told the cabby to head back to JFK....which he was more than happy to reset his meter, and charge again, the flat fee ($45 plus more fees and ass burn) . The traffic at noon, was still heavy, and something told me...it always is. We were lucky to get on an earlier flight out, after canceling our later, planned one. We flew standby, and some nice lady made sure my wife and daughter sat together, by exchanging seats.
Although I've done my share of bitching in this post, let me take the time to compliment Jet Blue airlines for a hassle free trip, a free drink and snack each way, and for hiring two very nice and courteous stewardess ...that we had each way on the trip, and were very good to my wife and sick little girl. A refreshing change from the white trash acting stewardess hags, and the babbling, lisping feminine stewards.... that we had on our last several intercontinental flights on American Airlines. The pilot came through for us, with a safe landing , after another rough decent into Rochester (I've had more than a few, now) with gusty westerly winds.
This trip reminded me of why I was anxious to come home, after working in Manhattan back in the '80s. The streets are still smelly, crowded, and not any wider (accept for Broadway, and the Times Square area). Here's a rundown on the expenses :
Airfare for three.... $480
Passport renewals and photos....$120
Taxi fares...$120
Lost wages (unpaid day off)....$190
Meal and snacks...$60
On airport parking...$11
My wife and daughters passports renewed, so they can travel at will, to the country of their birth..... priceless