There are differing points of view on the nature of our favorite enigmatic forest creature. Are bigfoots gentle giants who prefer their space, yet mean humans no real harm? Or are they bloodthirsty maniacs lying in wait for something soft, weak, and pink to murder? What about all those people who go missing in the woods — are bigfoots to blame?
On the morning of July 18, 2007, Barbara Bolick set out on a hike. She and her husband Carl had been entertaining out-of-state visitors at their Corvallis, MT home. Barbara’s favorite thing to do when she had visitors was to take them up the Bear Overlook Trail, one of the Bitterroot Valley’s most spectacular day hikes.
So the 55-year-old woman tossed snacks, water, and the .357 that her husband always insisted she carry, into a day pack. She opted to leave her wallet, ID, and passport at home. She told her husband she’d be back that afternoon, and along with family friend Jim Ramaker, set out for the trailhead. Bolick had been on the Bear Overlook trail many times before and knew the terrain. She was an experienced hiker and physically fit. The two friends reached the overlook, had a snack, and enjoyed the scenery. Ramaker lingered to take in the view, and Bolick turned back down the trail. It was a matter of moments, Ramaker insisted, maybe a minute at most, that she was out of his sight. But when he went to rejoin his hiking companion, he found she was simply gone.
I remember this case well. Bolick was all over our local news. Search teams combed the area for weeks and found no trace. Bolick had apparently vanished into thin air.
Nine years later, this case remains a mystery. Did Bolick have a sudden medical emergency? Was she attacked by a wild animal, a mountain lion perhaps? Did she slip and fall, maybe hit her head, become disoriented, wander away? Was foul play involved?
If you’ve spent any amount of time on internet bigfoot forums or Facebook groups lately, you may have noticed a trend of attributing such missing-persons cases to marauding bigfoots. The giant hairy creatures could reach out and grab a woman Bolick’s size (she was about 5 feet tall and 115 pounds) in an instant, proponents of this theory might say, and no one would be ever the wiser. In this part of the country, the bigfoot-as-homicidal-maniac theory seems to gain additional traction because it’s the same general area as the classic Teddy Roosevelt “Bauman” story. It’s scary out there, goes the subtext. Bigfoot’s big and it could get you.
But let’s be honest: the world offers enough danger without adding people-snatching bigfoots into the mix. Those of us who spend time in the outdoors understand that Mother Nature can provide a peaceful haven, but she’s a fickle broad who can turn the tables on you in an instant. If you’ve ever been hiking and caught in a sudden blizzard, where everything within a few feet of you is invisible under a curtain of white, you know what I mean. If you’ve ever tried to ford a stream only to discover it’s much deeper and faster than you thought it was, you’ve gotten a taste of Mama N’s wrath. Or if you’ve ever experienced that sinking feeling after discovering you’re on the wrong trail and headed the opposite direction from your car, you can probably understand what I mean. It’s not hard to become disoriented or lose your way. Circumstances can quickly overwhelm you. “Danger and wilderness go hand in hand,” writes Lee Whittlesey in his book, Death in Yellowstone. “That is one of the attractions of wilderness.”
Point is, freak accidents can – and do – occur. It is sad but true that people simply go missing all the time. I can recall a laundry list of missing-persons cases, just within the last ten years, just here in the Northern Rockies. Many missing people are found — years later, in some cases — but a few are never located. Obviously, we have no evidence that a bigfoot was involved in any of these cases; most often, we have no evidence at all. I don’t know what happens to these people, but I do know that no good comes from stirring the pot. So get out there, take a hike, enjoy the forest. Just watch yourself out there. Bigfoot or no bigfoot, it’s an unforgiving world.
For more information on the Bolick case, visit http://missoulanews.bigskypress.com/missoula/vanished/Content?oid=1925180 and http://missoulian.com/news/local/mystery-lingers-around-woman-s-disappearance/article_11cf437d-1f68-54f8-8277-e336dcd6e7f3.html.