By Jennifer Henion
Triplicate staff writer
A Pacific Northwest legend lives on in Del Norte County.
Three children claim to have seen two Bigfoot-like creatures in the woods in the Hiouchi area this summer.
On successive days last month, two men reported two separate Bigfoot sightings in the Klamath area.
The cluster of recent encounters with the large, mysterious beast said to inhabit the deep forests of the region is not a surprise, however, given the long history of what are thought to be Bigfoot sightings in this area.
In fact, according to a compilation of "legitimate" sightings reported to the Bigfoot Field Research Organization (BFRO), Del Norte County has more reported Bigfoot encounters per square mile than anywhere else in the world.
Del Norte is also the scene of perhaps the most famous piece of Bigfoot evidence ever captured. It will be 36 years ago this Monday that two Washington state Bigfoot hunters shot 30 feet of 16mm film in Del Norte County that convinced many that Bigfoot might be more than just a legend. The film was shot along Bluff Creek on Oct. 20, 1967, by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin.
The detail of the animal's movement, facial expression and breasts captured on the film make it the most believable evidence to date, Bigfoot believers say.
Now, so many years later, compelling accounts still surface in Del Norte County like those of Alex and Sara Rommel of Hiouchi, and the two men traveling through Klamath on different days in September.
Patty Rommel said her teen-age daughter Sara was trembling after her July encounter on the hill behind the Hiouchi Hamlet grocery store, near the family's home.
"My 12-year-old son Alex came in and said Mom, Mom, I saw Bigfoot,' and I thought That's good, honey. Go out and play,'" Rommel said.
"And before I knew it, my 13-year-old daughter, Sara, who is very stable and very intelligent shot out of the house to see what he was looking at," she said.
Looking through a pair of binoculars, Sara said she saw a large gorilla-like animal crouching by a tree and looking right at her, Patty said. At the same moment, Sara's friend shouted to her, "There it goes," and Sara looked to watch another gorilla-like creature running down the hill.
"When she came in, my daughter was trembling and couldn't really speak. She sat right down and started drawing a very vivid, and I mean vivid, picture of what she saw, and it looked like a gorilla," Patty Rommel said.
At the crack of dawn the next morning, the family trekked to the scene of the sighting. There, Patty said they found footprints in the duff of a hiking path and took photos of it.
The first of the two recent sightings near Klamath occurred on Sept. 19 at about 1 p.m., according to the BFRO Web site and Crescent City educator Jim Hooper, who helps investigate sightings for BFRO.
A 54-year-old San Francisco man on his way to Gold Beach pulled off Highway 101 north of Klamath to let traffic by, the BFRO report said. When he began to pull onto the highway again, he said he saw an 8-foot tall dirty gorilla-like creature appear next to his car.
"As I went to pull back onto the highway I heard the most horrifying scream I've ever heard and I screamed myself. I looked out and next to my Honda CRV was a filthy looking gorilla (the best I can describe it) and it instantly ran into the treeline," the man reported on the Web site.
The next day, Sept. 20, a Crescent City man reported seeing Bigfoot driving near Klamath while returning from Orick.
He reported to the Web site that he initially thought he saw a bear crouching on Highway 101.
"I got to about 50 yards and the thing stood up and my lights made a silhouette of what looked like a human," he said.
As he got closer, he said the specialty lights attached to his Jeep illuminated the creature's outline and revealed it was taller than his custom lifted Jeep.
When he got to within about 20 yards, the creature leapt off the side of the road down a hill.
"That is when the hair stood up on my neck, and I realized I just saw Bigfoot," he said in the report.
BFRO encourages anyone with an encounter story to come forward and report their stories. Administrators of the BFRO Web site believe that a compilation of encounter reports may lead to undeniable evidence of Bigfoot's existence.
The administrators of the BFRO are scientists, teachers and other professionals, according to the Web site.
Reports entered on the web site go directly to BFRO investigators, who determine if a report is credible enough to pursue.
Anonymous reports are not accepted, because an investigator follows up on the report to get more details and determine if an encounter is worth posting on the Web site.
Names of those who submit encounter reports do not get posted with the report, however.