I have to confess that I was attracted to this hike because of what is billed as the world’s only genuine Bigfoot trap. In 1974, a serious-sounding organization called the North American Wildlife Research Team responded to a miner’s report of 18-inch human-like footprints near Grouse Creek by building a substantial trap designed to lure in the most canny of Bigfoot. The trap was baited regularly for six years, but only nabbed a couple of hungry bears. By 1980, with the completion of the Applegate Dam and the formation of Applegate Lake, the area was no longer remote, and the project was abandoned. The Forest Service repaired the trap in 2006, basically as a tourist attraction, but the longer hike I did, about 11 miles, furnished other delights as well.
I began at the trailhead near Hart-tish Park above Applegate Lake, only a few miles from the California border. The route heads up Grouse Creek and, about ¾ mile up, the trail splits with the left fork leading in short order to the Bigfoot trap. The structure is solidly framed with telephone poles, 10’ x 10’ and 8 ½ feet tall. A heavy metal trapdoor is attached to a cable that was baited (the door now locked in place to prevent the imprisonment of any passer-by). Below the trap is a pile of planks, the remains of what was the caretaker’s cabin.
I continued hiking up the creek. I soon passed what appeared to be a Hiker trap, perhaps set by the local Bigfoot. Although I couldn't see any trip wires or trigger lines, I dared not touch this carefully laid enticement and left it for someone more gullible than me. The trail continued in a mixed forest of Douglas-fir, Jeffrey pine, some sugar pine, madrone, canyon live oak, black oak, and white-leaf manzanita. I soon passed the adits of a prospect – the area attracted miners looking for copper ore and mercury. Then the trail kept winding up to reach a ridge which offered views north to Steve Peak and Grayback Mountain.
From this ridge, there was a descent and then another rise along serpentine slopes to get views into California of snow-capped Cook and Green Butte, Red Butte, and Kangaroo Mountain. The trail doesn’t reach the viewless summit of Collings Mountain, but passes over a high shoulder. Then began the winding descent. Coming into a gully, I startled a Bigfoot . . . er, bear that went lumbering up the opposite slope. I was reminded for the umpteenth time that, apart from the odd psycho with a hatchet, I am by far the most terrifying creature in the wilderness.
When I got to Watkins Campground at the bottom of the mountain, I discovered that my bear had a reputation. From here, still not having encountered a single other human, I took the Da-Ku-Be-Te-De Trail (pronounced daw-coo-beh-TEE-dee) Trail, named after a small local band of Indians, above the high water mark of Applegate Lake to complete the loop.
I passed the boat ramp which is actually where the road to the little settlement of Copper disappears beneath the lake waters. (Copper was abandoned to be drowned when the dam was completed in 1980.) There were more views back to the same California peaks, other Siskiyou wildflowers in bloom, and I witnessed a vicious spat between a bald eagle and an osprey before I turned up to get back to my car.
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