Story by Tricia Edgar
Vacay.ca Outdoors Columnist
HARRISON HOT SPRINGS, BRITISH COLUMBIA — My grandfather had stories. Logging up in the mountains, things got a bit wild, and so did the tales of the Sasquatch. You see, he worked near the town of Harrison Hot Springs, home to the great, ape-like creature, or so they say.
Harrison is nestled in the middle of the Coastal Mountains, the range that runs along North America’s Pacific coast and includes Vancouver’s North Shore mountains and the Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort. Next to the town, Harrison Lake extends its long arm into the wilderness for 60 kilometres (37 miles). Although it’s a mere hour and a half from Vancouver by car, when you’re in the town you feel enveloped by trees and the lake, with wilderness all around. The town is famous for its luxurious hot springs, and it’s also famous for the local tales of a wild, hairy, mammoth legend.
British Columbia is home to many amazing creatures, from grizzly bears to soaring bald eagles that gather annually in record numbers to returning salmon that pack the rivers each year. But there are stories of other creatures that are more mysterious as well. The province has its share of cryptozoological wonders, from the Ogopogo of Okanagan Lake to other tales of the Sasquatch in BC’s wild forests.
The Sasquatch story has a long history. Its name comes from the Sts’ailes First Nations’ word “Sa:sq’ets,” which means “hairy man,” and the band’s symbol is that of this spirit creature, who is said to be able to appear and reappear at will. Local First Nations art has long featured the face and the footprints of the Sasquatch. The area around Harrison Lake is particularly famous because of its history of Sasquatch sightings, and Harrison Hot Springs has acted as the hub for Sasquatch enthusiasts for many years.
Inspired by the area’s rich Sasquatch history, Harrison Hot Springs officials are now working to create a museum dedicated to the creature. Slated to open in the spring of 2015, the museum will explore Harrison’s Sasquatch history, from First Nations stories to recent artifacts. The town also hosts a cultural festival called Sasquatch Days each June.
Today, Harrison has it own small band of full-time Sasquatch seekers – their company is Sasquatch Country Adventures. I met with them in Sasquatch Provincial Park, where we set off on an all-terrain vehicle for an adventure in the mountains, where we were intent on finding the elusive wonder and to catch sight of some stunning views.
Even if you don’t glimpse the Sasquatch, you will be entertained by the stories of Bill Miller and Thomas Steenburg of Sasquatch Country Adventures. When he was a boy, Steenburg flipped to a page of an encyclopedia and discovered the tale of this great beast. From that moment, he was absorbed in the Sasquatch story. A childhood interest became an adult vocation, and he’s now a Sasquatch hunter, speaker and author. Miller’s fascination with the Sasquatch began with a chance encounter while camping. He heard something huge move past him in the dark and fog, something on two legs, and so began his fascination with the legend, which in other parts of the world is called Bigfoot or Yeti.
Does Bigfoot Live in British Columbia?
For an animal that may not exist, the Sasquatch has a sizeable share of witnesses. As our jeep travels up the mountain toward a viewpoint over Harrison Lake, Miller describes the many cases that have been documented in the area. From mysterious, giant footprints in the sand to large, hairy bipeds known to steal fish from more than one tourist’s stash, there have been sightings galore, including the capture of a live Sasquatch in 1884, near the town of Yale, which is just down the road from Harrison. The creature was nicknamed Jacko and the story of his capture was published in The Colonist newspaper.
As we reach the viewpoint over Harrison Lake and look across to Echo Island, Miller tells a story of a night that he’ll always remember. Sitting on a boat near the island, he howled loudly across the water, only to hear a series of barks followed by an eerie, hair-raising howl that was not his own. Miller had never heard anything like it, and he wondered if he’d been in conversation with a Sasquatch.
A trip into BC’s wilderness always elicits a feeling of adventure, and Miller and Steenburg’s stories only add to the sensation. Drawn into their stories, I began to think of our excursion as more than a well-narrated trip into the mountains. To me, it was a small part of the ongoing search for signs and clues needed to solve the mystery. I recall sitting in my grandfather’s living room, surrounded by some of his books on the Sasquatch: the animal he’d never seen, but the animal that enchanted him because of the tales that swirled around the logging camps so many years ago like smoke from a fire.
As children, we wonder at the big, the mysterious and the scary. We’re entranced by the power and mystery of the natural world. The tales of the Sasquatch and other cryptozoological creatures bring us back to that childhood wonder, as we tell stories of the creatures that exist on the fringes of our understanding. In these days when we have so much ability to know the world and change it, it’s enchanting to think that there could be large creatures living on the edge of human habitation, staying just far enough away to avoid us, but there in our midst just the same.
MORE ABOUT SASQUATCH COUNTRY ADVENTURES
Contact: Telephone, 1-604-796-5570; email, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tour Rates: The company offers four two-hour tours daily. The cost starts at $115 for one seat on the all-terrain vehicle that carries up to five guests. The price per passenger decreases with the more seats booked by your party. For example, the total cost for two people would be $170, or $85 per person. Longer tours are available upon request.