|Posted on April 14, 2011 at 6:26 PM|
MISSOURI MYSTERY CAT AND POSSIBLE BIGFOOT!
MY ENCOUNTER WITH A MISSOURI "MYSTERY CAT"
by R. M. Merrill
The first took place in 2003 as I was driving my sons home from school in Frohna, Missouri. It was near sunset, and we had just turned north on Hwy 61 toward Longtown. A mile or two ahead, the road was flanked on both sides by woods, and as my vehicle approached that point in the road, I observed what looked to be a large black cat emerge from the foliage on the right side of the road and proceed to "slink" across the highway to the opposite side, where it disappeared into the undergrowth.
The creature appeared to be about 4' long, not counting the tail, and about 18" to "24 high at the back. As I mentioned before, it didn't walk or trot but rather "slunk" along, like cats tend to do. It paused briefly in the center of the road as my high-beams caught it, then moved quickly to the other side. I asked the boys if they saw what I did, and they responded, "Yeah, what WAS that?" The next day, I mentioned what I'd seen to some of my students, and they immediately began recounting sightings their dad's (mostly farmers or hunters) had of large cat-like animals in the area over the years and of livestock killings that did not appear to have been the work of dogs or coyotes.
Postscript: When my wife told her supervising teacher what I'd seen, she said that her husband, a state-licensed trapper, was already aware of a creature like I'd described being seen in the area, and that he and other trappers were on the hunt for it.
PICKLE SPRINGS BIGFOOT?
by Ron Merrill
Pickle Springs is located 5 miles Northeast of rural Farmington, Missouri. The route through HWY 32 is wooded with patches of corn and soybeans intermixed. The area itself is a state park, with the primary draw being extraordinary rock formations and a labyrinth of deep crevices in the ground, some of which are part of the hiking path and others of which are inaccessible without great effort.
My brother has hiked this area with me on several occasions and commented that portions are steeper than some treks he has been on in Nepal (albeit not nearly as long or high-altitude). My uncle has hiked it and compared it to Mount Whitney (again, not nearly as long or high-altitude).
The flora consists primarily of deciduous trees, although there are patches of conifers growing together. For the most part the hike winds through a recession, at the bottom of which runs the namesake - Pickle Springs. Water is abundant.
During the winter you get a fair amount of visibility throughout the woods since the deciduous trees have lost their cover, but in the spring the underbrush and canopy returns and both vertical and horizontal visibility are obscured. At this time of year with the sun beginning to set on the horizon, long shadows are cast by the mottled patches of light that permeate the upper layers. This is easily the spookiest time to hike.
The fauna consists almost entirely of squirrels and snakes as well as thick swarms of flies and abundant spiders that seem all too quick to form webs across the hiking trail. I cannot recall having seen a bird in 6 years of hiking this area, although I don't know if that bears significance.
I have used Pickle Springs consistently to maintain my physical health, given the challenging nature of its inclines. Sometimes I have gone there every day for months. And I can safely say that this sort of frequency makes me a very good study of the changes to the environment (should there be any).
I know if weather might have affected the area between visits. I know well enough to know that almost no one goes to Pickle Springs on weekdays. I know that Summer is the busiest time of year, and the other months of the year see very few visitors. I have been out there for hours alone and witnessed everything in its natural state. I have seen snakes swallowing toads on the trail, turtles meandering along, woodchucks drinking from the creek, and scores of squirrels foraging in the leaves. So many so that I have often thought how easily it would be to survive off squirrel alone were I stranded out there.
Before I continue, it's worth noting that since my childhood I have spent much time in the woods of both California (Big Bear, Arrowhead, Yosemite) and Missouri as a camper and hunter. I have encountered deer, fox, coyotes, martins and scores of other forest dwellers. Suffice to say I have a good feel for the woods.
One more quick note. I am 6' 7" and 290 pounds. This factoid becomes significant in the next post.
For this section I will list the strange observations I have made in my 6 years of hiking Pickle Springs. My recounting of events is accurate to the best of my knowledge, and I record them here as someone who is fascinated by cryptids, but not altogether convinced of the existence of many of them. That having been said, these observations are as unbiased and factual as I can possibly make them. Lastly, it is my eventual goal to video tape a walk-thru of Pickle Springs, highlighting each area of interest for you in order that you may judge for yourselves.
Footprint in Sandstone
The area in which I found the footprint in the stone is called Spirit Canyon, so named by the Native Americans from this area.
The footprint was found accidentally as I was taking a break hiking out of Spirit Canyon. The inside portion (heel, arch and two toes) of a right foot left an impression in the sandstone. How can this be? I don't know. You would have to ask a geologist how sandstone can capture something like that. In any event I attempted a plaster casting, but stupidly didn't consider the adhesive characteristics of porous sandstone in contact with wet plaster. Before destroying the footprint and my mold in an attempt to remove it I noted that the print was longer than my size-13. Perhaps around 14 inches or so.
Along the trail I have noticed many broken saplings. The oddest detail being the fact that they are broken at about eye-level with me. The smallest one was about 3 inches in diameter. There were absolutely no signs of tool marks or chewing (human, beaver or porcupine). They were simply snapped. I attempted to snap one myself but was unsuccessful. The fulcrum point would have needed to be at least 6-feet up and a tremendous amount of downforce applied. Worth noting is that this area is in a low spot (as much of Pickle Springs is before the inclines) and the surrounding area was unaffected. Broken saplings are a regular theme out there.
Within 15 feet of the footprint there is a very large tree, and about 20 feet up the tree there is probably a portion of bark roughly 6 feet long and 12 inches wide that has been stripped away.
At the lowest point in the valley there is a bridge that crosses Pickle Springs. One of the guide rails is a bit higher than my knee. I collected a musty piece of dark brown hair from a nail that was protruding about 1/4 inch. The hair didn't smell like a skunk as much as it smelled like musty leather and urine. The consistency was long, thin and soft. It made me think of alpaca actually, but there isn't anything like that roaming around out here. I saved the hair in a baggy, but not until it had scent-marked my pocket.
I have been out there in the past when the silence was completely disconcerting. In fact, I'm getting chills just typing this. On those occasions I usually ran out of there as opposed to my usual hiking pace. But only in the low spots. The high spots coming out of the valley are more 'normal feeling.' Make of that what you will, and I realize that this sort of observation is completely subjective.
I absolutely, positively have heard loud noises crashing in the underbrush. Never within visual range of me though. I have been out there before with my brother as my witness to this. Not running, but a crash and then nothing. Was something thrown? Did something fall from a tree? I don't know, but I do know this. On consecutive days I have heard a similar loud crash at the same spot exactly on the trail.
That's everything. Now you know everything that I know about Pickle Springs. If you find yourself in Southeast Missouri you should make a point of stopping there. It would be worth it for a more educated observer to generate a hypotheses.
PICKLE SPRINGS NATURAL AREA
The National Park Service has named Pickle Springs a natural landmark with national significance. The Missouri Department of Conservation operates the Pickle Springs Natural Area. This natural area is recognized for the biological and geological values as an undisturbed site. A two-mile trail winds through the area and is called the "Trail Through Time". This takes visitors to geologic wonders carved in the sandstone by the Biblical Flood, sparkling streams, cool canyons and spectacular bluff views. The trail heads through "The Slot", a crevice marked with holes, pockets and ridges, to mound-like sandstone formations called hoodoos or rock pillars. A boardwalk continues past a rare double arch holding up a sandstone shelf.
To descend down to Pickle Creek visitors must climb through the "Keyhole", part of Terrapin Rock. Twin foot bridges cross Bone Creek and lead to Mossy Falls, the halfway point. One hour on the trail and you have not yet seen Owl's Den Bluff, Spirit Canyon, Dome Rock Overlook, Rockpile Canyon, Headwall Falls and Piney Glade. This park is a more natural experience and not as such, a hiking trail, but bring a beverage or two. The park is on Hwy AA off Hwy 32 just west of Hawn State Park.