Monday, January 21, 2008


Guadalupe State Park

It was in the fall of 2005 when my family decided to go camping at Guadalupe State Park – twenty miles of river terrain preserved for the public. Guadalupe State Park is approximately 90 miles southwest from my doorstep. Driving from San Antonio, you would go northwest about 30 miles.

Airing our tent for the upcoming camping trip!

That morning my family packed our tent, sleeping bags and ice coolers and headed for the beautiful hill country. It was a gorgeous sunny drive, and we admired the dotted terrain of live oak and juniper trees. As we drew closer to the state park we became more excited. The area became dense with trees adding promises of the nearby river and its cool refreshing waters!

After checking in with the ranger at the station, we paid our camping fees and drove past several camping sites to get to the river itself. The park was virtually empty, except for one or two RV’s parked privately behind some trees.

One of the benefits about home schooling is LESS CROWDS! We choose our activities around public school schedules, to avoid tourists and large groups. While most families are home after vacations, we take advantage of the slow season and the low prices!

The large empty parking lot led to a sloping grass bank overlooking the water. Picnic tables on the grassy slope overlooked the sandy beach. What commanded our attention were the limestone cliffs across the river. Nestled within the canyon walls were tiny caves. Casting their shade alongside the river were the towering cypress trees!

Limestone canyon overlooking the Guadalupe River

The water looked crystal clear and inviting. Off in the distance we could hear the rapids. It was in that direction that our campsite was reserved. We had decided to camp primitive style. Other than a nearby faucet, we would have no electricity or amenities. I was anxious to see our camp site before jumping in the river, so we loaded back into the car and searched for our campground. The map that the ranger had provided, led us directly to an empty parking lot. Next to the bathroom was a dirt trail that led into the woods. We would have to carry all of our gear by foot to our campsite.

We chose the very last campsite hidden among the trees and overlooking the river. Although we couldn’t see the river below, we could hear the rapids. A steep path winded itself down from our campsite through the wooded cliff leading down into the rocky beach and the gnarled trunks of the cypress trees.

The rapids below our campsite.

Amidst my protests, the kids excitedly dropped their gear on the ground and disappeared down the trail.

We had three kids that day -- My 16-year-old son, Joshua, my 8-year-old daughter, Pamela, and my 14-year-old cousin, Sean, who spent the summer with us.

While my husband and kids climbed down the trail, I sorted through our gear. I looked in the direction of the parking lot and made a mental note about the hike. We would have to walk in pairs to the bathroom at night and carry a flashlight. My husband had reassured me that the park ranger would check up on us at least once during the night.

After my family returned from exploring, we pitched the tent, unloaded the car and returned by foot to the river. We took a trail that led from the parking lot, and started from the opposite direction of our campsite. This trail was well traveled and easier to follow, leading directly to the riverbed and picnic area we had earlier visited. We swam, splashed in the water, explored the canyon walls and afterwards returned to the campsite to cook our meal. After we ate, we explored the woods alongside our tent that lined the cliff of the river. We trudged through patches of fields and tangled trees, carefully watching for snakes. Off to the side we spotted the carcass of a wild turkey, freshly killed and partially devoured. We speculated over the animals that lived within the woods. Not wanting to explore too far, and chancing getting lost, we returned to camp.

As the sun started to drop behind the trees, we found ourselves rechecking our kerosene lantern and inspecting our campfire. In the ice cooler, we had packages of bratwurst to brown over the open fire. On the table, we had a bag of marshmallows. Everything was enclosed tightly within the coolers and what food we weren’t eating, we had stored inside the tent. Raccoons are notorious for getting into campsites and LIFTING LIDS to the coolers. We stored heavy objects on our ice chest to keep prying claws and noses out.

As expected, as soon as the sun disappeared and the darkness overtook our camp, my husband suggested a HIKE! Yikes! I was tired from our long trip, and hot sunny afternoon swimming, setting up camp and exploring. I wanted to just sit back and enjoy the campfire.

Begging off to not join them, my husband and two boys took off into the darkness while my daughter and I stared at each other from across the picnic table. In the woods from the opposite direction that my husband had taken, we could hear crunching sounds over dry leaves. “Tiny feet” walking through the woods at night when you’re all alone has a tendency to sound like “big feet”… My daughter and I stared off into the woods for a moment, listening to the sounds, glancing at one another. In the opposite direction we could hear the guys, disappearing further and further away, an occasional whoop or holler off in the distance, until finally… no more sounds except for the crunching noises nearby.

Spotting a deck of cards on the picnic table, I suggested, CRAZY EIGHT!

We played game after game, occasionally pausing to listen for the guys, or to speculate about the sounds. Shining a flashlight, we caught glimpses of an armadillo, or opossum, boldly appearing into our camp.

There’s something about being surrounded by darkness. Sitting next to a campfire and kerosene lantern gives you the impression that you are being watched. You feel vulnerable and on a pedestal. Like a beckoning arm, the light and heat draws in creatures large and small from the darkness, closer and closer to our campsite. Satiating curiosities, yet increasing our own.

We had probably played about twenty games of Crazy Eight, with no sights or sounds of the guys. Unanimously, my daughter and I decided to zip ourselves inside the netted tent. There on the tent floor under the shadows, we continued playing game after card came, ignoring the sounds of the woods, laughing a bit too loudly, flippantly teasing one another, louder and louder, subconsciously muffling the sounds around us, forcing our minds to stay on the game…

Two raccoons were climbing on top of our picnic table. A fishing pole got knocked to the ground. With more relief than we dared to admit, the guys walked into camp! My daughter and I ecstatically unzipped ourselves from the tent and rushed to their side. Animals skittered into the woods. The boys were full of excitement, and gushed about their hike. I noticed that my cousin Sean was about to say something when my husband poked him in the ribs. My son, Joshua pulled out the bratwurst and our attention circled around the campfire. I was dragging one of our camping chairs towards the fire when I noticed a large rock roll across the ground past my feet.

“Did you see that?!” Sean yelled.

Another rock skittered past. I glanced over at Josh, but realized he was engrossed with the food.

“SSSHHH!!” scolded my husband. Sean protested something under his breath and my husband spoke to him quietly.

I was under the impression that my husband didn’t want Sean to say something that would frighten the group. I didn’t question what was going on, but decided to ask about it later.

We sat around the campfire talking about our day, until finally our eyes became droopy. I was surprised that everyone agreed to turn in early. It was probably sometime around 11 p.m. I was slightly annoyed that we never saw the park ranger. Usually they do their rounds just before they lock up the state park. My husband figured since the park was virtually empty, they probably didn’t feel a need to search the area. Earlier that day while at the river, we spotted another couple with a young toddler. We figured they had visited the park to swim, but were not campers. On that particular day, the state park had less than a handful of people, including my family. We had the river to ourselves. We felt all alone, blanketed in the woods, the river gushing below.

Inspecting our ice chests against critters, we zipped our perishables inside our tent and bunkered down on our sleeping bags. I left all the flaps to the tent unzipped, allowing the moonlight to filter in. The netting protected us against the mosquitoes, and the prying bugs. The campfire died down to a glowing ember, getting smaller and smaller as the night turned colder.

Both boys were snoring and by the even breathing of my daughter, I could tell she was asleep. I tossed and turned, listening to my family sleep.

I started to fall asleep when I heard a noise. I was wide awake, listening to the night. Coming from the direction of the canyons I heard another roar. Directly behind our tent, possibly over the river, on top of the canyon, something was moving.

“Did you hear that?” My husband whispered. By this time my daughter too had awakened and slid between my husband and I. Josh was awake too and we snuggled under our sleeping bags staring at the roof of the tent. The campfire was dead, and the woods were quiet. We decided it was probably a bear.

Long moments of silence and weariness took over and others began to snore again. I lied awake trying to figure out the sounds. Without a doubt, it was a very large creature!

It wasn’t until we were packed and safely on the road home that the real story came out.

My husband and boys confided that their late night hiking trip had consisted of another visitor.

SOMETHING was throwing rocks at them from the direction of the canyon. While they walked along the rocky edge of the riverbed, rocks were being thrown from off the top of the canyon and landing at their feet. Occasionally they stopped walking and shone their flashlights over the river and up and down the canyons. There was nobody on the beach. Something had to have a powerful aim to throw rocks from the canyon. Another rock spiraled from over the river, landing at their feet!

Not easily swayed by the incident, my husband steered the boys down another path away from the river. They hiked through the darkened trail, their lights pointing the way. After awhile, my husband became conscious that something was following them. He had an eerie sense that they were being watched. Muffled by the darkness, he heard something large hit the ground. It sounded as if something or someone had jumped down from a tree.
More rocks were thrown. That awful smell again, as though something was dead.

Sean was terrified, as Josh was lagging behind the group. My husband wanted to wait for Josh to catch up. Sean didn’t want to stop and backtrack, but to move quickly for camp!

Unaware of the prior events, I was oblivious to what had happened when the guys arrived. Although I had seen the rocks thrown at our group, I was not aware that my husband and boys had been followed to our campsite.

Whatever it was, whoever it was, stopped throwing rocks after we settled around the campfire.

After we got home, my husband and I searched the Internet for sound files of large animals. We tried unsuccessfully to identify the roars that we had heard. The closest we came to identifying the noise, was that of a bear. But to this day, I’m not especially sure this is what we heard.

In all honesty, we can try to rationalize every experience we had at the campsite. The noises, the stalking, the smells… Yet, for the umpteenth time, hundreds of times, over and over in our minds, we cannot rationalize WHO or WHAT was throwing rocks.

Even if the perpetrator was a man throwing rocks, this does not explain the impossible feat of a mere mortal tossing rocks from the top of the canyon, across the river, to the very toes of my husband and boys. Not to mention, whatever it was, had swiftly climbed down the canyon, crossed the river, and stalked the guys directly to our campsite. Do not let the pictures fool you. The canyon is taller and further across the river than the pictures depict!

So all in all, I can laugh away every single event... except for the rock throwing!

A few months later, I was in another part of the house and I caught the last part of the Travel Channel. A policeman was being interviewed about his close call with Bigfoot. He and his partner claimed that something was throwing rocks at them.

Glued to the television, I listened to this report about Sasquatch and Bigfoot. This was the first time I had heard anything about rocks being thrown. This was exactly what had happened to us!

I visited the Texas Bigfoot Research Center online and read about other reports in the Texas area. Although most of the sightings were in East Texas, there were sprinklings of sightings around the hill country. There were no reports at Guadalupe State Park. Hmmm...

Placing the incident on the backburner, only to occasionally dust off the memory and reminiscence with the family -- all thoughts of “Bigfoot” disappeared.

Yet lately, I pay closer attention to these stories of Bigfoot. Whenever I hear that rocks had been thrown, I sit up and take notice!

Sure, I too question the validity of Sasquatch --- After all, WHERE is the evidence? Why are all the pictures so blurry? How come nobody has found a body?

So many questions and so many mysteries! While studying Indian folklore, they too mention this hairy beast that roams the woods and mysteriously appears and disappears.

I finally decided to contact the Texas Bigfoot Research center. I sent off an email and mentioned our camping trip. I made it clear right from the beginning that we were not claiming to have found “Bigfoot” but had been startled by the rock throwing.

A field researcher from San Antonio excitedly called me. He wanted me to explain our camping trip all over again, questioning me further about the stalking, the smells and the roars. Making me promise to not share the sound files, he sent me several sounds of purported sightings that were captured on tape. NOTHING sounded close to what we had heard. In fact, some of the screeches were blood curdling, hair raising-sci-fi, no way would I have slept in my tent another night- types of sounds!

Normally these conferences are held annually in East Texas, but the 2006 conference was canceled. My family ended up visiting Caddo Lake, taking a boat ride and marveling at the ghostly cypress trees!

Eeriely beautiful at Caddo Lake! We do plan to return and camp! Although there are many bigfoot sightings in this area, our biggest fear is toward gators!

I felt foolish listening to these sound files and realize that I never did contact the field researcher with my conclusions. As usual, I got busy, and swamped. Again, the “Bigfoot” incident hit the backburner and all thoughts went away, until the occasional dusting off and reminiscing with the family.

It’s been a couple of years since that day...

Do we want to go back and camp at Guadalupe State park? You bet!

Occasionally, I check the Texas Bigfoot Research center for updates on their website. They STILL have not included our experience. This only proves to me that not everything reported or mentioned gets listed.

There's absolutely no doubt that something, or someone was stalking my family that fall day in 2005. I have no doubt it was a creature. As for it being a man? Well... the thought makes my blood run cold. As my grandmother used to say, she’s more scared of the living, than the dead! (I would have to agree with her on that!)

As for it being a Bigfoot? For some reason this doesn’t scare me.

If I knew without a shadow of doubt that Bigfoot was in those woods, I would be there in a heartbeat setting up camp! Only this time, rather than staying behind alone at camp, I’ll go hiking with the rest of the group!

A person can only endure so many card games of Crazy Eight!


Posh said...

Loved the pictures!!! it makes your experience so much more real.

The WoodLand School said...

I am *completely* freaked out!
Ummm ... we made reservations to camp at this very park!!! I think I'll be holding some all-night Bigfoot Vigils in the tent. Eeek!